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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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5784. NAVY, Necessary.—[further continued].
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5784. NAVY, Necessary.—[further continued].

The justest dispositions
possible in ourselves, will not secure us
against war. It would be necessary that all
other nations were just also. Justice indeed,
on our part, will save us from those wars
which would have been produced by a contrary
disposition. But how can we prevent
those produced by the wrongs of other nations?
By putting ourselves in a condition
to punish them. Weakness provokes insult
and injury, while a condition to punish, often
prevents them. This reasoning leads to the
necessity of some naval force; that being the
only weapon by which we can reach an
enemy. I think it to our interest to punish
the first insult; because an insult unpunished
is the parent of many others. We are not, at
this moment, in a condition to do it, but we
should put ourselves into it, as soon as possible.
If a war with England should take
place, it seems to me that the first thing necessary
would be a resolution to abandon the
carrying trade, because we cannot protect it.
Foreign nations must, in that case, be invited
to bring us what we want, and to take our
productions in their own bottoms. This
alone could prevent the loss of those productions
to us, and the acquisition of them to
our enemy. Our seamen might be employed
in depredations on their trade. But how
dreadfully we shall suffer on our coasts, if
we have no force on the water, former experience
has taught us. Indeed, I look forward
with horror to the very possible case
of war with an European power, and think
there is no protection against them, but from
the possession of some force on the sea.
Our vicinity to their West India possessions,
and to the fisheries, is a bridle which a small
naval force, on our part, would hold in the
mouths of the most powerful of these countries.
I hope our land office will rid us of
our debts, and that our first attention then,
will be to the beginning a naval force of some
sort. This alone can countenance our people
as carriers on the water, and I suppose them
to be determined to continue such.—
To John Jay. Washington ed. i, 404. Ford ed., iv, 89.
(P. 1785)