The United States of America: A Study of the American Commonwealth, Its Natural Resources, People, Industries, Manufactures, Commerce, and Its Work in Literature, Science, Education, and Self-Government

By Nathaniel Southgate Shaler | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI. OUR MILITARY RESOURCES -- HOW SHALL WE UTILIZE THEM?

WE Americans are supposed to be a peaceful people, but our history demonstrates the contrary. From the time when our ancestors landed on the inhospitable New England shore and began the battle of civilization until the present generation, which has astonished the world with the magnitude of its armies and the tenacity of its battles, our history has been one of wars and rumors of wars. The conflicts with the Indians were an unavoidable sequence of the newcomers wresting from the aborigines room for a new home; but the rest of the colonial wars arose from pure British combativeness; and they called upon the sparse population for exertions unequaled, in view of the fact that the struggle for bare existence was already a serious demand upon their slender resources. Colonial history is one long recital of wars, to a curious extent without substantial cause or worthy result.

The Revolution was believed to have changed all that. Emerging from the struggle with all lost save liberty, an era of peace was entered upon which there was no predictable cause to interrupt. And yet the sequence of our quarrels since that day has been unbroken. We have had wars with England and Mexico, with Tripoli and Algiers; broils with Paraguay and Corea, and a gigantic civil war; rumors of wars with France, England, Spain, and Italy. We have had the John Brown raid, the Fenian raids to Canada, many incursions across the Mexican border, and the filibustering expeditions to Cuba and Nicaragua. We have had the Whisky and Shays's rebellions, the election, draft, railroad, reconstruction, and sundry serious city riots; the Homestead and Buffalo troubles; we have had well on to two hundred deadly Indian fights, accompanied by blood-curdling massacres. We have suffered more casualties in active war since the Revolution than any nation of Europe; during our entire history we have lost more men in proportion to our population. This record

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