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power of congress to establish a national academy, mingled with acknowledgments of its imperious necessity, until 1794, when an act was passed, according to its title, “ sor raising and organizing a corps of artillerists and engineers," and directing the secretary of war to provide," at the public expense, the necessary books, instruments, and apparatus, for the use and benefit of the said corps." This is the germ from which the institution, a few years after, sprung into existence. By thus tracing it back to its source, its natural and legitimate origin, purpose, and its consequent utility, in comparison with similar schools of other nations, are easily understood. The whole subject is made manifest by the speech or annual message of President Washington to congress, of December 7, 1796, and the address of the senate to him, of December 12, 1796.3 President Washington says:-
" The institution of a military academy is also recommended by cogent reasons. However pacific the general policy of a nation may be, it ought never to be without an adequate stock of military knowledge for emergencies. The first would impair the energy of its character, and both would hazard its safety, or expose it to greater evils when war could not be avoided."
And the senate reply : "A military academy may be likewise rendered equally important. To aid and direct the physical force of the nation, by cherishing a military spirit, enforcing a proper sense of discipline, and inculcating a scientitic system of tactics, is consonant to the soundest maxims of public policy. Connected with, and supported by, such an establishment, a well regulated militia, constituting the natural defence of the country, would prove the most effectual, as well as economical, preservative of peace."
We have thus referred to the principles which were the precursors of the establishment of the military academy, with a view to enable us presently to understand with facility, and more effectually to combat and confute, the objections which are now occasionally urged against it. To this end, a brief review of the progressive history of the school, and of the reasons and causes which led to successive legislation in its favour, will not be found unattractive. In 1798," an act supplementary to that of 1794 was passed, providing for an additional regiment of artillerists and engineers, but with no further provision to that already made for instruction. The secretary of war, in a letter, dated June 28th, 1798, to the chairman of the cominittee of defence, exposes the evils of the existing state of things in the following language :
· Acı May 9, 1794, ch. 24. 2 For. Rel. vol. 3, p. 31. 33 For. Rel. 32.
* Act of 27th April, 1798, ch. 50. s Am. State Papers, vol. i. Military Affairs, 128, ed. 1832.
“The secretary, without designing to derogate from the merits of the officers appointed io the corps established by the acts cited, feels it bis duty to suggest that other and supplementary means of instruction to the books and instruments to be provided, appear to be absolutely indispensable to enable them to acquire a due degree of knowledge in the objects of their corps. It is certain that the best faculties and inclinations for the arts and sciences cannot be unfolded and applied to useful purposes, when proper encouragement and assistance have been denied or neglected. The knowledge of certain arts and sciences is absolutely necessary to the artillerist and engineer; such are arithmetic, geometry, mechanics, hydraulics, and designing."
In 1800,' the secretary of war, Mr. McHenry, submitted to congress, through President Adams, a plan for the regular establishment of an academy, of which the latter spoke in his message as "containing matters in which the honour and safety of the nation are deeply involved.” We cannot refrain from making the following extracts from the communications of the secretary during that year, as they evince that those who may be considered as having been the immediate fathers of the institution, looked upon it as a provision for an auriliary or aid to the militia defence of the country. It will be our business, hereafter, to see if the principle of its foundation has been departed from in practice. In submitting the plan, the secretary says :
"Since, however, it seems to be agreed, that we are not to keep on foot numerous forces-and it would be impossible, on a sudden, to extend, to every essential point, our fortifications-military science, in its various branches, ought to be cultivated with peculiar care, in proper nurseries; so that a sufficient stock may always exist, ready to be imparted and diffused to any extent, and a competent number of persons be prepared and qualified to act as engineers, and others as instructers, to additional troops, which events may successively require to be raised. This will be to substitute the elements of an army to the thing itself, and will greatly tend to enable the government to dispense with a large body of standing forces from the facility which it will give of procuring officers, and forming soldiers promptly in all emergencies. To avoid great evils, we must either have a respectable force always ready for service, or the means of preparing such a force with certainty and expedition. The latter, as most agreeable to the genius of our government and nation, is the subject of the following propositions."
Again, the secretary, in another communication, urges :--
“Practically considered, may we not as well calculate to be commodiously lodged, and have the science of building improved, by employing every man in the community in the construction of houses, and by exploding from society, as useless, architects, masons, and carpenters, as expect to be defended efficiently from an invading army, by causing every citizen to endeavour to make himself master of the several branches of the art of war, and excluding engineers, scientific officers, and regular troops.
1 Jan. 14, 1800, Am. St. Papers.
2 Jan. 31, 1800, Am. St. Papers.
“The art of war, which gives to a small force the faculty to combat, with advantage, superior numbers in differently instructed, is subjected to mechanical, geometrical, moral, and physical rules; it calls for profound study ; its theory is immense; its details infinite; and its principles rendered useful only by a happy adaptation of them to all the circumstances of place and ground, variously combined, to which they may be applicable. Is it possible for an officer of militia to obtain a competent knowledge of these things in the short space his usual avocations will permit him to devote to their acquisition ?”
The plan recommended by the secretary was not adopted without amendment. He recommended five schools, viz: the fundamental, of engineers and artillerists, of cavalry and infantry, and of the navy. His reasons were, “that the entire union of the officers, artillerists, and engineers, in one corps, is not advisable. The art of fortification, and the service of artillery, though touching each other in many points, are, in the main, distinct branches, and each so comprehensive that their separation is essential to perfection in either. This has been ascertained by long experience. Such a union was once attempted in France : according to an ordinance of the 8th December, 1755, the artillery and engineer corps of that nation, which had been separate, were combined into one. riment was, however, of short duration. In 1758, the engincer corps was disjoined from the corps of artillery, and called, as before, the corps of engineers; since which time these corps have remained separate."
Two years elapsed before congress acted finally on the subject, and, in their eventual legislation on the recommendation, we think time and experience have demonstrated that they did wisely in disapproving of the plan of the secretary just stated, by refusing to provide separate schools for the different branches enumerated by him.
The veteran Baron Steuben, inspector general of the army, in a letter to the inhabitants of the United States, said, in reference to the establishment of a militia :
“Upon a review of all the military of Europe, there does not appear to be a single form which could be safely adopted by the United States. They are unexceptionably different from each other; and, like all other human institutions, seem to have started as much out of accident as design. The local situation of the country, the spirit of the government, the character of the nation, and, in many instances, the character of the prince, have all had their influence in seitling the foundation and discipline of their respective troops, and render it impossible that we should take either as a model."
But especially in reference to a military school for the United States, a few considerations strike us as demonstrative of the sound policy which designated the plan adopted. The nation has a very small standing army, and the nuinber of officers is
in proportion. Yet the country has an immense seaboard, northern, southern, and inland frontier, where hostilities must first, if they ever will, ensue. Immense fortifications have been, and are yet to be, erected, as occasion may demand, scattered over an extensive space of territory. The charge of any one of those already constructed, and the design of any one of those yet to be formed, may fall to the lot of any officer of the army. That army being exceedingly small, he can never rely on a permanent, distinct, and separate command or service. At one time his station may be at a seacoast garrison, where the art of gunnery may claim his especial skill; a few months after, he may be traversing, with a detachment, the western wilderness, and building temporary forts or bridges. To say nothing of the duty which may be required of him by the government, in the survey of coasts, harbours, and rivers, and the construction of all the artificial aids to commerce, such as breakwaters, lighthouses, and roads, but in reference to field military service strictly, he is liable, at any time, to be called on to fill the station either of an engineer, artillery, infantry, or cavalry officer. The fact is before our eyes, when we see a portion of the marine corps actually serving in the south a protracted and arduous campaign against a single Indian tribe, whose perseverance and hatred for a long time have baffled the best military dispositions in the power of the war department. What then is the species of knowledge that each officer should possess under such circumstances ? Should it not be as various as the positions in which he may be placed ? Should he be merely perfect in one branch, and ignorant of all the others? If the latter, the greater evils, which consist in the expense and risk of a larger standing army, are incurred, and officers of less valuable theoretic and practical intelligence will be found in command. For these reasons, we think that the plan of instruction as finally adopted for the academy (as distinguished from Secretary McHenry's), was the best suited to our circumstances as a nation.
By the act of the 16th of March, 1802', the Military Academy of the United States obtained life and being, on a diminutive scale it is true, but sufficiently large to enable the experiment to be tried. By that act, the president was authorized to organize a corps of engineers, to consist of one principal, or superintendent, six assistant engineers, and ten cadets, and to make certain promotions with a view to merit, but without regard to rank. It was provided that the corps should be stationed at West Point, on the Hudson river, the military post of the revolution-famous in our history as being the object of
I Ch. 9.
the Arnold and Andre conspiracy-of which the United States had become the owner by purchase in 1790,' it having been merely occupied, by force of the martial law, during the war of independence. The corps was further rendered liable to be called into actual service, and the whole course of instruction and police was placed under the supervision of the secretary of war, but subject to the direction of the president. By act of 1803,' provision was made for the appointment of teachers of French and drawing, artificers, and eighteen men to aid in making practical experiments.
These are all the important details which illustrate the ori. ginal foundation of the institution. It first came under the superintendence of General Jonathan Williams of the engineer corps, whose known ability and zeal had been for a long time engaged in urging the legal institution of a national school. This officer had, at an early period, insisted on the value to the country of skilful officers, and the fate of a son who was educated at the academy, during the time of his superintendence, is a melancholy but striking instance that its graduates have been distinguished on the battle field. That son graduated in 1810, in 1813 attained the rank of captain of artillery, and, in 1814, was killed in the tremendous assault by the British on Fort Erie in Upper Canada, dying, as he had lived, a gallant and accomplished soldier--in hiinself an illustration of the excellent tendency of the institution for whose welfare his father had so ardently struggled.
No further change took place till 1808. President Jefferson, in a message to congress, then said :
“ The scale on which the military academy at West Point was originally established, is become too limited to furnish the number of well instructed subjects in the different branches of artillery and engineering which the public service calls for. The want of such characters is already sensibly felt, and will be increased with the enlargement of our plans of military preparation. The chief engineer having been instructed io consider the subject, and to propose an augmentation which might render the establishment commensurate with the present circumstances of our country, has made the report wbicb I now transmit for the consideration of congress.”
An act was passed on the 12th of April of the same year, adding one hundred and fifty-six cadets to the army, distributing them among its different corps. But the greatest and most effective change in the institution took place in 1812. President Madison doubtless saw the speck of war in the political horizon, growing out of the acts of the British government. In his annual messages of 1810 and 1811, he recommended the academy to the fostering care of congress. In the first, his lan
" Act of July 5, 1790, ch. 53.
2 Act of February 28, 1803, ch. 66.