Imatges de pÓgina

the Gulf to Jamaica, is not through the straits of Yucatan; it is through the Florida Pass by Key West, and then back on the south side of Cuba. Now a maritime enemy seizing upon Key West and the Tortugas could land a few heavy guns from his ship and make it difficult for us to dislodge him. Here railroads and the telegraph do not reach, and as long as he should hold that position, so long would he control the commercial mouth of the great Mississippi valley.

In that position he would shut up in the Gulf whatever force inferior to his own we might have there. He would prevent re-enforcements, sent to relieve it from Boston, New York, and Norfolk, from entering the Gulf. Indeed, in a war with England, the Tortugas and Key West being in her possession, it might be more advisable, instead of sending from our Atlantic dock yards a fleet to the Gulf, to send it over to the British islands and sound the Irish people as to throwing off allegiance.

This country is too rich and powerful to confine itself to a system of national defences which looks to a passive state for it in any war. It cannot content itself by waiting for the enemy to come, that we may simply beat him off from our shores. Neither is it sufficient for it to have the ability to send out a few cruisers and armed privateers to prey upon the commerce of an enemy.

We have seen its free institutions, by their silent operations in times of peace, shaking the thrones of Europe, and causing the crowned heads that sit upon them to tremble. In time of war it must have the ability to re-enforce that influence with its strong “right arm.”

The sensibilities of the people everywhere are alive to that influence—their sympathies are so strongly with us, that should it become necessary to carry war into any of the maritime States of christendom, the American legions would be regarded by the masses as friends and deliverers, not as enemies.

Therefore, instead of being content with the capture of a few men-of-war and unoffending merchantmen for prizes, we want a system of defences which shall enable us to send naval expeditions against the enemy's country, invite and assist the down-trodden millions to throw off the hateful yoke, to break their bonds asunder, and to stand up as freemen, like ourselves.

In an expedition upon Jamaica, Key West being in the hands of the enemy, it would be difficult for our Gulf and Atlantic forces to unite.

Therefore the works at Key West and the Tortugas should be provided with shell-guns of the most destructive calibre, and their walls should be substantial enough to resist the concussion of a man-of-war broadside. They are wanted to give protection to our fleeing merchantmen, to afford a refuge to our fleets until time and opportunity and circumstances serve for striking the blow, or making a move. I'hey are wanted by us, because they would be so immensely valuable to an enemy.

The railroads that will be in operation from Pensacola and Mobile soon, and probably before any additional fortifications can be erected there, will secure these places from invasion and seizure; and the works already there, with a few more guns in open battery along the beach, would effectually protect them from the great guns of ships. Still, an enemy with a fleet superior to the one we might have in the Gulf could anchor along the shore, as he can in the Chesapeake, and greatly harass our commerce there. No system of fortifications can prevent that.

In the next maritime war, (and in such a war we have nothing to fear from any quarter except one,) it is not upon the Atlantic, properly speaking, that the great sea-fight is to take place: it is in the Gulf of Mexico, or near the English shores.

Jamaica is an important naval station; it commands one entrance to the Gulf. There Great Britain can assemble her fleet, and within three days have it off the Balize, in position to strike a terrible blow at the commerce of that valley. Shutting up the Florida Pass, she would have complete control of the Gulf. Norfolk and New York are inconveniently situated to defend it. Some years ago a man-of-war was sent with despatches from Norfolk to Pensacola; she was fifty-odd days in making the passage.

The means of defence for the Gulf should be within the valley that belongs to it. The resources of this valley are ample, its means most abundant, and its people are its best and most appropriate defenders. Pensacola should therefore be built up as a naval station, and the depot at Memphis fostered with care and solicitude. Instead of draining the treasury for forts, under the system of 1816, these two places should be put in condition for building, equipping, and fitting, upon a scale sufficient to secure to us, in war, the naval supremacy at least in the Gulf.

In a war with England, and with those two places as the centres of operations, it probably would be found desirable to move upon Jamaica and other British islands in that quarter. New York and the Atlantic dock yards would probably be the centre of other operations; and it Jamaica fall in such a war, it must fall under the guns and before the gallantry of the west-the east will have need and occupation for all its forces in other quarters.

Memphis is fast rising in importance as a place of construction. Private enterprise has already commenced to establish building-yards there; and in that teeming region there is no lack of naval and maritime resources. The ropewalk there is of no consequence. We want docks, storehouses, machine-shops, and founderies for casting, forging, making, and building anchors and cables, ships and engines; and for preparing and keeping in store, out of the excellent materials to be found in that valley, all the arms and munitions of war which would be required for the defence of the Gulf, the capture of Jamaica or any other British possession, if Britain be the enemy.

The affections of these islanders for the mother country cannot, in the nature of things, be as strong or as abiding as those of our citizens for their own homes; and therefore it may be imagined that an attempt by us to invade and get possession of these islands would be quite a different atfair from an attempt, on her part, at invasion and conquest here. A tower of strength has this nation in the brave hearts and strong arms of its gallant yeomanry. Small indeed would be the degree of aid and comfort which a national enemy would derive from disloyalty and disaffection of American citizens.

I have, on former occasions, presented my views at large with regard to the importance of Memphis as a naval depot. These views are before the public, and therefore I deem it unnecessary to repeat them here. We have turned the corner, and are now going ahead in the peaceful race for the commercial supremacy of the seas; the next trial is to be for maritime supremacy of another sort. It is hoped that the day for that contest is far distant. But every people are liable to war; and it is a fact which we cannot blink, that, in providing for the contingency, our statesmen and warriors must, for many years to come, have an eye to the forces which Great Britain, rather than any other power, can bring against us. But let that contest come when it may, it is most likely to be decided in the Gulf of Mexico, and its twin basin, the Caribbean sea; they are the receptacles of all that the two grandest systems of river basins in the world will have to pour into the lap of commerce. The valley of the Mississippi on one side, and the valley of the Amazon on the other, will in time make these two arms of the sea the commercial centre of the world.

The mouth of the Amazon, the mouth of the Orinoco, and the mouth of the Magdalena, are, commercially speaking, almost as much in the Florida Pass as is the mouth of the Mississippi river. Such is the course of the currents, and such the direction of the winds in that part of the world, that a vessel sailing from the mouth of any one of these rivers for Rio de Janeiro, in Brazil, or for India, or for the markets of the Pacific around Cape Horn, or for Africa, or for

Europe, has first to steer to the northward and westward until she reaches the parallel of 25° or 300 north. This brings her off our own shores; and it is impossible for her to pursue any other route, so long as the northeast trade-winds prevail, or the great equatorial current which feeds the Gulf Stream continues to Aow across the Atlantic. No vessel trading under canvas from the mouth of these rivers to the markets of South America, Europe, Asia, or Africa, can go any other way. They must pass by our doors.

Therefore, in planning a system of national defences, who can overestimate the importance of the Gulf of Mexico as a nucleus of naval means, the centre of naval operations ? That centre is at Key West and the Tortugas; hence the great need of strong works there.

Interests of the most delicate, valuable, and, to an enemy, of the most attractive kind, are even now daily springing up, and expanding themselves out upon the waters and about the borders of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean sea-interests which, if they should be injured or put in needless jeopardy, will create a greater sensation throughout this country than would the landing of a hundred thousand men-at-arms upon our shores. These interests are maritime—they are American; their defences and protection are naval; they must be watched and guarded from the Mississippi valley. Memphis and Pensacola by nature are, by rights ought to be, and by legislation should be, the centres of operations in the case.

Panama, Nicaragua, and Tehuantep echave, or are about to impose new obli. gations upon us. We must look to them, and, in providing for the common defence, take them into consideration. They are links in the chain which binds the most remote corners of the republic together. They are the gateways between distant parts of the Union; and they must therefore be cared for in peace, guarded and protected in war.

The Amazonian basin, embracing an area more than twice the extent of our great Mississippi valley, fills too large a space in the world to escape attention from us, when we are in the very act of laying the foundations for a permanent system of national defence. With all the climates of India, with unheard of capacities of production, and the most boundless sources of wealth in the field, the forest, and the mine, that valley, so soon as it shall begin to feel the axe and the plough, will pour into our lap a commerce, the value of which is as limitless as are its own vast resources. Nature has placed us in the position to command that commerce. The great business of fetching and carrying there must be ours. For coming and for going, the winds are fair for us; and we are the only nation for whose shipping they are so fair.

That arm of the ocean which severs the continent nearly in twain, to make between the “Father of Waters," at the north, and the “ King of Rivers," at the south, a receptacle for their commerce, is receiving from the Mississippi valley alone an amount of produce that astonishes the world. Yet the Mississippi valley is not half peopled up. What, therefore, will this oceanic basin, this commercial receptacle for the surplus produce of the two grandest systems of river basins on the face of the earth be, when the great Amazonian valley, of double area, with its everlasting summer and its endless round of harvests, comes to be subdued and brought into cultivation? What the Gulf of Mexico is now, is as nothing to what it is to be. It abounds with commercial elements that cannot be comprehended for their magnitude; and in proportion as it becomes the seat of maritime wealth and greatness, so, too, must it become the centre of naval strength and power. As Columbus lay sick, it was upon the waters of this seabasin that the angel visited him in a dream, and told him that God had made his name great and sent him to “unbar the gates of ocean.” The keys to these gates are at Key West and the Tortugas, Memphis and Pensacola. Nature has placed them among the wonderful resources of the great valley; and to stand as gatekeeper before them is the mission of those naval forces that naturally centre in the Gulf



No American statesman will, I imagine, rest content with any plan of national defence which does not contemplate for us at least the naval supremacy in our own waters. That is the starting point-and that is the point which, in the erection of military works on the land, in the construction of floating batteries for our harbors, or in the building of ships and steamers for the sea, should be constantly kept in view. It is the true basis to work upon.

In a military point of view, California and Oregon are colonies. Far remote from the heart of the country and the strength of the nation, they are young and feeble, open to attack, and inviting to conquest. In war no relief can be sent them, however beset, unless at great risk and with an enormous expenditure of both time and money.

The voyage by sea from the Atlantic to the Pacific ports of the United States is the longest voyage in the world. Within the whole


of commerce, there are no two shore-lines so remote from each other, in time, as these

and range



The average passage of all the vessels which sailed from the Atlantic ports for California in 1850 was one hundred and eighty-seven days—six months. These vessels went singly, each making the best of her way without regard to the oth

In a fleet, it is the dullest vessel which regulates the speed of all; the fastest must reduce canvas, yard, and stand along under easy sail, that the slow vessels may keep up.

Bound hence with a fleet for the relief of California, our ships would have to pass no less than three important naval stations, all belonging to the same power. One of them, St. Helena, is on the wayside; the two others, Bermuda and the Falkland Islands, are right in the middle of the road.

If the fleet should escape the vigilance and annoyance of the men-of-war stationed at those islands, there are still before it the storms of Cape Horn, the dangers of the sea, and the war of the elements for it to encounter and contend with.

Such would be the length of the voyage, and such the difficulties and the risks to be encountered by the way, that the practicability of sending succor to California around Cape Horn, in a war with England, may be considered out of the question.

Single ships might find their way in safety around, but as for a large fleet, covering as it goes miles in extent, and attracting the attention of the enemy with the multitude of its ships—escaping all the dangers that would beset it by the way-surely no one would count upon it, and it would be folly to expect it. California and Oregon must, therefore, rely upon the means of defence which can be sent forth from their own harbors in war; and the question is, how shall those means be provided in peace?

Shall the system of 1816, which has been tried and found too costly and defective for the Atlantic seaboard, be transferred to the Pacific, and engrafted upon its shores for another third of a century? Or shall the government resort to railroads, steam and the navy, and do for that country what has been found to answer so well for this?

The extent of our sea front on the Pacific, compared with our sea front on the Atlantic, is as eighteen to twenty-four; that is, the Pacific is three-fourths the extent of the Atlantic seaboard. To apply the system of 1816 to the former would, in my judgment, be injudicious as to policy, extravagant as to expenditure, and inadequate as to purpose; and therefore the system of 1816, excepting in so far as two or three works are concerned, should not be applied to the Pacific. We want no forts along that sea front, save only those that are neces

sary to keep hostile ships, with their great guns, out of the reach of our cities, and to give protection to our dock yards.

There is not at this time a single dock yard upon the waters of the Pacific, belonging to any nation, at which even a frigate can be built and equipped, All the maritime powers are far removed, with their naval resources, from the eastern shores of that ocean. By establishing a dock yard there, and providing it with the means and facilities for repairing and equipping, we may, without difficulty, secure the naval supremacy upon that ocean; and once possessed, it will not be an easy matter for any power to wrest it from such hands.

The most desirable means of defence for those regions are such as we have on the Atlantic—a navy, steam, the railway and the locomotive, with their

powers of concentration.

The characteristic feature which the improvements of the age have impressed upon military operations is mobility. To the degree with which armaments and armed forces are invested with locomotion and with celerity in movement, to that degree and in that ratio are they provided with the elements of power and destruction. It is its mobility, imparting toil in the field of battle, a sort of ubiquity, that makes flying artillery such a tremendous arm in modern warfare.

It is the swift foot of the armed steamer which has given her such tremendous force for battle that has appalled the most able sea captains, and left the military men of the world at variance as to the extent of her powers, so transcendent are they in the minds of all.

The part that railroads and magnetic telegraphs are to play in the great drama of war with this country has not yet been cast, much less enacted. In a military point of view, they convert whole States into compact and armed masses. They can convey forces from one section of the Union to another as quickly as re-enforcements can be marched from one part of an old-fashioned hattle-field to another.

The money that is expended in the erection of a fort adds nothing to the national wealth, but the money that is spent in fortifying with railroads, while it gives the military strength required, vastly increases also the elements of national power, wealth, and greatness.

There have been expended by the States and people of the States, on this side of the Rocky mountains, about four hundred millions of dollars in building ten thousand miles of railroads and canals. These works have not only effectually provided for the common defence so far as invasion is concerned, but, besides reimbursing the projectors of them, in most cases, they have in all increased the value of the land in their vicinity, advanced trade and commerce, promoted the general welfare, and in the aggregate added not less than a thousand million of dollars to the gross sum of the national wealth.

The money that has been expended under the system of 1816 has added nothing to the value of the soil; it has afforded no facilities to commerce; it has not increased the national prosperity in any manner whatever; and, therefore, as to the alternative of providing for the defences of the Pacific coast by lining it with forts and castles, or by sending a railroad there and collecting naval means, it appears to me there is no choice, no need for deliberation, no necessity

The strongest work that stone and mortar can make, being erected at the mouth of the harbor of San Francisco, would not interrupt a blockade, nor prevent an enemy from starving California into terms. It is the navy alone that can do this; and vessels, with munitions of war sufficient for the purpose, should be placed under cover there now.

California does not produce breadstuffs enough for her own consumption, probably she never will. It is worthy of remark, that not one of our New England States, including New York, does that. Mining, commerce, and manu

for argument.

« AnteriorContinua »