(caricature) Flogging was a frequent punishment in the Navy during Nelson's period. The whole crew other than those working the ship would be assembled aft on the quarterdeck to witness punishment - public example being an important element in the practice. The culprit would be secured to an upended grating and the officers and marines would position themselves as shown here. The presence of the marines was also a reminder that their function was not just to act as sea soldiers against the enemy but to uphold the authority of the officers. The captain would read the section of Articles of War under which the culprit had offended - often drunkenness or other anti-social behaviour - and state the number of lashes. Two dozen was the maximum without a court martial. However, in this print an innocent sailor is about to be punished for an offence he did not commit. The real culprit steps forward discarding his shirt, to accept the punishment that will surely follow.
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