Life Saving Service
( Originally Published 1902 )
IN the graveyard of the Baptist Church at Manahawkin, N. J., are thirteen graves in a row. They are those of a captain and twelve sailors, who perished in a wreck off the South Jersey, coast, a short distance below the Barnegat Inlet. Forty-three years ago the Austrian brig Count Perasto struck a sandbar at midnight, and, though only three hundred yards from shore, the thirteen, all on board, perished in the fearful storm, trying to swim to land. There was a man living in the neighborhood who saw the wreck, and said to himself, " What a shame ! All these lives could have been saved if some organized effort for their rescue had been made from the shore ! " The matter rested so heavily upon his heart that he began a series of experiments to find a way of sending a line to a disabled ship from the shore. At first he used a bow and arrow with a delicate string attached to it; then a rocket with a larger string, and finally his idea was expressed in the mortar and ball and rope. That man was William A. Newell, and in his brain was born the Life Saving Service of the United States. Seven years after the wreck, Mr. Newell was elected to Congress, and as the most dangerous part of the New Jersey coast was in his district, he had a good reason for introducing his pet scheme for life-saving. His first resolution died in committee. John Quincy Adams, who occupied a seat behind him, said : " You have a good idea, and it ought to succeed." Abraham Lincoln, who was also a member, said : " Newell, that is a good measure; I will help you. I am something of a life-saver myself, for I invented a scow that righted itself on the Mississippi sandbars." The following summer, when the Lighthouse Bill came from the Senate to the House, Newell saw his opportunity, and offered an amendment providing for surf boats, rockets, carronades and other necessary apparatus for the better preservation of life and property from shipwreck along the New Jersey coast, and for an appropriation of ten thousand dollars for the purpose. The amendment was carried, and the Life Saving Service became a governmental institution. The coast line guarded was from time to time increased, till to-day it includes three hundred rescue stations, manned by two thousand brave life-savers and supported by two million dollars of public money annually.
Mr. Newell was honored as having been in Congress and Governor of the State, but most because he was in thought and in execution, the founder of the Life Saving Service of the United States.
Science is reducing the perils of the deep. Philanthropy is entertaining a higher regard for the sacredness of human life. Christianity is urging a higher estimate of the value of an immortal soul, and the church is busy organizing new instrumentalities for the rescue of those who are being lost. The heroism and almost superhuman energy of the life-savers should be copied by the Christian men and women whose duty it is to save their fellows from the spiritual wrecks that line the shores of time.