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This Day in Boston History

March 27th, 1794

The Navy and the USS Constitution

After the United States won its freedom from Britain with the Treaty of Paris, peace had yet to be achieved on the seas. The US Navy had ceased operations. Followers of Jefferson, suspicious of a standing military, thought it more expeditious to pay ransom to pirates than finance a peacetime navy.

As US shipping routes were disrupted and as a trade debt began to grow, support grew for reconstituting the US Navy. On this day the United States' Congress did exactly that, by authorizing construction of six frigates to help protect American merchant fleets from attacks by Algerian pirates and from harassment by British and French forces.

The vessels were designed by Joshua Humphreys and Josiah Fox and built at six different sites. The contract for one of those ships, the USS CONSTITUTION, was given to Edmond Hartt's Shipyard in Boston.


England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767, England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. The officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Religion. Politics. Rebellion. Boston’s pedigree was forged back in England in the midst of religious dissension, where Puritans and Pilgrims sought religious reform, and Cavaliers and Roundheads vied for political power. The question isn't where did Boston get its name – but how.

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