ship of state

a nation or its affairs likened to a ship under sail.

1665–75 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

ship of state

The nation, as in We can't help but wonder who will be steering our ship of state a hundred years from now. This metaphoric expression was first recorded in English in a translation of Niccolò Machiavelli's The Prince (1675).

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
And so, the ship of state sinks while the members of the band argue over what
  music should be played.
More to the point, he seems determined to scuttle the ship of state rather than
  hand it over to the rebels.
They steer their own ship of state, and in doing so, they pray for wisdom.
From the round top of your ship of state, dark and threatening clouds may be
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