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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 623 pages of information about Moby Dick.

Now when these poor sun-burnt mariners, bare-footed, and with their trowsers rolled high up on their eely legs, had wearily hauled their fat fish high and dry, promising themselves a good 150 pounds from the precious oil and bone; and in fantasy sipping rare tea with their wives, and good ale with their cronies, upon the strength of their respective shares; up steps a very learned and most Christian and charitable gentleman, with a copy of Blackstone under his arm; and laying it upon the whale’s head, he says—­“Hands off! this fish, my masters, is a Fast-Fish.  I seize it as the Lord Warden’s.”  Upon this the poor mariners in their respectful consternation—­so truly English—­ knowing not what to say, fall to vigorously scratching their heads all round; meanwhile ruefully glancing from the whale to the stranger.  But that did in nowise mend the matter, or at all soften the hard heart of the learned gentleman with the copy of Blackstone.  At length one of them, after long scratching about for his ideas, made bold to speak,

“Please, sir, who is the Lord Warden?”

“The Duke.”

“But the duke had nothing to do with taking this fish?”

“It is his.”

“We have been at great trouble, and peril, and some expense, and is all that to go to the Duke’s benefit; we getting nothing at all for our pains but our blisters?”

“It is his.”

“Is the Duke so very poor as to be forced to this desperate mode of getting a livelihood?”

“It is his.”

“I thought to relieve my old bed-ridden mother by part of my share of this whale.”

“It is his.”

“Won’t the Duke be content with a quarter or a half?”

“It is his.”

In a word, the whale was seized and sold, and his Grace the Duke of Wellington received the money.  Thinking that viewed in some particular lights, the case might by a bare possibility in some small degree be deemed, under the circumstances, a rather hard one, an honest clergyman of the town respectfully addressed a note to his Grace, begging him to take the case of those unfortunate mariners into full consideration.  To which my Lord Duke in substance replied (both letters were published) that he had already done so, and received the money, and would be obliged to the reverend gentleman if for the future he (the reverend gentleman) would decline meddling with other people’s business.  Is this the still militant old man, standing at the corners of the three kingdoms, on all hands coercing alms of beggars?

It will readily be seen that in this case the alleged right of the Duke to the whale was a delegated one from the Sovereign.  We must needs inquire then on what principle the Sovereign is originally invested with that right.  The law itself has already been set forth.  But Plowdon gives us the reason for it.  Says Plowdon, the whale so caught belongs to the King and Queen, “because of its superior excellence.”  And by the soundest commentators this has ever been held a cogent argument in such matters.

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