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September 12: Abusing Jewish Passengers Aboard the Charles H. Marshall

September 11, 2016
The New York Times reported on this date in 1872 that 458 passengers about the Charles H. Marshall, most of them Polish Jews, had been “cuffed and beaten” and “curtailed of their due rations of food and water” following the death from illness of the ship’s captain and a failed mutiny by the ship’s crew. “Flying from the misery, wretchedness, and oppressions of Europe,” wrote J. Grey Jewell in an 1874 account, Among Our Sailors, “the poorer classes are compelled to trust themselves on board sailing-vessels, and there they are sometimes exposed to the brutal violence of the lowest class of sailors. In this case, the poor Jews were made foot-balls of the crew . . . and one of them was held by his heels over the ship’s side.” On arrival, reported the Times, their complaints “led to an investigation by the Emigration Commissioners,” who found that the depradations of the crew were not covered under maritime law: “Short of a felonious assault, there is the widest possible margin for brutalities of every description.” “Had the same assaults been committed on land, the perpetrators would have quickly been consigned to the penitentiary; but on account of the unsettled and unsatisfactory state of international law, such outrages can be committed at sea without fear of punishment.”--J. Grey Jewell