Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

From the annual report of the Secretary of the Navy made to Congress at their last session, it appears, that the present condition of the navy is as follows:

In commission. In ordinary.

Built or building,

Total

not launched. Ships of the Line, 1

6
5

12 Frigates,

6
5
6

17 Sloops of War, 10

3
4

17 Schooners,

4
3
0

7 Exclusive of one steam-frigate built, and the materials for two others. The number of officers now in the navy is as follows : Captains,

35 Masters Commandant, 34 Lieutenants, 262 Midshipmen,

392 The whole number of men employed is 5,864, and the annual expense about three millions of dollars.

By the Report recommending "a plan for a Naval Peace Establishment," it is proposed to create admirals and to make provision for a considerable increase in the number of our officers, and by a subsequent report, plans are suggested for securing the services of a sufficient number of seamen, &c.

These reports present several questions of vital interest, which we had proposed to discuss—such as the ability of the United States to maintain a navy adequate to the complete command of our coasts in time of war, and to the protection of our commerce in time of peace. We had intended to examine this subject in reference to our resources in ship-timber, our ability to command (and by what means) the number of seamen necessary to man our ships; and, lastly, to enter into an examination of our naval resources generally, in comparison with those of the nations of Europe, and especially of the new States which have sprung up in this hemisphere,-in order to shew the part which the navy of this country will probably be required to act in the future wars which may break out during the present century. The subject, however, has so expanded under our pen, that we must defer to “a more convenient season," what we may have to say on these interesting subjects. And we confess we do this with less reluctance, since it really appears to us to be almost superfluous to enter into speculations as to the value of a navy for the protection of our commerce, at a time when it is still a matter of doubt whether that commerce is not destined to become a victim to the prohibitory policy now “in the full tide of experiment." It seems to be labour lost ; indeed we have hardly the heart to indulge ourselves in anticipations of the brilliant

career of a navy, which certainly cannot long continue to exist, much less to flourish, when our merchant ships shall be withdrawn from every sea-when the capital of our merchants shall be invested in woollen and cotton factories, and the hardy sons of the ocean shall find themselves transformed into the managers of looms and of spinning jennies.

Art. III.— The Life of John Ledyard, the American Traveller ;

comprising selections from his Journal and Correspondence. By JARED SPARKS. Cambridge. 1828.

ALTHOUGH this book would have been read with much deeper interest thirty years ago, yet we feel greatly obliged to Mr. Sparks for rendering even this tardy justice to the memory of one of the most adventurous of his enterprizing countrymen-one, of whom all have heard enough to excite curiosity, but none enough to gratify it. Every body has read his beautiful Eulogy on Women, which has the merit of being founded on actual observation, not of a few individuals, or even of a nation, but on a survey of all the varieties of the human race; and which must be as just as it is beautiful, by the unexampled currency it has obtained. But little else was known of its singular author by the American public, except what floated in loose tradition, for his own journal of his early voyage to the South-Sea Islands, under Captain Cook, has had a very limited circulation among us. We trust that the desire to know something more of his character and adventures, though greatly abated, is not extinguished, and that the work we are about to consider, will give it new life.

John Ledyard was born in the State of Connecticut, in the year 1751. He was the son of a sea-captain, of the same name, who, dying at the age of thirty-five, left him the eldest of four orphans, under the charge of a mother, whose many estimable qualities are supposed to have had great influence in forining the best and most remarkable traits in his character.

After a few years, his mother having married again, Ledyard was committed to the care of his paternal grandfather in Hart

ford; and having received such an education as a grammar school then afforded, he entered a lawyer's office, as a student of law. But finding this pursuit not suited to his taste, he abandoned it, and on the invitation of one of his grandfather's friends, entered Dartmouth College, in New-Hampshire, with the intention of preparing himself to become a missionary to the Indians.

“ His mother's wishes and advice, [says Mr. Sparks) had, probably, much influence in guiding him to this resolution. In accordance with the religious spirit of that day, she felt a strong compassion for the deplorable state of the Indians, and it was among her earliest and fondest hopes of this, her favourite son, that he would be educated as a missionary, and become an approved instrument in the hands of Providence, to bring these degraded and suffering heathens to a knowledge of a pure religion, and the blessings of civilized life. When she saw this door opened for the realizing of her hopes, and her son placed under the charge of the most eminent labourer of his day in the cause of the Indians, her joy was complete.” p. 7.

He continued a student of this institution for one year, but ere he had been there four months, " he suddenly disappeared, without previous notice to his comrades, apparently, without permission from the President," and continued absent for three months and a half, having wandered, as is understood, among the Six Nations, on the borders of Canada. In this ramble, he seems to have abandoned his purpose of becoming a missionary, but by it he acquired a knowledge of Indian manners and language, and, probably, laid the foundation of that taste for adventure, by which he was afterwards characterised. After his return to college, he seems to have profited little by his exercises or studies; and, on being lectured by the President for idleness and irregularity, his character for active enterprise yet more fully developed itself.

"On the margin of the Connecticut river, [says his biographer which runs near the college, stood many majestic forest trees, nourished by a rich soil. One of these Ledyard contrived to cut down. He then set himself at work to fashion its trunk into a canoe, and in his labour he was assisted by some of his fellow-students. As the canoe was fifty feet long, and three wide, and was to be dug out and constructed by these unskilful workmen, the task was not a trifling one, nor such as could be speedily executed. Operations were carried on with spirit, however, till Ledyard wounded himself with an axe, and was disabled for several days. When recovered, he applied himself anew to his work; the canoe was finished, launched into the stream, and, by the further aid of his companions, equipped and prepared for a voyage. His wishes were now at their consummation, and bidding adieu to these.

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

haunts of the muses, where he had gained a dubious fame, he set off alone with a light heart to explore a river, with the navigation of which he had not the slightest acquaintance. The distance to Hartford was not less than one hundred and forty miles, much of the way was through a wilderness, and in several places there were dangerous falls and rapids.

“ With a bearskin for a covering, and his canoe well stocked with provisions, he yielded himself to the current, and floated leisurely down the stream, seldom using his paddle, and stopping only in the night for sleep. He told Mr. Jefferson in Paris, fourteen years afterwards, that he took only two books with him, a Greek Testament, and Ovid, one of which he was deeply engaged in reading, when his canoe approached Bellows' Falls, where he was suddenly roused by the noise of the waters rushing among the rocks through the narrow passage. The danger was imminent, as no boat could go down that fall without being instantly dashed in pieces. With difficulty he gained the shore in time to escape such a catastrophe, and through the kind assistance of the people in the neighbourhood, who were astonished at the novelty of such a voyage down the Connecticut, his canoe was drawn by oxen around the fall, and comınitted again to the water below. From that time, till he arrived at his place of destination, we hear of no accident, although he was carried through several dangerous passes in the river." p. 16.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

Soon after this adventure, he formed the scheme at Hartford, of studying divinity, and by the advice of some friends, pro

eded to Long Island for that purpose; but meeting neither with assistance nor encouragement there, he re-crossed the Sound, and returned to his native state. He here soon laid aside all thoughts of the pulpit, and entered as a common sailor on board a vessel bound to Gibraltar, and commanded by an old friend of his father. While at Gibraltar, he enlisted as a soldier, but with the same facility of temper, yielded to the captain's remonstrances, and consented to return with him if his release could be procured, which was accordingly done.

From Gibraltar they proceeded to the Barbary Coast, thence to the West-Indies, and thence back to New-London, which they reached in twelve months after they had left it. Ledyard was then twenty-two years of age, and he seems to have conceived the same distaste for the life of a sailor that he had felt for every other profession he had tried, for we find his next project was to visit his relations in England, in the hope of receiving assistance from them, as "he had often heard his grandfather descant on his ancestors, and his wealthy connexions," in that country. Elated with this dream of future consequence, he proceeded to New-York for the purpose of procuring a pas. sage to England, and the sequel of this adventure is so charac. VOL. II.-NO, 4.

49

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

teristic of his very sanguine temper, of the ardour of purpose with which he pursued any favourite scheme, until its chief difficulties were surmounted, and of the readiness with which it was abandoned, that we cannot forbear to transcribe it.

“The first vessel about to sail for England was bound to Plymouth, and in this he obtained a birth, probably, on condition of working as a sailor. His trip to the Mediterranean was now to yield its fruits. On his arrival in Plymouth and leaving the vessel, he was reduced to the extreme of want, without money in his pocket, or a single acquaintance to whom he could apply for relief. Thus situated, it behoved him to make haste to London, where he looked for an immediate welcome and a home among the relations, whose wealth and virtues he had heard so much extolled by his grandfather. As the good fortune of the moment would have it, he fell in with an Irishman, a genuine specimen of the honesty, frankness and good nature, which characterize many of the sons of Erin ; whose plight so exactly resembled his own, that they formed a mutual attachment almost as soon as they came in contact with each other. There is a sympathetic power in misfortune, which is heedless of the forms of society, and acts not by any cold rule of calculation. Both the travellers were pedestrians bound to London, both were equally destitute, having nothing wherewith to procure a subsistence. They agreed to take turns in begging on the road. In this manner they travelled harmoniously together, till they reached London, without having any reason to complain that Providence had neglected them on the way, or that there was a lack of generous and disinterested feeling in the human kind.

Ledyard's thoughts were now gay, for although in beggary, he fancied that the next step must place him at the summit of his wishes, and open to him wide the door of prosperity. Had he possessed the very lamp of Aladdin, and been endued with the Dervise's power, he could not have been more confident or happy. To find out his relations was now his only anxiety. By accident he saw the family name on a carriage, and he inquired of the coachman where the owner lived, and what was his occupation. The answer was, that he was a rich merchant, and the place of his residence was pointed out. Our eager traveller hastened to the house, inquired for the occupant, and ascertained that he was not at home. A son was there, however, who listened to his story, but gave him soon to understand, that he put no faith in his representations, as he had never heard of any such relations as he told of in America. He observed, moreover, that he resembled one of the family, who had been absent some years in the East-Indies, and whom they were extremely anxious to see, assuring him, that if he were really the person, he would be received with open arms. This was a very unlucky interview, for nothing ever raised Ledyard's anger to so high a pitch, as a suspicion, expressed or implied, of his integrity and honest intentions. He seemed from that moment determined to prosecute his inquiry after his family connexions no further, but to shun all that bore the name. The son pressed him to remain till his father should return, but he abruptly left the house, and never went back.

« AnteriorContinuar »