The Continental Navy

In 1775, the Congress decided to protect the coastline and shipping in 13 colonies and so thy acquired, built and equipped with firearms, a fleet of naval warships. The sailing ships were captured and some sunk. This acquisition program marked the birth of the US Navy. This article explores the progress of the Navy through its establishment, decline, and evolution sine the evolutionary war of 1775 to 1812. With the help of historical texts and documented commentaries, this article reveals how the 233-year program of acquisition resembles major acquisition programs in the government today.

Historical events of the navy

The construction of the Continental Navy was first authorized by Congress at the time of the setting of the American Revolutionary War with Britain. The first Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1774 so as to converse Britain’s Intolerable Acts. These were the British laws that made the colonialists suffer for protesting against their taxation policies. However, significant resolutions were formed of the Revolution were developed in the second year of the Continental Congress (Chapell 45). In 1775, the second assembling of Congress resulted in bloodshed at Lexington and Concord. The Congress became a provisional government and created a Continental Army with George Washington as the general. The Congress defied against England and triggered the beginning of a separate nation and also issued a new monetary currency.

From the time of the starting months of the Revolution (1775), the British naval power hindered all efforts towards forming a strong resistance. The naval made sure that there was a steady supply of warships at the Boston Harbor that supported British to occupy Philadelphia, New York, Charleston and Savannah. The British navy made General George’s army to go on long marches since they were able to strike any place on the Coast.  A semblance of naval resistance was staged by the colonies.

The most important American resistance to British shipping was mounted by the American privateering; these were private owned and financed ships. The privateers differentiated themselves from pirates though the governmental letters that prevented the hanging of the captured crews. The Continental Congress distributed over 2000 letters of Marque at the time of the war, and this motivated the privates to attack the British convoys from the American Coast (Miller 93). The privateers’ success was also influenced by the increase in the maritime insurance premiums that the British merchants paid.

Although the privateers were successful, they were not under the Congress control. In 1775, a Massachusetts, John Adams, told the Continental Congress that its navy could capture prizes for profit and also accomplish strategic purposes. The Congress, therefore, formed a ‘marine committee”. The Congress laid groundwork for creating a navy having been stimulated with the letter from General George Washington. The Congress was excited and later got into a debate of fitting out a vessel. Another resolution suggested developing a second vessel that was also fully equipped. Delegate Deane helped the Congress towards forming the navy by estimating the costs of the naval acquisitions.

The Continental Congress knew of the versatility and effectiveness. In early June 1775, the Continental Congress issued the first currency $2m Spanish dollars and another currency ($3) was issued in December (Cooney 172). The Continental Congress did not have a treasury or the ability to get funds through taxation, and so they were forced to produce paper bills of credit. The colonies were promised for the redemption of the bills in the Spanish dollar and from these bills Congress was able to fund its governing activities. During the Revolutionary War, the Continental bills devalued.

The administrative instability of the Continental Navy showed the many problems that they faced. The Congress found it hard to organize a navy because they didn’t have the capability of challenging the many ships of the British army. Their revolutionary efforts at sea were also not successful despite the many forms of revolutionary actions that they employed. George’s commissioned ships did not bring down the British supply. They created 11 state armies and participated in extensive privateering. These efforts drained their finances. The Continental Navy expressed a mixed record of the Revolutionary war; the first main expedition was staged by Esek Hopkins who ignored his orders and attacked New Providence instead of the Chesapeake Bay and clearing off the British naval. Hopkins went to England and ran away from the battle. The Navy officers argued amongst themselves over rank issues. Though, there were captains that still dared to exploit and capture the British shipping. Paul Jones was one of the famous captains who defeated Bon Homme. Though, he was also caught up in controversial issues.

During the rise of the Barbary pirates, Congress was caught up in a dilemma whether to pay ransom or rebuild the navy again. They decided not to act on anything first and allow the American merchant sailors stay in the Algerian prisons. Nowadays, the Congress still behaves in the same way; when it encounters an insoluble choice, the first solution is inaction. As threats from the Barbary mounted, the Congress had to take action and choose either to pay appeasement bribes or construct a navy to assert force. The Congress pushed forward to make a deal with the Algerians. The Continental Navy had failed and still had debts hence; they needed to construct the frigates. The ultimate technical solution was to create six frigates and pay appeasement bribes to the Algerians. In all these activities, the Congress spent a lot.

The continental navy faced difficulties as it built its program for 13 frigates.  They succumbed in poor planning and hardship in obtaining building materials to construct the ships; the construction was therefore delayed. There were only seven frigates were created and got to the sea. As the war was ending, the Navy commissioned over 60 vessels. By 1783, the Continental Navy had only a few ships. When the hostilities ended, the Congress members wanted to retain the alliance though they did not have money and so they gave it to the British.

Analysis of the events

Esek’s inept actions and blatant inaction was clearly the reason why he was removed from the command. It was not easy to accomplish this due to the nepotism that had infiltrated the Navy formed a formidable constituency that favored him. Paul Jones was another Revolutionary hero that acknowledged the power of constituency the time he made a decision to cross the Atlantic and take back the battle to the British grounds. His army preyed on the British shipping on the British coast and creating a foray. Jones shook the British populace very fast. Fearfully, he brought the revolution near the home of the British.

A coherent constituency is a political fact can also be seen in the wide operations of the privateers. The Continental Navy issued letters of Marque and permitted the distribution of spoils to the privateers. The Congress built a constituency of armed ships that strongly attacked and disrupted the British shipping. However, this constituency came to be a double-edged sword because the suppliers and shipyards profited through their support to the privateers; this occurred when the Congress came to construct the continental army.

There was a great influence from the merchant traders that led to another constituency. During the attacks from the Barbary pirates compelled the delegates at the northern seaports to protect their merchants. The Naval Act of 1794 used different construction sites with the six frigates distributed mainly at shipyards near the northern shipping ports. The distribution was wise so as to maintain support for the Navy.


In this historical narrative, the political process that led to the evolution of the US Navy. The main impact of the political process on the navy’s development is that the process compelled the Navy to grow and meet threats. Just like in the modern Congressional decisions are unreasonable and show incompetent leadership, make sense when you the government funded programs through the political facts context. The facts brought out in this research include the difficulty of overcoming bad reputation politically and the necessity of a strong and coherent constituency. The Congress encountered many problems throughout the Revolutionary War and acknowledged the facts involved to create solutions. This has been the same trend that the current Congress uses to solve issues.

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