Reply To: How did officers and men receive their pay in Nelsons Navy?
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The allotment system was indeed widely taken up: on a purely notional basis of one allotment per man (there are numerous instances of men allotting to more than one person at once, e.g. a wife AND a mother or sister), the 13,212 allotments in force in 1850 amounted to 46 per cent of 28,741 men borne on the Navy’s books that year. Ratings could and did allot more than four or five pence per day, for like POs and WOs they were subject to a ‘moiety cap’ which limited their (combined) allotments to no more than 50 per cent of wages. At the receiving end of the system, where allottees lived in or within five miles of port towns, monthly disbursements of allotments were made at dockyard pay offices. Allottees living in coastal towns had to collect their payments at harbour excise offices, and those resident in rural areas went to their local land tax offices.
Allotments featured in the 1859 Royal Commission on naval manning, but commission members and witnesses focused mainly on the system’s perceived weaknesses, and on the moral hazard of allowing sailors to allot to ‘undesirable’ individuals. There scant recognition of the poverty and destitution suffered by sailors’ families in the decades before remittances and allotments were introduced, or of the fact that by and large the system worked, getting cash into the hands of thousands of naval dependants every month.
It is a shame that the literature makes few references to the system, and then only briefly – in some cases critically, but without citing evidence for negative judgements. My doctoral thesis, available later this year via https://ora.ox.ac.uk/objects/uuid:19706ccd-64f1-4e0c-8be6-c98a9a429f87 (currently under embargo) concerns mid-19C naval allottees. Prompted by this discussion I shall put together a short paper for submission to the Mariner’s Mirror, summarising the development and workings of the allotment system.