Drawing on his own experiences at sea, Robertson makes it clear that conditions were horrific. Officers had the power of life and death, and wielded it arbitrarily. Seamen, even if they had been literally seized and dragged on board, had no redress. It was nothing more than slavery, and the government of America turned a blind eye to it, because it was good for commerce. He occasionally makes mention of the fact that Congress was starting to bring in laws to protect merchant seamen. Sailors on lakes and rivers enjoyed some protection, as did sailors in the navy, but this was not extended to seagoing merchant ships for a long time: a sea captain was an absolute dictator, and enjoyed the full support of the law.
A superb book, and definitely one to be enjoyed for great writing and good stories as well as its historical feel. Available as a free e-book via Gutenberg, ManyBooks and elsewhere.
eBook Where Angels Fear to Tread