By Myra Glenn
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Extra resources for Campaigns against corporal punishment: prisoners, sailors, women, and children in antebellum America
A minority of reform-minded Americans began to question the widespread use of corporal punishment during the period 1780 to 1820. 19 In a similar vein, naval surgeon Dr. 20 Page 12 These comments notwithstanding, public criticism of corporal punishment did not become widespread until the mid 1820s. As noted earlier, this criticism gained momentum in the 1830s and especially the 1840s. It declined in the early 1850s. During these four decades leading Northern newspapers and periodicals condemned the corporal punishment of seamen and prisoners.
53 Dana was again subject to abusive corporal punishment when he was ten years old. He wrote a graphic and detailed description of this incident, one which resulted in the dismissal of his teacher: He [the schoolmaster] had placed me in the middle of the floor for some offense or other, and my station being near the stove, and the room very hot, I became faint and asked to be allowed to go out and gave my reason, but to no purpose. In a few minutes we had our usual recess of a quarter of an hour, and I went out.
Noting the need for ''greater respect and deference" among subordinate officers towards their commodores, Upshur also urged Congress to create the rank of admiral. He particularly recommended the abolition of the system of nepotism and patronage in recruiting and promoting officers. Merit, not family or political influence, was the only fair criterion for promotions. To ferret out incompetent officers, Upshur proposed a system of compulsory furloughs. 5 While Upshur sought congressional legislation to effect needed naval reforms, Commodore Matthew C.