Mahan: The Life and Work of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan, U.S.N.

By W. D. Puleston | Go to book overview

Chapter XVII Naval Essays

BEFORE The Influence of Sea Power upon History was fairly launched in England, Horace E. Scudder, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, "had been struck with a passage" that called attention "to the defenseless condition of the Pacific coast in event of the piercing of the Isthmus." He invited Mahan to contribute au article on the following theme:

The centre of maritime operations has shifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. It may pass in the distant future to the Pacific. Meanwhile would not the completion of a canal, taken with the British movements at the terminal of the Canadian Pacific, the occidentalizing of Japan and the growth of Australasia, immensely quicken the process? And, if so, will not the Pacific Coast of our country become a far more important factor in our historical development than it has been?

Mahan had written his book to rekindle among his own countrymen their former interest in sea power. He believed Americans had been so engrossed in developing the interior of the continent that they had unnecessarily thrown away a greater heritage. He did not want his country to follow the example of France under Louis XIV and become primarily a land power. Scudder gave him the opportunity to address his views directly to a large and influential group of American readers, and he gladly accepted the offer. The editor could not have selected a subject more appealing to Mahan, who a dozen years later recalled "the delightful ease of production." Scudder suggested as a title "The United States on Guard." Mahan objected to this because the nation seemed "very far indeed from being on guard"; he thought "The UnitedStates Asleep"

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