The Reestablishment of the Navy, 1787-1801
Historical Overview and Select Bibliography

Michael J. Crawford
Christine F. Hughes



Historical Overview of the Federalist Navy, 1787-1801

First Naval Legislation Under the Constitution
Construction of the First Six Frigates
Quasi-War with France
Federalist Legacy

Needs and Opportunities for Research and Writing
Bicentennial Award Competition

Select Bibliography of Published Works

General Studies and Monographs
Politics, Policies, and Establishment of the Navy
Naval Administration
Shipbuilding and Ordnance
Naval Operations
Relations with Barbary Powers
Quasi-War with France
Impressment and Relations with Great Britain
The Officer Corps
Enlisted Personnel
Naval Discipline, Education, and Medicine
Naval Art


The purpose of this publication is to encourage understanding and further study of events associated with the rebirth of the American Navy in the 1790s. In comprehending the significance of this milestone in our naval history, one needs to remember that the United States Navy traces its beginnings to the Continental Navy that was established in 1775 at the outset of the American Revolution. Following the winning of American independence, however, our nation elected to have no navy for a period of almost ten years.

America's founding fathers included provisions for a navy in the new federal constitution of 1789. But actual steps to create that service did not occur until the mid-1790s, when America's thriving overseas shipping and trade became targets of attacks and interference. These foreign threats, combined with the determination by many leaders to establish the United States as a major power, led President Washington and Congress to recognize the need to restore American defenses at sea.

It is possible to argue that the decision to re-create a navy in the turbulent decade of the 1790s is as significant as the founding of the Continental Navy in 1775. The nation's experiment in doing without a naval force in the years following the American Revolution proved to be entirely unsatisfactory. Simply put, we learned in this period that the United States faced unpredictable threats, from different sources and in several regions, that needed to be met by a navy capable of defending American interests on the high seas. As we approach the twenty- first century, that recognition still explains why our country needs to maintain a strong navy.

Michael J. Crawford, who heads the Naval Historical Center's Early History Branch, and his associate, Christine F. Hughes, deserve praise for the fine scholarship reflected in this volume. In addition, the Center deeply appreciates the contributions of several noted authorities on early American history who offered their criticisms and suggestions as this volume evolved through several drafts. Those individuals included William M. Fowler, Jr., Northeastern University; Harold D. Langley, Smithsonian Institution; Christopher McKee, Grinnell College; William J. Morgan, Naval Historical Center emeritus; and Michael A. Palmer, East Carolina University.

Despite the invaluable assistance they received, the authors alone are responsible for this volume. I join them in expressing the hope that this publication will be a valuable resource for any individual interested in the historical development of our nation and the American navy.

Dean C. Allard
Director of Naval History