Слике страница
PDF
ePub

made the duty of all public officers in the above named States and Territory, connected with the customs and the land offices, to keep a vigilant eye on the security of our live oak, and to prosecute persons known to be guilty of gross neglect, or wanton wrong, to the damage of this species of public property. These provisions, added to the present laws, and coupled with the prompt reservation of the lands on which valuable growths of timber exist, as fast as the country is surveyed where they exist, will constitute, in my opinion, “the best means of preserving the navy timber growing on the public lands."

3d. The last section of the resolution requests the Secretary of the Navy, "if he deem it necessary, that he lay before the House a plan or system, which he may think best calculated to secure to the nation an adequate supply of this material, either by cultivation or purchase of lands now containing such supply."

The select committee on live oak, appointed the last session, made a similar request, and extended it to some other particulars bearing on this subject, and which request, so far as not then answered, I will endeavor to comply with in the course of my remarks under this branch of the present inquiry.

The diversity of views, and the conflicting interests, known to be connected with any course which the Government might be advised to pursue hereafter on this portion of the resolution, will undoubtedly expose all opinions, recommending any particular course, to some severity of criticism, and might, in the present unfinished state of the examinations by our agents, have furnished me with a sufficient apology for not expressing, at this time, any decided sentiments on so controverted a topic. But believing that some of the difficulties hitherto existing, arose from defective information, which the recent examinations by the agents, far as completed, and the collection of certain material facts accessible to the department, would tend to remove; and that it might be considered as avoiding responsibility and labor not to comply with the apparent wishes of the House of Representatives fully as practicable; I have not hesitated to present, under this head, so far as my exertions could extend, every fact and estimate that appeared pertinent to the inquiry, and likely to be useful in the future deliberations and legislation of Congress on this important portion of the resolution.

In only a few of the computations which may be offered, do I profess to have attained perfect accuracy; but, in all of them, there has been attempted the nearest approximation to it which the defective materials before me, and the uncertain nature of the subject, permitted. I entertain no doubt that those who are acquainted with the inherent difficulties attending this inquiry, and the contradictory opinions generally prevalent on this part of the subject, will exercise the liberality duly to appreciate my motives, and to make suitable allowances for any unintentional errors.

In order to decide judiciously on a proper “plan or system,” in future, either for purchasing more lands, now covered with a valuable growth of live oak, or for cultivating artificially this kind of tree on any lands, and in any particular method, it will be necessary, first, to ascertain our probable demands, in future, for that species of timber, and, afterwards, our means of obtaining a sufficient supply of it to meet those demands, either from mate. rials now on hand, or by contracts from private lands, or from the public domain in its present condition.

The frames of our public vessels are the only parts of them usually constructed of live oak timber, and the computations will therefore be confined to a supply for the frames.

[ocr errors]

Upon the hypothesis that our force in commission will, for some years, be continued at about its present size, and on the propriety of which hypothesis some remarks may hereafter be offered, it will be indispensable to provide annually a small quantity of live oak timber for ordinary repairs, and another quantity, somewhat larger, to take the places of such vessels as may be lost by accident, wars, and great natural decay. I have turned my altention, first, to the quantities deemed indispensable, and have considered those for the objects just named as the only ones strictly indispensable: because the further quantity needed for the vessels which sound policy may require us to keep in ordinary, and on the stocks, or the quantity in live oak timber which the same policy may require us to place in depot, to aid in enabling us to increase, at any time, our force in commission, so as to meet any future emergencies of the country, is rather a matter of public expediency than of indispensable necessity. It will depend on arguments as to the proper size of our naval establishment, and the proper extent of our col. lection of naval materials to meet future contiagencies, and about which opinions may somewhat differ, and which will soon be examined, rather than on an immediate, obvious, and indispensable want, about which little diversity of sentiment can prevail.

The first indispensable quantity, which is that for small annual repairs of the live oak frames of our vessels kept in comniission, will probably noi much exceed 1,700 feet per year, or about one per cent. on the whole quae tity of these frames.

Though this amount may appear small, it will undoubtedly be found am ple for the object, when we advert to the kind of repairs here specified; * the durability of the timber used in the frames to be repaired; to the unexposed parts of the vessel in which it is used; and to the favorable result of our experience on this subject, which will hereafter be detailed.

The next indispensable quantity, which is that wanted to take the place of what live oak in frames may be lost while in commission by great decay, by fire, shipwreck, and war, will probably not exceed 8,500 cubic fet per year. This last computation is founded on the estimate, that, in the ordinary course of events, it will become necessary from great decays, from disasters, either virtually, by large repairs, or actually, by either it building, or by the substitution of other vessels already built, to replace a our force of live oak vessels now in commission during the lapse of 2 next fifth of a century.

This force consists of four frigates, nine sloops, and seven schooners, the frames of which, except of one schooner, are in part, or altogether, as posed of live oak. At the rate of computation, before suggested as cores, those of live oak contain about 165,480 cubic feet, and 1-20th of that 8,274 feet, or about five per cent on the whole quantity at present in av mission. [H, 2.] This augmented to eight thousand five hundred feet, the seventeen hundred estimated for small repairs, will together amout over six per cent. on the frames actually in service, as the quantity bet computed necessary to maintain them entire. Without at this time offers any thing more on the basis of these calculations, but the general com ness of which will be illustrated in the course of this report, it may be that these two estimates will require to be provided for small repairs, wad for replacing losses from all causes, in our live oak vessels in commis bout 10,200 cubic feet annually, or at the average rate per year of a fh ity more than sufficient for one new sloop, or each two years about exaca

[ocr errors]

for a frigate of the first class, or each three years almost enough for a ship of the line.

In regard to the procurement of these indispensable supplies, the first quantity for annual repairs, considering the use for which it is wanted, must be obtained in detached pieces; and, as we now have on hand 75,000 feet of live oak purchased for repairs, (E.) and of which over 50,000 is intended for ordinary ones, it could for twenty or thirty years be furnished from that source, and afterwards, if necessary, from timber in depot,

The second quantity could mostly, and to great advantage, be obtained for many years, by substituting our vessels now in ordinary, whenever they are of the size wanted. The frames of such of them as were built of live oak, contain about 322,633 cubic feet, being an amount, nominally, sufficient to replace more than twice the loss of our whole force in commission. The frames of the Macedonian, Hudson, and Cyane, and two-thirds of that of the Guerriere, are excluded from this computation, as not being of live oak; and other large deductions should undoubtedly be made from the extent of this source of supply, in consequence of the advanced age of a number of the live oak vessels in ordinary, and the future decay to which they are all liable while remaining in ordinary.

Besides this source of supply to replace those in commission, we have vessels on the stocks which contain in their frames about 354,000 cubic feet, and constitute a sure and more durable resort when necessary, than those in ordinary.

These vessels, now on the stocks, are sheltered from injury by the weather; are not decayed by either wet or dry rot; are little exposed to future damage except by fire; and, until launched, bid fair to continue sound, at least in their frames, for some generations.

Again: beyond both of those resources to replace lost and decayed vessels now in commission, are the live oak frames in deposite at the different yards, and to which, in case of necessity, a resort might be had. These contain over 431,845 cubic feet of timber, or nearly thrice the quantity now in commission; and they will probably remain not essentially injureil for centuries, if receiving proper attention, and if, in the meantime, they are not wanted for public purposes.

These general remarks and estimates are presented merely with a view to furnish some aid in forming a just opinion on the true extent and character of our resources on hand in live oak timber, and on their sufficiency, if required, to meet, for a time, our indispensable wants of that kind of timber.

But it is by no means recommended 10 place entire reliance even for our indispensable wants, or any large portion of them, upon the resources just eoumerated.

On the contrary, some further remarks and estimates will now be presented, with a design to throw additional light on the extent of our resources in live oak timber, whether growing or cut, and in various shapes now on hand, and whether growing on public or private lands, but yet suitable and available to meet all such demands for that kind of timber as may be required in this country, no less by a future sound policy on naval subjects han by our indispensable wants."

In this inquiry, it is desirable first to ascertain, near as may be, what has een the extent of all our former demands in the navy for live oak timber; nd then to estimate, from that extent and other considerations, what those emands will probably be hereafter. It will next become proper to ascertain whence and how the supply for those former demands has been obtained; and then, from that result and other information bearing on the subject, to estimate whence and how the supply for our future demands is to be obtained.

All our purchases and use of live oak timber heretofore for annual repairs, all our purchases and use of the same kind of timber for the immediate building of vessels, and all our purchases and deposites still remaining for the future gradual improvement of our navy, cannot be ascertained with accuracy; but, probably, can be computed so nearly to the truth, as to furnish ma'terial aid in forming an opinion on the whole extent of all our demands, both hitherto and hereafter, for live oak timber.

It is gathered from our records and other sources, that our former purchases of live oak timber for all kinds of repairs of all vessels afloat, have probably been about 168,000 cubic feet.

The basis of this and most of my other material calculations will be given, in order that any errors may be detected, and, in the final result, all due corrections and allowances be made, not only on account of arithmetical mistakes, but diversities of opinion on any of the important data entering into the elements of those calculations.

Our purchases of live oak timber for all kinds of repairs during the last ten years, have been 75,000 feet: previous to that, our records on this subject are defective, and the amount is to be estimated. As the above 75,000 feet included 10,000 feet for the rebuilding of one live oak vessel, and 57,000 for the repair and rebuilding of other vessels not before constructed of live oak, and as similar occurrences are not known to have happened before, I have computed the purchases during the previous ten years at only two-thirds as much, or 50,000 feet, and during the fifteen years still previous, when our vessels were fewer and newer, at the rate of only one-half as much as in the succeeding ten years, or 37,500 feet, making in all, with an addition of about four per cent. for errors, the above amount of 168,000 cubic feet. The portion of this whole quantity which has been actually used for small ordinary repairs of our live oak vessels is not readily to be ascertained, but it is a very important inquiry, with a view to estimating accurately as possible what may be the extent of our annual demands hereafter for that species of repairs.

The amount we have actually used for that purpose has, according to my estimate, been only about 33,000 feet. The basis of this estimate is, that for all kinds of repairs during the last ten years to the frames of our vessels, it cannot be ascertained that we have used over 54,000 feet of live oak timber. (F.) Our record shows that 42,000 of that has been used in other repairs than small and ordinary ones, to the live oak frames of vessels, and, consequently, leave only 12,000 feet, or an average 1,200 per year, as the probable amount consumed in this last description of repairs. Computing these last, during the ten previous years, to have been equally large, as that time included a period of war, and during the first fifteen years of our more limited establishment, to have been at the rate of only half as large, and the result would be as above stated, but 33,000 feet actually used hitherto for the small repairs of the live oak frames of all our vessels.

The correctness of this result is strengthened by the circumstance that, of the whole amount of 168,000 feet purchased for repairs, we are able to certain that about 57,000 have been used, and are now using, to repair and rebuild frames, before constructed of other than live oak timber; and about

20,000 have been used to repair largely, and to rebuild vessels before constructed of live oak. We have now on hand, for the purpose of ordinary repairs, about 50,000, and these three items, with the 33,000 feet before estimated as used for small repairs, would absorb the whole purchases except 8000 feet. It is known, that some of this 8000 feet has been used in the ordnance service during the late war, and that some has been occasionally diverted to still other public purposes, and all of which, with the casualties of over a fourth of a century, would probably equal the whole balance.

Though this estimate makes the actual use of timber for the small repairs of our live oak vessels during the last thirty-five years, to have been, on an average, less than 1000 feet annually, and during the last ten years, only 1,200 feet annually, yet our future demand for that purpose must be computed much higher. A number of the live oak vessels afloat are very old; most of them have been launched over ten years. The whole repairs in them must become larger, and a plain line between “small” and “ middling" repairs in such vessels, cannot always be drawn with much accuracy.

Under these circumstances, coupled with a due allowance for errors in our result as to the past, I think that 3,400 feet annually will be a proper and a liberal estimate for our future demands of live oak for the purpose

of small ordinary repairs. This is an aggregate of about one per cent. on our force in commission, and of about one-half of one per cent. on that in ordinary; or, on an average, nearly three-fourths of one per cent. on the whole force afloat. Our navy board consider two per cent., on what is afloat, as a fair estimate of this species of timber annually wanted for all kinds of repairs. (F.)

Deeming this to be correct, the portion of it I have computed to be chargeable to small ordinary repairs hereafter, is much greater than my estimate before made is of our actual past use for this kind of repairs out of the whole.

As further evidence that I have thus computed enough for this kind of repairs, it will be observed, that the proportion for small repairs out of the whole would, in fact, be somewhat greater for the past than the future, as the farge repairs in the frames of our live oak vessels heretofore, have, in only one case, been known to exceed fifty per cent. on their original cost, while, as our vessels grow older, the larger repairs must be more frequent, and constitute a larger proportion of the whole.

Much light cannot be thrown on this subject by the yearly appropriations for all our repairs as compared with the computed original cost of our vessels. Those appropriations have been for some years over eight per cent. on that cost. (G.) But this has included rot only repairs of the vessels, but of their equipments, and of other parts of less durable timber, as well as of the frames, and large as well as small repairs, and the labor in making all these repairs. In fact, it presents not far from the amount in money deemed necessary not merely to repair the frames, but to maintain entire the materials of every kind in our whole force afloat. It happens also that very little pertinent information on this point can be derived from foreign services. The French estimate that their vessels will require to be slightly repaired in four years, thoroughly in eight, and virtually, if not nominally, rebuilt in eleven years.

The British estimate that « small” repairs will be necessary in five or six years, and “very small” sooner. Though they divide repairs into various grades and titles, from “ very small," at of the original cost, and “small," at ș, up to “ large," at to, and very large,” at first cost, yet I have not found the average time for each kind estimated, except as the whole average

« ПретходнаНастави »