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The ocean, which every-where furrounds the habitable earth, as well as the various arms of the sea which separate one region from another, though destined to facilitate the communication between distant countries, seem, at first view, to be formed to check the progress of man , and to mark the bounds of that portion of the globe to which nature had confined him. It was long, we may believe, before men attempted to pass these formidable barriers, and became so skilful and adventruous as to commit themselves to the mercy of the winds and waves, or to quit their native fhores in quest of remote and unknown regions.
Firit atempts towards navigation.
Navigation and ship-building are arts fo nice and complicated, that they require the inge. nuity, as well as experience, of many succeffive ages to bring them to any degree of perfection. From the raft or canoe, which firft served to carry a favage over the river that obstructed him in the chace, to the construction of a vessel capable of conveying numerous crew with safety to a diftant coast, the progress in improvement is immense. Many efforts would be made, many experiments would be tried, and much labour as wellas invention would be employed, before men could accomplish this arduous and important undertaking. The rude and
imperfeet frate in which navigation is ftill found ? among all nations which are not considerably
civilized, corresponds with the account of its - progress, and demonstrates that, in early ti
mes, the art was not so far improved as to e enable men to undertake distant voyages, or to
attempt remote discoveries.
Introduktion of commerce.
As soon, however, as the art of navigation became known, a new species of correspondence among men took place. It is from this æra, . that we must date the commencement of such an intercourse between nations as deserves the appellation of commerce. Men are, indeed, far advanced in iraprovement before commerce
becomes an object of great importance to them. 56 They must even have made fome considerable e progress towards civilization, before they acfquired the idea of property, and ascertain it fo per
fectly, as to be acquainted with the most simple of all contracts, that of excitanging by barter
one rude commodity for another. But as soon | as this important right is established, and every
individual feels that he has an exclusive title to poffefs or to alienate whatever he has acquired by his own labour and dexterity, the wants and ingenuity of his nature suggest to him a new method of increasing his acquisitions and enjoyments, by disposing of what is super
fluous in his own stores , in order to procure what is necessary or defiderable in those of other men. Thus a commercial intercourse begins, and is carried on among the membres of the same community. By degrees, they discover, that neighbouring tribes possess what they themselves want, and enjoy comforts of which they wish to partake. In the same mode, and upon the same principles, that domestic traffic is carried on within the society, an eternal commerce is established with other tribes or nations. Their mutual interest and mutual wants render this intercourse desirable, and imperceptibly introduce the maxime and laws which facilitate its progress and render it secure. But no very extenfive commerce can take place between contiguous provinces, whose foil and climate being nearly the same, yield similar productions. Remote countries cannot convey their commodities • by land , to those places , where on account of their rarity they are desired , and become valuable. It is no navigation that men are indebted for the power of transporting the superfluous stock of one part of the earth , to supply the wants of another. The luxuries and blessings of a particular climate are no longer confined to itself alone, but the enjoyment of them is communicated to the most diftant regions.
In proportion as the knowledge of the ada vantages derived from navigation and commerce continued to spread, the intercourse among nations extended. The ambition of conquest, or the necessity of procuring new settlements, were no longer the fole motives of visiting distant lands. The desire of gain became a new incentive to activity, roused adventurers, and sent them forth upon long voyages, in search of countries, whose products or wants might increase that circulation, which nourishes and gives viguur to commerce. Trade proyed a great source of discovery , it opened unknown seas , it penetrated into new regions , and contributed more than any other caufe, to bring men acquainted with the situation, the nature and commodities of the different parts of the globe.
But even after a regular commerce was establiEshed in the world, after nations were conside
rably civilized , and the sciences and arts were
cultivated with ardour and success, navigation t continued to be fo imperfect , that it can hardly I be said to have advanced beyond the infancy of
its improvement in the ancient world.
Imperfe&ion of navigation among the ancients.
Among all the nations of antiquity the stru. cture of their vessels was extremely rude, and their method of working them very defective, They were unacquainted with some of the great principles and operations in navigation , which are now considered as the first elements on which that science is founded. Though that property of the magnet, by which it attracts of the magnet, by which it attracts iron, was well known to the ancients, its more important and amazing virtue of pointing to the poles had entirely escaped their observation. Deftitute of this faithful guide, which now conducts the pilot with so much certainty in the unbounded ocean, during the darkness of night, and when the heavens are covered with clouds,the ancients had no other method of regulating their course than by observing the sun and stars. Their navigation was of consequence uncertain and timid. They durst seldom quit fight of land, but crept along the coast, exposed to all the dangers, and retarded by all the obstructions, unavoidable in holding such an aukward course. An incredible lenght of time was requisite for performing voyages, which are now finished in a short space. Even in the mildest climates, and in seas the least tempestuons, it was only during the summer months that the ancients ventured out of their harbours. The remainder of the year was loft in inactivity. It would have been deemed moft inconsiderate rashness to have braved the fury of the winds and waves during winter a).