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NAVY PENSION FUND.
[To accompany bill H. R. No. 6.]
JUNE 29, 1841.
Read, and, with the bill, H. R. No. 6, "To provide for the payment of Navy pensiums," committed to a Committee of the Whole House on the state of the Union.
Mr. WILLIAM B. CALHOUN, from the Committee on Naval Affairs, submitted the following
The Committee on Naval Affairs, on that part of the President's Message, referred to them, which relates to Navy pensions, report:
Under the operation of the act entitled "An act for the more equitable administration of the navy pension fund," that fund has been exhausted. On the first of July the sum of $88,706 06 will be required for the payment of navy pensioners; and on the 1st of January next the further sum of $69,000. These sums, with $6,000 for arrears of pensions, which will prob ably be allowed before January next, make in the whole $163,706 06. Deducting $28,040, now within the control of the Navy Departinent, the deficiency amounts to $139,666 06.
On the 3d of March, 1837, the principal of the navy pension fund was $1,115,329 53. This fund dates its origin from the act of April 23, 1800, which set apart all money accruing, or which has already accrued to the United States from the sale of prizes, " as a fund forever for the payment of pensions and half-pay, to such officers and seamen as should be entitled to receive the same: and the public faith was pledged to make up any deficiency in the fund.
By numerous subsequent acts, pensions have been granted to widows and children of officers, seamen, and marines, killed or dying of wounds received in the line of their duty, and also to the widows and children of officers, seamen, and marines, who died in the naval service during the late war."
The act of the 3d March, 1817, granted pensions to the widows and children of officers, seamen, and marines, dying, or who have died since June, 1812, of disease contracted, or of casualties or injuries received while in the line of duty. This act was repealed in 1824 because of its drawing too largely upon the fund.
The act of 3d March, 1837, grants pensions to widows and children of all officers, seamen, and marines, who "have died or may hereafter die in the naval service," without discrimination or limitation. Under the op ration of this act, in connexion with the depreciation of some of the stocks comGales & Seaton, print.
posing the fund, this fund is now entirely exhausted. And under the pledge of the public faith in the act of 1800, Congress is now called on to make provision for the deficiency of means to pay the navy pensioners.
This statement shows most clearly, that the entire legislation of Congress upon the subject of navy pensions, ought to be carefully revised. The original fund being exhausted, it is obvious, as the laws now stand, that all pensions must be paid from the public Treasury. The pledge of the public faith in the act of 1800 cannot properly be construed as given to make good any deficiency beyond the scope of that act; which was, the "payment of pensions, and half pay to officers and seamen." The pensions, by subsequent acts, to widows and children, were granted for periods of five years. There are some other particulars, it may be added, in which the legislation of Congress, in regard to these pensions, seems to have been improvident. A revision of these laws cannot be made at this session. They will well deserve the prompt attention of Congress at the regular ses sion. In the mean time, it seems just and proper that provision be made for the payment of the pensioners who are entitled to such payment under existing laws: and for that purpose à bill is reported.
1st Sess on.
NAVAL ORDNANCE AND ORDNANCE STORES.
JULY 7, 1841.
Printed by order of the House of Representatives.
Mr. WISE, from the Committee on Naval Affairs, to which the subject had been referred, submitted the following
The Committee on Naval Affairs, to whom was referred so much of the President's message us relates to naval affairs, have had the same under consideration, and report:
That in the communication of the Secretary of the Navy, accompanying the President's message, the attention of Congress is called to the state of navy ordnance and ordnance stores. The Secretary remarks that he deems this subject "worthy of immediate consideration." It appears that the attention of Congress has been heretofore drawn to the same subject, but that no effective measures have been taken to place this branch of the public service on its proper footing. From a report of the Board of Navy Commissioners it would seem that so great a deficiency exists in this particular, that, for all purposes of naval warfare, the country is entirely destitute of any thing like an adequate supply. Your committee are of opinion that immediate measures should be taken to remedy this evil, or, at least, that provision should be made for supplying this deficiency as soon as the state of the public finances will permit. The first section of the bill herewith reported is founded upon the recommendation of the Secretary, to which, with the accompanying report of the Commissioners, your committee beg leave to refer.
Your committee are further of opinion that, at this period of scientific experiment and discovery, the Navy Department should be clothed with power to test the value of such improvements as have been, or may hereafter be, made in naval ordnance and construction. Their attention has been called to this subject by a letter from the Secretary, dated June 29, 1841, to which they ask leave to refer. With a view to this, and also to certain experiments heretofore made, your committee have inserted the second section of the bill which is here with submitted.
NAVY DEPARTMENT, June 29, 1841.
SIR Should the Committee on Naval Affairs deem it proper to recommend the appropriation desired for ordnance and ordnance stores, I beg to suggest the propriety of allowing the Department the power to apply Gales & Seaton, print.
such portion of the appropriation, as may be deemed reasonable, in experiments to test the value of improvements in ordnance, in the construction of steamers and other vessels of war, and in other matters connected with the naval service and the national defence.
There has been no period of the world in which the inventive faculties of our race have been so actively or more successfully employed than the present, and no country more distinguished by honorable discoveries than our own. Many have been brought to the notice of the Department with fair promises of success, and with just claims at least to a careful trial, while the means of the discoverers are often inadequate to bear the expenses of the trial; and it is in nearly all cases desirable that some reserve should be used in giving publicity to a projected improvement until its value shall have been tested. It would seem to me, therefore, wise to entrust to some department of the Government the means of ascertaining, by a judicious course of experiments, the true character of such discoveries and improvements as shall seem to promise success, and as (if successful) will materially aid the public service.
As some experiments have already been made by authority of law, I respectfully suggest also the propriety of enabling the Department to apply the necessary sums to defraying any charges left unpaid on account of such experiments.
Should it meet the approbation of the committee, I recommend that for these purposes the Department be authorized to apply any portion of the proposed appropriation not exceeding fifty thousand dollars.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Hon. HENRY A. WISE,
GEO. E. BADGER.
Chairman Committee on Naval Affairs, Ho. of Reps.