Governance is but government on land. The verity of this fact is so apparent that it chronically escapes our note: a nation’s sovereignty runs to her shallows only. Though her power be projected into the bosom of the sea, never does it there arise.
It was not the discovery of a new continent between Europe and Asia which demolished the medieval order and commenced the Modern Age. Rather, the monstrosity of our oceans, and corresponding impotence of human law over four-fifths of the globe, forced a new and unwelcome reappraisal of the limits of temporal power.
Iron ships have meantime in their multitude plowed every acre of ceruleum, yet left no single furrow dug for civilization’s tender root. Neither flag nor custom, regulation or constitution there does flower; no less than medicines, munitions, and meat they must be freighted at dock sufficient for the voyage or done without. Modernity’s grand enterprise, the global commonwealth, has triumphed all but in Earth’s largest kingdom, which surrounds it and divides it, and where pirate-savage, as much prince as outlaw, confounds the comity of lawful nations and extracts cruel tribute from their mercantile envoys.
Such is the tyranny of Neptune, that we remain so besieged at his frontier. Even on land, we suffer punishing hurricanes, tsunamis, tidal bores, and countless other affronts. Erosion eats at our coastal borders, destroying property and threatening livelihoods. And, as if all of these were not provocation enough, some scientific data suggests that the ocean level may be rising. How much more shall we tolerate?