• America's First Navy Secretary Benjamin Stoddert Plans Secret Land Purchase for Nation's First Naval Yards

    Free Shipping!
    There is only 1 item left in stock.

    BENJAMIN STODDERT (1744-113) was the nation’s first Secretary of the Navy, from May 1, 1798 to March 31, 1801, appointed by President John Adams, often called the father of the Navy.  Stoddert soon found the nation in an undeclared naval war with France, known as the Quasi- War. He realized that America’s infant navy possessed too few warships to patrol a far-flung merchant marine by patrolling the North American coast.  He concluded that the best way to defeat the French campaign against American ships was to send ships to the Caribbean, where French ships were located.  Thus, the fledgling American navy was acquitted.


    Stoddert established the nation’s first six navy yards and advocated building twelve 74 gunships, which Congress approved in 1799.


    A very fine and highly confidential letter signed by Stoddert, 6 pp, 7 ½ x 9, Georgetown, Nov. 9, 1798, to government contractor John Templeman, with Stoddert’s holograph subscription signature, in which Stoddert lays the groundwork to establish the nation’s first naval yards only months before construction of the navy vessels is to begin.  He engages Templeton to quietly seek out lands along the Potomac or adjoining waters being careful not to arouse interest of land speculators.  

    He asks Templeman to undertake surveys of potential sites, noting, “…It is unlikely that the public may want to purchase this winter, a Body of Land on the Potomac well cloathed with Timber proper for building ships of the largest size…I have the pleasure to solicit the favour of you, to examine as early as you can, the quality of the land and the timber growing there on…and enquire at what rates the lands can be purchased and what quality can be obtained convenient to the water of the River or Creek and if you can secure the [first] refusal of the land for two months as of your own account, it may be a desirable circumstance. There is a grant of land laying on Sidlinghill Creek, the property of John H. Stone…It is said to contain 20, or 30,000 acres…with the first kind of timber and laying convenient to the creek, where it is navigable for rafts.  You will be pleased to examine particularly this land and the timber it contains and the practicability of getting this timber to the creek and thence to the river…There is a grant of 21,000 acres, adjoining this land…which was sold by Pigman and now belongs to Capt. Campbell and Josh berry…There is another grant belonging to Stone, laying about 20 miles perhaps not so far westward of the Town of Cumberland…Be pleased to examine this land…Col. Francis [?] has a body of land on the Virginia side of Potomac  above Stony River…with a large sized Timber. I think this tract contains 30,000 acres, rugged, stoney and only valuable for the timber. I must request your attention to this land…You will examine it, with a view to the several circumstances before enumerated and also a tract of his near Smith’s on the Maryland side of 5 or 6,000 acres. I mention those tracts because…I know they can be purchased cheap…It is possible after all, however, valuable and cheap the lands may be, the public may buy no part of it, but it is…probable that a purchase may be made of perhaps 50,000 acres or more and that it will be made on no other information than your report…The number of logs ad trees to the acre…are points to which great attention ought to be paid.


    “I would wish to receive your report as soon as possible…This is a confidential business, which , on many accounts, it is necessary you should keep entirely to yourself—a suspicion that you were employed by the public might excite extravagant expectations in the holders of the lands. For your services, you will be allowed your expenses an 20 per day for the time you are employed…


    “I have the honor to be with greatest respect Yr Most Obed Serv


    “Ben Stoddert


    “To John Templeman Esq”


    Fine watermark of ITaylor on one of the two sheets.


    Expected toning. Overall excellent condition. Image of Stoddert is from the internet.


    Everything we sell is guaranteed authentic forever to the original buyer. We also offer a 30-day return policy. If you discover a problem or are dissatisfied with an item, please contact us immediately. Our goal is to please every customer.  We are pleased to be members of The Manuscript Society, Universal Autograph Collectors Club and The Ephemera Society.  [M-103]