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Report of the Secretary of the Navy to Congress, by Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy, October 15, 1889

In 1889 Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy reported to Congress that the United States, with 13,000 miles of exposed seacoast, was vulnerable to attack. The United States had only three armored ships capable of operating in open sea, while European nations and China had larger, stronger navies. Tracy requested 20 battleships to protect the United States and its commerce.

U.S. Senate Library

Report of the Secretary of the Navy to Congress, by Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy, October 15, 1889 Report of the Secretary of the Navy to Congress, by Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy, October 15, 1889

Creating a Modern Navy

The end of the nineteenth century was a time of change for the U.S. Navy as the nation became increasingly engaged in international affairs. When proponents of a “Big Navy” called for state-of-the-art steel ships to protect the United States and its interests, Congress responded with the Battleship Act of 1890, the first significant legislation authorizing construction of new battleships. Marking an era of greater U.S. naval power, the ships played a significant role in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

To carry on even a defensive war with any hope of success we must have armored battle-ships. . . . for it is not to be tolerated that the United States, with its population, its revenue, and its trade, is to submit to attack upon the threshold of its harbors

Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy, Report of the Secretary of the Navy to Congress, October 15, 1889