The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Gazette (Detroit, MI), July 25, 1817

Full Text

In 1812, when our government sent seamen from the Atlantic to the Lakes (subsequently the scene of American superior naval prowess) the first detachment of jolly tars were landed at Albany, and conveyed from thence to Niagara frontier in waggons. Many of these men, endowed with more bravery than worldly prudence, were destitute of cash, so that a resort to ingenuity became indespensible whenever they wanted to raise an additional glass of grog. The novelty of their appearance, combined with their peculiar oddities and nautical phrases, rendered it no difficult matter, during the first few days of their inland voyage, to levy contributions on innkeepers - they would quaff the juice of the rye, - bid the landlord keep a good look out astern for the commissary - tell him how much liquor they had drank - and he would pay for all.

After a lapse of five or six days, this traverse would not work; a report of it had traveled in advance, and the landlords had adopted a rule of touch penny before you touch pot. One day, a sailor of more than ordinary whim, sauntered into a tavern, resolved to try a new expedient: he observed the landlord rigidly requiring the deposit of the money before he would deliver the liquor. Not apalled by this precautionary measure, although he was perfectly "stiverless," Jack walked carelessly into the bar, where the following dialog ensued.

Jack - Landlord, have you got any crackers?

Landlord - Yes, sir.

Jack - Well lets have a sixpence worth.

The landlord's caution was lulled into security by the sailor's not asking for liquor, and he delivered the crackers without first requiring the money.

Jack - (looking at and turning the crackers in his hand) Now that I've got 'em I don't think I can eat 'em. Landlord, won't you give me something else for these crackers?

Landlord - yes, sir. What do you wish?

Jack - How much whiskey will you give me for 'em.

Landlord - A gill.*

Jack - It's a bargain. Here, take the crackers.

The landlord gave Jack the whiskey, which he drank and walked towards the door.

Landlord - Stop, sir, you have not paid me for the whiskey.

Jack - Didn't I give you the crackers for it?

Landlord - Very well - but you didn't pay me for the crackers.

Jack - Why, havn't ye got your crackers back again, you landlubber, and what more do you want?

Salem Gazette.

Media Type:
Item Type:
*a gill is four onces in U.S. customary measure, five ounces in British Imperial measure. I'm uncertain which would have been in use at this time and place. In any case, it's a good stiff jolt of booze - about 3 shots.
Date of Original:
July 25, 1817
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Language of Item:
Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Gazette (Detroit, MI), July 25, 1817