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Naval Heroes identified with Naval Glory—Commercial enterprise of Americans—British jealousy against American Colonies—First dawning of Naval Glory amongst Americans—Constellation of Ocean-Warriors—STEPHEN DECATUR.
Stephen Decatur's name and glory are so inse. parably identified with that of the American Navy, that it is almost impossible to contemplate the high renown of the last, without associating with the exhilirating reflection, the splendid and unsurpassed achievements of the first. Decatur and the navy (if the figure is allowable) went on from infancy, hand in hand, supported and supporting—“growing with each other's growth, and strengthening with each other's strength,” until they both acquired the dignified and noble attitude of manhood.
Until the auspicious era of seventeen hundred and ninety-eight, Americans themselves scarcely knew that the Republic had a naval force, and in that memorable year, Stephen Decatus commenced his naval career. In the naval warfare with France, . and it was nothing else but naval warfare, the glory of the infant American navy burst upon the world like the sun-beam through a dark and lowering cloud. This constituted the first period of the navy and of Decatur’s naval life. -The warfare with the Barbary powers, especially with Tripoli, again called into action the decreasing energy of the American navy, and the increasing ardour of our naval officers and seamen. The glory of our navy, and the achievements of our officers, resounded through the three great continents bordering upon the Mediterranean, the greatest and most renowned of seas. This constituted the second period of the navy. It commenced with the nineteenth century, and was the brilliant commencement of Decatur’s renown. The second war between the American Republic and the British Empire, formed the third period of our navy, and the rapid and splendid progression of Decatur’s fame. The short naval warfare with Algiers, which immediately followed the conclusion of the war with Britain, presented Decatur to the world in the twofold capacity of Conqueror and Negociator. It augmeated the renown of the American navy—it was the complete consummation of his glory. As Navy
Commissioner, he displayed the knowledge he had acquired in active service. This rapid glance from the commencement to the termination of these imperfect Sketches, is made, to elucidate the reasons for the manner in which the work will be attempted. If a biographical memoir may be compared to a perspective painting, it will be the design of the writer to keep Stephen Decatur upon the fore-ground, and in the relief, to present slight views of the “origin, progress and achievements of the American navy.” Whether the delineations will be correct, and the lights and shades judicious. must of course be left to the plain, urostentatious observer, and to the acute, fastidious and acrimonious connoisseur. However grateful approbation might be to the writer, he is fully determined not to be carried to any high degree of elevation by commendation, nor sunk to the least degree of dejection by censure. As he is confident he cannot give entire satisfaction to himself, he has jittle hope of imparting it to the reader. The thirst for NAVAL GLoRy, unconnected with the rapid accumulation of wealth, could hardly be said to constitute a prominent feature of the American character, until system and order was introduced into the American navy, during the administrations of the venerable John AIAMs and Thomas JEFFERson. A spirit of commercial enterprise, without a parallel amongst ancient or modern nations, had indeed, for a long period before, rendered America the second nation in the world in point of commercial importance. But this was the result of individual exer. tion, and not of national patronage. The ocean, the great natural highway of nations, invited Americans to whiten its bosom with their canvas. Even before the British crown began to encroach upon the rights of its American colonies, the thousands of American merchant ships were navigating every sea. The productions of every clime, from China to California, were poured into the lap of the rising colonies. The hardy and intrepid seamen of America were seen in every ocean. They were seen amidst the terrifying waves of the North, encountering the tremendous whale, whose evolutions and spoutings would seem to appal the stoutest heart. Even a distinguished British admiral, who, for amusement, had joined an American whaling party, was lost in astonishment at the adventurous spirit of American seamen, and lost his fortitude in the threatening danger that surrounded him. American seamen were also seen, enduring the blasting rays of an equinoctial sun, and bearing home to their country all the varied productions of the tropical regions. Wherever a ship could navigate oceans, our energetic and dauntless navigators led the van in navigating enterprise. It is readily acknowledged, that at this early period of the history of our country in its rapid progress to national glory, our merchants and seamen thought of little else than the rapid accumulation of wealth. But let it never be forgotten, that our countrymen, by these pursuits, were adding practical knowledge, to the theo