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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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5790. NAVY, Size of.—
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5790. NAVY, Size of.—

The actual habits
of our countrymen attach them to commerce.
They will exercise it for themselves. Wars,
then, must sometimes be our lot; and all the
wise can do, will be to avoid that half of
them which would be produced by our own
follies and our own acts of injustice; and to
make for the other half the best preparations
we can. Of what nature should these be?
A land army would be useless for offence,
and not the best nor safest instrument
of defence. For either of these purposes,
the sea is the field on which we should meet
an European enemy. On that element it is
necessary we should possess some power. To
aim at such a navy as the greater nations of
Europe possess, would be a foolish and
wicked waste of the energies of our countrymen.
It would be to pull on our own heads


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that load of military expense which makes
the European laborer go supperless to bed,
and moistens his bread with the sweat of his
brows. It will be enough if we enable ourselves
to prevent insults from those nations
of Europe which are weak on the sea, because
circumstances exist, which render even the
stronger ones weak as to us. Providence
has placed their richest and most defenceless
possessions at our door; has obliged their
most precious commerce to pass, as it were,
in review before us. To protect this, or to
assail, a small part only of their naval force
will ever be risked across the Atlantic. The
dangers to which the elements expose them
here are too well known, and the greater
dangers to which they would be exposed at
home were any general calamity to involve
their whole fleet. They can attack us by detachment
only; and it will suffice to make
ourselves equal to what they may detach.
Even a smaller force than they may detach
will be rendered equal or superior by the
quickness with which any check may be repaired
with us, while losses with them will be
irreparable till too late. A small naval force,
then, is sufficient for us, and a small one is
necessary. * * * It should by no means
be so great as we are able to make it.—
Notes on Virginia. Washington ed. viii, 413. Ford ed., iii, 279.