They intreated the Lord Mayor to relieve their distress, either by ordering them to [receive parochial – parish – assistance] or to be admitted into an hospital. His Lordship demanded why they did not apply for relief to the American Consul? To which they replied, that they had made repeated applications, but were refused relief on the ground, that, although they were acknowledged to be America subjects, they had served on board British ships of war, and that as their distresses had arisen subsequent to their being engaged in our service, he [the Consul] would not listen to their having any claim for relief from the government of their native country.
The men stated that they had in vain represented to the Consul that they had been IMPRESSED into the British service; in the present instance, however, they waved [waived] this plea, and begged to inform his Lordship that they had been wounded in the service of Great Britain, and could produce testimonials to that effect.
The Lord Mayor ordered them to be taken into St. Thomas Hospital for the present, or until they were sufficiently recovered to be able to find employment by going to sea.
His Lordship lamented that so many applicants of this description had come before him of late, whom it was impossible on his part to provide for, there being not less than 1,000 of them now in England.
COMMENT: An American is taken off an American ship and forced to join the crew of a British warship. He is then wounded or falls sick aboard that warship, and later shows up, destitute, on the streets of London. Who is responsible for him? The American Consul in London, because he is an American? Or the British government because his injury took place aboard a British warship? Bureaucracy being what it is, the answer was all too often “nobody.”
This was, of course, a British account of the case.
St. Thomas Hospital, then located south of the Thames River in London, was founded in the 1200’s to provide free shelter for “the poor, sick and homeless.”