11th Congress.]

No. 75.

[1st Session.



Committee Room, May 29, 1809.


The committee to whom has been referred a resolution of the Senate, authorizing the committee to inquire whether it be expedient, at this time, to make any modifications of the laws relating to the army and navy of the United States, have directed me to ask information of you upon the following points:

How many gunboats have been built, under the existing laws?

What has been the average or aggregate cost of building them?

In what situation are they now placed, or contemplated to be placed?

How many of them are laid up, and how many in actual service, and where stationed?

What will be the annual expense of taking care of those laid up?

What the annual expense of those to be continued in actual service?

What will be the probable state of those gunboats, at the end of one year, which may be laid up or unemployed? What will be the probable state of those, at the end of one year, which may be kept in service, on the coasts, or in the harbors?

Which would best promote the true interest of the nation, and of the navy department—to continue the system of gunboats hitherto adopted, and dispose of them in the manner now authorized by law, or to authorize the President to cause them to be sold, except so many as he may think expedient to be retained in service?

What would be the difference in the expense of keeping one or more frigates on our own coasts, or sending them to the Mediterranean?

Should it be considered expedient to keep any armed vessels in the Mediterranean seas?

Upon the foregoing points, the committee wish you to give as full a view as you can, from such data as you now possess.

Is it, at this time, expedient to make any modification of the laws of the United States, in relation to the navy department? If so, what are the modifications you deem expedient, so far as you have had time and opportunity to examine them?

Accept assurance of my high consideration.

JOS. ANDERSON, Chairman of the Committee.

Navy Department, June 6, 1809.

I have received your letter of the 29th ultimo, requesting information, which I have now the honor to give, upon the points therein stated.

There have been built, under the existing laws, one hundred and seventy-six gunboats and bombs; and the average cost of building them may be calculated at nine thousand dollars.

The paper A, herewith sent, affords the requisite information as to the situation in which these boats are now placed, the number laid up, the number in actual service, and where stationed.

Paper B is an exhibit of "the annual expense of taking care of those laid up."

Paper C is an exhibit of the annual expense of maintaining one gunboat, and twenty-four of them, on one station—for instance, New Orleans—in actual service.

As to the "probable state of those boats at the end of one year, which may be laid up, or unemployed," I will observe that, with all the care that can be taken of them, they will unavoidably decay in a greater or less degree. Those built of green, will, of course, decay much sooner than those built of seasoned, timber. To keep a gunboat in a state of preparation for service, we shall very frequently be subjected to the expense of repairing her; an expense to an amount which cannot be foreseen. The sails, and standing and running rigging, at present belonging to those laid up will, probably, at the end of one year, be so much injured as to be unfit for use. Their small boats and water casks, unless well protected from the rain and sun, will sustain considerable injury, in the course of the same time; and they cannot be so protected without expense. If a gunboat is suffered to lie in port for one year, without giving her any kind of repair, she will probably be found, at the expiration of that year, wholly unworthy of being repaired.

With respect to those kept in service, they also will decay, if not occasionally repaired; though it is observed by professional men that vessels in service, especially in salt water, are less subject to decay than they are lying in port, and universal experience does, I believe, sanction this idea.

In reply to your query respecting the gunboat system, as relating to the "interest of the nation, and of the Navy Department," and as to the propriety of continuing that system, or the abandoning of it, by a sale of the boats, I am to observe that much must depend on the species of policy which, in the event of a war, may be adopted. If that event should shortly occur, and it is determined that a plan of operations merely defensive shall be pursued, there can be no doubt that gunboats will aid materially, if properly stationed; but, if, on the contrary, our marine should be directed against a foreign trade, and to the convoying and protection of our own, a system of well armed, fast sailing, frigates, and smaller cruisers, would, on every principle, be preferable, in point of effect, and, comparatively rated per gun and number of men to be employed, would be much less costly. It must also be observed that it is only on board of vessels suited for sea service that good seamen are to be formed, and that those calculated merely for ports afford no opportunity for improvement in naval science. As to the expediency of selling or retaining the gunboats, reference to the preceding exhibits afford some information; but I beg leave to remark that nothing short of a knowledge of the policy which events may induce could enable me to give a decided opinion on this point

The difference of the expense of keeping one or more frigates on our own coast, and sending them to the Mediterranean, would, in my opinion, be inconsiderable. On our own coast, they will, especially in the winter and spring months, be subject to numerous accidents, from causes universally known, and not existing, it is believed, in an equal degree, in any other part of the world; such as frequent and sudden heavy squalls of wind, numerous shoals, thick fogs, and the irregularity of the motion of the Gulf Stream, which, in misty weather, renders the approach to our coast peculiarly hazardous. For our vessels stationed in the Mediterranean, we should be subjected to the expense of transporting certain articles of provisions and naval stores, not to be obtained in that sea; but this is, I believe, the only additional expense to which they would be subjected, and this expense may be more than counterbalanced by the accidents to which our vessels would be subject on our own coast, and the comparative cheapness of certain supplies which can be obtained in the Mediterranean ports; and I am persuaded that, if Congress would authorize the building of a suitable vessel for the transportation of provisions from this country to the Mediterranean, for the use of any of our vessels that might be stationed in that sea, the expense of maintaining them there would be less than the expense of maintaining them on our own coast.

As you have not required my opinion on the expediency of sending some of our frigates to the Mediterranean, I will only venture to suggest, for consideration, that we have in that sea a valuable trade at stake, subject to the depredations of a lawless people, whose dispositions might be effectually restrained by the presence of a few vessels of respectable force; and that I consider professional knowledge, on the part of our officers, (which can best be acquired abroad) as of high national importance.


With respect to the expediency of modifying the laws in relation to the Navy Department, it appears to me that some alterations are necessary.

By the act authorizing the employment of an additional naval force, passed at the last session of Congress, it appears that the Executive is restricted from sending our vessels equipped under that act beyond our coast. If it shall now be deemed expedient to send any of them to the Mediterranean, or any other foreign station, this restriction ought to be removed, or so modified as to give to the Executive, power adequate to the purpose.

I avail myself of this occasion respectfully to submit to consideration the memorial of the officers of the navy, some time since presented to Congress, a copy of which, with copies of a letter from my predecessor to Mr. Montgomery, chairman of a committee of the House of Representatives, dated 5th of April, 1808, and of a letter from Captain Bainbridge to me, upon the same subject, are herewith transmitted, and marked D*. Having attentively perused this memorial, I cannot withhold the expression of my opinion that the prayer thereof is perfectly reasonable. National considerations ought surely to induce us to foster that just and honorable pride, that truly patriotic ambition, to which our navy officers, and especially those well skilled in seamanship, obviously sacrifice their pecuniary interests.

To another and not an uninteresting subject, embraced by the queries which you have propounded to me, I will also invite your serious attention. By the act further to amend the several acts for the establishment and regulation of the Treasury, War, and Navy Departments, it is provided that the commissions to navy agents shall not exceed one per centum, nor, in any instance, the compensation allowed by law to the purveyor of public supplies. The treasury construction of this statute will appear by the papers E and F, herewith sent. That construction prohibits any allowance under any circumstances, for either clerk hire, porters, office rent, fuel, or stationary. The whole receipts of the agents are confined to one per centum; and the product of that per centage is limited to two thousand dollars per annum.

In our large sea port towns, and especially in Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, our purchases will necessarily be extensive; often so much so, as to occupy exclusively the time of the agent. In these places, clerks must be indispensable, and porters highly useful; and wherever we have an agent, it appears to me proper that the public should allow whatever the agent may reasonably pay for office rent, fuel, and stationary. It is not probable that the commissions to the agents will in any other places than those mentioned, viz: Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, amount to two thousand dollars, and in neither of these places will the clear receipts of either of the agents amount to more than five hundred and fifty dollars per annum, as will more particularly appear by the accompanying exhibit, marked G. In other places the commissions will not amount to as much as is now given to the most common clerk in a merchant's counting house.

To make the commissions amount to two thousand dollars, it would require that two hundred thousand dollars should be disbursed; and if an agent should disburse one million of dollars, or any sum exceeding that, the gross amount of his pay for such disbursements is limited to two thousand dollars; the nett amount of which cannot reasonably be calculated at more than five hundred and fifty dollars.

With this view of this subject, I cannot rely upon the present agents continuing to hold their appointments, or upon other fit persons accepting such appointments, without the law in question being so modified as to make them a reasonable allowance for their services, and the expenses inseparably connected with the discharge of their official duties. In disbursing so large a sum of money as an agent must disburse, to entitle him to the small compensation of five hundred and fifty dollars per annum, he hazards the loss of ten times as much, from irregularity in vouchers, erroneous calculations, misinterpretation of instructions, from not strictly conforming in each and every purchase to the specific restrictions of the existing law, and from various other causes, to which the most correct men are and ever will be liable, in a greater or less degree.

The copy of a letter from General Stricker, navy agent at Baltimore, a gentleman justly of high standing in society, and I am told, as good an agent as could be procured in any country, herewith sent, and marked H, will explain to you his situation under the existing law; and other agents, of equal merit, are similarly situated.

Deeming it my duty, under the latitude you have allowed, to be perfectly explicit and full in my communication to you upon this subject, and being sincerely anxious to manage the business of the Department in such manner as to promote the interests of the nation, 1I trust I shall not be thought presumptuous when I suggest the indispensable necessity of being aided by able agents.

I flatter myself, sir, with a belief that I have afforded the information required, and I regret that I have not been able to do it at an earlier moment.

I am, with great respect, sir, your obedient servant,


Honorable Joseph Anderson, Chairman of a Committee of the Senate.


Exhibit showing
"the situation in which the Gunboats are now placed,"
" the number laid up,"
"the number in actual service," and
"where stationed."

Number of Gunboats.

In ordinary or on the stocks at

In service at


Charleston, South Carolina.


Wilmington, North Carolina.










New York.


Westerley, Rhode Island.


Norwich, Connecticut.




Portland, Maine.


Lake Ontario.


Lake Champlain.


New Orleans.


Hudson, on the stocks.


Washington, called Ferret.


Lost at sea.

bombs 2

New York and Norfolk—one condemned,
and it is believed that the other is not worthy of repair.

*The memorial and letter from Capt, Bainbridge are not now on file.
For the letter to Mr. Montgomery, see No. 68.



Estimate "of the annual expense of
taking care of the Gunboats laid up."


12 masters,

at $40 per month,


6 surgeons,

" 50 "


6 pursers,

" 40 "


12 stewards,

" 18 "


12 cooks,

" 18 "


137 seamen,

" 12 "




76,285 rations at 20 cents,




Medicine, &c.


Contingencies—unforeseen expenses,






Estimate of the annual expense of
maintaining one Gunboat in actual service,
and of the annual expense of maintaining
twenty-four Gunboats in actual service, at New Orleans.


Pay and Subsistence.

1 Lieutenant commanding,

$50 per month,

4 rations per day,


1 Lieutenant,




2 midshipmen,




1 boatswain,




1 gunner,




1 steward,





Deduct 1 ration per day for each officer,
it being estimated in the article of provisions,
because each officer will draw, one ration in kind,
2,555 rations at 20 cents,


8 able seamen, at $12 per month,



16 ordinary do. 8 do







Repairs, &c.


Medicine and hospital stores, &c.




Say $11,500.

As one gunboat will cost $11,500. per annum, 24 gunboats will cost $276,000.


Estimate of the annual expense of maintaining in
actual service twenty-four Gunboats at New Orleans.

1 captain commanding,

$100 per month,

16 rations per day,


2 surgeons,

50 "


1 purser,

40 "


4 surgeons' mates,

30 "


5,110 rations at 20 cents each,



Annual expense of twenty-four gunboats, not including the above essential officers,


Total annual expense of twenty-four gun boats in actual service at New Orleans,


Note.—In the above estimate, full crews are allowed to the gunboats;
but orders have been given to reduce the crews of the gunboats at
New Orleans to a number merely sufficient for their navigation and
safety; the reduction is left to the commanding officer at New Orleans,
who, from a full view of all circumstances, can form the most satisfactory
judgment upon this point. We have not had time to hear from him what
the actual reduction has been, but we may estimate that this reduction,
from the time it shall be made, will reduce their annual expense



Navy Department, March 18, 1809.


By the act, entitled "An act further to amend the several acts for the establishment and regulation of the Treasury, War, and Navy Departments," copy of which is enclosed, it is declared that the compensation to either of the navy agents shall not exceed one per centum on the public moneys disbursed by him, nor in any instance the compensation allowed by law to the purveyor of public supplies.

The purveyor's salary is fixed by law at 2,000 dollars per annum, but he is additionally allowed, at the public expense, one or more clerks, a messenger, stationary, store rent, and fuel for his office, and the navy agents have been anxious to know, whether, under the law above referred to, they are entitled to similar allowances. I have, therefore, the honor to request of you, sir, the treasury construction upon the following points:

1st. Are the navy agents entitled, under this law, to any other allowance than that of one per centum on the public moneys disbursed by them?

2d. If the one per centum should yield less than 2,000 dollars per annum, can any allowance for clerk hire, porters, stationary, office rent, and fuel, be made, consistently with the law?

3d. If the one per centum should yield an excess so as to enable an agent to pay for clerk hire, &c. and leave him 2,000 dollars for his own compensation, would such payments be allowed?


4th. If a navy agent is not, by law, entitled to any of these allowances, does the law leave it in the power of the Secretary of the Navy to make them, or any of them?

Under the annual appropriation for the expense of navy yards, comprising docks and other improvements, pay of superintendents, storekeepers, clerks, and laborers, the Secretary of the Navy has heretofore allowed, to several of the navy agents, clerks, whose services were paid for out of such appropriation. I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, your obedient servant,

C. W. GOLDSBOROUGH, Acting Secretary of the Navy.

G. Duvall, Esq.,

Comptroller of the Treasury.


Treasury Department, Comptroller's Office, March 30th, 1809.


I have been prevented by indisposition from paying earlier attention to your letter of 18th instant. I have duly considered the law under which the questions stated by you arise, and am of opinion that it will admit only of one construction. The compensation allowed to the agents of the Navy Department by the act of the 3d March, 1809, cannot exceed one per centum on the public moneys disbursed by them, nor in any instance the compensation allowed by law to the purveyor of public supplies. The salary of the purveyor is two thousand dollars. There is also an allowance for clerk hire, stationary, store rent, &c. for which a separate appropriation is annually made. But this cannot be considered as an additional allowance to the purveyor. It adds nothing to the emoluments of his office. His compensation still remains two thousand dollars, and no more. Compensation means a remuneration or equivalent for personal services rendered in a particular capacity; and to entitle the person acting, to the compensation fixed by law, he must perform the service required, and cannot, at the public expense, employ another to do it for him, nor can the expenses incident to the discharge of the duties of the station be charged to the United States. If such had been the intention of the Legislature, a correspondent appropriation would have been made, as has been done with respect to the purveyor's office. It follows that all the questions stated must be answered in the negative; without doubt Congress will, at the next session, make any auxiliary regulations, on the representation of the Secretary of the Navy, which may be deemed necessary and proper.

I am, sir, respectfully, your obedient servant,


Charles W. Goldsborough, Esq.


Estimate of the probable clear compensation of
a navy agent, under the existing law, supposing that the gross

amount of his commissions will be two thousand dollars.

Gross amount of commissions received by the agent,

$2,000 00


One clerk,


One porter,


Office rent and fuel,


Stationary, &c.


1,450 00

Clear annual compensation,

$550 00


Baltimore, May 26, 1809.


I am sorry that my first communication, should be on a subject as unpleasant to me (because of a personal nature) as it must be to you, involving, as it does, considerations affecting the Department of the Government over which you preside. I allude to the act passed at the last session, regulating the compensation to be allowed to the navy agents, &c.

Previous to the passage of this law the commissions allowed the navy agents was two per cent, for all sums of money paid and expended in contracts for their account; one per cent, on all sums received for public property sold, and one half per cent. on all sums paid for the purpose of recruiting, paying off a crew, and the like services.

By the existing act one per cent. only is allowed, and it is further provided that this compensation shall in no instance exceed two thousand dollars.

By a reference to the officers of the Department you will be informed, sir, that the business usually transacted in this place for account of the Department is very considerable; that it often is of a nature to require much labor and great attention; that it is often urgent, and consequently not to be delayed; and that to do it with the promptness the public service demands, will necessarily occupy much of the time of the most active persons out of doors, as well as that of a good clerk in doors, to keep and prepare the necessary accounts.

If, then, after this detail of the nature and extent of the duties attached to the navy agency here, it shall appear to you that the compensation at present allowed is too small, I flatter myself you will use your influence to have the commissions augmented to what they formerly were, or, if this cannot be done, obtain some allowance for clerk, hire, house rent, fuel, stationary, and a porter, which, under existing circumstances, absorb nearly the whole of the commissions.

I have thought it was due to myself to make you the foregoing communication, which I hope your liberality will pardon,

And that you will believe me to be, with great respect, your obedient servant,


The Honorable Paul Hamilton.