Government, in the abstract, is the operation of law, and law has been defined as a rule of action.
Naval Government may be said to be that system of rules by virtue of which the affairs of a navy are regulated.
Administration, signifying management, means, in a political sense, to manage and direct the affairs of Government, and belongs to the Executive as distinguished from the Legislative branch.
Naval Administration, therefore, signifies the management and direction of that part of the executive branch of the Government which pertains to the National, or Military Marine.
The rules on which a naval administration is based should be framed with a view to ensuring an intelligent direction of naval affairs, economical management, and an efficient condition of the disposable force.
The Minister of Marine, or (as in the United States) the Secretary of the Navy, is a Cabinet officer, and the lawfully constituted adviser of the Chief Magistrate on all questions relating to his branch of the public service. He is the naval administrator ex officio.
There are three principal qualifications necessary to a good naval administrator; viz., he should be familiar with public affairs, have an aptitude for business, and be well versed in naval matters.
To be "well versed in naval matters" implies not only a knowledge of the trade of a seaman, but of the art and science of war as well. As these qualifications are rarely found to be combined in one person, it has been universally conceded that there must be a division of lay and professional duties; and such is the complexity of the machinery of a well devised system of naval administration, such the diversity of knowledge required, that the rule holds good whether the Minister of Marine be a civilian, or, as frequently occurs under the military governments of Europe, a member of the naval profession.
Now, it is the adjustment of the civil and military branches of administration that forms one of the prime difficulties in arranging a naval government that will satisfy the requisite conditions as already laid down. And in the effort to effect this adjustment it is necessary, and indeed proper, that there should be taken into account the great jealousy of the military and naval classes which has from time immemorial existed in the Anglo-Saxon race on the part of the civil authorities.
It would be well to premise here that as the word Maritime relates to affairs of the sea generally, and the word Naval is often used in a double sense,—as "Naval Officer" of the Custom House, "naval stores" of commerce, etc., etc.,—the word Military will be used throughout this article to apply to those naval matters which are of a distinctly military character, as opposed to those which are common to the military art and the mercantile world alike. Thus, Ordnance does not come under the head of the military branch of the naval government; for, among other duties, it is the business of the chief ordnance officer to design and construct guns and their dependencies. He is in some sort a manufacturer, and, as such, his office comes under the civil branch. He need not necessarily be a military or a naval officer. Sir William Armstrong, Sir Edward Whitworth, and Krupp of Essen, were all civilians, as were Parrott, Dr. Gatling, and Hotchkiss. Naval Gunnery, on the other hand, is a distinctively military art, and belongs exclusively to the military branch of naval government. The procurement of naval stores and materials, and the construction and equipment of ships, although those ships are designed for purposes of war, come under the civil administration, as do all matters of finance.
It is necessary that this distinction should not be lost sight of, for it is the key to the whole question. The character of a bureau of an Executive department is determined by its functions, not by the status of its chief Hence, as all the bureaus of our Navy Department belong to the civil branch of naval administration, all the chiefs of bureaus act in a civil capacity. Such is the theory on which our Navy Department is constructed.
In practice, this theory is departed from to the extent of arbitrarily assigning certain military duties to two or more of these civil bureaus; but those duties are there of necessity, not of right. It may be said here, at the outset, as will be fully shown later on, that it is to this confusion of ideas, this unphilosophical, ill-considered attempt to force a union between incompatible elements (the civil and the military), that the present condition of the Navy is due.
To a thorough understanding of the question under consideration, it will be necessary to go back somewhat, to the early days of the navy of Great Britain, whence many of our laws and customs are derived.
NAVAL ADMINISTRATION IN ENGLAND.
"The guardianship of the seas, and as a consequence the command of the naval forces, is by the common law of England vested in the Crown. In early times the Crown delegated this power to officers who were first called 'guardians of the sea,' and, afterwards, Admirals."
"The office of Admiral, then, forms one of the prerogatives of the Crown, but is distinct from the kingly office, and is capable of being conferred either partially or in full on a subject."
"The appointment of a Lord High Admiral, unless restricted by the instrument of appointment, is a complete delegation of the office and vests in the appointee all the powers and privileges of the Lord High Admiral. Usually, however, a partial delegation, only, takes place by the appointment of Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, who are invested by their commission with such powers only as are necessary for the government of the Navy, In the meantime the office is not in abeyance, but is retained by the Queen, who is ex officio Lord High Admiral and possessed of all the powers that are not included in the commission of the Lords of the Admiralty. To remove certain doubts, the Act of William and Mary provides that all powers of the Lord High Admiral may be exercised by the Lords of the Admiralty according to their commission, to all intents and purposes as if they were Lord High Admiral of Great Britain." [Thring.]
The foundation of the Navy of England was laid by Henry VIII (1509-47). He constituted an Admiralty and a Navy Board. The former represented the military branch and was appointed to inspect ships of war. It was not permanent in its character. The latter formed the civil branch and was of a more permanent nature. The Court of Admiralty was erected about the same time.
The regulations for the civil government of naval affairs were, under Edward VI, revised, arranged and confirmed by ordinances which form the basis of all subsequent instruction given to the officers to whom the management of civil affairs of the Navy has been committed.
"No considerable alteration in the civil government of the Navy took place from the time of Edward VI till 1609, when, in consequence of many abuses which were complained of, the principal officers were suspended, and commissioners appointed with powers to manage, settle, and put the affairs of the Navy into a right course, and to take such measures as they might deem necessary to prevent the continuance of the many great frauds and abuses which prevailed." [First Report of the Commissioners on the Civil Affairs of the Navy, 1805.]
THE NAVY BOARD.
Distinct from the Admiralty, yet subject to it, the history of the Navy Board serves to illustrate the great evil of separating too widely the civil and the military branches of naval government. Established in 1512, the Navy Board went through a variety of changes of organization, inflicted untold injuries upon the Navy, and was finally abolished in June, 1832, Its whole history is a standing protest against the unaccountability of boards, or of individuals, charged with important public duties and large expenditures.
The Navy Board, under the Controller of the Navy, was charged with the civil administration of the Navy. It had to do with contracts, supply of stores and provisions, work in the dockyards, etc., etc. Nominally subordinate to the Admiralty, the members of the Navy Board acted as if wholly independent of all control, and much of the waste and peculation was due to their negligence, ignorance, and incapacity. The list of abuses almost exceeds belief During the French wars the complaints of bad provisions were general. The English squadrons blockading French ports were so badly supplied with wholesome food that scurvy was common. At the close of the Seven Years War, 1755-1762, there had been lost in killed and wounded, during all the naval battles, 1512 seamen and marines, while 133,708 had died of disease or had been driven by ill treatment to desertion.
In 1798, the Ajax line of battle ship cost to build at a private yard £20,502. In four years her repairs alone had amounted to £28,977. The Achilles, built about the same time and for about the same price, cost in repairs £37,000. It was stated on the floor of the House of Commons that in Lord Spencer's time (1794-1801) the amount of plunder and embezzlement in the Navy was fully £3,000,000 per annum, or about 25 percentum of the annual expenditure.
Lord Spencer was succeeded as First Lord of the Admiralty by the Earl of St. Vincent, and it required just such a character to bring the Navy Board to a strict account. He moved for a Parliamentary Commission to inquire into abuses in the civil departments of the Navy. The measure was violently opposed by one party in Parliament, at the head of which was no less a person than Mr. Canning; and as warmly supported by another, the staunchest of whom was Sheridan. Besides these, such eminent men as Mr. Addington (then Prime Minister), Pitt (his predecessor in office), Fox, Law (afterwards Lord Ellenborough) Grey, Lord Eldon, and Earl Temple took part in the debates. In the Peers, Lord Nelson, who had had personal experience in command afloat of the wretched inefficiency of the Navy Board, cordially supported the bill. The Navy Board was strongly represented in the House. The Controller himself, who was at the head of the Board (then Sir Andrew S. Plammond, an old officer of good standing), had a seat, and the jobbers and contractors all had their representatives. The measure was finally carried, however, in spite of the opposition.
The departments to be investigated were those of the Navy Board, the Treasurer of the Navy, the Victualling Board, the Sick and Hurt Board, the commissioners for the receipt of sixpences from merchant seamen for Greenwich Hospital, and of prize agencies. It is stated authoritatively that from 1694 to 1851 England had robbed her merchant seamen of £2,500,000 in hospital dues for which nothing, had been given in return but neglect. Sick merchant seamen were never admitted to Greenwich Hospital.
The Commission was two years in session and made twelve reports, each covering a different subject. Some of the reports are said to have "astonished Parliament and the country," and the work on the whole to have been one of the most able, acute, and laborious investigations ever undertaken. On May 2, 1805, the Commission, on the motion of Mr. Sheridan, received a vote of thanks. Many reforms grew out of this inquiry, but a change of ministry gave the Board a fresh lease, so that it was not abolished till 1832.
In this age of enlightenment such a prodigy of wastefulness as the Navy Board would be incredible were it not for the fact that almost as great a waste is going on to-day in our own Navy and under our own eyes.
THE BOARD OF ADMIRALTY.
In 1604, James I issued a Commission for "an inquiry into the general state of the Marine." This was followed in 1618 by a second Commission "for regulating the affairs of the Navy." This latter Commission was of the nature of our Advisory Board, "without whose advice no affairs of importance relating to the Navy were to be undertaken." It was composed of men of rank and naval experience, and owed its existence to the incapacity of the Lord High Admiral. This Board was the germ of the present Board of Admiralty.
During the Commonwealth, the affairs of the English Navy were managed by a Committee of Parliament, just as our own Navy was at first managed by a Committee of Congress.
On the restoration of Charles II, the Duke of York was appointed Lord High Admiral; but the Test Act of 1673 compelled him to resign his office, which was then placed in commission, the Commissioners, as before, being the great officers of state, with Prince Rupert at their head. The Commission continued until May, 1684, when King Charles assumed the government of the Admiralty personally, and retained it until his death. On the termination of his reign the Navy had sunk into "degradation and decay."
James II, on his accession, 1685, mindful of the jealousies that had arisen between the sovereign and himself, when Lord High Admiral, as to the exercise of the large powers of that office, declared himself in council Lord High Admiral and Lord General, and personally managed the affairs of the Navy, through Secretary Pepys, until the Revolution. The title thus assumed was subsequently confirmed by Parliament.
The prostitution of the great office of High Admiral by granting it to court favorites, or placing it in incompetent hands for corrupt purposes, had the natural effect of compelling Parliament to check the abuse. Immediately after the Revolution of 1688, an act was passed establishing a Board of Admiralty, legalizing in effect and rendering permanent the customary Commission of experts that incompetent ministers had long rendered necessary. By this act it was "declared and enacted that all and singular authorities, jurisdictions and powers which, by any act of Parliament or otherwise, have been, and are, lawfully vested ... in the Lord High Admiral of England for the time being, have always appertained to, and may be exercised by, the Commissioners for executing the office of High Admiral of England for the time being according to their commissions."
As no immediate steps were taken by the Crown for the appointment of a Board of Admiralty, the question was brought up in the House of Commons two years later, when it was resolved "that it is the opinion of the Committee that in pursuance of His Majesty's speech, the House be moved that His Majesty be humbly advised to constitute a Commission of Admiralty of such persons as are of known experience in maritime affairs; that for the future all orders for the management of the fleet do pass through the Admiralty that shall be so constituted.''
This statute and resolution are the original authority for the constitution of the Board of Admiralty in its present form, and it is believed to be the first formal recognition of the military character of the Navy, other orders and acts relating mostly to its civil affairs.
OFFICE OF LORD HIGH ADMIRAL.
Sir Thomas Beaufort, youngest natural son of John of Gaunt, was appointed May 3, 1411, Admiral of England, Ireland, and Aquitaine. On his death, in 1426, he was succeeded by John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford, third son of King Henry IV, who combined in his own person the office of Lord High Constable with that of Lord High Admiral and Regent of France. He was succeeded on his death, 1436, by John Holland, Earl of Huntingdon, afterwards Duke of Exeter, to whom, and his son after him, the office of High Admiral was granted for life, after which the succession of Lords High Admiral remained unbroken until 1628, when, for the first time, the office was placed in commission.
The Duke of Richmond, natural son of Henry VIII, was made Lord High Admiral at the age of eight, an indication of the estimate then placed upon the high office.
James, Duke of York, was Lord High Admiral, 1660; Charles II, 1673; Prince Rupert, 1673; Charles II, 1684; James II, 1685; Prince George of Denmark, 1702-1705. On the death of the last named, Queen Anne held the government of the Admiralty in her own hands. This lasted but a short time, however, when the Earl of Pembroke was made Lord High Admiral. He resigned the office as "too heavy a load for him to bear," when it was put in commission, and remained so until May 2, 1827. The Duke of Clarence was then appointed to the office, with a council to assist him, but resigned August 12, 1828, since which time the office has been in commission.
In 1861 Sir James Graham testified before a Parliamentary Committee: "I saw a naval officer, a Prince of the blood, made Lord High Admiral, with a council, and it worked so ill that in the course of about 18 months it came to a deadlock, and the Duke of Wellington— no bad judge and no bad administrator—was forced to abolish the office of Lord High Admiral and his council, and to revive the Board of Admiralty under its present patent."
It is to be concluded from the foregoing that the title of Lord High Admiral has now become a mere fiction of law, signifying the delegated authority of the Crown; and that the best practice is to have the duties of the office executed by "persons of known experience in maritime affairs."
From the time of the Duke of Clarence to 1868, no material change in the constitution of the Board took place save to increase the membership to six.
In March, 1861, a royal commission recommended the abolition of the Board of Admiralty and the appointment of a Minister of the Navy Department. While the recommendation was not adopted, yet the report led to certain important modifications in the constitution of the Board. Thus in December, 1868, the office of Third Lord was merged with that of Controller, who now, for the first time, had a seat at the Board. The reason for giving the Controller a seat at the Board and making him the Superintending Lord for all business connected with the building and repairing of ships and engines, with guns and with naval stores, was the anomalous position he occupied by being placed under the supervision of the First Naval Lord (i.e., the officer specially concerned with the efficiency and strength of the fleet); so that, practically, the only member of the Board in a position to enforce economy in ship-building was the one who was most interested in increased expenditure.
The Board of December 18, 1868, was, therefore, constituted as follows: First Lord, First Naval Lord, Third Lord and Controller, Junior Naval Lord, Civil Lord, Parliamentary Secretary, Permanent Secretary.
The First Lord was declared (Order in Council, January 14, 1869) to be responsible to Her Majesty and to Parliament for all the business of the Admiralty, the other members acting as assistants in the transaction of the duties, which were divided into three principal heads, viz., Personnel, Materiel, Finance. The First Naval Lord became responsible to the First Lord for the administration, under his instructions, of so much of the business as related to the personnel, and for the movement and condition of the fleet. He became, in fact, Adjutant-General to the First Lord, or Chief of the General Staff, relieving him of those purely professional duties which the average civilian fails to master.
The Third Lord and Controller became responsible for the Materiel, and the Junior Naval Lord was to assist the First Naval Lord.
The Parliamentary Secretary became responsible to the First Lord for the finance of the department, in which he was assisted by the Civil Lord ; the Permanent Secretary taking exclusive charge of the secretariat under the First Lord.
That is to say, the several members of the Board form the general staff of the Minister of Marine, the chief of staff being the senior naval officer. Subordinate to the supreme head of the organization come two grand divisions, viz.:
The Military, comprising the Personnel and the Fleet; and
The Civil, comprising Mat6riel and Finance—a division of labor of such obvious propriety as to force itself upon the conviction as being the only natural and proper one.
It will be shown, as we proceed, that this distribution of duties has never been designedly recognized in the organization of the Navy Department of the United States.
In 1872 a Naval Secretary was added to the Board, and the Controller ceased to be a member. The three Naval Lords became responsible for the personnel and the movement and discipline of the fleet, the Controller (without a seat on the Board) for the materiel, the Parliamentary Secretary for the finance, the Civil Lord and the Permanent and Naval Secretaries undertaking such duties as might be assigned to them by the First Lord.
Nov. 1, 1877, the Permanent Secretary was abolished.
April 18, 1882, the Board was again reconstituted, the Controller resuming his seat, and a non-parliamentary Civil Lord, "possessing special mechanical and engineering knowledge and experience in the superintendence of large private establishments," being added to it for the purpose of assisting the Controller in the business relating to the materiel of the Navy.
May 18, 1882, the Naval Secretary was abolished and the Permanent Secretary revived—but the office may be filled by a naval officer.
The Board meets every week day at noon, except Saturday, and two Lords and a Secretary form a quorum for business. Certain orders may be signed by the Secretary of the Board alone and are regarded as the order of the Board collectively, but an order that authorizes the payment of money requires the signature of two Lords.
From the foregoing it would appear that the Naval Government of Great Britain is similar in its constitution to that of the executive branch of our own Government; each has a Chief Executive, assisted by advisers in the several departments of the Government, each adviser having special duties in his own department, and, in addition thereto, a seat in the Council Board for the management of the body politic. Each forms an administrative body for the administration of the affairs, in the one case of the government of a country, in the other, of a navy.
This feature of the English system should not be lost sight of The Minister and the General Staff, taken collectively (in this case the Board of Admiralty), may be considered as comprising the military branch of the administration. We now come to the
First, the Secretariat. The First Lord has, besides his council of "persons of known experience in maritime affairs," his own special office in which are found the Parliamentary and Financial Secretary, the Permanent Secretary, and his private secretary, generally a naval officer of the rank of captain. In what is called the Department of the Secretary there are an Assistant Secretary and some fifty-odd clerks and copyists.
Secondly, the Third Naval Lord and Controller. Under this office comes:
- The Director of Naval Ordnance and Torpedoes, with five assistants.
- A Chief Constructor, and corps of assistants.
- An Engineer-in-Chief, and corps of assistants, with sundry subdivisions besides.
Then follow in order:
The Hydrographic Department and its staff of assistants and clerical force.
The Department of the Director of Transports.
The Victualling Department.
The Department of the Accountant-General of the Navy.
Contract and Purchase Department.
Office of the Admiral-Superintendent of the Naval Reserves.
Department of the Medical Director-General.
Royal Marine Office, etc.
There is one feature of the Board of Admiralty which would be impossible in the United States; this is due to the difference in the form of government. According to the British Constitution, the supreme power of the state is lodged in two principal branches, viz., the Parliament, consisting of the Crown, Lords, and Commons; and the Executive, consisting of the Crown alone. Hence the Executive forms a part of the legislative branch, and members of the Cabinet have seats in Parliament. In this way it comes that members of the Board of Admiralty may hold seats in Parliament. This enables the First Lord to present the Navy estimates in person, answer questions on the floor of the House in regard to them, define the naval policy of the Government, and defend its measures as far as the Navy is concerned. These are advantages in the transaction of public business obviously of great utility.
Among the disadvantages may be mentioned the fact that the Board changes with a change of Ministry. But this, in its turn, is offset by keeping the Board always in accord with the dominant party.
There is a certain rude efficiency in the English naval administration, the proof of which lies in the fact that, bad as it has been at certain periods, it has during nearly two centuries stood the test of great wars when the naval resources of the country have been strained to the utmost, and that, in 1861, it successfully withstood a formidable combination to abolish it.
There are certain other interesting features peculiar to the naval government of Great Britain, but enough has been said to illustrate the general principles on which, after many changes, it has been finally based.
It may not be out of place, however, to remark here that, notwithstanding the successful administrations of Anson and St. Vincent, the best received opinion in England is against having a naval officer as First Lord of the Admiralty; while in the United States it is doubtful if the idea of placing a naval officer at the head of naval affairs has ever been seriously entertained.
FRENCH NAVAL ADMINISTRATION.
The foundation of the French naval organization was laid by Colbert, the great Minister of Finance of Louis XIV. Possessed of extraordinary business capacity, untiring energy, and great tenacity of purpose, he reduced the public debt, raised money, and brought up the Navy from mere nothingness to a formidable power. Called to the head of the Navy in 1665, he found but two or three ships in a condition for sea. The rest had either rotted on the stocks or had gone down at their moorings in Toulon. Yet in seven years he was able to send the Count d'Estrees with a fleet of forty sail to witness the battle of Solbay (May, 1672), and the Duke de Vivonne with fifty ships to conduct the celebrated campaign in Sicily in 1676. This extraordinary development of naval power, says Professor Laughton, was compared to Minerva springing from the head of Jupiter all armed for combat.
As it is not necessary to our present purpose to trace the development of the French Navy Department, a partial examination of it as it exists to-day will suffice.
The military instincts of the French people, together with their aptitude for organization, lead us to suppose that their form of naval government would, in some respects, approach the ideal; and such in truth we find it. The various civil and military duties are distributed with much apparent care and judgment.
The Minister of the French Marine may be either a civilian or a naval officer. The present incumbent (1888) is a Rear Admiral, and represents both the civil and the military power. He is assisted by an Under Secretary and a general staff of about fifteen officers, ranking from a rear admiral, the chief of staff, to a lieutenant. The duties of the staff are divided into three sections, viz.:
1st Section. Military operations.
2d Section. Military and naval intelligence.
3d Section. Defense of navy-yards.
Next in order comes the Hydrographic Office, and then the Board of Admiralty (Conseil d'Amiraute), of which the Minister is president. This Board bears not the slightest resemblance, save in name, to the English Admiralty. It is an advisory board, and one of its chief duties is to prepare each year the lists of officers from which selections for promotions are made.
The Secretariat ( Cabinet du Ministre) is divided into two bureaus, the rear admiral, chief of staff, being director,
1st Bureau. The Minister's office.
2d Bureau. Movements of the fleet and military operations.
A captain is chief of the 2d Bureau.
Personnel (Direction du Personnel).
A rear admiral, director.
1st Subdivision, 1st Bureau. Officers.
2d Bureau. Enlisted Men.
3d Bureau. Marine Corps.
4th Bureau. Half pay-list. Maritime Law and Justice.
2d Subdivision. 5th Bureau. Pay and Clothing.
6th Bureau. Subsistence and Hospitals,
Materiel (Direction du Materiel) and four Bureaus, etc.
There are, altogether, five directions (a direction corresponding to a bureau in our system), each direction having two or more bureaus, each bureau having two or more sections.
Among these several directions, bureaus, and sections are distributed, with much detail, all the business of an extensive and thorough naval administration, in which both the civil and military branches are well provided for.
The Minister of Marine is a member of the Corps Legislatif, and is responsible to that body and to the Chief Magistrate for his acts.
U. S. NAVY DEPARTMENT,
The President of the United States is Commander-in-Chief of the Army and Navy. [Constitution of the United States.]
One of the executive departments is the "Department of the Navy," the principal officer of which is "the Secretary of the Navy," whose duty is " to execute such orders as he shall receive from the President of the United States relative to the procurement of naval stores and materials, and the construction, armament, and equipment of vessels of war, as well as all other matters connected with the naval establishment." [Act of April 30, 1798.]
The Secretary is, in everything pertaining to his branch of the public service, the exponent of the President, and his acts are to be considered the acts of the President, and have full force and effect as such. The official duties of the heads of the executive departments, however, are not merely ministerial—they involve the exercise of judgment and discretion (Decatur v. Paulding, 14 Pet. 515). He is authorized by law to prescribe regulations not inconsistent with law for the government of his department, the conduct of its officers and clerks, the distribution and performance of its business, and the custody, use, etc., of its records, etc.
The act of '98 further authorized the appointment of a principal clerk, and of such other clerks as the Secretary thought necessary.
This meager form of naval government, which recognized the civil branch alone, to the total exclusion of the military, lasted seventeen years, when it was found necessary to introduce some technical knowledge in the administration of the affairs of the Navy.
BOARD OF NAVY COMMISSIONERS.
The act of February 7, 1815, added to the department a Board of Navy Commissioners, consisting of three officers of the Navy not below the rank of post-captain, at that time the highest grade in the Navy. This was a practical application of the principle laid down by the English Parliament, over two hundred years previously, that the "management of the fleet should be entrusted to a commission of such persons as are of known experience in maritime affairs."
The act of 1815 declared that "the board so constituted should be attached to the office of the Secretary, and, under his superintendence, discharge all the ministerial duties of the office relative to the procurement of naval stores and materials, and the construction, armament, equipment, and employment of vessels of war, as well as other matters connected with the naval establishment.'' It will be observed that the words italicized are precisely the same as those employed in the act of '98 defining the duties of the Secretary of the Navy. The Commissioners were the naval administrators de facto.
However good the intention of this act, the very language of it tended to confusion. Three officers of high rank were placed in the office of the Secretary, in order, no doubt, that in the management of naval affairs he might have the benefit of their experience. They were to represent the military character of the profession, and should have borne to the Secretary relations analogous to those of the three sea lords to the First Lord of the English Admiralty, or the General Staff to the Minister of the French Marine. But the act declared that their duties were to be "the procurement of stores, etc., etc.,'' a species of business which belongs to the civil branch of naval administration. The result was that both divisions of labor, the civil and the military, were imposed upon the three Commissioners. This serious defect was soon to make itself manifest. As the business of the department increased, the Commissioners found themselves overburdened with work, both as to amount and variety, and they themselves were the first to realize the inherent defects of the system. They repeatedly brought the matter to the attention of the Secretary and to Congress, but for a long time their recommendations, from some cause, certainly from no fault of theirs, failed to secure attention. Defective as the system was, however, there yet existed in the office of the Secretary a wise directive force and a judicious management of the Navy as a whole, and it is generally conceded that under that management the Navy grew in strength and efficiency, and that the discipline of the service was of a high order.
But the Board became so over-weighted with its double function, some of its duties being inconsistent with others, and popular opinion became so strong in favor of a change, that Congress finally took action, and in 1839 invited the Secretary of the Navy to propose a plan of reorganization of his department. The obvious remedy was to unburden the Commissioners of all but their military duties, and to place the civil functions in the hands of another set of persons whose employment should have been authorized by law. This would have assigned to the civil branch, thus brought into existence, "the procurement of stores and materials, the construction, armament and equipment .... of vessels of war"; leaving "the employment of vessels of war as well as other matters connected with the naval establishment," to persons experienced in maritime affairs. The "other matters" could have been justly interpreted as including personnel, and management and discipline of the fleet, and assigned exclusively to the Commissioners. Had this plan been adopted the Navy would have continued under the management of "persons experienced in maritime affairs," and would have been
a vastly different affair from what we find it to-day.
Such would have been the true solution of the difficulty. That a somewhat similar plan was in the minds of those who were most active in bringing about a change is well known. Writing in 1S40, one officer says: "In remodeling the office of the Secretary of the Navy, it is proposed that all the details of the service (such as the personnel, assignment of ships, etc.) should be entrusted to a sort of Under Secretary, similar to the Adjutant-General of the Army, who shall be a post-captain." ..."It is proposed that the style and title of Under Secretary be that of Commissioner of the Navy; that his department be constituted like the rest, into a separate office or bureau; and that, being next to the Secretary, the Bureau of Commissioner takes precedence over all others which have been named, without any regard to the order in which they stand."
Briefly stated, the proposition was to have the civil administration provided for by a number of bureaus, and the military confined to one commissioner instead of to three. Fortunate indeed had it been for the United States Navy if such an idea could have prevailed. But the pendulum, once released, was now allowed to swing to the opposite extreme.
The act of August 31, 1842, abolished the Navy Commissioners, and, with them, the military branch outright; provided for the civil branch alone and gave to it five bureaus, thus leaving the civilian Secretary, as far as the law was concerned, absolutely destitute of professional aid in the management of the Navy, as a unit, and of the military branch of the department.
The civil administration was provided for in the act of 1842 as follows:
"There shall be attached to the Navy Department the following bureaus, to wit:
- A Bureau of Navy Yards and Docks.
- A Bureau of Construction, Equipment and Repairs.
- A Bureau of Provisions and Clothing.
- A Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography.
- A Bureau of Medicine and Surgery."
The act further authorized the President to appoint the chiefs of the 1st and 4th bureaus from the list of post-captains.
In thus blocking out the business of the Department by statute, it will be observed that there is no recognition whatever of the military branch, the personnel, and the management and discipline of the fleet, offices so carefully provided for in the English and French systems; and especially is there no provision for a council of experts to shape and maintain a naval policy—in short, no naval administrators.
The train of evils following this radical defect of the law cannot in justice be laid at the door of Congress alone. The act, though faulty, was not so strictly drawn as to preclude the exercise of a large discretion on the part of the Secretary in the readjustment of the duties of his department. The language of the act is as follows:
"The Secretary of the Navy shall assign and distribute among the said bureaus such of the duties of the Navy Department as he shall judge to be expedient and proper." And further, "The Secretary of the Navy shall .... appoint, with their consent, officers of the Navy, not above the grade of lieutenant, to perform the duty of any clerkship created by this act."
As far as we can see now, there was no reason why the Secretary should not have organized his department, under the law, in accordance with the principles which obtain in other naval governments. Congress had given him general instructions to exercise his judgment in the distribution of the duties. He could have provided, therefore, for the military as well as for the civil branch of his department; but in point of fact he provided for the latter alone, as the law seemed to suggest he should do. Doubtless he acted wisely; for to have assigned the double functions to individuals might have resulted in failure. It was possibly known that the attempt so to combine the civil with the military rarely succeeds, and the unfortunate experience of the Commissioners was yet fresh in the public mind. Hence each bureau was left to itself to discharge those duties only which were indicated by its title, and there was no one to co-ordinate the labors of the five chiefs, and their labors were not coordinated.
The results were such as might have been anticipated. There was no concert of action in the several parts, each going his several way; and the military duties were either very imperfectly performed, or were not performed at all. Moreover, while the affairs of the civil departments were administered, there was no one to administer the affairs of the Navy as a military arm of the Government—and therein lies the secret of the decadence of the Navy. With the single exception of the brief period of the Civil War, the Navy has been for forty years without an administrator in its principal branch of business. It is needless to say that this decadence still goes on, and under existing conditions must continue to go on. Liberal appropriations will not check its decline, nor will the building of ironclads or the manufacture of heavy guns. There is an inexorable law of cause and effect which is utterly deaf to legislative enactments. President Cleveland struck the key-note when, in his first annual message to Congress, he said: "The conviction is forced upon us with the certainty of mathematical demonstration, that before we proceed further in the restoration of a Navy, we need a thoroughly reorganized Navy Department."
Of Hamilton it is said, in relation to the organization of the Treasury, 1789: "These intricate problems"—financial—"were solved at once, the machine constructed, and the system of accounts devised and put in operation; and so well were those difficult tasks performed that they still subsist, developing and growing with the nation, but at bottom the original arrangements of Hamilton." Calhoun, as Secretary of War under Monroe, found the War Department in a state of unutterable confusion. "Into this chaos he soon brought order, and the whole service of the department received an organization so simple and, at the same time, so efficient, that it has, in the main, been adhered to by all his successors, and proved itself capable of standing even the test of the Civil War." But there appeared no one, in those early days, to comprehend, or at least to put in operation, a good business method of naval administration; and long custom has so imbedded into our system the present one-sided plan, that nothing but a war, or an act of Congress—both very remote contingencies—can change it.
The act of July 5, 1862, increased the number of bureaus to eight. But some of the most serious evils attending five independent bureaus were only aggravated by increasing the number. Working on independent lines, with no professional head to look to, with no system of accountability, the Chief of Bureau found himself absolute in his own domain. His power was unlimited, and as the lines of demarcation were not always clearly defined, it was not impossible that he should go beyond his own limits and trench upon other grounds. Within his own sphere he is invested bylaw with the authority of the President himself, and his mandates none can question. The act of '42 declares that "the orders of a chief of bureau shall be considered as emanating from the Secretary himself, and shall have full force and effect as such." But as the orders of the Secretary are to be regarded as the orders of the President, the orders of a chief of bureau must also be regarded as the orders of the President. This practically makes nine Secretaries, with powers in that department equal to those of the constitutional Commander-in-Chief.
THE "BUREAU SYSTEM."
Every form of naval administration must provide for a distribution of the duties inseparable from the management of the naval forces of a country; nor does it matter whether the offices to which the several groups of duties are assigned are called bureaus, sections, or subdivisions. Hence, whatever change may be made in the organization of our Navy Department, we must still have bureaus or their equivalents, although the distribution of duties among them may be different from what we now find it. The objectionable feature of the so called "Bureau System," as it exists to-day in our Navy Department, is that it permits each of the eight officials who constitute the Bureau system to manage his own share of the Navy independently of the others, leaving those parts which do not fall within the limits of that system not managed at all. It is just here where the Bureau fails; for, however potent in his own particular field, the Bureau Chief is powerless beyond the narrow limits of his own office. Hence the difficulty a Bureau experiences of carrying out a policy dependent for its success on the co-operation of any other Bureau. This accounts for the well recognized fact that while each individual Bureau of the Navy Department is progressive in its character, the tendency of the Navy as a body has been retrogressive.
Let us take for an example the same illustration with which we began. The Bureau of Ordnance is a civil office, while naval gunnery, as a military art, would naturally belong to the military branch of our Navy Department if the latter were properly constituted. But as this division of duties has been wholly excluded from our organization, naval gunnery falls perforce to the Bureau of Ordnance, and that bureau does everything in its power to promote good gunnery in the Navy. But its power after all, when compared to the entire body of the service, is quite limited, hence its failure to accomplish certain desired ends. For many years past that bureau has been advocating the establishment of a gunnery ship. The idea was suggested, if my memory serves me, as long ago as when Commodore Morris was chief of the bureau; and now to-day we find the present very able Chief recommending the same thing. He knows, by the light of two past failures with gunnery ships, that it is impossible for his bureau to keep up an establishment, however admirable (and no one can say that a School of Gunnery is not one of the crying needs of our service), that depends on other bureaus for its maintenance.
So the Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance, in his last annual report to the Secretary of the Navy, recommends the establishment of a Gunnery Ship. The Secretary in his annual report passes the recommendation along to the President, and the President passes it to Congress, Congress to a Committee, the Committee to a subcommittee, and the sub-committee to a pigeon-hole—and the Navy gets no Gunnery Ship. The most curious part of it all is that this melancholy farce, if the expression may be allowed, has been going on for so many years and is still allowed to go on.
The history of the Apprentice system furnishes another illustration. It belongs exclusively to one bureau—not to the Navy Department, be it remembered, but to one-eighth part of the Department. It is an unequalled task to keep it afloat and the system has to suffer in consequence, for the bureau can carry it just so far on its way and no further. Hence our apprentice system can attain a certain degree of efficiency, but there it stops. It never has been expanded to its full capacity, and never can be until there is some directive force in the Department that will dominate all the bureaus and make them work in harmony for one end common to all. When that day comes, if indeed it ever should, we shall not hear of these various plants belonging to the different bureaus, but they will all come under the Navy Department, which will then cease to be the intangible thing it is now.
To say that this concession of independent authority to subordinate officers is a violation of the plainest military principles is nothing. But that a national legislature whose watchwords for one century have been "economy" and "retrenchment," should have complacently submitted during forty years to a system which ensures the greatest extravagance in the expenditure of public funds with the least amount of returns, exhibits one of those extraordinary instances of inconsistency which, while it excites our astonishment, defies any reasonable explanation.
It has been authoritatively stated that there have been wasted upon the Navy during the seventeen years following 1868 about seventy millions of dollars. This, allowing eighteen millions as the average annual expenditure, would make an annual waste, due to a bad system, of twenty-two percentum of the cost—not far behind the English Navy of 1800 when the waste due to a bad system, combined with wholesale peculation, was twenty-five per cent.
The effect of this system of non-administration has not only cost us a fleet of fighting- ships, but its inevitable tendency to disorganization has materially injured the tone and discipline of the personnel.
The remarks of Major-General Schofield, U.S. Army, in regard to the War Department, are so applicable to the Navy Department that they are transcribed in full. In his official report, dated Governor's Island, N.Y., September 20, 1887, the General says, under the head of
"This country appears to have inherited from Great Britain the notoriously bad system of military administration peculiar to that country, characterized by excessive centralization. In defiance of the fundamental principle upon which the Government of the United States was founded, and in spite of the manifold evils which resulted from it, that system was adhered to, with some slight modifications, until the year 1864, when it was wholly set aside at the earnest demand of General Grant. After the end of the war the discarded system was gradually restored, step by step, until it has at length been re-established in its extremest form. It is, I believe, agreed among all military men that this system of administration is wholly inapplicable to a state of war, and that it is impracticable to set aside an old system and make another immediately effective when war begins. And this is true, as experience has shown in this country, in spite of the fact that our staff organization, though perhaps not perfect, is very good, and not surpassed, if equaled, by any other in the character and ability of its personnel.
"Under this system, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, provided by the Constitution, and the subordinate commanders assigned by him to command the army and the several geographical divisions and departments, are practically superseded by the chiefs of bureaus of the War Department.
"A decision of the Supreme Court (13 Peters' Reports) defining the administrative authority of the Secretary of War, having been heretofore so construed as to also sanction the exercise by the Secretary of the military and, in some cases, it seems, even the judicial functions of the President as Commander-in-Chief of the Army, the principle enunciated in that decision has, at length, been applied to the relations sustained by the chiefs of the several bureaus of the War Department to the Secretary of War, and through him to the President. Thus the chiefs of the several Staff departments have become the representatives of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, clothed with all his authority in respect to the affairs of their respective departments. Their orders must be respected and obeyed as the orders of the Commander-in-Chief. Supplies or means of transportation which, in the opinion of the Commanding General and his subordinate officers, are unfit for the military service, may be forced upon the troops in spite of their protest, at the dictation of a staff officer in Washington; or, those provided for special service may be diverted to other uses without the consent or knowledge of the Commanding General, or that of any superior military authority. . ."
"This theory of military administration, of which the extreme is the multiple representation of the Commander-in-Chief, in the persons of the several chiefs of bureaus of the War Department, has been steadily opposed by all the eminent generals who have commanded armies in this country; and it is, I respectfully submit, self-evident that the military operations cannot possibly be conducted with success under such a system of administration. Yet this theory seems now to have become established as the military law of the country.
"The uniform answer to all protests against the perpetuation and re-adoption of this system, in the various stages of its development during the last twenty years, has been that it is the law of the United States. Hence it seems that Congress alone has the power to remedy an evil which all military men in this country have uniformly regarded as very serious."
These observations apply with singular force to what is popularly known as the "Bureau System" of the Navy Department.
The common remark that the Navy Department, as at present constituted, successfully carried the Navy through a great war, has just enough of the semblance of truth in it to impose on those not familiar with the facts. It is not so. Under the pressure of a great national crisis, the Department changed its organization in the direction suggested by theory, only to relapse when the pressure was removed.
One of the historians of "the Navy during the Rebellion" justly remarks: "The vast operations of the department were divided into two great branches, one relating to affairs belonging particularly to the Navy, and perhaps more specifically to professional matters, and the other embracing civil transactions and the whole business machinery of the department. At the head of the first named of these divisions was placed the Assistant Secretary, who, having been himself an officer of the Navy of long experience and acknowledged skill, was supposed to be a competent judge of such plans as might be proposed for increasing the efficiency of the Navy." "As the Secretary could not be expected to study the wants of each of the several bureaus, it was one of the functions of the Assistant Secretary to arrange and combine the operations of all the bureaus and present them in a general view for the consideration and decision of the Secretary himself."
The Assistant Secretary, in short, was the "one commissioner" or "Under Secretary" suggested in 1841. The exigencies of war had demonstrated the necessity for just such an office, and it was authorized by the act of July 31, 1861.
Mr. Welles, before being called to the Navy Department as Secretary, had enjoyed the advantage of three years' experience as a chief of bureau. He was therefore familiar with departmental work and had a large acquaintance with naval officers. But, well equipped for the office as he was, the services of Captain Fox were indispensable. He filled the gap, or supplied the "missing link," between the Secretary and the bureaus, the need of which had been felt for the twenty years previous to the war, and has wrought so much evil during the twenty years following. The office was abolished in 1869. Filled from civil life, after the resignation of Captain Fox, its character was changed, its usefulness was destroyed, and its loss was unregretted.
Having now examined the construction of two of the best forms of naval government, and that of one of the very worst, we are in a position to offer a few critical remarks on each.
The resolution passed by the English House of Commons in 1692, to the effect that "His Majesty be advised to constitute a commission of the Admiralty of such persons as are of known experience in maritime affairs; that for the future all orders for the management of the fleet do pass through the Admiralty that shall be so constituted," must ever form the basis of a sound naval government.
The privilege enjoyed by the Admiralty of being represented in the national legislature is a very great advantage to both the legislative and executive branches of the Government, and greatly facilitates the transaction of public business.
The division of the business into the two branches of civil and military is indispensable to every good form of naval government. English naval administration, while conforming in the main to sound principles, is not, on the whole, such as to recommend itself to imitation.
The constitution of the French naval government is more symmetrical, and shows throughout a clear conception of the requirements of naval administration and a purpose to supply them, while each, the English and the French, is, in its own way, organized for war. The naval administration of the other maritime powers does not materially differ from those just given.
On looking into the constitution of the U. S. Navy Department, one is struck at the first glance with its utter incapacity for dealing with the problems of war, or with military questions in general. At the first note of war it would have to undergo a radical change, as it did in 1861. The military branch now wanting would have to be supplied.
Another notable point is the difficulty in formulating a naval policy and placing it before Congress. The only recognized method is by written communications from the Secretary of the Navy, which are little read. The Constitution declares that the President may "require the opinion in writing of the principal officer in each of the executive departments upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices." This clause has given rise to the annual departmental reports which accompany the President's message to Congress. On reaching Congress, the message and the various reports are referred to appropriate committees. The report of the Secretary of the Navy, accompanied by the reports of the chiefs of bureaus, goes to the Naval Committees of the two houses, and is then referred to sub-committees. The sub-committee consists of three or more gentlemen trained in civil pursuits, and unfamiliar with military or naval affairs, and it is an open question how they will regard the various recommendations made by the Secretary and his eight chiefs. If the experience of several generations furnishes any criterion, the recommendations will receive no attention whatever. Why should they? In the whole mass of documents there are so many recommendations, and of such various character, that it is simply impossible to adopt them en masse, particularly as some are often seen to be inconsistent with others, and there is no one to cull out the more important items, explain their nature and urge their adoption; consequently they are all passed over in silence. And this has been going on for years, till the more experienced bureau chiefs are beginning to abandon the hopeless task of recommending measures that are never even considered.
Within the last few days a statement has been going the rounds of the press which, if true, confirms this. The chairman of the House Naval Committee, when asked recently the cause of the inactivity of the committee in the matter of legislation for the Navy, said: "It is difficult to determine what is desired by naval officers or needed by the Navy. All want something different, and to ascertain what is most desirable of all the schemes submitted is akin to impossible."
The statement may have no foundation in fact, but it sounds as if it might be true—and I am inclined to think it is true.
It happens occasionally that an officer of the Department may, by personal solicitation, impress the Naval Committee with his own individual views, and even enjoy the honor of having his bill "printed" and "referred," or his suggestions, urged in person, may be adopted and embodied in the naval appropriation bill; but this course is outside the regular mode of procedure. In certain important cases the Naval Committee may invite officers to appear before it and give their views on subjects under consideration. These exceptions to the rule only illustrate the necessity of having some recognized method of personal communication between the two branches of the Government.
By the act of Sept. 2, 1789, it was provided that the Secretary of the Treasury might be "required to give information to either branch of the legislature, in person or in writing, respecting all matters pertaining to his office." This authorization to appear on the floor and address either House has never, it is believed, been taken advantage of by the Secretary of the Treasury.
It is not probable that a Secretary of the Navy of the present day would avail himself of such an opportunity, even were it accorded to him by law, unless he had already served in the national legislature. But it is not unreasonable to suppose that a plan might be devised by which a representative of the Secretary might go before the Naval Committee and address it in person, explaining the estimates and advocating the measures proposed. It has happened more than once that propositions emanating from the Navy Department have met with opposition from the Naval Committee till a full and clear explanation has silenced all opposition and secured unqualified approval. Personal communication between the legislative and the executive, instead of being the exception, should be the rule.
But by far the most striking feature of our naval government is its deficiency in the military branch, as already stated. The civilian Secretary is left entirely alone to wrestle with that division of his labors as best he may. Numerous technical questions come up for his consideration which cannot properly be referred to any one of the eight bureaus—questions which belong to the Secretary's office alone, and which should be decided in his office. He turns to one bureau chief and gets one opinion; to another and gets another opinion. Consulted independently, each regards the question from his own standpoint, mostly, and quite naturally, from the standpoint of his own bureau, which is not always that of the other bureaus or of the general service. Moreover, these questions are often foreign to the duties of the bureau chiefs, and may refer to subjects to which they have given little attention. This is far from encouraging to a Secretary new to office, and he will look in vain for that portion of the organization of his department to which he can properly refer the great mass of technical details which now absorbs so much of his time, to the exclusion of the civil affairs peculiar to his office. In short, a Secretary of the Navy is, from the very moment of his entering upon the duties of his office, placed in an utterly false position.
From the foregoing we are enabled to deduce the several principles which should obtain in the organization of a naval government:
1. At the head of the Navy should be a statesman of good business capacity.
2. He should have the option, afforded him by law, of communicating personally, or by proxy, with Congress, or a committee thereof.
3. He should have an assistant in the capacity of a Chief of General Staff to consult on all matters of a professional nature.
4. He should have an assistant to keep him advised of the civil affairs of his department.
5. He should have a solicitor to advise with on all questions of civil law that may arise.
6. The business of his department should be divided into two principal parts; viz., the Military and the Civil.
7. At the head of the military branch should be the Secretary of the Navy himself, supported by a General Staff, the chief of which should be an officer of rank.
8. Under the military branch should be included all that relates to the personnel of the Navy,—officers, enlisted men and boys, and the marine corps; all that relates to ships in commission, their employment, efficiency and discipline; the instructions issued to commanders-in-chief, and to officers on independent service; the records of officers, their promotions and retirements; the administration of naval law and justice; all educational institutions for officers, enlisted men and boys; naval intelligence; the periodical inspection of State school ships, when officered from the Navy, etc., etc.
9. The staff should be sufficiently numerous to admit of a just distribution of the various duties. It should include the ranking officer of the Marine Corps, an officer to discharge the duties of Judge Advocate General, and a Gunnery Officer.
10. At the head of the Civil branch should be the Secretary of the Navy. This branch should include Materiel and Finance, and have to do with the procurement of naval stores and supplies of all kinds; the construction, armament and equipment of ships; engines and their dependencies; ordnance; hydrography; navy-yards; provisions and clothing, contracts, purchases, and all matters relating to finance; all that pertains to navigation; transports; civil law; medicine and surgery; hospitals, etc., etc.
11. The construction, equipment, and repairs of ships, and of engines and their dependencies, should come under one supervising head.
12. The Secretary and the principal officers of the department should meet daily, except Sundays, for consultation, and no important work should be undertaken until after it has been freely discussed by a full board. A record should be kept of the proceedings, minutes made of all orders given for the building, repairing and fitting out of ships, for the construction and repairing of boilers and engines, etc., and the votes of those present recorded.
13. Each day before proceeding to business, the proceedings of the day previous should be read over and approved, and each day's record should be signed by the recorder.
14. In the absence of the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Staff should preside at the board.
15. All orders issuing from the Navy Department should be signed by the Secretary, or "by his order."
An act should be framed to cover these several points, and all laws or parts of laws inconsistent therewith should be repealed.
It is believed that a Navy Department organized in accordance with the foregoing general plan would ensure a sound and economical administration of the affairs of the Navy, and maintain in a state of efficiency such force as Congress in its wisdom should provide for.