Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the American Navy

Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the American Navy

4.7 58
by Ian W. Toll, Stephen Lang
     
 

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Before the ink was dry on the Constitution of the United States, the establishment of a permanent military had become the most divisive issue facing the young republic. Would a standing army be the thin end of dictatorship? Would a navy protect American commerce from the vicious depredations of the Barbary pirates, or would it drain the treasury and provoke

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Overview

Before the ink was dry on the Constitution of the United States, the establishment of a permanent military had become the most divisive issue facing the young republic. Would a standing army be the thin end of dictatorship? Would a navy protect American commerce from the vicious depredations of the Barbary pirates, or would it drain the treasury and provoke hostilities with the great powers? How large a navy would suffice? The founders — particularly Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, and Adams — debated these questions fiercely and switched sides more than once.

In 1794, President Washington signed legislation authorizing the construction of six heavy frigates. The unique combination of power, speed and tactical versatility — smaller than a battleship and larger than a sloop — that all navies sent on their most daring missions. It was the first great appropriation of federal money and the first demonstration of the power of the new central government, calling for the creation of entirely new domestic industries, and the extraction of natural resources from the backwoods of Maine to the uninhabited coastal islands of Georgia.

From the complicated politics of the initial decision, through the cliffhanger campaign against Tripoli, to the war that shook the world in 1812, Ian W. Toll tells this grand tale with the political insight of Founding Brothers and a narrative flair worthy of Patrick O'Brian. In the words of Henry Adams, the 1812 encounter between USS Constitution and HMS Guerriere "raised the United States in one half hour to the rank of a first class power in the world."

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Wonderfully atmospheric...brilliantly researched, full of stirring action and rich with the scent of the sea."
— Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman
Evan Thomas
This first book by Toll, a former financial analyst and political speechwriter, is a fluent, intelligent history of American military policy from the early 1790s, when Congress commissioned six frigates to fight the Barbary pirates, through the War of 1812. But the book's real value, and the pleasures it provides, lies in Toll's grasp of the human dimension of his subject, often obscured in the dry tomes of naval historians. The battle depictions are worthy of Patrick O'Brian.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

It's hard to imagine a better place for listening to this shrewdly abridged, excitingly read audio version of Toll's impressive history of the founding of the United States Navy than aboard some sort of seagoing vessel. One of Patrick O'Brian's warships would be perfect, but anything from a smaller sailboat to the Staten Island Ferry would be almost as auspicious. Veteran actor Lang, his voice instantly recognizable from films and television, never lets that familiarity take over. He trusts instead to Toll's virtuoso combination of details large and small (everything from the uniquely horrible ways men died during sea battles to the greed of shipbuilders and their representatives in government) to keep listeners intrigued�changing his voice in subtle ways when he brings to life the real words of American and British naval heroes from Lord Nelson to the officers who won the war of 1812. Lang is a lucid guide through the stormy seas of politics and commercial intrigue surrounding the birth of the U.S. naval fleet, which would soon surprise the world�especially the British navy, which thought of itself as invincible. Simultaneous release with the Norton hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 21). (Oct.)

Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This history will be a delight to fans of naval literature, fact or fiction. Toll, a former Wall Street analyst, vividly recounts the first two decades of the U.S. Navy, beginning with Congress's decision to build six heavy frigates in 1794 and continuing to the end of the War of 1812 (the navy itself takes its founding from the start of the Continental Navy in 1775). The decision to create a maritime force was made in reaction to the seizure of U.S. merchant ships and sailors by the Barbary pirates, and it sparked much heated debate among the Founding Fathers over the issue of a permanent military establishment. But, clearly, the country could not continue with only a standing army. The six frigates, one of which the USS Constitution is still afloat, were all of innovative design, more heavily armed yet faster than anything else on the seas. Their service through battles with Barbary pirates, the quasiwar with France, and the War of 1812 are vividly narrated here with firm historical detail and a strong cast of characters ably handled by Toll, ranging from the country's Presidents to the colorful officers and sailors on these frigates. Strongly recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/06.] David Lee Poremba, Davenport, FL Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Who knew that we owe the U.S. Navy to long-ago Muslim machinations?That gross oversimplification points to a historical accident that debut author and historian Toll capably works. At the time of the Revolution, America's navy amounted to a ragtag collection of privateers and merchantmen; even John Paul Jones's celebrated raid along the English coast was a freelance operation. After the Revolution, writes Toll, "what little remained of the Continental Navy was taken entirely out of service," the ships auctioned off and the men dismissed. Whether the new country needed a navy at all was a matter of hot debate among rival political parties, even as America's merchant fleet became an important presence in the Mediterranean and Caribbean markets. Enter the "Barbary pirates," privateers of four Arabic states that seized American ships and sailors in a sort of elaborate protection racket-one that England, the world's foremost naval power, could have easily crushed but instead used as a "check against the growth of economic competition from smaller maritime rivals," particularly the upstart U.S. In response, though taking time out to come to the brink of war with France, Congress authorized the construction of a federal navy whose six-frigate core numbered "the most powerful ships of their class in any navy in the world." The U.S. Navy then sailed off to Tripoli to begin the ten-year campaign that would finally break Barbary power. Toll's narrative closes with an admirably thorough account of the naval dimension of the War of 1812, when James Madison determined that an organized fleet acting in concert was less effective than a single frigate that could "get loose in the Atlantic and prey uponBritish shipping," which American ships did to great effect, doing much to win the war. A welcome contribution to the small library of early American naval history, deserving a place alongside one of the last such books-by a pre-presidential Theodore Roosevelt. Agent: Ian W. Toll/Janklow & Nesbit Associates

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743536844
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication date:
10/03/2006
Edition description:
Abridged
Sales rank:
969,996
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 5.40(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Ian W. Toll has been a Wall Street analyst, a Federal Reserve financial analyst, and a political aide and speechwriter. Six Frigates is his first audiobook. He lives with his wife and two-year-old son in San Francisco.

Stephen Lang 's Broadway credits include Wait Until Dark, A Few Good Men, The Speed of Darkness (Tony and Outer Critics noms), and Death of A Salesman (Drama Desk nom). Among his feature films are Last Exit to Brooklyn, Tombstone, Gettysburg, and Manhunter. His television work includes, The Fugitive, Crime Story, Babe Ruth, and Death of A Salesman.

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