Yes. The recent commercial progress of Germany, Argentina, and Japan, shows the growing recognition by civilized and enterprising countries of the benefits of foreign trade, and of the facilities for attaining it which are now given by the advent of large, swift, modern steamers; steamers which are becoming larger and swifter and safer every year, more and more adapted for ocean trade. For not only have the writings of Mahan brought about an increase in the sea power of every great country; but this increase has so aroused the attention of the engineering professions that the improvement of ships, engines, and other sea material has gone ahead faster than all the other engineering arts.
The reason why the engineering arts that are connected with the sea have gone ahead more rapidly than any other arts is simply that they are given wider opportunity and a greater scope. It is inherent in the very nature of things that it is easier to transport things by water than by land; that water transportation lends itself in a higher degree to the exercise of engineering skill, to the attainment of great results.
The underlying reason for this difference seems to be that it is not possible to make any vehicle to travel on land appreciably larger than the present automobile, unless it run on rails; whereas the floating power of water is such that vehicles can be made, and are made, as large as 65,000 tons. The Mauretania, of 45,000 tons displacement, has been running for eight years, larger vessels are even now running and vessels larger still will undoubtedly be run; for the larger the ships, the less they cost per ton of carrying power, the faster they go, and the safer they are.
Sea commerce thus gives to engineers, scientists, and inventors, as well as to commercial men, that gift of the gods—opportunity. The number of ships that now traverse the ocean and the larger bodies of water communicating with it aggregate millions of tons, and their number and individual tonnage are constantly increasing. These vessels cruise among all the important seaports of the world, and form a system of intercommunication almost as complete as the system of railroads in the United States. They bring distant ports of the world very close together, and make possible that ready interchange of material products, and that facility of personal intercourse which it is one of the aims of civilization to bring about. From a commercial point of view, London is nearer to New York than San Francisco, and more intimately allied with her.
The evident result of all this is to make the people of the world one large community, in which, though many nationalities are numbered, many tongues are spoken, many degrees of civilization and wealth are found, yet, of all, the main instincts are the same: the same passions, the same appetites, the same desire for personal advantage.