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ALFRED THAYER MAHAN

(1840-)

HE power of genius to discover new relations between familiar facts is strikingly exemplified in Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan's studies of the influence of sea power upon history. The data cited in his works are common literary property; but the conclusions drawn from them are a distinct contribution to historical science. Captain Mahan is the first writer to demonstrate the determining force which maritime strength has exercised upon the fortunes

of individual nations, and consequently upon the course of general history; and in that field of work he is yet alone.

Technically, one of his representative works, the 'Influence of Sea Power upon History,' is but a naval history of Europe from the restoration of the Stuarts to the end of the American Revolution. But the freedom with which it digresses on general questions of naval policy and strategy, the attention which it pays to the relation of cause and effect between maritime events and international politics, and the author's literary method of treatment, place this work outside the class of strictly professional writings, and entitle it already to be regarded as an American classic.

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ALFRED T. MAHAN

The contents of Captain Mahan's great studies of naval history were originally given forth in a course of lectures delivered before the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island; and Captain Mahan's prime object, in establishing the thesis that maritime strength is a determining factor in the prosperity of nations, was to reinforce his argument that the future interests of the United States require a departure from the traditional American policy of neglect of navalmilitary affairs. Captain Mahan has maintained that, as openings to immigration and enterprise in North America and Australia diminish, a demand will arise for a more settled government in the disordered semi-barbarous States of Central and South America. He lays down the proposition that stability of institutions is necessary to commercial intercourse; and that a demand for such stability can hardly

be met without the intervention of interested civilized nations. Thus international complications may be fairly anticipated; and the date of their advent will be precipitated by the completion of a canal through the Central-American isthmus. The strategic conditions of the Mediterranean will be reproduced in the Caribbean Sea, and in the international struggle for the control of the new highway of commerce the United States will have the advantage of geographical position. He points out that the carrying trade of the United States is at present insignificant, only because the opening of the West since the Civil War has made maritime undertakings less profitable than the development of the internal resources of the country. It is thus shown to be merely a question of time when American capital will again seek the ocean; and Captain Mahan urges that the United States should seek to guard the interests of the future by building up a strong military navy, and fortifying harbors commanding the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea.

Captain Mahan's biography is simple and professional. He was born September 27th, 1840. A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, he served in the Union navy as a lieutenant throughout the Civil War, and was president of the Naval War College from 1886 to 1889 and from 1890 to 1893. He has been a voluminous writer on his peculiar subject or its closely kindred topics. Besides the work already mentioned, his writings include The Gulf and Inland Waters' (1883); Life of Admiral Farragut (1892); and 'Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire' (1892), a continuation of the 'Influence of Sea Power upon History.' He is not a brilliant stylist, but possesses a clear and solid literary technique; and even in dealing with naval science as well as naval episodes, he holds the attention with the serious merits of a descriptive historian.

THE IMPORTANCE OF CRUISERS AND OF STRONG FLEETS IN WAR

From The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783. Copyright 1890, by Captain A. T. Mahan. Reprinted by permission of the author, and of Little, Brown & Co., publishers.

HE English, notwithstanding their heavy loss in the Four Days' Battle, were at sea again within two months, much to the surprise of the Dutch; and on the 4th of August another severe fight was fought off the North Foreland, ending in the complete defeat of the latter, who retired to their own The English followed, and effected an entrance into

coasts.

one of the Dutch harbors, where they destroyed a large fleet of merchantmen as well as a town of some importance. Toward the end of 1666 both sides [England and Holland] were tired of the war, which was doing great harm to trade, and weakening both navies to the advantage of the growing sea power of France. Negotiations looking toward peace were opened; but Charles II., ill disposed to the United Provinces, confident that the growing pretensions of Louis XIV. to the Spanish Netherlands would break up the existing alliance between Holland and France, and relying also upon the severe reverses suffered at sea by the Dutch, was exacting and haughty in his demands. To justify and maintain this line of conduct he should have kept up his fleet, the prestige of which had been so advanced by its victories. Instead of that, poverty, the result of extravagance and of his home policy, led him to permit it to decline; ships in large numbers were laid up; and he readily adopted an opinion which chimed in with his penury, and which, as it has had advocates at all periods of sea history, should be noted and condemned here. This opinion, warmly opposed by Monk, was:

"That as the Dutch were chiefly supported by trade, as the supply of their navy depended upon trade, and as experience showed, nothing provoked the people so much as injuring their trade, his Majesty should therefore apply himself to this, which would effectually humble them, at the same time that it would less exhaust the English than fitting out such mighty fleets as had hitherto kept the sea every summer. . Upon these motives the King took a fatal resolution of laying up his great ships, and keeping only a few frigates on the cruise."

In consequence of this economical theory of carrying on a war, the Grand Pensionary of Holland, De Witt, who had the year before caused soundings of the Thames to be made, sent into the river, under De Ruyter, a force of sixty or seventy ships of the line, which on the 14th of June, 1667, went up as high as Gravesend, destroying ships at Chatham and in the Medway, and taking possession of Sheerness. The light of the fires could be seen from London; and the Dutch fleet remained in possession of the mouth of the river until the end of the month. Under this blow, following as it did upon the great plague and the great fire of London, Charles consented to peace, which was signed July 31st, 1667, and is known as the Peace of Breda. The most lasting result of the war was the transfer of New York and

New Jersey to England, thus joining her northern and southern colonies in North America.

Before going on again with the general course of the history of the times, it will be well to consider for a moment the theory which worked so disastrously for England in 1667; that, namely, of maintaining a sea war mainly by preying upon the enemy's commerce. This plan, which involves only the maintenance of a few swift crufsers and can be backed by the spirit of greed in a nation, fitting out privateers without direct expense to the State, possesses the specious attractions which economy always presents. The great injury done to the wealth and prosperity of the enemy is also undeniable; and although to some extent his merchant ships can shelter themselves ignobly under a foreign flag while the war lasts, this guerre de course, as the French call it,—this commerce-destroying, to use our own phrase,—must, if in itself successful, greatly embarrass the foreign government and distress its people. Such a war, however, cannot stand alone: it must be supported, to use the military phrase; unsubstantial and evanescent in itself, it cannot reach far from its base. That base must be either home ports or else some solid outpost of the national power on the shore or the sea; or the sea; a distant dependency or a powerful fleet. Failing such support, the cruiser can only dash out hurriedly a short distance from home; and its blows, though painful, cannot be fatal. It was not the policy of 1667, but Cromwell's powerful fleets of ships of the line in 1652, that shut the Dutch merchantmen in their ports and caused the grass to grow in the streets of Amsterdam. When, instructed by the suffering of that time, the Dutch kept large fleets afloat through two exhausting wars, though their commerce suffered greatly, they bore up the burden of the strife against England and France united. Forty years later, Louis XIV. was driven by exhaustion to the policy adopted by Charles II. through parsimony. Then were the days of the great French privateers,-Jean Bart, Forbin, Duguay-Trouin, Du Casse, and others. The regular fleets of the French navy were practically withdrawn from the ocean during the great War of the Spanish Succession (1702-1712). The French naval historian says:·

"Unable to renew the naval armaments, Louis XIV. increased the number of cruisers upon the more frequented seas, especially the Channel and the German Ocean [not far from home, it will be noticed].

In these different spots the cruisers were always in a position to intercept or hinder the movements of transports laden with troops, and of the numerous convoys carrying supplies of all kinds. In these seas, in the centre of the commercial and political world, there is always work for cruisers. Notwithstanding the difficulties they met, owing to the absence of large friendly fleets, they served advantageously the cause of the two peoples [French and Spanish]. These cruisers, in the face of the Anglo-Dutch power, needed good luck, boldness, and skill. These three conditions were not lacking to our seamen; but then, what chiefs and what captains they had!"

The English historian, on the other hand, while admitting how severely the people and commerce of England suffered from the cruisers, bitterly reflecting at times upon the administration, yet refers over and over again to the increasing prosperity of the whole country, and especially of its commercial part. In the preceding war, on the contrary, from 1689 to 1697, when France sent great fleets to sea and disputed the supremacy of the ocean, how different the result! The same English writer says of that time:

"With respect to our trade, it is certain that we suffered infinitely more, not merely than the French, for that was to be expected from the greater number of our merchant ships, but than we ever did in any former war. . . . This proceeded in great measure from the vigilance of the French, who carried on the war in a piratical way. It is out of all doubt that, taking all together, our traffic suffered excessively; our merchants were many of them ruined."

Macaulay says of this period: "During many months of 1693 the English trade with the Mediterranean had been interrupted almost entirely. There was no chance that a merchantman from London or Amsterdam would, if unprotected, reach the Pillars of Hercules without being boarded by a French privateer; and the protection of armed vessels was not easily obtained." Why? Because the vessels of England's navy were occupied watching the French navy, and this diversion of them from the cruisers and privateers constituted the support which a commercedestroying war must have. A French historian, speaking of the same period in England (1696), says: "The state of the finances. was deplorable: money was scarce, maritime insurance thirty per cent., the Navigation Act was virtually suspended, and the English shipping reduced to the necessity of sailing under the Swedish and Danish flags." Half a century later the French

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