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The Life of Gouverneur Morris

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convoys for merchant ships are equally expensive and inefficacious.  I appeal to experience.  As to the project of shutting up all the creeks and harbors along this extensive coast, this is calculated only for the meridian of St James's, and becomes daily an object of ridicule, even to our women and children.   I know the objection, that as we ourselves are a trading people, we may suffer equal loss with our foes.  Although I cannot admit this in its fullest latitude, yet it has some weight.  But it leads to a very obvious consequence, that is to say, an American navy.  Gentlemen may either start or smile at this idea, as it chances to raise their contempt or admiration.  Let us consider it.  Would a fleet consisting of ten sixty, ten fifty, and ten forty gun ships., with ten sloops of twenty, and thirty of ten guns, would such a fleet, Sir, make a respectable figure in the defence of our coasts ? Some persons will say, yes, but where are you to get them? Why, Sir, the materials are amongst us, and five millions dollars will fit them all out for a six months’ voyage.  I shall be told, that is very pretty scheming, and asked perhaps how the expense of this fleet is to be maintained.  I would not lay heavy imposts upon trade.  I am sure five per cent, upon all commodities imported into this continent, would be a very trivial tax, and there certainly are not less than twenty trillions of dollars in value, annually imported.  This would yield one million, and that is sufficient to keep your navy afloat.  And with such a navy it would be still more inconvenient to attack this country.  See what effects have followed from fitting out a few little insignificant vessels, under the name of privateers.  The last mode of defence consists in having a respectable army.  I do not mean an armed banditti, to become our masters.  The officers of your standing army should be regularly paid, and the profession by that means cultivated.  But the soldiers should never be enlisted, except when actual service required it; and, lest we should then be at a loss for good ones, it should be provided by wholesome militia laws, that every man in the country should know the duties of a soldier.

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From The Life of Gouverneur Morris: With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers; Detailing Events in the American Revolution, The French Revolution, and in the Political History of the United States, by Jared Sparks, Volume 1, Boston: Gray & Bowen, 1832, p 102. Some minor edits may have been made, but an attempt has been made to preserve the original spelling. Although some effort has been made to correct the limitations of OCR technology, if you find an error please report it to


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