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The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of

American Independence



ACAULAY, in a striking passage of his Essay on Frederick the Great, wrote, “The evils produced by his wickedness were felt in lands where the name of Prussia was unknown. In order that he might rob a neighbour whom he had promised to defend, black men fought on the coast of Coromandel, and red men scalped each other by the Great Lakes of North America.” Wars, like conflagrations, tend to spread; more than ever perhaps in these days of close international entanglements and rapid communications. Hence the anxiety aroused and the care exercised by the governments of Europe, the most closely associated and the most sensitive on the earth, to forestall the kindling of even the slightest flame in regions where all alike are interested, though with diverse objects; regions such as the Balkan group of States in their exasperating relations with the Turkish empire, under which the Balkan peoples see constantly the bitter oppres

sion of men of their own blood and religious faith by the
tyranny of a government which can neither assimilate nor
protect. The condition of Turkish European provinces is
a perpetual lesson to those disposed to ignore or to depreciate
the immense difficulties of administering politically, under
one government, peoples traditionally and racially distinct,
yet living side by side; not that the situation is much better
anywhere in the Turkish empire. This still survives, though
in an advanced state of decay, simply because other States
are not prepared to encounter the risks of a disturbance
which might end in a general bonfire, extending its ravages
to districts very far remote from the scene of the original
Since these words were written, actual war has broken out
in the Balkans. The Powers, anxious each as to the effect
upon its own ambitions of any disturbance in European
Turkey, have steadily abstained from efficient interference
in behalf of the downtrodden Christians of Macedonia,
surrounded by sympathetic kinsfolk. Consequently, in
thirty years past this underbrush has grown drier and drier,
fit kindling for fuel. In the Treaty of Berlin, in 1877, stipu-
lation was made for their betterment in governance, and we
are now told that in 1880 Turkey framed a scheme for such,
— and pigeonholed it. At last, under unendurable condi-
tions, spontaneous combustion has followed. There can be
no assured peace until it is recognised practically that Chris-
tianity, by the respect which it alone among religions incul-
cates for the welfare of the individual, is an essential factor
in developing in nations the faculty of self-government, apart
from which fitness to govern others does not exist. To keep
Christian peoples under the rule of a non-Christian race, is,
therefore, to perpetuate a state hopeless of reconcilement
and pregnant of sure explosion. Explosions always happen
inconveniently. Obsta principiis is the only safe rule; the

application of which is not suppression of overt discontent
but relief of grievances.
The War of American Independence was no exception to
the general rule of propagation that has been noted. When
our forefathers began to agitate against the Stamp Act
and the other measures that succeeded it, they as little foresaw
the spread of their action to the East and West Indies, to
the English Channel and Gibraltar, as did the British
ministry which in framing the Stamp Act struck the match
from which these consequences followed. When Benedict
Arnold on Lake Champlain by vigorous use of small means
obtained a year's delay for the colonists, he compassed the
surrender of Burgoyne in 1777. The surrender of Burgoyne,
justly estimated as the decisive event of the war, was due to
Arnold's previous action, gaining the delay which is a first
object for all defence, and which to the unprepared colonists
was a vital necessity. The surrender of Burgoyne determined
the intervention of France, in 1778; the intervention of
France the accession of Spain thereto, in 1779. The war
with these two Powers led to the maritime occurrences, the
interferences with neutral trade, that gave rise to the Armed
Neutrality; the concurrence of Holland in which brought
war between that country and Great Britain, in 1780. This
extension of hostilities affected not only the West Indies but
the East, through the possessions of the Dutch in both
quarters and at the Cape of Good Hope. If not the occa-
sion of Suffren being sent to India, the involvement of Holland
in the general war had a powerful effect upon the brilliant
operations which he conducted there; as well as at, and for,
the Cape of Good Hope, then a Dutch possession, on his
outward voyage.
In the separate publication of these pages, my intention
and hope are to bring home incidentally to American readers
this vast extent of the struggle to which our own Declaration


of Independence was but the prelude; with perchance the further needed lesson for the future, that questions the most remote from our own shores may involve us in unforeseen difficulties, especially if we permit a train of communication to be laid by which the outside fire can leap step by step to the American continents. How great a matter a little fire kindleth ! Our Monroe Doctrine is in final analysis merely the formulation of national precaution that, as far as in its power to prevent, there shall not lie scattered about the material which foreign possessions in these continents might supply for the extension of combustion originating elsewhere; and the objection to Asiatic immigration, however debased by less worthy feelings or motives, is on the part of thinking men simply a recognition of the same danger arising from the presence of an inassimilable mass of population, racially and traditionally distinct in characteristics, behind which would lie the sympathies and energy of a powerful military and naval Asiatic empire. Conducive as each of these policies is to national safety and peace amid international conflagration, neither the one nor the other can be sustained without the creation and maintenance of a preponderant navy. In the struggle with which this book deals, Washington at the time said that the navies had the casting vote. To Arnold on Lake Champlain, to DeGrasse at Yorktown, fell the privilege of exercising that prerogative at the two great decisive moments of the War. To the Navy also, beyond any other single instrumentality, was due eighty years later the successful suppression of the movement of Secession. The effect of the blockade of the Southern coasts upon the financial and military efficiency of the Confederate Government has never been closely calculated, and probably is incalculable. At these two principal national epochs control of the water was the most determinative factor. In the future, upon the Navy will

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