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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
The Reestablishment of the Navy, 1787-1801
NAVAL HISTORY BIBLIOGRAPHIES, NO. 4
Historical Overview and Select Bibliography
Needs and Opportunities for Research and Writing
The contents of this bibliography highlight the strengths
and weaknesses of the scholarship on the navy of the Federalist
era. Scholars have written extensively on the politics of the
reestablishment of the navy; on leading policy makers, including
presidents, cabinet members and congressmen; on naval officers;
on early shipbuilding; and on the operations of the Quasi-War.
No doubt, there is still room for future scholars to find new
things to say about each of these subjects. On the naval shipbuilding
program, for instance, over the course of this century scholars
have debated the relative roles of Josiah Fox and Joshua Humphreys
as designers of the 1790s frigates, and writers have explored
several technical aspects of naval ship design. Yet, we lack a
full-length biography of Humphreys and a study of naval shipbuilding
as an industry during the Federalist era. Both would be valuable
and original contributions.
Several other significant aspects of naval history in the
Federalist Era remain neglected. Almost untouched as a subject
of scholarship is the economic influence of the reestablishment
of the navy on the nation as well on specific regions and town.
What impact did naval shipbuilding and the navy's demand for supplies,
ordnance, and munitions, as well as sailors, have on the economy?
The composition of the enlisted force and related questions--
recruitment, discipline, provisioning, and living conditions--
need to be studied. Topics in naval medicine want their historians.
Relations between the American and British naval forces during
the Quasi-War, the European reaction to the reestablishment of
the American navy, and the navy's relations with civil authorities
during the Quasi-War deserve further investigation. How the new
federal courts applied international, admiralty, and prize law
in cases involving the navy, as well as how naval personnel understood
those forms of law, are worthy topics. The records of the courts,
civil and military, are rich but underused sources of information
about the early navy. It is generally agreed that the navy during
the War of 1812 played a significant role in strengthening American
nationalist sentiment, but did the navy have a similar function
in the Federalist period? Studies of naval iconography in popular
culture, including broadsides, ballads, prints, decorative motifs
on furniture and architecture, parades, and the toasts offered
at naval banquets might provide answers.