Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 69.djvu/534

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530
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

WATERWAY DEFENSES OF THE ATLANTIC COAST
By WILLIAM J. ROE

NEWBURGH, N. Y.

IT will be remembered what a spasm of apprehension seized the country when the prospect of war with Spain became imminent. Not only did these fears affect seriously the dwellers in sea-coast cities, but they were shared in to such an extent by those who had been accustomed to plan their summer outings at the sea-shore as to send a very large proportion to the mountains instead. In fact so great was the unreasoning and unreasonable terror that the season of 1898 was quite unremunerative to innkeepers at summer resorts along the coast.

If such was the effect of a declaration of war with Spain, whose sea-power was so notoriously weak, what would it be likely to be in the face of hostilities threatened with a foreign country amply prepared for offensive naval movements? Though the prospect of war with a capable maritime power be ever so remote; though the fashion of modern civilization seems to have been set for arbitration, and congresses of peace have been established with at least the promise of permanency; and though we appear to have entered upon a period of good-will and cordial relations with the most ponderous of nations, still the construction of battle-ships and armored cruisers goes on in every shipyard of every government of the world with increased rather than abated zeal. However much the American public may desire peace, and however determined to exhaust the arts of diplomacy to preserve it, so long as human nature retains any of the virus of the serpent, or the fangs of the wolf, so long will war remain the final appeal of human interest, even though shorn of some of its ferocity as the first resort of inhuman passion. It is, and will continue doubtless for many decades, with nations as with the individual man; that one is always best assured of peace that is best prepared to resist insolence and retaliate forcibly, quickly and effectively upon any form of aggression.

After a long period of lethargy following the civil war the nation has become wisely awakened to the necessity of providing means of defense more in accord with our recent position as a 'world-power.' So have we constructed and are constructing powerful earth-works, replacing the obsolete defenses of stone forts, mounting behind them our guns; so that we planned mines for our harbors, and gathered destructive and far-flying torpedo missiles; and, more important yet, are build-