Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
Ian W. Toll
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"A fluent, intelligent history...give[s] the reader a feel for the human quirks and harsh demands of life at sea."―New York Times Book Review
Before the ink was dry on the U.S. Constitution, the establishment of a permanent military became the most divisive issue facing the new government. The founders―particularly Jefferson, Madison, and Adams―debated fiercely. Would a standing army be the thin end of dictatorship? Would a navy protect from pirates or drain the treasury and provoke hostility? Britain alone had hundreds of powerful warships.
From the decision to build six heavy frigates, through the cliff-hanger campaign against Tripoli, to the war that shook the world in 1812, Ian W. Toll tells this grand tale with the political insight of Founding Brothers and the narrative flair of Patrick O'Brian.
are disposed to think that I have rendered some service to my country.” In one important respect, Preble had succeeded where his predecessors had failed: He had not won the war, but he had at least carried the fight to the enemy. To a nation eager for any kind of good news from the Mediterranean, the destruction of the Philadelphia and the August 1804 attacks on Tripoli had been psychologically rewarding, if nothing else. Preble had fought hard, and honorably. In the eyes of his countrymen, who
of the Constitution. His name was carved across her transom: “HAMILTON.” CHAPTER TWO On October 8, 1793, the U.S. minister to Portugal, David Humphreys, addressed a circular letter “To All Governors, Magistrates, Officers Civil, Military & others concerned, in the United States of America.” Copies were to be carried by vessels sailing from Lisbon for every point on the compass. It was short and to the point: You are earnestly desired, as speedily as possible, to give a universal alarm to all
between Québec and Nova Scotia, and fortresses on the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence taken in the course of the war. But on October 24, with their position immeasurably strengthened by the news of Baltimore and Plattsburgh, the Americans rejected uti possidetis and declared that they would negotiate only on the basis of status quo ante bellum—that is, “status before the war,” or a restoration of all occupied territories. At first, the British cabinet assumed that the American delegation’s
Horrors of Slavery, in Baepler, ed., White Slaves, African Masters, pp. 192–95. grounds of “Interest and Humanity”: Captain William Bainbridge to Captain Edward Preble, December 5, 1803, BW III:253. “melancholy and distressing Intelligence”: Diary of Captain Edward Preble, November 24, 1803, BW III:175. “I most sincerely pity”: Captain Edward Preble to Mary Preble, December 12, 1803, quoted in McKee, Edward Preble, 182. “tremendous seas in the channel”: Captain Edward Preble to Secretary of
pageant carried him into the nave at St. Paul’s, where the great dome overhead was lit by the spectral glow of several thousand candles. Forty-eight sailors from the Victory carried the flagship’s ensign. A scuffle broke out between them at the cathedral door; the flag was torn to pieces and each man ran off with a fragment of red, white, or blue. Before the slain hero was lowered into the crypt and sealed in his sarcophagus, the mourners sang the patriotic anthem that was always sung on such