Illinois Staats-Zeitung -- July 22, 1861Our Naval Power Should Be Increased (Editorial)
Both Houses of Congress are now about to adopt the bill "for temporary increase of our marine". The bill authorizes the Government to purchase more ships for the purpose of suppressing piracy and enforcing the blockade during the duration of hostilities.
It is certainly time our naval forces were strengthened; for the ships that we now have are doing shore duty. Although many ships have been recalled from foreign stations, and many that have been rotting away in our shipyards during the regime of Toucey--the half secessionist predecessor of Mr. Ward--have been rendered serviceable, yet we have not sufficient boats either to prevent the escape of Rebel ships from blockaded ports, or to hinder them from entering these ports with cargoes of contraband, to say nothing of capturing Southern pirates. However, it is of utmost importance that the blockaded harbors be "hermetically sealed," not only because of the harm which would 2thus accrue to the Rebels, but also because a blockade is valid, according to international law, only when it is enforced to such an extent that no enemy ship can elude it. And, at present, Southern pirates even risk coming into the vicinity of Long Island, to molest American ships when they enter or leave the Port of New York; at least New York newspapers claim that one afternoon last week a Southern privateer was seen off the heights of Quogue. It has been verified that the corsair "Jefferson Davis" advanced as far as the shoals of Nantucket, on the coast of Connecticut, and within three days took booty valued at $225,000. Our readers no doubt recall the other acts of bravery committed by the crew of this freebooter, and also the feats of the privateer "Sumber". Thus, Rebel ships have captured at least thirty Northern ships.
Matters have already taken such a turn that no exporter of the North will entrust goods consigned to the West Indies or South America to ships flying the Stars and Stripes, for fear of these few shabby Southern freebooters; consequently our commerce with those countries has virtually closed.3
Europe, too is quite reluctant to ship freight on our merchantmen, fearing that they may be captured by some Rebel ship. Indeed, European distrust of American shipping is so great and wide spread that now many empty freighters from that country come to New York to take on American freight. American shippers would use American ships were it not for the activity of Southern corsairs. At present there are at least one hundred and twenty foreign ships which arrived at New York without cargo and which are being loaded with freight consigned to foreign ports. They fly the flags of England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Prussia, Hamburg, Bremen, Oldenburg, Sweden, etc.
Not only is our shipping industry threatened with complete destruction, but our flag is also threatened with dishonor; it would, indeed, be a great dishonor for our flag if the world's greatest commercial nation, whose shipping tonnage far exceeds even that of England, could not protect its flag against the attacks of a few privateers who are armed only with a few rusty cannon.4
If our naval authorities proceed quietly the troublesome activity of Southern freebooters will soon cease; for in New York alone enough boats can be bought in a single day to drive the Rebel ships from the waters and support our blockade fleet adequately, so as to render its activity effective. There are approximately forty large steamers and five hundred American sailing vessels in New York. Some of these boats are well manned, but all are idle, and their owners would gladly lease or sell them to the Government. We hope that the selection is placed in the hands of competent men, so that no swindle or scandal can occur.
In conclusion we would point out that the experiences of the past few weeks prove that we need many more war ships to protect our ever-growing commercial fleet.
I J, I G
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