National Geographic : 1888 Oct
National GeographicMagazine. only the channels by which the fleet might enter, but their rela tions to each other and the points of vantage that should be utilized in obstructing them; and in modern warfare to know these things only approximately will not suffice, for precision is practiced now in the art of war, as well as in the arts of peace. The lack of charts of our extensive Coast line, or indeed, of any practical information that could be utilized in a systematic defence against foreign aggression, was only one of the many perplexities that surrounded our forefathers in building the nation. By their valor they had wrested a jewel from the British Crown, and had inaugurated a system of government by the people, which on their sacred honors they had sworn to defend. But not a generation had passed away when they saw new dan gers, and were forced to contemplate again taking up arms in defence of their rights. The land was theirs, even far towards the setting sun, pioneers had explored it, and they knew whence might come a hostile foe. But of the waters from far away to the eastward, that flowed on until they washed every shore and filled the great Bays, even to the heart of the Republic, they knew little, save that over that almost immeasurable expanse might come the fleet of destroyers to penetrate they knew not where, and inflict incalculable damage months ere the dreary tales might be told. It must be remembered there were no tele graphs, no railroads, no steamboats, in those days, and time taken by the forelock was time gained. The speed of man could not be overtaken as we see it to-day in the wondrous inventions of the last generations. Each community was dependent upon it self, alone, in time of danger, to ward off the blow or yield to a more powerful foe; assistance could hardly be obtained in months and perhaps not then. It was not possible for any man to study or to learn the points of danger, and prepare a system of defence. President Jefferson in his far-seeing statesmanship, threatened with war, realized the danger. A survey of the coast he believed essential to the national defence, and to the prosperity of the nation in time of peace. Had his wise counsels prevailed and the survey been prosecuted with vigor, instead of being almost imme diately suspended for a quarter of a century, there can be no question but that it would have saved the people millions of dol lars in expenditures and put other untold millions into their cof fers, through the impetus it would have given to commerce years before commerce actually had a name in many that are now thriving seaport towns.