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The Great War Syndicate Frank R. Stockton

The Great War Syndicate

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In a storm of national indignation war had been declared against a power which at this period of her history had brought up her naval forces to a point double in strength to that of any other country in the world. And this war had been declared by a nation which, comparatively speaking, possessed no naval strength at all.

For some years the United States navy had been steadily improving, but this improvement was not sufficient to make it worthy of reliance at this crisis. As has been said, there was money enough, and every ship-yard in the country could be set to work to build ironclad men-of-war: but it takes a long time to build ships, and England's navy was afloat. It was the British keel that America had to fear.

By means of the continental cables it was known that many of the largest mail vessels of the British transatlantic lines, which had been withdrawn upon the declaration of war, were preparing in British ports to transport troops to Canada. It was not impossible that these great steamers might land an army in Canada before an American army could be organized and marched to that province. It might be that the United States would be forced to defend her borders, instead of invading those of the enemy.

In every fort and navy-yard all was activity; the hammering of iron went on by day and by night; but what was to be done when the great ironclads of England hammered upon our defences? How long would it be before the American flag would be seen no more upon the high seas?

It is not surprising that the Government found its position one of perilous responsibility. A wrathful nation expected of it more than it could perform.

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All over the country, however, there were thoughtful men, not connected with the Government, who saw the perilous features of the situation; and day by day these grew less afraid of being considered traitors, and more willing to declare their convictions of the country's danger. Despite the continuance of the national enthusiasm, doubts, perplexities, and fears began to show themselves.

In the States bordering upon Canada a reactionary feeling became evident. Unless the United States navy could prevent England from rapidly pouring into Canada, not only her own troops, but perhaps those of allied nations, these Northern States might become the scene of warfare, and whatever the issue of the contest, their lands might be ravished, their people suffer.

From many quarters urgent demands were now pressed upon the Government. From the interior there were clamours for troops to be massed on the Northern frontier, and from the seaboard cities there came a cry for ships that were worthy to be called men-of-war,-- ships to defend the harbours and bays, ships to repel an invasion by sea. Suggestions were innumerable. There was no time to build, it was urged; the Government could call upon friendly nations. But wise men smiled sadly at these suggestions; it was difficult to find a nation desirous of a war with England.

In the midst of the enthusiasms, the fears, and the suggestions, came reports of the capture of American merchantmen by fast British cruisers. These reports made the American people more furious, the American Government more anxious.

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The Great War Syndicate
Frank R. Stockton

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