The events which precede and follow the outbreak of war progress too quickly to allow time for general or special reconnaissance of the theatre of operations, either at home or abroad. Hence this work which took place formerly in time of war should be made now, in time of peace.
This is particularly the case with naval warfare, for to the existence of men and vessels in reserve, and the powers of rapid assemblage, are added enhanced qualities of speed and sea endurance. These qualities give to naval operations such possibility of quickness and vigor in execution and increased length of reach, that the time permitted for preparation for defense is correspondingly shortened. Besides, measures taken upon the eve of war—a time of emergency and excitement—will naturally be imperfect, ill-digested and extravagant.
The sudden nature of war is historical. During a period of one hundred and seventy-one years, from 1700 to 1870, one hundred and seventeen cases of hostilities have occurred in the civilized world; one hundred and seven of which have been commenced by European subjects, or citizens of the United States, without due declaration of war.