Legal History of the United States' Navy.

AT the coinmencement of the disturbance between Great Britain and her American colonies, the latter, in order to unite their efforts, and the better to accomplish their object, had forined themselves into a confederated body politic. A congress, representative of this confe. deracy, and of the states, was organized. Its members were elected by the state legislatures; and it was invested with the powers of national defence, the superintendence of the welfare of the confederacy, and the accomplishment of the great object of the union-redress of grievances. Both legislative and executive functions were united in this body. The greater part of the year 1775 was occupied in the more immediate business of organizing an army to resist the aggressions of one already in the country. It was not until the 5th of October, 1775, that the attention of Congress was turned to any kind of operations on the ocean. At this period they received information of two vessels being on their way to Canada, laden with arms and powder. The capture of these vessels laden with articles of the first necessity in warlike operations, and of which Congress was in great want, became an object of the utmost importance. A committee of threc, consisting of John Adams, John Langdon, and Silas Deane, were appointed to prepare a plan for intercepting these vessels ; and on the same day they made a report, which being taken into consideration, it was

Resolved, That a letter be sent to general Washington, to inform him, that Congress having received certain intelligence, of the sailing of two north country built brigs, of no force, from England, on the 11th of August last, loaded with arms, powder and other stores, for Quebec, without convoy, which it being of importance to intercept, desire that he apply to the council of Massachusetts Bay, for the two armed vessels in their service, and despatch the same, with a sufficient number of people, stores, &c. particularly a number of oars; in order, if possible, to intercept the two brig's and their cargoes, and secure the same for the use of the continent; also, any other transports laden with ammunition, clothing or other stores, for the use of the ministerial army or navy in America, and securing them in the most convenient places, for the purpose above mentioned ; that he give the commander or commanders such instructions as are necessary, as also proper encouragement to the marines and seamen, that shall be sent on this enterprise, which instructions are to be delivered to the commander or commanders, sealed up, with orders not to open the same, until out of sight of land, on account of secrecy.

" That a letter be written to the said honourable coun. cil, to put the said vessels under the general's command and direction, and to furnish him instantly with every necessary in their power, at the expense of the continent.

That the general be directed to employ the said vessels and others, if he judge necessary, to effect the purposes aforesaid; and that he be informed that the Rhode Island and Connecticut vessels of force will be sent directly to their assistance.

“ That a letter be wrote to governor Cooke, informing him of the above, desiring him to despatch one or both of the armed vessels of the colony of Rhode Island on the same service, and that he use the precautions above mentioned.

« That a letter be written to governor Trumbull, requesting of him the largest vessel in the service of the colony of Connecticut, to be sent on the enterprise aforesaid, acquainting him with the above particulars, and recommending the same precautions.

“ That the said ship and vessels of war, be on continental risque and pay, during their being so employed.*"

On the 13th of October, the same committee appears to have made an additional report. It was resolved, “ That a swift-sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be

* Journals of Congress, vol. I. p. 197.


fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months; and that the commander be instructed to cruise eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes, as the Congress shall direct.

" That a committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expense, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons, to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, That another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes; and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expense.

5 The following members were chosen to compose the committee: Mr. Deane, Mr. Langdon, and Mr. Gadsden."

The committee appointed in the above resolve, to prepare an estimate of the expense of equipping a vessel, &c. reported on the 30th of October; when it was resolved, That the second vessel ordered to be fitted out on the 13th instant, be of such size as to carry fourteen guns, and a proportionate number of swivels and men.

Resolved, " That two more vessels be fitted out, with all expedition; the one to carry not exceeding twenty guns, and the other not exceeding thirty six guns, with a proportionable number of swivels and men, to be employed in such manner, for the protection and de. fence of the United Colonies, as the Congress shall direct.

« Resolved, That four members be chosen and added to the former committee of three, and that these seven be a committee to carry into execution, with all possible expedition, as well the resolutions of Congress, passed the 13th instant, as those passed this day, for fitting out armed vessels.

" The members chosen, Mr. Hopkins, Mr. Hewes, Mr. R. H. Lee, and Mr. J. Adams”+

On the 2d November it was resolved, " That the com

* Journals of Congress, Vol. I. p. 204.
| Idem, p. 211.

mittee appointed to carry into execution the resolves of Congress, for fitting out four armed vessels, be autharized to draw on the continental treasurers, from time to time, for as much cash as shall be necessary for the above purpose, not exceeding the sum of one hundred thousand dollars; and that the said committee have power to agree with such officers and seamen, as are proper to man and command the said vessels; and that the encou. ragement to such officers and seamen, be one half of all ships of war, made prizes of by them, and one third of all transport vessels, exclusive of wages."*

It was not long before this patriotic body discovered the great utility, in a large extent of sea-coast, of a corps of soldiers trained to serve both on land and at sea. ACcordingly on the 9th of November it was resolved, “ That two battalions of marines be raised, consisting of one colonel, two lieutenant colonels, two majors, and other officers as usual, in other regiments; that they consist of an equal number of privates with other battalions; that particular care be taken, that no persons be appointed to offices, or enlisted into said battalions, but such as are good seamen, or so acquainted with maritime affairs, as to be able to serve to advantage by sea, when required; that they be enlisted and commissioned to serve for, and during the present war between Great Britain and the colonies, unless dismissed by order of Congress; that they be distinguished by the names of the first and second battalions of American marines; and that they be considered as part of the number, which the continental army of Boston is ordered to consist of.”

By a resolution of the 30th, general Washington was ordered to suspend raising the two battalions of marines, out of his present army. They were ordered to be raised independent of the army ordered for the service in Massachusetts.

The members composing the above-mentioned committees had now assumed the name of the Naval Committee. The depredations committed by lord Dunmore, the ex-governor of Virginia, attracted the attention of

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Congress, and on the 2d of December, 1775, it was resolved, “That the naval committee be directed to confer with captain Stone, and engage him and his vessel, on the most reasonable terms, in the service of the continent, for the purpose of taking or destroying the cutters and armed vessels in the Chesapeake bay under lord Dun


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Resolved, That colonel Harrison do immediately proceed to Maryland, and be empowered, with the delegates of that colony, or any one or more of them, to take such measures, as appear to them most effectual, to procure, with all possible despatch, two or three armed vessels, to cruize on, take or destroy armed vessels, cutters, and ships of war of the enemy, that may be found in the bay of the Chesapeake, or coast of Virginia and Maryland.

as, designs are formed by certain ministerial partizans in the counties of Norfolk and Princess-Ann, and some other parts of Virginia, or Chesapeake-bay, under the influence of lord Dupmore, to contravene the non-exportation agreement, by exporting provisions and other produce of that country to the West India islands, and thereby injuring the interest, and weakening the efforts of the United Colonies, in opposing the present oppressive system of the British ministry:

Resolved, That the said armed vessels be authorised and directed to seize and detain, until the further order of this Congress, all such ships and vessels, as they may find employed in such exportations from the places aforesaid

Resolved, That the naval committee be directed to employ the armed sloop, commanded by captain Abra. ham Whipple, of Rhode Island, now on a voyage to this port, and despatch her forthwith to aid the marine busi. ness of the southward.

" That the said committee be directed to prepare a proper commission for the captains or commanders of the ships of war in the seryice of the United Colonies."*

The form of a commission was reported and adopted on the same day.

On the 5th of December it was resolved, “ That the

* Journals of Congress, vol, 1. p. 255,

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