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Billy Budd, Sailor
Herman Melville

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Chapter 3

At the time of Billy Budd's arbitrary enlistment into the Indomitable that ship was on her way to join the Mediterranean fleet. No long time elapsed before the 'unction was effected. As one of that fleet the seventy-four participated in its movements, tho' at times, on account of her superior sailing qualities, in the absence of frigates , despatched on separate duty as a scout and at times on less temporary service. But with all this the story has little concernment, restricted as it is to the inner life of one particular ship and the career of an individual sailor.

It was the summer of 1797. In the April of that year had occurred the commotion at Spithead followed in May by a second and yet more serious outbreak in the fleet at the Nore. The latter is known, and without exaggeration in the epithet, as the Great Mutiny. It was indeed a demonstration more menacing to England than the contemporary manifestoes and conquering and proselyting armies of the French Directory.

To the Empire, the Nore Mutiny was what a strike in the fire-brigade would be to London threatened by general arson. In a crisis when the kingdom might well have anticipated the famous signal that some years later published along the naval line of battle what it was that upon occasion England expected of Englishmen; that was the time when at the mast-heads  of the three-deckers and seventy-fours moored in her own roadstead--a fleet , the right arm of a Power then all but the sole free conservative one of the Old World, the blue-jackets, to be numbered by the thousands, ran up a fleet, the right arm of a Power then all but the sole free conservative one of the Old World, the blue-jackets, to be numbered by thousands, ran up with hurrahs the British colors with the union and cross wiped out; by that cancellation transmuting the flag of founded law and freedom defined, into the enemy's red meteor of unbridled and unbounded revolt. Reasonable discontent growing out of practical grievances in the fleet had been ignited into irrational combustion, as by live cinders blown across the Channel from France in flames.
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