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vigorous, and energetic, but unstable as water-with England, cautious, constant, and persevering, or even with Russia, unimpassioned and cold as her climate, yet with her eyes unswervingly and forever fixed on Stamboul, and you have an apt illustration of my moral. Nevertheless, these general observations are inconclusive, and I grapple therefore cheerfully with this great question.
If this enterprise must be abandoned, it must be for one of two reasons, namely : either because
1. It was erroneously conceived ; or because, 2. It has been rendered unnecessary, unwise, or impracticable, by subsequent events and circumstances.
1. Was it erroneously conceived? To determine this question, we need to ascend some high eminence of time, from which we can look back along the past, and pierce, as far as is allowed to human vision, through the clouds and darkness that rest upon the future. Come, then, Senators, and suppose that you stand with me in the galleries of St. Stephen's Chapel, on a day so long gone by as the 22d of March, 1775. A mighty debate has been going on here in this august Legislature of the British Empire. Insurrection against commercial restriction has broken out in the distant American colonies; a seditious assembly in Philadelphia has organized it; and a brave, patient, unimpassioned, and not untried, soldier of Virginia, lies, with hastily-gathered and irregular levies, on the heights of Dorchester, waiting the coming out of the British army from Boston.
The question whether Great Britain shall strike, or concede and conciliate, has just been debated and decided. Concession has been denied. A silence, brief but intense, is broken by the often fierce and violent, but now measured and solemn, utterance of Burke : “My counsel has been rejected. You have determined to trample upon and extinguish a people who have, in the course of a single life, added to England as much as she had acquired by a progressive increase of improvement, brought on, by varieties of civilizing conquests and civilizing settlements, in a series of seventeen hundred years. A vision has passed before my eyes; the spirit of prophecy is upon me. Listen, now, to a revelation of the consequences which shall follow your maddened decision. Henceforth, there shall be division, separation, and eternal conflict in alternating war and peace between you and the child you have oppressed, which has inherited all
your indomitable love of liberty and all your insatiable passion for power. Though still in the gristle, and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood, America will, within the short period of sixteen months, cast off your dominion and defy your utmost persecution. Perfecting the institutions you have not yet suffered to ripen, she will establish a republic, the first confederate representative commonwealth, which shall in time become the admiration and envy of the world. France, the hereditary rival whom, only twenty years ago, with the aid of your own colonies, you despoiled of her North American possessions, though they had been strengthened by the genius of Richelieu, will take sweet revenge in aiding the emancipation of those very colonies, and thus dismembering your empire. You will strike her in vain with one hand, while you stretch forth the other to reduce your colonies with equal discomfiture. And you, even you, most infatuated yet most loyal Prince, will within eight years sign a treaty of peace with the royal Bourbon, and of independence with republican America ! With fraud, corruption, fire and sword, you will compensate England with conquests in the East, and within half a century they will surround the world, and the British flag shall wave over provinces covering five millions of square miles, and containing onesixth of the inhabitants of the globe. Nor shall you lose your retaliation upon your ancient enemy; for she, in the mean time, imbibing and intoxicated by the spirit of revolution in her American affiliation, shall overthrow all authority, human and divine, and, exhausting herself by twenty-five years of carnage and desolation throughout continental Europe, shall at last succumb to your victorious arms, and relapse, after ineffectual struggles, into the embraces of an inglorious military despotism. Yet, notwithstanding all these unsurpassed conquests and triumphs, shall you enjoy no certain or complete dominion. For, on the other hand, wild beasts and savage men and uncouth manners shall all disappear on the American continent; and the three millions whom you now despise, gathering to themselves increase from every European nation and island, will, within seventy-five years, spread themselves over field and forest, prairie and mountain, until, in your way to your provinces in the Bahamas, they shall meet you on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, and on your return from the Eastern Indies, they will salute you from the Eastern coast of the Pacific ocean. In the mean time, with genius developed by the influence
of freedom, and with vigor called forth and disciplined in the subjugation of the forest, and trained and perfected in the mysteries of ship-building and navigation, by the hardy exercise of the whale fisheries under either pole, they will, in all European conflicts, with keen sagacity, assume the relation of neutrals, and thus grasp the prize of Atlantic commerce dropped into their hands by fierce belligerents. In the midst of your studies and experiments in hydraulics, steam and electricity, they will seize the unpracticed and even incomplete inventions, and cover their rivers with steamboats, and connect and bind together their widely separated territories with canals, railroads, and telegraphs. When a long interval of peace shall have come, your merchants, combining a vast capital, will regain and hold for a time the carrying trade, by substituting capacious, buoyant, and fleet packet-ships, departing and arriving with exact punctuality ; but the Americans, quickly borrowing the device, and improving on your skill, will reconquer their commerce. You will then rouse all the enterprise of your merchants, and all the spirit of your Government, and wresting the new and mighty power of steam from the hands of your inveterate rival, will apply it to ocean navigation, and laying hold of the commercial and social correspondence between the two continents, increasing as the nations rise to higher civilization and come into more close and intimate relations, as the basis of postal revenue, you will thus restore your lost monopoly on the Atlantic, and enjoy it unmolested through a period of ten years. During that season of triumph, you will mature and perfect all the arrangements for extending this mighty device of power and revenue, so as to connect every island of the seas and
every part every continent with your capital. But just at that moment, your emulous rival will appear with steamships still more capacious, buoyant, and fleet, than your own, in your harbors, and at once subverting your Atlantic monopoly, will give earnest of her vigorous renewal of the endless contest for supremacy of all the seas. think her expelled from the ocean, her flag will be seen in your ports, covering her charities contributed to relieve your population, stricken by famine; and while you stand hesitating whether to delare between republicanism and absolute power in continental Europe, her ambassadors will be seen waiting on every battle-field to salute the triumphs of liberty; and when that cause shall be overthrown, the same constant flag shall be seen even in
When you the Straits of the Dardanelles, receiving with ovations due to conquerors the temporarily overthrown champions of freedom. Look toward Africa! there you see American colonies lifting her up from her long night of barbarism into the broad light of liberty and civilization. Look to the East, you see American missionaries bringing the people of the Sandwich Islands into the family of nations, and American armaments peacefully seeking yet firmly demanding the rights of humanity in Japan. Look to the Equator, there are American engineers opening passages by canals and railroads across the isthmus which divides the two oceans. And last of all, look Northward, and you behold American sailors penetrating the continent of ice in search of your own daring and lost navigators.”
Sir, this stupendous vision has become real. All this momentous prophecy has come to pass. The man yet lives who has seen both the end and the beginning of its fulfilment. It is history. And that history shows that this enterprise of American Atlantic steam navigation was wisely and even necessarily undertaken, to maintain our present commercial independence, and the contest for the ultimate empire of the ocean. Only a word shall express the importance of these objects. International postal communication and foreign commerce are as important as domestic mails and traffic. Equality with other nations in respect to those interests is as important as freedom from restriction upon them among ourselves. Except Rome—which substituted conquest and spoliation for commerce,—no nation was ever highly prosperous, really great, or even truly independent, whose foreign communications and traffic were conducted by other states; while Tyre, and Egypt, and Venice, and the Netherlands, and Great Britain, successively becoming the merchants, became thereby the masters of the world.
But the learned and honorable Chairman of the Committee on Finance raises a question on a warlike feature of the enterprise, which has not yet come under our notice. Departing, after the most profound consideration, from the ancient naval policy which separated the National Ocean Police from the National Mercantile Marine, Great Britain constructs all the steamships employed in her postal service; so that they are “good, substantial, and efficient -of such model and strength as to be fit and able to carry guns of the largest caliber used on board of her Majesty's steam-vessels of war," and they are subject to be taken in emergencies by the government, at cost, for the public naval service. And in this way, Great Britain is rapidly and steadily building up a new and peculiar naval force, which will always be in complete condition and ready for effective use. The same principle was adopted in the contract with Collins and his associates, and the evidence is complete that it has been faithfully and fully carried out. The honorable Senator now disputes the soundness of the principle itself, and insists that merchant steam-vessels cannot be constructed so as to be practically useful for warlike purposes. I reply, first, that having, on such careful examination and with such weighty example, adopted the principle, we could not now wisely abandon it, without proof, by practical trial, long I hope to be delayed, that it is erroneous. Secondly: no ship of war, however constructed, is adapted to all the exigencies of naval service, while these steamships are certainly adapted to some of them. Commodore Perry, on the 15th of February, 1852, reports to the Secretary of the Navy that “these steamships (of the Collins line) may be converted, at an expense of $20,000 each, into war-steamers of the first class; and that each of them could carry four 10-inch Paixhan guns on pivots, fore and aft, of the weight of those in the model ship Mississippi, and ten 8-inch Paixhan guns on the sides, and that this armament would not incommode the vessel; and that, in the general operations of a maritime war, they would render good service; and especially that, from their great speed, they would be useful as dispatch vessels, and for the transportation of troops, being always capable of attack and defence, and overhauling and escaping from an enemy.”
The Secretary of War reports to the Senate, on the 20th of March, 1852, that "the readiness of the steamers to be used at the shortest notice, their capacity of being used as transports for goods and munitions of war, and their great celerity of motion, enabling them to overhaul merchantmen, and at the same time escape cruisers, would render them terrible as guerrillas of the ocean."
Thirdly. Great Britain has already more than two hundred and fifty steamers, armed and capable of armament. What would be our situation, in the emergency of a war, if we were unprovided with a similar force for defence and aggression ?
But, fourthly. The warlike adaptation of the steamers is a collateral and contingent feature of the enterprise, which will stand