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Old July 27th, 2013, 11:25 AM   #11

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Originally Posted by diddyriddick View Post
There are a number of problems with this.

1. When you say "private fleets," you essentially are talking about commissioned pirates. While such privateers were often used to augment existing fleets, they would be infinitely problematic as a "first team" navy. Like any hired gun, they are subject to changing employers for a higher bid at their whim.

2. YOu can't just "raise a navy only when needed." Even during the Revolutionary war period and aftermath, it took significant time to bring a ship from procurement to operational status. As an example, USS Constitution was ordered by the USN in 1794, but did not make her first operational sortie until 1798. Four years+ is a LONG time to wait to build a navy if you are already at war; being dependent on maritime commerce, the US economy could have been crippled if the sea lanes were conceded to ANY enemy for the first 4 years of a hypothetical war.

By comparison, an army made up of "militia" could be raised in a relatively short time. While the citizens of the US might not have been qualified soldiers ca. 1800, almost all able-bodied males had a musket of some sort. If said local militias drilled periodically, they could be in commission within 10 days to 2 weeks of notification. They may not have been the best, but they could be on-line quickly.
Presumably American privateers, like all American citizens, would be loyal to the United States and not switch sides for a mere fee. Armies also need trained artillerymen, and farmers with muskets are a poor substitute. But privateers had trained artillerymen among their crew.

Last edited by Aya Katz; July 27th, 2013 at 11:45 AM.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 11:29 AM   #12
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Did John Adams have much naval experience, outside of being commander in chief during the undeclared Quasi-War with France?
TJ and I have discussed this in the past, but Commodore John Barry was called the Father of the American Navy very early in US history. His statue outside of Independence Hall refers to him in that way.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 11:32 AM   #13

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Privateers didn't own proper large warships and were not interested in doing battle with regular navies.
Yes, that's true, about the smaller ships. Privateers operated on a shoestring, and they did not mind losing their small ships as long as they won a better prize. This made them more skillful and more economical.

Frugal Use of Resources in Privateering: How Dominique You Got His Start | Historia Obscura

The problem with standing navies is that they get very attached to their large ships, and they don't take the sorts of risks that a privateer would. Also, they cost a lot more to maintain, and raising the taxes to do so ends up requiring another military force, this one deployed against one's own citizens: the Revenue Service.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 11:45 AM   #14

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TJ and I have discussed this in the past, but Commodore John Barry was called the Father of the American Navy very early in US history. His statue outside of Independence Hall refers to him in that way.
That makes sense to me. Should be a Navy man.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 12:37 PM   #15

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The problem with standing navies is that they get very attached to their large ships, and they don't take the sorts of risks that a privateer would. Also, they cost a lot more to maintain, and raising the taxes to do so ends up requiring another military force, this one deployed against one's own citizens: the Revenue Service.
Seeing as privateers were businessmen, legal thieves, I doubt they were likely to take risks with life and limb regular naval men would take for granted. And where would you find privateers able to go up against frigates and ships of the line? You wouldn't.

As for the revenue service, I'm not interested in your politics.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 12:48 PM   #16
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Privateers had a very specialized use in war, they were commerce raiders, they were not going to transport large numbers of troops, they were not going to confront the enemy fleet, they were not going to blockade, they were not going to lift a blockade. Asking why we needed a professional navy when we had privateers is a bit like asking why we need aircraft carriers when we have submarines.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 12:49 PM   #17

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Originally Posted by Aya Katz View Post
Presumably American privateers, like all American citizens, would be loyal to the United States and not switch sides for a mere fee. Armies also need trained artillerymen, and farmers with muskets are a poor substitute. But privateers had trained artillerymen among their crew.
Presume all you want, but that doesn't change the facts. Privateers were, at best mercenaries, and at worst impressed crews who had absolutely no loyalty.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 12:51 PM   #18

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Originally Posted by Aya Katz View Post
Did John Adams have much naval experience, outside of being commander in chief during the undeclared Quasi-War with France?
No, not really, but he quickly recognized the importance of having one
was and did all he could to find finances to use local shipping as a 'navy'
I learned a great deal about Mr. Adams as 'the father of the navy' on
a paper I wrote for my US History Masters course I wrote. But of course,
today, he isn't really considered the 'father' of the Navy as RoryMore echoed.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 12:56 PM   #19

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Originally Posted by Aya Katz View Post
Yes, that's true, about the smaller ships. Privateers operated on a shoestring, and they did not mind losing their small ships as long as they won a better prize. This made them more skillful and more economical.

Frugal Use of Resources in Privateering: How Dominique You Got His Start | Historia Obscura

The problem with standing navies is that they get very attached to their large ships, and they don't take the sorts of risks that a privateer would. Also, they cost a lot more to maintain, and raising the taxes to do so ends up requiring another military force, this one deployed against one's own citizens: the Revenue Service.
Again, this is problematic. Historically, privateers almost never engaged warships because they knew they were outclassed. At the very best, privateers could be used as commerce raiders. If you must defeat your enemy on the sea to gain control of the sea lanes (as Mahan argued necessary,) then privateers weren't the way to do it.
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Old July 27th, 2013, 01:30 PM   #20

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Note also that the US did not have a Navy from 1790-1797. We had a small naval force called the US Revenue Cutter Service, the forerunner of the US Coast Guard. A naval fleet was considered too expensive and the Articles of Confederation could not provide federal funding to build or operate a sea going fleet.

What I find really odd is that the US did have The Marine Corps, founded to serve as an infantry unit aboard naval vessels and was responsible for the security of the ship and its crew by conducting offensive and defensive combat during boarding actions and defending the ship's officers from mutiny. The quadrafoil on a Marine officer's dress cover is a historical item used to help snipers in the rigging identify friend from foe.
Not sure what they had the Marines doing while the Navy wasn't around....maybe someone here has some information?
The Revenue Cutter Service was the historical forerunner of the Coast Guard but the spiritual forerunner of the IRS. It collected taxes even times of war, and sometimes fought friends instead of foes.

The question of the Marines were doing when there was no Navy is of interest to me, too.
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