Pay and Prize Money
In 1708 the British government enacted the 'Cruizer and Convoys Act'. One of its effects was to formalize the process of prize taking, giving practically all the money gained from the capture of enemy vessels to the captors 'for the better and more effectual encouragement of the Sea Service'. Every prize appeared before the High Court of Admiralty for 'condemnation'.
It laid down exact regulations for dividing the proceeds among the various interested parties.The Act was altered in 1808 changing the distribution of prize money.
|RANK||pre1808 SHARE||post1808 SHARE|
|CAPTAINS of Marines,Lieutenants,Master and Physician, = share in||1/8||1/8|
|LIEUTENANTS of Marines,Secretary of Admiral,Principal Warrant Officers, Masters Mates,Chaplain, = shares in||1/8||1/8|
|MIDSHIPMEN, Inferior Warrant Officers, Principal Warrant Officers Mates, Marine Sergeants, = shares in||1/8||4/8|
|THE REST = shares in||2/8|
Appointment to one of the well-known prize money commands would mean an almost automatic fortune. Flag officers could hope to gain sums well in excess of £1,000,000 at todays values. Sir Hyde Parker was reported to have realised £200,000 (worth many times that now) when he was in command in the West Indies.
For the young gentlemen, often 2nd or 3rd sons who inherited nothing from their family, who decided to make a career at sea prize money was a useful bonus. Nelson often bemoaned his lack of prize money, being posted to ships away from good prize areas and, in later years, the success of his fleet meant there were precious few prizes to be had.
Prize money was handled by Prize Agents, and payment was often not prompt, sometimes taking years to be paid. This caused much frustration to captains and crews but earned the Agents large sums in interest.
|RANK||NETT ANNUAL PAY|
£. s. d.
£. s. d.
|CLEAR ANNUAL PAY
£. s. d.
|Captain of 1st Rate(complement 837)|
|802 0 2||80 4 0||721 16 2|
|Captain of 6th Rate(complement135)||284 7 9||28 8 9||255 19 0|
|Commander of Sloop,Bomb,etc(complement 121)|
|272 19 7||27 5 11||245 13 4|
|Commander(complement 75 and under)||250 2 11||25 0 3||225 2 8|
|Lieutenant commanding Prison Ship||137 4 8||13 1 8||124 3 0|
|Lieutenant in Flagship||128 4 5||11 14 11||116 9 6|
|Lieutenant in other Ships||112 4 2||10 7 8||100 15 0|
|Master of 1st Rate|
|172 12 8||17 5 3||155 7 5|
|Master of Sloop||91 10 0||6 4 6||85 5 6|
|Second Master,Line of Battleship||78 17 5||4 6 7||74 10 10|
|Second Master,Gun Brigs,Cutters,etc||67 9 3||2 12 3||64 17 0|
|Surgeon (20 years and upwards)|
|322 8 9||32 4 10||290 3 11|
|Surgeon (under 6 years)||178 5 3||17 16 6||160 8 9|
|Assistant Surgeon (qualified)||117 13 0||10 13 0||107 10 0|
|Assistant Surgeon (not qualified)||90 5 6||6 0 9||84 4 9|
|Carpenter of 1st Rate|
|96 9 6||6 19 6||89 10 0|
|Carpenter of Sloop||48 13 6||Nil||48 13 6|
|Gunner, Boatswain, Purser* of 1st Rate|
|83 12 0||5 0 6||77 11 6|
|Gunner, Boatswain, Purser* of Sloop||48 13 6||Nil||48 13 6|
*At the start of the Revolutionary Wars the Purser had not been paid a salary.They were expected to make thier money from the sale of certain goods, such as tobacco,on board ship and when they bought in supplies for the ship. They effectively had a monopoly on board ship and could and did exploit this for profit. To the men the Purser was often the most despised man on board.
To get their posting they had to lodge a surity with the Admiralty of £1400 for appointment to a First rate down to £400 for a Sixth rate ship, they were responsible for the ships stores and the Admiralty were taking no chances. The purser acted as a 'Man of Business' and had to account to the Victualling Board for the distribution of his stores. It was a complicated and thankless job, and it was every pursers fear that he would be 'cast into debt'. Although strictly illegal the Navy turned a blind eye to the pursers practice of issuing stores at the rate of 14 ounces to the pound, allowing the purser one eighth for wastage. This was one of the ways that the purser could hope to make a profit. One of the main demands of the sailors that mutineed at Spithead and The Nore was that they be issued their full pound.
Thomas Rowlandsons cartoon portrayal of a
Purser (opens in a new window)
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