Isaacs in the confessional

In our October issue we dealt with the slaughter of the seamen by Lloyd George by his raising the load line of ships. Our statements have rather upset some of that gentleman’s worshippers, who are loud in their denials. One of them has recently written to the Attorney General, calling his attention to the matter. Mr. Lloyd George’s colleague sent the following reply, which appeared in that leading Liberal paper, the “Manchester Guardian” :—

“In further reply to your letter, I have been making enquiries into the matter, and am informed that the latest revision of the tables of freeboard came into operation in March 1906, after months of exhaustive enquiry and careful consideration by the experts of the Board of Trade and those of the classification societies— namely, ‘Lloyd’s Register of British and Foreign Shipping,’ ‘Bureau Veritas,’ and the ‘British Corporation for the Survey and Registry of Shipping.’ The work of revision was ordered and practically completed before the Liberal Government took office, but the revised tables and the date of their commencement were finally approved by Mr. Lloyd George when President of the Board of Trade. It is necessary to point out that the revision of the tables of freeboard has not and never has had any political significance. The necessity for revision is created by the progress of naval architecture and the growth of experience, and the revision itself is essentially a question that can only be properly dealt with by highly trained experts. There is not the faintest evidence that this revision has been the cause of endangering ships, or the lives of the sailors serving in them. I believe this statement is wholly unwarranted. I am much obliged to you for communicating with me, and I think the above information will enable you to refute the statement mentioned in your letter.
Yours faithfully, RUFUS DANIEL ISAACS.” (Italics mine.)

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The most important point in the above letter is the confession that “the revised tables and the date of their commencement was finally approved by Mr. Lloyd George when President of the Board of Trade.” The Attorney General’s statement that the revision “was ordered and practically completed before the Liberal Government took office” only makes the deed of Lloyd George worse, for one would think “a great Liberal statesman” would hesitate before bringing to fruition an act inspired by the “wicked Tories.” But it will be noticed that the date of the commencement of the revised tables was kindly fixed within two months of the “greatest government of modern times” entering upon its corrupt career. The gigantic shipping interests that financed the Liberal caucus were not asked to “wait and see.” They saw their interests looked after by David without waiting.

The “progress of naval architecture,” so well shown by the adaptability (!) of the “Titanic,” and “the growth of experience” evidenced by the stagnant number of boats legally demanded during the very twenty years in which the tonnage of liners had trebled, is a completely capitalist excuse. The “highly trained experts” were, of course, representatives of the officers and seamen who—beg pardon, a slip of the pen—were members of the advisory board of shipowners appointed by the Board of Trade, and were sometimes actually employed by the shipowners, as the “Titanic” enquiry showed.

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Rufus says that “there is not the faintest evidence” to show that the lives of the sailors have been endangered, but even the spokesman of the Liberal party, the “Daily News,” said (24.10.12): “Almost unanimously captains, officers, engineers, and seamen have declared that the new load line converted a ‘dry’ ship into a ‘wet’ ship because it destroyed a ship’s reserve bouyancy, and so endangered life and property.” And it goes on : “At last a court of enquiry has found in the case of one steamer that the primary cause of her loss and the deaths of twenty of her men was excessive dead weight and insufficient freeboard.” The magistrate, appointed by the Board of Trade, Rufus, said at the enquiry (21.10 12.) that “the crew here sacrificed to 130 tom of additional freight.” He said that the act of Lloyd George in raising the load line was the “primary cause” of her loss.

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The slimy denials of this lawyer are met by the records of Plimsoll’s fight, which show that the shipowners bitterly assailed him because his proposals meant danger to their profits and their interests. The hostility he met with clearly shows the real meaning of the lowering of the load line in 1875, and ever since then Liberal and Tory reformers—at election times—have gloried in the policy of limiting a ship’s load by that Act. But now comes this wily lawyer, drawing his retaining fee of £140 a week from the “Party of the People,” claiming that if you raise the load line you are profiting by “the growth of experience.”

Sir Rufus hopes that his correspondent will be able to refute our charges with the information in his letter, but the “information” consists of his assertion that “the statement is wholly unwarranted.” The letter is valuable as showing the sorry position the apologists of this red-handed Government get into whenever they are unguarded enough to attempt to deal with a working class attack upon their actions.


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