A mariner; one whose business is navigation. The term seamen, in it most enlarged sense, includes the captain a well as other persons of the crew; in a more confined signification, it extends only to the common sailors; the cook and steward are considered, as to their rights to sue in the admiralty, as common seamen; and persons employed on board of steamboats and lighters, engaged in trade or commerce, on tide water, are within the admiralty jurisdiction, while those employed in ferry boats are not. Persons who do not contribute their aid in navigating the vessel or to its preservation in the course of their occupation, as musicians, are not to be considered as seamen with a right to sue in the admiralty for their wages. Seamen are employed either in merchant vessels for private service, or in public vessels for the service of the United States.Seamen in the merchant vessels are required to enter into a contract in writing commonly called shipping articles. This contract being entered into, they are bound under. severe penalties, to render themselves on board the vessel according to the agreement: they are not at liberty to leave the ship without the consent of the captain or commanding officer, and for such absence, when less than forty-eight hours, they forfeit three day's wages for every day of absence; and when the absence is more than forty-eight hours, at one time, they forfeit all the wages due to them, and all their goods and chattels which were on board the vessel, or in any store where they may have been lodged at the time of their desertion, to the use of the owners of the vessel, and they are liable for damages for hiring other hands. They may be imprisoned for desertion until the ship is ready to bail.
On board, a seaman is bound to do his duty to the utmost of his ability; and when his services are required for extraordinary exertions, either in consequence of the death of other seamen, Or on account of unforeseen perils, he is not entitled to an increase of wages, although it may have been promised to him. For disobedience of orders he may be imprisoned or punished with stripes, but the correction must be reasonable and, for just cause, may be put ashore in a foreign country. By act of Congress, September 28, 1850, it is provided that flogging in the navy and on board vessels of commerce, be, and the same is hereby abolished from and after the passage of this act.
Seamen are entitled to their wages, of which one-third is due at every port at which the vessel shall unlade and deliver her cargo, before the voyage be ended; and at the end of the voyage an easy and speedy remedy is given them to recover all unpaid wages. When taken sick a seaman is entitled to medical advice and aid at the expense of the ship: such expense being considered in, the nature of additional wages, and as constituting a just remuneration for his labor and services.
The right of seamen to wages is founded not in the shipping articles, but in the services performed and to recover such wages the seaman has a triple remedy, against the vessel, the owner, and the master.
When destitute in foreign ports, American consuls and commercial agents are required to provide for them, and for their passages to some port of the United States, in a reasonable manner, at the expense of the United States; and American vessels are bound to take such seamen on board at the request of the consul, but not exceeding two men for every hundred tons of the ship, and transport them to the United States, on such terms, not exceeding ten dollars for each person, as may be agreed on.