From monitors to battleships

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From monitors to battleships United States naval policy 1881 to 1892
Stein, Stephen Kenneth
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vi, 130 leaves : ; 28 cm


Subjects / Keywords:
History, Naval -- United States ( lcsh )
United States ( fast )
History. ( fast )
Naval history. ( fast )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )
History ( fast )
Naval history ( fast )


Includes bibliographical references (leaves 124-130).
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Stephen Kenneth Stein.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
41462360 ( OCLC )
LD1190.L57 1992m .S74 ( lcc )

Full Text
, From Monitors to Battleships
i United States Naval Policy
) 1881 to 1892
Bi A.,I University of Colorado at Denver, 1988
I A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University Of Colorado
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
| Master of Arts
( Department of History
I! 1992
Stephen Kenneth Stein

This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by-
Stephen Kenneth Stein
has been approved for the
Department of
Ernest Andrade
Mark Foster


Stein, Stephen Kenneth (M.A., History)
From Monitors to Battleships: United States Naval Policy,
1881 to|1892
Thesis directed by Professor Ernest Andrade
The United States Navy embarked in 1881 on an
unprecedented peacetime rearmament. Following the Civil
War the Navy,had been allowed to deteriorate for a variety
of economic and political reasons. Hardly any new ships
were built. 'In the 1880's this process was reversed and
by 1892 over' 40 new ships had been built or were under
construction!. This naval expansion and modernization was
a result of changing foreign policy concerns. The United
States now saw itself threatened by the encroachment of
European powers in its own hemisphere.
Naval thought changed dramatically in this period.
The concept of naval use changed from showing the flag in
peace, and commerce raiding and coast defense in war, to
enforcing the Monroe Doctrine and intervening in foreign
countries to protect American interests, in 1890 with the
publication of Mahan's Influence of Sea Power Upon

History this process of change reached its culminating
point. Naval policy changed from one of coast defense to
hemispheric defense; from a reliance on commerce raiding
to an expectation of fleet actions of battleships.
As' naval policy changed, so too did the type of
ships produced. From building monitors and small cruisers
and gunboats-, the United States changed to building
battleships and large cruisers. The Navy was also used
more often, jintervening wherever American interests were
threatened: in Panama in 1885, Samoa in 1889, and much of
the American continent by 1891. The naval policy
formulated in this period would continue to serve the
United States into the twentieth century.
, i
This abstract accurately represents the content of
the candidate's thesis. I recommend its publication.
:! !
; Ernest Andrade


1. INTRODUCTION ........................... 1
2 THE OLD NAVY: 1865-1880 ............... 6
NEW NAVY............................... 22
4 THE FIRST NEW SHIPS .............
The Politics of Economics
Building the First Ships . .
Chandler Takes Over .............
The ABCD's ......................
The Naval War College ...........
1884 and Election Year Politics
THE NEW NAVY, 1885-1888 ................
Whitney and the Navy Yards..............
Intervention in Panama ...............
More New Ships .........................
Naval Thought Continues to Develop . .
Domesticating the Navy .................

Armori for the Fleet....................... 74
The First Battleship ...................... 75
Whitney's Record .......................... 86
The New Naval Policy .
The Samoan Crisis . .
The Navy in 1889 . .
Tracy and the Navy Yards
The Policy Board ................
The Fight for Battleships . .
Naval ;Construction Under Tracy
Tracy':s Policy .................
The Navy and Foreign Policy .

Historians of the United States Navy have tended to
treat the years from 1865 to 1889 as one long period of
neglect and Istagnation for the Navy. It would be more
accurate to divided these years into three distinct
periods, each with its own different naval agenda. The
first, 1865-1.869, is a period of disarmament and return to
peacetime operations following the Civil War. The second,
from 1870 to; 1880, is a period of routine peacetime
operations in which the fleet was allowed to deteriorate
and almost no new ships were built. The third period,
from 1881 to- 1889, is a period of slow naval modernization
and expansion. This thesis will cover the development of
naval policy1 in this third period and through 1892.
' j
Historians of the post Civil War Navy are readily
divided into)two camps. The first of these, and by far
the more widely known, regard the rebirth of the Navy as
beginning with Benjamin Franklin Tracy and Alfred Thayer

Mahan in' 1890. The smaller and less well known group,
l ,
including Robert Seager II and Lance Buhl, note that the
intellectual roots of rearmament go back much further, at
least to 1880.
John D. Long, Secretary of the Navy 1897-1902,
writing in 1903 gave a great deal of credit to his
predecessors in that office in the 1880's, Hunt, Whitney
and Chandler, for the creation of the modern fleet. While
biased toward his fellow Republicans, Hunt and Chandler,
he is firm ijn his opinion of the importance of this period
in which the? necessary infrastructure to build a large
navy was1created, and the first steel ships were built.
He states unequivocally that the "birth of the New Navy
occured in the Administration of President Arthur."1
Long's generous credit to his predecessors seems to have
been lost inn the historical record.
Walterj Herrick and Harold and Margaret Sprout view
the decade ojf the 1880 s as one of neglect and lack of
strategic direction. They instead focus on the 1890s as
the period marking the rise of the United States Navy to
that of a world power. Harold and Margaret Sprout argue
that naval progress in the 1880's went forward
spasmodically, with very little planning at all."1 2
1 John D. Long, The New American Navy (New York: Outlook, 1903), 15.
2 Harold Sprout and Margaret Sprout, The Rise of American Naval Power (Annapolis: Naval
I 2
'' \

i I
; i
Walter R. Herrick states that ships built in this period
;i ?
reflected the haphazard planning of
officers who grasped the tactical
significance of mobility and firepower, but
failed to appreciate the strategic
advantage inherent in a unified battle
force of sufficient strength and endurance
to destroy an enemy fleet offshore.3
Benjamin Franklin Cooling in his biography of
Benjamin; Frapklin Tracy, Secretary of the Navy 1889-1892,
is also disparaging toward the ships built in the 1880's.
He credits Whitney for developing the steel manufacturing
capability that would prove necessary for building armored
warships, but otherwise sees the decade as one of
confusion and lack of direction. Like the biographers of
Chandler1 and Whitney, he sees the Navy in a dismal state
and lacking -strong leadership until the subject of his
book arrives} to take charge.4
Charles Oscar Paullin, while noting the importance
of the new steel ships, still sees this period as one of
"naval decline and widespread indifference toward the
Institute Press, 1990), 222.
I J i
Walter R. Herrick, The American Naval Revolution (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University
Press, 1966), 36.
4 Benjamin Franklin pooling, Benjamin Franklin Tracy (Hampden, CT: Archon Books, 1973).
5 Charles O. Paullin,' History of Naval Administration, 1775-1911: A Collection of Articles
From the U.S. Naval'Institute Proceedings (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1968), 321.
i 3

Robert ISeager II is more positive about the 1880's.
i' j.
He sees this decade as having laid "the physical and
H r
intellectual foundations for a vigorous policy abroad."
The physical facilities that would make building the
battleship navy possible, and the policy that would guide
+ i1
it, both have their beginnings m the 1880's.
The 1880s were both conceptually, and materially
the starting point for what was called the New Navy even
before it was built. While the rebuilding of the Navy was
i' ' I
at times1 hesitant, the progress was continuous through the
decade and closely followed proposals made by naval
officers, arid especially the members of the Naval
Institute. ^Generally, the United States built the largest
ships it- could given the state of its construction
facilities. 1 As these grew and were modernized, so too did
the ships built in them.
Naval planners in the 1880's originally intended
merely to rectify the neglect of the 1870's and simply
modernize thle fleet. By 1889 this had developed into full
scale naval (expansion. Two small battleships had been
built and others were planned for the future. Following
the completion of all the ships begun prior to 1892, the
United States would have the largest navy in its i
6 Robert Seager II, Ten Years Before Mahan: The Unofficial Case for the New Navy, 1880-90,
The Mississippi Vall'p Historical Review 40 (December 1953): 491.
' i:
i ii

hemisphere, Jand the sixth largest in the world. This
naval expansion was accompanied by demands for the United
States to fulfill its destiny and claim its rightful place
among the nations of the world.
In the 1880's the Navy became an important tool of a
very different foreign policy. The United States in this
decade tried increasingly to bring its influence to bear
on the world. The Navy was the tool that allowed that
made this possible. Whether intervening in Panama,
intimidating^ Chile, or threatening the British, the Navy
made itself jfelt in ways it had not since the Civil War.
The new, modern ships of the Navy made possible this
increasingly: aggressive foreign policy.
The united States never accepted the.dominance of
, 'i
the battleship in this decade, or even in the beginning of
the next as jHerrick and the Sprouts argue. Rather, the
building of battleships by the United States marked first,
the belief hjeld by many Congressmen that the country
should have |a few of these ships, and second, the belief
of naval officers that battleships were needed to
supplement monitors in the coast defense role. Monitors
were not entirely discarded in this period, but they were
increasingly eclipsed by the new battleships. They
: ]l
remained in ^service until their obsolescence was
demonstrate^; in the Spanish-American War.

THE OLD NAVY: 1865-1880
, i
Following the Civil War, the United States Navy-
declined from a strength of over 700 ships in 1865 to 203
in 1869,;to only 139 in 1881.1 This was in keeping with
the decision) of Congress to maintain a peacetime navy.
However, the Navy was allowed to deteriorate. By 1881,
all the ships were obsolete; many having been built
during, or even prior to, the Civil War. While estimates
vary, roughly one quarter of these ships were no longer
able to be made seaworthy, and a further half were in need
of extensive1 repair. Only a dozen or so of these ships
had the speed to overhaul the average merchant steamer.1 2
Only two were judged able both to defend themselves
adequately and able to outrun an enemy ship.3 Twenty-
1 Charles O. Paullin,;//istory of Naval Administration, 341; House Committee on Naval Affairs,
Construction of Vessels of War for the Navy, 47th Congress, 1st Session, 8 March 1882, House
Report 653. *
2 [Lieutenant] Charles Belknap, The Naval Policy of the United States.United States Naval
Institute Proceedings (hereafter cited as USNIP) 6 (1880): 382.
3 Lawrence Carroll Allin, The United States Naval Institute Intellectual Forum of the New Navy:
1873-1889 (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maine, 1976): 56.

5 i
two of the total were sailing ships, having no steam power
at all. !
Even those ships considered fit for service were in
terrible' condition. The ships of the Navy were involved
in numerous accidents and collisions, and these increased
in frequency as time passed. In one of these, the
Secretary of- the Navy's own transport, the Tallapoosa,
was in such poor condition that it sank after being
accidentally rammed at slow speed by a coal schooner. The
crew reacted; slowly, and the ship was apparently too slow
1 !|
to avoid the1 schooner.4
At,a time when the navies of other countries were
rapidly modernizing, building ships of iron and steel with
fast steam engines, the United States had only 14 single
turret monitors that dated back to the Civil War, and
four small iron vessels, the gunboats Ranger, Huron, and
Alert of roughly 1000 tons, and the experimental torpedo
boat Alarm, which had been designed by Admiral Porter.
The other ships were all built of wood.5 Five double
turret monitors, referred to as the Robeson monitors,
construction I of which had begun in the Civil War, were
still awaiting completion, construction on them having
proceeded fitfully, finally being halted in 1877. One,
4 20 February 1885, Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 2nd Session, 1974.
5 Leonard Swann, John Roach Maritime Entrepreneur (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1965),
153. 1
I 7
:: ii
: h

the Mianpondmah, was almost finished, lacking only its
'i *
pilot'house land turrets. The other four were nowhere near
complete. i'
In order to keep operating costs down, all ships,
j f
with the exception of the monitors, had been designed to
use sails as their primary means of propulsion. They
resorted,to jtheir steam engines, if they had them, only
; I
when absolutely necessary. While all navies of the world
relied on sails to some extent, they were considered
auxiliary tq the steam engines. In the United States
Navy, the opposite was true, and Captains were expected to
avoid using Coal, in order to keep operating costs to the
1, !
minimum. Coal cost money, but the wind was free.
The ships of the Navy were armed with obsolete
muzzle-loading cannon incapable of damaging modern armored
vessels. Of1, more than 2000 guns on warships in 1882, only
! i
36 were breelch-loading. Only about one tenth of the guns
? i
were rifled.j The Secretary of the Navy thought only 87 of
these guns were worth retaining.6 Even this proved
. i;
optimistic. Three of these guns later burst, one almost
!' I
wrecking the' Standish in 1884. Secretary of the Navy
Chandler was!forced to order that none of them be fired
6 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report (Washington: GPO, 1882), 7.
7 Mark D. Hirsch, William C. Whitney Modern Warwick (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1948), 295.

The Navy also had problems of personnel. The large
number of officers still in service from the Civil War
made promotion almost impossible, officers languished in
the junior grades for as much as twenty years, waiting for
i I
a senior, officer to die or retire. Yet the Navy was
i ,
unable to recruit enough sailors to fill the ranks and was
forced to recruit foreigners. Some of these were recent
immigrants, [others were recruited in foreign ports. As
many as half' the enlisted men may have been foreigners.* 8
Drunkenness and general incompetence were common
among officers and sailors, and resulted in frequent
accidents. The drunken commander of the Ashuelot ran the
ship aground; in 1883, wrecking it and killing eleven of
the crew^.9 Alfred Thayer Mahan, when in command of the
5 \
Wachusett, collided with another vessel on the open sea.
One of his jpnior officers quipped that "the Pacific Ocean
wasn't big enough for us to keep out of the other fellow's
way."10 i
In fairness, though, as Mahan's biographer points
out, the :Wachusett, was a wreck before Mahan wrecked
her. 1,11 This was certainly the case with most of the
o i
Paullin, History of Naval Administration, 358-360.
9 Kenneth Hagan, American Gunboat Diplomacy and the Old Navy 1877-1889 (Westport, CT.:
Greenwood Press, 1973), 119.
10 Robert Seager, Alfred Thayer Mahan the Man and His Letters (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press,
1977), 140.

Navy's other warships, as well, but better crew training
and discipline might have helped avert these accidents.
Stephen B. Luce, one of the most outspoken of the naval
officers', and the leader of the advocates of reform and
modernization, called for improved training of officers
and crew throughout this period. American officers envied
the modern ships and well trained crews of other nations,
especially Great Britain.
The press, however, was disinclined to be fair.
, i'
These and other incidents evoked sarcastic editorials
including orie from the New York Times calling for an end
to "the disastrous experiment of sending our men-of-war to
sea, where they are at all times in danger of being sunk
by coal schooners or fishing smacks."12
The Navy's primary duty in times of peace was to
foster trade and commerce and protect American citizens in
foreign countries. The voyage of the Ticonderoga around
the world was the preeminent example of this policy.
Commanded by' Robert Schufeldt, a strong believer in
commercial expansion, the Ticonderoga took over a year to
traverse thei globe, stopping in ports throughout Africa
t !,
and Asia where Schufeldt negotiated trade treaties and
intervened oh the behalf of Americans.
i I
12 Editorial, New York Times, 3 October 1884,2-1.

In the event of war, the United States Navy was
expected toiraid enemy commerce, much as it had done in
the War of 1812, and as the Confederate Navy had during
the Civil War. Naval officers, like Admiral Porter, based
their belief in this strategy on the success of
Confederate ],raiders like the Alabama that had destroyed
much of thejNorth's merchant marine, or forced it to the
flag of other countries, during the Civil War. Even
Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose name would later become
' i
synonymous with a battleship fleet, believed as late as
1885 that "the surest deterrent will be a fleet of swift
cruisers, to :;prey on the enemy's commerce."* 13 14
As Admiral Porter argued in his 1874 Annual Report:
"It is only [by destroying the commerce of a nation that we
could bring |her to terms; hence one vessel like the
Alabama roaming the ocean, sinking and destroying, would
do more to bring about peace than a dozen unwieldy
ironclads cruising in search of an enemy of like
character, "1j4
The ccjmmerce raiding strategy was another reason
that sails were used on warships. It was expected that a
commerce raider would have to stay at sea for several
__________ i
13 Letter from Mahan to Ashe, as quoted in Peter Karsten, The Naval Aristocracy (New York: Free
Press, 1972), 334. j
14 Kenneth Hagan, Admiral David Dixon Porter Strategist for a Navy in Transition, United
States Naval Institute Proceedings 94 (July 1968): 141.

months at a:time. The only way to do this was with sails,
burning coal only when overtaking or running from an enemy
vessel. ; Even then, the ships would be hampered by the
lack of coaling stations outside the United States at
which tOi refuel.
The coast of the United States was to be protected
by shore batteries and shallow draft monitors, to which
were added torpedo boats as this new type of ship became
available. The strategy of commerce raiding and coast
defense was jthe same strategy implemented by Thomas
Jefferson during his Presidency, and remained a constant
theme in U.S. naval policy.
Only eight new ships were authorized by Congress
from 1864-18;81. One of these was the Trenton of 3900
tons. Capable of steaming at 14 knots, it was regarded as
the best;ship in the fleet when commissioned in 1879. The
i! !
other seven were small gunboats of about 600 tons. After
1874 new,construction was suspended by Congress until
1882. Inste'ad of new ships, the existing ships were
repaired over and over, frequently costing more than their
i ]i
original construction. Congress was willing to
appropriate !funds for the "repairs and preservation of
!l >1
vessels," bujt not for new ones. This sometimes involved
completely rjebuilding the ship from the keel up.
Secretary of'| the Navy George Robeson (1868-1876) had

intended!; this to give the United States new ships, but it
, i '
was both costly and wasteful. A representative example,
the wooden cruiser Brooklyn, built at a cost of $417,921,
had received repairs totaling $1,591,716.83almost four
time the,original cost of the ship!15 Inflation in the
1870's averaged three percent a year, making it an
insignificant factor in the price.16
While (this gave the United States functional ships,
they were increasingly obsolete. This procedure had also
not been: approved by Congress, and when it was discovered
there was considerable outrage against Robeson, and the
primary contractor involved, John Roach. Congress halted
this practice after launching a series of investigations.
Left incomplete still awaiting their 'repairs' were five
large doublel turret monitors.17
Like the warships of the Navy, the merchant marine
also declined precipitously in this period. In 1860 66.5%
of the United States' exports were carried on its own
ships. By 1880 this had dropped to 17.4%, and continued
to drop.18 While the United States had built 388 ships
in 1856, only 26 were built in 1880. Total Merchant ship
15 [Ensign] WI. Chambers, The Reconstruction and Increase of the Navy, USNIP 11 (1885): 44.
16 Historical Statistics of the United States from Colonial Times to 1970. Department of
Commerce. Washington: GPO, 1975.
17 Paullin, History of Naval Administration, 342-344.
18 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1882,33.

tonnage had I declined from over five million tons in 1860
(almost las much as Great Britain) about half of it engaged
in foreign trade, to just over four million tons in 1880
with less tAan one third of this tonnage engaged in
foreign trade. Meanwhile, the tonnage of Great Britain
had increased by 50%. Like the ships of the Navy, these
merchant ships were of increasingly obsolete types and
quite slow by the standards of other nations.19 Only 11%
of the merchant marine's vessels were steam powered.
It was estimated that the United States paid as much
as $100 million in shipping costs to foreigners for its
1 |
goods every \year.20 All this was in spite of the fact
that exports had more than doubled m the period from the
Civil War to 1881.21 This posed a problem for naval
strategists in that one of the primary roles of the Navy
was seen as jprotection of commerce and aiding its
expansion, fcjut the commerce of the nation had dwindled to
a fraction of its pre-Civil War size and seemed'to be
still declining.
Agitation for'rebuilding and expanding the Navy had
mounted steadily in the 1870s by various societies formed
to popularize the plight of the Navy. The most important
of these was| the United States Naval Institute. Founded
19 [Lieutenant] J.D J. Kelley, Our Merchant Marine: The Causes of Its Decline and the Means to
Be Taken for its Revival, USN1P 8 (1882): 13-14.
20 Hagan, American Gunboat Diplomacy and the Old Navy 1877-1889, 50.
21 Allin, The, Unitd, States Naval Institute, Intellectual Forum of the New Navy: 1865-1900, 23.
1 14

on October 9, 1873, its mission was "the advancement of
i, l'
professional and scientific knowledge of the Navy." It
was composed primarily of serving naval officers, and its
journal, The Proceedings, provided a forum for discussion
of naval affairs at all levels, ranging from the training
of sailors and design of ships, to naval strategy and
national policy. At a time when most professions were
organizing as described in Robert Weibe's The Search for
Order, the Naval Institute served as the professional
organization for naval officers. The Naval Institute
"supplied ttle corporate center, the organization that was
required to [elevate their calling to a truly professional
One of its most important actions for the
development 'of naval policy was the institution of the
Prize Essay 'instituted in 1879 and that became a regular
feature m the 1880s. Each year an essay topic of
importance to the Navy was chosen. The winner's paper was
published in the Proceedings and served to spark debate,
discussion and thought on the future of the Navy. In 1879
both the Army and Navy Register and the United Service
( i
started publishing and served as an additional forum for
naval officers. 22
22 Ibid, 21.

The officers of the Institute were the most
influential[group in the development of naval policy in
the next decade, and served on most of the special boards
and committees that formulated policy for the new navy.
"Comprising either the total or majority of the membership
of these boards, affiliates of the Naval Institute
performed outstanding service in the development of the
American' steel navy and signed their names to the most
influential'ipolicy documents of their time."23
Commodore Foxhall A. Parker was the first to call
attention to the sad state of the fleet, when he addressed
the Naval Institute on December 10, 1874. His speech
[ j
dealt with the state of the fleet mobilized by the United
States for the Virginius Crisis. The Virginius was a
merchant ship, flying the American flag, smuggling arms to
Cuban insurgents. It had been caught by the Spanish and
53 members of its crew, including the Captain, were
executed as 'fpirates. In response, Secretary Robeson
ordered a large fleet to gather at Key West as a show of
force. The result, as Commodore Parker detailed in his
report, was ja fiasco. It took several months for the
ships to assemble, and once there, the fleet was able to
maintain: a speed of only 4.5 knots. This was about one
third the sjieed of the cruisers of the day. The fleet's
23 Ibid, 10. 1

armament was such that it hardly posed a threat. A single
modern vessel could have maneuvered outside the range of
any of the fleet's guns, and sunk its component ships at
leisure. ,
Palrker pleaded for a modernized and expanded Navy
and cited justifications that would form much of the pro-
navy gospel 'in the coming decade. A strong navy was
needed for the maintenance of our national dignity at
home and abroad, the protection of our commerce upon the
1 I
high seas and our citizens in foreign lands." This was
especially true since many of these "foreign lands" such
as Turkey arid China had larger and more modern navies than
the United States.24 25
Parker showed he was sensitive to feelings of the
nation and Congress about the military by emphasizing that
the Navy should be small, "not a large fleet like that of
England,.but one that shall be complete in itself, and
- i
serve as a safe nucleus to rally around when the hour of
trial comes." This fleet would be composed of monitors,
torpedo boats, and cruisers, and would execute the United
States' traditional policy of coast defense and commerce
raiding.25 i
1 ,\

24 [Commodore] Foxhall A. Parker, Our Fleet Maneuvers in the Bay of Florida and the Navy of the
Future, USNIP 1 (1874): 171.
25 Ibid. I

Parker was not alone in calling for naval
modernization. Admiral Porter warned repeatedly through
the decalde dbout the decline of the Navy. By 1880 both
China and Chile had more ironclads than the United States,
and many,; other countries were building impressive
fleets.26 Congress was aware of the problems, but its
only significant action was to send a few of the most
promising graduates of the Naval Academy each year to
Europe to stludy naval developments there. The marked
inferiorityjof the country's naval technology was well
known and understood. This program began in 1879 and
continued through the 1880s. The officers who studied in
Europe later helped designed several of the ships of the
New Navy; As part of his effort, the Bureau of Navigation
sent Chief Engineer J.W. King abroad in 1875 to study the
changes taking place in foreign fleets.27 28
The last report of Secretary of the Navy Richard
Thompson, (1877-1880) showed the confusion in naval
planning in;1880. It called for an increase in the number
of cruisers,; but nowhere mentioned the sad condition of
the Navy's present ships. It even goes so far as to state
how "it is gratifying to know that our flag is so
respected in all parts of the world.1,28 Thompson did
26 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1880,140.
Paullin, History of Naval Administration, 358.
28 Secretary of the ftavy, Annual Report, 1880, 34.

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call fori an'increase in the merchant marine, and warned
> :
that "the time for active and energetic measures has now
arrived,; and every future year of neglect will add to our
inferiority.1 29
il f
Thompson accomplished little as Secretary of the
Navy, and spent most of his time with his business affairs
rather than the matters of his office. He was forced to
resign shortly before the expiration of his term by
President Hayes. Thompson had accepted the chairmanship
of Ferdinand de Lesseps' Panama Canal Company. It was a
blatant conflict of interest that outraged the press, but
seemed nbt to bother Thompson. What offended people was
not that Thompson was on the payroll of a company, many
members of government were, but that the company was
foreign. I,
The Navy had been able to do most of the job
expected of ^t in the 1870's as this was just showing the
flag in foreign ports. But the ravages of time would make
that impossible in the 1880's. Older ships were almost
routinely lost or severely damaged in the 80's and their
captains complained about their poor condition constantly.
Increasingly! the Navy was being called on to do more than
- *i
.just show the flag.
29 Ibid, 1880, 35.

Events in the 1880's would force the United States
to build a fleet capable of protecting its interests.
Confrontations with foreign powers, and even military
interventions would become increasingly common in the
1880's. Already in 1879 Ferdinand de Lesseps had begun
making preparations for building a canal across the
Isthmus of Manama. The United States had conducted
surveys for 'Canal routes throughout the 1870's and
considered the possibility of a French owned canal a
violation of its sphere of influence, its security, and
the Monroe Doctrine. As President Hayes stated in March
1880: :
The policy of this country is a canal under
American control. The United States cannot
consent to the surrender of this control to
any "European power or to any combinations
of .European powers. The capital invested
by ^corporations or citizens of other
countries in such an enterprise must . .
look for protection to one or more of the
great powers of the world. No European
power can intervene for such protection
withbut adopting measures on this continent
that) the United States would deem wholly
Without a modern navy, Hayes would find his decree
very difficult to enforce.
30 Dexter Perkins, 1he History of the Monroe Doctrine, (Boston: Little Brown, 1963), p. 163, and
Sampson, USNIP (April 1889): 180-181.

There|was never enough support for naval
j i1
improvements in the 1870's, as Congress was content merely
to observe naval developments elsewhere before committing
the country to a costly rearmament. Members of the Naval
Institute continued to lobby for naval modernization, and
also to plan what kind of navy the United States should
have, but it: was not until the next decade that their
plans would ,begin to reach fruition. In the 1880's there
was finally jenough Congressional and Presidential support
; i
for the process of naval reform to begin.
! li
i II

By 1881 the ideological justifications presented by
naval officers for a modernized and expanded navy could
easily be divided into four groups: 1) The commercial
expansion ideas present throughout U.S. history, though
now linked to an expanding navy; 2) the idea of a Western
and often a ,,distinctly American mission to civilize the
world; 3) a !perception that modern ships had now made the
United States vulnerable to attack by foreign powers, as
the oceans that had previously formed a protective moat
around the country were now perceived as highways for its
enemies; and finally 4) the old idea that nations must arm
in peace inlorder to avert war.
Stephen B. Luce, probably the strongest advocate of
a new navy,[presented most of these arguments in his
; L
writings. Luce felt that "war is the heritage of man; and
for the people of the United States, history will have
been written in vain, should they delude themselves with
the idle hope of perpetual peace.
He saw the Navy as

nito exercise that moral right that belongs to us of

right as one of the wealthiest and most liberal members of
the greal't family of nations, as "a certain reserve of
military force" was essential.1 He firmly believed that
war led the!way to civilization, and that the United
States Navy!had a distinct role to play in spreading
Luce argued with respect to Great Britain that Mwe
are environed by the naval stations of a country that but
a few short'years ago would have rejoiced to see the
dismemberment of the Union.1,3 Britain had bases
throughout the New World, and was engaged in building a
new navhl base at Esquimalt on the west coast of Canada,
which would1 further challenge the United States for
domination of the Pacific. Foreign navies seemed to be
especially active in the 1880's, intervening with their
fleets throughout the world, each time indicating again,
the comparative inability of the U.S. Navy to act as
forcefully and efficiently. In 1882, officers of the U.S.
Navy were again drawn to the increasing inferiority of
their ships; and also the country1s coast defenses. The 1 2 3
1 Report of the Commission on Navy Yards, 48th Congress, 1st Session, 1883, Senate Executive
Document 55,26-27.
2 Robert Seager, II, Ten Years Before Mahan: The Unofficial Case for the New Navy: 1880-90,
The Mississippi Valley Historical Review 40 (December 1953): 494; Stephen B. Luce, Christian
Ethics an Element of Military Education, The United Service, vol. 1, no. 8 (1883): 1-16.
3 John Hayes and John Hattendorf, The Writings of Stephen B. Luce (Newport: Naval War
College Press1,1975), 27.

British bombardment of Alexandria demonstrated not only
the effectiveness of steam powered vessels mounting modern
breech-loading rifled guns, but also the weakness of
fortifications to withstand them. Visions of American
cities being bombarded and tribute extracted from them
were not' far behind.
Britain was not the only European nation to be
feared. De Lesseps' attempt to build an Isthmian canal
frightened Americans, who feared the consequences of a
foreign .controlled canal. Many of the articles by both
naval officers and civilians and much of the testimony
before Congress worried about a foreign controlled canal.
France had intervened militarily in Tunis and in Indo-
i l
China, and was actively engaged in empire building around
the globe. /France, Britain and Spain all had bases in the
Caribbean able to support an intervention. As
Representative Finerty argued, "what Europe digs with the
spade she will maintain with the sword."4
The fear of European expansion was quite reasonable
when the "acquisitive imperialism" of the eighties is
taken into account. Growth of European technology and
industry spurred a new quest for expansionism, commercial
as well as military, on the part of the European
countries. ijAfrica, Asia, and the Pacific were being
4 1 March 1884,Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 1st Session, 1534.

carved up by the hungry Europeans, it was only reasonable
to expect that the Americas might be next.5
As the Europeans expanded abroad, Americans at home
felt increasingly uncomfortable about foreigners. The
economic' slump of 1883 to 1886, and rising immigration
brought about a rise in nativist thought, as described in
John Higham'is Strangers in the Land. Immigrants and
foreigners, previously welcomed, were now seen as a
threat.6 Foreign military bases on the American
continent were just as unwelcome.
Nativists like Josiah Strong and John Fiske
encouraged a|, distrust of Europeans as well as an idea of
American expansionism. Strong referred to Americans as
the "chosen people" and felt they had a special destiny to
convert the heathen multitudes. In order for them to be
"lifted up into the light of the highest Christian
civilization," they needed a "pure spiritual
Christianity,," and also civil liberty. He felt that the
Anglo-Saxon race, "as the great representative of these
two ideas . i. is divinely commissioned to be ... his
brother's keeper," and thus to convert the non-
Christian.7 :
5 Benjamin Franklin (Cooling, Benjamin Franklin Tracy (Hampden, CT: Archon Books, 1973),
6 John Higham, Strangers in the Land (New Brunswick & London: Rutgers University Press,
1988), 75-85. j
7 Ronald Jay Furth, United States Foreign Policy for the Pacific Region: 1890-1900 (M.A.

Fiske, like Strong, was an advocate of what Walter
LaFeber has referred to as "expansive Anglo-Saxonism."
But while Strong's vision was one of a military and
Christian conquest, Fiske foresaw a "victory of the
industrial over the military type of civilization" that
would lead to "American industrial power creating a world
of peace."* 8 Many naval officers agreed, including Rear
Admiral Daniel Ammen who felt one of the purposes on the
Navy in peacetime was "to spread European
civilization."9 So did Luce who believed that "religion
and war are the two great central facts of history...
Religion gaye birth to education. War led the way to
civilization."10 ii
Representative Washington C. Whitthorne of Tennessee
outlined much of the argument in 1880 when he stated that
civilization is the elevation and
improvement of the human race, and that
commerce is the great agent of
civilization. ... the wealth, progress, and
1 improvement of a nation or people is
evidenced to a large degree by its merchant
marine or commerce, and that the health and
wealth of the commerce of any country are
supported first by its resources in
production, and secondly by the means given
Thesis, University of Colorado at Denver, 1988), 29.
8 Walter LaFeber, The New Empire (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1963), 99-100.
9 Allin, The US. Naval Institute. 128.
10 John Hayes and John Hattendorf, Writings of Stephen B. Luce, 190.

for jits defense and protection. It is ...
the seeming lesson in the history of those
natibns that have attained the highest rank
in dominion, power and civilization that
they, have flourished most in wealth and
prosperity when they had powerful navies
and commercial marine. ... Pause for a
moment and grasp the rank and power of the
civilized nations today; and in doing so
you with but an exception or two fix the
rank and power of their navies and
commercial marine.11
Other!Congressmen, while not as thoughtful on the
matter as Whittorne, also desired a stronger navy. They
presented a variety of reasons. Many felt that it was
necessary for commerce, others felt it a requirement of
national honor and prestige, and still others wanted it to
help execute foreign policy. One of the most prevalent
arguments in its favor was the idea that a strong navy
would deter war. As Representative Finerty said;
I do not desire war. I want to see this
country peaceful and prosperous; but
peaceful and prosperous she can only remain
when she has the means to avenge an insult,
the means to defend her honor and assert
the supremacy of her national flag.11 12
In the; 1880 Naval Institute Prize Essay on the topic
of naval policy. Lieutenant Charles Belknap outlined the
military case for the New Navy. This was the first cogent
11 14 April 1880,iCongressional Record, 46th Congress, 2nd Session, Appendix 142-143.
12 1 March 1884,Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 1st Session, 1534.

summary of United States naval policy. Belknap outlined
traditionaljpolicy and presented his proposed changes to
it. While minor, his proposed changes began the process
of moving tile United States toward a high seas, battleship
' 1
dominated strategy. Like Whittorne, he felt that
"commercial land naval supremacy coexisted ... [that] the
great commercial power of the world has always been also
the great naval power, and history teaches us that when
the naval supremacy of a nation has been overthrown the
decay of its commerce has followed as an inevitable
Belknap saw four roles for the New Navy in time of
peace:14 !
1) Policing the seas and "less civilized
parts of the world."
2) Boosting the failing merchant marine.
3) Enforcing the Monroe Doctrine.
4) Protecting Neutral Rights.
The Navy had always been seen as the policeman of
the seas, and the United States had been obsessed with
neutral rights almost since its inception. Belknap, like
Luce and other naval officers, was concerned with
maintaining 'peace in the "less civilized parts of the
13 Belknap, Naval Policy of the United States, 376.
14 Ibid, 380.

world." He'.felt this was best maintained through
"instantaneous and determined naval intervention."15
That was, certainly how the European powers seemed to feel
The idea of a link between the fortunes of a
country's navy and merchant marine, however, was new, but
it would become an increasingly important theme in
discussions .of naval policy. It was a direct
contradiction of previous policy as exemplified by
Thompson and Parker. Thompson had argued that "when our
commerce is ;,again extended to the remotest corners of the
earth ... a navy will be created for its protection."16
Also new was the idea of enforcing the Monroe
Doctrine. While some thought had been given to forcing
the French to vacate Mexico, in general the United States
had never tried to enforce the Doctrine. The Europeans
had also not taken pains to flout the Doctrine, and kept
busy in their own part of the world. Now, however, the
Europeans seemed to be returning to America with a
vengeance. 1
In the event of war, Belknap thought the priorities
of the Navy
should be:17
15 Allin,The U.S. Naval Institute, 129.
16 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1880,175.
17 Belknap, Naval Policy of the United States, 386

1) ^Defense of the coast and ports.
2) Protection of U.S. commerce and
destruction of the enemy's commerce.
3) |The destruction and capture of enemy
4) 'Carrying the war to the enemy's
The first two of these had always been U.S. policy,
(and the1 policy for which the fleet had been built) and
the third was a policy of any nation at war. The fourth,
however,' was new to U.S. naval policy and marks a
significantichange in thought. While Belknap does not go
into great detail, it is obvious that a commerce raiding
:i J
fleet would 'not be capable of carrying the war to the
enemy's country as he suggests. What would be required
were battleships to face the battleships and monitors of a
potential enemy.
To plan the fleet, Belknap recommended the creation
of a naval advisory board, which would determine the size
of the fleet and the types of ships necessary for it.
This was important as it would remove much of the decision
making power of the various naval bureaus, whose inability
to cooperate or agree on anything had hurt the credibility
as well as the efficiency of the Navy.
Lieutenant Very, winner of the Prize Essay the
, i,
following year, agreed with much of Belknap's plan and

proposed a fleet to implement it, though he did not
consider the idea of taking the war to the enemy's
country.., It was a fleet designed to implement the
accepted,; strategy of coast defense and commerce raiding,
though he expected this fleet to also look out for the
United States' interests around the globe. To carry out
this strategy he recommended 60 cruisers ranging from 900
tons to 400Q tons, and 24 monitors for coast defense. The
, I;
force of roughly 60 cruisers remained a constant demand of
naval advocated for the rest of the decade. Very
preferred smaller ships for reasons of economy and saw no
need for,: ironclads except for defense. "To send ironclads
in search of them [enemy ships] would be an undertaking
1 ,R
expensive, hazardous, and unsatisfactory."a
_____________________ I
18 W.I. Very, The type of (I) Armored Vessel, and (II) Cruiser, Best Suited to the Present Needs of
the United States, USNIP 7 (1881): 55

ii }
The Politics of Economics
A necessary part of any naval expansion would be
paying for it. "Beginning in 1880, in spite of the
existing wa^ debt, public revenues exceeded expenditures,
, i
and from 1881 to 1889 the surplus averaged more than
1 i
$100,000,000 a year.,li This was primarily revenue from
the tariffs,' a further sign of the country's expanding
trade. Revenues in the 1870's had been depressed due to
1 O
recovery from the war and the panic of 1873.
Most of these funds never went toward naval
construction. Instead they went to the pet projects of
Congressmen,! and especially toward pensions for veterans
of the Grand Army of the Republic. "By means of the 'pork
barrel,1 pensions and naval appropriations, the surplus
was cut from its high-water mark of $145,000,000 in 1882
to less than) $10,000,000 in 1891."1 2 3 Even though most of
1 Edward Meade Earle, The Navy's Influence on Our Foreign Policy, Current History 23
(February 1926): 650.
2 Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 86.
3 Earle, The Navy's Influence on Our Foreign Policy, 651.

these funds 'were misspent, the existence of such a large
surplus prevented the opponents of naval construction from
justifying their opposition on the basis of lack of funds
as they had Jin the 1870's. They instead had to show that
building.warships was a waste of money, or identify more
: |
worthwhile projects for funding, a position more difficult
to defend.
Building the First Shins
The Garfield administration marked the beginning of
what was' already being called the 'New Navy.1 With the
Presidency and both houses of Congress controlled by the
Republicans,; (Democrats had controlled House 1875-1880) it
seemed possible to push forward a concrete naval policy.
The first active steps were taken by the Secretary of the
Navy William H. Hunt who, on June 29, 1881, with the
approval of President Garfield, created a Naval Advisory
Board as reqommended by Lieutenant Belknap, and also by
Admiral Port|er. It began meeting on July 11, and was
composed of eleven naval officers, and four civilians. It
, i
had a balance of older and younger officer, the younger
officers being specifically included because Hunt felt
they would hje more in tune with the needs of a modern
navy, as well as the ones who would lead it in battle.

any but ,the
these ships
After deliberating for five months, it issued its report
that was included in the Annual Report of the Secretary of
the Navy on November 7, 1881. The report would continue
to influence naval policy for the rest of the decade.
The Naval Advisory Board confirmed the poor state of
the Navy, though it was more optimistic than Belknap and
other critics had been. It found that the Navy had only
61 effective ships. A further 32 could be made sea-worthy
at reasonable cost. The rest were useless and most beyond
most extensive repair or rebuilding. All
were, as others had stated, obsolete, The
Board dramatically called for the United States to "win
back from Europe our former prestige as the best ship-
the world."4 The majority of the Board
the construction of 20 steel cruisers, 20
wooden cruisers, 25 torpedo boats, and 5 rams.5 It
hoped eventually to have the United States Navy composed
of 21 ironclads, 70 cruisers, 25 torpedo boats, and 5
rams. All the cruisers would have full sail power, and
steam erigines capable of driving them at 13-15 knots, for
the steel cruisers, and 10 knots for the wooden cruisers.
The decision to use steel was much debated, as many
builders in
thought ;the
United States was not yet capable of building
4 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1881,31.
e I f
Rams were heavily armored, but lightly armed ships designed to ram and sink enemy vessels.
Only a few of these
coast defense.
were ever built by any navy. In the U.S. they were expected to aid monitors in

steel ships,, and steel was also more expensive then iron.
Commander Robely Evans, Secretary of the Board, convinced
the other members to use steel for the new ships.6 The
Board was convinced that using steel would give "the
impetus that such a step would give to the general
development;of steel manufacture in this country."7 The
wooden cruisers were recommended for a very similar
reason. They were expected to use up existing stockpiles
of materials and to maintain employment among wooden
shipbuilders who might otherwise oppose naval
The Board preferred small cruisers, as the lack of
coaling stations forced the Navy to rely on sailpower,
effective only on smaller ships. The Board did not
consider ironclads to be a "present necessity," but wanted
to build them in the future. The officers of the Board
had felt rushed to complete their report and a study of
ironclads would have "required more intimate knowledge of
modern practice than time would permit them to enter into
or acquire." Also a factor in this decision was the great
expense of ironclads, which the members knew would
probably provoke opposition in Congress. Thus the Board
6 Leon Butt Richardson, William E. Chandler, Republican (New York: Dodd Mead, 1940): 289.
7 l
John D. Long, The New American Navy (New York: Outlook, 1903): 18; Secretary of the
Navy, Annual Report, 1881,31.
8 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1881,37-38.

recommended :that ironclads be built in the future, but
could not at! this time recommend what types to build.9
A vocal minority composed of the four civilian
members, and led by the aging Benjamin F. Isherwood,
opposed steel in warships due to its cost and the lack of
experience of American builders with the material. They
also opposed the concept of monitors and commerce raiding
cruisers, considering them useless, wanting instead
armored ocean-going vessels built of iron.10 11 The
minority members were advocating an interesting mix of a
new high seas strategy that would be fought with less
modern ships.
The Board's proposed fleet was a fleet planned to
execute the;commerce raiding and coast defense strategy
that had become policy following the Civil War. The
proposed cruisers were even frequently compared to the
Civil War era Alabama, whose brilliant record of commerce
raiding they would be expected to emulate. They would be,
in the words of Admiral Rogers, President of the Naval
Advisory Board and also President of the Naval Institute,
magnified and greatly improved Alabamas.11 During war
9 Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 104.
10 W.I. Very, Prize Essay Discussion, USN1P 8 (1882): 454-455; Herrick, American Naval
Revolution, 27. [
11 Lance C. Buhl, Maintaining an American Navy 1865-1889, in In Peace and War,
Interpretations of American Naval History 1775-1978, ed. Kenneth J. Hagan (Westport: Greenwood
Press, 1978), 169.

the Board expected these cruisers, backed up by the coast
defense monitors, rams, and torpedo boats to stem enemy
attacks "until armored vessels could be supplied to
1 i
perfect defense and undertake offensive operations."12
The planned fleet would total 121 ships, or almost
the same number as presently in the fleet, at least on
paper. Trie ratio of ship types was also roughly the
same as the present fleet was on paper, about three
cruisers to every one monitor, a ratio that would be
proposed into the next decade. What was being proposed
was naval modernization, not expansion, though the poor
condition of, the Navy made this proposal, in effect,
Its report was endorsed by both Hunt and Chester
Arthur, who had succeeded to the Presidency following the
assassination of Garfield. The Board and Hunt were
careful to emphasize that the proposed navy would be for
defensive purposes only, consisting of coast defense ships
and fast commerce raiders. In his first Annual Report,
Hunt drew the attention of Congress to the scandalous
condition of; the fleet, and urged the passage of the plan
set out by trie Naval Advisory Board.
12 George T. Davis, A Navy Second to None (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1940),

The ; condition of the Navy imperatively
demands the prompt and earnest attention of
Congress. Unless some action be had in its
behalf it must soon dwindle into
insignificance. From such a state it would
be difficult to revive into efficiency
without dangerous delay and enormous
expanse. Emergencies may at any moment
arise which would render its aid
indispensable to the protection of the
lives and property of our citizens abroad
and at home, and even to our existence.13
The senior Admiral of the Navy, David D. Porter,
supporting Hunt, complained in the same report that:
Our Navy has for some years past been in
rather an inefficient condition, not
altogether useless in time of peace where
it is only necessary to have well-kept
vessels to visit foreign countries, but for
war' purposes it is nearly worthless,
reminding one of the ancient Chinese forts
on which dragons were painted to frighten
the enemy.14
Admiral Porter, who made his own recommendations for
naval building, recommended the construction of twelve
first class ;9000 ton armorclads, twelve 5,750 ton fast
cruisers, eight 8000 ton monitors, and twenty torpedo
boats. He estimated the cost for this as about fifty
million dollars.15
Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1881,3.
14 Secretary of the f^avy, Annual Report, 1881,95.
; 38 '

It, is 'interesting to compare the proposals of
Admiral Porter and the Naval Advisory Board. Both
proposals recommend torpedo boats and monitors for coast
defense, complemented by fast cruisers for commerce
raiding. The two proposals differ in the number of ships,
with the Board recommending twice the number of ships.
Porter, however, recommends ships twice as large as those
of the Board, and goes on to recommend "first-class 9000
ton ironclads." These are, in fact, small battleships.
His recommendation for the construction of twelve of these
is a clear indication that he was not willing to rely
solely on commerce raiding to deter an enemy. Twelve
battleships would be more than sufficient to challenge all
but the largest naval powers for control of the nearby
sea, and assure the United States dominance of the western
Toward the end of 1881 came an event that again
brought intd question the condition of the Navy. It
served to reinforce the arguments of Hunt and the other
advocates of naval modernization. In December 1881
Secretary of State James Blaine made a brief attempt to
intimidate Chile into ending its war with Peru.
Fortunately for the United States, Blaine left office at
the end of tzhe year, and his successor pursued a more
i 15
15 Ibid, 102.

conciliator^ policy toward Chile. Had the United States
Navy actually engaged that of Chile, it probably would
have been disastrous. Chile had two modern British-built
ironclads that were more than a match for any American
warships capable of reaching Chile. This event, while not
as publicized as the Virginius Crisis, again demonstrated
the uselessness of the Navy as a tool of foreign
policy.16 |
Hunt fought energetically for the funds to implement
the board's plan, meeting with members of the House and
Senate, and iwinning over key members of the Naval Affairs
committees. However, the board's plan was too much for
Congress; to ^swallow at once. The House Naval Affairs
Committee reduced the request of the board to two large
cruisers, four smaller cruisers, and one ram. It
supported the use of "steel as the only proper material
for the construction of vessels of war, and even pointed
out that the United States was one of the leading
producers of this new material, having produced 29% of the
world's steel in 1881.17 By ignoring the recommendation
for wooden cruisers, the Committee set the United States
clearly on the road to modernization.
77 i
* Robert Greenhalgh Albion, Makers of Naval Policy 1798-1947 (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute
Press, 1980), 315-317.
17 House Committee on Naval Affairs, Construction of Vessels for the Navy, 47th Congress, 1st
Session, 8 March 1882, House Report 653, XXIII.

The committee believed in the traditional American
policy, and saw the need for only two types of ships:
cruisers, and coast defenders. The ram was recommended so
that this type of ship could be studied, as a supplement
to monitors in harbor defense. The advocates of rams,
such as Rear' Admiral Daniel Ammen, were quite vocal, but
some naval officers and civilians doubted the efficacy of
rams against ironclads. The Committee ended its report
with a call to restore the United States to its maritime
greatness, aind claim what it saw as the country's rightful
i i
We see the country which we love and honour
with equal zeal, a country which ought even
now to lead the world in commerce, and
which, from its great promise may justly
aspire to become the ruler of the seas,
helpless on the ocean to defend itself
against even the feebler naval powers, and
without division of sentiment, seek to
provide partial present remedy for so grave
a misfortune, and the beginning of a policy
which may lead up to the hoped results.18
At the same time Congress moved laboriously through
its process .|Of deciding on the Naval Appropriation Bill,
President Arthur slowly formed a new cabinet. He replaced
Hunt as Secretary of the Navy with William E. Chandler on
April 17, 1882. Hunt had served just slightly more than I
18 Ibid, xxx. i

one year, but was responsible for setting the Navy on its
road to modernization and expansion. While unable to
implement many of his ideas due to his short term of
office, they would form the core of his successors'
policies. His most notable achievement, the 1882 Naval
Appropriation, marked the beginning of the New Navy.
Hunt's successor, William E. Chandler was an
important functionary of the Republican Party. He had
been Blaine's floor manager at the Republican National
Convention. With Blaine's approval he switched his
support to Garfield at the last minute, helping him secure
the nomination. President Arthur was to some extent
acknowledging this debt.19 It would fall on Chandler to
implement the 1882 Naval Act for which his predecessor had
fought so hard.
Just prior to leaving office, Hunt created the
Office of Naval Intelligence, which would later be of
great importance in keeping American naval planners up to
date on the;size and character of foreign navies.20 Its
reports on foreign navies, especially those made by French
E. Chadwick, for many years the only U.S. Naval Attache
serving abroad, guided United States rearmament throughout
this period: Chadwick was the first U.S. Naval Attache
19 Henrick, American Naval Revolution, 29.
20 Jeffrey M. Dorwart, The Office of Naval Intelligence (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press
1979), 12.

appointed, and was ordered to the legation in London later
that year. He was later much praised for his
"extraordinary ability and judgement," and given credit
for having "had a lasting influence on the Navy."21 22
Significantly, the reports of the Office would be made
public, so as to "inform the public and better enable it
to make sound judgements concerning the Navy and its
use. 1,22 No doubt these reports also would serve to
convince the public of its need for a navy.
President Arthur made numerous statements supporting
Hunt and the Naval Advisory Board. He urged Congress to
rebuild the Navy, and was the first President of the post-
Civil War period to actively campaign for the Navy. 111
cannot too strongly urge upon you my conviction that every
consideration of national safety, economy and honor
imperatively demand a thorough rehabilitation of our
Navy."23 Congress, however, was not as eager to act as
Hunt, Arthur and the other naval advocates would have
liked. The 1882 Naval Appropriation Bill, sponsored by
the House Naval Affairs Committee chairman, B.W. Harris,
finally passjed on August 5. The recommendation of the
Naval Affairs Committee had been trimmed to only two
21 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1889,7.
22 Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 238.
23 American Naval Policy as Outlined in Messages of the Presidents of the United States from
1790 to 1924 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1924), 10.

cruisers, orie of about 5700 tons and one of about 4000
tons. Authorization was also given to complete the five
double turret monitors. A total of $1,700,000 was
appropriated for repairs, but ships could not be repaired
if the cost 'of the repairs would exceed 30% of the cost of
a new ship of that type. Congress neglected to
appropriate 'money for the new cruisers, rather the funds
were to come from any savings that resulted in halting
repairs on the old wooden ships. Funds were authorized
($100,000) for the development of steel, breech-loading
guns that would be needed to arm the new ships. Most of
the bill, however, dealt with administrative functions.
The Naval Advisory Board was made a permanent
feature, and assigned the immediate task of advising the
Secretary concerning on the construction of the two new
steel warships. In the future Congress would appoint the
board members.
Steps were taken to decrease the size of the swollen
officer corps. By 1882 there was one officer for every
four enlisted men.24 In a letter to the Secretary of the
Navy, Mahan'pointed out that the U.S. Naval Academy
graduated 70 midshipmen per year, while the much larger
British Navy admitted only 25 midshipmen.25 Congress
24 Karsten, The Naval Aristocracy, 284.
Mahan to Hunt, quoted in Seager, Alfred Thayer Mahan, 131.

reduced the ;Size of Naval Academy classes, and if a post
was not available for a graduate, he was discharged. The
course of study at the academy was extended from four to
six years to slow the entry of new officers. This dropped
, i
the number cjf naval officers from 1817 to 1410 in the
first year of implementation alone. Only 7% of the 1881
entries of the Naval Academy received commissions.26
Promotions and pay raises for officers on the retired list
were also abolished. While the officers of the Navy were
not pleased,' promotions almost being brought to a
standstill, ,it was an important step in streamlining the
efficiency of the Navy as well as saving money. Chandler
had actually wanted more control of the process, and
specifically an end to Congress' meddling in regards to
officer postings. Discharged officers, some even court-
martialed were frequently returned to duty by their
patrons in Congress. This had almost been the case with
the Captain |of the Ashulet, but extensive lobbying by
Chandler convinced Congress not to return him duty
following his court martial.27
In what was probably the most important feature of
the 1882 Naval Authorization, the scandalous state of the
Naval Yards,: and the system of repairing aging wooden
vessels ad infinitum were addressed. A special
26 Karsten, The Naval Aristocracy, 286.
27 Richardson,William E. Chandler, 305-306.
1 45

commission was appointed, at the request of Congress, to
1 l,
investigate the yards, which were widely believed to be
wasteful and employing an extravagant number of workers
for purely political purposes. The commission was chaired
by Luce, and was composed of two other naval officers, and
a civilian architect.
The Commission's report condemned the "present
wasteful extravagance in employing so great an excess of
non-producers, and the inefficient system of doing
business which has for years past been steadily increasing
in our navy-yards, is but the natural outgrowth of the
Navy Department itself." It recommended closing the
Pensacola and New London naval yards, as they were
unnecessary,, and making the existing yards more
specialized as to their functions.28 This Chandler
promptly,did. Chandler, supported by some members of the
committee, wjanted to close other unneeded yards as well,
but pressure from Congress to keep them open prevented
Republican party bosses had for some time used
employment at navy yards to return political favors and
buy votes iri elections. Almost all of the roughly 5000
jobs available in the yards went to reward political
supporters. 11 This practice reached its peak in the 1870s. I
Report of the Commission on Navy Yards, 44.

Rotting hulks were repaired over and over again, often
being completely rebuilt in the process, in order to
provide jobs for Republican sympathizers; "The Tennessee
and other vessels which had millions of dollars expended
upon them under the name of repairs were literally rebuilt
in the navy-yards in order to give patronage to enable the
Republican party to hold its own in doubtful
districts. "29
To halt this practice, Congress in 1882 limited the
amount of money that could be spent repairing a wooden
ship, to 30% of what a replacement would cost.30 This
forced the immediate decommissioning of 46 ships as
irreparable;31 The following year this was reduced even
further to 20% in the 1883 Naval Appropriation Bill, but
it was raised back to 30% in 1884. Chandler protested
this, calling it a "step backward," but to little
avail.32 This act not only curbed the excesses of naval
yard administrators, whose chicanery had become legend, it
also encouraged the building of the new ships so des-
perately needed by the Navy by forcing obsolete ships to
be scrapped. Funds appropriated for repairs were instead
made available for the construction of new ships.33
29 23 February 1885, Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 2nd Session, 2044.
30 1 July 1882, Congressional Record, 47th Congress, 1st Session, 5568.
31 Long, The New American Navy, 14.
32 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1884,15.

The dismantling of the patronage system had begun
with the election of James A. Garfield to the Presidency.
In the process of securing the nomination of the
Republican Party, Garfield and the reform wing of the
party pushed' out many of the political bosses like Roscoe
Conkling who thrived on the patronage system. After the
election, reform Republicans then joined forces with
Democrats to. pass legislation to destroy the system of
patronage like the Pendleton Act, which introduced a merit
hiring system for some federal employees. The patronage
system, while weakened, did continue to function
throughout the 1880's. In 1888 1000 men were temporarily
employed at the New York Navy Yard prior to the
Presidential election. Their employment was terminated
shortly thereafter.33 34 As the Republicans controlled
Congress for much of this period, they were the primary
dispensers of patronage, but the Democrats also made use
of the system when they were in control.
Many Congressmen, however, fought the dismantling of
the patronage system. W. R. Leeds, Republican Chairman of
the Philadelphia City Committee, wrote to Chandler: "Do
not take away a large part of our party machinery by
closing the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Nearly 400 of our
33 Davis, A Navy Second to None, 44.
34 Paullin, History of Naval Administration, 407.

most activeiand useful committee men are employed in the
yard and no one knows as well as you the power of
In spite of the legislation, the Yards were still
used to buy'votes. Congressman Thomas Reed, hard pressed
in his bid for re-election, demanded that "the work at
Kittery in breaking up an old ship should begin at
once."35 36 Ma!ny other Republicans also pressured Chandler
to continue |the system of patronage, including James
Blaine and Senator Mahone. Chandler supported the Navy
Yard commanders in their attempt to keep local politicians
from extracting campaign contributions from the employees,
a common practice now in violation of the Pendleton Act.
But Chandlef succumbed to pressure in other areas,
frequently granting positions at Naval Yards to Republican
supporters, 'especially to supporters of Senator Mahone's
machine. }
Chandler Takes Over
By the time of Chandler's first annual report,
November 29,, 1882, the Navy had shrunk to only 37
cruisers, arid 13 monitors due to the 30% limit on repairs.
Ships deemed irreparable were being broken up and sold for
35 W.R. Leeds to WlE. Chandler, 21 June 1883. Chandler Collection, Library of Congress, quoted
in Richardson, William E. Chandler, 311-312.
36 T.B. Reed to WJE. Chandler, 13 August 1884, Chandler Collection N.H. Historical Society,
quoted in Richardson, William E. Chandler, 310.

scrap.37 Hunt had begun the process of economizing,
Chandler now had to continue it, and more importantly
build new ships, before the remaining ships of the fleet
also wore out.
Chandler called for new ships for the Navy, and
stated his support repair limit, as well as his own
justification for having a navy:
It is not the policy of the United States
government to maintain a large navy, but
its reputation, honor, and prosperity
require that such vessels as it possesses
should be the best which human ingenuity
can devise and modern artificers can
construct. Our present vessels are not such
and cannot be made such.38
Congress and Chandler appointed a new Naval Advisory
Board that presented its report in November 1882. Its
President was Commodore Robert Schufeldt, famous for the
voyage of the Ticonderoga around the world, and opening
Korea to, trade. He had studied European naval
developments while on station there. All but Schufeldt
and one other of the board's members were members of the
Naval Institute and presumably familiar with developing
naval thought. This Board was smaller than its
predecessor, being composed of two civilians and six naval
37 Secretary of the $avy, Annual Report, 1882, 5-7.
38 Ibid, 6.

officers1, arid functioned more smoothly because of this.
This Board's requests were also more modest, and more in
tune with what Congress was willing to authorize. While
the Board reaffirmed the 1881 recommendations, it was
content for !the present to recommend a smaller number of
' i
ships. It eventually wanted seven ships built each year.
A recommendation echoed by Chandler in his annual report
for 1883. This would complete their recommended fleet in
the shortest possible time without overstraining either
the United States' very limited shipyard capacity, or the
budget.3 ;
For the present, the Board recommended not building
the larger of the two cruisers authorized by Congress, and
instead building three small cruisers, and a dispatch
boat. This'would total one 4000 ton cruiser, three
smaller cruisers of about 2500 tons, and one 1500 ton
dispatch boat. The Board also asked for coaling stations
outside theUnited States, especially in the Caribbean and
the Pacific !to facilitate the operations of the new ships.
The Navy wanted not only new ships, but the funds and
facilities to operate them more efficiently.
Neither advisory board nor Secretary Chandler
expected the United States to build a large fleet. As
Chandler stated on naval policy, "It is not now, and it 39
39 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1883,9.

never has been a part of that policy to maintain at any
time a fleet able at any time to cope on equal terms with
the foremost European armaments... and we should cherish
no ambition ito take the lead among the naval powers of the
world; certainly not until we again become foremost in the
possession of a merchant marine." What was needed was a
"small efficient navy" that could be "expanded into
invincible squadrons" in the event of war.40 Chandler
was a firm supporter of traditional policy.
The ABCD's
The most important event of 1883 was the
appropriation by Congress, acting on the recommendation of
the Naval Advisory Board, for the first time in almost a
decade, of funds for new construction. At this time the
House was controlled by the Democrats, while the Senate
remained in'Republican hands. Congress authorized and
appropriated funds for three protected cruisers,41 the
Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago, and the dispatch boat
Dolphin. The largest of these, the Chicago, displaced
4500 tons, making it slightly larger than the board
recommendation. The Atlanta and Boston, at 3000 tons,
were also slightly larger than the Board's recommendation,
40 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1883,8-9.
41 Protected Cruisers were so called because only their decks were armored. This was expected to
provide some protection for machinery without significantly decreasing the ship's speed.

but considerably smaller than the cruisers recommended by
the First Naval Advisory Board. All of these ships were,
however,, among the fastest of their type then being built
by any of the world's navies. It is interesting to note
the costof these new ships. The Atlanta, at about
$650,000, cost about one-third less than the repair total
on many of the wooden cruisers of the 1870's.
All four ships were required to be built of "steel
of domestic Imanufacture," a requirement made of all the
ships built iin this period, though provision was made to
purchase'items unavailable in the United States from other
countries. jArmor, for instance, was not available in the
United States, so Chandler purchased it from a British
''i I
firm to complete the first of the Robeson monitors, the
Miantonomah.l Congress also appropriated $1,000,000 to
resume work ion the other double-turret monitors, as long
as the Naval1 Advisory Board concurred. It did.
It,was decided to have private contractors build the
new ships bejcause of the poor record of the navy yards in
buildingi ships and their lack of facilities to build ships
of steel. Remonstrating very poor judgement, and some
argued corruption, Chandler awarded the contract for all
four ships t;o his friend and political contributor John
Roach. Roach did have considerable naval construction
i 53

experience, .though much of this was repairs from the
Robeson period and touched with scandal. He also tendered
the lowest bids for each of the four ships, but suspicions
were never allayed. Roach was attacked by the press
throughout the building of these ships.
These ships, popularly known as the ABCD's, after the
first letter in each of their names, were comparable to
British ships of the same size. All were constructed of
steel, capable of steaming at about fifteen knots, and
equipped with auxiliary sails, but they were not perfect.
American shipbuilders lacked experience in constructing
steel ships, and there were many delays and defects.
The Dolphin's poor showing during its trials, in
which it failed to attain its contracted horsepower, and
then snapped a propeller shaft brought matters to a head.
Construction was further delayed and new trials ordered.
The constant delays and the hostility of the new
Democratic Secretary of the Navy William Whitney forced
John Roach into bankruptcy. Whitney seized the ships and
also Roach's yards, since none of the navy yards were
capable of finishing the ships. The Dolphin's Captain,
George Dewey requested transfer to another ship due to the
interminable delays.42
42 James C. Bradford, Admirals of the New Steel Navy: Makers of
the American Naval Tradition, 1880-1930. Annapolis, MD: Naval
Institute Press, 1990. 229.

While the ABCD's were criticized by many during
their construction, all later had distinguished careers in
the Navy. Criticism ranged from their not having enough
sail power (only two-thirds sail power), to having sails
at all, to being too slow to catch the fastest merchant
ships of the day, and being unable to fight it out with
the best cruisers of the other nations. The ships seem to
have been victims of their newness and the unfamiliarity
of all persons involved with modern steel ships.
The Naval Advisory Board, had advertised for plans
for the new -ships, but receiving none, chose to design the
ships itself.43 The plans were drawn up by Chief
Engineer Bowles, who had been trained in Europe, but were
of very poor; quality. Numerous modifications had to be
made during construction. Frequently, whole sections of
the Dolphin had to be torn out when the plans were found
to be unworkable.44
The controversy over the Dolphin raged throughout
the decade and into the next. Republicans accused Whitney
of forcing Roach into bankruptcy for political purposes,
while Democrats accused Chandler and Roach of criminal
conspiracy. It is certainly possible that both sides were
correct. Roach's bids were considerably below those of
his competitors, making him guilty, at the very least, of
43 Richardson, William E. Chandler, 292-293.
44 Swann, John Roach, 185-208.

extreme over-confidence in his ship-building capabilities.
On Whitney's part, there can be little doubt that his
initial refusal to accept the Dolphin, in spite of the
willingness of the Naval Advisory Board to do so, was
motivated primarily through political reasons.
The Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago were expected to
function as commerce raiders, and were well suited for
that mission, being fast enough to catch most merchant
ships presently in use. As Senator Riddleberger stated
when he advocated their construction as a supplement to
coast defences:
These cruisers, it is true, are not ships
of defense, but, lightly equipped as they
Will be and carrying improved guns, they
can be turned loose on the commerce of an
enemy and compel his gigantic fleets to
convoy his merchant marine, thereby drawing
off jfrom our seaports the strength of his
Not all Congressmen agreed with a strategy of
commerce raiding, but they voted for these ships since the
alternative might very well have been no new ships at all.
Senator Miller's, remarks the following year are
representative of many of the pro-navy faction, and
demonstrative of the growing support for battleship
construction'. I
1 March 1884, Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 1st Session, 1534.

We ought to have some ironclads of the
firsjt class [battleships] but they cost
large sums of money; they cost from four to
five! million dollars. I do not know that
the jcountry is ready to begin construction
of such vessels. But these cruisers,
!' T
comm|erce destroyers, gunboats, for the
defense of your coast and for operating in
shallow waters of foreign countries, are
the Jclass of vessels which would be most
needed if we had no others.* 46 47
; ,'l
> ii
Naval officers were firmer in advocating ironclads.
"There is :noj doubt that by adding to our navy more of the
.? j
classes of cruisers just laid down ... we shall supply the
most pressing need of the department." In order "to take
-J. ,i
'j: i
rank as a; na^al power, or to hold the sea against a naval
? I
power of Ithe fourth rank, for instance one of the South
American governments, we must have armored seagoing
vessels. ":47 \
!' I
The' 1883 naval appropriation law also established
f I
the Gun Foundry Board, composed of three naval and three
i j
army officers, whose job it would be to make
! I
'' S
recommendations on modernizing the manufacture of armament
|i j
for both the .Army and the Navy. All three naval officers
were members bf Naval Institute. Since the Civil War, the
United States! had fallen greatly behind the European
i ''
' 11
46 28 February 1884, Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 1st Session, 1453.
47 F.T. Bowles,Our New Cruisers, USNIP 9 (1883): 622.

countries in! the design and manufacture of large guns and
was completely lacking in the facilities to construct
modern weaponry. It reported in 1884 and recommended the
construction| of one navy, and one army gun factory, the
navy factory] to be at the Washington Navy Yard. The 6"
guns for thelABCD's could be built in the United States
after factories were modernized, but the 8" guns for the
cruisers hadj to be acquired from Britain.
| The Naval War College
Chandler's most lasting achievement, aside from the
building of the ABCD's, was his authorization of the Naval
War College on October 6, 1884. This college would create
the doctrinejthat guided the Navy through the 1890's, and
into the twentieth century. Stephen B. Luce, one of the
most active lobbyists for naval rearmament, and who had
first proposed the school in 1877, was named its first
president.48 J
The Na^al War College had been presented to Congress
as merely a naval post-graduate school that would train
officers in the new tactics required for the Navy's new
ships, but Luce had a very specific purpose in mind for
it. It was t!o study "the great naval battles of history,
even from thej earliest times, which illustrate and enforce
48 Herrick, American Naval Revolution, 30-31.

i I
' i
, I
many of the imost important and immutable principles of
war." Luce, ilike many of his contemporaries, believed that
virtually all human endeavors were guided by scientific
laws. He wanted those laws that related to naval warfare
discovered and applied.49
I ;
It; is .interesting to note that at the same time
naval officers were discovering history and using it to
justify their policies, the historical profession was just
developing. !Harvard granted its first Ph.D. in history in
1876, and the first chair in American History was
established in 188i.50 The study of history formed the
1; 1
core of the curriculum at the Naval War College.
Luce considered the commerce raiding strategy
ineffective and obsolete. There was no historical proof
1 i
for its efficacy, and it did not take into consideration
steamships with their greater freedom of movement but
limited rangd. Luce expected naval battles of the future
i- 1
to resemble land battles. Battleships would fight like
the large1 blocks of infantry that formed the bulk of an
army, while cruisers and torpedo boats would mimic the
skirmishing tactics of cavalry.51
Luce wad one of the great visionaries of the Navy.
l ]
49 Seager, Alfred Thayer Mahan, 161-163.
50 Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 224.
^ Hagan, American Gunboat Diplomacy, 28-31.

At an early time, [he] saw the
interrelationship between the fields of
military and naval power and technology and
international politics. While he himself
was not equipped to provide the original
theories which could tie these diverse
elements together, he perceived the need to
do so.52
Luce chose some of the best officers of the Navy to
teach at the college. Alfred Thayer Mahan would make the
college famous in 1890 with the publication of his
Influence of Sea Power Upon History. William McCarty
Little pioneered naval wargaming, still one of the.
college's specialties.
Also chosen for the faculty were two men who were
not officers of the Navy. Professor James Russell Soley
who taught international law was a former Naval Academy
instructor, and Lieutenant Tasker Bliss of the Army.
Bliss' appointment was objected to by many senior officers
of the Navy who felt a soldier had nothing to teach
sailors. Secretary Chandler intervened on Bliss' behalf
and he was allowed to teach. His was an important posting
as it showed Luce's commitment to combined operations, and
the similarity between land and naval tactics.
One year after its opening, Luce turned the
presidency of the College over to Mahan, in order to take
Hayes and Hattendorf, Writings of Stephen B. Luce, 12.

command of the North Atlantic Squadron. This Luce used to
develop tactics for the new navy. Especially of interest
to him were amphibious landings.53
1884 and Election Year Politics
Consensus on naval issues collapsed in 1884 due to
inter-party rivalries and election year politics. No
additional ships were authorized that year, though the
Naval Adyisory Board, Chandler and President Arthur
continued to press for more.
In addition to requesting again that seven ships be
built each year, the Naval Advisory Board recommended
building a battleship. Apparently, it had finally had
sufficient time to consider the question of ironclads. It
again asked that funds be provided to acquire and
construct coaling stations to facilitate the operations of
the Navy abroad.54
Senate Bill 698 appropriated $4,000,000 for one 4500
ton protected cruiser, one 3000 ton protected cruiser, one
dispatch boat, two 1500 gunboats, and two 750 ton
gunboats. It passed in the Senate, but died in the
Democrat controlled House.55 No new ships were
authorized, but the appropriation passed in 1884 was only
53 Ibid, 13.
Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1884,230.
^ 26 March 1884, Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 1st Session, 2317.

for six months. This allowed the issue of new ships to be
reopened immediately following the election.
This year had seen the Republicans lose not only the
Presidency, but also control of the House. There was no
longer a consensus on naval policy in the House, and it
remained for Grover Cleveland to take the lead the
following year. As Admiral Simpson stated: "It only
remains for the rivalry of parties to be suppressed for
progress to made in developing the fleet."56
The 1884 Naval Appropriation stopped work on four of
the double-turret monitors, though work continued on the
Miantonomah. Any leftover funds from the 1883
appropriation were ordered returned to the treasury.57 *
Many in Congress thought the monitors obsolete, which they
were, having been designed almost twenty years previously.
While unable to accomplish as much as he wanted to,
Chandler did get the Navy its first new ships in a decade.
While naval historians generally feel that after the ABCD's,
Chandler's most important accomplishment was founding the
Naval War College, Chandler felt otherwise. He later
commented: "I did my best work in destroying the old navy."5
56 Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 84.
Navy Yearbook, A Resume of Annual Naval Appropriation Laws from 1883 to 1919
inclusive,65th Congress, 3rd Session, Senate Document 418 (Washington: GPO, 1919), 22
(hereafter cited as Navy Yearbook).
Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 153.

This forced Congress to build new ships or have none at all.
In his last annual report Chandler, while dismayed
that no new ships had been authorized, continued to press
for reform. He recommended consolidating some of the
bureaus for increased efficiency, something much needed,
but Congress would resist this throughout the decade.
Chandler also supported the recommendations of the Gun
Foundry Board whose report was completed February 16,
1884. It Recommended that a gun factory be built at the
Washington Navy Yard, and that the private sector should
be encouraged to get as involved as possible in
shipbuilding. In what became an annual refrain, foreign
coaling stations were again requested. The United States
had coaling stations of sorts at Samoa, Hawaii, and
Pichiingue in Lower California, but these were of very
poor quality, and not properly supplied. Their ability to
function in support of the fleet was minimal.59
59 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1884,41.

THE NEW NAVY 1885-1888
President Cleveland, like his Republican
predecessor, called for a stronger navy:
All must admit the importance of an
effective Navy to a Nation like ours. Yet
we have not a single vessel of war that
could keep the seas against a first-class
vessel of any important power. Such a
condition ought not longer to continue.
The nation that cannot resist aggression is
constantly exposed to it. Its foreign
policy is of necessity weak, and its
negotiations are conducted with the
disadvantage because it is not in condition
to enforce the terms dictated by its sense
of right and justice.1
Prior to Cleveland's election, supporters of naval
re-armament had been almost entirely Republicans, but once
Cleveland declared his support for a strong navy, support
for it began to come from both parties. However the
majority of Southern Democrats never supported the New
Navy.1 2 At times each party tried to prove that it was
1 American Naval Policy, 11.
2 Thomas H. Coode, Southern Congressmen and the American Naval Revolution, 1880-1898,

more pro-navy than the other. This was especially true of
the Democrats, who hypocritically blamed the sad state of
the Navy on a decade of Republican mismanagement. Both
parties had contributed to the decline of the Navy, and
both would have to support its rebuilding if any progress
were to be made.
Cleveland appointed William C. Whitney his Secretary
of the Navy. He was sworn in March 7, 1885. Whitney
instituted major reforms in the conduct of the Navy
Department. He reduced the political favoritism and
nepotism in the navy yards, streamlined procurement, and
trimmed excess bureaucracy. He even managed to improve
and reorganize the bureau system slightly, though not as
much as was required. His call for naval rearmament in
his first annual report shows no significant differences
from that of his predecessor, though Whitney was more
interested in acquiring cruisers than monitors. After
complimenting Congress on the authorizations made so far
for new ships, he went on to argue for even more ships.
Cruising ships, however, we must have,
unless the policy of continuing repairs on
worthless ships is to continue, or unless
we are to abandon the national duty of
affording the security and protection of
our presence and power throughout the world
wherever our people sojourn.3
The Alabama Historical Quarterly (Fall & Winter 1968): 83-110.

Whitnev and the Naw Yards
Whitney worked hard to clean up the navy yards. At
the Brooklyn1 Yard, under command of Commodore Chandler,
the former Secretary's son, he ordered many employees
dismissed. They had been hired solely for political
purposes. Yard commanders were warned against permitting
the solicitation of political contributions in the yards,
and all political discussions were forbidden in the yards.
Whitney came down hard on Demdcrats as well as
Republicans, vowing that the "old system of political
bossism must die." Whitney strictly enforced existing
laws, such as the eight hour workday, in the yards, and
instituted testing and civil service boards.3 4
Whitney, with the help of the Board of Examination,
which had been appointed to investigate the Navy's tangled
bureaucracy, outlined a plan to consolidate the eight
naval bureaus down to three. Unfortunately the bill
proposing these reforms failed in the House. While unable
to consolidate the bureaus, Whitney did reorganize as much
as he legally could and encouraged cooperation among the
bureaus. He eliminated needless duplication among the
various bureaus. Previously, each bureau bought what it
needed on its own, without even competitive bidding.
3 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1885, XXV.
4 Hirsch, William C. Whitney, 268-270.

Whitney concentrated all purchasing under one bureau, the
Bureau of Provisions and Clothing, which later became the
Bureau of Supplies and Accounts.5
Intervention in Panama
Whitney was faced with a crisis in Panama at the
start of his term. Panama was at this time still a part
of Colombia. Rebels operating against the government had
disrupted the region, shutting down transportation. They
had seized several ships as well as other property
belonging to Americans. The superintendent of the Panama
Railroad Company appealed for American intervention.
Whitney dispatched the North Atlantic Squadron there to
protect American interests, but lack of naval transports
forced him to hire the steamships Acapulco and City of
Para from the Pacific Mail Company to help transport the
600 marines dispatched to Panama.6
Whitney was opposed to any kind of permanent
occupation of Panama by the United States and sought to
minimize its involvement in military events. The only
major action of American forces was the occupation of
Panama City to prevent its destruction by rebel forces on

April 24. The troops pulled out of the city the next
day.7 As he stated in his report,
^ Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 281.
6 Hirsch,William C. Whitney, 271.

the action of the.Department was carefully
confined to measures only as were necessary
to enforce treaty stipulations, every
precaution being taken to respect the
autonomy of Colombia; and our interference
ceased the moment the object had been
accomplished and the freedom of transit had
been securely re-established.7 8
More New Ships
On March 3, 1885, the day before Cleveland's
inauguration,, Congress authorized two additional protected
cruisers (Newark and Charleston) and two gunboats, one
large and one small (Yorktown and Petrel). It also
provided for the Endicott board to study the issue of
coast defense, and funds for testing American made guns
and armor. Funds were provided to store the double-turret
monitors until a decision could be reached on completing
them. Many in Congress increasingly realized that
monitors, or at least these particular monitors, were of
questionable utility in naval warfare. As part of the
debate for these ships, James McCreary, in charge of the
Committee of the Whole, ruled that the "increase of the
Navy was a clearly settled and established policy." This
helped clear the way for this and future naval
7 Ibid, 272.
8 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1885, XVII.

Funding in 1884 had been blocked by Democrats. Now
that they had won the Presidency, and would get credit for
the new ships, they were willing to support naval
Naval Thought Continues to Develop
Naval officers continued to focus on developing a
naval policy. Ensign W.I. Chambers in the 1884 Prize
Essay topic .on "The Best Method for the Reconstruction and
Increase of the Navy," continued to develop the ideas of
Belknap. Chambers saw three primary duties of the Navy in
war: 1) Preventing the blockade or bombardment of the
country, 2) attacking enemy military transports and
convoys, and 3) preying on the enemy's commerce.
For each of these three roles, he advocated
different types of ships. Monitors, rams, and torpedo
boats would defend the coast. Battleships would engage
the enemy's .transports and convoys. Cruisers similar to
the Chicago and Atlanta would attack the enemy's
commerce. He is one of the first officers to develop the
idea of a fleet of battleships. These were to be fast and
heavily armored, though short ranged. Harkening back to
what were seen as the glory days of the Navy in the War of
1812 when large American frigates humiliated their British *
^ Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 158.

counterparts in battle, he declared that "no ship should
be built that is not superior, or at least fully equal, to
those of any other nation."10
He recommended a total 14 monitors or rams, 9 11,000
ton battleships, 38 cruisers and gunboats, and 20 torpedo
boats. This totaled 61 major warships, plus the small
torpedo boats with again roughly three cruisers per
monitor or r;am. Probably realizing the poor state of the
nation's construction facilities, as well as Congress'
parsimony, he recommended that only one battleship would
be built each year.
Domesticating the New Navv
Whitney also focused on one of the greatest
obstacles to the New Navythe United States1 reliance on
foreign suppliers for armor plate and high caliber guns.
He yielded to criticism from many Congressmen such as
Representative Curtin of Pennsylvania who emphatically
stated that:
You cannot build a navy unless you prove to
the world that you can build it here of
American material. If we do not build it of
American material we are not worthy of a
navy; and I will never, so far as I'm
concerned, vote for a bill to make a ship
unless it is admitted we can build it here.11
10 W.I. Chambers, The Reconstruction and Increase of the Navy, USNIP 11 (1885): 36.

1885 was the last year the United States purchased
armor or gun steel from a foreign country. Congress was
in an uproar over foreign procurement, so Whitney allowed
all new contracts for these materials to accumulate until
their dollar value was enough, several years later, to
entice the Bethlehem Iron Company to build a factory to
produce these materials.11 12 Steel companies were becoming
more interested in producing for the Navy as the railroad
market contracted.
Whitney was also able to persuade the Hotchkiss
company to build a plant in the United States. Hotchkiss
supplied ..rapid fire guns to the Navy. Hotchkiss was an
American who, unable to sell his product in the United
States, set up his business in France. In return for an
order for 90 guns, and a contract for more, Whitney
convinced the Hotchkiss Company to build a plant in
Connecticut. Lieutenant Very of the Navy managed the
This became a typical arrangement of the period.
Active naval officers were commonly employed by naval
contractors, and even served as the representatives of
these companies to Whitney. Sometimes this was even
arranged by .Whitney himself. An astute propagandist for
11 23 February 1885, Congressional Record, 48th Congress, 2nd Session, 2043.
12 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1888, m-V.

the Navy, Whitney assigned Commander J.D. Jerrold Kelly to
the New York Herald where he wrote favorable naval
In addition, Hotchkiss received the rights to a
torpedo designed by an American naval officer. Captain
J.A. Howell.14 Superior tools and equipment available in
the United States were expected to make manufacturing
cheaper for Hotchkiss than in Europe.15
The problems of the ABCD's encouraged Whitney to
look elsewhere for ship plans, and many of the ships of
his administration were built to foreign plans. The
Charleston, demonstrating a change in policy and
continuing modernization, was the first American warship
not to be equipped with auxiliary sails.16 Britain had
begun building ships without auxiliary sails the year
prior, and the design of the Charleston was purchased
from the British firm of William Armstrong & Company by
Naval Attache Chadwick.17 This caused a great furor
among many Congressmen who railed at the state of naval
design in the United States having sunk to such a low
state that foreigners had to be paid to design American
*3 Hirsch, William C. Whitney, 265.
14 Hirsch, William C. Whitney, 329.
^Benjamin Franklin Cooling. Gray Steel and Blue Water Navy: The
Formative Years of America's Military Industrial Complex 1881-1917.
Hampden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1979,77.
16 Herrick, The American Naval Revolution, 37.
*7 Bradford, Admirals of the New Steel Navy, 100.

ships.18 Representative Ballentine asked Secretary
Whitney a very pointed, if not quite factually correct
Why ,is it that we never hear of any but
English-built ships as the original for our
copies? Why do we never hear of other
nations as having vessels worthy of our
consideration? It is EnglandEngland,
first and last England. But we are alone in
this: abject adulation. Other nations do
not : blindly follow in her wake in the
construction of their vessels. ... This
abje;ct pandering to English conceit ... is
repulsive to American feelings. The very
thought of an emergency which makes us
dependent upon England is humiliating.19 20
Whitney defended the need to procure foreign plans
due to the ljack of experience among American shipbuilders.
"Our true policy is to borrow the ideas of our neighbors
so far as they are thought to be in advance of our
Considering all the difficulties of the ABCDs,
Whitney was porrect to use foreign plans, until American
designs and iexperience caught up with Britain. He did
step up the braining of naval officers at foreign naval
colleges.-21 !
1 o
Davis, A Navy Second to None, 44.
19 24 July 1886, Congressional Record, 49th Congress, 1st Session, 7490.
20 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1885, xvii-xviii.
21 Hirsch, William C. Whitney, 288-289.

Armor for the Fleet
Steel armor was needed for the new ships, as well as
for completion of the old Robeson monitors, but American
companies were reluctant to produce for the Navy. They
had no guarantee of future contracts to offset their
initial investments and feared losing money as Roach and
many of his suppliers had. As Columbia University
Professor Egleston pointed out, "the government had to
provide" the steel industry "with sure and certain support
to get steel and heavy ships."22
Whitney did this by pooling all the armor and gun
forgings required by the 1883, 1885, and 1886 Naval
Appropriations, except for what had already been ordered
from Britain by Chandler, into one large contract. He
hoped this would entice steel companies to bid for the
contract. No further purchases of either armor or gun
steel were made from foreign countries after March
Whitney did this at a very fortuitous time. The
steel companies were suffering from a slowdown in the
railroad industry and were eagerly searching for new
business. This large contract was enough to tempt four
companies into bidding, in spite of the risks involved.24
22 Allin, Allin, The Unitd States Naval Institute, Intellectual Forum of the New Navy: 1865-
1900, 156.
23 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1889, IV.

Whitney signed a contract with Bethlehem Iron
Company for armor in June 1887. Deliveries were to begin
February ,1, 1890, and be completed by November 1, 1891.
The final contract was for 6703 tons of armor, and 1310
tons of gun forgings. The total cost of $4,000,000 was
about 20% higher than a European firm would have charged.
Benjamin Franklin Cooling dates the beginning of the
military-industrial complex to these deals between Whitney
and Bethlehem.24 25
Bethlehem Iron Company failed to deliver the armor
on schedule, though the gun forgings were delivered ahead
of schedule. This forced the next Secretary of the Navy,
Benjamin Franklin Tracy, to turn to Carnegie, Phipps and
Company for armor.
The, First Battleship
Sentiment had been growing in Congress for the
construction of battleships since 1881, but there was
never anywhere near the support needed for an
authorization to pass in both houses. This changed in
1886. The United States now had the facilities and
experience to construct large ships, and Congress was
aware of and appalled by the weakness of the United States
24 Cooling, Gray Steel and Blue Water Navy, 66.
25 Cooling, Gray Steel and Blue Water Navy, 76.

Navy as compared to those of much smaller nations.
Countries like Japan, China, and Chile were now building
battleships, or buying them from other countries. It
seemed only reasonable, as Representative Wilkinson later
argued with respect to China, to "build ships equal in
power to the ships of the nation we treat with such
contumely."26 Congress was willing to have a navy weaker
than that of Great Britain and other European powers, but
it was not willing to be outdone by countries it
considered hardly civilized.
In "1886 Congress authorized construction of two
small battleships, usually referred to as second-rate
battleships, the Maine (6,682 tons) and the slightly
smaller Texas (6,315 tons). The design of the Texas was
also purchased from the British Barrow Shipbuilding
Company by Chadwick, the firm having won a design
competition sponsored by the Secretary of the Navy at the
behest of Congress. While smaller than battleships of
other nations, they were the largest that could then be
constructed in American shipyards.27 Also authorized was
$3,178,046 to complete four of the five monitors
{Amphitrite,' Monadnock, Puritan, Terror) that had been
awaiting funds for completion since 1877. Many in
26 9 April 1890, Congressional Record, 51st Congress, 1st Session, 3218. Quoted in Seager,
Alfred Thayer Mahan, 492.
27 Davis, A Navy Second to None, 51.

' i
Congress still doubted the effectiveness of monitors, but
the spacethese ships occupied in the yards was needed for
the construction of new ships. The Democrats who had
historically blocked funding for the monitors were now
willing to support their completion just to be rid of
them. There was also some desire to placate those
Congressmen who still preferred monitors to battleships.
Monitors, bepause of their unseaworthiness, left the Navy
no option but coast defense. Battleships were a much more
flexible -entity, and many in Congress feared how this
flexibility might be put to use.
Also authorized was the protected cruiser
Baltimore, built according to British plans, and the
American designed dynamite gun cruiser Vesuvius,28 and
torpedo boat Cushing. Congress also appropriated
$1,000,000 to procure ordnance and equipment for
construction^ of the naval gun factory at the Washington
Naval Yard that would produce guns as large as sixteen
inches. This sum later proved insufficient, necessitating
an additional $650,000 in 1889 to complete the factory.
An interesting requirement of the bill was that one
of the ships; had to be built in a navy yard. Apparently,
Congress "feared that private shipbuilders might make
extortionate' demands upon the government if given
28 The dynamite gun |cruiser was designed to fire dynamite charges using pneumatic pressure to
bombard targets on shore.

Congress also
exclusive rights to construction.1,29
required thdt domestic contracts be had for those guns
that could riot be built in the navy yards. No provision
was made for purchasing them abroad. Neither building
ships in navy yards as was done in the 1870's, nor giving
them to private contractors as the ABCD's had been, had
worked well.1 Now Congress was trying both systems at
Congress required the armor used in all ships
authorized this year to be of domestic manufacture, a
requirement :that became standard for naval
appropriations.29 30 Whitney and the Democrats had wanted
an escape clause to allow him to purchase from abroad in
the event of any difficulties with domestic suppliers. It
was also thought this would- induce American suppliers to
offer a lower price for fear of losing the business to
foreigners, ;but the Republicans were adamant, so the
requirement remained, but in a weakened form.31 Joseph
Wharton, the representative of the Bethlehem Iron Company
had also1 argued for a domestic requirement, as his company
feared European competition.32
29 Cooling, Gray Steel and Blue Water Navy, 65.
30 Navy Yearbook, 33.
31 Cooling, Gray Steel and Blue Water Navy, 64.
32 Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute, 157.
! 78

The Bill finally required
that the armor used in constructing said
armo'red vessels and for completing said
monitors shall be of the best obtainable
quality and of domestic manufacture,
provided contracts for furnishing the same
in a reasonable time, at a reasonable
price, and of the required quality can be
made.'with responsible parties.33 34
The machinery of the ships was also required to be
of domestic manufacture, except for "such shafting as it
may be impossible to obtain in the United States in time
for use in the construction of these vessels herein
provided fori.1,34
These ^battleships demonstrate Congress1 slow drift
from a policy based solely on commerce raiding and coast
defense, to a balanced fleet encompassing commerce
raiders, coast defenders and line-of-battle ships.
Congress had not outlined any clear role for the
battleships.: They were built primarily because other
nations had them, and it was thought the United States
should as.well, and justified by the argument that
battleships would be needed to stand up to the battleships
of an enemy. Monitors were no longer considered adequate
to the task by themselves.
33 Navy Yearbook, 33.
34 Navy Yearbook, 34.

By 1887 Congress was becoming disenchanted with the
strategy of commerce raiding and coast defense. Many
Congressmen, such as Senator Butler, spoke out against
this strategy.
The Government of the United States would
be put in a very awkward predicament if in
case of trouble we should be confronted by
a large and powerful navy of armored war-
ships owned by a foreign government.
It is very well to have the fast cruisers
we have provided for; it is very well to
have a certain number of rams or floating-
batteries, or monitors, or torpedoes, or
destroyers, or whatever you choose to call
them, for coast defense; but this
government certainly is not going to leave
itself in a position simply to defend its
coast without any power whatever of meeting
ah enemy on the high seas.35
The Endicott Board, convened primarily to plan for
coastal fortification and defense, called for a fleet
capable of engaging the enemy on the high seas. It
indicated that this fleet would "act offensively and not
be confined to the defense of ports."36 The board had
been appointed by Congress in 1885. Its president was
Endicott, the Secretary of War. Also on the board were
two naval officers, Captains William T. Sampson, and
35 16 February 1887, Congressional Record, 49th Congress, 2nd Session, 1806-1807.
36 Report of the Board on Fortifications or Other Defenses, 49th Congress, 1st Session, Senate
Executive Document 49 (Washington, GPO: 1886), 9.

Charles F; Goodrich. Both were strong advocates of naval
expansion'and members of the Naval Institute. They
probably had much to do with formulating the board's plans
for the Navy.
Numerous bills were introduced in Congress that
session advocating the construction of large ships.
Senator Hale introduced a bill recommending ten monitors
be built. Another Senator introduced one advocating the
construction of ten Texas type small battleships. These
bills and other similar ones were all rejected, but not
outright.37 Congress was showing itself to be
increasingly willing to consider the idea of not only a
large navy, but even a battleship navy, as long as the
battleships were for coast defense. For the time being,
however. Congress remained committed to the idea of a
"small but efficient fleet."
On March 3, 1887 Congress appropriated funds for a
major upgradie of the navy yards and also to begin work on
the fortifications recommended by the Endicott Board. Two
more protected cruisers, Philadelphia and San Francisco,
were authorized as well as two gunboats, the Bennington
and Concord, and to satisfy diehard coast defense
advocates, two monitors. One of these was the
Miantonomah, the last of the Robeson monitors, still
37 Davis, A Navy Second to None, 46.

awaiting completion, the other, the Monterey, would be
the last monitor built by the United States until the
Spanish-American War. All of these ships used American
designs and all ships that followed them would as well.
With this appropriation, the United States now had
all necessary manufacturing capabilities built or under
construction.38 This allowed Congress to make the
domestic manufacture requirement even more stringent. It
required that all the ships be built in accordance to 1886
appropriation except that now "all their parts shall be of
domestic manufacture."39 No longer would the Navy have
the option of getting hard to make parts like propeller
- ii
shafts from abroad.
Congress also inaugurated its policy of requiring
minimum speeds for the cruisers, and rewarding contractors
who exceeded these. This had been suggested by Whitney,
who felt that the Navy's cruisers were too slow compared
to those of other nations. He wanted them fast enough to
catch any ship afloat.40 The Philadelphia and San
Francisco were both required to attain a speed of 19
knots, 3 knots faster than the fastest of the ABCD's.
In 1888 Congress authorized seven more warships,
including the armored cruiser New York, three protected
38 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1887, in
39 Navy Yearbook, 42.
40 Alden, The American Steel Navy, 55-60

cruisers including the 5300 ton Olympia, with a minimum
speed of 20 iknots specified, and three unprotected
cruisers (really large gunboats), the Detroit,
Marblehead, and Montgomery, and the gunboat Bancroft.
This was the largest single authorization of Congress so
far, and the first time Congress had met the Naval
Advisory Board's recommendation of building seven new
ships per year. The appropriation totalled $26,091,338
making it the largest of the decade.41
Battleships were again proposed in the debates. As
in the pastr there were a variety of proposals. Senator
R.L. Gibson proposed that two 15,000 ton battleships be
built. This would have given the United States the
largest ships in the world. All were voted down as they
had been the' previous year. Congress was, as yet,
unwilling to take the step of authorizing large
battleships; only the small second rates like the Maine
and Texas met its approval.42
On March 2, 1889, just before Cleveland's term of
office expired, Congress authorized construction of one
monitor, another dynamite gun cruiser, two gunboats, four
tugs, and a ram. The monitor was never built, however,
because the Congressional requirements as to the
41 Navy Yearbook. ,
42 24 July 1888, Congressional Record, 50th Congress, 1st Session, 6726-6728.

performance (17 knot minimum speed) of this vessel were
unattainable, so no shipbuilder bid for the contract.
The dynamite cruiser was also never built, the funds
being diverted to other purposes.43 The design had
always been considered questionable, and the building of
the first ship, the Vesuvius, was more a sign of the
political influence of the builders, the Pneumatic
Dynamite Gun Company, than any need for that type of ship
in the Navy. The Vesuvius' record in the Spanish-
American War, was questionable, at best. Its guns were an
integral part of the hull, requiring the entire ship to be
turned to face an enemy. This made it virtually
impossible to engage an enemy vessel, so the ship was used
solely to bombard Spanish positions in Cuba with
questionable, accuracy.
The ram, the Kathadin, was designed by Rear Admiral
Daniel Ammen who had been advocating construction of rams
for the better part of the 1870's and 1880's. This was
the same ram originally recommended in the early 1880's by
both the First Naval Advisory Board, and the House Naval
Affairs Committee.
Funds were also finally appropriated for a coaling
station at Pago Pago in Samoa.44 Also funds to complete
43 Alden, The American Steel Navy, 48.
44 Navy Yearbook, 50.

the gun factory, and other installations at the Washington
Navy Yard.
The multiplicity of ship types demonstrates not only
a sudden loss of direction among Congressmen, but also a
willingness to spend money on unproven ship types. The
four tugs were needed to support the fleet but the reasons
for the other ship types are unclear. In the elections of
this year the Republicans regained the White House, and
that probably accounts for some of the lack of direction
in naval policy. Appropriations for new ships were always
small or nonexistent following a change in the office of
the President. Congress had also through the decade
become increasingly lavish in allocating the growing
largess of the Treasury. Certainly during this year
"naval appropriations were less critically examined than
otherwise could have been the case."45
Congress also might have been following the policy
advocated by Soley. In a recent article he suggested that
"in the present experimental condition of naval science,
we cannot afford to pin our faith to any extreme theory.
We cannot rely for the protection of our cities upon
forts, or floating batteries, or torpedoes aloneWe must
have them all."46
45 Earle, The Navys Influence on Our Foreign Policy, 651.
46 James Russell Soley, Our Naval PolicyA Lesson from 1861, Scribners Magazine 1
(February 1887): 234.

Whitney's Record
Whitney was very happy with his accomplishments in
office. In his last annual report he summarized his
achievements. When he had entered office, "the United
States had no vessel of war which could have kept the seas
for one week as against any first-rate power, and was
dependent upon English manufacturers for the forging of
guns, for armor, and for secondary batteries."47 This,
he was proud to declare was no longer the case. In fact,
in terms of 'cruisers over 3000 tons displacement with
speeds in excess of 19 knots, Whitney claimed the United
States, with1 eight such ships, ranked second only to
Britain thatj had ten.48
Whitney's primary focus throughout his term was the
improvement pf the country's shipbuilding facilities. His
efforts had paid off so that when he left office he was
able to boast that "At the present time the conditions are
such that everything necessary to a first-class fighting
ship can be produced and furnished to the Department in
this country1 as soon as in the course of construction any
element or feature is required." As the armor delays
proved, this, was not quite accurate, but this was only a
minor delay,! soon rectified by Whitney's successor.
47 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1889, III.
48 Cooling, Benjamin Franklin Tracy, 57.

The naval policy in place at the end of this period
was still that of commerce raiding and coast defense.
While Congress had authorized two battleships, these were
small, and not intended to challenge an enemy fleet on the
high seas. In many respects they were simply enlarged and
more seaworthy monitors. Congress wanted the United
States to haye "the very best navy in the world," but this
navy would be a "small and efficient fleet." No thought
was given to' challenging the great powers of Europe for
naval dominance. In the event of war American cruisers
would "dart over the waters of the earth ... at a speed no
other power can attain," destroying the commerce of the
enemy. There was no room in this policy for large
battleships,, those "monstrous structures which have
consumed millions upon millions of the money of other
Whitney concentrated on rebuilding the Navy and its
infrastructure to such an extent that he virtually ignored
policy. Many historians have criticized him for failing
to get along with Luce and Mahan and for opposing the
Naval War College. Luce and Mahan had bombarded him with
their ideas and suggestions throughout his term,
quarreling with him and many of their fellow officers. By
the end of his term Whitney finally rid himself of them,
49 12 February 1889, Congressional Record, 50th Congress, 2nd Session, 1775.

by sending Luce to sea, and sending Mahan to choose a site
for a naval base in Puget Sound on the West Coast.50
Herrick is especially critical of Whitney on this
count, as we'll as others. He feels that Whitney ignored
naval policy' to concentrate on administrative reform and
rebuilding the fleet, and is rather critical of the ships
Whitney built.
The thirty ships added by Whitney reflected
the ;haphazard planning of officers who
grasped the tactical significance of
mobility and firepower, but failed to
appreciate the strategic advantage inherent
in a! unified battle force of sufficient
strength to destroy an enemy fleet a
thousand miles offshore.51
Herrick is correct in pointing this out, but a naval
policy withoilt a fleet to implement it would be pretty
silly. It is also a simple fact that the United States
did not have the facilities to construct the battleships
Herrick advocates until 1889. Whitney's priorities were
in the correct order and his successes in expanding the
nation's shipbuilding capabilities made possible the
building of Herrick's Mahanian style fleet in the future.
">: !
The ships built by Whitney were each the best that could
be built when they were authorized. They were generally
smaller than ships of the same type built by other
50 Allin, The U.S. Naval Institute,311.
51 Herrick, The American Naval Revolution, 36.

nations, but generally compared favorably to European
ships of comparable size. They were also doomed to early
obsolescence as advancing technology passed them by.
When Whitney left office, the Navy was in a position
to either stay with the commerce raiding school, or go on
to build a battleship fleet as the European nations had
done, and as many lesser powers were attempting to do.
The officers of the Navy increasingly favored a battleship
strategy, but Whitney and most members of Congress still
favored commerce raiding. This had been the priority
during Whitney's term of office, and as he stated: "We
cannot at present protect our coast, but we can return
blow for blow, for we shall soon be in a condition to
launch a fleet of large and fast cruisers against the
commerce of an enemy, able to inflict the most serious and
lasting injury thereon."52 Many, like Whitney, thought
this would be enough to dissuade an enemy from attacking
the United States. The idea of a "small and efficient
navy" still held firm.
As George Davis states: In the eighties the United
States did not seek parity with any other fleet. No other
naval force was as a yardstick by which to measure the
strength of the fleet. "There was no power whose program
we watched constantly with hawk-eyed attention. Even in
52 Secretary of the Navy, Annual Report, 1888, viii-ix.

oratorical flights, naval advocates rarely suggested a
fleet of the first rank."53 This would change very soon.
53 Davis, A Navy Second to None, 48.

This period marked the complete break with the old
policy of commerce raiding. Now "strategy superseded
tradition as the determinant of policy.Many nations
were eagerly upgrading their navies and a European naval
arms race was beginning. In 1889 Britain introduced the
two power standard, indicating that the British Navy would
always be built large enough to be greater than the two
next smaller navies. France followed by instituting a
similar policy vis a vis its neighbors on the continent.
Benjamin Harrison, who assumed the Presidency on
March 4, ,1889, was a strong advocate of the Navy. In his
inaugural* address he stated: "The construction of a
sufficient number of modern warships... should progress as
Ii |
rapidly as is consistent with care and perfection in plans
and workmanship." He also called for foreign bases and
coaling stations for the fleet, making him the first
President to,do so.2
1 !
Herrick, American Naval Revolution, 43.

For the first time since 1875 the Republicans had
strong majorities in both houses as well as the
Presidency, enabling them to.address naval policy as they
chose. This administration would usher in a new naval
policy with a new vision for the role the United States
would play in the world. Harrison showed this would be an
aggressive policy by appointing James Blaine his Secretary
of State. Benjamin Franklin Tracy was appointed Secretary
of the Navy, and.took office on July 16.
1 The New Naval Policy
While bhe construction of battleships had long been
discussed, and two very small ones even built, they had
not been perceived as being necessary to the United
State's defensive strategy. However, in 1889 the
perceived needs of the country changed, and brought about
a change in strategy. This was a product of the thought
and debatfe of the eighties by many people, but its rise to
prominence at the end of the decade was due almost
entirely to three men: Luce, Mahan, and Tracy. The essays
and policy statements that appeared in the next two years
represented the summation of the naval thought of the
^ I
Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IX, 10.

Captain W.T. Sampson presented his article "Outline
of a Scheme ;of Defense of the Coast" to the Naval
institute in April 1889. It began the call for
battleships .that mounted increasingly in 1889 and 1890.
Like Chambers, he saw the potential threats to the United
States as being attacks on commerce, blockade of ports,
bombardment of coastal cities, and invasion. While
considering the threat of invasion minimal, only Britain
having the capability to launch an invasion, he felt the
United States was vulnerable to the other three types of
attack. He urged prompt action cautioning that
"preparation for war which is delayed until war is
imminent will result in certain defeat."3
The fleet Sampson proposed was similar to that of
Chambers. It consisted of monitors, rams, and torpedo
boats for coast defense, and battleships and cruisers for
offensive operations. Agreeing with previous commentators
that the Navy had a role to play in foreign policy, he
warned that "the time is not so far distant when we must
relinquish some of our recent applications of the Monroe
Doctrine, or be prepared to defend them with our guns."4
3 W.T. Sampson, Outline of a Scheme for the Naval Defense of the Coast, USNIP 15 (1889):
4 Ibid, 179.

The discussion of this essay brought out the
maturing thought of the naval officers. Lieutenant
Wainwright felt the United States had been correct in
building cruisers through the eighties, but that the time
had now come to produce battleships.5
Mahan also took the opportunity to state his case
for battleships. He argued that:
A war against an enemy's commerce is an
utterly insufficient instrument, regarded
as the main operation of war, though
doubtless valuable as a secondary
operation, the United States and its people
are committed to an erroneous and
disastrous policy. No harm had been done
in building cruisers, for ships of that
kind are wanted; but great harm has been
done by the loss of so many years in which
have not been built any battleships, which
are undoubtedly the real strength of a
Sampson's presentation was followed a few months
later by Luce's article "Our Future Navy" that appeared in
July. In this article Luce developed his ideas of how
naval battles of the future would be conducted. While he
still sought analogies between land and sea warfare, he
also developed the idea of an offensive strategy built
around battleships. "The inroads of cruisers would avail
but little unless supported by battleships." He described
^ Wainright, Discussion of Sampson Essay, USNIP 15 (1889): 554.
6 Mahan, Discussion of Sampson Essay, USNIP 15 (1889): 554.