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I am, my dear Sir, very faithfully yours,
ins. ins. ins.
17,07 30,26 29,42 29,79 30,52 29,05 29,75
1,68 30,10 29,05 29,74|| 30,40 29,50 29,97
The career of England furnishes abundant testimony of the usefulness of those works which have a tendency to excite national pride. The British Naval Chronicle, which was quite as ingenious in its way as the Mysteries of Udolpho played no mean part in creating that spirit of daring, which, in time, brought the marine of the empire to dictate the law on the ocean. When we say ingenious, we mean, that the work in question payed as little regard to sober truth, as if the interest of its incidents depended solely on the invention of its editor and his assistants. It was called a Chronicle, forsooth, and so they might have termed the Arabian Nights, with equal justice. Of the two, the latter was much the most commendable book ; for its great talisman was confessedly magic; whereas the other was a palpable innovation on all honest invention, inasmuch as it lied with exceeding gravity. Indeed, this sober sort of rhodomontade is a besetting sin with English historians in general. We write this with a suitable deference to the reputation of our forefathers; for we can assert legitimate ownership of good old English names, which are to be found in the rolls of many a hard-fought and glorious field: and we belong to that class of liberal Americans, who claim as good a right to call Shakspeare countryman, as any cockney in London, and one much superior to that of the “ King and all the Royal Family.” Until we attained the mature age of twelve, we were devout believers in the miracles of Agincourt, Poictiers and Cressy. Nothing astonished us more on visiting France, than to discover how utterly impossible it was, forone Englishman to swallow two Frenchmen at a mouthful. Until then, we had neverdoubted the superior honesty, morality,chastity, and courage of the land of our ancestors; and it made no small portion of our pride, that the blood in our veins was uncontaminated with any of that base puddle, which was believed to filter through the licentiousness, vice,knavery and cowardice of all the rest of the world, not even excepting Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We were industrious readers in the vernacular language, which, happily for our youthful ignorance, was too richly stored with the marvellous, not to feed amply even the diseased cravings of a boyish appetite; and we cast aside the trammels of minority, to enter in the world with all the glorious independence of sentiments, which could elevate the character of a youth, who was obstinately bent on believing nothing, that was
* The United States Naval Chronicle.
untrue, unless it was written in good London English, and with a passing show of morality of course. Our superciliousness was exactly commensurate with our ignorance; wherein it is not difficult to perceive, that we were no unworthy pupils of the liberal school we emulated. Happily for us, individually, and thrice happily for our nation, the passions of the English so far got the better of their policy, as to induce them to rend, with their own hand, the veil which concealed the truth ; and thenceforth the vision of some millions of people has been unobstructed. In plain English, we were unwilling to believe palpable misrepresentations of ourselves. Though, had they confined their abuse to third persons, we fear they might have lied till doomsday, without our conceiving any very unreasonable disgust. But all this is leading us astray from the particular matter in hand. We hold it to be quite as important, that the subordinate stations of an army or fleet should be filled by men who despise their enemy, as it is dangerous for those who direct the movements of either, to indulge in the same delusive opinions. It is very certain that the English Naval Chronicle succeeded in infusing, not only into the marine service, but into the whole nation, a great deal of that vulgar confidence to which we have alluded; and that its spirit was also imbibed by many, whose rank should have required them to make the usual physical calculations, in order to avert defeat. It was under the influence of the besotted vanity, which is always generated by such idle vaporing, that they fought our capital frigates, when prudence would have told them to run away; and they were consequently flogged. All the idle stuff that was written in England, at the time, concerning the vast size and unexpected force of the Constitution, President, &c.' was merely in the way of affectation; for those ships were quite as well known to the British navy, as were their own vessels. But, as in the case of a man, who is suddenly awoke from a pleasing trance, by some rude interruption, nature taught them to complain;and they mingled with their moanings some pretty and well-timed exclamations of surprise. The good people on shore fought their battles much better than did many
of their officers at sea ; and ship after ship was contested with us, for the first two years of the war, with great obstinacy, long after the vessels themselves were anchored in the depths of the ocean. But at length, having exhausted every argument they could devise, such as “rotten masts," "seventyfours in disguise," 6 nautical militia on the lakes,” “ Kentucky riflemen," &c. &c., they gave up the matter in despair, wisely concluding to say no more about it. The government took the hint from the nation, and the curious inquirer searches in vain
through the naval records of Great Britain, for any account of the captures of several of the ships last taken. All this had a sad tendency to bring the “Chronicle” into disrepute. It was at this crisis, that the government turned its back rudely on the unhappy publication, as well as on a certain Mr. Steele, who had issued his lists of the British navy monthly, for an age, without suspecting, luckless wight as he was, that policy could ever require a more grave and calculating departure from the truth, than that in which he himself had so long dealt, with such signal success. Desperate diseases are, however, well known to require corresponding remedies. An official naval list was published in the place of Mr. Steele's; and a man by the name of James was employed to write sundry histories of the different naval wars, that were intended to supersede the Chronicle entirely, in the way of authenticity. It must be confessed, this Master Jacobus out-Heroded Herod. He approached the subject, armed with a two-foot rule and a pair of scales ; the latter, no doubt, intended as a symbol of his own even-handed justice. After weighing shot enough, to have gained many of the battles which his countrymen lost, had they been used with more discretion, and measuring the timbers, beams and strait-rabbits of many a stout ship, this gentleman favoured the world with a sort of arithmetical calculation, by the way of striking a balance of glory in the favour of Britannia, which caused even that hackneyed dame to colour with shame—a weakness she had not been suspected of before, since the days of Van Tromp. We do not pretend to know the fact; but, in our own minds, there is not the least doubt, but this arithmetical historian was the inventor of the renowned battle on the Sepertine River; of which, as he had all his admeasurements at his own disposal, we have no doubt he made “a very pretty sort of a thing.” It may be well to add here, that, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which our squadron fought, on that memorable day, we have succeeded in bringing off a trophy of the prowess of our countrymen. It is about a fathom of a gilded cable, which may be seen, at any hour, in the library of the Historical Society of this city, among many
other far less valuable memorials. To return, however, to the graver parts of our subject. It is by no means our intention to insinuate, that the American Naval Chronicle is to be a copy of the one of which so much has been here written. It would be a hopeless task in any man, to undertake to deceive the people of this country, in the manner our confiding relatives on the other side of the Atlantic have been cajoled. We have been defeated by land and by sea, too often, to give credit to any serious assertions of our own invin
cibility. It is true, now and then there is a newspaper, which deals in this sort of rhodomontade; but all the better sort of readers shrug their shoulders and smile as they read it; and laugh in their sleeves, as their eyes run over " charges of the bayonet," “sword in hand,” and all the other poetical garnish, with which the experience of the English cabinet has long since taught their dependants to embellish narratives, that often require some such fictions to render them interesting.
We do not believe that the editor of the work in hand intends any such desperate adventure; but it may not be amiss to intimate, that in historical writing, as in morals, there are sins of omission, as well as of commission; and that we think we can already discern a tendency in his book to the former sort of delinquency. In order that we may not be misunderstood, and with a view to dilate on a topic in which we feel a deep interest, we must be permitted to treat a little more at large on the subject of the navy, trusting that we shall be able to make ourselves fully comprehended in our details.
No man, at least no man who is politically sane, can believe that this nation is to form an exception to all the rest of the world; and is to be allowed to possess its rights, natural and acquired, without frequently maintaining them by force of arms. It requires no very intimate acquaintance with the geography of the continent, and the political relations of the different people with whom we are brought in contact, to perceive that our strongest arm of offence and defence must be used on the ocean. In order to exert, then, this powerful and useful instrument of force, it is necessary to be prepared for whatever emergencies may arise. Fleets differ from armies in two important particulars. A people may be gathered under their banner, armed, marshalled after a manner, and, sometimes, when under the influence of high moral excitement, they may be made to perform glorious acts by the rolls of their drums : but ships of magnitude, force, and swiftness, a union of qualities not found in any vessel not built expressly for war, are absolutely requisite to maintain a struggle on the ocean, that can involve any material consequences. We do not mean to say that it is wise, or that it is not generally the very opposite of wisdom, to trust to such miraculous agencies in the couduct of a war on land; but as our present subject is the navy, and the navy only, we were willing to strip it entirely of an argument, which is often urged on the side of the question opposite to the one we have taken. Time, care, money, skill, with rare and choice materials, are all necessary to create an effective fleet. The struggle between Turkey and Greece, at this moment, furnishes a complete illus