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.
return,” Preble told his wife, Mary. He would never accept another naval command short of a full squadron, “having served so long a time in that capacity…with reputation to myself and honor to my country.” An hour before dawn on Wednesday, with a gentle wind in the northwest, Constitution was close-reaching on a larboard tack, in position to cross safely over the bows of the President, which was approaching the same point on the opposite tack. The maneuver was routine, and would have come off
followed was the familiar nocturnal game of nerves, in which each commander demanded to know the name of the unknown ship before giving the name of his own. When Preble had played it, as the Constitution entered Gibraltar Straits on a dark night in August 1803, it had nearly climaxed in an exchange of broadsides with the HMS Maidstone. When Rodgers’s hail came back, echoed verbatim, in plain English—“What ship is that?”—very little doubt remained that the stranger was a British man-of-war.
ed.: The Revolutionary Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States. 6 vols. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1889. SECONDARY SOURCES: BOOKS Adams, Henry. History of the United States During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson (1889–91). New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1986. —. History of the United States During the Administrations of James Madison (1889–91). New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1986. —. John Randolph. New York: Houghton
went into closed session for three days. Twelve hundred copies were printed. Not surprisingly, a few were soon leaked to the newspapers. Having hoped that the dispatches would furnish them with rhetorical ammunition to use against the president, the Republicans suddenly learned that France’s treatment of the envoys had in fact been far worse than Adams had let on. Now the entire nation would know the whole sordid tale. Abigail Adams observed that the Republicans were “struck dumb, and opened not
the same tone of shock and indignation. Communicating with St. Kitts by a vessel dispatched under a flag of truce, the governor demanded, “in the name of the Republic,” the return of L’Insurgente and her crew. Replying two days later, Truxtun rejected the demand, and declared that he would continue to attack any French armed ship he found operating in the West Indies, “untill ordered to the Contrary by the President of the United States.” The American people, Truxtun added, “wish Peace with