Page:The Fall of Maximilan's Empire.djvu/19

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THE FALL OF MAXIMILIAN'S EMPIRE.

mission, "to protect American interests." This term, often used by those who comprehend the necessity of a great country having an adequate naval force to represent it abroad, may at times include a wider range of duty than is apt to be thought. As distances have come to be shortened by the railway and the steamer, and annihilated by the telegraph, it has seemed as though authority and discretion could be more and more centralized, and that an officer would but need to watch events carefully and keep his ship in good fighting trim. A commander's first duty is indeed to keep his ship in good condition for effective service; and it is the duty and the ambition of his officers to do their important share in bringing about that result; without it the assertion of a principle would lack force. But far more weighty and responsible work may fall to the lot of a small vessel, perchance isolated in every way from the lawgivers of the home country. The amount of power displayed by a double-ender, for instance, is not great, per se; an ignorant rabble, a body of bitterly prejudiced partisans, a band of irresponsible soldiery, may not comprehend, or may despise, the power merely represented by that vessel. With him who shows the flag of his country abroad and watches over her interests, it lies, under such circumstances, to display certain qualities besides pluck and technical professional acumen. Upon