Favorite bit from Moby Dick:
One often hears of writers that rise and swell with their subject, alhtough it may seem but an ordinary one. How, then, with me, writing of this Leviathan? Unconsciously my chirography expands into placard capitals. Give me a condor’s quill! Give me Vesuivius’ crater for an inkstand! Friends, hold my arms! For in the mere act of penning my thoughts of this Leviathan, they weary me, and make me faint with their outreaching comprehensiveness of sweep, as if to include the whole circle of the sciences, and all the generations of whales, and men, and mastodons, past, present, and to come, with all the revolving panoramas of empire on earth, and throughout the whole universe, not excluding its suburbs. Such and so magnifying, is the virtue of a large and liberal theme! We expand to its bulk. To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though may there be who have tried it. Chapter 104 The Fossil Whale
Missouri Comproimise 1820:
The Great Compromiser, Henry Clay, proposed the following elements of a sectional compromise:
* That Missouri be admitted to the Union as a slave state (as the population of the territory apparently desired)
* That slavery was to be prohibited from the new American territories in the Louisiana Purchase north of 36˚30’ north latitude (the southern boundary of Missouri); states to the south of the line (the new Arkansas Territory) would decide the slavery issue for themselves
* That Maine (formerly part of Massachusetts) be admitted to the Union as a free state.
Sectional balance was maintained; with the admission of Missouri and Maine there were 12 free states and 12 slave states. This established a precedent that would be followed for the next 30 years. New states would be admitted in tandem—one slave, one free.
1850 congressional debates over Compromise of 1850
Finally, the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and the Dred Scott Decision 1857.
A disorderly elegy to democracy, which Melville saw threatened on many sides by the spririt of utilitarianism (represented comically by Bildad and Peleg), by the accelerating pace of expansionism (the Pequod is named after an Idnian tribe obliterated by the seventeenth century war with the Puritans), and by the drive toward industrial power (in the great “Try-Works” chapter the ship becomes a floating factory), which degrades men into mere instruments of a technological process” Delbanco intro.
The Quarterdeck: demagoguery.