the Ranger and the Value of the Continental Navy
I n the early months of the American Revolution, the need for a professional navy was not universally recognized,
despite the American colonies’ reliance on seafa ring industries and their intimate knowledge of the capabilities of G reat Britai n’s navy.
While John Paul Jones’s early years as a Continental Navy officer, and especially his tenure as captain of the sloop of war Ranger,
were marked by many of the complaints and controversies that made some revolutionaries reluctant to create the new service,
John Paul Jones in the end, the contribution of Jones goes far to prove the good value the new nation received from its navy.
Certain members of the Continental Congress feared that creating a navy would turn the full might of the Royal Navy against the colonies and end the possibili ty of reconciliation.
Some Southerners also perceived a navy as a New England concern,
as the southern economy did not rely so heavily as the North on sea-going trade.
Those critics and some later historians further contended that the reso urces needed to establish and maintain a navy could be better spent elsewhere.
Historian Jonathan Dull has argued that the role assigned to the new Continental Navy.
by Congress could have been performed equally well by a combination of state navies,
the Continental Army, privateers, and chartered vessels-these larrer to execute such tasks as carrying messages, diplomats, and supplies.
Once Congress officially authorized the development of a navy, the embryo nic service was plagued by sectional conflict,
internal divisiveness, political maneuvering, accusations of preferment, recruiting difficulties, a shortage of ships, and inactivity.
These problems have led some scholars to comment on the “indirect costs” associated with the new Continental Navy.
Included among these non-material costs were the drain on the attention and energy of American diplomats,
Congressional delegates and other civil servants, and the “bad feeling” created among the officers of the service and their supporters in Congress by the shortage of vessels.
Jones received his commission as a lieutenant in the new Navy on 7 December 1775,
John Paul Jones less than six weeks after the service had been authorized by Congress.
Moreover, it appears that Jones had been working for the Naval Committee of Congress for nearly a month before the date of his commission,
fittin g out the armed ship Alfted.
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