George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James McHenry, 13 July 1796

War office 13th July 1796.


I do myself the honour to inclose you the directions given to Mr Fox one of the clerks of the department of war, and well skilled in the quality of ship timber and construction of vessels of war relative to an examination of the materials on hand and such a disposition of them as may comport with the safe keeping of such as may be useful in future, and such as may be fit for the vessel contemplated for the mediteranean service. They have been approved of by the Secy of State and Secry of the treasury. With the greatest respct, I have the honour to be Sir Your most ob. st

James McHenry

Secy of war

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


12 July 1796

You will be pleased forthwith to proceed to New York, Portsmouth in New Hampshire, and Boston.

The general objects of your Journey to these Towns are: 1st To examine, assort and arrange into distinct parcels the Shiptimbers and Planks, the property of the U.S. in the different yards in New York, Portsmouth and Boston.

2nd To examine into the State of the Naval Stores at those places, and procure for them greater protection and security where wanted.

3rd To obtain from the principal Ship builders of New York, Portsmouth and Boston, upon what terms, and within what time they will agree to build a 36 Gun Frigate of the dimensions described in sketch A. You will arrange the Shiptimbers and plank according to the following classes.

Class No. 1 will comprehend the number of pieces of live Oak at the respective Navy Yards fit for the Frigates whose building have been suspended and exclusive of the pieces requisite for those under Construction.

In this Class as well as in all the other classes you will assort the Timbers or planks agreeably to their names and uses, Vizt Floors, Futtocks, Toptimbers, Knees &c. specifying the exact number of each.

Class No. 2 will comprehend the number of pieces of live Oak unsuitable for the Frigates building or suspended, but which may be used in the Construction of the Frigate sketch A.

Class No. 3 will comprehend the number of pieces of live Oak unsuitable for any of the Frigates including sketch A. by reason of defects, or other causes, noting those causes.

Class No. 4 will exhibit 1st The number of pieces of white Oak suitable and wanted for Frigate sketch A. 2nd the number of pieces unsuitable, and not wanted for the Frigates under construction or for Frigate sketch A.

Class N. 5 will exhibit a statement of the plank in each yard arranged according to their thickness, lengths, and kinds vizt 1st The kind and quantity wanted for Frigate sketch A. exclusive of the quantity necessary to compleat the Frigate at Boston. 2nd Their surpluss divided into its kinds.

Class No. 6 will exhibit the number sizes and kinds of the Masts and spars.

It being contemplated to dispose of the timbers assorted under Class No. 3 those under 2 of Class No. 4, and the plank under 2 of class No. 5, and such of the Masts &c. as may not be wanted, or as would be injured by keeping, you will therefore endeavour to form an opinion of what these would probably sell for at the places where desposited and report the same.

The timbers ordered from New York for the Frigates building at Philadelphia and Baltimore are to be excluded from your estimates.

you are to see the timbers destined for future use carefully piled up: as well as the timbers assorted for Frigate sketch A. and the whole protected against the weather by proper sheds, and against thefts by enclosures.

In piling it care must be taken so to dispose of that suitable for Frigate sketch A. that it may be removed at any time without disturbing the other.

It will be proper also that you should visit the Warehouses where Naval Materials are stored: examine the state in which they are, and whether they are well secured, and take an exact inventory of the different kinds and quantity of each.

In ascertaining the terms on which the Shipbuilders at the Towns you are to visit will Contract to build a 36 Gun Frigate conformably to Sketch A you will require 1st Their terms for such a Frigate they finding the Timber and other Materials. 2nd Their terms the United States finding the timber and plank. 3rd Their terms, they taking the timber and plank fit for the purpose at avaluation. 4th that their proposals be in writing, and the time they will finish her in expressed—But to obviate delay as much as possible you will on your arrival at New York obtain from one or more of the principal Shipbuilders upon what terms, and in what time they will engage to compleat a ship of the dimensions of Sketch A and forward the same to the Secretary of War. You will also write to Portsmouth and Boston, to the same purpose stating the size and Dimensions and requesting them to forward to the Secretary of War their terms and the time when they will engage to deliver such a Vessel of well seasoned timber. Their terms, the U.S. finding the timber or they taking it at a valuation may be obtained afterwards.

As it is necessary that there should be responsible persons appointed to take charge of the timber and Naval Materials you will enquire for such, report their Names, and what they would consider as a reasonable compensation.

You will also examine into and report the progress made in the Frigate building at Boston, and the probable time when she may be launched.

I have directed a Warrant to be made out in your favour for three Hundred Dollars to cover the expences attending your mission. It will be proper that you should take vouchers or receipts for your disbursements to enable you to settle for this advance with the accountant of the War department.

James McHenry

Secy of war

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