The [British Royal Navy], like most military organizations of the time, was big on tough love, only without the love. For some weird reason, a lot of the sick corporal punishments the [Royal Navy] did have turned into cute little phrases, folk-song stuff: “keel-haul,” “run the gauntlet” and such. Well, not all of them. Some are a little more blunt: “flogging to death,” “hanging,” “cat-o-nine-tails.” The [Royal Navy] didn’t get around to banning the cat, their favorite teaching device, until the 1880s, and even then Parliament was laughing at the idea: “Why, we may as well pamper the ranks with wine and women!”—until one of the Irish dissidents in Parnell’s group had somebody actually bring a cat-o-nine-tails, a well-used one, right into the House of Commons. The fat pink toffs who’d been laughing at it felt this thing in their soft little hands, gulped a few times, and banned it on the spot.
Great stuff from Gary Brecher the War Nerd. Obligatory link to source article.
Incidentally, in that old song about what to do with the drunken sailor, one of the lines goes "Put him in bed with the captain's daughter!" That made no sense to me until I discovered that this thing right here is a "Captain's Daughter" and being "put in bed" with her involves flogging.