16th Congress.]

No. 181. 

[1st Session.



Mr. Silsbee, from the Committee on Naval Affairs, to which was referred the resolution adopted by the House on the 5th of January last, directing an inquiry "into the expediency of suspending, for a limited time, so much of the standing appropriation of $1,000,000, for the increase of the navy, as may be consistent with the public service; and also inquire whether any other reduction of the expenses of the navy can be made, consistent with the public service," reported:

That they have carefully considered the several important subjects referred to them. They have carefully and diligently investigated the expenditures of the standing appropriation made by the act of the 29th of April, 1816, for the gradual increase of the navy. In prosecuting this investigation, the committee received promptly from the Navy Department every facility and statement necessary to aid them in arriving at a true and rational conclusion. The committee here respectfully refer to the letter of the Secretary of the Navy, dated February 4th, 1820, and the documents therein referred to, all of which accompany this report. They have, also, so far as they deemed it compatible with their duty, inquired into the expenses of the navy, with the view to comply with the second inquiry directed by the resolution above referred to. Without entering into a minute and detailed report of the progress made in building and equipping the ships authorized to be built and equipped by the act above referred to, the necessity of such detailed report being superseded by the statement of the Commissioners of the Navy, (document marked A,) the committee will, in discharge of the duties enjoined on them, present to the view of the House some of the most important facts which have influenced their deliberations, and conducted them to the conclusions at which they have arrived. By the act of the 29th of April, 1816, nine ships are authorized to be built, to rate not less than seventy-four guns each. Of that number, one ship is launched and nearly ready for sea; five are now building, (four of which number it is expected will be launched during the next summer, and one in the course of the next year,) the frames of the other three are contracted for, and nearly all the materials received at the navy yards. And ten ships, to rate not less than forty-four guns each, are also authorized to be built. Of this number one is now building; the frames of the other nine are all contracted for, and most of them received at the navy yards. All the pine plank, and all the oak knees, required for all the ships, have been contracted for. These are large and essential articles in building. Most of the copper for all the ships has been procured. The frames, and other very valuable articles for the three steam batteries, have been contracted for, as appears by statement A. Such arrangements have been made for the completion of the whole number of vessels authorized to be built, by the act above recited, as to leave no doubt that the annual appropriation, if continued, will be amply sufficient to effectuate the great national objects contemplated by Congress, at the passage of the law. Many of the articles now on hand could not be preserved without great expense, such as the erection of sheds and buildings, to protect them from the effects of the weather. Some of the materials, and those the most scarce and valuable, it is believed, could not be effectually preserved, even under sheds. The live oak, it is said, is liable to rents and other injuries from the action of the atmosphere. The Commissioners of the Navy express the fear that it would be impracticable to replace the live oak frames should they receive injury, and make the following communication: "That they have received information from an unquestionable source, that the British Government have now an agent in this country for the purpose of obtaining like oak frames for twenty ships, and should they succeed in obtaining them, the quantity of that timber in our country will be so exhausted that but little of consequence will be left." An efficient and skilful body of men, amounting to sixteen hundred, composed of mechanics, artificers, and laborers, are now engaged at the different building yards. Labor, materials for building, and provisions, are represented to be lower than they have been for a long time past. A suspension of the annual appropriation, or a portion of it, even for a limited time, would produce derangement in the plans already adopted. Workmen of skill and integrity, who are known to the officers of the Government, must necessarily be discharged. It would, on emergency, be difficult to obtain the same, or other workmen of equal skill and integrity. The prudent and judicious arrangements made by the Commissioners of the Navy to obtain ordnance of the best quality, and on reasonable terms, and thereby to guard against the recurrence of those distressing accidents which resulted from defective ordnance prior to the year 1816; their equally judicious arrangements to obtain at all times, either of war or peace, "supplies of canvass of our own manufacture, so that in this essential article of naval equipment we might be at all times independent," would, by a suspension of the annual appropriation, or any portion of it, to a certain extent, be defeated. "The principle of confining the expenditure to the amount appropriated seems to have been invariably observed by the Commissioners of the Navy." The committee are irresistibly led to the conclusion, that true economy, and the best inter-


ests of the nation, are opposed to a suspension, even for a limited time, of any portion of the sum annually appropriated for the gradual increase of the navy of the United States.

In obedience to the second inquiry, directed by the resolution of the 5th of January, viz; "whether any other reduction of the expenses of the navy can be made, consistent with the public service," the committee respectfully remark, that this inquiry appears more peculiarly to fall within the cognizance of the Committee of Ways and Means. This committee, however, turned their attention to the subject They obtained from the Department of the Navy a statement, showing the class, names, force, and station, of all the public vessels of the United States in active employment, and the number of officers and men attached to each; which statement accompanies this report, marked B. By this statement, it appears that the whole number of officers and men attached to the vessels of the United States, is four thousand three hundred and fifty-four; that of this number, one thousand three hundred and ninety-nine, including officers and men, are employed in the Mediterranean squadron. The committee also obtained from the same department, "a statement of the naval force of the Barbary Powers, copied from a report made by Commodore Isaac Chauncey, dated the 23d of October, 1817." This statement, marked C, accompanies this report.

The committee have not been able to ascertain where any essential reduction can be made in the expenses of the navy, without reducing the establishment.

Navy Department, February 4, 1820.


I have the honor to transmit to you, in compliance with your letter of the 20th ultimo, as chairman of the Naval Committee of the House of Representatives, the documents herewith, marked A, B, and C, which have been prepared with a view to meet all the inquiries suggested by the committee, in relation to the naval affairs of the United States.

Paper A contains a full and explicit statement of facts from the Board of Navy Commissioners, with their opinions upon the most material points, relative to the gradual increase of the navy, in all of which I entirely concur, and believe the best interests of the nation to be inseparably blended with the completion of the original views of Congress, to establish a permanent and respectable naval force.

Papers B and C are statements in answer to the other inquiries, which embrace all those contained in your communication. 

In relation to the inquiry concerning the contingent appropriation, I would further respectfully observe, that the charges included under that head of expenditure are numerous, and vary every year in ma:ny incidental circumstances, which cannot be foreseen at the time of making the estimates for the general service; in addition to which, more or less is paid every year, in consequence of the settlement of old accounts, even as far back as the commencement of the late war; and, it is apprehended, that this head of appropriation could not be divided, without producing inconvenience to the service, and an inevitable suspension of many claims, the extent and nature of which will be seen by a reference to a report from this department to Congress, made on the 2d instant.

The contingencies of freight, transportation by land and water, and those of the recruiting service, are, in themselves, too precarious to admit of a more specific classification.

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


Hon. Nathaniel Silsbee, 

Chairman of the Naval Committee, House of Reresentatives.


Navy Comissioners' Office, January 31, 1820.


In reply to such of the queries, propounded in the letter of the honorable N. Silsbee, as appear connected with the duties entrusted to the Commissioners of the Navy, they have now the honor to make the following communication: 

Query 1st. What number of ships, to rate not less than seventy-four guns each? What number to rate not less than forty-four guns, have, by virtue of the act entitled "An act for the gradual increase of the navy," been commenced?

Answer. Six ships to rate not less than seventy-four guns, and one ship to rate not less than forty-four guns.

Query 2d. What number have been finished?

Answer. One rating not less than seventy-four guns.

Query 3d. What is the state of progress of the snips now building? viz:

Answer. The following is the state of progress of the ships now building, viz:

Ship of the line at Norfolk.—Timbering all complete; planking completed from keel to rail, with the exception of garboard, strake, and shutters; planking, inside or circling, completed from keelson to rail, with the exception of spirketing on orlop, lower and second gun deck; poop deck, six beams in and kneed; spar deck beams, all in and kneed, with the exception of hanging knees; deck framed, and dubbed off for plank; water ways in, and secured; upper gun deck, beams all in, but not kneed; lower gun deck, twenty-five beams in, and six of them kneed; orlop deck beams in, and kneed, deck framed, and dubbed off ready for planking; breast hooks all in and fitted, except two; diagonal riders all in, and partly secured; fore and main steps all in, and fitted; stern plank up; inside and out; cat heads fitted; rail on fore and aft, and secured; bottom bored off, ready for treenails, and now treenailing.

Ship to rate not less than forty-four guns, at Washington.—Keel laid, stern and stern post frame raised; floor timbers bolted; and the remainder of the frame prepared, and preparing to raise.

Ship of the line at Philadelphia.—Timbering all complete, part of the fillings in; has on all the strings, drifts, channel wales, main wales, and twenty-nine strakes of plank on the bottom; ceiled up, and the orlop deck clamps in; beams in; four breast hooks fastened, and the fifth faying; orlop deck, transom rider fayed; all her ports formed, and sills fitted, except the bridle port on the lower gun deck, and the stern chase ports in the poop; lower gun deck, beams in, stern, timbered, and partly planked; carlings for all the decks, mizzen steps, and support underneath, got out; bilge bolts drove; part of the butt bolts, and bolts through thick strakes, on; first futtock heads driven; diagonal riders, more than one third got out.

Ship of the line at New York.—Timbering and planking, inside and out, completed; top side, caulked; orlop, lower gun deck, upper gun deck, and spar deck laid, and partly caulked; galleries and head building; treenailing her bottom, and squaring it ready for the caulkers.

Ship of the line at Boston.—The whole frame up, except the stern timbers, long and short top timbers, and filling in pieces; the plank from the bilge strake up, to the lower port sills, on, except six strakes under the wales; lower port sills, all in; channel wale, fitting; long top timbers over the ports, putting in.

Ship of the line at Portsmouth, N. H.—Keel laid, false keel on; deadwood on, except the forward piece; the main inner and false post, three transoms, and eight timbers of the fashion pieces finished, ready for framing the stern; twenty-nine floor timbers fayed to the keel; and four-fifth parts of the timber sided, moulded, and bevelled, ready to make the frames. 

Query 4th. What is the character of the materials now on hand?

Answer. The materials now on hand consist of—


Live oak,

Materials of wood.


Materials of metal.

White oak,


Yellow pine,


White pine,




Lignum vitae,





Query 5th. Are the most valuable such as would be liable to injury by keeping? Or are they of that character which would require them to be immediately applied to the purposes of building?

Answer. The cannon, carronades, ball, anchors, copper, iron, and lead, would not be liable to injury by keeping, but all the materials of wood, unquestionably, would be liable to serious injury by keeping, and their immediate application to the purposes of building would certainly be advisable. Were it to be determined not to apply them to this purpose immediately, sheds for their preservation would be indispensably necessary; and even under sheds, the most valuable and durable of this timber, the live oak, is liable to rents and other injuries from the action of the atmosphere. It will be remembered that, out of the sis frames provided under the act of 1799, it was found, when we commenced building ships of the line, that we had not timber enough to complete three ships; and it was observed that all the residue of the live oak timber, then provided, was rendered unfit for naval purposes by rents, although it was placed under sheds; and the pine and white oak timber, which had been collected for the same purpose, although placed under sheds, were entirely destroyed.

Query 6th. What are the engagements of the Government by contracts for materials for building, labor, and all necessary expenditures?

Answer. The engagements of the Government by contracts for materials for building are,

For live oak timber,

$791,583 00

For copper,

728,956 00

For anchors,

27,139 95

For beams, ledges, long combings, keel and keelson pieces, knees, treenails, staves, mastpieces, &c.

473,370 50

For iron,

157,355 00

For cannon, carronades, and shot,

331,290 00

For canvass,

140,298 00

For cordage,

50,000 00

For lead,

12,000 00

For steam engines and boilers,

59,440 00

These engagements are exclusively of purchases made, from time to time, by the navy agents at the different building yards; the amount of which purchases cannot be ascertained at this office, payments of money not coming under its cognizance.

The engagements for labor are as follow: There are now engaged at the different building yards;


ship carpenters,


ship joiners,






mast makers,


block makers,




boat builders,






gun carriage makers,




yeomen in gunner's department,




model maker,




steam engine men,


sawyers, and


laborers of all descriptions.


Whose monthly wages, at this time, amount to $31,335; but as the ships now on the stocks progress, additional mechanics in the several departments will be required. It is calculated that when all the requisite materials shall be collected at the different yards, so that then can be advantageously employed in all the various departments, such ail addition to the number at present employed will become necessary, that the monthly expense will be very considerably increased.

Query 7th. Have contracts or engagements been entered into by which the Government will be bound to expend, within the present year, a portion of the sum appropriated? If so, what portion of. the million appropriated for the current expenditures of the present year has been pledged for existing contracts?

Answer. In reply to this query, the Commissioners of the Navy would respectfully observe, that, in all the contracts or engagements made under the law for the gradual increase of the navy, the principle of confining the expenditures to the amount appropriated has been invariably observed. Hence it will be found that the unexpended balance of the appropriation, on the 1st January, 1820, is amply sufficient to discharge every engagement made up to that period; and that no portion of the million appropriated for the current expenditures of the present year was, at that time, pledged for existing contracts.

It is, however, here due to the proprietors of certain foundries,and factories of canvass, to state the conditional engagements made with them.

Prior to the passage of the act of 29th April, 1816, the ordnance of the navy was very defective; frequent instances of guns bursting in action had occurred. Many of our men had lost their lives, and others had been severely wounded by such accidents; that confidence in the excellence of his arms, so essential to the sailor and soldier, had been, in no inconsiderable degree, impaired. To remedy this serious national evil became an object of the first importance to the preservation of our naval character. The law in question, requiring that a great number of cannon should be procured, and making an annual appropriation for a term of years, afforded the means of accomplishing this important object. The proprietors of foundries, having before them a prospect of employment for eight years, expressed a readiness to place their establishments on the best possible footing, and to deliver such ordnance as might be required of them on reasonable terms. The Government was thus placed in circumstances the most favorable for accomplishing this purpose. Three foundries were accordingly selected to cast the cannon, carronades, and shot, directed by the act referred to; a method of proof, calculated to test effectually the quality of the metal, was established; the price was fixed so as to allow a moderate profit; and the proprietors were, more-over, required to make, at their own expense, any alterations or improvements in their plans and establishments, that might conduce to the improvement of the ordnance. These points being secured by adequate penalties, assurances were, with the approbation of the Government, given to the proprietors of these foundries, that the cannon,


carronades, and shot, authorized by the act for the gradual increase of the navy, should be procured of them, by annual contracts, provided they should continue to furnish such as would stand the proof prescribed, undergo the inspection directed, and conform in all other respects to the stipulations of the contracts.

It was also considered an object of much national importance, to possess the means, in time of war or peace, of procuring supplies of canvass of our own manufacture, so that, in this essential article of naval equipment, we might be at all times independent. Prior to the law of 29th April, 1816, our service was wholly dependent on foreign importations for the canvass necessary in the equipment of our ships of war; that law provided the means of remedying the evil, and they have, with considerable success, been applied. Assurances, similar to those given to the proprietors of the foundries, have brought into operation two respectable factories; one of which, the elder, at this time makes for the navy, at reduced prices, canvass greatly superior in all respects to any ever known to have been imported into the United States from any foreign country. The other has recently been got up, at great expense to the proprietor, and promises to succeed equally well. The competition excited between the two will not, it is hoped and expected, fail to produce the happiest effects upon both; and the commissioners feel a persuasion that perseverance in a system of reasonable encouragement will, in a short time, effectually secure our independence in this essential material of naval equipment.

The proprietors of the cannon foundries and canvass factories have, thus far, faithfully redeemed their engagements to the Government. Under the assurances given to them they have, at great expense, placed their establishments in the most improved state, calculating, with confidence, upon employment and protection from the Government. How far such assurances may be considered as binding the Government to expend, within the present year, a portion of the sum appropriated, you, sir, will decide; but the commissioners beg leave to observe that the effect of withholding employment from these valuable factories would be, there is too much reason to believe, to involve them all in absolute ruin—a consequence to be deprecated as a national, as well as individual, evil.

Query 8. What proportion of the standing appropriation, under the above act, can be suspended for a limited time, consistently with the faith of the Government, in reference to existing contracts, and without material injury to ships now building, and materials on hand?

Answer. Referring to the preceding reply to the seventh query, as answering in part, the first branch of this, the commissioners will further observe that the faith of the Government is in no greater degree pledged than is therein stated; that, if the assurances given to the proprietors of the factories referred to be considered as not pledging the faith of the Government for any expenditure of the appropriation beyond the amount of the contracts actually existing on the 1st of January, 1820, the question of suspension would be unfettered with any consideration other than the expediency of such a measure.

As respects the effect which a suspension of part of the appropriation, for a limited time, would have upon ships now building, and materials on hand, the commissioners, with great deference, offer the following considerations:

As before stated, we have now five ships of the line, and one frigate on the stocks; for the labor in the building of which we are now expending $31,335 per month, which sum will necessarily, in a short tune, be considerably increased,) exclusively of additional materials, which, as the ships progress, it will become necessary to procure in order to keep the mechanics advantageously employed. To suspend building these ships, at this time, might be seriously injurious to them; to preserve them at all, houses over them, which could not be built but at very great expense, would be indispensable. Neither materials nor labor have, for a long time past, been so low as they are at this time; hence, it would appear, in this view, a peculiarly favorable period for building. Doubts are entertained, whether it would be in the power of the Government, at any future period, to command, as it now can, the best professional talents and the most able mechanics, almost on its own terms; and were we now to discharge the mechanics and laborers, employed in the different navy yards, it would require much time, and be attended with difficulty and expense, to collect again, and re-organise, such valuable corps. But, independently of these considerations, there are others which probably may not be deemed unworthy of attention.

Certain great national objects are contemplated by the act of 29th April, 1816, and the means, deemed sufficient to complete them, are provided. To render the means adequate to the objects, great economy is essential; and this economy assuredly suggests the expediency of progressing, particularly when so great a portion of the means has already been applied, and the possession of a fund applicable to advantageous purchases, as opportunities offer, is a consideration of no little weight in the economical application of means.

As to the materials now on hand, as before stated, those of wood, if the building of the ships were suspended, would subject the Government to great expense, in the erection of sheds for their better preservation; and, even then, as experience has proved, they could not be effectually preserved. The Board fear that it would be found impracticable to replace the live oak frames, should they receive injury: for, in addition to the small quantity of this valuable timber which will be left after the completion of the frames now contracted tor, the Commissioners of the Navy have already had the honor of communicating to you that they have received information, from an unquestionable source, that the British Government have now an agent in this country for the purpose of obtaining live oak frames for twenty ships; and, should they succeed in obtaining them, the quantity of that timber, in our country, will be so exhausted that but little of consequence will be left.

Upon the whole, sir, the Commissioners of the Navy, viewing this subject in all its bearings, would beg leave respectfully to decline recommending a suspension, even for a limited time, of any portion of the appropriation for the gradual increase of the navy. They feel a clear conviction, that, if no part of the appropriation be suspended, the sum provided will be sufficient to accomplish all the purposes of the law; but they arte equally clear, that the sum provided will not be adequate to those objects, unless managed with great economy; and that suspending any material portion of the appropriation would defeat the economical management of it, and thus render the means inadequate to the end.

Query 9th, Whether the contingent appropriation for freight, transportation, and recruiting expenses, cannot, consistently with the interest of the navy, be less than three hundred thousand dollars?

Answer. The estimate for the contingent expenses of the navy, which embraces a great variety of contingent expenditures, other than those stated in the query, was predicated upon the force intended to be kept in service.

Considering the nature of this appropriation, which is to meet necessary, yet undefinable expenses, fluctuating as the casualties happening in every naval service; expenses which no human foresight can estimate with any degree of precision; and adverting to past experience as the safest guide; the Commissioners would observe, that, although the whole sum of three hundred thousand dollars may possibly not be required, yet it might be injurious to the service to reduce it.

Query 10th. Cannot the expenses for freight, transportation, and recruiting, be provided for by specific appropriation?

Answer. Could these items be estimated with any degree of precision, then they might be provided for by specific appropriation; but it is apprehended, that a satisfactory estimate of the expense of these items could not be formed. To form such an estimate would require a knowledge, at the commencement of the year, of the whole quantity and measurement of the articles to be transported to and from the several depots, and to and from the several ships and vessels in service; the prices that would be asked for freight; the number of men to be discharged, or that might die; and the number to be entered, &c. during the year.

Query 11th. What expenses have been incurred in procuring steam engines, and the imperishable materials necessary for building and equipping three steam batteries?

Answer. The following exhibits a view of the engagements made with regard to steam batteries, viz:


3 complete engines


Making boilers, 164,000 lbs. copper,

at 10 cents


82,000 lbs. copper, castings, &c.



82,000 do. do.



3 live oak frames, 36,000 feet

1 45


90,000 cubic feet yellow pine timber



All which is most respectfully submitted.

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


Honorable Smith Thompson, Secretary of the Navy.

Exhibit, showing the class, names, force, and station, of all the public ships and vessels of the United States, in active employment, and the number of officers and men attached to each.



of officers
and men.


Ship Franklin ,



In the Mediterranean.







Brig Spark ,




Ship Columbus ,



Preparing for the Mediterranean, to relieve the Franklin,




Cruising in the Pacific Ocean.




Cruising in the China seas.

Constellation ,



Cruising on the eastern coast of South America.

John Adams ,



Cruising between Africa, South America, and the West Indies.




Cruising on the coast of Africa.




On her return to the United States.




Ready for sea, at New York; destined on special service.

Brig Enterprise ,



Cruising in the Gulf of Mexico.

Schooner Nonesuch ,



Cruising on the eastern coast of South America.




Cruising in the Gulf of Mexico.





Ketch Surprise ,




Schooner Bull Dog ,




Lady of the Lake ,



Cruising on Lake Ontario,




Do. on Lake Erie.



Employed on the surveying service.



Receiving vessel at Baltimore.

Gunboat No. 158 ,



Cruising on the coast of Georgia and the Carolinas.

Gunboat No. 168 ,




Gunboat No. 72 ,



Employed at Norfolk, Virginia.

Gunboat No. 76 ,




Gunboat No.



Tender at Washington Navy Yard,




Number of officers and men employed in the Mediterranean squadron


Number of officers and men, attached to the vessels of the United States, otherwise employed




A statement of the Naval Force belonging to the Bashaw of Tripoli.

1 corvette ship

24 guns

1 brig

16 do.

3 small vessels

mounting from 2 to 6 do.

About twenty gunboats, with one gun each, all small.

A statement of the Naval Force belonging to the Bey of Tunis.

3 frigates

mounting 48 guns each

1 do, building

to mount 48 do.

3 zebecks

mounting 26 guns each

I corvette

24 do.

1 do.

20 do.

1 zebeck

14 do.

1 do.

12 do.

1 brig

18 do.

10 small vessels, mounting from 4 to 16 guns each, and about

80 gunboats, mounting from 1 to 2 guns each,

3 bomb vessels, with a single mortar in each.

A statement of the Naval Force belonging to the Regency of Algiers.

1 frigate

mounting 36 guns

3 corvettes

from 20 to 26 do.

3 brigs

16 to 20 do.

3 schooners

14 to 18 do.

About 40 gunboats