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rity to American commerce in the Mediterranean, than has ever been enjoyed by the most powerful maritime states of Europe.
Immediately after the conclusion of the Tripolitan war, the public mind received an impulse most disastrous to the navy, and which tong threatened its entire destruction. The distinguished services performed by Decatur, Sommers, Trippe, and their companions in gun-boats, had brought these vessels into favour. Mr. Jefferson too, (who exercised a control over public opinion, never, we are persuaded, surpassed in this country) with the sentiments of a philosopher and the feelings of a philanthropist, had certainly conceived the idea, that by pursuing a just and pacific policy towards all nations, we might escape wars, which he believed originated entirely from the ambition or cupidity of rival states. It was a part of his scheme of government, therefore, to adopt a policy not only truly pacific, but strictly defensive, and it was his favourite theory that a nation by retiring, when assailed, upon its own resources, and ceasing to hold intercourse with those who violated her rights, might obtain redress, by appealing not to the fears, but the interests of the aggressor. It is not to be denied that these benevolent theories of our great statesman, though originating in the most philosophical spirit, have been proved by our dear-bought experience to be altogether visionary and impracticable, at least in the present state of the world. The restrictive system, as a means of coercion, once so popular, has now, we believe, no advocates in this country; and the substitution of gun-boats for an efficient naval force (which grew out of, and was, indeed, a part of that system) has shared the same fate. The first gun-boats built in the United States were constructed under the act of 2d March, 1805, which authorized the President to cause to be built a number not exceeding twenty-five, for the protection of the ports and harbours of the United States. It is not a little mortifying to reflect, that at the time of the adoption of the gun-boat system, several of the most distinguished naval commanders were consulted on the subject, and it was with their full concurrence that a system was adopted, which, for a long time threatened, and in the end, very nearly effected, the entire annihilation of the navy. From the time when the first batch of these useless vessels was constructed, up to the year 1811, the number was constantly increasing. Every new outrage on our commerce or seamen. was met by building an additional number of gun-boats, until near two hundred of these miserable vessels encumbered our harbours. While this system was vigorously prosecuted, the navy was almost entirely neglected. Indeed, the expense of building and maintaining the gun-boats, in a great measure, de
prived the country of the means of providing for the navy, and it was a fatal error of our naval officers that they should ever have been considered as a part of this establishment. As a branch of the fortification system, and manned chiefly by artillerists, the guin-boats would have been comparatively harmless to the navy. The service itself, it has been forcibly remarked by our author, by confining our officers and seamen to harbour duty, occasioned idle habits, subversive of all good discipline and subordination, and utterly destructive of that generous ambition and spirit of emulation which insures professional preeminence. The first intimation of any change in the policy of the government, in relation to gun-boats, will be found in the act of 30th March, 1812, which, while it provides for putting the frigates into actual service, and appropriates two hundred thousand dollars per annum, for three years, for ship timber, gives authority “for laying up the gun-boats as soon as it shall be deemed compatible with the good of the public service,” and from that time they seeio to have been abandoned by common consent, to their fate. They rapidly fell into decay, and in a few years ceased to exist, leaving no memorial but the wrecks which now encumber our harbours.
In looking back to the period, when under a singular popular delusion, the gun-boats were considered as the appropriate defence for the coasts and harbours of the United States,- we are astonished that the obvious facts and calculations (of which we have a valuable summary from the pen of Mr. Goldsborough) demonstrating their utter inutility, should have been so completely overlooked. Indeed, it is manifest (if we except an accidental encounter with an enemy in a calm) that the only situation in which gun-boats could be of the smallest use, would be when stationed on a shoal-in front of the point to be defended, and out of the reach of frigates and ships of the line. How many positions of this description are to be found in the harbors of the United States, we will not undertake to say, but we will assert, without fear of contradiction, that no situation can be conceived, in which floating batteries would not, in all respects, be more efficient, and much cheaper.
We are now arrived at the great era in the history of the navy, when the solid foundation was laid of a permanent establishment, projected on a scale commensurate with the power and resources of the country,-calculated to grow with their growth, and strengthen with their strength, and destined, at no distant day, to afford security from foreign invasion, and protection to the American flag in every sea. Up to this period, all the efforts made in favour of the navy had resulted, as we
have seen, in the hasty preparation of a few vessels of war, on the pressure of some great emergency, to be laid aside the moment that pressure was removed. But now the question was finally submitted to the country, whether it was indeed the policy of the United States to create, build up, and sustain a naval establishment, adequate to the wants and resources of the country. The time at which this great question was submitted was peculiarly propitious, and the men by whom it was brought forward and sustained, were, froin their known principles, distinguished talents, and high character, eminently qualified to give it popularity. It is not to be denied that there had long existed a deep-rooted jealousy of a naval establishment. The advocates of economy in the national expenditures had, on this subject, united with those who entertained great distrust of all establishments of a military character, and to these was added a large number among the most estimable of our fellow-citizens, who hardly seemed to consider any measure as national which had for its object the tion of commerce or the rights of their countrymen on the ocean. It was the common language of that day (as may be seen in the debates in Congress on Mr. Cheves' navy bill) that commerce was not entitled to protection, that to guard our merchants and our seamen by force of arms, from dangers to which it was said “they had voluntarily exposed themselves,” would cost more than our trade was worth,—that the resources were altogether inadequate to these objects, and that “in creating a navy, we were only building ships for Great Britain.” We repeat, however, that the crisis was a favourable one for refuting errors like these, and this advantage was seized upon and pressed with a zeal and power which carried the navy triumphantly through all difficulties, and gave it an opportunity which alone was wanted of demonstrating, by practical results, its eminent utility as a means both of protection and offence. For this great event, the country is chiefly indebted to Mr. Cheves, to whom more justly than to any man now alive, belongs the proud title of "Father of the Navy.” It is well known to the nation, that at the commencement of the session of Congress, commonly called the war session, (1811-1812) many of the ablest men in the United States, of both political parties, were drawn from their retirement, and forced into the public councils for the express purpose of relieving us, if possible, from the unhappy and degraded situation in which we were then placed, and the House of Representatives presented a combination of various and powerful talent, such as had, perhaps, never before been brought into conflict in the councils of the nation. The great leaders of the republican party in Congress, were at VOL. II.NO. 4.
length united in the determination to abandon the restrictive system, and to seek the redress of our wrongs by war,-while the opposition of that day, distrusting as they alleged the power and resources of the nation, to wage war successfully against Great Britain, and distrusting still more, perhaps, the men then in the administration of our public affairs,—seem to have acted on the principle, that the redress of all our grievances, was only to be found in a change of rulers. It is not our present purpose to notice the proceedings of the twelfth Congress, further than they have a direct and intinsate bearing on the subject now under our consideration. Mr. Cheves was appointed Chairman of the Committee of Naval Affairs, and at once entered upon the subject of a naval establishment, with the energy and judgment for which he is so eminently distinguished. Looking to the war which was then at hand, as well as to the permanent interests of the United States, this enlightened practical statesman, resolved to submit to the representatives of the people and to the nation, the great question, whether it was our true policy to establish and maintain a navy,ma question which it was manifest, from the past history of the country, had never yet been decided. The Report, which stands at the head of this article, was the fruit of this determination. In the preliminary inquiries which led to that report, many of the most experienced and intelligent officers of our navy were xamined, the naval establishments of other countries were carefully looked into,-our necessities and our resources were accurately weighed, and the deliberate opinion was expressed by the committee, that in every view of the subject, it was the true policy of the United States to build up a naval establishment, as the cheapest, the safest, and the best protection to their sea-coast, and to their commerce, and, that such an establishment was inseparably connected with the future prosperity, safety, and glory of the country. From this able report, we must be permitted to make one. or two extracts:
“ The important engine of national strength and national security, which is formed by a naval force, has hitherto, in the opinion of the committee, been treated with a neglect highly impolitic, or supported with a spirit so languid, as while it has preserved the existence of the establishment, has had the effect of loading it with the imputations of wasteful expense and comparative inefficiency.
“No system has bitherto been adopted, which, though limited by the dispersing security of the times, and the just economy of our republican institutions, was yet calculated to enlarge, gradually, with the progress of the nation's growth in population, in wealth, and in commerce, or expand with an energy proportioned to a crisis of particular danger.
“That a naval protection is particularly secured to the interest of commerce by our great political compact, is proved by that part of the Constitution which expressly gave to Congress the power to provide and maintain a navy;" and is confirmed by the history of the times, and the particular circumstances which led to its institution ; but it is alike secured by the fundamental nature of all government, which extends to every interest under its authority a protection (if within the nation's means) which is adequate to its preservation; nor is this protection called for only by the interest of a particular description of · men, or a particular tract of country. A navy is as necessary to protect the mouths of the Mississippi, the channel through which the produce of the agriculture of the Western States must pass, to become valuable, as the bays of the Chesapeake and Delaware, and more necessary than on the shores of the Eastern or Southern States."
After stating that two objections had been strongly urged, viz: Ist. The great expense of a naval establishment, and 2ly. The inability of the country to maintain a navy “ against the power of Great Britain." The committee say
“ The first objection appears to your committee to be founded on a mistaken assumption of the fact, for, in their opinion, a naval force, within due limits, and under proper regulations, will constitute the cheapest defence of the nation.
The other objection your committee suppose to have been founded on an imperfect examination of the subject ; for those who are best able to form an opinion on this matter, from congenial professional pursuits as well as a particular knowledge of the marine of Great Britain, declare, that she cannot, at any time, spare more than a very limited force for the American station; one that can be effectually resisted by an establishment which may be supported by this government without a great direct expense ; which, in its effects, will greatly more than reimburse to the national wealth the sums which may be drawn from it for this object; protect our harbours from insult, our coasting trade from spoliations, and give us the dominion of a sea on our borders which we ought to call our own, and defend with our cannon.
“ With this view your committee have not considered the subject with regard only to the practicable and advisable preparation for the pre
* In the opinion of the committee, (in which they were supported by officers of the navy,) it would be necessary to enable a British fleet to maintain the command of the American coast, that a number of vessels should be employed on that service at least twice, and, perhaps three times as great as our own. The distance from Europe, the difficulty of procuring supplies,—the necessity of frequent reliefs, and the numerous stations on which British fleets must be kept, demonstrated in their opinion, that Great Britain could never employ against the United States a sufficient force to keep the command of our coasts in the face of an American squadron of twelve ships of the line, and twenty frigates. This, according to their calculations, would require a larger fleet than had ever been brought to act together, even when “the empire of the seas” was supposed to be at stake. It may be well doubted, however, whether these calculations are at all applicable to the existing state of things, when, by the creation of a powerful naval station at Bermuda, the British naval establishment has been brought to our very doors. This is a subject worthy of the early and serious consideration of our government.