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Long Road to Annapolis

The Founding of the Naval Academy and the Emerging American Republic

William P. Leeman

Publication Year: 2010

Why did it take the United States, a maritime nation, so long to establish a naval academy? William Leeman investigates this question by linking the early national debate over the best way to educate naval officers to broader debates about the character of the American republic including its social structure at home, its attitude toward education, its ideals of manhood and masculinity, and its appropriate role in world affairs. Through such activities as national defense, diplomacy, scientific exploration, and commercial expansion, Leeman argues that American naval officers protected, represented, and in many ways personified the early American republic in representing its interests around the world. The debate over the education of American naval officers became a forum through which American political leaders, the press, and the public examined and debated the national character of the country. Finally, in 1845 a naval academy was established because, in the minds of many Americans at the time, it was the best educational environment for producing officers and gentlemen who could defend the U.S. at sea, serve as effective representatives of American interests abroad, and contribute to America’s mission of economic, scientific, and moral progress.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Contents/Tables and Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiii

I have enjoyed a long history with the subject matter of this book and over the years, I have benefited immensely from the encouragement, advice, guidance, and support offered by my family and my professors as well as by various scholars. I am grateful to them all. I first learned about the naval...

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INTRODUCTION: Armed Ambassadors

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pp. 1-10

Modesty was not one of George Bancroft’s notable character traits. He possessed the intellectual superiority of a distinguished scholar and the self-assured swagger of an influential politician. In describing his role in creating the United States Naval Academy, Bancroft triumphantly declared:...

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PROLOGUE: The Maddest Idea in the World

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pp. 11-17

Rumor had it that he once flogged a sailor to death on a voyage across the Atlantic. He arrived in America under an assumed identity, a fugitive from justice, after killing a mutinous sailor on the Caribbean island of Tobago. At first glance, John Paul Jones might seem to be an unlikely...

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CHAPTER 1 Defending the New Republic

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pp. 19-48

The United States emerged from the Revolutionary War as a sovereign nation, at least on paper. Independence brought the promise and the expectation of self-determination as well as the reality that America no longer enjoyed the protection of the British Empire on land or at sea. Despite...

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CHAPTER 2 Learning the Ropes

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pp. 49-67

A young man who accepted an appointment as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy of the early republic received his professional education at sea. Captain Charles Stewart spoke for many naval officers and politicians when he declared, “The best school for the instruction of youth in the [naval]...

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CHAPTER 3 A West Point for the Navy?

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pp. 69-100

The War of 1812 was a testing ground for U.S. Army and Navy officers. The army’s performance was generally poor and an embarrassment to the nation in the eyes of many Americans. In a war that witnessed the ultimate national disgrace—the burning of the country’s poorly defended...

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CHAPTER 4 Academies and Aristocracy in Andrew Jackson’s America

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pp. 101-126

The election of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1828 ushered in a new era in American politics and society. Jackson’s background as a frontier general and his apparent lack of interest in naval affairs did not bode well for the U.S. Navy. Yet during the 1830s, the navy assumed a much larger role...

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CHAPTER 5 The Sword and the Pen

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pp. 127-161

After basking in the glory of its outstanding performance in the War of 1812, the U.S. Navy experienced a significant decline in popularity in the 1820s. It also suffered from neglect by the federal government despite performing a wide range of important missions in service to the nation. Public...

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CHAPTER 6 Mutiny, Midshipmen, and the Middle Class

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pp. 163-193

By the early 1840s Americans had debated the naval academy question in the halls of Congress, in the wardrooms of navy ships, and on the pages of newspapers and magazines. Although some politicians, naval officers, and members of the public still did not see the need to replace the...

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CHAPTER 7 Annapolis

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pp. 195-229

Although there was a growing consensus that a naval academy was needed, the navy had still not achieved that goal by the mid-1840s. Several navy secretaries had advocated for an academy, but to varying degrees. Samuel Southard and Abel P. Upshur had considered its establishment a...

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EPILOGUE: Homecoming

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pp. 231-238

It had been raining hard all morning in Annapolis on July 24, 1905, but the wet weather did not dampen the day’s momentous event. Visible in Annapolis Harbor was the imposing sight of a U.S. Navy squadron of cruisers at anchor. According to an eyewitness, the sun broke through the...

Appendix

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pp. 239-241

Notes

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pp. 243-268

Bibliography

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pp. 269-281

Index

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pp. 283-293


E-ISBN-13: 9781469604039
E-ISBN-10: 1469604035
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807833834
Print-ISBN-10: 0807833835

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2010

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • United States Naval Academy -- History -- 19th century.
  • Military education -- Social aspects -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • United States. Navy -- Officers -- Training of -- History -- 19th century.
  • Political culture -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Nationalism -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
  • Democracy and education -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
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