CAPTAIN MAHAN AND THE NAVIGATION ACTS.
[To THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR.")
Sin,—In your issue of December 23rd, reviewing my "War of 1812," you note that "the conflict between those who would set a ring-fence round our Colonies and those who, like Pitt, &c has a notable bearing upon present- day problems of Empire." There are two sides to most questions, and the implication of the words quoted above presents one side of the controversy concerning the Naviga-
tion Acts of those days. But, on the other hand, the policy of those Acts, in their day, has another, very decided, and con- trary bearing upon present-day problems. In their time they constituted a means primarily and consciously political rather than economical in purpose, the object being the protection and cementing of the several parts of a maritime Empire by fostering the carrying trade as a nursery for seamen for the Navy. The economic fallacy was admitted by many who never- theless supported the Acts for their political effect in sustain- ing the Navy. That they had this effect has by some been disputed, but I think that to do so is to fly in the face of the record. Like all measures of trade regulation, the burdens were more immediately evident than the benefit. My own people, the then Continental colonists of North America, strenuously disliked them; but it was to the preponderance of the British Navy, thus secured, that they owed the immunity of their sea-towns and harbours, whereas the land frontiers were wasted by the French and others. The contrast of conditions was sorely evident in the War of Independence and that of 1812. The navigation system, in manner and in method, is as much a thing of the past as the monastic. Its present-day interest lies in the demonstration that in the past it was possible to evolve a system, not purely economical, but political, by which the problem of protecting all parts of an Empire separated by tracts of sea was for a prolonged period successfully solved.—I am, Sir, &c.,
A. T. MAHAN.