This week, the RedState Department of History celebrates the United States Navy.
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of passage of the Naval Act of 1794, which authorized the creation of what eventually became the U.S Navy — but only after a lot of debate.
The young nation had been without a navy since 1785, when Congress sold the Continental Navy’s last ship, Alliance, due to a lack of funds.
However, the incursions of Muslim pirates around Algiers forced the hand of the Congress, which authorized the construction of four 44-gun ships and two 36-gun ships — but which also called for their cancellation if peace was agreed with Algiers.
The controversy centered on two key themes: finance and imperialism. A substantial amount of debate centered around whether the young nation could afford a standing navy, and whether it would provoke European powers if one was built. However, the measure was passed, and work began on “The Original Six”, if you will:
In 1796, with construction on the first three ships still proceeding, a peace agreement was brokered and the infant Navy was shuttered. However, President Washington urged Congress to allow the first three ships on the list above to be finished, and the rest followed after a dispute with France in 1798 led to the XYZ Affair and the undeclared “Quasi War” (we didn’t like them even then, I guess).
Of course, as any student of naval history knows, the USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship in the Navy. “Old Ironsides” still resides in the Charlestown Naval Yard to this day. She cost $302,718 to build in 1794 dollars, which works out to $6,580,826 in today’s money.
Enjoy today’s open thread!