No. 147. [2d Session.
CONDITION OF THE NAVAL ESTABLISHMENT.
COMMUNICATED TO THE SENATE, JANUARY 29, 1817.
Committee Room, December 27, 1816.
The time of peace and prosperity is the season proper to buildup and mature the institutions of a country. Under the influence of this obvious truth, Congress has, by a wise course of legislation, nearly completed the naval establishment. By the creation of a navy board, which, harmonizing with the head of the Department, and giving to it all the benefits of practical observation and experience, the civil administration of the affairs of the navy has been rendered, perhaps, as complete as the nature of the institution will admit. But, to realize all the advantages confidently anticipated by the friends of the Board, a cordial concert and harmony between it and the head of the Department is indispensable. It cannot but be foreseen that any jealousy, rivalship, or misunderstanding between these important branches of the establishment must greatly tend to paralyze effort, and to render nugatory the best concerted designs.
By the law of the last session, providing for the gradual and permanent increase of the navy, the fate and fortunes of this important branch of the national strength was finally fixed and settled.Congress, by a prudent foresight, has authorized, and furnished the means, of creating, by degrees, a naval force, which, when completed, cannot fail to secure for the nation that safety at home, and that respect from abroad, the foundation for which was so amply laid by the heroic exploits of our infant navy during the late war. There is no doubt that at this moment this arm of our safety and our strength possesses the confidence and the favor of the Government and of the nation. It is of the utmost importance that this confidence and this favor should not only be retained, but, if possible, augmented. This, in the opinion of the committee, can only be done by a prudent, energetic, and, above all, an economical management of the affairs confided to the Department Profusion, in the expenditure of public money, is a common charge against Government. It is probable the belief of this very profusion in the money concerns of the Department, was the true cause why the navy was kept down so long in public opinion. The committee are of opinion that, situated as this country is, that a navy is not only its most efficient and appropriate, but its cheapest defence. That this conviction should become general, nothing is necessary but to introduce and enforce the most rigid economy in every branch of naval expenditure—an economy recommended by considerations not only of attachment to the naval establishment, and a solicitude for its prosperity and reputation, but of duty to the nation.
An act of the last session has also secured, by more effectual provisions, the Navy Pension Fund; so that the benevolent and humane intentions of the Legislature will be more amply extended to the disabled officers and seamen of the navy.
By your report to the Senate, of the 4th of December, 1815, [see No. 129] it appears that the dock-yard, contemplated by the act of the 3d of March, 1813, had not then been constructed; nor had the acts respecting naval hospitals been then executed. Perhaps the laws respecting these necessary appendages of the naval establishment are defective. Perhaps the appropriations, heretofore made for their construction, may not be adequate to the purpose. The naval committee of the Senate, animated with the desire to perfect the naval establishment by every means in their power, to amend any defects that may exist in the laws respecting it, and to afford every means to prevent or to suppress abuses, if any should exists have directed me to communicate with you freely, and to inquire,
1st. Whether any legislative provision is necessary to carry into effect the existing provisions respecting the naval establishment? and,
2d. Whether any further provision, by law, is necessary to render it more perfect?
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,
C. TAIT, Chairman.
The Hon. Benjamin W. Crowninshield, Secretary of the Navy.
Navy Department, January 8, 1817.
I have the honor to reply to your letter of the 27th ultimo, and most cordially reciprocate your sentiments upon the subject of the naval establishment, and of the relative duties of its several branches.
The system of economy is most essential to its popularity, and a most important duty incumbent upon this Department; so far as abuses have crept in, every effort will be directed to check them in future, and to confirm that confidence of the Legislature which has been so liberally demonstrated in the late acts for a gradual increase of the navy, and for appropriations towards its support.
The act of the last session, for the better security of the Navy Pension Fund, has not been attended to in the States of Massachusetts and New York, where its provisions were more immediately applicable; and large sums, it is presumed, are still due, and remain unaccounted for since the commencement of the late war.
The subject of dock-yards and naval depots has constantly been under consideration, and the final decision, as to the most proper site in the Chesapeake, will lead to the execution of the necessary docks in that and the other naval establishments.
The naval hospitals have been suspended from the insufficiency of the "original appropriation of the act of 1811, the amount of fifty thousand dollars, appropriated out of the Marine Hospital Fund, having failed; and the sum deducted from the pay of the officers and seamen has been absorbed in the general expenditures, and its reimbursement must depend upon additional estimates and appropriations for the service. The necessity of the establishment is fully admitted, and the present period appears to be propitious to its completion, which shall receive all the attention from this Department due to its importance.
To the queries propounded by the committee, I have the honor to reply that the existing provisions, respecting the naval establishment, are adequate to the present organization of the Department; such further provisions as the nature of the service may require, and such as may arise out of the gradual increase of the navy, shall be promptly suggested to the consideration of the naval committee of the Senate.
I take the liberty of suggesting a repeal of the law passed April 18, 1814, authorizing the President to make an addition, not exceeding twenty-five per centum, to the pay of the officers, seamen, and marines, as the situation of the naval service does not, at present, require such additional allowance.
I have the honor to be, with the highest respect, sir, your most obedient servant,
B. W. CROWNINSHIELD.
Hon. Charles Tait, Chairman Naval Committee of the Senate.
Navy Department, January 22, 1817.
The Commissioners of the Navy Pension Fund respectfully submit to the honorable naval committee of the Senate the propriety of extending the provisions of the acts of Congress, in relation to the widows and children of those officers, seamen, and marines, who, in certain cases to be designated by law, may have died, or shall hereafter die in the naval service, in consequence of disease, or injuries received while in the line of their duty.
The existing acts of January 20, 1813, and of March 4, 1814, do not extend the benefit of pensions to all cases deserving the bounty of Government; many cases have occurred which claim some consideration from the long and faithful services of deceased officers and seamen, several of which have been presented to Congress in the form of petition, during the present session, and. have taken that course from the inability of the commissioners to admit their claims, under a literal construction of the acts, which limit the pensions to the widows of those only "who die by reason of wounds, &c."
Considering the casualties and extreme hardships to which the naval service exposes those engaged in it, exclusive of those resulting from the acts of the enemy in battle; and, also, that the relief to be afforded will be derived from a fund accruing from the captures made by the officers, seamen, and marines, it is submitted to the naval committee of the Senate to have the naval service placed upon an equal footing with the military establishment, by extending the provisions to the widows and orphans of the naval officers, seamen, and marines.
A further consideration of the existing laws will show that sufficient provision is not made for the widows of surgeons and surgeons' mates, who are, in the performance of their duties, peculiarly exposed to contagious diseases; and, in the event of death ensuing from such causes, as the laws are now construed, the widows and orphans would be deprived of an equitable share of the benefits of the Navy Pension Fund.
I have the honor to be, with very great respect, sir, your most obedient servant,
B. W. CROWNINSHIELD.
WM. H. CRAWFORD.
Hon. Charles Tait, Chairman Naval Committee of the Senate.