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NAVAL ASYLUM AT PHILADELPHIA.—CRUISE OF THE “CUMBERLAND.”—NAVAL ACADEMY AT BOSTON.
HAvING been detached from the John Adams June 24, 1840, Lieutenant Foote was appointed Nov. 22, 1841, to the Naval ,Asylum in Philadelphia, and after Commodore Barron’s resig~ nation the full charge of that institution during the last two years of the administration of Secretary Upshur, was placed in his hands. This establishment at that time combined the character of half hospital and half school, and was, in fact, the first of our home institutions of a like kind that sprang up to meet the necessities of the service. The Naval Academy at Annapolis grew out of this, the purely educational part of it having been transferred to Annapolis. To Lieutenant Foote was especially assigned the care and education of midshipmen.
“By scraps of laws, regulations, and departmental instructions, a Naval Academy has grown up, and a naval policy become established for the United States, without the legislative wisdom of the country having passed upon that policy, and contrary to its previous policy, and against its interest and welfare. A Naval Academy, with two hundred and fifty pupils, and annually coming off in scores, makes perpetual demands for ships and commissions, and these must be furnished, whether required by the public service or not; and thus the idea of a limited Navy, or a naval peace establishment, is extinguished, and a perpetual war establishment in time of peace is growing upon our hands. Prone to imitate every thing that is English, there was a party among us from the beginning which wished to make the Union, like Great Britain, a great naval power, without considering that England was an island, with foreign possessions, which made a Navy a necessity of her position and her policy; while we were a continent, without foreign possessions, to whom a Navy would be an expensive and idle incumbrance; without considering that
England is often by her policy required to be aggressive, the United States never; without considering that England is a part of the European system, and subject to wars (to her always maritime) in which she has no interest; while the United States, in the isolation of its geographical position, and the independence of its policy, can have no wars but its own, and those defensive.”*
These remarks are interesting as bearing upon a department of the Navy with which Lieutenant F oote, in the course of his active life, came to be closely identified. He did an important work in organizing and building up these infant establishments and naval schools, which—the distinguished senator to the contrary notwithstanding—are essential to the existence of a strong naval power. It is true we shall never need again a great Navy to protect our territory. The invention of iron-clads, the facility of sea-coast fortifications, the telegraph, the vast extension of the railroad system, make us, so long as no internal dissensions prey upon and weaken us, impregnable without a great Navy, which, if not needed, is a source of expense and foreign menace. But what would we have done at the breaking out of the last war without some military and naval organization, and some actual material of preparation? To say nothing also of our extended commercial interests, the fact that there are such great numbers of Americans residing in Europe and all parts of the world, makes a naval home establishment—with its boards, bureaus. and schools—a necessity.
It is doubtless true that there will be no more sea-actions like those off Brest and Trafalgar, where nation met nation in conflict. I .
The necessity of maintaining large squadrons, and building costly 'ships only to go to ruin, when the whole system of warfare and of naval architecture is undergoing such continual
* Benton’s “ Thirty Years in the U. S. Senate,” vol. ii., p. 57.
changes, has, with us at least, ceased. Still there must be a peace establishment as a nucleus for naval operations; and the good order, high discipline, and moral tone of our naval schools, asylums, and ship-yards at this moment are due as much to the efforts and character of Admiral Foote as to any other man. _
At the Philadelphia Asylum, during a period of considerable excitement owing to certain local controversies and unsettled questions in relation to organization and government, he began that course of thorough moral reform which he carried through his whole career. By dint of unceasing persuasion, he prevailed ‘upon the pensioners of the asylum to take the temperance pledge, or, as an “ old salt” would say, “ stop their grog.” He was one of the first to introduce the reform of total abstinence from intoxicating drinks into the Navy; and it was well understood ‘that he was in thorough earnest in this matter, so that oflicers and men who were devoted to the use of liquor fairly understood that it would go hard with them if Foote was on judgment in cases of delinquency. Whether he sometimes carried this too far or not, all knew where he stood, and all were aware of the inflexible resolution he had taken to introduce the temperance reform into the Navy, in which determination he was successful. The Naval Asylum, in fact, made him a thorough temperance man. He said once in Philadelphia to his brother John: “I madeup my mind that as a naval officer I could not be a temperance man. I met with persons of all nations. I was obliged to conform to their customs. But when I came here I found these old sailors dreadful drunkards. Whenever I gave them any privilege, they invariably got drunk. I could do nothing with them. At last I signed the pledge myself, and then they followed me.” In a certain petition of the pensioners of the Naval Academy to the Honorable Secretary of the N avy—a characteristic sailors’ document—Lieutenant Foote is thus spoken of:
“The gallant Commodore Biddle was our first governor. A brave man like him knew what old sailors wanted. He indulged the good men, and brought the bad men into good order; and when he left us, we all to a man wished he had been left alone. The proper rooms were allotted by him to us, and the oflicers treated us like men. When he went away, Commodore Barron came, who commanded us as an old commodore ought to command old seamen like himself. He was ready to listen to us and to see our wants supplied, and may God bless him, and Biddle too, for both were old sailors‘ friends, which we put into the newspapers which you have read. When Commodore Barron left us, he left Lieutenant Foote to command. He has done us a great deal of good in making us all sober men. We once thought that old sailors could not do without grog. Now there is not a man in the house who draws his grog, and we feel like human beings, and hate the sin of getting drunk. We now understand the Word of God as it is written in the Bible, with which we are supplied, and hope our latter days will be better than our former lives have been. As old men, we wanted and have had quiet and peace of mind and body.”
In all matters of strictly professional education and culture, the principles of navigation, practical seamanship, gunnery, naval tactics, and ship-building, he was, by the testimony of his contemporaries, for his time, a thorough master, leaving nothing to subordinates that he could do himself.
In the year 1842 (Jan. 27) Lieutenant Foote married for his second wife Caroline Augusta (his second cousin), the eldest daughter of Augustus Russel Street, of New Haven, a gentleman of wealth and high cultivation, now well-known as the generous founder of the art-school in Yale College.*
* Mrs. Caroline Augusta Foote died in New Haven, August 27, 1863, just two months after the death of her husband. She bore to him five children, three sons and two daughters, of whom two, Augustus Russel Street and John Samuel, survive their parents. Under the careful and scholarly training of her father, Miss Street’s fine mind and lovely character were developed into a rare and beautiful womanhood, fitting her to become the true wife and counselor of a heroic man. She shared patiently his labors and sorrows, and rejoiced in his triumphs with a calm joy that intelligently appreciated their greatness, but was attempered by a higher hope.
But he enjoyed for a short time only the sweets of domestic repose on shore. His whole life was destined to be one of constant hard service in his profession.
In the summer of 1843 (Aug. 26) he was ordered, as first-lieutenant, to the flag-ship Cumberland, fifty guns, under Captain Breese. J. A. Dahlgren and others who have since won for themselves distinction were lieutenants and fellow-ofiicers with Foote in this cruise of the Cumberland. This vessel bore at her peak the pennant of Commodore Joseph Smith, who on his return from this cruise was made Chief of the Bureau of Yards and Docks at Washington, and who, with Captain Breese, bore a distinguished part in the last war with Great Britain, especially in the battle of Lake Champlain. Commodore Smith proved to be Foote’s life-long and perhaps his most loved and trusted friend, and is himself a genial and noble-hearted Christian man. Commodore Smith soon appreciated Foote’s working qualities, and in one of his earliest letters he says: “Would you be willing to go to Norfolk if I should go there? as that is a place of work, and requires energetic ofiicers.” He told Foote that he wished him to be always associated with himself, and he regarded him “ as his maimnast.”
The Cumberland sailed from Boston for the Mediterranean on the 20th of November, 1843. When taking the stores on board for the voyage, some of the men got an opportunity to tap a barrel of whisky, and made themselves drunk. Trouble ensued: some of them insulted and attacked one of the officers, and were consequently flogged. Foote took the opportunity to form a temperance society, beginning with the ofiicers, and being sustained and encouraged by the commodore. The movement became popular, and soon all the sailors but one consented to commute their grog-rations for money; and that solitary one, coming up every day to receive his grog, became a laughing-stock, and was soon got rid of.
The spirit-room was emptied of its contents, and the whole