No. 500. [2d Session.
ON THE IMPORTANCE AND EXPEDIENCY OF ESTABLISHING A NAVAL SCHOOL OR ACADEMY, AND A PROPER LOCATION THEREOF.
COMMUNICATED TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES JANUARY 18, 1833.
Navy Department, January 14, 1833.
In compliance with a resolution of the House of Representatives, passed January 9th, 1833, a diligent search has been made among the records of this Department; and I have found no report "relative to the proper site of a naval school, except the two annexed, (A and B.)
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
The Hon. Andrew Stevenson, Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Navy Department, January 25, 1823.
In answer to your letter of the 21st instant, relative to a naval school, I would beg leave to observe, that I think the subject is of great importance to the service, both as it respects the young officers themselves, and in their usefulness to their country. The prosperity, as well as ability of such
an institution will, however, depend much upon its commencement. It is advisable, therefore, that the plan should be well matured before any measures are taken for its establishment.
The committee not having suggested any outlines as to their views, or whether it is intended to have one or more institutions of this kind, I am unable to prepare what I presume would be wished—an estimate of the expense of the necessary buildings.
The first inquiry, as a preliminary step, is, whether it is advisable to have one or more of these institutions, and at what place or places are they to be located? It would certainly be most convenient to have one at each of the navy yards—at Boston, New York, and Norfolk; but I am apprehensive that the expense would be so great, that it would be an insuperable objection to the measure. I am inclined, therefore, to think that, at present, one institution only ought to be established; and, if so, New York is the most central and convenient place. I am inclined to think, however, that no suitable site for the building could be spared from the navy yard. I am fearful, also, that there will not be sufficient time, during the present session, to act upon the subject. I would, under these circumstances, respectfully suggest to the committee, whether it would not be the better course for them to express their views upon the importance and utility of the measure; and whether one or more institutions ought to be established, and the place or places at which the same should be located; and to refer the subject to the Department, to report upon at the next session, with the estimates of the cost of a suitable site or sites, and the necessary buildings; and, also, the annual expense of the institution when once organized.
If this should not, however, meet the views of the committee, and they will make their inquiries more specific, I will, without delay, furnish all the information in my power.
As to the inquiry whether it should not be made the duty of some of the younger lieutenants to attend the school, I would remark, that I have no doubt that it would be useful, and, in many instances, absolutely necessary to qualify them for distinction and usefulness in the service; but I am fearful, to make it a duty, would wound the military pride that officers of that class ought to possess. This, however, might depend, in some measure, upon the branches of science taught in the institution, and they ought unquestionably to be admitted, if they should voluntarily request it. It is probable there may be found among the master commandants and senior lieutenants those who are qualified to instruct the midshipmen in some of the branches which will be taught at the seminary.
I am, very respectfully, &c,
SAMUEL L. SOUTHARD.
Hon. Timothy Fuller, Chairman Naval Committee, House of Representatives.
Navy Department, January 11, 1826.
I have had the honor to receive your letter of 29th December, written by direction of the Committee on Naval Affairs, and submit the following answers to your inquiries.
It is apparent that "the number of midshipmen, which the service will require to be attached to the proposed naval school as students," must depend on the extent of the naval force. It ought to be sufficient to instruct all the officers of that grade who belong to the navy, and can be spared from its active duties; and it should be so organized that it can, hereafter, without any material change in its arrangements, receive as many as the future wants of the service may require.
The present number of midshipman may be put at
Of these the vessels in commission require about
The navy yards
Leaving a little short of one hundred who may be spared from active duty. Of this number, however, a part will necessarily be on furlough or leave of absence, from sickness or other causes. On the other hand, it would be possible to withdraw some from active service if we had a place to which they could be sent, and their instruction in professional science promoted. One hundred may, therefore, be taken as the number which "the service would require to be now attached to the school."
This number must be increased as the navy enlarges. When all the vessels which are authorized to be built shall be completed and in commission, they will require one thousand one hundred midshipmen to officer them; and, with one thousand one hundred midshipmen in the service, it is obvious that there ought to be more than one hundred at the institution; two hundred and seventy-five forms the same proportion to one thousand one hundred as one hundred does to four hundred; and that is probably near the proportion which it will be found necessary to keep at the school after it shall be perfectly organized.
In determining the number for which provision ought, at present, to be made, another consideration should not be overlooked. System, order, and classification are indispensable to successful results in all schools; but, among the midshipmen now in service, there is so great a diversity of age, information, talent, and acquirement, that it will not be practicable to class them, and give them all the advantages which those will enjoy who enter and progress regularly through the course of instruction.
They must be arranged and taught in the best manner which the intelligence of the instructors can devise; and all who have the opportunity will, no doubt, be greatly profited. But the system must substantially commence with those who are admitted to the school and the navy at the same time, and placed there as the first scene of instruction and duty. While, therefore, as many of the existing midshipmen as can be spared from active employment should be sent to it, a class should be appointed, and commence their service with it: the number of this class ought to be at least fifty. It is a fair calculation that one-half of those appointed will not reach the higher grades of the service. Incapacity, indolence, change of private interests and views, vice, insubordination, sickness, death, will thin their numbers rapidly.
Some of those causes will operate uniformly and permanently, others more actively at the commence-
ment of the school, and until its character and discipline be well established, and well understood by those who are to enter it.
The number which must be annually appointed is matter of speculation: nothing but experience can fix it with precision and safety.
From the preceding statements, however, it would be fair to calculate that the number of appointments, annually, while the navy continues at its present extent, would be about fifty; and I respectfully propose to you that provision be now made upon the calculation that we may place at the institution one hundred of those now in service, and make fifty new appointments as a class with which to commence. These numbers can easily be increased or diminished, should experience prove them to be correct. It does not indeed seem to me to be a matter of much importance to fix the numbers with precision. The same general expenses (with the exception of the buildings) which will be required for the institution of one hundred, would be sufficient for two hundred or three hundred.
I send to you two statements, which seem to justify the numbers assumed by me: they will be useful in any calculations which you may wish to make on the subject.
It is impossible to furnish an estimate which can be relied on of the "amount required for the erection and completing the necessary buildings," until the site shall be selected, and the character and extent of the buildings determined.
Their character must depend somewhat on their location, but they will, probably, resemble those at West Point; their extent and cost being proportioned to the number of students, which, for the present, and perhaps always, will be less than at the Military academy. The draft of a bill which you apropose to report, authorizes the President to locate the school on any of the lands now owned by the United States for naval or military purposes. On several places coming within this description there are buildings which would be useful for this establishment, and diminish the expense of those to be erected; for instance, at Governor's Island. Supposing a site to be selected without any improvements on it, and taking the public buildings at West Point as a guide, and reducing the expense in proportion to the numbers, say one-third, and to the present price of labor and materials, there would be $ ----- ; but of this sum a small proportion only can be expended during the first year; and, as I have heretofore stated to you, I suppose $30,000 will be sufficient, at present, for all purposes, of building, professors, books, instruments, and contingent expenses, and enable the President to put the school into operation.
The annual expense, "excepting the pay and subsistence of the midshipmen and navy officers attached to it, or attending as students," will depend upon the number of instructors, and the cost of the books, instruments, &c. The best guide to an estimate on this point is to be found in the annual expense of the West Point academy, and it may be stated at about $15,000. It is believed that that sum will be sufficient for all the purposes of the school, embracing the vessel which must be attached to it.
I here beg leave to remark that, in matters of this description, experience is the safest guide; that, although the best skill may be exercised in forming the institution, it is prudent not to attempt an enlarged and perfect plan in the first instance.
It will be three years before those appointed at the commencement can pass through it, and, during that period, the arrangements must necessarily be progressive, and will be more or less affected by irregularities arising from the presence of the midshipmen now in service, and who can be only temporarily attached to it, and, while there, cannot be uniformly classed.
Congress will at all times have entire control over its expenditures and extent, and may correct the expenses in the buildings, as well as in other matters.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
SAMUEL L. SOUTHARD.
Hon. Henry R. Storrs, Chairman of the Committee on Naval Affairs, House of Representatives.