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CHAPTER XI.

Our mountains are crowned with imperial oak,
Whose roots ages have nourished.

ROBERT TREAT PAINE.

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If there be no other excellence to which the Americans can lay claim (and there are those who cavil at nearly all our pretensions), there is at least one which will not admit of question :-videlicet, we build the finest ships in the world. In combining elegance of model and swiftness. of sailing with capacity for burden, we have distanced the clumsy floating castles of Europe, and furnished its shipwrights with models for imitation. England, opinionated, and therefore slow to imitate the excellences of other nations in the arts, has at last been compelled to admire and to copy our naval architecture; France has seized upon the hints we have given her, in our fleet vessels of war; Russia has coveted and obtained our models; and even Turkey has, at a late day, opened her sluggish eyes in wonderment at our superiority in this respect.

The Middle States of the Union are, at the present

day, the best ship-builders, and New-York the very best; while the South bears the palm for the swan-like floating of her smaller craft. The Eastern States are reputable in naval architecture, but confine themselves principally to the structure of the burdensome class of vessels, which are most in demand for the carrying and coasting trade; but, at the time when our tale commences, Massachusetts was the great ship-builder of America.

We are possessed of an immense seaboard of several thousand miles; of rivers of great depth and extent, which shame the diminutive though boasted rills of Europe. Our river-banks at the north are lined with forests of the white-oak, cedar, and locust; and at the south, with the matchless pine, and the incomparable and undecaying live-oak,-all furnishing the most desirable materials for ship-building, within the easy grasp of a people whose enterprise is proverbial, and whose expansive genius aims at, and will eventually secure, the dominion of the seas.

It is not strange, therefore, that at an early period in our history, we should have become conscious of the means by which a great national destiny might be accomplished, and set to work to apply the resources that abounded so plentifully.

Nor is it surprising that America-by which term we allude more particularly to the best portion of the western continent, namely, the part now known as the United States-should have furnished the means of carrying a large portion of the produce and the manufactures of other nations; nor that the American flag should be found proudly and broadly displayed in all ports open to commerce in the wide world. Nor is it at all surprising that other nations should build ships in American ports, where materials are cheap, the workmen expert, and their ingenuity, expedition, and improvements in the construction of water-craft beyond all praise.

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