Scarcely a generation had passed before the influence upon the country of the war of 1812 began to decline. The idea of complete isolation, and freedom from "entangling alliances" With, what we were pleased to call, the effete monarchies of Europe, took complete possession of the public mind; and war, that relic of a barbarous age, was regarded as impossible with such a remote, enlightened, prosperous and practical people as Americans.
Congress had little use for an army, and much less for a navy; and all plans looking to preparation for war were deemed chimerical. The navy was allowed to die out, practically, and the Navy Department wasted its energies in vain efforts to overcome the apathy or indifference of the legislative branch of the Government.
Our mercantile marine, extending to the most distant shores, whose sails whitened every sea, a source of national pride and of wealth, was already beginning to show signs of that decadence which, a generation later, led to its partial extinction; our carrying trade was gradually but surely passing to foreign bottoms; our naval prestige was on the wane: we were ceasing to be a maritime people.