Educator Resources

Launching the New U.S. Navy


On December 3, 1793, in his annual address to Congress, President George Washington warned, "If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, . . . it must be known, that we are at all times ready for war." A few days later, Washington learned of a truce that had been signed between Portugal and Algiers. This truce opened the way for Barbary pirates to cruise the Atlantic and threaten American trade with much of Europe. In response to these events, on January 2, 1794, the House of Representatives resolved that a naval force to protect American commerce ought to be provided and appointed a committee to prepare a report on what kind of naval force would be necessary. Three weeks later, the committee chairman, Thomas Fitzsimons, a Federalist from Pennsylvania, reported that a force of six frigates would be sufficient.

George Washington's Annual Address to Congress, December 3, 1793
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National Archives and
Records Administration
Center for Legislative Archives
Records of the U.S. Senate
Record Group 46