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Bill to Establish the Department of the Navy, April 11, 1798

Signed into law April 30, 1798, this bill removed the Navy from the Department of War and established it as a separate office. Under the National Security Act of 1947, the Navy Department became part of the Department of Defense.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Bill to Establish the Department of the Navy

Establishing the Navy

In 1794, Congress exercised its constitutional power “to provide and maintain a navy” and ordered the construction and manning of six frigates. Naval forces of the American Revolution had been disbanded, leaving America’s commercial ships easy prey to pirates operating in the Mediterranean and Caribbean seas. The Navy’s mission, then as now, was to protect the nation’s interests on the high seas.