Lt. Lemuel Didcot, R.N., also with enough sense of how the world works to know when to keep silent . . . .
“To end the African slave traffic was Britain’s noblest achievement,” Lord Willoughbay said to his dinner guests, “putting her in the fore of the civilized nations, and the glory of the Royal Navy is to be the sword of this liberating angel. Eh, First Lieutenant?”
Didcot knew that not only was slavery still legal in many British colonies, but that even among the slave-holding nations, the masters in the British sugar colonies were accounted the most exploitative, the most violent, the most unchecked by law, custom, or conscience; that apprentices in Britain were in most practical respects only slightly better off than skilled Africans working as slaves on American plantations; that until 1795 English workers were forbidden by law to move from one locality to another; and that his own uncle had told him of how soldiers had been called in to break up an incipient strike by the workers at the Wedgwood factory. But he also knew that promotion was his only hope of avoiding penury: a lieutenant retired on half-pay would be scarcely at subsistence level, while a retired commander or captain would be comfortably established, and so he said, “Quite so, your Lordship.”