On January 20, 1794, Members of an ad hoc committee titled "A Naval Force Adequate to Protect Commerce of the United States Against Algerine Corsairs" introduced a bill providing for a standing U.S. Navy. Though it faced heavy opposition from Members wary of a standing military force, the bill passed the House on March 10 as the threat of piracy loomed in the Mediterranean Sea. This Edition for Educators celebrates the House of Representatives’ maritime connections.
Peace (The White Squadron)
Look no farther than Peace to find the stunning depiction of the U.S. Navy’s finest ships in the 1890s, U.S.S. Chicago, U.S.S. Boston, U.S.S. Atlanta, and U.S.S. Yorktown. Peace (The White Squadron in Boston Harbor), a monumental seascape painting located in Cannon House Office Building Room 311, was originally purchased by the House in 1900 for the Committee on Naval Affairs. Although this committee no longer exists, it was merged into the Armed Services Committee after World War II, and the powerful painting continues to evoke the nationalistic pride that grew from the U.S.’s rising status as a naval power in the late 19th century.
Located on the Delaware River, just outside Philadelphia, Fort Mifflin defended the maritime approaches to the city during the critical early phase of the Revolutionary War. Here, artist Seth Eastman depicts the fort as part of a pastoral scene, from the perspective of approaching along a rustic path. The broad river, dotted with sailboats, sweeps off the right side of the canvas, and a few individuals go about their business outside the fort walls.
Seth Eastman included three images of Fort Sumter in a series of 17 paintings commissioned by the House Committee on Military Affairs. Known as the flashpoint of Civil War hostilities, Eastman chose to depict Fort Sumter before the conflict and from two perspectives after it was attacked. Here, the fort is intact, but it is surrounded by choppy waters and threatening clouds. The wrecked sailboat in the foreground foreshadows the coming violence.
The Most Kissed Man in America
Learn more about the heroic efforts of the crew of U.S.S. Merrimac, and the unusual tale of the young officer who later became a Congressman and the most kissed man in America.
A Congressional Gold Medal to Captain John Paul Jones
October 16, 1787
On this date, the Continental Congress unanimously voted to award a Congressional Gold Medal to Captain John Paul Jones for his “valor and brilliant services” during the Battle of Flamborough Head eight years earlier. Jones became the first and only Continental Navy officer to receive this distinction for his service during the American Revolution.
The Congressional Life Saving Medal
July 24, 1866
On this date, the House passed Senate Joint Resolution 31 awarding rescuers of the steamship San Francisco the Congressional Life Saving Medal.
Learn more about Members of Congress and their connection to the sea:
James Van Zandt of Pennsylvania
Representative James Van Zandt, who began his U.S. Navy career in 1917 and retired as a rear admiral in 1959, served for 11 terms in the House.
Leonor Sullivan of Missouri
In 1973, Representative Leonor Sullivan of Missouri became the first woman to chair the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee (and only the sixth woman in congressional history to chair a standing committee). The highlight of her chairmanship was passage of the 1976 Fishery and Conservation Management Act, an environmental bill which established a 200-mile fisheries conservation zone off the U.S. coast.
Robert Smalls of South Carolina
Representative Robert Smalls of South Carolina was born a slave in 1839, but became a Civil War hero by commandeering the Confederate ship, The Planter. Smalls later served five terms in the House.
This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. The series appears monthly. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.Follow @USHouseHistory