16th Congress.]

No. 173

[1st Session.



Navy Department, December 29, 1819.


In obedience to a resolution of the honorable the Senate of the 8th of February last, I have the honor to report, that, on examination of the rules, regulations, and instructions for the naval Service, prepared and reported under the authority of an act of Congress of the 7th day of February, 1815, they are found to be at variance with existing laws, in the following particulars:


The fourteenth article, under the head of "Navy Yards," places the guard of marines detached for the protection of the yard under the command of the commandant of the yard, in the same manner as if on board a ship of war, and, of course, subjects the marines to the rules and articles for the government of the navy. This is conceived to be contrary to the act of July 11, 1798, establishing and organizing a marine corps, and by which act the corps is considered as being in addition to the military establishment; and, by a fair construction of the fourth section of the act, marines, when doing duty on shore, are to be governed by the rules and articles of war prescribed for the military establishment of the United States. It is, however, respectfully submitted for consideration, whether an amendment of the law, so as to make it conform to the rules and regulations in this respect, will not be expedient. It might contribute to order and due subordination to make the commandant of a yard as independent in his yard, in all respects, as a captain on board his, ship. Should this be thought to interfere too much with the command and government of the marine corps, it is suggested, as worthy of consideration, whither it would not be expedient, for the protection of navy yards, to substitute watches, to be composed of sailors selected from the list of pensioners, and such others as have distinguished themselves for integrity, sobriety, and general good conduct, in the place of guards detached from the corps of marines: this would give employments a very meritorious class of men, who, by their age and disabilities, are rendered unfit for active sea service. It is believed that such protection would be not only more efficient, but might be provided at much less expense than at present. It is not intended by this suggestion to intimate that the present establishment of the marine corps should be reduced; but, on the contrary, if guards for the navy yards are to be detached from this corps, as our ships of war multiply, it will very soon become indispensably necessary to increase its number.

By the 28th article of the regulations under the head of "Pursers," the component parts of the ration are different from those fixed by the act of Congress of the 3d of March, 1801, as will be seen by comparing the third section of the act with the article above referred to. Tea and sugar have been substituted in lieu of suet and half the rice formerly issued. Whether it will be expedient so to alter the law as to make the ration conformable to the regulation is respectfully submitted. 

By the act of Congress of the 21st of April, 1806, it is declared that officers, when not under orders for actual service, shall receive no more than half their monthly pay; and by the third article of the rules and regulations under the head of "Full and half pay and rations," it is provided that such officers shall be entitled to only half their pay and half their rations. Doubts have been entertained whether the law authorizes the allowance of half the rations. Although I am of opinion that a just interpretation of the law is in conformity with the regulation as it stands, yet it is submitted whether, for the purpose of removing all doubt, it is not expedient to make the law more explicit.

These are the only instances in which I have discovered the rules and regulations at variance with existing laws. By the resolution of the honorable the Senate, I am also required to report whether, in my opinion, any further legislative provision is necessary to give force and effect to these rules and regulations. By the act of 7th of February, 1815, the Commissioners of the Navy, with the consent of the Secretary of the Navy, were required to prepare such rules and regulations as should be necessary for securing a uniformily in the several classes of vessels and their equipments, and for repairing and refitting them, and for securing responsibility in the subordinate officers and agents; which regulations, when approved by the President, the act declares shall be respected and obeyed, until altered and revoked by the same authority. So far as the rules relate to the subjects upon which they were to be prepared, as specified in the act aforesaid, they may be binding and operative without any further legislative provision. But it will be perceived, from an examination of the rules and regulations, that many of them relate to subjects not enumerated, or coming within the purview of the act under which they were prepared; in which cases, they have not the force and effect of laws, and further legislative provision is necessary to give them such effect. It is believed that some additions to these regulations might be advantageously made; and it is respectfully suggested that they be revised and reported to Congress, and, when adopted, expressly made, by law, rules and regulations for the government of the navy of the United States.

By the resolution I am also required to report any other provisions which I may deem proper for the more perfect administration of the naval service.

Believing it to fall within the scope of the resolution, I would respectfully suggest the propriety of making some additional grades in the rank of naval officers. The rank of captain is now the highest grade in the navy recognised by law; and heretofore, during the infancy of our navy, and whilst we had no vessels of a higher class than frigates, and the number of captains small, it was, perhaps, as high a grade as the good of the service required. It is, how ever, believed that, from the addition both to the number and class of our public ships, and from what may reasonably be anticipated to be the situation of our navy in the course of a few years, both justice and policy require some higher grades of office. According to the relative rank as now established between the military and naval officers, a captain in the navy only ranks with a colonel in the army: this is thought to be contrary to sound policy and the good of the service. The importance of rank, both in the military and naval service, will readily occur to all in any degree acquainted with either. It is, therefore, respectfully suggested, that the grades of commodore and rear admiral be established by law. This, it is confidently believed, would essentially contribute, if not absolutely necessary, to due subordination and discipline. In a fleet or squadron, when the different vessels may be commanded by officers of the same grade, and their relative rank, and even that of the commander, known only by the dates of their commissions, there will not be that respect and subordination observed that are essential to order and harmony. Should the increased expense be deemed an objection at the present time, let the number of officers to be appointed be few; and, indeed, the establishment of these grades is considered so essential to the prosperity of the navy, that it is an object deserving attention, should there be no additional compensation allowed.

I would further beg leave to suggest the propriety of some amendment of the laws relative to the surgeons in the navy. It would be desirable to establish grades in this class of officers also; at all events, justice and sound policy require a gradation in their pay and emoluments. The compensation ought to be, in some measure, regulated by the importance of the station in which they are placed, and the talents and qualifications required for the due and faithful discharge of the duty imposed. Whether the compensation now allowed is sufficient to call into the service the talents and learning which its importance demands is respectfully submitted. A division of these officers into classes, according to the rate of the vessel in which they shall serve, is thought would be beneficial, and is suggested for consideration; and this would afford a just standard by which to regulate their pay. The designation of some officer to be placed at the head of this class of officers, and who should have the immediate superintendence of this branch of the service, under regulations for that purpose to be established, is believed would contribute much to the benefit of the service.

The rules and regulations recognise and assign particular duties to several officers not known in the law, such as surgeons of the fleet, hospital surgeons, and medical purveyors. Although this is considered as fit and proper and beneficial to the service, yet some legal provision is necessary to give such officers the rank and authority contemplated by the regulations. These, and many other subjects in relation to this class of officers, the details of which could not with propriety be embraced in this report, seem to require attention and legal provision. All which is respectfully submitted:


The Hon. the President of the Senate.