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Disposition of the
and in actual service and that which lies in port and is from any cause unavailable in any sudden emergency. From this statement it will appear that the entire naval force available for the defence of the whole Atlantic coast at the time of the appointment of this Committee consisted of the steamer Brooklyn, 25 guns, and the store-ship Relief, 2 guns, while the former was of too great draft to permit her to enter Charleston harbor with safety, except at spring tides, and the latter was under orders to the coast of Africa with stores for the African squadron. Thus the whole Atlantic seaboard has been, to all intents and purposes, without defence during all the period of civil commotion and lawless violence, to which the President has called our attention as of such vast and alarming proportions' as to be beyond his power to check or control.
"It further appears that, of the vessels which might have been available for defence or protection in case of any sudden emergency arising at home, now at stations in distant seas, or on their way thither, on the 13th of October last, the Richmond left our coast to join the Mediterranean Squadron, and the Vandalia left on the 21st of September to join the East Indian Squadron, and, about the same time, the Saratoga to join the African Squadron, and others to join the Home Squadron, then in the harbor of Vera Cruz, supporting one of the revolutionary governments of Mexico.
"The Committee cannot fail to call attention to this extraordinary disposition of the entire naval force of the country, and especially in connection with the present no less extraordinary and critical juncture of political affairs. They cannot call to mind any period in the past history of the country of such profound peace and internal repose as would justify so entire an abandonment of the coast of the country to the chance of fortune. Certainly, since the nation possessed a navy, it has never before sent its entire available force into distant seas, and exposed the iminense interests at home, of which it is the special guardian, to the dangers from which, even in times of the utmost quiet, prudence and forecast do always shelter them. But the Committee cannot shut their eyes to the fact that this re markable state of things has occurred at a period in our history without a parallel for internal commotion, lawless violence, and total disregard of the authority of the Constitution and laws, and of the rights of property, public and private-a state of things which the President himself, in the Message referred to this Committee, denominated a revolution of such vast and alarming proportions as to place the subject entirely above and beyond Executive control.' During this period combinations have
Disposition of the Vessels.
been formed for the avowed purpose of overthrowing the Government itself, and have carried forward that purpose in overt acts of violence never before known in the country. The arms of the Government have been seized in arsenals and other places of deposit by lawless mobs, and placed in the hands of those in open rebellion. Fortifications have been taken possession of, navy-yards plundered, and magazines robbed. The guns of the United States upon the battlements of national defences have been turned upon unarmed vessels of the Government, and the flag of the country fired upon by insolent rebels. The revenue service has been outraged, and its vessels treacherously surrendered to those who defied the authorities of the United States, by men holding commissions under the very Government they were betraying. The public moneys in the national mints have been seized, and naval stores plundered. The commerce of the country and the lives of citizens have been put in peril by the wanton and lawless destruction of buoys erected to warn the mariner of sunken rocks; and the lights on the coast have been put out that the darkness and the tempest might be invoked in aid of their resisting the laws. Unarmed and unoffending merchant vessels riding peaceably at anchor in the harbors of the nation, and beneath its own flag, have been seized by insurgent forces in retaliation for obstructions thrown in the way of their revolutiouary designs. The law has been defied, the Constitution thrust aside, and the Government itself assaulted.
"Nor has this state of lawless violence and total disregard of public and private rights been a sudden outburst of passion or discontent at some new and unexpected measure of governmental policy to which resistance had never been threatened, and could not have been provided against. But it is in fulfilment of schemes long entertained, and frequently threatened, in certain quarters of the Union. Indeed, it is resistance to the law and the Constitution, consequent upon the election of a particular person to the office of Chief Magistrate of the nation. Of all this, those charged with the execution of the laws and the preservation of the public peace had ample notice. It was for many months apparent to all but the blind that the whole current of events was turned in the direction which was to bring to the test the sincerity of the threats thus uttered. A Chief Magistrate of one of the States had, more than two years before, publicly confessed a design on his part, if the like contingency had happened at the general election four years ago, to have made the attempt to overthrow the Government, by seizing the public arms at Harper's Ferry, and marching upon the Capital itself.
Disposition of the
Resignations in the
When the Legislature of South the officers in the navy, caused Carolina assembled in Novem- by the political troubles in ber last to discharge the Consti- which the country is now intutional obligations of making the choice of Electors volved, and the course pursued by the Navy Depart of President and Vice-President, the Governor of the ment in reference thereto. It will appear, from a State, by special message, recommended that meas- ' list of resignations' furnished by the Department, ures should be taken to overthrow that Constitu- and which accompanies this report, that, since the tion if the choice of the majority did not coincide election, twenty-nine officers in the navy, citizens of with her own. In fulfilment of these open threats, Southern disaffected States, have tendered their overt acts of resistance to the Government by law-resignations to the Secretary, all of which have been less bands of men followed the announcement that the people, according to the requirements of the Constitution, had made choice of a Chief Magistrate for the ensuing four years not the choice of those who had openly avowed resistance if their own preferences should be disregarded by that majority. From that time to the present the public authority has been defied and the public rights disregarded. Yet during all this time that most important arm of the public defence, the entire navy, has been beyond the reach of orders, however great the emergency. To the Committee this disposition of the naval force at this most critical period seems extraordinary. The permitting of vessels to depart for distant seas after these unhappy difficulties had broken out at home; the omission to put in repair and commission ready for orders a single one of the twenty-eight ships dismantled and unfit for service in our own ports, and that, too, whilst $646,639 79 of the appropriation for repairs in the navy the present year remained unexpended, were, in the opinion of your Committee, grave errors in the administration of the Navy Department, the consequences of which have been manifest in the many acts of lawless violence to which they have called attention. The Committee are of opinion that the Secretary had it in his power, with the present naval force of the country at his command, and without materially impairing the efficiency of the service abroad, at any time after the settled purpose of overthrowing the Government had become manifest, and before that purpose had developed itself in overt acts of violence, to station at anchor within reach of his own orders a force equal to the protection of all the property and all the rights of the Government and the citizen, as well as the flag of the country, from any outrage and insult at any point on the entire Atlantic seaboard. The failure to do this is without justification or excuse."
Canvassing the resignations and Mr. Toucey's conduct in the matter, the following emphatic statements and declarations were made:
"The attention of the Committee was also drawn to the resignations which have taken place among
forthwith, and without inquiry, accepted by him.
Montgomery, Alabama, his resignation to the Secre
RESIGNATIONS IN THE NAVY.
Resignations in the Navy.
Florida, at the head of an insurgent force, and demanded its surreuder. The yard with whatever of force it had, and the United States' stores, and other property to a vast amount therein, was unconditiionally surrendered to him, and he is now its Commandant, occupying the quarters of the late Commandant, and granting paroles of honor to such of his prisoners-of-war as have desired to depart and not serve under him. The dispatch from the late Commandant, then a prisoner-of-war, informing the Secretary of this ignominious surrender, was received at the Department on the evening of the 13th of January. And the resignation of Captain Randolph, who, on the 12th, was the leader of the insurgents, did not reach the Secretary until the 14th, when, without inquiry or delay, it was immediately accepted. E. Farrand, Commander in the Navy, and also a citizen of Alabama, was the second in command at the Pensacola Navy-yard, the executive officer of the yard. When the attack was made upon the yard; Farrand met the assailants at the gates, by previous understanding, admitted them to the yard, and conducted their leader to the commanding officer, participated in the formal capitulation, and immediately engaged in service under the new Commandant of the yard. This was done while he still held in his possession his commission as a Commander in the Navy. On the 13th or 15th of Jan. (the Department does not know which) Farrand forwarded his resignation to the Secretary; but it did not reach him until the 21st of the same month, seven days after official notice of the surrender had been received at the Department. Yet this resignation was immediately, and without inquiry, accepted. F. B. Renshaw, a Lieutenant in the Navy, and a citizen of Florida, was the First Lieutenant of the yard, and actively engaged in securing its surrender. It was by his order that the flag was hauled down, amid the jeers and shouts of a drunken rabble. He immediately enrolled himself under the leader of the insurgents, and present Commandant of the yard, and from the day of its surrender, has continued under him, to discharge the duty of First Lieutenant, as before under the United States. Yet he continued to hold his commission as a Lieutenant in the Navy till the 16th of January, and his resignation did not reach the Secretary till the 22d, when, like the others, it was, without inquiry or delay, accepted. The conduct of these officers plainly comes within the Constituional definition of treason against the United States, viz: "levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." And, so long as their resignations were unaccepted by the Secretary, they could be tried and punished as traitors by a court
Resignations in the Navy.
martial. From this they have been relieved by the Secretary himself. To have done this with a knowledge of their acts, would have been to have involved himself in their crime, would have been to have committed treason himslf. To have done it without inquiry, and without reason, to know that they have committed no offense, shows a want of that solicitude for the honor and efficiency of the service which is indispensable to its just administration. Yet the resignations of Farrand and Renshaw, and also those of the other officers resigning at the Pensacola Navy-Yard, were all received and accepted after the Secretary had already been officially informed that they had surrendered to a lawless band of insurgents and he had detached them to await orders, having "neither approved nor disapproved of their conduct, and not proposing to do so without full information touching their conduct in the surrender of the yard. Why, after having been thus warned, and having taken this position, the Secretary did not wait for this information, the Committee cannot understand.
"Several other resignations of officers who do not appear to have been engaged in actual war against the United States before tendering the same, were nevertheless accepted by the Secretary with an unnecessary haste, which neither the purpose of the resignation nor the times would justify or excuse. Some of them were even accepted by telegraph, when it was perfectly apparent that the object of resigning was to relieve themselves as early as possible from embarrassment, and the obli gation of the oath of office, as well as summary trial and punishment by a court-martial, previous to joining insurgent forces against the constituted authorities of the country.
"These resignations, thus accepted, have been fol. lowed by immediate engagement in a service hostile to the Government. One man, holding the office of civil engineer in the Pensacola Navy-yard at the time of its surrender, forwarded his resignation on that day to the Secretary, inclosed in a letter to Senator Mallory, in which he expressly states the reason of his resignation to be because he is provented from acting against the Government by the obligation of his commission. The letter of resig nation, and the one inclosing it, stating this reason, were both laid before the Secretary on the 24th of January; yet the Secretary not only accepted the resignation at once, and thus relieved him from the obligation on him not to act against the Government, but caused the acceptance to take effect" from the 12th of January, the day of the surrender of the yard," twelve days anterior to the time of its date. The reason given for thus making this acceptance
Resignations in the
retroactive in its effect, viz.: to stop his pay from that time, did not appear, under the extraordinary circumstances by which it was surrounded, at all satisfactory to the Committee. The resignation of the officer in charge of the Marine Hospital at Pensacola was accepted by telegraph, and he was thereby enabled to take upon himself the same position under the insurgent force, without any interruption. And that of Lieutenant R. T. Chapman, dated on board the Brooklyn, when about to sail under orders, was likewise accepted by telegraph, and he was thus relieved of any inconvenience he would otherwise have experienced in being carried to sea against his wishes.
Resignations in the Navy
the hostile attitude which the manner of their tender clearly disclosed, called upon the Secretary to refrain from that haste in their acceptance which permitted of neither delay nor inquiry. The Committee cannot approve, but are compelled to condemn such a failure in the discharge of public duty; and they therefore recommend the adoption of the accompanying resolution:
"Resolved, That the Secretary of the Navy, in accepting, without delay or inquiry, the resignations of officers of the navy who were in arms against the Government when tendering the same, and of those who sought to resign that they might be relieved from the restraint imposed by their commissions upon engaging in hostility to the constituted author
highly prejudicial to the discipline of the service, and injurious to the honor and efficiercy of the Navy, for which he deserves the censure of this House."
"The course thus pursued by the Secretary in ac-
treason, calling for courts-martial rather than honorable discharge. A prudent regard for the public safety would, no doubt, have justified, if not imperiously demanded, that some of the officers should have been early removed from delicate and responsible positions of trust, by the substitution of others more reliable. But these very considerations appear to the Committee to have forbidden the furnishing any such facilities for engaging in hostilities against the Government, as the relief from the summary trial and punishment of a court-martial secured
by the acceptance of their resignations. The course
pursued by the Secretary has resulted in furnishing
those engaged in an attempt to overthrow the Government with the skill, experience, and discipline which education at the expense of the Government, and long service in the navy have conferred upon our own officers. The Committee cannot understand how this course is consistent with a proper discharge of the duties of his office by the Secretary in this critical juncture of affairs. It appears to them to have been attended with consequences the most serious to the service of the country. They can find no excuse or justification in the claim set up in behalf of the Secretary that the resignations have been accepted in ignorance of any misconduct, for no resignation should at any time be accepted until there is reason to know at least that the officer tendering it had been guilty of no unofficerlike conduct deserving a court-martial. But the circumstances connected with these resignations, the apparent purpose for which they were made, and
This report was signed by three members of the Committee. A fourth member, John Cochrane, an Administration Democrat, refused to sign, and simply expressed a verbal dissent from the views of the majority. He doubtless did not feel it quite politic to put in a minority report. The minority report of Mr. The Minority Report Branch, (Dem.,) of North Carolina, opened by citing the several duties assigned to the Committee, and says: "In no one of these branches of inquiry can anything be found to justify or demand a scrutiny into the conduct of naval officers, the motives which induced them to resign their commissions, or into the propriety of the Secretary's action in accepting them. However much there might be found deserving of reprobation, the Committee was neither authorized nor required to take cognizance of the subject."
In regard to the points raised, he declared the table given "would show that the Foreign squadrons were unusually weak, in proportion to the whole force of the Navy, and the Home squadron unprecedently strong." He cited from the Secretary's report of December 3d, 1857, to show that, at that time six ships were considered so large a force for the Home squadron as to require an explanation. The same squadron, on the 16th of January, consisted of eleven ships, of which seven were steamers, He further added, that
up to January 24th, not a The Minority Report. single ship had been ordered to any foreign station since the Presidential election.
The number of vessels in ordinary he de- ated by a high sense of duty to the States of which,
clared to be only usually large-that, even in times of war, it was inevitable that many vessels should be out of commission and in for repairs. If, however, more than usual were dismantled and unfit for sea, it was for the reason that Congress had so restricted appropriations as to leave the Secretary no means for putting the vessels in commission. Another reason was found in the fact that the number of vessels in commission was governed by the numerical strength of officers and seamen in the naval service. The num
ber was limited by law, and the Secretary
could not exceed it to put the vessels in commission, even if they had been ready for sea. The Report, therefore, assumes:
"The Secretary deserves no censure, but should receive the highest commendation for inflexibly obeying the law in the administration of his department. Every attempt at retrenchment and economy is defeated, because heads of departments will not themselves conform to the law, and compel their subordinates to do the same. The Navy seems to have been adequate for all the demands made upon it by the wise and peace-preserving policy of the President. If the President, who goes
into office on the 4th of March, desires to engage in civil war, he will have an ample naval force with which to begin, even so early as the 5th of March; and there will be, probably, abundant time for increasing it before the war closes."
The Report then considers the naval resignations, and the conduct of Mr. Toucey in accepting them. We quote:
"It is known that in many, if not most of the cases, the officers, in resigning, have not only given up an honorable profession, for which alone they were fitted by education and habits, but have reduced themselves and families to penury. Some powerful motive must have actuated them. If it was selfish, let any one point out a possible advantage they could promise themselves personally. It could not be that they aimed to recommend themselves to the favor of the Southern Confederacy, for that Government does not possess a ship, and cannot, for a long time, provide itself with a navy. When it does so, it cannot be expected that the affairs will be in any better situation, with reference to their person
respectively, they were citizens, and that, in the time. and manner of tendering their resignations, they have consulted a nice sense of honor. In a few instances they have engaged in the military service of their States, but not until they had resigned their com missions in the Navy of the United States. In no instance does it appear that one of them has be trayed the trust reposed in him by this Government, or engaged in any hostile service, until he had discharged himself of all the responsibilities imposed
in his commission."*
The case of Captain Randolph's resignation was referred to, and disposed of by saying that the Secretary accepted the resignation before he knew of the Captain's conduct in the surrender of the Pensacola Navy-yard and forts.
As to the propriety of accepting the resignations the Report said:
"The chief clerk of the Navy Department testified that there has been nothing unusual in the course recently pursued in regard to resignations, and that
the uniform course, from time immemorial, has been to act promptly in resignations, unless some special reason existed for taking the case out of the routine of current business."
O most impotent conclusion! one feels like
exclaiming, in perusing this defence of the Secretary and the recusant officers. have before referred to the dishonor attached to the course pursued by those “resigning" officers [see page 117,] and can only say that the defence volunteered by Mr. Branch but heightened the indignation felt towards them and the Secretary. The outrageous cases
* These statements created some surprise, considering the fact that, as almost all the resigned officers had taken commissions in the service of their native States, the confession of "penury" argued a disability on the part of those States to care for its servants. It was also a further admission of obligation to the Government. It had educated and raised to their honorable positions men without resources, and who, therefore, owed the Government for everything they were. The American Navy was a convenient resort for young Southern gentlemen of "patrician birth," who were without means to sport an establishment on shore. The fact of this dependence Mr. Branch should have suppressed.