Some Necessary Questions of the Play: A Stage-centered Analysis of Shakespeare's Hamlet
In "For the Purposes of Defense," historian Gene A. Smith examines the politics and ideology of the fleet of small shallow-draft vessels commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson that dominated the United States Navy during the first two decades of the nineteenth century. Designed to maneuver and fight in coastal waters, the vessels had limited ability on the open seas. They were considered defensive rather than offensive craft and have become the focus of the white-water (coastal) - blue-water (seagoing) controversy as well as the navalist-antinavalist debate of the period. When examining the fleet, scholars have charged that Jefferson opposed the navy. He did not, although his most famous quote refers to "the ruinous folly of a navy." Instead, Jefferson was an economy-minded, astute politician who viewed the gunboats as part of a political-military policy rather than a naval program in itself. Gunboats were an economic and political alternative to the exorbitant costs of a blue-water navy. Their perceived initial costs would be small, and when not in use they could be hauled up and protected under cover, eliminating costly maintenance. Staffing them by a naval militia would further lessen their costs. Additionally, they were a defensive weapon that provided few opportunities for incidents at sea that might provoke war. They were also useful in revenue enforcement, suppressing piracy along the coastal frontier, checking the illegal slave trade and smuggling, as well as other nontraditional uses. Moreover, gunboat construction provided a unique political opportunity for the Jefferson administration. Gunboats could be built throughout the country, allowing the distribution of contracts beyond the regular centers of naval activity and to those areas supporting Republican politics.
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