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Father of the U.S. Navy

April 15, 2013

What do Chester A. Arthur, the two Roosevelts, and Ronald Reagan have in common?  These four Presidents built up the U.S. Navy.  Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt each did an apprenticeship as Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  Reagan had the goal of a 600-ship Navy.  Arthur is the President who first recognized the need to do something significant.

When Arthur became President in 1881, the U.S. Navy had fewer than one-tenth the number of ships that were in service at the end of the Civil War.  Many of this remnant were obsolete.  Arthur got the Congress to approve the construction of a handful of steel ships.  There would have been additional ships, but the Democratic House, newly elected during the presidential mid-term, prevented this.  Despite this seemingly modest achievement, some historians have named Arthur the “Father of the U.S. Navy.”  (See the essay by John J. DiIulio, Jr. on p. 110 of Presidential Leadership.) 

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