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Bill Thayer

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The Atlantic System
Forrest Davis

The Author and the Book

Forrest Davis was a well-known and politically influential journalist long associated with the Saturday Evening Post. Although he was a conservative, becoming even more prominently so after the war, at the time this book was written he was often a mouthpiece for the Roosevelt Administration, to the point of being invited to stay the weekend at the White House at least once; and in 1942, the year after the book I transcribe here, he would publish, with Ernest K. Lindley, Now War Came: An American White Paper, which exonerated President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull from any blame in Pearl Harbor. During the war, he was chief Washington correspondent for Newsweek.

The Atlantic System, published about a month before Pearl Harbor, takes as its foundation Mahan's view of seapower and its role in world history, and goes on from there to analyze American and British naval and foreign policy, public opinion, and more generally geopolitical conditions, in the period from the War Between the States to the beginning of the Second World War in terms of a growing Anglo-American entente for the control of the seas. The later chapters of the book go beyond mere analysis, and read as a brief for, and a prediction of, a new Anglo-American world order.

Among Davis's many acute and even sometimes prescient observations, his view of the long tradition of home-grown American defeatism and its partisans of appeasement is particularly arresting, and as a result his book remains very relevant in the early twenty-first century: Chapter 9 in particular would require few changes to be written today about those who, unwittingly or sometimes otherwise, would have America and the West essentially truckle under to the enemies of Anglo-Saxon democracy.


America Returns to the Sea:
The Prophet Mahan


The Last Quarrel


Atlantic Concert:
"Our Natural Ally"


England Quits the American Seas:
Concert in Samoa


"A Great Part":
Intimations of a Pacific System


Fortifying the Atlantic System


The First Battle of the Atlantic


Partnership on the Seven Seas:
The Long Truce


"Atlantic Charter":
Toward a Liberal World Order


Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition followed in this transcription was that of my own copy, © Forrest Davis 1941. That copyright was not renewed in 1968 or 1969 as then required by law in order to be maintained. The work is thus in the public domain; details here on the copyright law involved.

For citation and indexing purposes, the pagination is shown in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line); p57  these are also local anchors. Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise which I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

My transcription has been minutely proofread. In the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe the text of them to be completely errorfree. As elsewhere onsite, the header bar at the top of each chapter's webpage will remind you with the same color scheme.

The printed book was well proofread, with few typographical errors. I marked my corrections, when important (or unavoidable because inside a link), with a bullet like this;º and when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read the variant. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles.

A number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have a copy of the printed book in front of you.

[image ALT: A photograph of the fore part of a mid‑20c warship, taken from amidships. The deck is crowded with a serried and orderly assembly of men in naval uniforms, maybe a thousand men in all. Four long parallel guns, pointing forward, divide the foreground of the photo Some of the center of the deck is cleared, and a ceremony is in progress near the bow of the ship; beyond which the sea. It is a photo of the worship service on H. M. S. Prince of Wales, attended by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill as part of their meetings off Newfoundland in August, 1941. On this site, it serves as the icon for Forrest Davis' book 'The Atlantic System'.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite — an unillustrated book — is the famous photograph of the worship service on H. M. S. Prince of Wales, attended by President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill as part of their meetings off Newfoundland in August, 1941, that led to the Atlantic Charter between their two countries.

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Site updated: 25 Oct 14