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NAVAL HISTORY,
&c.

LIGHT squadRONS AND SINGLE SHIPs.

As we are now entering upon the first exploit of 1811. one of the far-famed american 44-gun frigates, we conceive it will be useful to examine, a little more minutely than we have done, the force and qua-Amelifications of a class of ship, little known in Europe, ..." until the President brought herself into notice in the gates. manner we shall presently have to relate. In our account of the action between the Constel-2." lation and Insurgente, we mentioned that, in March, their 794, when a rupture was expected with the regency. of Algiers, the government of the United Statestion. ordered the construction of four frigates of 44, and , two of 36 guns; and we stated that one class was to mount 56 guns, including 30 long 24-pounders on the main deck, and the other 48 guns, including 28 long 18-pounders.” But we are inclined to think that this was not the armament originally intended for these ships; and our opinion is founded on the following facts. Soon after the passing of the act of congress of the 27th of March, 1794, the differences with Algiers were amicably settled; but in the course of the same year, feeling an interest in the success of republican France, the United

* See vol. ii. p. 469. WOL, WI. B

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States pushed their complaints against England to
an extremity bordering on war. Now the Algerines
possessed no stronger vessels than frigates, and those
not of the first class; but England could send to
sea a fleet of line-of-battle ships. It was this, we
believe, that occasioned the american president to
direct, as by a clause in the act he was empowered
to do, that, instead of the four 44 and two 36 gun
frigates, two 74-gun ships, and one frigate of 44
guns, should be constructed.
An english shipwright, Mr. Joshua Humphreys,
resident at Philadelphia, was required to give in an
estimate of the cost of building a 74-gun ship, to
measure 1620 tons american, which, as we shall by
and by show, is about 1750 tons english. He did
so, and computed the expense, without reckoning
the guns, at 342000 dollars. Upon this estimate,
as it appears, the timbers were prepared for two
74s; one to be built at Philadelphia and named
United-States, the other at Boston and named Con-

stitution. The 44-gun frigate was to be built at .

Baltimore, and to be named Constellation. Scarcely,

however, had the keels of any of these ships been

The 74s converted to frito gates.

laid down, ere Mr. Jay's treaty restored the amicable
relations between England and America, and occa-
sioned a stop to be put to their construction.
As the most eligible mode of converting the
timbers prepared for the two 74s, it was resolved
that, although begun as line-of-battle ships, they
should be finished as frigates. This was to be done
by contracting the breadth of the frame about three
feet and a half, and discontinuing the topside at the
clamps of the quarterdeck and forecastle. As these
enormous “frigates,” although intended to mount 62
guns, were to rate only of 44, it was decided that

Launch- the frigate originally intended to class as a 44 should

ing of UnitedStates and Constitution,

bear the designation of a 36. The United-States was launched on the 10th of May, 1797, and cost, exclusive of her ordnance, 2993.36 dollars; and the Constitution was launched on the 21st of October, in the

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same year, and cost 302718 dollars. This, in either 1811. case, was not much below the original estimate, even had the ships been completed as 74s, and shows what a slight change had been effected in their construe: tion. The Constellation was built under the personal condirection of commodore Truxton, who first commis-jo . sioned, her, and was launched on the 7th of Sep." tember, 1797. Owing partly to the dearness of materials, and partly, we believe, to some expensive alterations in her construction, the Constellation cost the enormous sum of 314000 dollars. When, in the spring of the year 1798, the expense Report of building these frigates, two of “44,” and one of . “36 guns,” came to be submitted to congress, some canoeexplanation was required; and on the 1st of April;

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the secretary at war delivered in a report, of which o the following is an extract: “It appears, that the #: first estimate rendered to congress was for frigates frig" of the common size and dimensions, rated at 36 and 44 guns, and that the appropriations for the armament were founded upon this estimate. It also appears, that, when their size and dimensions came to be maturely considered, due reference being had to the ships they might have to contend with, it was deemed proper, so to alter their dimensions, without changing their rates, as to extend their sphere of utility as much as possible. It was expected, from this alteration, that they would possess, in an eminent degree, the advantage of sailing; that, separately, they would be superior to any single european frigate of the usual dimensions; that, if assailed by numbers, they would be always able to lead ahead; that they could never be obliged to go into action but on their own terms, except in a calm; and that in heavy weather, they would be capable of engaging double-decked ships. These are the principal advantages contemplated from the change made in their dimensions. Should they be realized, they will more than compensate for having materially swelled the body of expenditures.”

1811.

In the course of the year 1798, two more 44-gun frigates were built; one, the President, at New

:*York, the other, the Philadelphia, at Philadelphia.

ing of President and , Philadelphia.

***

Of the latter we know very little, on account of her
loss already mentioned;” but of the former we are
enabled to furnish some far from unimportant particu-
lars. Being constructed of timbers prepared for them
alone, these frigates were more handsomely moulded
than their two predecessors. The President, indeed,
was considered to be the most beautiful and the
best sailing of all the american frigates; and, being
lower in the water than either the United-States or
Constitution, was a much more deceiving ship. Her
scantling is represented not to have been so stout as
theirs; which may have been one reason that she
cost only 220910 dollars, while they cost, as we have
seen, 300000. - -
With respect to the materials of which the ships
were constructed and the pains taken in building
them, we can but repeat our former remarks on the
same subject. Every thing that was new in the navies
of England and France was tried, and, if approved,
adopted, no matter, it falling so light from the
paucity of individuals, at what expense. There
were no contractors, to make a hard bargain pay, by
deteriorating the quality of the article; no deputies,
ten deep, each to get a picking out of the job. The
executive government agreed directly with the
artisan; and not a plank was shifted, nor a long-
bolt driven, without the scrutinizing eye of one of
the captains or commodores; of him, perhaps, who
expected, at no distant day, to risk his life and
honour on board the very ship whose equipment he
was superintending.
As the number and nature of a ship's guns depend,
in a very great degree, upon her size and scantling,
we must endeavour to convey an idea of the dimen-
sions of the american 44-gun frigate, before we enter

*** * * : Superior manner in which the ameri

can fri

gates Were built,

Dimellsions of 44

gun frigate

* See vol. iii. p. 424.

upon the subject of her armament. The United- 1811; States, Constitution, and President measure, within T a few fractions of a ton the same; namely, from 1444 to 1445 tons american. We say “tons american,” because, although the american standard of weights and measures, the pound and the foot, for instance, is the same as the english, the mode of casting the tonnage of a ship is widely different. This will appear evident when it is known, that the size of american frigate President, according to the official. register in the office at Washington, measured 1444 * tons and a fraction;* whereas, when subsequently -o measured at Portsmouth dock-yard, she was found ' ". to be 1533 tons and a fraction. . . . . . . . . . . The President’s “keel for tonnage,” as given in . an american publication, is 145 feet; but the english: mode of casting the tonnage makes it 146 feet, 7# * inches. . In both cases, it is a mere calculation, ameintended to allow for the rake or inclination of the . ship's stem and stern. The first multiplicator of the ofcastAmericans is the breadth across the frame, or:#" moulded breadth, by them usually called the breadth nage of beam, but the first multiplicator of the British joined is the extreme breadth, or that produced by adding to the moulded breadth double the assumed thickness (in ships of the higher classes five inches) of the plank on the bottom. The second multiplicator of each is the respective half-breadths. The american divisor is 95; the british 94. Thus: Ft. in. Ft. in. Ft. in. Tons. Am. method. 145 0 x 43.6=6308 x 21 9 = 137198-1-95 = 1444 oths. Brit. ditto... 146 74 x 44 4–6502 x 22 2 = 143044+94 = 1533 #ths. As it is not generally known, even among the The most experienced naval officers of either nation, . that any difference exists in the mode of measuring occo. british and american ships of war, the reduction in" the alleged tonnage of the latter greatly facilitates the deception, eulogized for its “advantages” by the american government, and to the influence of which

* Clark's Naval History of the United States, vol. ii. p. 240.

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