21st Congress.] 

No. 408. 

[1st Session



Letter from the Secretary of the Navy to the chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, in relation to the ministerial duties of the officers of the Navy Department.

Navy Department, January 21, 1830.


In compliance with the request contained in your letter of the 23d December, 1829, in which you solicit the projects of such laws as may be submitted on the subject of the pay and emoluments of the officers of the navy, the organization of the Board of Navy Commissioners, &c., I have the honor to report, in part, the following bills, having reference to a reorganization of the Board of Navy Commissioners.

The bill marked A contains a proposition for giving power to the President of the United States to make such distribution of the duties now performed by the Navy Board (under the provisions of the act of Congress of the 7th February, 1815) as he may think will promote the dispatch of the public business, secure better responsibility for its proper discharge, and generally to effect in a more perfect manner the objects proposed to be obtained by the provisions of the bill above referred to.

The paper marked B presents the sketch of a bill, giving, in detail, the project of a distribution of the duties proposed to be assigned to each of the officers entrusted with the discharge of the ministerial duties of the Department, in which an effort has been made to give to each his full share of duty and responsibility, without imposing on any one more than may be deemed within the compass of his ability to perform.

In support of the propriety of making the proposed subdivision of the labors of the board, it may be said that it will secure to each class of designated duties the undivided attention of the officer who shall be selected to superintend them; that this exclusive devotion of his time and talents to one branch, or single train of services, will give him a more intimate knowledge of their interests and means of accomplishment, and that it will secure a stronger individual responsibility for their faithful discharge.

On this latter point it may be added, that while the merits of superior intelligence, or assiduous application in the performance of any assigned trust or duty, is shared in common with other officers, that kind of inducement for individual effort is not afforded, which, of all others, prompts to the highest exertion of intellectual or physical power. It is not proposed, by assigning to individual enterprise and exertion the performance of the specific duties recited in the bill, to deprive the officers so employed of the power of acting in their capacity as a board, whenever it may, in the opinion of the Secretary of the Navy, be necessary for them so to act, to establish general principles in relation to the system of construction of vessels-of-war, their armament, equipment, preservation, or any other points connected with the great general interests of the navy, on which he may desire their united counsel and information.

Thus the Department will have the benefit of the conjoined talents and naval skill of the board, added to the advantages to be expected to be derived from the separate efforts and responsibility of the members.

Under any disposition which may be made of the subject of distributing the duties of the board, it will be desirable that the power should be given to the President of the United States to alter or modify the same, in such manner as experience may show will be required for the attainment of the objects proposed to be effected by the bill.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, sir, your obedient servant,


The Hon. Michael Hoffman, Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, H. R.