No. 363. [1st Session.
ON THE EXPEDIENCY OF FITTING OUT VESSELS OF THE NAVY FOR AN EXPLORATION OF THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND SOUTH SEAS.
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, MARCH 5, 1828.
Mr. Ripley from the Committee on Naval Affairs, to whom was referred a great number of memorials from citizens of various sections of the United States, praying aid from the government in fitting out vessels for an exploring expedition to the Pacific seas, reported:
That the number and character of the memorialists, and the opinions they have expressed upon the subject of the memorials, have called the committee to an attentive and careful consideration of the means required for such an expedition, the importance of the interests connected with it, and the immediate as well as ultimate advantages it promises to the nation. The committee do not propose to recapitulate their own views upon these subjects, but to refer the House to documents in their possession, with the general correctness of which they are satisfied.
For information in relation to the means required, they refer to a communication from the Secretary of the Navy, of the 14th of March, 1828, in reply to a note addressed to him by the committee.
In relation to the interests, individual and national, connected with such an expedition, the committee refer to a statement submitted to them by Mr. J. N. Reynolds, on the 10th February, 1828, in answer to inquiries addressed to him by order of the committee. So much of the statement as exhibits the amount of our commerce in the Pacific seas, the committee think is fully sustained by the reports of the officers of our navy, who have, by order of the Secretary, heretofore made reports upon that subject, to which Mr. Reynolds refers, and with which his statement has been compared, as well as with the accounts of others familiar with those branches of our trade.
The dangers to which an immense amount of property is exposed, as well as the hazard to human life, for the want of knowledge, by more accurate surveys, of the regions to which our commerce is extending, and the probable new sources of wealth which may be opened and secured to us, seem, to your committee, not only to justify but to demand the appropriation recommended; they therefore report a bill for the purpose.
Letter from J. N. Reynolds to the speaker of the Souse of Representatives.
Sir: I have the honor of transmitting to you several memorials, signed by citizens of the United-States, recommending to the favorable consideration of Congress the importance of affording some efficient aid in fitting out a small expedition, to explore the immense and unknown regions in the southern hemisphere. They believe that an expedition could scarcely fail in making discoveries of some interest, by finding new islands, or increasing our knowledge of those already laid on the maps; that commerce might be benefited by surveying the coasts frequented by our hardy fishermen, and upon which they frequently suffer shipwreck, with many privations, and loss of property.
It is believed new channels might be opened for commercial pursuits in animal fur—a trade out of which an immense revenue accrues to the government, and which greatly augments our national strength, by increasing the number of our most efficient seamen.
Amongst these memorials, you will find one from Albany, dated October 19, 1821, and signed by his excellency Nathaniel Pitcher, Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York, the Hon. Erastus Root, speaker of the house of representatives, and by nearly all the members of the legislature.
I have also the honor of transmitting to you three other memorials: the first is dated Charleston, South Carolina, May 31, 1827, and signed by the mayor of the city, president of the chamber of commerce, and by a very long list of respectable citizens. The second is dated Raleigh, North Carolina, December 24, 1827, and contains the signatures of his excellency James Iredell, Governor of the State, the Hon. B. Yancy, speaker of the senate, the honorable James Little, speaker of the house of commons, and by a large proportion of the members of each branch of the legislature. The third memorial is dated Richmond, Virginia, January 1, 1828, and is sustained by a number of respectable citizens, by the Hon. Linn Banks, speaker of the house of delegates, and by a large and very respectable number of the members of the legislature.
With the above papers, I send you for reference, in like manner, the following preamble and resolution adopted by the house of delegates of the State of Maryland, which I have had in my possession, but which has never been officially introduced into this House.
"Whereas, foreign nations have long turned their attention towards the acquirement of a more perfect knowledge of the geography of the earth, by means of voyages of discovery, and, by these exertions, have not only acquired reputation, but extended the weight of their influence, opened new channels for commercial enterprise, and benefited the human race, by enlarging and improving the boundaries of knowledge: And whereas, the Government of the United States has attained a high standing among the nations of the earth, the practical result of the most stupendous as well as successful experiment ever made in politics; a population fast increasing; commercial relations and interests coextensive with the civilized world; nautical skill, perseverance, and enterprise, if not unequaled, at least unsurpassed: And whereas, the sending out of one or two vessels on a voyage of discovery would not be attended with any very heavy demands on the public treasury, and would seem to be in strict accordance with the character and liberal policy which ought to be pursued by a government whose political existence is, in a great measure, dependent on the general intelligence of her people: And whereas, a great number of the most enlightened citizens of different sections of our country have memorialized the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States, in Congress assembled, and have set forth in their memorials that, under the patronage of the United States, an expedition should be fitted out, without delay, and proceed to acquire a more correct knowledge of our own continent; or, if possible, to enter the more interesting and extensive field for enterprise in the southern hemisphere, and proceed, for the purpose, with hardy seamen and scientific persons, to bring home to us the result of their labors, for the honor of our country and the benefit of mankind: And whereas, voyages of this kind, even when they fail of making important discoveries, bespeak a liberal policy, and give character to the people who undertake them: Therefore,
"Resolved, by the general assembly of the State of Maryland, That we do highly approve of the views of the said memorialists, believing that a polar expedition, if properly conducted, could scarcely fail in adding something to the general stock of national wealth and knowledge, and to the honor and glory of the United States."
The paper marked A, contains a list of names of individuals who have expressed their interest in the success of an Antarctic expedition by individual aid and voluntary subscription, to aid in carrying it into effect.
It is, perhaps, unnecessary to remark, that this expression of public sentiment, though extensive and deserving the most respectful consideration, is small, when compared with other and similar memorials presented during the last session, and referred to the Secretary of the Navy; to all of which, the committee, of course, can have easy access.
While, sir, I accept with pleasure your proffered kindness, in giving to these memorials their proper direction in the House of Representatives, I beg you to accept the assurance of the high consideration, with which,
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
J. N. REYNOLDS.
Hon. Andrew Stevenson, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
PROCEEDINGS IN RELATION TO AN EXPLORING EXPEDITION, BEFORE THE COMMITTEE ON NAVAL AFFAIRS, IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE UNITED STATES, 1828.
Letter from the chairman, by order of the committee.
House of Representatives, Committee on Naval Affairs.
Sir: If it will not be inconvenient for you to furnish, it will be acceptable to the Committee on Naval Affairs to receive, a brief statement, in writing, of the views you submitted to them, and any others you may deem proper, respecting the advantages to commerce of the exploring expedition to the south, for which you are a petitioner.
Such a statement, it is supposed, would contain your reasons for general results, and a reference to authorities for specific facts, as well as a tabular statement of the results and facts, so far as they may be susceptible of being stated in such a form.
With esteem and respect, your humble servant,
J. N. Reynolds, Esq.
Answer to the foregoing.
Hon. Michael Hoffman, chairman Committee on Naval Affairs:
Sir: In compliance with your request in writing, I send you a brief statement of my views of the extent, character and advantages of the commerce of this country in the Pacific ocean, with a few calculations, made from the best information I could obtain. As the files of the custom house do not directly
assist us in this investigation, it is but proper that I should state to you distinctly the sources from whence my information has been derived; and, at the same time, my avowal of the full belief that all my statements and calculations fall far short of the amount that the most accurate accounts, with the mention of every item, would swell to, could they be given. I have put my facts into as tabular a form as the nature of the case will permit, and will exhibit my results as succinctly as possible.
The information I have the honor to exhibit was obtained from the following sources:
Firstly. From frequent conversations with intelligent men long acquainted with that trade, several of whom had made frequent voyages in those seas.
Secondly. From the perusal of log books and journals kept by well-informed men, while engaged in the various commerce of the Pacific, covering a space of more than seven years previous to the war, and more than five years since.
Thirdly. From facts that have transpired in several lawsuits between the owners of vessels employed in the northwest coast trade, and their captains, agents and factors.
Fourthly. From such official documents, in the Navy Department, as are open to inspection on the records, being letters, reports, &c, from the several naval commanders who have been sent to protect our commerce in that quarter.
The objects of my inquiries have been:
Firstly. The nature and extent of the whale fishery, and of its importance to the welfare of our country.
Secondly. The extent and character of the sea otter skin trade.
Thirdly. The fur seal skin trade.
Fourthly. The sandal wood trade.
Fifthly. The ivory sea-elephant tooth trade.
Sixthly. The land animal fur trade.
Seventhly. The feather trade.
To these inquiries I have added a few remarks upon the articles of export for this branch of commerce, and the general benefits resulting from it, independent of the wealth it brings into the country.
A full account of the whale fishery, from its earliest history, is to be found in the Massachusetts Historical Collection, brought down to the commencement of the revolutionary war. At this time the whale fishery was confined to Nantucket almost entirely. The last year, previous to the interruption of the business by the British cruisers, the returns and results of these voyages, for the season, were thirty thousand barrels of oil, and one hundred and sixty tons of spermaceti candles. After the close of the conflict, whales becoming scarce on the coast of Brazil, to which place they had, for some years previously, been pursued, the enterprising people of Nantucket ventured into the Pacific ocean, where they understood, from the accounts of Vancouver and Cook, that the whales were to be found in great abundance. This was soon after the year 1790. These adventurous voyages were attended with success, and have been increasing ever since, until it may be stated to have reached the following extent, viz: to vessels of considerable size, sufficiently large, on an average, to carry two thousands barrels of oil, in Nantucket seventy; in New Bedford sixty; in New York, Boston, Stonington, New London, &c, at least twenty more, making in the whole one hundred and fifty.
Suppose we say eighteen hundred barrels of oil each, with the proportion of candle matter, and allow two years to every voyage, this would furnish a result of hundred and thirty-five thousand barrels a year, or four millions fifty thousand gallons, and the spermaceti candles would amount to eight hundred and thirty-seven tons, or one million six hundred and seventy-four thousand pounds a year.
The crews of these vessels amount to about twenty-five each, men and boys, therefore keeping in employ three thousand seven hundred and fifty seamen, and thereby keeping up also a school for nautical instruction, superior to any other to be found. This is a business in which there has, as yet, been no great uncertainty or fluctuation. Almost all who have engaged in it have grown rich, as the market is great for home consumption, and never glutted abroad.
As the whale fishery decreases in the sea now frequented for this purpose, other places must be found to pursue it in to advantage; and as the demand for less pure oil for the manufacture of gaslight increases, the islands and shoals should be explored for the porpoise and sea elephant, who make their haunt in such places; and there can be no doubt that a sufficient number can be found, by proper search, to answer these demands as they arise. Other fisheries in high latitudes may be enlarged, and also found profitable, the salmon and cod fisheries particularly, as there would be a great demand for them in the South American provinces, a people who would not think of supplying themselves for the present. It may be said of fish, perhaps what cannot be said of any other or most articles of consumption, that the markets increase with the quantity brought to supply them.
This is illustrated by the mackerel fishery, which is principally confined to Massachusetts and Maine. About fifteen years ago, these States, then one State, began to think this branch of business might be made of some importance, and inspectors of this article were accordingly appointed. It was then stated, to the astonishment of most members of the legislature of Massachusetts, that there were twenty thousand barrels of these fish pickled every season. In a few years the returns proved that there were thirty thousand barrels put up for market. This fishery has been gradually increasing, until, by the inspector general's returns, it appears that one hundred and ninety-seven thousand six hundred barrels were inspected last year; and the price has not diminished, but the demand for this food increased, and is enlarging. Deducting all expenses for the sales of this article, more than half a million of dollars is made annually, yea, fished up from the bottom of the ocean, by the industry and enterprise of our people, and that too in a healthy employment.
Suppose, then, we could open a market for these fish in South America, the quantity, however large, would be all wanted, as the great mass of the inhabitants would soon wish to change the vegetable diet of their fast days, for the more satisfactory and nutritious food they would find in the fish market. This is proven from the fact that Spain and Italy, with the West India Islands, have been the great consumers of
our fish, from the Grand Banks and the Labradors, and have, in most instances, paid us for them in specie. In 1744, thirty-two thousand quintals of codfish were sent from New England to Europe—this was of a superior quality, and three thousand and twenty hogsheads of tol-qual to the West Indies.
That the traffic in sea otter skins has been very profitable, is conceded on all hands; but from the secrecy of the first navigators into that ocean, the precise extent of it cannot be ascertained. These valuable skins were at first bought up from the natives on the northwest, for a mere trifle, in red cloth, glass beads, a piece of cutlery, &c, but not so of late—these skins being from forty to seventy dollars, and more in China. The most experienced men in this trade put the amount of it, since it was first begun, from fifteen to twenty-five millions of dollars, and no one lower than ten millions. These animals have only, as yet, been found in certain latitudes, from 44 deg. to 60 deg. north, and between east longitude from London, 126 deg. to 150 deg.; inhabiting, in great abundance, Behring's Islands, Kamtschatka, the Aleuthian and Fox Islands, between Asia and America; they land also on the Kural Islands. (Shaw's Zoology, vol. 2, and page 445.)
Now, naturalists can find no reason why they should not exist on lands that may yet be found in the southern hemisphere. This is a subject to be settled, and that nation which may have the honor of the discovery, will undoubtedly have, as they well deserve, the profits.
The sandal wood trade is not so difficult, perhaps, to estimate, for there has not been quite so much secrecy about it. For many years, this wood has been found in the islands of those seas; but it was not known to have been a growth of the Sandwich Islands, until it was discovered by Captain Davis and Windship, of Boston, about twenty-four years since. The quantity cut on this group of islands is about three hundred thousand dollars' worth a year; and what is found and cut on other islands will make the trade in this article, at this time, amount to near half a million a year. If this wood should become scarce, it will be necessary to find new groves of it on other islands, or we must teach the natives how to grow it; and it is the opinion of many judicious navigators, that this may as well be effected, as to cultivate the oak or ash, or any other tree of our own forests.*
The fur seal skin trade has been very extensive and profitable in the Pacific. It is the general opinion of those conversant with the trade, that more than seven millions of fur seal skins have been taken, by our enterprising seamen, since we commenced business in the Pacific. These skins have generally been sold in Canton for from two to three dollars, and sometimes more, on an average, for each skin: some have been brought to this country, and sold for domestic uses. The Stonington Telegraph mentions the extent of the seal trade in that small place, which shows the enterprise of that industrious people in a very strong light. From November, 1819, to August, 1827, there were seventeen vessels which belonged to this port, and which brought, as an item of their cargo, skins, which were sold at auction, to the amount of three hundred and ten thousand seven hundred and forty-seven dollars and eight cents; and these skins were mostly taken about the Antarctic circle. Let it also be remembered that this is a mere item, made tangible from having been sold at auction; and that this amount of skins, exchanged in Canton for teas, would bring into the public treasury an amount, on the first return, greatly surpassing what would be necessary to send out an efficient exploring expedition.
The demand for this fur is increasing in this country, as the seals are diminishing in the Pacific. New islands must be found, where they have not as yet been disturbed, to furnish a supply for the market. The hunting of the whale and seal, heretofore carried on with so much vigor, has produced the natural and necessary consequence of rendering those animals more timid, and fewer in number, by their destruction, without reference to season. These animals as naturally and instinctively leave the haunts of the whalers and sealers, and retire to more remote regions, as the wild game in the west recede before the advances of the sturdy backwoodsman. They can be followed, and found in greater abundance, and taken with less uncertainty and risk. The result of the late voyages proves that they can be procured with great facility in the remote polar regions. Captain Parry, with great profit to the British nation, opened a new channel for their trade, by transferring their fisheries from East to West Greenland. He says the number of whales in those high latitudes was astonishing; that not less than fifty were seen in the course of a single watch.
Captain Franklin, standing on the shore of the Arctic ocean, describes the seal as sporting in shoals, like porpoises. The discovery of islands of great size to the south is not too much to be hoped for, if we may be allowed to draw any inference from the obvious indications afforded by analogy, the observations of experienced navigators, or the natural indications afforded by ice, currents, &c, already known to exist in those regions. Such discoveries are coupled with the certainty that the profits to be derived from them, in a commercial point of view, may be applied to the great advantage of our common country.
The land animal fur trade has not, as yet, been much encouraged, but several persons are now turning their attention to it. The Hudson Bay Company, which has been chartered for one hundred and fifty-nine years, have made the most grasping, extensive, and successful monopoly of this trade that is known in the annals of commerce; but a few spirited capitalists, with strong and well situated factories on the northwest coast, would soon take no small proportion of this immense trade. In Robson's account of Hudson's Bay, to the first lord commissioner of England, he says: "There are furs, my lord, on this large tract of land, sufficient to supply all Europe, which yet are locked up by a few men."
The ivory trade is becoming important, and will be much more extensive than it now is, when the sea elephant is hunted for oil, as it will be, when the whale becomes less numerous, and more oil is wanted for gas works, as the great cities get more and more in the habit of using it. The porpoises' oil and seal oil will then be worth making, for this purpose. The porpoise fishery, formerly, was not heard of; once in a while, a porpoise was taken by accident; but now, the Indians and others pursue it to a considerable extent, on our own northeasternmost coast.
The feather trade has not as yet been followed in those seas as it might have been; but, from the immense quantity of sea fowl in those regions, it is certain that the best of feathers might be obtained, and in the greatest abundance. Some of the beds brought from the northwest coast are nearly equal in quality to the eider down beds of Russia. The demand for feathers is great and constantly increasing in this country. The finest quills might be obtained in pursuing this trade, and the demand for them is now great and constantly increasing. The manner of preparing them, as the Dutch prepare them, might easily be taught to those engaged in the business; and, instead of paying nearly half a million of dollars
* Quere.—Could not this wood be grown in some parts of Florida, and on the coast of Liberia?
a year to Holland, and Russia, and other countries, for quills, we could, by this trade, supply our own market and others.
The articles which we export for this trade are now all within ourselves. Rice, tobacco, rum, whiskey, blankets, coarse woolens, cottons, calicoes, the ordinary kind of cutlery, and trivial jewelry, and agricultural utensils, and some articles of household furniture, will soon find a market at the Sandwich Islands.
It should be taken into consideration that these voyages are in the character of double voyages. The northwest coast cargoes are now, in small vessels, sent to China, and their proceeds furnish cargoes for large vessels sent direct from this country to Canton; and, by these means, we save the precious metals at home which the direct China trade has so long drained us of.
To show the profitableness of this trade, we have only to look to those who have been engaged in it, and we shall find that most of them, who began it early, have made large fortunes, and but very few of them have been unsuccessful. The cry is that the trade, or business, is overdone. This is natural. Those who have enjoyed the profits are not willing to share them with others.
The extent of our commerce in those seas, in the whale, fur, and other trades, may, in some measure, be estimated by a report of Captain Hull, who was sent into the Pacific to protect our commerce there. He says that, from the 30th of March, 1824, to December 1st, 1825, he boarded two hundred and thirty-two vessels, whose tonnage amounted to forty-three thousand five hundred and two tons, and the men to two thousand three hundred and fifty-two, and the guns carried by these vessels to two hundred and ninety-five:
And the probability is that he did not fall in with one-half of the number then navigating the Pacific.
When Captain Jones visited the Island of Oahu, on the first of November, 1827, he found nineteen vessels in the port, whose tonnage amounted to five thousand six hundred and fifty, with crews amounting to three hundred and seventy-eight men. Four of these vessels were loaded with skins, &c., and fifteen of them were whalemen, and had on board twenty-five thousand and eighty barrels of oil, and only wanted about six thousand three hundred and twenty barrels to make full cargoes.
All is activity and spirit on these voyages; every master of a vessel, and his officers and men, are striving to do better than their fellow-laborers. These long and difficult voyages give a hardihood and enterprise to American seamen which will continue as long as we are engaged in this trade. The length of the voyage, the difficulty of the navigation, the large size of the vessels, the science and care necessary for sailing them in safety, and the vicissitudes of the voyage, make the youngest on board a navigator, a seaman, a pilot, and a gunner.
The opening of the ports in South America has already changed our course of trade in the Pacific greatly for the better, and will more and more benefit us, if we take care of our rights in those seas, and send a sufficient force to protect our commerce, which, no doubt, it will be the policy of our government to pursue.
To look after the merchant there—to offer him every possible facility—to open new channels for his enterprise, and to keep a respectable naval force to protect him—is only paying a debt we owe to the commerce of the country: for millions have flowed into the national treasury from this trade, before one cent was appropriated for its protection.
The naval commanders we have sent into the Pacific have done all that wise, active, and experienced men could do. They have not only taught the natives that we are a powerful people, and could defend ourselves in that distant country as well as other nations, but these new states and empires, which have arisen in South America, have been shown that we could punish wrongs and enforce rights, and had the good of mankind, as well as our own prosperity, at heart. Power, judiciously exhibited, is the great peace-maker of the world; and a people whose institutions are not yet thoroughly established, as those in South America, want looking after with a steady eye. In attending to these duties, it is impossible for our naval commanders to explore those seas for the purpose of discovering new places. Their duty is to watch the old; and this is a sufficient task for any force we can send there.
The whale ships, having a specific object in view, and generally under strict orders, cannot waste an hour in the business of discovery; nor can they, consistently with their duties, stop a day to explore and examine what they may accidentally discover. The northwest coast trader has, also, a specific object, and a more direct path than the whaler.
It seems well understood, at this time, that it is for our interest and for our honor to be well acquainted with the capacities of the globe; to see what resources can be drawn from that great common of nations—the ocean. The enlightened statesman, therefore, surveys all parts of it, with the view of opening new channels for commerce and trade; and he does not refuse to advance them by a present expense, when coupled with the certainty of a future and a greater good.
And what place is left for us to explore, but this southern polar region? This has never been thoroughly done by any nation. It is almost an unknown region yet, and opens a wide field for enterprise for us, at a most moderate expense. There are more than a million and a half of square miles entirely unknown, and a coast of more than three hundred degrees of longitude, in which the antarctic circle has never been approached; there are immense regions within the comparatively temperate latitudes but partially known, and which deserve further attention; and, for aught we know, countries corresponding to Lapland, Norway, part of Sweden, and the northern parts of Siberia, in Asia, may still exist in the southern hemisphere.
No one who has reflected on the vast resources of the earth, "which is our inheritance," can doubt, that such a large portion of it contains many things which may be turned to good account, by the enterprise and good management of our people—and these are the true profits of commerce. The great mass of the intelligence of the country is for it, and is calling on the national legislature for aid in the undertaking.
The States whose legislative bodies have sanctioned it, are represented on the floor of Congress by one hundred and twenty-nine members, to say nothing of the memorials from large cities and other places, and the aggregate of citizens of these States near six millions.
It may be asked, if the navy and merchantmen are not to take this upon themselves, how is it to be effected? The answer is obvious to those who have reflected. Send out an exploring expedition, fitted and prepared for the purpose: not one that is to carry the majesty and grandeur of the nation, at a great expense, but one, the expenses of which shall be inconsiderable, but at the same time shall have the protection, aid, honor, and sanction of the nation, to give life, energy, and character to individual enterprise. We have been an industrious, a commercial, and enterprising people, and have taken advantage of the knowledge of others, as well as of their trade: for although our entrance and clearance, without looking at our immense coasting trade, amounted to eight thousand seven hundred and sixty-six vessels, yet not one of these were sailed a mile by a chart made by us, except we may suppose that the chart of George's Banks may have been used by a few of the navigators of these vessels. We are dependent on other nations for all our nautical instruments, as well as charts; and, if we except Bowditch's Navigation, an improvement on Hamilton More's book, of the same kind, we have not a nautical table or book in our navy, or amongst our merchantmen, the product of our own science and skill; and we are now among the three first commercial nations of the world, and have more shipping and commerce than all the nations of Europe had together when Columbus discovered this continent, but a little more than three centuries since, and our navy, young as it is, has more effective force in it than the combined navies of the world could have amounted to at that period. Out of the discovery of this continent, and a passage to the Indies, grew up the naval powers of Europe. On the acquisition of the New World, Spain enlarged her marine; France and England theirs, to hold sway with Spain; and that of the Netherlands sprang from the extent of their trade, connected with the wise policy of enlarging and protecting it.
Our commercial and national importance cannot be supported without a navy, or our navy without commerce, and a nursery for our seamen. The citizens of Maine, of New York, of Georgia, of Ohio, and of the great valley of the Mississippi, are deeply interested in the existence of our gallant navy, and of the extension of our commerce, as they are interested in the perpetuity of our institutions, and the liberty of our country. Indeed, liberty and commerce have been twin sisters, in all past ages and countries and times; they have stood side by side, moved hand in hand; wherever the soil has been congenial to the one, there has flourished the other also: in a word, they have lived, they have flourished, or they have died together.
Commerce has constantly increased with the knowledge of man; yet it has been undergoing perpetual revolutions. These changes and revolutions have often mocked the vigilance of the wary, and the calculations of the sagacious; but there is now a fundamental principle on which commerce is based, which will lead the intelligent merchant and the wise government to foresee and prepare for most of these changes; and that principle consists in an intimate knowledge of all seas, climates, islands, continents, of every river and mountain, and every plain of the globe, and all their productions; and of the nature, habits and character of all races of men: and this information should be corrected and revised with every season.
The commercial nations of the world have done much, and much remains to be accomplished. We stand a solitary instance among those who are considered commercial, as never having put forth a particle of strength, or expended a dollar of our money to add to the accumulated stock of commercial and geographical knowledge, except in partially exploring our own territory.
When our naval commanders and hardy tars have achieved a victory on the deep, they have to seek our harbors, and conduct their prizes into port, by tables and charts furnished, perhaps, by the very people whom they have vanquished.
Is it honorable for the United States to use, forever, the knowledge furnished us by others, to teach us how to shun a rock, escape a shoal, or find a harbor, and add nothing to the great mass of information that previous ages and other nations have brought to our hands?
Tyre, Greece, Carthage, Venice, Florence, whose commerce has ceased, and whose opulence is gone forever, have still left the historic glory of having shown succeeding ages the way to wealth, and honor, and power, by means of knowledge. The ancient commercial and naval monuments are theirs; and every niche of the modern temple of Neptune is filled by others—not ourselves. The exports, and, more emphatically, the imports of the United States, her receipts and expenditures, are written on every pillar erected by commerce, on every sea, and in every clime; but the amount of her subscription stock to erect these pillars, and for the advancement of knowledge, is nowhere to be found.
To open new sources of traffic and of commercial wealth has gratified the pride as well as the avarice of man in every age; and the adventurous deeds by which this has been achieved have been commemorated by every historian, poet, and even fabulist, in all past times: for the Argonautic expedition for the golden fleece, as given us by the poets and mythologists, is only in the form of a generous and munificent commemoration of the voyage of one who ventured much to open a new path to commerce, for the aggrandizement of his own country.
We have been plundered by the English and the French, by Spaniards and Neapolitans, Danes, Norwegians, and the Barbary powers, while our commerce was extended everywhere and protected nowhere. Some of these insults and depredations have been settled for, and others are quietly, but surely, approximating to a day of restitution or retribution. The spirit of the nation is aroused on these subjects, and can never sleep again; honor, justice, feeling, conscious of physical strength, all forbid it.
Have we not, then, reached a degree of mental strength that will enable us to find our way about the globe without leading strings? And are we forever to take the highway others have laid out for us, and fixed with milestones and guideboards? No: a time of adventure and enterprise must be at hand; it is already here, and its march is onward, as certain as a star approaches its zenith. Permit me to conclude, in humble imitation of the great discoverer of this continent to his patrons: We fear no storms, no icebergs, no monsters of the deep in any sea; we will conduct ourselves with prudence, and discretion, and judgment; and, if we succeed, the glory and profit will be yours; if we perish in our attempts, we alone shall suffer: for the very inquiry after us will redound to your honor.
Be pleased to accept for yourself and for the honorable members of your committee the assurance of the respect and esteem with which I am, sir, your obedient servant,
J. N. REYNOLDS.
Note.—Since I prepared the above answer to your letter of inquiry, I have examined the clear and impressive memorial from the town of Nantucket, which fully confirms every statement I have made in regard to the extent of the whale fishery, although drawn from different sources.
This memorial is not only clear and conclusive, as to the extent and value of this important business, but presents many other important facts. The memorial speaks the most emphatic language to every patriot and philanthropist, as well as to every legislator in our country, in the following quotation: "The great and increasing extent of the voyages now pursued by the trading and whaling ships into seas but little explored, and into parts of the world before unknown, has increased the cares, the losses and dangers of our merchants and mariners. Within a few years, these cruises have extended from the coast of Peru and Chili to the northward coast, New Zealand, and the isles of Japan. This increase of risk has been attended by an increase in loss. Several vessels have been wrecked on islands and reefs not laid down in any chart; and this acquires a painful interest from the fact that many ships have gone into those seas, and no soul has survived to tell their fate."
This memorial, coming from an intelligent, hardy, and enterprising people, who have, for more than thirty years, carried on this fishery, so profitable to our country, without repining at any difficulties they have encountered, or without soliciting aid until the country was able to afford it, should, and will have its effect on the representatives of the nation in Congress. National and individual interests they are bound to regard at all times; but I trust these claims will be more promptly attended to when the additional facts are made known to them; and they are assured that many of our fearless navigators are now, probably, wasting a wretched existence on some desolate island in these immense seas, waiting, in prayerful hope, that the generosity of the nation will be aroused to send in search of them, and that, in some distant day, they shall see their country and their homes, and be restored to the bosom of their families and friends. They have read or heard that the French government sent expedition after expedition to seek for Perouse and his missing vessels; and can they for a moment imagine that those they had left at home are less generous and philanthropic than the people of France, or of any other nation? They cannot: for they will remember—and who can forget it—that, in our days of small things, the whole country was in agitation by the captivity of a few American citizens by the powers of Barbary, and the expense of liberating them was spontaneously proffered by the American people; and will not this same people be willing that the nation should do something to ascertain the fate of these enterprising navigators, who are, probably, on some reef or island, sustaining life as they can?
In this matter everything conspires to urge us forward at this precise time. The advantages of commerce to science and national glory seem now to be sealed and sanctified by the calls of humanity and imperious duty.
I wish not to be importunate, nor do I fear that I am: for the accumulated weight of circumstances are above all argument or entreaty, for they strike the heart and the understanding at the same time.
As these things came crowding upon my mind, I had nearly forgotten another important fact, which will be supported by the able and experienced representative of the district of which Nantucket makes a part; and that is, that there are more than one hundred and fifty islands, reefs, and shoals, known to our whalemen, not laid down in any chart. Around these islands, reefs, and shoals are floating nearly forty thousand tons of shipping, engaged in a trade of great national concern, with an immense amount in property and lives, all of which are at the mercy of the winds and waves.
If this be so, and who can doubt their honesty, should they not be surveyed? The future safety of our mariners demands it. The advancement of commerce and our navigating interests demand it. The people demand it; and our national honor cannot suffer this fact to go abroad, and not carry with it the probability of some effort for future information and security.
J. N. R.
Washington, February 26, 1828.
To Captain Thos. Ap Catesby Jones, United States navy:
Sir: The Committee on Naval Affairs in the House of Representatives, through their chairman, have recently addressed me a note, requesting my views of the character, value, and extent of our trade in the South seas and Pacific ocean.
A reply to that letter is herewith enclosed for your perusal, and as you have recently been in the Pacific on official duty, and have improved the favorable opportunity you had of acquiring much useful information in relation to our important and growing commerce there, I would thank you to inform me, in writing, how far your own views extend in corroboration of the report I am about to submit to the consideration of the committee.
Be pleased to accept the assurance of high consideration with which,
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
J. N. REYNOLDS.
Washington, February 28, 1828.
Dear Sir: I have received and read with great satisfaction the memorial which you did me the honor to submit for my perusal. My recent cruise to the Pacific ocean, in the course of which I spent some time among the Society, Sandwich and other islands, afforded me a good opportunity of seeing, in partial operation, most of the branches of commerce, the advantages of which you so clearly demonstrate in your address to the Committee on Naval Affairs.
That there is a great field open for national enterprise, in the region to which you have invited the attention of the American people, cannot be doubted; and I accord most heartily with you that such a voyage as you contemplate would open to our commercial, and of course, national interests, sources of great wealth, which cannot be brought into action without the protecting aid of government. That success may crown your most laudible exertions, is the wish of,
Sir, your obedient servant,
THOS. AP CATESBY JONES.
To J. N. Reynolds, Esq.
House of Representatives, Committee on Naval Affairs, March, 3, 1828.
Sir: The House has referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs several petitions, praying that an expedition may be sent into the Pacific and Southern ocean.
I am directed by the committee to ask of your Department your opinion respecting such an expedition, and briefly your reasons for it; and, if you shall be of opinion that such an expedition ought to be sent there, to request of you a project of the law to authorize it, with your reasons for its several provisions, and any other information you may be pleased to give on the subject. With esteem and respect, I am, sir, your humble servant,
Hon. Samuel L. Southard, Secretary of the Navy.
Navy Department, March 14, 1828.
Sir: I have had the honor to receive your letter of the 3d of March, in which, on behalf of the Committee of Naval Affairs, you "ask my opinion respecting an exploring expedition into the Pacific and Southern ocean, and briefly my reasons for it."
I entertain the opinion that such an expedition is expedient. My reasons are briefly these: That we have an immense and increasing commerce in that region, which needs the protecting kindness of the government, and may be greatly extended by such an expedition. Of the extent and nature of this commerce, it is not easy to write briefly, nor is it necessary. It is better known to none than to some of the members of the Naval Committee in the House of Representatives. The estimate of its value has been much augmented, in the view of the Department, by the reports which have been made, under its orders, by our naval officers, who have commanded vessels-of-war in the Pacific, and which are now on file
The commercial operations carried on in that quarter are difficult and hazardous. They are correctly represented in the memorial of the inhabitants of Nantucket, to which I would refer, as well as to some of the many other memorials which have been addressed to Congress on this subject. It would seem wise in the government to render these commercial operations less hazardous and less destructive of life and property, if it can be done by a moderate expenditure of money.
The commerce in the Pacific ocean affords one of the best nurseries for our seamen. An expedition such as that proposed would be calculated to increase that class of citizens—an increase in which the government and nation are deeply interested.
We now navigate the ocean, and acquire our knowledge of the globe, its divisions and properties, almost entirely from the contributions of others. By sending an expedition into that immense region, so little known to the civilized world, we shall add something to the common stock of geographical and scientific knowledge, which is not merely useful to commerce, but connects itself with almost all the concerns of society; and while we make our contributions to this common stock, we shall not fail to derive the best advantages to ourselves, and be richly paid, even in a calculation of expenditure and profit.
The expedition ought not to be large or expensive. Other nations have erred on this point. It seems to be the desire of the memorialists that Congress should afford aid, not furnish the whole expense.
If this mode be preferred by the committee, all that the bill need provide is, "that the sum of $-----be appropriated to aid in fitting out an expedition to explore the Pacific ocean and South seas." If it be the intention that the whole expense should be borne by government, the bill ought to provide "that the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to cause to be fitted out an expedition toexplore the Pacific ocean and South seas, and that the sum of $----- be, and the same is hereby,appropriated for that object." The blank ought to be filled with $45,000 or $50,000.
The bill need not contain any other provisions, as the amount of the appropriation will limit the expenditure; and I do not presume that Congress would desire to prescribe the size of the vessels, their equipage, or the number and character of the persons to be employed.
In either of the plans proposed, whatever is done will be under the direction of this Department, and the expense may be greatly diminished by permitting certain of the naval officers to join the expedition, and by using other facilities which are under its control.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, &c,
SAMUEL L. SOUTHARD.
Hon. Michael Hoffman, Chairman of Committee of Naval Affairs, Souse of Representatives.
To the honorable the Senate and Souse of Representatives in Congress assembled:
The memorial of the subscribers, citizens of the town of Nantucket, respectfully represents:
That the intercourse maintained between different parts of the nation and the islands and countries of the Pacific ocean has become a matter of public interest, and deserving the protecting care of the national legislature. The fur business, and the trade carried on between the Pacific islands and coast of China, as is known to your honorable body, have afforded rich returns, and increased the wealth of our common country. Besides this employment of national industry and enterprise, they would represent that there are engaged in the whale fishery, from various parts of the country, upward of forty thousand tons of shipping, requiring a capital of three millions of dollars, and the services of more than three thousand seamen. Whether viewed as a nursery of bold and hardy seamen, or as an employment of capital in one of the most productive modes, or as furnishing an article of indispensable necessity to human comfort, it seems to your petitioners to be an object especially deserving the public care. The increased extent of the voyages now pursued by the trading and whaling ships, into seas but little explored, and to parts of the world before unknown, has increased the cares, the dangers, and the losses
of our merchants and mariners. Within a few years their cruises have extended from the coasts of Peru and Chili to the northwest coast, New Zealand and the isles of Japan. This increase of risk has been attended by an increase of loss. Several vessels have been wrecked on islands and reefs not laid down on any chart; and the matter acquires a painful interest, from the fact that many ships have gone into those seas, and no soul has survived to tell their fate. Tour petitioners consider it a matter of earnest importance that those seas should be explored; that they should be surveyed in an accurate and authentic manner, and the position of new islands and reefs, and shoals, definitely ascertained. The advancement of science, and not their private interest only, but the general interests of the nation, seem to them imperiously to demand it. They therefore pray that an expedition may be fitted out, under the sanction of the government, to explore and survey the islands and coasts of the Pacific seas; and as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Nantucket, February, 1828.