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Chapter 18


It was necessary to supply the lost cooper's place; accordingly,
word was passed for all who belonged to that calling to muster
at the main-mast, in order that one of them might be selected.
Thirteen men obeyed the summons--a circumstance illustrative of
the fact that many good handicrafts-men are lost to their trades
and the world by serving in men-of-war. Indeed, from a frigate's
crew might he culled out men of all callings and vocations, from
a backslidden parson to a broken-down comedian. The Navy is the
asylum for the perverse, the home of the unfortunate. Here the
sons of adversity meet the children of calamity, and here the
children of calamity meet the offspring of sin. Bankrupt brokers,
boot-blacks, blacklegs, and blacksmiths here assemble together;
and cast-away tinkers, watch-makers, quill-drivers, cobblers,
doctors, farmers, and lawyers compare past experiences and talk
of old times. Wrecked on a desert shore, a man-of-war's crew
could quickly found an Alexandria by themselves, and fill it with
all the things which go to make up a capital.

Frequently, at one and the same time, you see every trade in
operation on the gun-deck--coopering, carpentering, tailoring,
tinkering, blacksmithing, rope-making, preaching, gambling, and

In truth, a man-of-war is a city afloat, with long avenues set
out with guns instead of trees, and numerous shady lanes, courts,
and by-ways. The quarter-deck is a grand square, park, or parade
ground, with a great Pittsfield elm, in the shape of the main-
mast, at one end, and fronted at the other by the palace of the
Commodore's cabin.

Or, rather, a man-of-war is a lofty, walled, and garrisoned town,
like Quebec, where the thoroughfares and mostly ramparts, and
peaceable citizens meet armed sentries at every corner.

Or it is like the lodging-houses in Paris, turned upside down;
the first floor, or deck, being rented by a lord; the second, by
a select club of gentlemen; the third, by crowds of artisans; and
the fourth, by a whole rabble of common people.

For even thus is it in a frigate, where the commander has a whole
cabin to himself and the spar-deck, the lieutenants their ward-
room underneath, and the mass of sailors swing their hammocks
under all.

And with its long rows of port-hole casements, each revealing the
muzzle of a cannon, a man-of-war resembles a three-story house in
a suspicions part of the town, with a basement of indefinite
depth, and ugly-looking fellows gazing out at the windows.

Herman Melville