THE 32—GUN FRIGATE ESSEX
|Publisher||Conway Maritime Press|
|D O W N L O A D|
The aftermath of the Revolution was a time of great political and economic difficulty for the United States. The most serious threat to the new nation's trade came from an unexpected source: the pirate Barbary states of North Africa. Economic chaos dictated the sale of the remaining ships of the Continental Navy, while unprotected ships and seamen fell prey to the Dey of Algiers. Despite the raids by the Barbary pirates in 1785, Congress could not raise support for a permanent army or naval force.
As attacks on shipping escalated, suggestions were made to comply with the demands of the Dey for tribute or to subsidize a European power to protect American trade. Portugal's blockade of the Straits of Gibraltar had confined the Dey's activities to the Mediterranean until October 1793, when a twelve-month peace was established and Portugal lifted her blockade. Only then did Congress decide to protect American shipping by authorizing the construction of six frigates with a law passed on 27 March 1794. Depredations upon United States' shipping and merchant seamen were not the only spur to action by the Congress. Attempts at neutrality in conflicts between the Dutch, British and French had proven futile.
Without a navy to protect their interests, merchants in the United States were subject to soaring insurance costs, while at the same time losing ships and their cargoes; these merchants applied considerable pressure upon Congress for relief. Despite the peace treaty signed with Algiers in September 1795, Congress authorized the construction of three of the original six frigates, the United States, the Constitution and the Constellation. In November of the following year Congress suspended construction after an unsatisfactory peace was signed with the Pasha of Tripoli...
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