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ty of navigation—fearless intrepidity, to scientific acquirements. The British nation, for a long period before her deadly jealousy commenced a systematic oppression of her American children, was the almost undisputed mistress of the ocean. She claimed that she had wrested the trident of Neptune from his hands, and that the four continents ought to be tributary to her wealth and power. That government, ever watchful of national glory, and as its handmaid, ever insatiable in amassing national wealth, looked with a suspicious eye upon the American colonies, although they constituted the most brilliant gem in the British diadem. When the infatuated policy of Britain drove them into a contest with the mother-country, every thing considered, the most powerful nation in the world, the confederated states had not a single armed vessel floating upon the ocean. But they had the most accomplished navigators, and the most intrepid seamen. It was, however, no time to commence the establishment of a naval force. The country and its resources, were literally in possession of its implacable enemy, when that tremendous and awfully unequal contest commenced, which terminated in the most glorious revolution of the eighteenth century. But, during the sanguinary progress of the revolutionary struggle, the latent sparks of that blaze of glory which now envelopes the AMERICAN Navy, elicited themselves with the most cheering brillian
cy. It was not that systematic, regulated courage. Q *
which for the last quarter of a century has led our naval heroes to certain victory. It was not the majestic course which now marks our ships and our fleets, as the orbits point out the course of the planets—it was rather like the comet, whose eccentric course and flaming face defy calculation, excite wonder and raise fear. o Would the limits and the design of this work permit, I might carry the reader along through the whole gloomy period of the revolutionary struggle, and show, that with means apparently wholly inefficient, the naval spirit of Americans, evinced itself in a manner calculated to excite the unbounded admiration of their friends, and the fearful apprehensions of their enemies. But it must not here be omitted, that the “Old Congress” took measures, as earły as 1776, to establish a naval force, when the resources of the country were next to nothing. With a few little ships, which grew up, as if by magic, and which seemed like rude intruders upon the ocean, a Barry, a Manly, a Biddle, a Jones, and a Preble, spread consternation amongst the enemy, and for themselves acquired fame, lasting as immortality. Particulars must here be omitted: but the inquisitive reader may readily find them in the publications of that period. We approach now toward that auspicious epoch in the history of the American Republic, when the Grand Council of the nation literally began the navy. of the Republic—for there was not, twenty-five years ago, a single vestige remaining of the naval. force commenced in the war of the Revolution. It was in this navy, that the brilliant constellation of gallant ocean-heroes arose with a splendour that illumines the modern history of the Republic.
In the midst of this constellation, STEPHEN DECATUR shines with resplendent glory, a star of the first magnitude. To delineate his life and character, it is readily admitted, requires the hand of a master. The writer approaches the task with a trembling solicitude, most sensibly felt, but wholly indescribable. Relying, however, upon that indulgence and candour, which has given to his “MeMoirs” of one of the first ornaments of the ARMY of the Republic * a favourable reception, he will endeavour to present to his countrymen a faithful and accurate portrait of one, who was the first ornament of the American Navy.
* Gen. Andrew Jackson,
Decatur's birth—Birth places—Difference between beginning and ending great names—Brief notice of Decatur's ancestors— His father, one of the original Post-Captains in the American Navy—Dedication of his sons to the Republic—The inestimable value of the Legacy.
STEPHEN DECATUR, who, from the humble birth of a Midshipman, rose to the highest grade of of. fice yet established in the Navy of the American Republic, was born upon the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Worcester county, upon the 5th day of January, A. D. 1779. Although to the general scholar, the precise time, and the certain place where a distinguished man was born or educated, or where he first exemplified indications of his future greatness, seem to be of but little importance, yet these points have been contested with such an unyielding stubbornness by the ancient and modern literati, that they assume a facti. tious consequence, which, intrinsically seems not to belong to them. A place that derives all its consequence from the birth of one great man, who first inhaled air in it, may well contend for that frail claim to local honour —frail it well may be called; for surely it cannot be perceived how the birth of a great man, who has secured a title to lasting fame by his own science, genius, or heroism, can impart same to the place of his nativity, any more than the glory of a man's ancestors can immortalize his descendants. But every traveller must visit the place of a great man's birth, however obscure it may be. No country upon earth, within the period of the two last centuries, which limits the age of civilized America, can boast a more extended catalogue of great men in the State, the Church, the Army, the Navy, and in the walks of Literature and Science, than ours. But when we come to trace their places of birth; the seminaries where they obtained the rudiments of knowledge, or completed their education, and the ancestors to whom they trace their origin, it will be found that a very great proportion of the most distinguished men of our Republic, came into existence in some of the most obscure villages of our new country—were educated in the most humble schools, and can trace their genealogy to some of the most obscure citizens of our Republic. It is usual with the writers of Biography to give, sometimes a brief, and oftentimes a prolix sketch of the ancestors of the subject of his memoirs. This may serve to eke out a volume; and for want of interesting incidents in the life of the subject of it, he may interlard it with matter wholly extraneous. It may serve another purpose—it may gratify the pride of family aristocracy, who exhibit the archives of their ancestors as evidence of their own merit, and by the aid of heraldry, display splendid coats of arms in the family-hall. It is almost enough to excite the admiration of an English reader to be told