The Long Road to Annapolis: The Founding of the Naval Academy and the Emerging American Republic

The Long Road to Annapolis: The Founding of the Naval Academy and the Emerging American Republic

The Long Road to Annapolis: The Founding of the Naval Academy and the Emerging American Republic

The Long Road to Annapolis: The Founding of the Naval Academy and the Emerging American Republic

Synopsis

The United States established an academy for educating future army officers at West Point in 1802. Why, then, did it take this maritime nation forty-three more years to create a similar school for the navy? The Long Road to Annapolis examines the origins of the United States Naval Academy and the national debate that led to its founding.

Americans early on looked with suspicion upon professional military officers, fearing that a standing military establishment would become too powerful, entrenched, or dangerous to republican ideals. Tracing debates about the nature of the nation, class identity, and partisan politics, William P. Leeman explains how the country's reluctance to establish a national naval academy gradually evolved into support for the idea. The United States Naval Academy was finally established in 1845, when most Americans felt it would provide be the best educational environment for producing officers and gentlemen who could defend the United States at sea, serve American interests abroad, and contribute to the nation's mission of economic, scientific, and moral progress.

Considering the development of the naval officer corps in relation to American notions of democracy and aristocracy, The Long Road to Annapolis sheds new light on the often competing ways Americans perceived their navy and their nation during the first half of the nineteenth century.
The United States established an academy for educating future army officers at West Point in 1802. Why, then, did it take this maritime nation forty-three more years to create a similar school for the navy? The Long Road to Annapolis examines the origins of the United States Naval Academy and the national debate that led to its founding.

Americans early on looked with suspicion upon professional military officers, fearing that a standing military establishment would become too powerful, entrenched, or dangerous to republican ideals. Tracing debates about the nature of the nation, class identity, and partisan politics, William P. Leeman explains how the country's reluctance to establish a national naval academy gradually evolved into support for the idea. The United States Naval Academy was finally established in 1845, when most Americans felt it would provide be the best educational environment for producing officers and gentlemen who could defend the United States at sea, serve American interests abroad, and contribute to the nation's mission of economic, scientific, and moral progress.

Considering the development of the naval officer corps in relation to American notions of democracy and aristocracy, The Long Road to Annapolis sheds new light on the often competing ways Americans perceived their navy and their nation during the first half of the nineteenth century.

Excerpt

Modesty was not one of George Bancroft’s notable character traits. He possessed the intellectual superiority of a distinguished scholar and the self-assured swagger of an influential politician. in describing his role in creating the United States Naval Academy, Bancroft triumphantly declared: “As to the Naval School at Annapolis, I was its originator. It was my original conception, mine alone, and in every particular carried out by me.” Bancroft’s proud statement might lead one to assume that the idea of establishing a naval academy in the United States did not surface until 1845, the year Bancroft became President James K. Polk’s secretary of the navy. Although Bancroft’s legacy as the Naval Academy’s founder is secure (the massive midshipmen’s dormitory is named in his honor), his assertion is not exactly accurate. the idea for a naval academy was not Bancroft’s “original conception.” As early as 1777, during the Revolutionary War, Captain John Paul Jones called for the establishment of small academies at American shipyards to educate the officers of the Continental navy. Although the Continental Congress never implemented Jones’s recommendation, it began a national debate on the merits and the potential dangers of founding an academy to prepare young men for service as naval officers.

Since its formation in 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy has achieved a high level of prestige as a national military, educational, and cultural institution. Its students are among the best and the brightest the nation has to offer. the Yard, the academy’s Annapolis campus, is one of the country’s great landmarks, attracting approximately 1.5 million visitors each year. the entertainment industry has promoted an “All-American” image of the school, most recently in Hollywood’s portrayal of the struggles of a blue-collar plebe in the 2006 feature film Annapolis. the annual Army-Navy football game pitting the Naval Academy’s midshipmen against the cadets of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is one of the classic rivalries in college sports. Naval Academy graduates have served as some of the country’s most prominent leaders not only in war but also in government, diplomacy, science, engineering, and business. the academy’s alumni include one president of the United States (Jimmy Carter), cabinet secretaries, senators, congressmen . . .

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