Imatges de pÓgina

of the pledge we have given to protect them, to establish posts upon their exterior boundary, and thus prevent collisions between them and the ruder indigenous tribes of that region. I think, therefore, that no works of a more permanent character than these should be constructed upon our Indian frontier. A cordon established at proper distances upon such a road, with the requisite means of operation deposited in the posts, and with competent garrisons to occupy them, would probably afford greater security to the advanced settlements than any other measures in our power. The dragoons should be kept in motion along it during the open season of the year, when Indian disturbances are most to be apprehended, and their presence and facility of movement would tend powerfully to restrain the predatory disposition of the Indians; and if any sudden impulse should operate or drive them into hostilities, the means of assembling a strong force, with all necessary supplies, would be at hand, and, as circumstances pernit, the posts in the Indian country now in the rear of this proposed line of operations should be abandoned and the garrisons transferred to it.

But it is upon our maritime frontier that we are most exposed. Our coast for three thousand miles is washed by the ocean, which separates us froin those nations who have made the highest advances in all the arts, and particularly in those which minister to the operations of war, and with whom, from our interenurse and political relations, we are most liable to be drawn into collision. If this great medium of communication, the element at the same time of separation and of union, interposes peculiar obstacles to the progress of hostile demonetrations, it also offers advantages which are not less obvious, and which, to be successfully resisted, require corresponding arrangements and exertions. These advantages depend on the economy and facility of transportation, on the celerity of movement, and on the power of an enemy to threaten the whole shore spread out before him, and to select his point of attack at pleasure. A powerful hostile fleet upon the coast of the United States presents some of the features of a war, where a heavy mass is brought to act against detachments which may be cut up in detail, although their combined force would exceed the assailing foe. Our points of exposure are so numerous and distant that it would be impracticable to keep, at each of them, a force competent to resist the attack of an enemy, prepared by his naval ascendency, and his other arrangements, to make a sudden and vigorous inroad upon our shores. It becomes us, therefore, to inquire how the consequences of this state of things are to be best met and averted.

The first and most obvious, and in every point of view the most proper, method of defence is an augmentation of our naval means to an extent proportioned to the resources and the necessities of the nation. I do not mean the actual construction and equipment of vessels only. The number of those in service must depend on the state of the country at a given period; but I mean the collection of all such materials as may be preserved without injury, and a due encouragement of those branches of interest essential to the growth of a navy, and which may be properly nurtured by the government; so that, on the approach of danger, a fleet may put to sea, without delay, sufficiently powerful to meet any force which will probably be sent to our coast.

Our great battle upon the ocean is yet to be fought, and we shall gain nothing by shutting our eyes to the nature of the struggle, or to the exertions we shall find it necessary to make. All our institutions are essentially pacific, and every citizen feels that his share of the common interest is affected by the derangement of business, by the enormous expense, and by the uncertain result, of a war. This feeling presses upon the community and the government, and is a sure guarantee that we shall never be precipitated into a contest, nor embark in one, unless imperiously required by those considerations which leave no alternative between resistance and dishonor. Accordingly, all our history shows that we are more disposed to bear, while evils ought to be borne, than to seek re


dress by appeals to arms; still, however, a contest must come, and it behooves us, while we have the means and the opportunity, to look forward to its attend. ant circumstances, and to prepare for the consequences.

It is no part of my object to enter into the details of a naval establishment. That duty will be much more appropriately and ably performed by the proper department; but as some of the views I shall present on the subject of our system of fortifications must be materially affected by any general plan of naval operations which, in the event of hostilities, might be adopted, I am necessarily led to submit a few remarks, not professional, but general, upon the extent and employment of our military marine.

There is as little need of inquiry now into our moral as into our physical capacity to maintain a navy, and to meet upon equal terms the ships and seamen of any other nation. Our extended commerce, creating and created by those resources which are essential to the building and equipment of fleets, removes all doubt upon the one point, and the history of our naval enterprise, from the moment when the colors were first hoisted upon the hastily-prepared vessels at the commencement of our revolutionary struggle to the last contest in which any of our ships have been engaged, is equally satisfactory upon the other. The achievements of our navy have stamped its character with the country and the world. The simple recital of its exploits is the highest enlogium which can be pronounced upon it.

With ample means, therefore, to meet upon the ocean, by which they must approach us, any armaments that may be destined for our shores, we are called upon by every prudential consideration to do so. In the first place, though all wars in which we may be engaged will probably be defensive in their character, undertaken to repel or resent some injury, or to assert some right, and rendered necessary by the conduct of other nations, still the objects of the war can be best attained by its rigorous prosecution. Defensive in its causes, it should be offensive in its character. The greater injury we can inflict upon our opponent the sooner and the more satisfactory will be the redress we seek. Our principal belligerent measures should have for their aim to attack our antagonist where he is most vulnerable. If we are to receive his assaults, we abandon the vantage ground, and endeavor, in effect, to compel him to do us justice by inviting his descent upon our shores, and by all those consequences which mark the progress of an invading force, whether for depredation or for conquest. By the ocean only can we be seriously assailed, and by the ocean only can we seriously assail any power with which we are likely to be brought into collision.

But, independently of the policy of making an adversary feel the calamities of war, it is obvious that, even in a defensive point of view alone, the ocean should be our great field of operations. No one would advocate the project of endeavoring to make our coast impervious to attack. Such a scheme would be utterly impracticable. A superior fleet, conveying the necessary troops, could effect a landing at numerous points upon our shores, even if the best devised plan of fortifying them were consummated; and, from the nature of maritime operations, such a fleet could bring its whole strength to bear upon any particular position, and by threatening or assailing various portions of the coast, either anticipate the tardy movements of troops upon land, and effect the object before their concentration, or render it necessary to keep in service a force far superior to that of the enemy, but so divided as to be inferior to it upon any given point. These dangers and difficulties would be averted or avoided by the maintenance of a fleet competent to meet any hostile squadrons which might be detached to our seas. Our coast would thus be defexded on the ocean, and the calamities of war would be as little felt as the circumstances of such a conflict would permit.

As to the other advantages of a navy, in the protection of commerce, they do not come within the scope of my inquiries, and are not, therefore, adverted


to; nor is it necessary, or indeed proper, that I should present those considerations of distance, of exposure, and of station, which would render a fleet numerically inferior in the aggregate to that of the enemy, yet still sufficiently powerful

, upon our own coasts, to meet and overcome any armament which could probably be sent here.

It seems to me, therefore, that our first and best fortification is the navy. Nor do I see any limit to our naval preparations, except that imposed by a due regard to the public revenues from time to time, and by the probable condition of other maritime nations. Much of the materiel employed in the construction and equipment of vessels is almost indestructible, or, at any rate, may be preserved for a long series of years; and if ships can be thus kept without injury upon the stocks, by being built under cover, I do not see what should restrain us from proceeding to build as many as may be deemed necessary, and as fast as a due regard to their economical and substantial construction will permit, and to collect and prepare for immediate use all the munitions of war, and other articles of equipment not liable to injury or decay by the lapse of time. Nor do I see that these preparations should be strictly graduated by the number of seamen who would probably enter the service at this time, or within any short period. To build and equip vessels properly requires much time, as well with reference to the execution of the work as to the proper condition of the materials employed. And the costly experiment made by England, when she too hastily increased her fleet, about thirty years ago, by building ships with improper materials and bad workmanship, ought to furnish us with a profitable lesson. These vessels soon decayed, after rendering very little service. Naval means should therefore be provided at a period of leisure, to be ready for immediate employment in a period of exigency; and a due regard to prudence dictates that these means should so far exceed the estimated demands of the service as to supply, in the shortest time, any loss occasioned by the hazards of the ocean and the accidents of war. We may safely calculate that the number of seamen in the United States will increase in proportion to that rapid augmentation which is going on in all the other branches of national interest. If we assume that at a given period we may expect to embark in war, our capacity to man a fleet will exceed our present means by a ratio not difficult to ascertain. And even then, by greater exertions and perhaps higher wages, a larger portion may be induced to enter the naval service, while no exertions can make a corresponding addition to the navy itself, but at a loss of time and expense, and a sacrifice of its permanent interest.

But whatever arrangements we may make to overcome any naval armaments sent out to assail us, we are liable to be defeated and to be exposed to all the consequences resulting from the ascendency of an enemy. And the practical question is, what shall be done with a view to such a state of things? As I have already remarked, any attempt by fortifications to shut up our coast, so that an enterprising foe, with a victorious fleet, conveying a competent force, and disposed to encounter all the risk of such an expedition, could not make his descent upon the shore, would be useless in itself, and would expose to just censure those who should project such a scheme. And, on the other hand, the government would, if possible, be still more censurable were our important maritime places left without any defensive works. Between these extremes is a practical medium, and to ascertain where it lies we must briefly look at the varions considerations affecting the subject.

What have we to apprehend in the event of a war? Is it within the limits of a reasonable cılculation that any enemy will be able and disposed to debark upon our coast an army sufficiently powerful to lay siege to our fortifications and to endeavor, by this slow and uncertain process, to obtain possession of them? I put out of view the enormous expense attending such a plan; the distance of the scene of operations from the points of supply and support, with


the consequent difficulties and dangers, and the possibility that the convoying flect might be overpowered by a superior force, and the whole expedition captured or destroyed. All these are considerations which no prudent statesman, directing such an enterprise, will overlook. But beyond these is a question bearing still more directly upon the point under examination. Is there any object to be attained sufficiently important to justify the risk of placing a body of land troops before one of these works, too strong to be carried by a coup de main, and endeavoring to destroy the defence by a regular investment? I think there can be none.

I take it for granted that no nation would embark in the quixotic enterprise of conquering this country. Any army, therefore, thrown upon our coast would push forward with some definite object to be attained by a prompt movement and by vigorous exertions. Our experience, more than half a century ago, demonstrated that an invading force could command little more than the position it actually occupied. The system of fortifications adopted in Europe is not applicable to our condition. There military movements must be made upon great avenues of communication, natural or artificial, and these are closed or defended by fortresses constructed with all the skill that science and experience can supply, and with all the means that wealth and power can command. An invading army must carry these positions by escalade or by siege, or leave sutficient detachments to blockade them, or must turn them and move on with all the difficulties attending the interruption of their communication, and with the dangers which such a force in their rear must necessarily occasion. Works of this character are keys to many of the European states, whose political safety de pends upon their preservation. Their possession enables their governments to meet the first shock of war, and to prepare their arrangements, political or military, to resist or avert the coming storm. And although, during some of the wars which arose out of the French revolution, when, from causes which history is now developing, the armies of France set at defiance the received maxims of military experience, and justifying their apparent rashness by success, reduced, with unexampled facility, or carried on their operations almost in contempt of the strongest fortifications, the subjugation of each of which had been till then the work of a campaign, still the opinion is yet entertained by many that this system of defence is best adapted to the condition of the European community.

There is also a striking difference between the political situation of those countries and that of ours, which give to these defensive preparations a character of importance which can never apply to the United States. The possession of a capital in the eastern hemisphere is too often the possession of the kingdom. Habits of feeling and opinion, political associations, and other causes, combine to give the metropolis an undue ascendency. Internal parties, contending for superiority, and external enemies, aiming at conquest, equally seek to gain possession of the seat of government. And the most careless observer of the events of the last half century must be struck with the fact that the fate of the capitals and the kingdoms of modern Europe are closely connected together. Under such circumstances, it may be prudent, by powerful fortresses, to bar the approaches to these favored places, and frequently to construct works to defend them from external attack, or to maintain their occupation against internal violence.

But there is nothing like this in our country, nor can there be till there is a total change in our institutions. Our seats of government are merely the places where the business of the proper departments is conducted, and have not themselves the slightest influence upon any course of measures, except what is due to public opinion and to their just share of it. If the machine itself were itinerant, the result would be precisely the same. Or, if by any of the accidents of war or pestilence, the proper authorities were compelled to change their place of convocation, the change would be wholly unobserved, except by the few whose


personal convenience would be affected by the measure. Nor have our commercial capitals any more preponderating influence than our political ones. And although their capture by an enemy, and the probable loss of property, and derangeinent of business, which would be the result, might seriously affect the community, yet it would not produce the slightest effect upon the social or political systems of the country. The power belongs to all, and is exercised by all.

It follows, therefore, that an enemy could have no inducement to hazard an expedition against any of our cities, under the expectation that their capture and possession would lead to political results favorable to them. Washington may indeed be taken again, and its fall would produce the same emotion which was everywhere felt when its former capture was known. But an enemy would retire from it with as few advantages as marked its first abondonment, and if his course were the same, with as few laurels as he won by its possession. I make these remarks, because it seems to me that some of the principles of the European system of fortifications may possibly be transferred to this country, without sufficient attention having been given to those circumstances, both geographical and political, which require a plan exclusively adapted to our own condition.

I consider some of the existing and projected works larger than are now necessary, and calculated for exigencies we ought not, with the prospects before us, to anticipate. If such is the fact, the objection is not only to the expense of their construction and preservation, but also to the greater difficulty of defending them, and the increased garrisons which must be provided and maintained. The hypothesis upon which their extent has been determined is, that they may be exposed to investment, both seaward and landward, and that they ought to be capable of resisting a combined attack, or, in other words, that their water batteries should be sufficient to repel an assailing squadron, and that their land defences should be sufficient to resist a besieging army.

It is certain that whatever works we erect should be so constructed as to be beyond the reach of any coup de main that would probably be attempted against them; and this capacity must depend upon their exposure and upon the facility with which they can be relieved. But this proposition is far different from one to construct them upon a scale of magnitude which presupposes they are to be formally invested by a powerful land force, and which provides for their ability to make a successful resistance. A dashing military or naval officer may willing to risk something to get possession of an insulated post by a prompt movement, expecting to accomplish his enterprise before his adversary can be prepared, or succor obtained; and this, even when he looks to no other advantage than the capture of the garrison, and the effect which a brilliant exploit is calculated to produce, and when he is aware that he must abandon his conquest with as much celerity as he attained it. But formal investments of fortified places, with all their difficulties, and expense, and uncertainty, are only undertaken when there is some object of corresponding importance to be expected. We have works constructed which it would require armies to reduce. Have we any reason to anticipate that they will be assailed by a force proportioned to their magnitude?

I have already remarked that a European power cannot expect to retain permanent possession of any part of this country. If, therefore, he succeed in overcoming or eluding our fleets, and is prepared with a respectable land force, and ready to risk its employment upon our territory, he can land at many points which we cannot close against him. His debarkation is not a question of practicability, but of expediency. If a safe harbor or roadstead offers itself, and there is no defensive work to prevent his approach, he will, of course, land at the nearest point to the object of his marauding exterprise. If there is such a work, it will be a question of calculation whether it is better to attack and carry


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