24 The Advocate CHAPTER 24 THE ADVOCATEThe Advocate: In defending whalers and whaling against unfair charges, Ishmael assumes the role of lawyer, as the chapter title implies. Much of the information here is drawn from Ch. 11 of Thomas Beale, The Natural History of the Sperm Whale (1839), with additional borrowings from William Scoresby, An Account of the Northern Whale Fishery (1820) and J. Ross Browne, Etchings of a Whaling Cruise (1849). See also Mansfield and Vincent's note in their edition of Moby-Dick. Revision Narratives below address three of Melville's appropriations from these sources: "jealous policy," "benevolent biscuit," and "primitive missionaries." As Queequeg and I are now fairly embarked in this business of whaling; and as this business of whaling has somehow come to be regarded among landsmen as a rather unpoetical and disreputable pursuit; therefore, I am all anxiety to convince ye, ye landsmen, of the injustice hereby done to us hunters of whales. In the first place, it may be deemed almost superfluous to establish the fact, that among people at large, the business of whaling is not accounted on a level with what are called the liberal professions. If a stranger were introduced into any miscellaneous metropolitan society, it would but slightly advance the general opinion of his merits, were he presented to the company as a harpooneer, say; and if in emulation of the naval officers he should append the initials S. W. F. (Sperm Whale Fishery) to his visiting card, such a procedure would be deemed pre-eminently presuming and ridiculous. Doubtless one leading reason why the world declines honoring us whalemen, is this: they think that, at best, our vocation amounts to a butchering sort of business; and that when actively engaged therein, we are surrounded by all manner of defilements. Butchers we are, that is true. But butchers, also, and butchers of the bloodiest badge have been all Martial Commanders whom the world invariably delights to honor. And as for the matter of the alleged uncleanliness of our business, ye shall soon be initiated into certain facts hitherto pretty generally unknown, and which, upon the whole, will triumphantly plant the sperm whale-ship at least among the cleanliest things of this tidy earth. But even granting the charge in question to be true; what disordered slippery decks of a whale-ship are comparable to the unspeakable carrion of those battle-fields from which so many soldiers return to drink in all ladies’ plaudits? And if the idea of peril so much enhances the popular conceit of the soldier’s profession; let me assure ye that many a veteran who has freely marched up to a battery, would quickly recoil at the apparition of the sperm whale’s vast tail, fanning into eddies the air over his head. For what are the comprehensible terrors of man compared with the interlinked terrors and wonders of God! But, though the world scouts atscouts at: scorns; derides. us whale hunters, yet does it unwittingly pay us the profoundest homage; yea, an all-abounding adoration! for almost all the tapers, lamps, and candles that burn round the globe, burn, as before so many shrines, to our glory! But look at this matter in other lights; weigh it in all sorts of scales; see what we whalemen are, and have been. Why did the Dutch in De Witt’s timethe Dutch in De Witt’s time: Johan de Witt (1625-1672) led the Dutch Republic for 22 years during its "Golden Age" of expansion in arts, sciences, and colonization. In writing this paragraph, Melville drew upon Beale for the opening information and upon Browne for the rest of the paragraph's statistics. have admirals of their whaling fleets? Why did Louis XVI. of France, at his own personal expense, fit out whaling ships from DunkirkDunkirk: French port on the Strait of Dover (North Sea)., and politely invite to that town some score or two of families from our own island of Nantucket? Why did Britain between the years 1750 and 1788 pay to her whalemen in bounties upwards of £1,000,000? And lastly, how comes it that we whalemen of America now outnumber all the rest of the banded whalemen in the world; sail a navy of upwards of seven hundred vessels; manned by eighteen thousand men; yearly consuming 4,000,000 of dollars; the ships worth, at the time of sailing, $20,000,000; and every year importing into our harbors a well reaped harvest of $7,000,000. How comes all this, if there be not something puissantpuissant: powerful. in whaling? But this is not the half; look again. I freely assert, that the cosmopolite philosophercosmopolite philosopher: The notion of the cosmopolite as a citizen of the world goes back to the fifth-century BCE gadfly-philosopher Diogenes; however, American and European philosophes of the eighteenth-century en-lightenment adopted a cosmopolitan view that foresaw all nations, languages, arts, and sciences united under one rational governance. Melville announces this liberal perspective in “Etymology” when he has his pale Usher using “a queer handkerchief, mockingly embellished with all the gay flags of all the known nations of the world” to dust his books. Because certain adventurers, at least one famous itinerant preacher (Lorenzo Dow), and various shady business men adopted the pose of “Cosmopolite” in their dealings, the word acquired additional, more ambiguous meanings in Melville’s day, a fact he exploits by calling Frank Goodman, the main character of The Confidence-Man, a “cosmopolitan.” cannot, for his life, point out one single peaceful influence, which within the last sixty years has operated more potentially upon the whole broad world, taken in one aggregate, than the high and mighty business of whaling. One way and another, it has begotten events so remarkable in themselves, and so continuously momentous in their sequential issues, that whaling may well be regarded as that Egyptian motherEgyptian mother . . . womb: In Egyptian mythology, Nut is the mother of the twins Osiris and Isis. As told by Plutarch (Morals, Book 5), Osiris impregnates his twin sister before their birth., who bore offspring themselves pregnant from her womb. It would be a hopeless, endless task to catalogue all these things. Let a handful sufficeLet a handful suffice: According to Vincent's The Trying-out of Moby-Dick, the rest of this chapter and the following two echo Beale, who himself quoted from an unnamed authority.. For many years past the whale-ship has been the pioneer in ferreting out the remotest and least known parts of the earth. She has explored seas and archipelagoes which had no chart, where no Cook or Vancouver had ever sailed. If American and European men-of-war now peacefully ride in once savage harbors, let them fire salutes to the honor and the glory of the whale-ship, which originally showed them the way, and first interpreted between them and the savages. They may celebrate as they will the heroes of Exploring Expeditions, your Cooks, your KrusensternsExploring Expeditions, your Cooks, your Krusensterns: The famous United States Exploring Expedition (1838–1842), under Lt. Charles Wilkes; Captain James Cook (1728–1779) and Captain George Vancouver (1758–1798) were the most famous eighteenth-century explorers of the Pacific; Adam Johann Krusenstern (1770–1846) was the first Russian circumnavigator. The American edition misspelled "Cook" as "Cooke" here and elsewhere in this chapter; the British corrected the error; as do the MEL and NN editions.; but I say that scores of anonymous Captains have sailed out of Nantucket, that were as great, and greater than your Cook and your Krusenstern. For in their succorless empty-handedness, they, in the heathenish sharked waters, and by the beaches of unrecorded, javelinjavelin: here, spear-filled. islands, battled with virgin wonders and terrors that Cook with all his marines and muskets would not willingly have dared. All that is made such a flourish of in the old South Sea Voyages South Sea Voyages: that is, the written accounts of such voyages., those things were but the life-time commonplaces of our heroic Nantucketers. Often, adventures which Vancouver dedicates three chapters to, these men accounted unworthy of being set down in the ship’s common log. Ah, the world! Oh, the world! Until the whale fishery rounded Cape Horn, no commerce but colonial, scarcely any intercourse but colonial, was carried on between Europe and the long line of the opulent Spanish provinces on the Pacific coast. It was the whaleman who first broke through the jealous policy of the Spanish crownREVISION NARRATIVE. Melville's Version of Beale 1: jealous policy // Melville's unacknowledged appropriation of wording and information from Beale’s Natural History of the Sperm Whale often involved his revision of Beale's intended meanings, thereby creating a version of Beale embedded within his own fluid text. Such unacknowledged appropriation can be seen in Melville’s phrase, “the jealous policy of the Spanish crown,” which is lifted from Beale’s phrase, “so meanly jealous was Spain of the interference of foreigners” (see Beale, ch. 11, p. 146). In two passages in the following paragraph, Melville’s version of Beale may be read as a subtle disparagement of Beale's too sunny praise of imperialism. (See notes on "benevolent biscuit" and "primitive missionaries," below.) For Melville's annotated copy of Beale, see Melville's Marginalia Online at, touching those colonies; and, if space permitted, it might be distinctly shown how from those whalemen at last eventuated the liberation of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia from the yoke of Old Spain, and the establishment of the eternal democracyliberation of Peru, Chili, and Bolivia from the yoke of Old Spain: Chile became independent from Spanish colonial rule in 1818, Peru in 1824, and Bolivia in 1825. While an ordinary seaman in the US Navy, stationed in Callao, Peru in 1843-44, Melville witnessed evidence of ongoing conflicts among these three republics and alluded to them in describing Jack Chase in White-Jacket, Chs. 4-5. The Peru-Bolivian Confederation's 1839 war with Chile and a subsequent parade of four Peruvian strongmen controling Lima, which stretched into Melville's time in Peru, would suggest that Ishmael's phrase "the establishment of eternal democracy in those parts" is a sarcasm. (See Bryant, Melville: A Half Known Life, 2.1056-1059.) See also notes on Lima in Chs. 42 and 54. in those parts. That great America on the other side of the sphere, Australia, was given to the enlightened world by the whaleman. After its first blunder-born discovery by a Dutchman,discovery by a Dutchman: Australia was sighted earlier by other Europeans, but a Dutch ship charted part of the coast in 1606. all other ships long shunned those shores as pestiferously barbarous; but the whale-ship touched there. The whale-ship is the true mother of that now mighty colony. Moreover, in the infancy of the first Australian settlement, the emigrants were several times saved from starvation by the benevolent biscuitREVISION NARRATIVE. Melville's Version of Beale 2: benevolent biscuit // Melville’s rephrasing of Beale here may be a concealed sarcasm of the source. In his discussion of the role of whaling in supporting Pacific colonization, Beale praises the whalers' charity: "It is a fact, that the original settlers at Botany Bay were more than once saved from starvation by the timely arrival of some whaling vessels" [Ch. 11, p. 147; Beale's italics]. By characterizing the whalers' salvation of the settlers through the agency of an oddly specified "benevolent biscuit," Melville seems ironically to suggest that the whalers' charity might have been at best grudgingly minimal. of the whale-ship luckily dropping an anchor in their waters. The uncounted isles of all Polynesia confess the same truth, and do commercial homage to the whale-ship, that cleared the way for the missionary and the merchant, and in many cases carried the primitive missionariesREVISION NARRATIVE. Melville's Version of Beale 3: primitive missionaries // On the surface, the use of "primitive" in this curious phrase refers only to the missionaries who first arrive, but it also implies a negative characterization of the missionaries as primitive in behavior, or uncivilized. In fact, the phrasing seems a deliberate snubbing of missionaries. To create this phrase, Melville extracts Beale’s word “primitive” (referring to settlers) from one passage and attaches it to “missionaries” in a passage from the next paragraph; both words are highlighted in bold in the passage quoted here: "But our whaling vessels, cruising for whales, examined their shores and brought home information respecting their value, and . . . carried out people to reside upon them, and established a regular communication between them and our own country—by which the wants of the primitive settlers could be supplied. . . . (Beale, Ch. 11, p. 147). "missionaries . . . have been preceded by the whaler, who has opened a barter with the savage, and brought about a friendly regard towards us, by which he has secured a ready welcome to the missionaries" (Beale, 147-148) For Melville's copy of Beale, see Melville's Marginalia Online at To compare Moby-Dick and Beale pages, click the thumbnails in the right margin.) to their first destinations. If that double-bolted land, Japandouble-bolted land, Japan: English whaleships preceded American ones in Polynesia (the central Pacific islands south of Hawai’i) and Japan. Contrary to Melville's 1851 claim that American whalers should be credited for opening Japan to the West, Commodore Matthew Perry's gunboats opened Japan, by treaty, to Western commerce in 1854., is ever to become hospitable, it is the whale-ship alone to whom the credit will be due; for already she is on the threshold. But if, in the face of all this, you still declare that whaling has no æsthetically noble associations connected with it, then am I ready to shivershiver: break into bits (in a medieval joust). fifty lances with you there, and unhorse you with a split helmet every time. The whale has no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler, you will say. The whale no famous author, and whaling no famous chronicler? Who wrote the first account of our Leviathan? Who but mighty Jobmighty Job: Job 41 describes “Leviathan” at length.! And who composed the first narrative of a whaling-voyage? Who, but no less a prince than Alfred the GreatAlfred the Great: Anglo-Saxon king of England and scholar, Alfred (849–899) inserted the story of Other (Octhere) into his translation of Orosius’s History of the World. See note on Other in “Extracts.”, who, with his own royal pen, took down the words from Other, the Norwegian whale-hunter of those times! And who pronounced our glowing eulogy in Parliament? Who, but Edmund BurkeEdmund Burke: British statesman Edmund Burke (1729–1797) spoke in 1775 on “Conciliation with the American Colonies”; see also passages attributed to Burke in “Extracts.”! True enough, but then whalemen themselves are poor devils; they have no good blood in their veins. No good blood in their veins? They have something better than royal blood there. The grandmother of Benjamin Franklin was Mary MorrelMary Morrell: With her husband, Peter Folger, and their family, Mary Morrell (1620-1704) settled on Nantucket in 1663.; afterwards, by marriage, Mary Folger, one of the old settlers of Nantucket, and the ancestress to a long line of Folgers and harpooneers—all kith and kin to noble Benjamin—this day darting the barbed iron from one side of the world to the other. Good again; but then all confess that somehow whaling is not respectable. Whaling not respectable? Whaling is imperial! By old English statutory law, the whale is declared “a royal fish.”* Oh, that’s only nominal! The whale himself has never figured in any grand imposing way. The whale never figured in any grand imposing way? In one of the mighty triumphs given to a Roman general upon his entering the world’s capital, the bones of a whale, brought all the way from the Syrian coast, were the most conspicuous object in the cymballed procession.* Grant it, since you cite it; but, say what you will, there is no real dignity in whaling. No dignity in whaling?No dignity in whaling?: In his copy of Beale, Melville inscribed "Dignity of whaling" in pencil in the left margin of p. 146. (See Melville's Marginalia Online at However, the paragraph does not itself draw upon Beale for its content or commentary. The dignity of our calling the very heavens attest. CetusCetus: constellation visible in the Southern Hemisphere. is a constellation in the South! No more! Drive down your hat in presence of the Czar, and take it off to Queequeg! No more! I know a man that, in his lifetime, has taken three hundred and fifty whales. I account that man more honorable than that great captain of antiquitythat great captain of antiquity . . . many walled towns: Possibly Demetrius Poliorcetes (“Besieger of Cities”) in Plutarch’s Lives. who boasted of taking as many walled towns. And, as for me, if, by any possibility, there be any as yet undiscovered prime thing in me; if I shall ever deserve any real repute in that small but high hushed world which I might not be unreasonably ambitious of; if hereafter I shall do anything that, upon the whole, a man might rather have done than to have left undone; if, at my death, my executors, or more properly my creditors, find any precious MSS.if, at my death . . . precious MSS in my desk: Melville died in 1891 leaving in his writing desk, among many other manuscripts of poetry and prose, the almost-completed Billy Budd, Sailor. The MS for Moby-Dick does not survive. in my desk, then here I prospectively ascribe all the honor and the glory to whalingSee Ch. 82, "The Honor and Glory of Whaling."; for a whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvarda whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard: Ishmael rates his experience of whaling as an education on par with that offered at America's oldest colleges. While Melville's formal education included schools in Manhattan and the Albany and Lansingburgh Academies, he never attended college. Melville was a voracious reader, even at sea; his library of over one thousand volumes was dispersed after his death, of which 300 (some annotated) have been located.. ______________________________ * [Melville's Note] See subsequent chapters for something more on this head.subsequent chapters: Melville’s asterisks for "royal fish" and "cymballed procession," above, refer the reader to Chs. 90 and 82, respectively; his source for the first was Scoresby, for the second, Kitto's Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature (1845). See Mansfield and Vincent's note in their edition of Moby-Dick, 661.