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We had almost omitted to notice the Algerine war of 1815, which the author of “ The Travelling Bachelor,” calls“ episode" in our naval history. It cannot have escaped the recollection of any of our readers, that immediately after the ratification of the treaty of peace with Great Britain in 1815, war was declared against Algiers, and a squadron, consisting of three frigates and a few smaller vessels, was despatched to the Mediterranean under the command of Commodore Decatur. In less than thirty days from the time the American squadron sailed from New-York, a Turkish frigate and a brig had been captured, and their admiral killed; and in a few weeks Decatur returned to the United States, having concluded a satisfactory treaty with Algiers, and obtained redress for depredations committed by Tripoli and Tunis. What a contrast does the result of this expedition present, to the spectacle exhibited by the American Government on a former occasion, vainly negotiating for years to obtain the release of our captives, and the restoration of our ships!
From this period, the navy regularly progressed, until the year 1827, when the whole appropriation of eight millions of dollars was exhausted. The number of ships then built or building, was as follows, viz :
12 Ships of the Line,
Besides Schooners and Steam Batteries. It had now been ascertained, that during a period of profound peace, the protection of our commerce did not require the keeping in commission a greater number of vessels than one ship of the line, six frigates, ten sloops of war, and a few schooners.
The plan was therefore adopted, of finishing and keeping under cover (where experience has proved that ship timber can be preserved for any length of time) all the vessels thereafter to be built, ready to be launched and put into service at the shortest notice. It is much to be regretted that this plan had not been sooner adopted, as it would have kept in a state of perfect soundness, several of our vessels of the first class, wbich are now lying in ordinary, undergoing a process which will make it necessary in a few years to rebuild them entirely. In this state of things, the question came up before Congress during the session of 1827, what further measures ought to be adopted in relation to the naval establishment ? It is worthy of remark, that while the Government was, with indiscriminate zeal, appropriating millions to the building of ships, no proVOL. II.--N0. 4.
vision was made for dry-docks, rail-ways, or any of the auxiliaries of a naval establishment, which the experience of all maritime nations had proved to be indispensably necessary. These subjects, however, were now fully considered, and a bill was reported by the naval committee of the Senate, which proposed to appropriate five hundred thousand dollars per annum, for six years, to "the gradual improvement of the navy.” The objects designated in the bill were-1st. The laying up ship timber for future use. 2ly. The construction of dry-docks. 3ly. A marine rail-way. 4ly. The improvement of navy yards. 5ly. The establishment of a naval academy ;-all of which received the sanction of Congress and of the Executive, except the naval academy, which was lost in the House of Representatives. The views of the committee on the several matters embraced in this bill, are fully explained in the speech of their chairman, Mr. Hayne.
We subjoin several extracts from this speech, as the most recent exposition of the naval policy of the United States :
“In the regular progress of time and of events, the point to which the fathers of the naval policy, in the first instance looked, has been attained—that is to say, the creation of a navy, supposed by them to be adequate to the command of our coasts in time of war. The question now presents itself, shall we stop here?
“ No one can look at the map of the United States, without perceiving that the true defence of this country is pointed out by the finger of God. A navy will keep your enemies at the door, save the country from invasion, and your soil from being polluted by the foot of an enemy. As, in the progress of human affairs, wars must come, we ought to be so prepared for that event, as to shield our citizens from its horrors. Fortifications, standing armies and navies, are the usual means resorted to for this purpose. But the extent of our country forbids our resorting to the former, except at a few exposed points; large standing armies are not only immensely expensive, but are dangerous to liberty, and alien to the feelings and habits of our people. Our great reliance, therefore, in all emergencies, must be on the militia; but, to give them time to rally and buckle on their armour, to save a needless waste of blood and treasure, it is of the last importance to have the means of arresting your
very threshold, and of keeping your bays, inlets and cities, and all the great avenues leading into the country, effectually guarded against his approach. This is the appropriate duty of a navy. The public ships now owned by the United States, would employ, in time of war, upwards of twenty thousand men-men disciplined by their habits and pursuits in peace, for the service to which they would be applied in
The number of seamen in the merchant service of the United States, is not less than seventy or eighty thousand; and if you had ships in which to employ them, under experienced and skilful officers, I cannot doubt that they would add to the strength of the country at
enemy at the
least as much as an army of one hundred thousand regular troops. The ease with which a fleet can be removed from place to place—(they move, sir, " on the wings of the wind")—the rapidity of concentration on any given point-the aid which can be rendered by floating batteries in the defence of cities, and of troops on shore-all demonstrate that a navy is the appropriate defence of this country. That it is the cheapest, is manifest from the obvious consideration, that nearly the whole of the seamen that will man your fleets in time of war, are disciplined and maintained in peace without costing you a single cent; and, that their services can be commanded the very moment they are wanted. You possess, indeed, in these men, a regular force of the very best description, maintained almost without cost, and what is of equal importance, in no degree dangerous to liberty. Though standing armies have often overthrown the liberties of their country, navies have always been their defence. Our distance from Europe, gives, also, to our navy, a most decided advantage in carrying on a defensive warfare; and when to all this is added, the utility of a navy in the protection of our commerce in peace, as well as the facility it will afford us (when it shall be sufficiently matured) of carrying on offensive operations against an enemy on the ocean itself, I trust that nothing need be added on this topic.
“I proceed now to consider, in their order, the various objects to which this fund is to be applied.
“I have said sir, that it is not at present deemed necessary to increase the number of our vessels of war. These are not only adequate to the protection of our commerce in peace, but are as numerous as can be well preserved, in the situation in which they are placed. But, looking to the future, it is obvious that the time is at hand, when an additional number of ships will become necessary. In a country like ours, which doubles its population in twenty-five years, it is most manifest that, if we mean to keep up our establishments, and adapt them to the growth and condition of the country, we must be constantly progressing. To stop short in our course, is to retrograde. If we do not want new ships now, it will become necessary to build them in a very
But ships, to be valuable and permanent, and to be built with a due regard to economy, can only be constructed of seasoned timber. You must look far ahead, therefore, in order to lay the foundation of a navy, commensurate with the increasing population and resources of the United States, The live oak of the Southern States (beyond all comparison the best ship-timber in the world) derives all its durability from its being duly seasoned. It is a waste, without excuse, of this most precious material, to work it up in a green state; and, wherever this has been done, our ships have become liable to sudden decay, and there has been a certain loss, both of time and of money. Oak timber of any kind, but especially the live oak, may, with proper care, be preserved for an indefinite length of time.
“I come now to the dry docks, which form the next object of this bill. And here I must begin by saying, that it is not a little surprising that a country, possessing a navy of twelve ships of the line, and twenty frigates, should be without one of these necessary appendages of all na
vies; and, that with the experience of the rest of the world before our eyes, we should have gone on, for so many years, incurring the delay, risk, and expense, of heaving down our ships, when we possessed so many admirable positions for docks, and when the saving, in a single year, would have almost paid the expense of constructing them. It is estimated that the expense of heaving down a 74-gun ship, coming into port from a cruise, and putting even small repairs upon her, would not fall short of twenty thousand dollars. She would have to be unloaded, her
guns taken out, her spars and sails removed, a large number of men must be employed in the operation, and, when the work was done, she must be reloaded and equipped. Great delay would also necessarily take place from such an operation. For ordinary repairs, such a ship would be detained a month; and, at certain seasons of the year, it would not be considered safe to subject a vessel to the dangerous operation of heaving out. At all times, and under all circumstances, the vessel is greatly strained. Nor is this all-in the present condition of your navy yards, your vessels of war must be hove out, not only for repairs, but even for examination. It is not deemed safe to send vessels to sea which have been lying some time in port, nor after long cruises, without examination; and to do this, all the delay, expense, and risk, of heaving out must be encountered. In time of war, this would greatly impair the efficiency of the navy. Time, in all military operations, is of great importance to success; and promptness in preparation, and celerity in movement, have often gained battles that must otherwise have been lost. Now, with suitable dry docks, ships can be examined and discharged immediately, and repairs, when necessary, effected with the least possible delay and expense. I have the highest authority for stating the fact, that, not long since, a British frigate, with her provisions and entire armament on board, was run into a dry dock for examination, and sailed on her destination, during the same tide—thus saving all the expense, delay and risk, of an examination, according to our clumsy method of heaving out. The advantages derived from dry docks are so fully understood in Europe, that there is no naval power without a number of them. In England there are now sixteen, and three more building, and in France there are twelve, all of the most durable materials.
“ The Marine Railway.–From the best information the committee have been able to obtain, they are satisfied that railways are cheaper than docks, and that they may be used for the repair of sloops of war and other smaller vessels, but that there would be great risk in using them for frigates and ships of the line. This is the received opinion in Europe, and our most experienced officers concur in its correctness. no point of view, however, can railways supersede dry docks. It is only now proposed to erect a railway at a point (Pensacola) where it will certainly be useful, and where we will be able to test its practical value.
I come now to the interesting question of the Naval Academy.
“There is one other consideration, Mr. President, which presents the necessity of a Naval Academy, in this country, in such a point of
view that I am at a loss to conceive how it can be resisted. No nation can keep in actual service in time of peace, one-fourth of the vessels necessary to be employed in war. In time of peace, therefore, by far the greater part of our navy must be laid up in ordinary. But it is not only necessary to have the ships, but, what is of equal importance, you must have skilful and experienced officers to command them. Now how is this to be accomplished? The whole number of officers now in the navy would not be sufficient to command one half of the vessels we now possess. Of this fact we bave official information in the Report of the Secretary of the Navy, made to Congress two years ago, shewing the number of officers necessary for the command of our vessels on a war establishment. In Europe, provision is made for the requisite number of officers in war by employing a much larger number in peace than would be consistent with the settled policy and economical habits of the United States. What then are we to do? Without experienced and skilful naval officers ships are useless, and we cannot afford to employ in peace more than half the number that will be necessary in war.
I insist, sir, that a Naval Academy will afford us the means of surmounting this difficulty in an easy, safe and economical way. If nearly the whole number of your midshipmen were thoroughly educated men, and fit to be lieutenants, (which is notoriously not the case at present,) you could, in the event of a war, fill up che post captains from your master commandants, complete the list of masters from your lieutenants, and make as many of your midshipmen lieutenants as the service might require. You could then have remaining, perhaps, about one-half of the requisite number of well-instructed midshipmen, and no doubt can exist, that with this number, the deficiency might be safely supplied from the promising young men of the country. The present organization of the officers would admit of no such arrangement. The number of well-instructed men, among either the lieutenants or the midshipmen, are not, and never can be, sufficient to afford the means of filling up the higher grades. I have made a calculation on the subject, from which it appears that a moderate addition to the present number of midshipmen, with the aid of a naval school, would enable us to maintain in peace, and at a very reasonable expense, a number of officers sufficient to command all our vessels in time of war; and I do not perceive how this can be accomplished in any
It is understood, that under the bill “for the gradual improvement of the navy,” contracts have been made for the delivery of ship timber, chiefly live oak, to the value of near two millions of dollars, (including the frames of five ships of the line, five frigates, and five sloops of war)—that the foundation of two dry docks and a marine rail-way have been laid, (the former at Charlestown, Massachusetts, and Gosport, Virginia, and the latter at Pensacola,) and that plans have been adopted for extensive and permanent improvements at our several navy yards.