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First Oath

( Originally Published 1851 )



"My lads," said a captain, when reading his orders to his crew on the quarter deck, to take the command of a ship, " there is one law I am determined to make, and I shall insist upon its being kept; indeed, it is a favor which I ask of you, and which, as a British officer, I expect will be granted by a crew of British seamen. What say you, my lads, are you willing to grant your new captain one favor?" "Ay, ay, " cried all hands, " let's know what it is, Sir." "Well, my lads," said the captain, " it is this. That you must allow me to swear the first oath in the ship. No man on board must swear an oath before I do: I am determined to have the privilege of swearing the first on board. What say you, my lads, will you grant me this favor? " The men started, and stood for a moment quite at a Ioss what to say. " They were taken," says one, " all a-back." " They were brought up," said another, " all standing." The Captain reiterated, " Now, my fine fellows, what do you say, am I to have the privilege of swearing the first oath on board?" The appeal seemed so reasonable, and the manner of the Captain so kind and prepossessing, that a general burst from the ship's company announced " Ay, ay, Sir!" with their accustomed three cheers. The effect was good: swearing was wholly abolished in the ship.

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