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Teaching With Documents:
Launching the New U.S. Navy

Background

The act that authorized construction of the first six frigates called for a halt in construction if peace with Algiers was secured. Such a peace came in early 1796--before the ships were completed--but President Washington urged continued congressional support. Congress approved completion of three frigates, the U.S.S. United States, the U.S.S. Constellation, and the U.S.S. Constitution. The three vessels were completed and launched in 1797. The Department of War was responsible for their construction, and the Department of the Treasury was responsible for all related contracts and disbursements. Officials in those departments and others recommended to Congress that a separate naval department be created that would be staffed with persons competent in, and solely responsible for, naval affairs. At the same time, tensions with France prompted greater support for a strong navy. The act establishing the Department of the Navy was signed by President John Adams on April 30, 1798.

Bill to Establish the US Navy
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National Archives and
Records Administration
Center for Legislative Archives
Records of the U.S. Senate
Record Group 46

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The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

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