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18 AMERICAN SEA SONGS.
ship fights by American ships of the same grade, and that in contests between vessels of smaller size, like the Wasp and the Frolic, the Hornet and the Peacock, Yankee pluck and seamanship had been equally successful; and British naval historians, then and since, have been earnest in showing that the victories were due to superior weight of metal, to the presence of deserters from the British navy on board the American ships, and to the accidents of naval warfare. Nevertheless, the facts of the captures remained the same, and privateers ravaged the seas, plundering and burning English ships, and causing the most bitter annoyance as well as incalculable loss and damage. To the vindictive depreciation and abuse of the English writers the Americans were not slow to respond, with a joyous outburst of national pride and exultation, and a mighty flapping of the wings of the American eagle; and the poets and song-writers joined in the shrill cock-a-doodle-doo of victory. The country was a great deal more boastful and self-assertive than it has been since it has come to rely on its own strength and has known the achievement of the great and sobering task of the civil war. The spirit of the spread eagle pervaded our national literature ; the poets burst into songs, — generally, it must be admitted, very bad, — in which they celebrated the naval victories of the day. They in-