National Geographic : 1888 Oct
The Survey of the Coast. But it is not to be supposed the commercial importance of a knowledge of the coast and harbors was underrated because the Survey was not prosecuted. The people were poor, the task would be expensive and laborious. The appliances for the work were not in the possession of the Government, and above all, war came came sooner than was anticipated and the energies of the people were taxed to the utmost in combat with their powerful foe ; and when peace came again, there was the inevitable com mercial depression that follows a resort to arms. The men of the day fully realized how illy they were prepared to invite com merce to our shores, or incite our own people to more extensive trade. There was nothing to adequately represent those mag nificent harbors that have since become famous the world over; nor of that long line of coast with its treacherous shoals, whereby those seeking new ventures might judge of the dangers to be encountered. The absolute ignorance that existed was aptly described in the Albany Argus in 1832, when the propriety of reviving the act of 1807 was under discussion, as follows : " It had been discovered by an American statesman that parent countries always keep the commercial knowledge of their colo nies as a leading-string in their own hands, and that as practical navigators, American seamen knew less of their own shores than the country and its allies from whose subjection we had recently delivered ourselves by force of arms. In large vessels, three nations, the Dutch, the French, and the English, approached our harbors with less risk than those bearing our own flag; at the same time that in small and more manageable vessels, we had long been known as a match for the strongest. The president, Jefferson, saw the defect and the manner in which it must be remedied. We were at that time on the brink of war, about whose justice some of our politicians differed in opinion and it was, of course, more necessary to pray for a fortunate result than to preach the causes which had occasioned the quarrel. To have procured for the nation (even had it been practicable so to do) the old charts from the Dutch, French, and English govern ments, would have only been to put our knowledge on a par with theirs, while to execute more recent and accurate surveys, was advancing the new country above the old. With the clear and bold perception, which always distinguishes men of genius when they are entrusted in times of danger with the destinies of a nation, the president recommended a survey of the whole coast with all the aid of the more recent discoveries of science."