Six Ships That Shook The World
“AMERICA certainly can not pretend to wage war with us,” a London newspaper declared on June 10, 1812. “She has no navy to do it with.” Such was the disdain for American sea power on the eve of the War of 1812 that the British politician George Canning dismissed the infant U.S. Navy as “a few firbuilt frigates with hits of hunting at the top.”
Yet within a year the British Admiralty would order its captains to avoid individual contact with the enemy’s formidable new vessels and to attack only when in squadron strength. In reporting the loss of HMS Guerrière to “a new enemy, an enemy unaccustomed to such triumphs and likely to be rendered insolent and confident by them,” the Times of London concluded that, “never before in the history of the world did an English frigate strike [its colors] to an American.”
The progression of the United States from a country with an odd assortment of warships in 1783 and with no navy at all in 1794 to a world sea power in 1815 constitutes one of the most impressive examples of strategic power growth in history. At the focal point of this accomplishment was the creation of a handful of warships that put a distinct American stamp on naval warfare around the world. Their influence is still being felt. One of these ships —the USS Constitution —survives as the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel, maintained by the Navy at the decommissioned Charlestown Navy Yard not far from the site on the old Boston waterfront where she was launched almost two centuries ago on October 21, 1797.
Today we take for granted the United States’ role as the pre-eminent world power. But two hundred years ago in post-Revolutionary America, debate about the new nation’s place in the world was wide open.
During the war for American independence, the Continental Navy, despite several well-publicized triumphs, had not contributed substantially to the final victory. A varied collection of vessels that were either bought or hurriedly built, it was never a match for the Royal Navy and usually resorted to raiding Britain’s merchantmen rather than taking on her capital ships. The naval balance of power did not tip in America’s favor until the French navy entered the conflict following the Franco-American Alliance of 1778.
OF FISCAL NECESSITY, WHAT remained of the Continental Navy following the war had been sold off by 1785, and when all the sailors were discharged, the country was left with no seagoing armed forces whatsoever. The Jeffersonian Republicans (not to be confused with today’s party) identified with the agrarian South and the frontier. They distrusted large, centralized government with its high taxes and believed that a standing navy, through its efforts to protect American merchant shipping, would lead the country into the wars still raging abroad. The breadth of the Atlantic Ocean and the preoccupation of European navies with troubles at home were defense enough, they reasoned. As early as 1781 Thomas Jefferson had commented, “They can attack us by detachment only, and it will suffice to make ourselves equal to what they may detach.” More than a century later the naval historian Alfred Thayer Mahan described distance as “a factor equal to a certain number of ships.”
Of the opposite belief were merchants, traders, financiers, and people from New England and seaport cities associated with maritime interests. They embraced the Federalist views expounded by Alexander Hamilton. They believed that the only way the United States—and especially its merchant ships trading abroad—would be respected in the world was if the nation demonstrated its power, symbolized by warships flying the American flag. “A nation despicable by its weakness,” Hamilton exclaimed in 1787, “forfeits even the privilege of being neutral.”
As with many great issues in American history, both sides had their strong points. And in what has come to be a pattern in American politics, resolution was reached not so much through debate as through the influence of subsequent events. When Britain seriously dishonored the treaty ending the Revolutionary War by ignoring American sovereignty on the high seas, the framers of the U.S. Constitution in 1787 granted the new government the power and taxing authority “to provide and maintain a Navy.”
During the next seven years, American merchant ships not only were harassed and interdicted by the warring powers of Europe—principally Britain and France—but were also plundered and confiscated, their crews held for ransom by North African pirates from the Barbary States of the Mediterranean. Political pressure to build a navy grew steadily in Congress. It culminated with passage of the Naval Act of 1794, which provided for the construction of six warships. President George Washington signed the bill into law on March 27, and the United States Navy was created.
Although the opponents of a standing navy had failed to block the legislation, they had succeeded in attaching an amendment providing that should the United States reach “peace” with the Barbary States before construction of the new ships was complete, there would be “no farther proceeding … under this act.” This provision would prove to be problematical.
FOR MORE THAN A YEAR BEFORE the passage of the Naval Act, a Philadelphia ship designer and builder of some note had been quietly but persistently lobbying the new federal government to expedite warship construction (conveniently for him, Philadelphia was the national capital at the time). Joshua Humphreys wrote to his influential friend Robert Morris, a senator from Pennsylvania, that the United States “should take the lead in a class of ships not in use in Europe, which would be the only means of making our little navy of any importance. It would oblige other Powers to follow us intact, instead of our following them.”
On the eve of the nineteenth century, the great navies of the era—the British, French, Spanish, and Dutch—had evolved a number of different vessel classes, similar to weight classes in boxing. On top were the ships of the line, the heavy hitters in any naval encounter. Packing somewhere around seventy-four guns on three different decks, they would simply get in line opposite one another and battle it out until one side or the other prevailed. They could fire a broadside capable of stopping any lesser vessel in its tracks but were sluggish under sail, averaging perhaps five knots.
Next came the frigate, perhaps the most versatile of all sailing warships. It usually carried thirty to forty somewhat lighter guns on two decks and was faster, reaching speeds of eight to ten knots, with greater maneuverability than ships of the line. Frigates were more likely to be used for patrol, blockade, convoy duty, and harassment of enemy merchant shipping rather than major fleet encounters. If involved in the latter, they would usually duel with one another.
At the bottom of the hierarchy was everything else mounting guns on only one deck: sloops of war (which, like ships of the line and frigates, were threemasted) and brigs, schooners, gunboats, and other auxiliaries, all of which had no more than two masts and considerably lighter armament. While slower than a frigate, they were significantly more maneuverable. Nevertheless, they rarely played a decisive role in any fleet action unless they were sacrificed in some way, as a decoy or a fire ship.
Joshua Humphreys was soberly aware of what could happen when a lighter vessel went up against one of a heavier class. During the Revolutionary War the Randolph , a frigate he had designed and built, was blown out of the water with a loss of all but four hands in action against a British ship of the line off Barbados in 1778.
STILL, FRIGATES WERE Humphreys’s first choice for the new U.S. Navy, but not the standard type. What he envisioned became known as superfrigates. “None ought to be built less than 150 feet keel,” he continued in his letter to Robert Morris, and they should “carry twenty-eight 32-pounders or thirty 24-pounders on the gun deck. … These ships should have scantlings [measurements] equal to 74’s [seventy-four-gun ships of the line], and … may be built of red cedar and live oak.”
Humphreys’s conclusions about what these vessels could achieve have proved prescient. At the time, however, they sounded farfetched: “Ships built on these principles will render those of an enemy in a degree useless, or require a greater number before they dare attack our ships. … Their great length gives them the advantage of sailing. … They are superior to any European frigate, and … [will] never be obliged to go into action, but on their own terms.”
What Humphreys was proposing, on the basis of the prevailing knowledge of naval architecture at the time, simply couldn’t be done. The warship designer of that period was faced with an intractable dilemma: You could have speed, or you could have firepower, but you couldn’t have that much of both.
For a ship to remain afloat, a force equal to her weight has to be exerted up against the entire submerged portion of the hull. Over a long time a vessel built of wood, with its characteristic flexibility, will experience a natural bowing up of its keel amidships as a result of the constant hydrostatic pressure on its bottom. The phenomenon is known as “hogging,” since the resulting curvature in the keel resembles the arch of a hog’s back.
This upward pressure of buoyancy is constantly at work on a ship afloat, year in, year out. It is greatest at the deepest part of the vessel, the keel. And the keel is weakest where the ship is widest, generally in the midsection. Left unchecked, a vessel will hog until her timbers can flex no more; then they will break, and the ship will sink.
Long before it reaches this dire state, however, hogging produces a detrimental effect on a ship’s performance. An upward concavity in the bottom of a vessel interferes with the flow of water past it, trapping some, slowing the ship down. The greater the hog, the greater the amount of water trapped, and the more slowly the vessel will go.
The greater a ship’s displacement (weight), the greater the hogging pressure. And the one thing that can make a light vessel very heavy is the installation of a large gun battery like those aboard eighteenth-century warships. Not only did the guns’ immense weight (two to three tons each) exacerbate a vessel’s hogging, but their location did as well.
Unlike a heavy cargo, which would be stowed deep in the hold and directly over the keel (and thus help alleviate hogging), a ship’s armaments were of necessity placed on the periphery of the vessel and high enough above the water line so as to be of use even when rolling in high seas. This location gave their weight an added leverage that worked to hog the vessel all the more.
The other factor affecting hogging is a ship’s length. Just like the limb of a tree, the longer it is, the easier it is to bend. But any tendency to design shorter ships was more than offset by a simple fact of naval architecture well known even in the eighteenth century: The maximum hull speed of any vessel (whether it’s an eight-oared racing shell or an aircraft carrier) is directly proportional to its length.
Throughout the era of wooden ships, hogging was the bane of shipbuilders. The longer a vessel was, the faster it could theoretically go. But very quickly the added hogging generated by the extra length and weight of additional armament would cancel out any speed benefits.
For all these reasons Joshua Humphreys’s 1794 superfrigate proposal, with its provisions for both great length and heavy armament, should have been dismissed outright. Had he submitted it to a competent naval authority (like the U.S. Navy’s current Bureau of Ships), it probably would have been. But to his great good fortune—as well as the Navy’s and the country’s—his plan landed on the desk of Secretary of War Henry Knox.
As a former Revolutionary War general, Knox was not particularly knowledgeable about marine science. Since there was no Navy Department at the time, he referred the matter to a committee. It found Humphreys’s ideas appealing and asked him to submit a detailed design. Up to this point apparently no one reviewing the proposal knew it couldn’t be done.
After Humphreys provided the War Department with his frigate design, Henry Knox wanted to make sure it was reviewed by a competent authority, and as luck would have it, such a person had recently arrived from England. Following a long apprenticeship in the shipwright and shipbuilding trades, Josiah Fox had traveled extensively throughout Europe studying various ship designs. Independently wealthy, he had come to America to learn about shipbuilding woods and subsequently met Secretary Knox in Philadelphia, where Fox had relatives.
KNOX ASKED FOX, WHO HAD become a War Department employee and submitted a frigate design of his own, to comment on the Humphreys design. Fox met Humphreys, and the two men entered into a collaboration that largely remains a mystery to this day. Historians differ somewhat about the extent of Fox’s contribution to the final design. But if the fruit of their combined labors—the Constitution -class frigates—is any indication of the success of their partnership, it was a whole far greater than the sum of its parts. Their accomplishment in creating some of the most successful sailing warships that ever went to sea is all the more ironic since both these men were Quakers.
The final design they achieved delivered on every promise Humphreys had made in his original proposal. At 175 feet on the water line, and capable of setting almost an acre of sail, the superfrigate had the speed to outrun any other man-of-war in the world, up to thirteen knots. With a main battery of long twenty-four-pound guns that could fire broadsides more than seven hundred pounds to distances of up to 800 yards, it could easily overpower other frigates, which customarily carried only eighteen-pounders.
What made this all possible, what gave the design both speed and firepower, was the brilliant way Humphreys overcame shipbuilding’s most intractable dilemma of the eighteenth century. He solved the hogging problem with an innovative system of internal structural supports that significantly reduced hull distortion by effectively transferring the weight of the guns on the upper decks down to the ship’s keel.
THE PRINCIPAL COMPONENT OF this system was a set of diagonal riders, massive live oak beams two feet wide and as much as a foot thick, deep in the vessel’s interior. Parallel neither to the ship’s backbone (her keel) nor to the ribs (her frames), which ascend perpendicularly from the keel to curve up and give the hull its shape (just like a human rib cage), these timbers rise along the internal curvature of the hull but at a forty-five-degree angle forward or aft, from the area of the keel amidships toward either far end of the deck above. There are eight of them on each side of the vessel, three sloping forward, five aft. Radiating upward and outward from the point in the hull most prone to hogging, the diagonal riders act like the buttresses of a great cathedral—only upside down. Instead of holding the roof of a building up, they keep the bottom of a ship down.
In addition to this revolutionary innovation, which one recent Constitution captain called “the stealth technology of its day,” the Humphreys design included several other unique features intended to prevent the hull from distorting under the tremendous weights and forces exerted on it. One was a series of “locked strakes,” two pairs of special deck planks on either side of both the gun and berthing decks (located immediately beneath the ship’s uppermost, or spar, deck). They run the full length of the vessel and tie into structures at either end. Rather than being just fastened down like regular planks, these are cut to lock in with one another and with each deck beam they cross. There was also a system of twelve pairs of “knees” (support timbers that bend at a ninety-degree angle), located along each side of the berth deck, that transfer the load of the main gun battery on the gun deck above down to the diagonal riders below.
Humphreys’s innovations did not stop with preventing hull distortion. For protection against enemy fire, the design called for a three-layered hull. At the center were the frames (ribs) curving up vertically from the keel. Over these, thick planks were laid horizontally on both the inside and outside. Unlike merchant ships, where frames only six inches wide might be separated by a foot or more, Humphreys’s frigates had twelve-inch-wide frames that were “sistered” together in pairs to result in a combination that was two feet wide. The separation between each pair was on average less than two inches. The enemy was thus presented with a virtually solid wall of wooden armor up to twenty-five inches thick in places.
And not just any wood. The design specified live oak. With that choice the resulting ships (and Navy) were doubly blessed. Not only was live oak the most prized wood in the world for building warships, but it was also to be found only in America.
Growing in coastal areas of the southeastern United States between Virginia and Texas (a little also grows in western Cuba), live oak ( Quereus virginiana ) gets its name from the fact that it does not lose its leaves in winter. Known for its slow growth, massive gnarled trunk, and long, expansive limbs that can reach out horizontally forty feet or more, the tree produces one of the densest and hardest woods in the world. Unless dried in a kiln, it is heavier than water and will sink. Most important for shipbuilding, milled live oak lumber gets even harder when left out in the weather.
Humphreys’s original plan called for live oak in the keel, the frames, the diagonal riders, and many other structures throughout the vessel, while the planks on either side of the frames were to be made of only slightly less dense white oak. (This combination would prove so protective for the Constitution that in forty-two actions throughout her fighting life, her hull was never once penetrated by enemy fire. After seeing cannonballs bounce harmlessly off the frigate’s topsides during the first of her four major victories in the War of 1812, a sailor is reported to have exclaimed, “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!” Thus was born her nickname, “Old Ironsides.”)
ONCE THE WAR DEPARTMENT accepted the design, contracts were awarded to construct the six frigates. Rather than build them all at the same yard, which might have better assured quality control and kept the price down by eliminating unnecessary duplication, the government chose the politically expedient alternative. To benefit as many local communities as possible from public spending, and to encourage popular support for the Navy as well, the work was spread among six port cities along the East Coast.
The Constitution was to be built in Boston; the Constellation , in Baltimore. New York got the President ; Norfolk, Virginia, the Chesapeake ; and Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the Congress . Joshua Humphreys himself was chosen to build the United States in Philadelphia. (The ships were named as they neared completion. At the start they were designated with the letters A through F.)
Obtaining materials—specifically live oak—was the first priority. All told, it took the wood of more than 1,500 trees of various species to build one of these ships. A party of more than eighty New England shipwrights and woodcutters headed for the islands off the Georgia coast in the fall of 1794, but by the following spring, after a hard winter of foul weather and disease, only four remained. John Morgan, their leader, wrote Humphreys, “If I am to stay herfe] till all the timber is cut I shall be dead.… If you was here you would curse live Oak.”
MORGAN WASN’T ABLE TO get the timber-cutting operation going satisfactorily until he turned to local planters who rented him slaves. Accustomed to the climate and working conditions, they were able to make good headway, and shortly after their arrival, oak shipments started to arrive at shipyards in the North. So in yet another irony surrounding the Constitution and her sister ships, the most important materials needed to build these vessels destined to defend American freedom could be successfully obtained only through slave labor.
By early 1796 work on the six frigates was again stymied, this time by political events. Word had been received of a peace agreement with the Barbary States in North Africa. According to law, this meant that all work on the vessels should cease. And it did, for a time. But the momentum of the new Navy had already built up too far for it to end so abruptly. President George Washington appealed to Congress to let the vessels’ construction continue, and eventually a compromise was reached: Work would continue, but only on the three frigates nearest completion.
The U.S. Navy was finally launched in 1797. The first of the three frigates to slide down the ways was the United States in Philadelphia on May 10. The Constellation , somewhat smaller than the others, came next in Baltimore on September 7. Then finally came the Constitution on October 21 in Boston.
Initially the men of the new Navy were not up to its ships. Starting from scratch in 1794, the service was fast becoming just another Federalist bureaucracy by the time tangible evidence of its purpose finally arrived: the superfrigates. Without any professional traditions, it lacked focus. Its highest offices had been filled by either political appointees or experienced captains from the old Continental Navy, each of whom had his own ideas about how it should be run.
Embarrassments were more often the norm than achievements. The first captain appointed to command a U.S. Navy vessel abruptly went on furlough so he could sail a merchant ship to China. The first captain of the Constitution , a political appointee, had to be relieved of command after several errors of judgment during the vessel’s inaugural voyages. And the Constellation drifted aground while anchored in the Delaware River, then rolled over on her side when the tide went out.
But in time the new Navy finally shook down into a professional fighting armed service worthy of its ships. It ordered more frigates and completed the three left unfinished in 1797. It responded to the crises that initially had led to its creation. It took the fight and the flag to the doorstep of the tormentors of American merchant ships, first in the Caribbean during the Quasi-War with France, then to the Mediterranean against the Barbary pirates.
Command of one of the squadrons sent to accomplish this first major projection of American power overseas went to a captain far down on the seniority list, Edward Preble of Maine. In the same way that the Constitution is now symbolically viewed as the flagship of the entire U.S. Navy, Edward Preble is revered as the founding father of the naval officer corps. It was around him that all of the modern Navy’s traditions of service, duty, and professionalism coalesced shortly after the turn of the nineteenth century, as he commanded the Constitution off the Barbary Coast.
Preble had a reputation as a disciplinarian with a short temper. He demanded perfection from his crews, which at first led to a fair degree of dislike for him. But opinion started to change after an incident aboard the Constitution while en route to Gibraltar one night in September 1803. Threatening to open fire, Preble faced down a menacing British warship that in the dark claimed to be a more powerful ship of the line, but which was actually much lighter. Recognizing his courage and spirit during that confrontation, the young officers he had been assigned —whom he initially called “nothing but a pack of boys”—started to show him more respect.
DURING THE YEAR THAT FOL lowed, the Mediterranean squadron labored under harsh conditions at sea, political pressure from home, and the decline of Treble’s health in the effort to force the Barbary States to cease attacking American merchant ships. The squadron suffered some ignominious defeats but also enjoyed some spectacular successes, like the boarding and burning of a captured American frigate right under the enemy’s guns, which Britain’s Lord Nelson later called “the most bold and daring act of the age.”
Through it all Preble set an example of leadership for his cadre of young officers, who solidified into the nucleus of the Navy’s future professional career officer corps. Known as Preble’s Boys, these officers—almost to a man—went on to great achievements in the next decade during the War of 1812. Stephen Decatur, the best-known hero of the Barbary campaign, commanded three of the Navy’s first six superfrigates, the Congress, United States , and President . The Constitution was commanded in her three major battle encounters of the War of 1812, all victorious, by three alumni of the Treble’s Boys fraternity: Isaac Hull, William Bainbridge, and Charles Stewart.
En route back home in late 1804 after his squadron had been relieved, Preble called at Gibraltar before heading out across the Atlantic. Witnessing the Constitution ’s arrival from the quarterdeck of HMS Victory , flagship of the Royal Navy, Lord Nelson is said to have remarked, “In the handling of those trans-Atlantic ships there is a nucleus of trouble for the Navy of Great Britain.”
That trouble was less than ten years in coming. The Constitution first proved her worth during the War of 1812 not by defeating a British warship but by masterfully evading five of them that had trapped her off the New Jersey coast during a calm. A month later, however, when she encountered one of her pursuers alone en route to Nova Scotia for repairs, Capt. Isaac Hull’s only desire was to demonstrate his vessel’s superior armament.
APPROACHING FROM THE AD vantageous windward side, he held fire until within “half a pistol’s shot,” then let loose a double-shotted broadside from which the HMS Guerrière never recovered. Within fifteen minutes her mizzen mast had toppled, and the other two masts soon followed.
Aboard the United States , Capt. Steven Decatur achieved a similarly brilliant victory when he engaged HMS Macedonian off the Azores in October 1812. Taking advantage of the superior range of his twenty-four-pound guns over the enemy’s eighteen-pounders, he managed to cripple his opponent’s rigging before his vessel was in effective range of their guns.
Even when stalemated, the superfrigates still managed to play a role in the war. Despite being bottled up in Norfolk for the entire duration by an effective British blockade, the Constellation nevertheless managed to take up station in Hampton Roads and prevented the British from destroying harbor fortifications defending the port.
But credit for the greatest tactical victory of the War of 1812 must go to the Constitution , which in the closing days of the conflict managed to defeat two attacking vessels, HMS Cyane and HMS Levant , simultaneously. When the Cyane attempted to maneuver behind Constitution and expose her to deadly raking fire (a broadside fired the length of an opponent’s deck), Capt. Charles Stewart put his sails aback and threw the Constitution into reverse —no small feat for a 3,000-ton sailing vessel—and cut the Cyane off. She had no option but to break away, exposing herself to the Constitution ’s own raking fire.
Time rather than any enemy was what eventually destroyed most of the Navy’s first six frigates. The Chesapeake and the President were captured by the British, taken to England, and broken up (scrapped) between 1817 and 1820. On the basis of the lines taken off the latter—a common practice—the British constructed HMS President . In 1820 the Congress became the first American warship to visit China, the highlight of a career that was otherwise singularly uneventful. She was broken up at Norfolk in 1836.
THE CONSTELLATION WAS once thought to have been preserved. A sloop of war of that name that has been on display since 1955 on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor was formerly believed to have been converted from the 1797 superfrigate. However, research revealed that this present Constellation , currently undergoing restoration, is actually the last full-fledged sailing warship built for the Navy. She was launched in 1855 at Norfolk, two years after the original Constellation was broken up there.
The United States lasted until the Civil War. Falling into Confederate hands with the loss of Norfolk in 1861, the by-then relic was dubbed the Confederate States and outfitted as a floating gun platform for harbor defense. A year later, when Union forces were again threatening, the Confederates ordered her sunk in a river channel to obstruct enemy vessels. The story goes that her live oak timbers were still so sound that workers ruined a boxful of axes in their attempt to scuttle her. They finally had to bore a hole from the inside to get her to sink. Refloated by Union forces, she was broken up in 1866.
The Constitution alone survives intact. In anticipation of the vessel’s bicentennial (being celebrated throughout 1997), the Navy has been carrying on a three-year, $12 million restoration and refit that has left the Constitution in the best condition she has been in since she was built.
The success of the restoration comes in no small part from an exhaustive research effort that was mounted in advance of any actual work on the ship. It reached as far afield as the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, and as far back in time as the era of the vessel’s construction. Researchers had to rediscover the diagonal riders, which had been removed from the Constitution sometime between 1820 and 1850 and never replaced. Since no original records remained of this revolutionary innovation, researchers had to turn first to the plans the English had taken from the captured President , which included short diagonal riders of iron (a British variation on the original design due to the shortage in England of timber of suitable size). Close examination of the Constitution ’s hull once out of water revealed the pattern of where the original timbers had once been installed. Tests on a laboratory model proved their utility, and the Navy decided to reinstall them aboard the ship, where they have now successfully reversed the fourteen inches of hog that had developed in the vessel’s keel since her last major restoration sixty-five years ago.
As a result, plans were set in motion to put the ship under sail once again. This happened in July 1997 in Massachusetts Bay off Boston. Before then, the Constitution had last sailed in 1881.
CMDR. MICHAEL BECK, THE Constitution ’s sixty-fourth commanding officer, leads the way below from the vessel’s topside, down to the gun deck, then the berth deck, and finally the bilge. Here at a point about twelve feet below the water line he steps over a massive timber that rests atop the planks—one of the diagonal riders.
“This is the technological key that unlocked America’s access to the world,” he says.
At the vertex where two of the beams meet above the keel, he continues. “We went from an isolationist country composed of disparate states to an assertive union of people determined to take a leadership role in the world. Diagonal riders provided the technological breakthrough to achieve that. These ships enabled the United States to gain a reputation in the world as a power to be reckoned with. And that allowed American interests to eventually become global in scope.”
It is perhaps no coincidence that at the same time as Lewis and Clark were taking the American flag westward across the continent to reach the sea beyond, the Constitution and Capt. Edward Preble were carrying the American flag across the Atlantic to be seen on those continents beyond. In the same way that Lewis and Clark opened the frontier to the onslaught of American civilization, the Constitution and the other superfrigates of the early U.S. Navy opened the ports of the Old World to American commerce.
“It was manifest destiny to the east,” says Michael Beck. “A manifest destiny for world trade.”