13th Congress.] 

No. 116.

[3d Session.



Navy Department, November 15, 1814.


In obedience to the resolution of the Senate, passed on the 18th of March last, directing the Secretary of the Navy to devise and digest a system for the better organization of the Department of the Navy of the United States, I have now the honor to report the following system, with such prefatory observations as appear to me pertinent to

It has been affirmed, and cannot be denied, that imperfections exist in the civil administration of the naval establishment; hence it has been inferred that a radical change of system can alone remedy the evils.

Legislative wisdom will readily discriminate between the constituent principles upon which the present establishment is predicated, and has thus far prospered, and the defects which result from the absence of an intelligent, practical, auxiliary agency, qualified to digest, arrange, and enforce, a proper system of detailed regulations, calculated to ensure the judicious and faithful application of public moneys, a strict accountability in the expenditure of supplies, and a rigid execution of the duties enjoined on all the officers and agents connected with the establishment.

Profusion, waste, and abuse, are the inherent offspring of all extensive public institutions; and if we occasionally perceive these evils, in some degree, in the naval establishment of the United States, we are not thence to infer their absence from similar establishments, in other countries, where naval science and experience may be presumed to have provided greater safeguards, and more numerous, skilful, and vigilant agencies.

But regulations, however correct and adequate to the end, become nugatory or worse, unless the authority and the means are coextensive, and competent to enforce the execution, or punish the violation thereof. This may account for the non-existence of many wholesome regulations in the civil administration of the navy of the United States, and for the imperfect execution of those which exist. Breaches of the latter too frequently escape with impunity, from the impossibility of the Head of the Department taking cognizance of all the multifarious concerns of the establishment It is problematical, however, whether the excess may not be more injurious than the deficiency of regulation; in the former case, responsibility may be lost in the maze and mass of detail and multiplied agency, whilst in the latter, general instruction and sound discretion not unfrequently ensure greater success and responsibility.

That the duties enjoined, or which necessarily devolve, upon the Secretary of the Navy, particularly during a period of active and diversified hostility, are beyond the powers of any individual to discharge to the best advantage, cannot be doubted; though, by great labor and assiduity, with adequate professional qualifications, he may possibly execute the general and most essential branches of duty with tolerable success.

In the progress of reform, whilst we pay due respect to that system, the establishment of which has attained the greatest celebrity, more, it is believed, from its magnitude and power, than from the excellence of its civil administration, we ought not to lose sight of its palpable and acknowledged defects, nor of those features in our own system to which, in no trivial degree, the exalted reputation of our infant navy may be attributed.

That our navy is not excelled in any thing which constitutes efficiency, perfect equipment, and general good qualities, it is believed will be admitted. That our seamen are better paid, fed, and accommodated, is no less true. That all the imported, and many of the domestic articles of equipment and of consumption in the service, are exceedingly enhanced; that the wages of mechanical labor is more than double that which is paid by Great Britain;


that our expenditure is greatly increased by the Interruption to navigable transportation, and the great extent of the local service, is equally obvious. Yet, under all these circumstances, it is demonstrable that, upon a comparison of an equal quantity of tonnage and number of guns and men, or in proportion to the number of men alone, our naval expenditure is considerably less than that for the navy of Great Britain, in which "one hundred and forty-five thousand men are employed, at an expense of more than twenty millions of pounds sterling annually."

The local service is, from its scattered, irregular, and irresponsible nature, much more expensive and wasteful than that of the regular navy; the more perfect organization of which, and responsibility of command, ensure a more faithful superintendence and accountability; hence the current expenditure of the service would be an extravagant criterion by which to estimate that of a regular establishment, under a judicious system. The force employed in local service is extended throughout a line of stations from Louisiana to Maine, and from Champlain to Huron: consequently it is so weak as readily to be penetrated, at almost any point on our maritime frontier, by the concentration of a small hostile force; and it is expensive in proportion to its diffusion. Independently of the deleterious nature of this service upon the health and habits of those employed in it, we are, from the present necessity of this system, deprived of the service of a body of officers and seamen, sufficient to man thirteen ships of the line, such as the Independence, Washington, and Franklin, seventy-fours.

When we contemplate the effect which such a force would have, when acting in conjunction upon our own coast and waters, or in squadron pursuing the commercial fleets of the enemy on the ocean, or in the harbors of his colonies, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that our waters would he freed from invasion; our coast from blockade; his military and naval resources intercepted to such a degree as to paralyze his efforts on this continent; supersede the necessity of a vast military establishment, coextensive with our maritime, Canadian, and Indian frontiers; and our citizens from those harassing, irregular, and inconvenient calls of militia, which the predatory enterprises of the enemy so frequently produce. In short, according to my conceptions, this cheap and efficient national defence should be adopted as soon as circumstances will admit, and cherished by a well digested, energetic, and liberal system, steadily progressing with the population, commerce, and resources, of the nation.

The nature, construction, and equipment, of the ships, which constitute a navy, form the basis of its efficiency, durability, and economy, and the most important branch in the civil administration of its affairs. With a view to the reform and extension of the naval establishment of the United States, these objects ought to command the first place in our attention, combined with such an organization of the civil department as shall promise the best results. The defects, in this part of the British system, have been the theme of criticism and reprehension for many years past. The most minute, laborious, and able investigation has, from time to time, taken place, under the direction and scrutiny of the Parliament, yet nothing, approximating to radical amendment has been adopted; and the advocates of reform, either from the subtle ramifications of the evil, or the agency of some sinister influence, appear to despair of success.

According to the most intelligent writers, supported by well established facts, the deterioration of the British navy, owing to the injudicious selection and combination of incongruous materials in the construction, and the abortive method of preserving, is very alarming; and the diversity in the form, dimensions, and proportions, not only of the several rates, but of the numerous distinct classes of the same rate, as well in their hulls as in their masts, sails, and equipments, and in a still greater degree in their qualities for combined action, demonstrates the prevalence of caprice [and prejudice, instead of science and system. "When Lord Nelson was off Cadiz, with seventeen or eighteen sail of the line, he had no less than seven different classes of seventy-four gun ships, each requiring different masts, sails, yards, &c; so that, if one ship was disabled, the others could not supply her with appropriate stores."

The consequences resulting from this defective organization and want of system, are strongly illustrated in the. fact, related by a recent professional writer of rank and talents, that, "out of five hundred and thirty-eight ships &c. in the British navy, now at sea, there are only sixty-nine, which are, in reality, superior in the discharge of metal, or force of blows, but inferior in sailing, to some of the American frigates; and that there are but eighteen, which, unless in smooth water, are equal to contend with the United States; leaving four hundred and fifty-one, out of five hundred and thirty-eight, which are admitted to be incompetent to engage single handed with an American frigate."

These facts are encouraging, and serve to show that, although the numerical force of the enemy in ships and men appears to be overwhelming, yet, if the aggregate number of officers, seamen, and marines, which the United States may, even now, engage for the public service, was concentrated in eighteen or twenty ships of the line, such as have been recently built, it would place all the ships, alluded to in the quotation just recited, except the eighteen, hors du combat; nor could our enemy protect his commerce and colonies, and combine such a force as would counteract the power and offensive enterprise of an American squadron so truly formidable. With such a force, it will be perceived that his host of frigates and smaller vessels would be struck out of the account, or added to the list off our navy, if they came in contact. These views, it is true, are prospective; but, with a stable, judicious, and liberal system, the result would be realized at no remote period.

Having noticed these exceptions to the civil administration of the British navy, it is but just to observe that the organization of the military part of their system is much more perfect.

The regulations and instructions for the service at sea, adopted by order in council, and published in one quarto volume, in 1808, are those which now prevail. They are excellent, and afford much matter worthy of incorporation into our system, with such modification as the peculiar circumstances of the service may require.

Of the French naval system, the department of construction is universally admitted to be the most perfect in existence, and is well worthy of imitation. The military part of the system, however, is less perfect in practice, and not so well adapted to the habits and usages of American seamen as that of the British.

The character of the navy of any nation will be determined by its commercial and navigating enterprise. That of America had surpassed every other, until the unexampled prosperity and rapid extension of its commerce excited the. envy, jealousy, and hostility, of those who could not meet it in fair, equal, and friendly competition. The same energy, skill, vigilance, and intrepidity, which distinguished the commercial navigators of the United States, characterise, the officers and seamen of the navy. The same superiority of construction which gave to its commercial marine the celerity and security for which it is distinguished, may be seen in the American navy, which is truly indigenous and distinct from every other. The independent character of the nation is manifestly visible in the genius of its navy. The classes of our ships, their form, construction, armament, and equipment, have been tested by experience, and found to have been happily adapted to our circumstances, compelling the enemy either to employ ships of the line against frigates, or to construct a new class of ships. Their efficiency and perfection have extorted the praise of the enemy. The author, before quoted, says "the carronades I saw on board the United States brig Argus were better mounted, and the vessel more complete, than those in the British navy; and she was uncommonly well manoeuvred."

Our ships are excellent, and all in good condition. The classes are few, and so uniform that, without inconvenience, the masts, spars, and equipments, of any one of a class, will serve indifferently for any other of the same class. All the new ships, of each rate, are of the same class; and are absolutely similar in all their equipments, and in the dimensions and proportions of their hulls, masts, spars, &c. This strict similarity should be carefully preserved, upon every principle of convenience, economy, and efficiency. Timber, which forms an object of much solicitude in Great Britain, deserves the particular attention of the Department, the reorganization of which will doubtless be made to combine the necessary talents and means to provide for every branch of the service, by a seasonable, diligent, and judicious collection, in secure and convenient depots, of all the materials which enter into the construction and equipment of ships of war.

When it is considered that one seventy-four gun ship requires two thousand large oak trees, equal to the estimated produce of fifty-seven acres, the importance of securing for public use all that valuable species of oak, which is found only on the Southern seaboard, is sufficiently obvious.

Dock yards, foundries, smitheries, and armories, in safe and eligible situations, are indispensable appendages of so important and growing an establishment. These always collect the best workmen; and as private interest cannot


interfere with the execution, the materials and workmanship are better, and the work is performed with more certainty and regularity, than by contract with private individuals; whose works, in some cases, may be so remote from the seat of demand, that the transportation may cost more than the articles.

There is another branch of the service which appears to me to merit the serious deliberation of the Legislature, with regard to the establishment of some regular system, by which the voluntary enlistments for the navy may derive occasional reinforcement from the services of those seamen, who, pursuing their own private occupations, are exempt, by their itinerant habits, from public service of any kind. In my view there would be nothing incompatible with the free spirit of our institutions, or with the rights of individuals, if registers, with a particular descriptive record, were kept in the several districts, of all the seamen belonging to the United States, and provision made by law for classing and calling into the public service, in succession, for reasonable stated periods, such portions or classes as the public service might require; and if any individual so called, should be absent at the time, the next in succession should perform the tour of duty of the absentee, who should on his return be liable to serve his original tour, and his substitute be exempt from his succeeding regular tour of duty.

In the military service, should the ranks not be filled by recruits, the deficiency of regular force may be made up by draughts of militia, to assemble at a give a time and place; not so in the naval service; it depends exclusively upon voluntary enlistments, upon which there is no reliance for any given object at any time or place. Hence, the most important expeditions may utterly fail, though every possible exertion shall have been made to cany them into effect.

If we examine, with due attention, the nature, extent, and importance, of the objects involved in the administration of naval affairs, and contemplate, in the history of ages past, the unsuccessful, though indefatigable labors of legislation, science, and genius, to perfect the system, we may learn to appreciate with more accuracy, and cherish with liberality, the life of study, observation, and experience, required to arrive, even at moderate attainments in a science which, though familiar in the estimation of all, is the most complicated, critical, and interesting, that has ever engaged the attention or influenced the destinies of nations. My sole object is to invite the attention and liberality of the national councils to the requisite talents and qualifications for cherishing and rearing to maturity the vigorous plant, around which are entwined the affections and confidence of the country.

All these objects appear to me to be intimately connected with the revision of the civil administration of our naval affairs; the executive branch of which should be conducted by persons of enlarged views, collectively combining all the practical knowledge, and professional intelligence, which these important, diversified, and comprehensive subjects, obviously require.

We have a good foundation upon, which to raise a durable superstructure; and concluding that that system cannot be radically wrong which has produced such favorable results, I should be unwilling to hazard, by an entire innovation, the benefits we have derived, and may still derive, by retaining the present organization of the Navy Department, and providing, by law, for an intelligent, practical, and efficient, auxiliary agency, such as experience has suggested.

With this view I have the honor to submit, with great deference, the following system for the organization of the Department of the Navy of the United States: distinguishing, for the sake of perspicuity, in the form of a bill, those objects which appear to require legislative provision, from those for which Executive regulation may prescribe with more convenience and advantage; the outline of which only is given, as the ground work may be filled up to greater benefit when the collected experience and talents which it contemplates shall have deliberated upon the subject.

An act for the better organization of the Navy Department.

Be it enacted, &c. That the office, duties, and powers, of the Secretary of the Navy, and of the Accountant, agents, and other officers, of the Department of the Navy, be and remain as now by law, established, except as herein after modified, altered, or transferred, to any other office or offices, created by this act.

Section 2. That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized to designate three officers of the navy, and, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint two other judicious persons, skilled in naval affairs, to be inspectors of the navy, who together shall constitute a board of inspectors of the navy, three members whereof shall be necessary to form a quorum; and the business of the said board shall be transacted in such central and convenient place, for the superintendence of the affairs of the navy, as the President of the United States shall direct; who shall also have power to designate the presiding member, and to appoint the Secretary of the said board, whose duty it shall be to keep regular and correct records of all the transactions of the board, and to transmit attested copies of all such proceedings to the Secretary of the Navy, for the inspection and revision of the President of the United States, as soon as may be after the adjournment of the meeting at which any such proceedings shall have taken place; and the said board shall have power to establish such rules and regulations, for its own proceedings, and to employ such number of clerks and assistants, as well for the transacting of the business of the board, as for that of the several inspectors, and to procure such books, maps, charts, plans, drawings, models, and stationary, as the public interests may require, and the President of the United States approve.

Sec. 3, That it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Navy to arrange and class, under distinct and appropriate heads, as equally as may be, all such duties and details as may be found impracticable for the officers of the Department of the Navy, as now organized, to execute with advantage to the public; and, with the approbation of the President of the United States, to assign to each inspector of the navy the special charge and execution of one of the classes so arranged; for the faithful performance of which trust, the said inspectors shall, severally, be held responsible, under the instruction, and subject to the revision, of the board of inspectors, to which a statement of all the transactions of each inspector shall be submitted, for revision, at each stated meeting, and an abstract thereof transmitted, monthly, to the Secretary of the Navy, with such remarks thereon as the nature of the case may require; and it shall also be the duty of the Secretary of the Navy to prepare a system of general regulations, defining and prescribing the respective powers and duties of the board of inspectors of the navy, and of the several inspectors, which rules, when approved by. the President of the United States, shall be respected and obeyed, until altered, or revoked, by the same authority; and the said general regulations, thus prepared and approved, shall be laid before Congress at their next session.

Sec. 4. That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized alone to appoint a person, skilled in the science and practice of naval architecture, to the office of naval constructor, and also to appoint two assistant naval constructors; and it shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Navy to prepare such rules and regulations for conducting the business of the constructor's department, as shall appear necessary and proper, which, when approved by the President of the United States, shall be respected and obeyed until revoked by the same authority; and the naval constructor shall be allowed one clerk, to assist in transacting the business of his department.

Sec. 5. That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby, authorized, with the consent and advice of the Senate, to appoint a paymaster of the navy, who shall perform the duties of his office, agreeably to the directions of the President of the United States for the time being; and, before he enters upon the duties of the same, shall give bonds, with good and sufficient sureties, in such sums as the President of the United States shall direct, for the faithful discharge of his said office, and shall take an oath to execute the duties thereof with fidelity.

Sec. 6. That all letters and packets to and from the inspectors and pay master of the navy, Which relate to their official duties, shall be free from postage.

Sec. 7. That each inspector of the navy shall be entitled to the pay and rations of a captain commanding a squadron on separate service, and also to the sum of twelve hundred dollars per annum, in lieu of house rent, fuel, forage, &c; and the salary of the naval constructor shall be three thousand dollars per annum; each of the assistant constructors fifteen hundred dollars per annum; the paymaster of the navy, two thousand dollars per annum; the secretary, of the board of inspectors, two thousand dollars per annum; and the clerks and assistants, authorized by this act, shall receive such reasonable compensation for their services as the President of the United States shall direct.


I would also respectfully suggest the expediency of providing, by law, for the establishment of a naval academy, with suitable professors, for the instruction of the officers of the navy in those branches of the mathematics and experimental philosophy, and in the science and practice of gunnery, theory of naval architecture, and art of mechanical drawing, which are necessary to the accomplishment of the naval officer.

In order to illustrate the principles and operation of the proposed organization of the Navy Department, the following outline of the powers and duties, which it is contemplated to assign to the board of inspectors, and to the several inspectors, is respectfully suggested.


The Board should have the general superintendence and direction of the affairs of the navy, under the instructions from, and powers delegated by, the President of the United States, and authority over all the officers, agents, and persons, employed under the Navy Department; report to the Secretary of the Navy, from time to time, all such matters and things as may, in the opinion of the Board, tend to promote the efficiency and economy of the establishment; and, upon the requisition of the Secretary of the Navy, furnish all the estimates of expenditure which the several branches of the service may require, and such other information and statements as he may deem necessary.

The Board should have the power of making contracts and purchases, either directly or through the navy agent, whose power, in this respect, should be limited to small sums, and to objects, the procuring of which may not admit of delay; in all other cases, the previous sanction, either of the Secretary of the Navy, of the board of inspectors, or of some officer authorized by the Board, should be indispensable.

The naval stations within the United States should be designated by convenient boundaries; and an officer of rank, trust, and confidence, should reside in each, who should, under the instructions of the Board, superintend and control the affairs of the navy within his district, and report to the Board from time to time. All requisitions of commanding officers, pursers, and other persons, upon the agents, should be checked, and receive the sanction of the Board, or of the resident officer authorized by the Board, before they are complied with.

Payments and advances should be made, as heretofore, through the navy agents, (except those for the pay of the Navy) and the sanction of the Secretary of the Navy, of the Board, or of the officer authorized by the Board, should precede all payments and advances, except for limited and urgent demand.

The Board should establish general regulations for the conduct of its members, in the discharge of the special and important trusts severally assigned to them by the Secretary of the Navy; and should digest and report to the Department distinct regulations for the following objects:

1st. Uniform regulations, establishing the several classes of ships and vessels in the navy of the United States; with tables of the dimensions, proportions, number, quantity, quality, nature, and description, of masts, spars, rigging, anchors, cables, armament, and equipments, of all kinds; and of the quantity, quality, and description, of provisions and stores, of every species, for a given period, for each class.

2d. Regulations for receiving, preserving, issuing, and strictly accounting for the expenditure of, materials and stores, of all kinds, and in every department of the service, within the United States.

3d. Regulations for surveying and authenticating the actual state and condition of all the ships and vessels 6f the navy, and of all materials and stores, of every species, reported to be decayed, damaged, or defective; and for directing the repair, conversion, sale, or other disposition of the same, as the nature of the case may require.

4th. A more perfect system of general regulations, for the naval service, at sea, and on the lakes.

5th. General regulations for the flotilla, or force employed in harbor defence, adapted to the peculiar nature of that service.

6th. Uniform regulations for the navy yards, arsenals, and depots of stores and materials.

7th. Regulations for the cruising ships and vessels of the navy, while in port; for the recruiting service; and for the officers of the navy, while on shore, on duty, or on furlough; in order to ascertain the actual State and local situation of all the officers.

8th. A system of detailed regulations for the naval hospitals, and medical department of the navy, within the United States.

9th. An entire and new system of regulations for the conduct of pursers in the navy, accurately defining their duties, securing a more strict accountability, limiting their emoluments by a fixed and reasonable standard, and protecting the seamen of the navy from the undue advantages which may be practised, with impunity, under the present system.

10th. Regulations for ascertaining, by examination, the moral character and professional qualifications of all the officers of the navy, below the grade of a master commandant, classing them in the scale of their several merits; and of the pretensions of those who may be selected for promotion, as well as of the candidates for warrant appointments in the navy.

All which regulations, when approved by the President of the United States, should be established and obeyed, until revoked by the same authority.

The duties and details of the service proposed to be assigned to the several inspectors of the navy may be classed as follows:

1st. class. Comprehending the general correspondence of the Board, and preparation of all the reports, estimates, and statements, required by the Department; and the communication of such propositions and information, to the Secretary of the Navy, as the Board may deem interesting; and also the general charge and direction of the flotilla service on the New Orleans station.

2d. class. Comprehending the general military correspondence with all the officers of the navy; the roll of the officers of the navy, and record of their services, merits, and qualifications, to be kept on the files of the Board; orders for courts of inquiry and courts martial, and the preparation of all the documents and statements connected with these objects; also, the general charge and direction of the flotilla service on the Southern station, viz: Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Norfolk.

3d. class. Comprehending the direction of ordnance and transportation; the general superintendence of the foundries, laboratories, armories, and other works, connected with the naval ordnance department, and the inspection and proof of arms, ammunition, &c. The direction of the transportation of all persons, stores, and provisions, of the navy, by land and water; and the general charge and direction of the flotilla service in the Patapsco and Delaware, and at New York.

4th class. Comprehending the victualling and sustenance, including purser's, medical, and hospital stores; also the general charge and direction of the flotilla service on all the naval stations from New York eastward, and on Lake Champlain.

5th class. Comprehending the supply of hemp, yarns, cordage, sail duck, iron, and other metals, anchors, and all other equipments and materials required for the service, except those which are included in the foregoing classes, and in the constructor's department; and also the general charge and direction of the service on Lake Ontario and the upper lakes.

The superintendence and direction of these five classes of objects would be distributed among the five inspectors.

The department of construction, under the direction of the Secretary of the Navy, and of the board of inspectors, would prepare all the draughts, plans, and instructions, for the building of all the vessels of the navy; construct the models, and, when approved, direct and superintend, under the control of the board of inspectors, the building and repairing of the ships, vessels, boats, the formation of masts, spars, &c. and the contracting for, and procuring, all the materials of wood, and of copper, in pigs, bolts, and sheets, necessary for the supply of the navy; construct from the lines, in the mould loft, all the moulds requisite, for moulding and bevelling the timber in the forest, under the direction of skilful persons, to be employed by the constructor, for that purpose; and


superintend the construction of the wharves, ships, workshops, and engines, required in building and repairing ships of war.

It is a copious subject, in which it is difficult to combine brevity with perspicuity.

My aim has been to provide a practical, efficient, and economical system, with as much individual and collective responsibility as may be attainable; and I feel a persuasion that the result would not greatly disappoint the estimates I have formed, The wisdom of the Senate will better appreciate its merits.

I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, sir, your obedient servant,


The Honorable the President of the Senate.