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viz. that while they protect a nation from insult and are undoubtedly its best defenders, their size renders it impossible for them to go far, and annoy, and attack, and carry conquest, desolation, and misery to distant shores!
The natural defence by men is common to all nations ; but artificial defence, as an auxiliary to human strength, must be adapted to the local condition and circumstances of a country.
What may be suitable to one country, or in one state of circumstances, may not be so in another.
The United States have a long line of coast, of more than two thousand miles, every part of which requires defence, because every part is approachable by water.
The right principle for the United States to go upon, as a defence for the coast, is that of combining the greatest practical power with the least possible bulk, that the whole quantity of power may be better distributed through the several parts of such an extensive coast.
The power of a ship of war is altogether in the number and size of the guns she carries, for the ship of itself
has no power.
Ships cannot struggle with each other like animals; and besides this, as half her guns are on one side of the ship, and half on the other; and as she can use only the guns on one side at a time, her real power is only equal to half her number of guns. A seventy-four can use only thirty-seven guns. She must tack about to bring the other half into action, and while she is doing this she is defenceless and exposed.
As this is the case with ships of war, a question naturally arises therefrom, which is, whether 74 guns,
other number, cannot be more effectually employed, and that with much less expence, than by putting them all into one ship of such an enormous bulk, that it cannot approach a shore either to defend it or attack it; and though the ship can change its place, the whole number of guns can be only at one place at a time, and only half that number can be used at a time.
This is a true statement of the case between ships of war and gun-boats for the defence of a coast and of towns situated near a coast.
But the case often is, that men are led away by the GREATNESS of an idea, and not by the Justness of it! This is always the case with those who are advocates for navies and large ships.*
A gun-boat carrying as heavy metal as a ship of 100 guns can carry, is a one-gun ship of the line; and seventyfour of them, which would cost much less than a 74-gun ship would cost, would be able to blow a 74-gun ship out of the water.
They have in the use of their guns double the power of the ship, that is, they have the use of their whole number, of seventy-four to thirty-seven.
Having thus stated the general outlines of the subject, I come to particulars.
That I might have a correct data to go upon with respect to ships and gun-boats, I wrote to the head of one of the departments at Washington for information on the subject.
The following is the answer I received :
“ Calculating the cost of a 74 or 100 gun ship from the actual cost of the ship United States of 44 guns, built
* A nation having a navy is a temptation for an enemy to go to war with it. Thus, if America had had a navy, England would have been at war with her long ago, to attack or obtain that
at Philadelphia, between the years 1795 and 1798, which amounted to 300,000 dollars, it may be presumed, that a 74-gun ship would cost 500,000 dollars, and a 100 gun ship 700,000 dollars.
“ Gun-boats calculated merely for the defence of harbours and rivers will, on an average, cost about 4000 dollars each, when fit to receive the crew and provisions.”
On the data here given, I proceed to state comparative calculations respecting ships and gun-boats.
The ship United States cost 500,000 dollars. Gunboats cost 4000 dollars each, consequently the 300,000 dollars expended on the ship, for the purpose of getting use of 44 guns, and those most heavy metal, would have built sevENTY-FIVE gun-boats, each carrying a cannon of the same weight of metal that a ship of 100 guns can carry.
The difference therefore is, that the gun-boats give the use of thirty-one guns, heavy metal, more than can be obtained by the ship, and the expenses in both cases equal.
A 74-gun ship costs 500,000 dollars.
The same money would build 125 gun-boats. The gain by gunboats the use of forty-one more guns, than can be obtained by expending the money on a ship of 74 guns.
The cost of an 100-gun ship is 700,000 dollars. This money would build 175 gun-boats; the gain therefore by the boats is the use of seventy-five guns more than by the ship.
Though I had a general impression ever since I had the knowledge of gun-boats, that any given sum would go farther in building gun-boats than in building ships of war, and that gun-boats were preferable to ships for home defence, I did not suppose the difference was so great as the calculations above given prove them to be, for it is almost double in favour of the gun-boats. It is as 175 to 100. The cause of this difference is easily explained. The fact is, that all that part of the expence in building a ship from deck upwards, including masts, yards, sails, and rigging, is saved by building gun-boats, which are moved by oars, or a light sail occasionally.
The difference also, in point of repairs, between ships of war and gun-boats, is not only great, but it is greater in proportion than their first cost. The repairs of ships of war is annually from 1-14th to 1-10th of their first cost. The annual repairs of a ship that cost 500,000 dollars, will be above 21,000 dollars ; the greatest part of this expense is in her sails and rigging, which gun-boats are free from.
The cifference also in point of duration is great.
Gun-boats, when not in use, can be put under shelter, and preserved from the weather, but ships cannot; or boats can be sunk in the water or mud. This is the