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Women and children last

BH

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Hello. I read a book entitled Women and Children Last. It is a bit dated being written back in the 1960's but still is regarded as the definitive book on the sinking of the S.S. Arctic in 1854. The ship was a paddle wheel steamer that collides with another ship in a fog bank on the way to America from England.

To make a long story short the owner of the company entrusts his family with one of his executives on the trip to Europe and back. The executive has his own wife and child going along on the trip to. The owner makes the executive promise to protect his family.

Anyway, the ship sinks. The crew mutinies and take the life boats leaving the passengers behind. The executive tells his wife that he promised the owner he would protect his family so his own wife and child are on their own. He tries to save owners family but die anyway. He survives though.

My question for those you in the business world. How many people high up in companies would do that to their own family to please their employer?

How many in the general population would do that to?

Does anyone have an insights why the man thought the way he did thinking the owners family more important than his own?
 

bilby

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Hello. I read a book entitled Women and Children Last. It is a bit dated being written back in the 1960's but still is regarded as the definitive book on the sinking of the S.S. Arctic in 1854. The ship was a paddle wheel steamer that collides with another ship in a fog bank on the way to America from England.

To make a long story short the owner of the company entrusts his family with one of his executives on the trip to Europe and back. The executive has his own wife and child going along on the trip to. The owner makes the executive promise to protect his family.

Anyway, the ship sinks. The crew mutinies and take the life boats leaving the passengers behind. The executive tells his wife that he promised the owner he would protect his family so his own wife and child are on their own. He tries to save owners family but die anyway. He survives though.

My question for those you in the business world. How many people high up in companies would do that to their own family to please their employer?

How many in the general population would do that to?

Does anyone have an insights why the man thought the way he did thinking the owners family more important than his own?

He didn't think his employer's family more important than his own. He thought his PROMISE more important than his family.

In Victorian and Edwardian England, the schools (which were largely for the wealthy) taught people how to be leaders, as that would be their role in life. They would be officers, or employers, or landowners; and be responsible to their subordinates, their tenants, their nation, and the empire; A vital part of this ideal was selfless adherence to honourable dealing - if you make a commitment, you keep it or die trying.

This attitude led to the almost complete annihilation of the junior officer class in WWI, and the commitment to that ideal died with them.

But pre-WWI, any man who did less than everything to keep a promise, particularly one to protect weaker or less able individuals, would have been a social outcast forever. Nobody (in the ruling classes) would have forgiven him on the basis that keeping his promise would imply great sacrifice on his part - if he wasn't prepared to sacrifice everything for his commitment, he shouldn't have made it to begin with.
 

Treedbear

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What if he'd promised to take care of the owner's cocker spaniel? Would sacrificing his family to that end have been morally correct? So what's the difference if these are both honor-bound commitments? You might hope the jury aren't members of the kennel club.
 

Politesse

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"Honour" always has teeth; his life would have been effectively over had it become public knowledge that he had failed to attempt the rescue of his employer's family.
 

Treedbear

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"Honour" always has teeth; his life would have been effectively over had it become public knowledge that he had failed to attempt the rescue of his employer's family.

So he'd be sacrificing his own life to save his family's. Seems honourable enough.
 

Politesse

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"Honour" always has teeth; his life would have been effectively over had it become public knowledge that he had failed to attempt the rescue of his employer's family.

So he'd be sacrificing his own life to save his family's. Seems honourable enough.

At the expense of a commitment to people whose lives mean more than his and definitely more than his family's. Better people.

You ever read an adventure novel from before 1950? Lots of nobly self-sacrificing servants, slaves, and indigenous allies, and no one ever asks after their family.
 

Treedbear

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"Honour" always has teeth; his life would have been effectively over had it become public knowledge that he had failed to attempt the rescue of his employer's family.

So he'd be sacrificing his own life to save his family's. Seems honourable enough.

At the expense of a commitment to people whose lives mean more than his and definitely more than his family's. Better people.

You ever read an adventure novel from before 1950? Lots of nobly self-sacrificing servants, slaves, and indigenous allies, and no one ever asks after their family.

I wonder if the ship was under British ownership. That would better suit the mindset you're describing. In any case retribution might be taken against the families of slaves and servants. Indigenous allies (American Indians) had more complicated allegiances for sure, but not so much by 1854. But I think the vast majority of post-colonial American's would be fiercely loyal to their families. That said, the captain probably should not have had his family aboard having made such a promise. So the honorable thing to do probably involves suicide.
 

bilby

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At the expense of a commitment to people whose lives mean more than his and definitely more than his family's. Better people.

You ever read an adventure novel from before 1950? Lots of nobly self-sacrificing servants, slaves, and indigenous allies, and no one ever asks after their family.

I wonder if the ship was under British ownership. That would better suit the mindset you're describing. In any case retribution might be taken against the families of slaves and servants. Indigenous allies (American Indians) had more complicated allegiances for sure, but not so much by 1854. But I think the vast majority of post-colonial American's would be fiercely loyal to their families. That said, the captain probably should not have had his family aboard having made such a promise. So the honorable thing to do probably involves suicide.

The social class distinctions in the 19th Century USA were less explicit, and more based on wealth and power than on birth and pedigree*, compared to those in England at that time; But they were no less strong for that. The idea of America as a classless society was always a lie.




*Though of course these two sets of criteria mostly overlapped, with successful but non-aristocratic industrialists being 'brought into the fold' on both sides of the Atlantic, albeit rather faster in the west than the east.
 

BH

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At the expense of a commitment to people whose lives mean more than his and definitely more than his family's. Better people.

You ever read an adventure novel from before 1950? Lots of nobly self-sacrificing servants, slaves, and indigenous allies, and no one ever asks after their family.

I wonder if the ship was under British ownership. That would better suit the mindset you're describing. In any case retribution might be taken against the families of slaves and servants. Indigenous allies (American Indians) had more complicated allegiances for sure, but not so much by 1854. But I think the vast majority of post-colonial American's would be fiercely loyal to their families. That said, the captain probably should not have had his family aboard having made such a promise. So the honorable thing to do probably involves suicide.


The captain did everything he could. He had the two or three crew who stayed loyal try to built rafts and fire the distress cannon right up till the ship sank. When he could do no more he wished all well in this live and asked all to repent for wrongs done in readiness for the next. He climbed onto of the paddle wheels with his crippled son. When the ship sank they went down. The paddle wheel broke off and they came back up. But the paddle wheel came back up, turned over on the surface and killed the son. Captain Luce survived.
 

Treedbear

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At the expense of a commitment to people whose lives mean more than his and definitely more than his family's. Better people.

You ever read an adventure novel from before 1950? Lots of nobly self-sacrificing servants, slaves, and indigenous allies, and no one ever asks after their family.

I wonder if the ship was under British ownership. That would better suit the mindset you're describing. In any case retribution might be taken against the families of slaves and servants. Indigenous allies (American Indians) had more complicated allegiances for sure, but not so much by 1854. But I think the vast majority of post-colonial American's would be fiercely loyal to their families. That said, the captain probably should not have had his family aboard having made such a promise. So the honorable thing to do probably involves suicide.


The captain did everything he could. He had the two or three crew who stayed loyal try to built rafts and fire the distress cannon right up till the ship sank. When he could do no more he wished all well in this live and asked all to repent for wrongs done in readiness for the next. He climbed onto of the paddle wheels with his crippled son. When the ship sank they went down. The paddle wheel broke off and they came back up. But the paddle wheel came back up, turned over on the surface and killed the son. Captain Luce survived.

Oops. I conflated the executive and the captain. I meant that the executive shouldn't have made such a commitment when his own family was also to be on board. I'd still have him save his own family before the owner's though. If anyone's morality should be questioned it should be the owner's if he indeed pressured the executive into such a situation. Regardless of one's social status.
 

BH

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At the expense of a commitment to people whose lives mean more than his and definitely more than his family's. Better people.

You ever read an adventure novel from before 1950? Lots of nobly self-sacrificing servants, slaves, and indigenous allies, and no one ever asks after their family.

I wonder if the ship was under British ownership. That would better suit the mindset you're describing. In any case retribution might be taken against the families of slaves and servants. Indigenous allies (American Indians) had more complicated allegiances for sure, but not so much by 1854. But I think the vast majority of post-colonial American's would be fiercely loyal to their families. That said, the captain probably should not have had his family aboard having made such a promise. So the honorable thing to do probably involves suicide.

So it wasn't just custom that had been ingrained into the humbler people on the totem pole. There was the threat of bad things happening to your spouse or surviving relatives if you did not throw yourself or a close relative under the bus (or horse drawn wagon) to save a social better or wealthy person .
 

BH

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Politesse,

From what you have studied did people of the time ever see through this? Did people ever say for example " if the supposed better people really were better why cant they save yhemselves?"
 

Treedbear

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At the expense of a commitment to people whose lives mean more than his and definitely more than his family's. Better people.

You ever read an adventure novel from before 1950? Lots of nobly self-sacrificing servants, slaves, and indigenous allies, and no one ever asks after their family.

I wonder if the ship was under British ownership. That would better suit the mindset you're describing. In any case retribution might be taken against the families of slaves and servants. Indigenous allies (American Indians) had more complicated allegiances for sure, but not so much by 1854. But I think the vast majority of post-colonial American's would be fiercely loyal to their families. That said, the captain probably should not have had his family aboard having made such a promise. So the honorable thing to do probably involves suicide.

So it wasn't just custom that had been ingrained into the humbler people on the totem pole. There was the threat of bad things happening to your spouse or surviving relatives if you did not throw yourself or a close relative under the bus (or horse drawn wagon) to save a social better or wealthy person .

Bad things certainly could have happened to the lower classes such as slaves and servants. Families of executive class might only suffer public humiliation with all it implied. Not something I imagine worth dieing for in 1854. But the onus would probably be on the executive for making an unreasonable commitment rather than his family. But what do I know? You might ask Politesse that.
 

Politesse

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Politesse,

From what you have studied did people of the time ever see through this? Did people ever say for example " if the supposed better people really were better why cant they save yhemselves?"

Of course! America, as noted by others above, already idealized a very different social model, at least on paper.
 

BH

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Well good. I am glad the USA actually did do something good in the world, and purposely so not accidentally so.
 

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Is keeping one's word more valuable than saving lives if it is broken?
 

BH

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I understand what you are saying DBT. If you cant pay your Bill's you promised you couldnt instead of filing bankruptcy should you turn yourself over to your creditor and let him/her ship you off to a country that still practices slavery to be sold there to pay off the debt? Or, should promises be looked at like contracts and the culture should determine what factors go into what should be required to fulfill the contract and what should not. No court is going to say it is okay to be forced to go be sold as a slave in another country where it is still legal so your creditor can get money.
 
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