The many-sided lessons locked up in old naval manuscripts are well worthy of public attention. Our early naval and maritime history is closely associated with the country's pioneer settlement and expansion, with the winning of its independence and with its subsequent security in very precarious times.
From the beginning also the sea was a direct source of sustenance, the greatest means of domestic transportation, and a prime agency of economic welfare through profitable overseas commerce. The integrity of all this throughout our earlier history rested upon naval protection.
In addition the early Navy played a notable part in the development of the national spirit. Nonpartisan and nonsectional in sympathy, it devoted itself exclusively to the promotion and defense of broad national interests. Its faithful and arduous service together with brilliant victories served constantly to stimulate national pride, patriotism and unity.
It may therefore be said that in many senses our naval forces, including both the regular and irregular armed ships, were among the important makers of the Nation.
For these reasons I have been glad to initiate the publication of naval manuscript source material in order that their contents may become generally accessible for research, and also to insure against loss of their substance through possible destruction of the originals.
I have an especial interest in the publication of manuscript records heretofore practically inaccessible to the public because of my own long time research into all forms of American Naval records.
In 1913, soon after I went to the Navy Department, I discovered a large number of old wooden cupboards under the eaves of the State, War and Navy Building--shelves lined with the "Captain's letters" from the Commanding Officers of our earliest ships.
Since those days the Office of Naval Records has been adequately housed and the records themselves have been properly safeguarded and catalogued.
The establishment, at my request, of a special fund by the Seventy- third Congress will, I hope, make possible the printing of the more important manuscript material relating to the Navy, now in the possession of the Government.
THE WHITE HOUSE, 13 June 1934.