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    Re: Moby Dick Tales
    From: Don Seltzer
    Date: 2019 Jan 15, 10:06 -0500
    David's reply sent me diving back into my books.  I am much more familiar with the age of Admiral Nelson, from the later half of the 18th century to the first two decades of the 19th, then the mid-18th century world of Rodger's The Wooden World.  The role of the Master's Mate was perhaps different at that time, particularly with respect to the state of celestial navigation before 1767 and the publication of the Nautical Almanac.

    I erred in labeling them as warrant officers, but the broad brush of petty officer does not adequately describe their place in the hierarchy.  The Master's Mate of 1800 was a very senior Petty Officer as evidenced by both the pay scale and the distribution of Prize Money.  Pay-wise they were above midshipmen and just behind the the senior warrant officers, the Bosun and the Gunner.  Prize money distribution shows a similar standing.  Two eighths went to the Captain, one eight to the Lieutenants and Master, and the next eighth was divided among the junior wardroom officers, the most senior warrant officers, and the Master's Mates.  Next category down was the midshipmen and most of the petty officers.

    An interesting aspect of the Master's Mate was that it was a potential cross-over point in the traditional Royal Navy career paths.  I find some similarities with tech companies that I have known.  There is a management track and an engineering track within the companies.  There are some mid-level management jobs that might be held by either a business school grad or a somewhat senior engineer.  The engineer sometimes 'crosses over' at that point and continues up the management ladder.  Slightly similar in the RN of that time, there were the young gentlemen destined for the quarterdeck and commissioned ranks.  The career track might start out as Volunteer First Class (captain's servant in an earlier time), progress through midshipman to Master's Mate.  A very capable seaman could start as Volunteer Second Class and climb the ladder as quartermaster's mate, quartermaster (nothing to do with administering supplies), and finally Master's Mate.  From there the ladder branched.  The gentlemen Master's Mate expected to reach the commissioned rank of lieutenant.  The seaman Master's Mate had two options, either Master warrant rank or the difficult but not uncommon cross-over to lieutenant.

    Don Seltzer




    On Mon, Jan 14, 2019 at 10:32 AM David Pike <NoReply_DavidPike@fer3.com> wrote:

    Don you wrote:

    I am mostly in agreement, but wish to clarify that in the early 19th century navies Master's Mates were not petty officers. They were the most senior of midshipmen and had to demonstrate navigational skills to earn that rating.


    I think we’re talking at crossed purposes here.  Certainly, up to the start of 19th Century, there was a Royal Navy (RN) career stream which went from keen and promising AB, to Master’s Mate, to Boatswain, to Master, and eventually, if desired, and with a lot of luck to Lieutenant. 

    Such Master’s Mates had authority over ordinary ABs but did not hold warrants, and so could be promoted and demoted upon the Captains authority alone.  Therefore, the broad Petty Officer bracket seems a very appropriate place to put them and is used by such writers as N.A.M Rodger The Wooden World, Alan Villiers Captain Cook the Seamen’s Seaman, and Rear Admiral C.H. Layman The Wager Disaster. 

    There were of course alternative routes.  Cook transferred from a coastal command in the Merchant Service to AB (RN) and within weeks to Master’s Mate in HMS Eagle, (60), Capt Hamer.  Bligh transferred from Midshipman with four years experience HMS Crescent (28) through force of circumstances to AB HMS Ranger and became Master’s Mate after one year.  Some senior Midshipmen took Master’s Mates posts simply because the pay was better.  However, the downside was that the time to an eventual Lieutenancy, if it occurred at all, frequently took longer than the straight Midshipman route.  I don’t believe it was possible to be a Midshipman and a Master’s Mate at the same time because a ship would have a laid down established number for each.  

    It would appear from what you say, I’ve not Nordhoff Senior yet, that as the 19th Century progressed the proportion of Passed Midshipmen, i.e. experienced Midshipmen qualified and awaiting a vacancy as a commissioned Lieutenant, who took Master’s Mates posts in order to receive more pay increased.  Such Master’s Mates might well have been accepted as ‘gentlemen’ and have privileges not normally available to many in the broad Petty Officer category.  Over which time period would you say the balance changed, and which would be the best Nordhoff Senior book available at less than $10 to read about it in?  DaveP

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