23D CONGRESS.] NO. 578 [2D SESSION.
ON THE EXPEDIENCY AND IMPORTANCE OF AUTHORIZING A NAVAL EXPEDITION TO EXPLORE THE PACIFIC OCEAN AND SOUTH SEAS.
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES FEBRUARY 7, 1835
Mr. DUTEE J. PEARCE, from the Committee on Commerce, to whom were referred numerous memorials from citizens of varioius sections of the United States, praying that an exploring expedition to the Pacific ocean and South seas may be authorized by Congress, reported:
That the number and character of the memorialists, and the opinions that they have expressed on the subject of the memorials, have called the committee to an attentive and careful consideration of the object to be attained by the expedition, as well as of the reasoning and facts adduced in favor of the undertaking.
It is represented that the intercourse between the different parts of the nation and the islands and countries of the Pacific has become a matter of public interest, and deserving the protecting care of the national legislature. The fur business, hitherto carried on between the Pacific islands and China, has afforded rich returns, and increased the wealth of our common country. Besides this employment of national industry and enterprise, it is represented that there are engaged inn the whale fishery, from various parts of the country, an aggregate of one hundred and thirty-two thousand tons of shipping and ten thousand men.
Besides this amount, engaged directly and exclusively in the trade, there is a vast amount of capital incidentally dependent on it, and in transporting oil to Europe, and in return cargoes, as well as the differeent parts of our own coast; so that, from the most careful computation, it has been found that not less than one hundred and seventy thousand tons of shipping, navigated by twelve thousand men, are employed in this branch of business, and the capital invested not much, if any, short of twelve millions of dollars. This view of the astonishing increase in this branch of our national industry is fully sustained by records, and is ably treated in an article of unusual merit in the North American Review, of January, 1834.
The memorialists further represent, that the increased extent of the voyages now pursued by the trading and whaling ships into seas but little expored, and to parts of the world before unknown, has increased the cares, the dangers, the losses of their merchants and mariners. Within a few years their cruises have extended from the coasts of Peru and Chili to the northwest coast, New Zealand, and the isles of Japan. This increase of risk has been attended by an increase of loss. Several vessels have been wrecked on islands and reefs not laid down on the charts, and, in some instances, no soul survived to tell their fate.
That something should be done, on the part of government, for the protection of this widely extended and important interest, seems to be the undivided opinion, as it is evidently the interest, of a large portion of the country; and the anxiety of the public mind has been evinced by the various memorials to this House from legislative bodies, from the hardy and enterprising citizens of Nantucket, and other places interested in the whale trade.
A recent expression of the legislature of Rhode Island is contained in the following words:
State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in general assembly, October session, A.D. 1834.
"Resolved, That, in the opinion of this general assembly, the subject of the memorial of J.N. Reynolds and others, dated November, 1834, praying that provision may be made by law for a voyage of discovery and survey to the South seas, is highly important to our shipping and commercial interests, and is hereby recommended by said assembly to the favorable consideration of the Congress of the United States."
Following this resolve of the legislature of Rhode Island, the East India Marine Society, of Salem, Massachusetts, a society which has filled a large space in the commercial history of our country, in their memorial, use strong and decisive language, and speak with a practical knowledge which entitles their views to the most respectful consideration; for among them are those who were the first to display our national colors in our commerce to the eastern world; among them are those who have been engaged in trade on coasts and among islands but little known; and they have felt, in losses, and in painful solicitude, the wants of the protection of their government, as well to point the position of a dangerous reef as to defend them against the native, who had seen nothing of our power to restrain them from unlawful attacks upon their vessels and their lives; among them are those who have visited the islands in the Pacific as well as those in the East, and have seen and felt the dangers our vessels are exposed to, for the want of such protection as an expedition fitted out for the express purpose alone could give.
They further state, "that they will refrain from going into any computation of the immense amount of tonnage and capital engaged from the United States in the whale fishery, all of which is more or less interested in such an expedition. Without attempting to designate the groups of islands most important to be examined, your memorialists would simply call the attention of your honorable body to one point, which may serve as an index to the rest: the Feejee or Beetee Islands -- what is known of them? They were named, but not visited, by Captain Cook, and consist of sixty or more in number. Where shall we find a chart of this group, pointing out its harbors and dangers? There are none to be found, for none exist! And yet, have we no trade there? We speak not for others, but for ourselves.
"From this port the following vessels have been, or are now, employed in procuring beche le mer and shells on the Feejee Islands, in exchange for which eastern cargoes are brought into our country, and thus contributing no inconsiderable amount to our national revenue.
"Ship Clay, brig Quill, have returned; brig Faun, lost at the island; ships Glide, Niagara, also lost; and barque Peru, greatly damaged, and, in consequence, condemned at Manilla; brig Spy, damaged, but repaired again; brig Charles Daggett, barque Pallas, brig Edwin, ship Emerald, ship Augustus, and brig Consul.
"The Charles Daggett has recently returned, in consequence of having a portion of her crew massacred by the natives. The ship Ceno, of Nantucket, was lost on one of these islands, and her officers and crew, consisting of 24 in number, were all massacred in like manner, save one.
"Thus it must appear to your honorable body, that the losses sustained at this single point, to say nothing of the value of human life, which is above all price, would not fall far short, if any, of the amount necessary to fit out an expedition for the better examination of such points in the Pacific ocean and South seas as require the attention of government."
In recurring to the memorials hitherto presented, and now on file, your committee find them thus alluded to in a letter from J.N. Reynolds, Esq., transmitting them to the Hon. Andrew Stevenson, at that time Speaker of the House (see document 209, 1st session, 20th Congress). The writer says:
Among these memorials you will find one from Albany, dated October 19, 1827, and signed by his excellency Nathanial Pitcher, lieutenant governor of the State of New York, the Hon. Erastus Root, speaker of the house of representatives, and by nearly all the members of the legislature. I have also the honor of transmitting to you three other memorials.
"The first is dated Charleston, South Carolina, May 31, 1827, and signed by the mayor of the city, president of the chamber of commerce, and by a long list of respectable citizens.
The second is dated Raleigh, North Carolina, December 24, 1827, and contains the signatures of his excellency James Iredell, governor of the State, and Hon. B. Yancy, speaker of the senate, the Hon. James Little, speaker of the house of commons, and by a large proportion of the members of each branch of the legislature.
The third memorial is dated Richmond, Virginia, January 1, 1828, and is sustained by a number of respectable citizens, by the Hon. Linn Banks, speaker of the house of delegates, and by a large and respectable number of the members of the legislature."
With these memorials Mr. Reynolds transmitted, in like manner, to the speaker, the following preamble and resolution, adopted by the house of delegates of the State of Maryland:
"Whereas, foreign nations have long turned their attention towards the acquirement of a more perfect knowledge of the geography of the earth, by means of voyages of discoveries, and by these means have not only acquired reputation, but extended the weight of their influence, opened new channels for commercial interprise, and benefited the human race, by enlarging and improving the boundaries of knowledge; and whereas, the government of the United States has attained a high standing among the nations of the earth, the practical result of the most stupendous as well as successful experiment ever made in politics; a population fast increasing; commercial relations and interests co-extensive with the civilized world; nautical skill, perseverance and enterprise, if not unequaled, at least not surpassed; and whereas, the sending out one or two vessels on a voyage of discovery would not be attended with any very heavy demands on the public Treasury, and would seem to be in strict accordance with the character and liberal policy which ought to be pursued by a government, whose political existence is, in a great measure, dependent upon the general intelligence of the people; and whereas, a great number of the most enlightened citizens of various sections of our country have memorialized the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States in Congress assembled, and have set forth in their memorials that, under the patronage of the United States, an expedition should be fitted out without delay, and proceed to acquire a more perfect knowledge of the interesting and extensive field for enterprise in the southern hemisphere, and, provided for the purpose with hardy seamen and scientific persons, bring home to us the result of their labors, for the honor of our country and the benefit of mankind; and whereas, voyages of this kind, even when they fail in making important discoveries, bespeak a liberal policy, and give character to the people who undertake them; therefore,
Resolved, by the general assembly of the State of Maryland, That we do highly approve of the views of the said memorialists, believing that an expedition, if properly conducted, could scarcely fail in adding something to the general stock of national wealth and knowledge, and to the honor and glory of the United States."
It is, perhaps, unnecessary to remark, that this expression of public sentiment, though extensive, and deserving the most respectful consideration, is small when compared with other and similar memorials, introduced during the same session, from the legislatures of Pennsylvania, Ohio, &c.
These memorials having been referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs, on the 3d of March, 1828, a letter was addressed, by order of the committee, to the Hon. Samuel L. Southard, Secretary of the Navy, asking his "opinion respecting such an expedition, and briefly his reasons for it."
To this inquiry the Secretary replied:
I entertain the opinion that such an expedition is expedient. My reasons are briefly these:
"That we have an immense and increasing commerce in that region, which needs the protecting kindness of the government, and may be greatly extended by such an expedition. Of the extent and nature of this commerce it is not easy to write briefly, nor is it necessary. It is better known to none than to some of the members of the Naval Committee in the House of Representatives. The estimate of its value has been much augmented, in the view of the Department, by the reports which have been made, under its order, by our naval officers, who have commanded vessels-of-war in the Pacific, and which are now on file.
The commercial operations carried on in that quarter are difficult and hazardous. They are correctly represented in the memorial of the inhabitants of Nantucket, to which I would refer, as well as to some of the many other memorials which have been addressed to Congress on this subject. It would seem wise in the government to render these commercial operations less hazardous and less destructive of life and properly, if it can be done by a moderate expenditure of money.
The commerce in the Pacific ocean affords one of the best nurseries of our seamen. An expedition, such as that proposed, would be calculated to increase that class of citizens -- an increase in which the government and nation are deeply interested.
We now navigate the ocean and acquire our knowledge of the globe, its divisions and properties, almost entirely from the contributions of others. By sending an expedition into that immense region, so little known to the civilized world, we shall add something to the common stock of geographical and scientific knowledge, which is not merely useful to commerce, but connects itself with almost all the concerns of society; and, while we make our contribution to this common stock, we shall not fail to derive the best advantages to ourselves, and be richly paid, even in a calculation of expenditure and profit.
On the 25th of March the committee made their report to the House, and expressed themselves in the following terms:
"In relation to the interests, individual and national connected with such an expedition, the committee refer to a statement submitted to them by Mr. J.N. Reynolds on the 10th of February, 1828, in answer to inquiries addressed to him by order of the committee. So much of the statement as exhibits the amount of our commerce in the Pacific seas, the committee think is fully sustaiined by the reports of the officers of our navy, who have, by order of the Secretary, heretofore made reports upon that subject to which Mr. Reynolds refers, and with which his statement has been compared, as well as with the accounts of others familiar with those branches of our trade.
"The dangers to which an immense amount of property is exposed, as well as the hazard to humnan life, for the want of knowledge, by more accurate surveys, of the regions to which our commerce is extending, and the probable new sources of wealth which may be opened and secured to us, seem, to your committee, not only to justify but to demand the appropriation recommended; they therefore report a bill for the purpose."
During the same session this report was acted on, and a bill (No. 240) making an appropriation passed from the House of Representatives.
From that period to the present no legislative action has been taken upon the subject, though scarcely a session has passed that memorials from one section or other of the country have not been presented; and the continued solicitude of the public mind, evinced in favor of the enterprise, now that the condition of our country and its financial concerns can so easily afford the small demand upon the Treasury, which such an expedition will require.
The action of Congress is not invoked in favor of a measure of doubtful expediency. The requisite information in forming an enlightened judgment, and in directing the action of government, is ample and complete, and will be found in the accompanying documents.
The report of Mr. Reynolds on the islands in the Pacific shows, at a single view, what remains to be accomplished. To examine such of these islands as may be found to contain harbors and places of freshment for our fishermen, would, of itself, more than justify the expenditure necessary for an expedition, to say nothing of the collateral advantages to be derived in the attainment of much useful knowledge, so highly to be prized by every enlightened mind.
Our interests in those seas have, indeed, become immense, and extend beyond all former example; for our whalers, sealers, and traffickers are pursuing their voyages in parts of the world where, a few years ago, it would have been adventurous for a discovery ship.
The following statement from Mr. Reynolds, in answer to an inquiry addressed to him, shows the amount of our interests afloat among these islands at this moment:
"JANUARY 30, 1835.
SIR: In answer to the inquiry contained in your note of the 25th ult., I send you a statement of the amount of tonnage and capital at "this moment afloat," and engaged in the spermaceti whale fishery.
The document from which this statement is taken has recently been prepared with great care by very competent persons in Nantucket.*
* Nantucket Enquirer.
"The details comprise the names of the ships and barques thus employed, names of the masters, ports to which they belong, dates of departures, periods of absence, quantities of oil when last heard from, and tonnage of vessels, respectively, together with much other valuable information.
On inspecting this tabular statement, it is found that the whole number of ships engaged in this valuable branch of the fisheries is 273, of which 257 are now absent, viz:
From New Bedford 94, Nantucket 63, Fairhaven 14, Bristol 13, New London 9, Hudson 9, Warren 7, Edgarton 6, Falmouth 6, Newport 6, Sag Harbor 5, Salem 3, Newburyport 3, Poughkeepsie 2, Portsmouth 2, Dartmouth 2, and one from each of the following ports, viz: Boston, Plymouth, Wareham, Rochester, Portland, Wiscasset, Fall River, Providence, Stonington, Newburgh, New York, and Wilmington, Delaware. Sixteen ships only are in port, belonging as follows: To New Bedford 7, Nantucket 5, Fairhaven, Plymouth, Sag Harbor, and Edgerton, one each.
"The aggregate tonnage of the 257 absent ships is nearly one hundred thousand tons. The number of seamen and navigators employed on board these vessels is not far from nine thousand.
This document furnishes a very careful estimate of the quantity of spermaceti oil imported into the United States during the year 1834. Since the 1st of January there have arrived, from the Pacific ocean, fifty-five ships, viz: Into the port of Nantucket 11, New Bedford 25, Plymouth 2, Fairhaven 6, New London 2, Edgarton 2, Sag Harbor 2, Warren 2, Falmouth, Bristol, and Hudson, each one. The cargoes of these ships average little more than two thousand barrels each; add, to this quantity, sixteen thousand barrels, estimated to have been brought from the South Atlantic ocean, making about 128,000 barrels, and we have the entire quantity of spermaceti oil imported in the course of the last year. Of this quantity, 70,577 barrels were received at New Bedford, and the residue at Nantucket and other places.
Among the ships now abroad, there are thirty-one which sailed in 1831, seventy-three in 1832, eighty-eight in 1833, and sixty-five in 1834. The number of spermaceti whale ships expected to arrive within the year 1835 may be set down at seventy, and their cargoes at 135,000 barrels, valued at more than three millions of dollars.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant. "J.N. REYNOLDS.
Hon. DUTEE J. PEARCE."
In addition to all this information, your committee have availed themselves of a letter from one of our ablest and most experienced commanders, addressed to an honorable member of this House; and the liberal and practical views expressed entitle the opinions of the writer to great weight.
CHARLESTOWN, Mass., January 21, 1835.
DEAR SIR: In compliance with your request that I would communicate to you, in writing, my views on the subject of a voyage of discovery to the South seas and Pacific ocean, I have to regret that the circumsribed limits of a letter will allow but little more than the simple expression of an opinion on a subject of so much national importance, and in relation to which so much might be said in detail.
I have had some experience in the navigation of the less frequentd parts of the Pacific, at an earlier period of my life. During my late voyage in the Potomac, I have had an opportunity to add greatly to the knowledge acquired in former years. An expedition fitted out for the purpose of improving or knowledge of the hydrography of those seas has often been the subject of my reflections. As the representative of a district largely engaged in the whale fishery, you must frequently have seen, from the reports of masters of vessels engaged in that business, accounts of new islands and reefs being frequently discovered, and which are either not laid down on the charts, or so erroneously marked that they can give no security to the mariner. It is probable that not less than five hundred of these islands and reefs have been marked with sufficient accuracy by our whalers, sealers, and traffickers of one kind or another, to enable an expedition to examine the most important of them, without much loss of time in seeking their positions. This will enable the discovery vessels to do more, in less time, than has probably ever been effected by a similar enterprise from any other country. Of the extent of our interest has been fairly represented by memorials to Congress. During the circumnavigation of the globe, in which I crossed the equator six times, and varied my course from 40 degrees north to 57 degrees south latitude, I have never found myself beyond the limits of our commercial marine. The accounts given of the dangers and losses to which our shipping are exposed by the extension of our trade into seas but little known, so far, in my opinion, from being exaggerated, would admit of being placed in bolder relief, and the protection of government implored in stronger terms. I speak from practical knowledge, having myself seen the dangers, and painfully felt the want of the very kind of information in the guidance of a vessel in those seas which our commercial interests so much need, and which, I suppose, would be the object of such an expedition as is now under consideration before the committee of Congress to give. Indeed, the whole of this business, it seems to me, is a plain and practical affir. The commerce of our country has extended itself to remote parts of the world, is carried on around islands and reefs not laid down on the charts, among even groups of islands from ten to sixty in number, abounding in objects valuable in commerce, but of which nothing is known accurately; no, not even the sketch of a harbor has been made, while of such as are inhabited our knowledge is still more imperfect. It would seem to require no argument to prove that a portion of our commerce might be rendered more secure, and probably greatly increased, by vessels sent, properly prepared, to examine such islands. There are also immense portions of the South seas, bordering on the antarctic circle, well deserving the attention of such an expedition, especailly during the most favorable months of the southern summer. Islands discovered in that quarter will probably be found to yield rich returns in animal fur. Indeed, discoveries of this kind have recently been made by some English whalers, supposed to be of great extent, the vessels have sailed along three hundred miles of coast, lying south of the Cape of Good Hope. This may lead to other very interesting discoveries, which will probably be found, on further examination, to be a continuation of Palmer's Land, lying south of the South Shetland Islands, or only separated from it by a narrow channel. Much might be said in favor of a speedy examination of this portion of the South seas; indeed, I hardly know where an expedition could go where it might not be in the way of doing good -- to say nothing of the credit our country would acquire in promoting such an enterprise.
As to my opinion of the class of vessels best suited for such an expedition, I should unhesitatingly say: two brigs or barques, of 200 tons each, and a tender, of from 80 to 100 tons. A great many weighty reasons might be given to show that in the same ratio, were vessels beyond this size, the chances of safety and extensive usefulness would be proportionally decreased.
"Very respectfully, your obedient servant, "JOHN DOWNES.
Hon. JOHN REED, Member of Congress."
In the conclusion of the report alluded to by the Committee on Naval Affairs, and dated February 10, 1828, (Rep. 209, 1st sess. 20th Cong.,)* Mr. Reynolds holds the following appropriate language:
*See American State Papers, on Naval Affairs, vol. 3, No. 363, page 190.
"The opening of the ports in South America has already changed our course of trade in the Pacific greatly for the better, and will more and more benefit us, if we take care of our rights in those seas, and send a sufficient force to protect our commerce, which, no doubt, it will be the policy of our government to pursue.
"To look after the merchant there, to offer him every possible facility, to open new channels for his enterprise, and to keep a respectable naval force to protect him, is only paying a debt we owe to the commerce of the country; for millions have flowed into the national treasury from this trade before one cent was appropriated for its protection.
"The naval commanders we have sent into the Pacific have done all that wise, active and experienced men could do. They have not only taught the natives that we are a powerful people, and could defend ourselves in that distant country as well as other nations, but these new States and empires which have arisen in South America have been shown that we could punish wrongs and enforce rights, and had the good of mankind, as well as our our prosperity, at heart. Power judiciously exhibited is the great peacemaker of the world; and a people whose institutions are not yet thoroughly established, as those in South America, want looking after with a steady eye. In attending to these duties, it is impossible for our naval commanders to explore those seas for the purpose of discovering new places. Their duty is to watch the old; and this is a sufficient task for any force we can send there.
"The whale ships, having a specific object in view, and generally under strict orders, cannot waste an hour in the business of discovery; nor can they, consistently with their duties, stop a day to explore and examine what they may accidentally discover. The northwest coast trader has also a specific object, and a more direct path than the whaler.
"It seems well understood, at this time, that it is for our interest and our honor to be well acquainted with the capacities of the globe; to see what resources can be drawn from that great common of nations -- the ocean. The enlightened statesman, therefore, surveys all parts of it, with the view of opening new channels for commerce and trade; and he does not refuse to advance them by a present expense, when coupled with the certainty of a future and a greater good.
* * * * * * * * * *
"No one who has reflected on the vast resources of the earth, 'which is our inheritance,' can doubt that a large portion of it contains many things which may be turned to good account by the enterprise and good management of our people; and those are the true profits of commerce. The great mass of the intelligence of the country is for it, and is calling on the national legislature for aid in the undertaking.
"The States, whose legislative bodies have sanctioned it, are represented on the floor of Congress by one hundred and twenty-nine members, to say nothing of the memorials from large cities and other places, and the aggregate of citizens of these States, near six millions.
"We have been an industrious, a commercial and enterprising people, and have taken advantage of the knowledge of others, as well as of their trade; for, although our entrance and our clearance, without looking at our immense coasting trade, amounted to eight thousand seven hundred and sixty-six vessels, yet not one of those were sailed a mile by a chart made by us, except we may suppose the chart of George's bank may have been used by a few of the navigators of these vessels. We are dependent on other nations for our nautical instruments as well as charts; and if we except Bowditch's Navigation, an improvement on Hamilton Moore's book of the same kind, we have not a nautical table or book in our navy, or amongst our merchantmen, the product of our own science and skill; and we are now among the three first commercial nations of the world, and have more shipping and commerce than all the nations of Europe had together when Columbus discovered this continent, but a little more than three centuries since; and our navy, young as it is, has more effective force in it than the combined navies of the world could have amounted to at that period. Out of the discovery of this continent, and a passage to the Indies, grew up the naval powers of Europe. On the acquisition of the New World, Spain enlarged her marine; France and England theirs, to hold sway with Spain; and that of the Netherlands sprang from the extent of their trade, connected with the wise policy of enlarging and protecting it.
"Our commercial and national importance cannot be supported without a navy, or our navy without commerce, and a nursery for our seamen. The citizens of Maine, of New York, of Georgia, of Ohio, and of the great valley of the Mississippi, are as deeply interested in the existence of our gallant navy, and of the extension of our commerce, as they are interested in the perpetuity of our institutions and the liberty of our country. Indeed, liberty and commerce have been twin sisters in all past ages, and countries and times; they have stood side by side, moved hand in hand. Wherever the soil has been congenial to the one, there has flourished the other also; in a word, they have lived, they have flourished, or they have died together.
"Commerce has constantly increased with the knowledge of man; yet it has been undergoing perpetual revolutions. These changes and revolutions have often mocked the vigilance of the wary, and the calculations of the sagacious; but there is now a fundamental principle on which commerce is based, which will lead the intelligent merchant and the wise government to foresee and prepare for most of these changes; and that principle consists in an intimate knowledge of all seas, climates, islands, continents, of every river and mountain, and every plain of the globe, and all their productions, and of the nature, habits and character of all races of men; and this information should be corrected and revised with every season.
"The commercial nations of the world have done much, and much remains to be accomplished. We stand a solitary instance among those who are considered commercial, as never having put forth a particle of strength, or expended a dollar of our money, to add to the accumulated stock of commercial and geographical knowledge, except in partially exploring our own territory.
"When our naval commanders and hardy tars have achieved a victory on the deep, they have to seek our harbors, and conduct their prizes into port, by tables and charts furnished perhaps by the very people whom they have vanquished.
"Is it honorable for the United States to use forever the knowledge furnished us by others, to teach us how to shun a rock, excape a shoal or find a harbor, and add nothing to the great mass of information that previous ages and other nations have brought to our hands?
"Tyre, Greece, Carthage, Venice, Florence, whose commerce has ceased, and whose opulence is gone forever, have still left the historic glory of having shown succeeding ages the way to wealth, and honor, and power, by means of knowledge. The ancient commercial and naval monuments are theirs, and every niche of the modern temple of Neptune is filled by others -- not ourselves. The exports, and more emphatically the imports of the United States, her receipts and expenditures, are written on every pillar erected by commerce on every sea and in every clime; but the amount of her subscription stock to erect these pillars, and for the advancement of knowledge, is nowhere to be found.
"To open new sources of traffic and of commercial wealth, has gratified the pride as well as the avarice of man, in every age; and the adventurous deeds by which this has been achieved, have been commemorated by every historian, poet, and even fabulist in all past times; for the Argonautic expedition for the golden fleece, as given us by the poets and mythologists, is only in the form of a generous and munificent commemoration of the voyage of one who ventured much to open a new path to commerce, for the aggrandizement of his own country.
"We have been plundered by the English and French, by Spaniards and Neapolitans, Danes, Norwegians, and the Barbary powers, while our commerce was extending everywhere, and protected nowhere. Some of these insults and depredations have been settled for, and others are quietly, but surely approximating to a day of restitution or retribution. The spirit of the nation is aroused on these subjects and can never sleep again; honor, justice, feeling, conscious of physical strength, all forbid it.
"Have we not, then, reached a degree of mental strength that will enable us to find our way about the globe without leading-strings? And are we forever to take the highway others have laid out for us, and fixed with mile-stones and guide-boards? Permit me to conclude, in humble imitation of the great discoverer of this continent to his patrons: 'We fear no storms, no icebergs, no monsters of the deep, in any sea; we will conduct ourselves with prudence, and discretion, and judgment; and, if we succeed, the glory and profit will be yours; if we perish in our attempt, we alone shall suffer, for the very inquiry after us will redound to your honor.'"
* * * * * * * * * *
"WASHINGTON, February 26,1828.
"SIR: The Committee on Naval Affairs in the House of Representatives, through their chairman, have recently addressed me a note, requesting my views of the character, value, and extent of our trade in the South seas and Pacific ocean.
"A reply to that letter is herewith enclosed for your perusal; and as you have recently been in the Pacific, on official duty, and have improved the favorable opportunity you had of acquiring much useful information in relation to our important and growing commerce there, I would thank you to inform me, in writing, how far your own views extend in corrobration of the report I amabout to submit to the consideration of the committee.
"Be pleased to accept the assurance of the high consideration with which I am, sir,
"Your obedient servant,
"To Captain Thomas Ap Catesby Jones, United States Navy."
"WASHINGTON, February 28, 1828.
"DEAR SIR; I have received, and read with great satisfaction, the memorial which you did me the honor to submit for my perusal. My recent cruise to the Pacific ocean, in the course of which I spent some time among the Society, Sandwich, and other islands, afforded me a good opportunity of seeing, in partial operation, most of the branches of commerce, the advantages of which you so clearly demonstrate in your address to the Committee on Naval Affairs.
"That there is a great field open for national enterprise, in the region to which you have invited the attention of the American people, cannot be doubted; and I accord most heartily with you that such a voyage as you comtemplate would open to our commercial, and, of course, national interests, sources of great wealth, which cannot be brought into action without the protecting aid of government.
"That success may crown your most laudable exertions, is the wish of, sir,
"Your obedient servant,
"THOMAS AP CATESBY JONES.
"To J.N. Reynolds, Esq."
The committee, having thus fuly presented the views and wishes of the memorialists, and noted the legislative action hitherto had upon the subject, deem it unnecessary to go into any prolonged arguments, in the conclusion of their report.
Other nations have deemed it wise to protect their fisheries, at all hazards, and by heavy expenditures. Some have sent out voyages of discovery, that had little or no commerce to be benefited. Previous to the year 1770, the English, in their strenuous efforts to compete with the Dutch in the northern whale fishery, had paid, in bounties, not less than three millions of dollars; and down to the year 1786, the aggregate amount of bounty paid was not less than six millions three hundred and thirty thousand dollars.
The American fishermen have received no bounty, and they are now pursuing their avocation in seas beyond the reach of ordinary protection. That places of refreshment may be examined, new channels of trade opened, and dangers pointed out, seem not only reasonable and just, but called for by considerations of public interest; and it is believed that this can be best accomplished by sending out small vessels expressly provided for this duty; while the demand on the public treasury will be small, compared with the good which may be accomplished.
The late British expeditions for the discovery of a northwest passage, undertaken for scientific purposes, at great expense, nevertheless richly repaid the British nation for her expenditure, by transferring the whale fishery from East to West Greenland.
In like manner, in addition to the specific objects to be attained by an expedition, many collateral advantages may be secured to the whaler and trafficker in the Pacific, and the sealer in the higher latitudes south.
While your committee, in coming to their conclusion in favor of recommending an expedition such as has been prayed for by the memorialists, have been influenced solely by commericial views, and place the policy of the measure solely on these grounds, they are not indifferent to the valuable fund of knowledge which may be gathered during the voyage, and which, properly analyzed and written out, may be interesting, not only to the American people, but the whole civilized world.
Your committee therefore report a bill.*
* For report of Secretary of the Navy, of 24th January, 1833, and letter from J.N. Reynolds, see antecedent, No. 573, Naval Affairs.
NAVY DEPARTMENT, January 24, 1835.
SIR: I have the honor to send herewith, an original report of J.N. Reynolds, Esq., dated the 24th of September, 1828, describing certain islands, reefs, and shoals in the Pacific ocean, &c., and which is presumed to be the report called for by the House of Representatives of the 23d inst., and referred to as dated the 9th October, 1829. When no longer required, it is respectfully requested it may be returned.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
HON. JOHN BELL, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Letters from Passed Midshipmen Maury and Godon
FREDERICKSBURG, Va., December 26, 1834
DEAR SIR: Your friendly letter, of the 25th inst., lays open before me.
It affords me pleasure to give you all the facts within my reach, which may bear upon the subject of the memorial alluded to.
I earnestly hope you will gather the richest fruit from your report -- the consciousness of doing good, and of benefiting your fellow-citizens.
I have cruised in the Pacific for nearly seven years, and have seen and conversed with many of our whalers. They all urge, in the stongest terms, the necessity of a survey of the many dangers which speck their fishing grounds.
You will observe that the islands, rocks, &c., of which you have a list, place the "fishing ground" between the west coast of Africa, the coast of Japan, and South Africa. An accurate survey of the western coast of our continent is much to be desired. I was sailingmaster of a United States vessel in the Pacific for nearly three years.
By the testimony of other navigators, and the concurring result of my own astronomical observations, I found many places along the coast mislocated on our charts, which were of the most recent publication, and compiled by the most approved hydrographers.
To the north of Lima, there is a line of coast several hundred miles in extent, to every point of which, according to the observations of those who sail along it, the charts assign a wrong locality.
Upon the shoal of Topocalma, near Valparaiso, several vessels, (one last year,) have been lost, through ignorance of its true locality.
The hydrography of the northwest coast, and of that bordering near the mouth of the Columbia river, is most lamentably imperfect. The United States have a valuable interest there in the fur trade with the east, which has been, and is, a valuable field for the enterprise of our citizens.
Extract from my note book.
"CALLAO, May, 1832.
"Captain Merit, an American, of the brig Convoy, tells me he has been in the fur trade, on the northwest coast, for many years; he has frequently entered the mouth of the Columbia river; the ingress very dangerous; he has seen the breakers breaking feather-white, almost entirely across the entrance; a bar of quicksand extends across it; he saw a vessel and all her crew perish on it; there is no chart of the mouth of this river.
"About five miles to the northward of Baker's Bay is a very large bay, with a narrow mouth opening into the ocean; he was twelve hours in a canoe pulling across this bay, at the rate of six miles per hour; thinks the water in this bay is deep; saw the breakers across its mouth. The Indians tell of an English vessel that came into this bay, mistaking it for the mouth of the Columbia river; this bay is not laid down upon any chart."
"If the hydrography of the coast and the main land be so imperfectly established, what is to be expected of that of the islands, and of places apparently of less importance?
"Captain Swain, of the Mercury, and Chase, of the Leda, (whalers,) say that Norfolk Island, Gallapagos group does not exist. The chart places it thirty-four miles from Cholam Isle. They sailed from Cholam Isle in search of it; the day was perfectly clear; could see twenty-five miles around; they did not see Norfolk Island.
"Captain Bennett, of the Rajah, (whaler,) has been in Wake's Island, (recently discovered;) latitude 19 deg. 26 min. north, longitude 166 deg. 45 min. east; it is low; is about a half mile long; has no anchorage; boats can land on the lee side of it; it has 'beche le mer' on it.
"Captain B., in company with another vessel, saw an island in latitude 3 deg. south, and 71 deg. 51 min. west; it is barren; has a reef around it; is ten miles long, four broad. Next morning they saw another in 172 deg. 10 min., and 2 deg. 40 min. south. Thinks this is not barren, and that its length is about twenty miles."
Copy of a letter from Captain Maury. [text has 'Mayrs']
"On our passage from the Marquesas to the coast of Chili, we fell in with several islands not laid down in our charts. That which we first saw is situated bout eighty or ninety miles from the Dog Island of Schuten and Le Maix, southwest by south, and is, according to our dead reckoning, in latitude 16 deg. 14 min. south, longitude 139 deg. 18 min. west. But as we had no observation the preceding or following days, the position we have given it may be very incorrect. It was between five and six P.M. when we first saw it, and the weather at that time thick and squally, which induced me to tack and stand back in my own track during the night, to avoid all danger that chance might throw in our way. At daylight land was again seen in a northwest direction, which I supposed to be another island. Not many days after, we fell in with another at daylight in the morning, near which we lay becalmed the greater part of the day; this is in latitude 17 deg. 18 min. south, longitude 138 deg. 30 min. west. Its greatest extent is north-northeast twelve or fourteen miles; land low, a cluster of cocoa nut trees on the western end, and on its southwest part is an extensive reef, connecting it with the island and enclosing a large lagoon. The people were seen in considerable numbers on the beach, who, on approach of the boat that was sent to examine it, assumed a threatening attitude, and prevented the landing of the party with their slings, which led us to believe they had never been visited by a vessel. As we stood on to the southwest, immense numbers of birds hovered daily around the ship, which induced us to believe we were in the vicinity of land. It was at last seen in the southeast. This island is in latitude 18 deg. 27 min. south, longitude 136 deg. 18 min west; it is twenty-five miles long, northeast; it is very low. From the light winds, we could not near it enough to tell if it were inhabited or not. It was thought by some to be Gule's Island, seen by Captain Wilson, in the Duff, which we saw next day, agreeably to our calculation, which gave us less reason to doubt our own reckoning."
The above, sir, are all the facts which I can furnish you, with regard to the "unknown west."
I have set down in my note book the number of whale ships, constantly in the Pacific, at two hundred and eighty, averging twenty-three men to each, and two thousand eight hundred barrels, each barrel containing thirty-two and a half gallons of oil, and each ship to require thirty-four months to fill herself. I think this is rather above than below the proper estimate.*
* A call on the Secretary of the Treasury would give the number of sperm whalers, which only fish in the Pacific, &c.
Yours, respectfully, &c.,
Passed Midshipman U.S. Navy.
HON. DUTEE J. PEARCE, House of Representatives, Washington
WASHINGTON CITY, February 1, 1835.
SIR: As an officer of the United States navy, I cannot look upon the efforts you have been making towards getting up an expedition to the South seas with feelings of indifference. They are noble, sir, and the design is worthy of them. I had the good fortune to perform the cruise of the Potomac, under the command of Commodore Downes, in which we circumnavigated the globe, increasing our latitude from forty degrees north to upwards of fifty-six degrees south; and, in this immense range of ocean, we were never once beyond the reach, or in fact within some degrees of the limits of our whaling and sealing interests. While among the islands of the Pacific ocean, and during a cruise of some eighteen months on the west coast of South America, I had numerous opportunities of observing the immensity of our whaling and other commercial interests in those seas; and alas! of mourning (from the reports of numberless merchants and whaling captains) over the imperfections of our charts of those very regions now become the field of enterprise of those daring navigators. Newly discovered islands are yearly seen; but they have, I believe, some time since been laid before the House of Representatives by the untiring and highly to be commended exertions of J.N. Reynolds, Esq. I am well convinced, by a practical knowledge, of the utility of the proposed exedition, towards a thorough examination of those seas, for the preservation of our commerce and the encouragement of our seamen engaged in a service already, perhaps, the most dangerous of any, independent of unknown islands and undiscovered reefs.
Without entering into any learned or far-fetched [text has 'far-fetehed'] argument in support of the existence of undiscovered land in high southern latitudes, abounding in articles of commercial interest, allow me, sir, to refer you to a communication made to the Royal Geographical Society, in the year 1833. It appears from this paper, that one Captain Biscoe, in the brig Tula, accompanied by a small cutter, the Lively, on the eighth of February, 1831, discovered land, and during one whole month remained in the vicinity of it. He clearly discerned the black peaks above the snow, but he was unable to approach nearer than thirty miles to it, from the boisterous state of the weather and ice. The stormy petrels were the only birds seen, and no fish. It has been named Emberly's land; longitude forty-seven degrees 30 minutes east, latitude sixty-six degrees thirty minutes south; an extent of 300 miles was seen. In consequence of the bad state of the health of his crew, Captain Biscoe was compelled to return into warmer latitudes, but, in the early part of February, 1832, he was again in the vicinity of an immense iceberg, when it fell to pieces, accompanied by a tremendous noise, and, on the 15th of the same month, land was seen to the southeast, latitude sixty-seven degrees, fifteen minutes, longitude sixty-nine degrees twenty-nine minutes west. It was found to be an island near the head land of what may hereafter be called the southern continent. On the island, about four miles from the shore, wa a high peak, and some smaller ones. On the twenty-first of February, Captain Biscoe landed in a spacious bay, on the main land, and took possession in the name of his Majesty, William IV. It will probably, on further examination, be found that this very land is but a continuation of the same chain of islands which are entirely and undoubtedly an American discovery; but the honor may be snatched from us, and the glory of naming them be lost to the country, should the present expedition fail, to say nothing of the advantages that may be lost in the collection of animal fur. I will not trouble you longer, sir; I may already have taken a liberty in writing to you on the subject. I have too much pride in my country, to suppose for one moment that a few months will not see the South Sea expedition filling to the breeze, and wafting on to national fame. Few hearts in the navy will not beat high with hope of participation, and many -- (and I say it with professional exultation) -- yea, many noble spirits will be found ready and willing to venture all, and patiently meet the dangers and privations which such an expedition may demand, to fill the measure of their country's glory. Sir, may I venture further, and look to the end of three short years, and foretell the return of the gallant little band crowned with success -- rich in knowledge of tripical seas, and bearing the high honor of having unfurled the stars of liberty even to the verge of the southern hemisphere. And with what pride -- what glowing, conscious pride, will not you, sir, and the honorable committee to which the subject has been referred, hail the return of that expedition which your efforts pushed forward; bearing, too, that information which is to render the South seas and Pacific ocean more safe to our daring fishermen and other traffickers.
With high hopes for the success of yourself and the honorable committee, and with many sentiments of respect,
I remain, sir, your obedient and humble servant,
SYLVANUS GODON, Passed Midshipman U.S. Navy
To the HON. DUTEE J. PEARCE, Member of the Committee on Commerce.