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NEV ELV ENGLAND EARLY 100K THE LEAD IN BUILDING SHIPS,

Our Merchant Marine.

los period of glory, its prolonged decadence and its
vigorous revival as the result of the world war

BY

WILLIS J. ABBOT
Author of The Story of Our Army," "The Story of Our Novy,"

"Soldiers of the Sea," etc.

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VEHI

Copyright, 1902
By Dodd, MEAD AND COMPANY
As "American Merchant Ships and Sailors"

Copyright, 1919
By Dodd, MEAD AND COMPANY, INC.

Introduction

No more perplexing nor more baffling problem confronts the people of the United States to-day than the future of the nation's merchant marine.

For the first half century of our existence as a nation the sea was our greatest industrial field. Seafaring and international trade engaged our brightest minds and most adventurous spirits. By the middle of the 19th Century we had attained so preëminent a position on the ocean that we were the most important commerce carrier in the world. Then began a process of gradual decline until our overseas fleet had sunk to contemptible proportions. In 1913 less than ten per cent. of our exports and imports was carried in American bottoms.

The reasons for this decline are many, and, despite the clamor of politicians, not all are connected with legislation or with political doctrines. It is quite true that the United States has always been niggardly in the matter of subsidies, if not indeed absolutely antagonistic to that system. Accordingly we have seen the British merchant fleet greatly increased by government aid, while the German merchant marine, annihilated by the war, may fairly be said to have been raised to second place entirely by liberal subsidies. During this period the Congress of the United States stubbornly refused financial aid of this character to shipping corporations and our fleet, engaged in international or overseas trade fell below even those of France, Germany and Norway.

But the subsidy idea came in with steam navigation and the decline of our merchant fleet was apparent even

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before that era. In the body of this book the causes of
this decline are fully discussed, but may be briefly stated
thus:

Iron as a shipbuilding material was more economically
produced in England.
England was earlier in designing and building marine
engines.
The Confederate cruisers destroyed many American ships,
and drove others to the protection of foreign flags.
England's wide distribution of colonies provided her with
superior coaling stations all over the world.
Lloyd's, as a British corporation, discriminated against
American ships in registry and insurance.
After the Civil War the work of developing our great
interior domain turned American enterprise away from the
sea.
American high wages ashore and afloat made competition
with England in building and manning ships difficult

.
The subsidy system has never appealed to American law-
makers.

Such, briefly stated, are the causes which brought the American merchant marine to its ignoble state prior to the war. All, with the possible exception of the concentration of American effort upon internal development, are operative to-day. The problem now confronting the American people is how to use the impetus furnished by war-time necessities to advance our merchant fleet to preëminence and keep it there under peace conditions.

We have approaching completion an enormous fleet of cargo ships. When launched and outfitted they will put us first on the ocean. Can we retain that position? Can we even retain a creditable second place, conceding first to Great Britain in view of her insular citadel and farflung colonial empire? The questions are not easy to answer.

Our ships have been built with war-time extravagance. The Government will have to charge off hundreds of millions of their cost to put them on terms of economic equality with those of Great Britain. And are they to be owned

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