All posts by Claude Berube

Stand Up A Joint Interagency Task Force To Fight Illegal Fishing

Ocean Governance Topic Week

By Claude Berube

International maritime security needs a dramatic shift in thinking and commitment to the greatest transnational threat of the twenty-first century. It is not drug trafficking which, while impactful in criminal behavior and the unfortunate consequences to consumers and their families, is not an existential threat. Nor is terrorism, specifically maritime terrorism, the primary concern. While maritime terrorism has occurred, it has been rare; and while it must be addressed and perpetrators brought to justice, the frequency of incidents (USS Cole, MV Limburg, Mumbai, and so on) have been comparatively few and far between.

Instead, the international community needs to turn to mid-twentieth century psychologist Abraham Maslow whose hierarchy of needs suggest that security and safety are important but are secondary to physiological needs for any person: rest, warmth, water, food.

Food is central to warfighting and to national stability. Whether it was Napoleon or Frederick the Great who said that an army marches on its stomach, the concern over the availability of food is apparent in medieval sieges or Julius Caesar’s near obsession about the availability of corn for his legions or denying it to his enemies as he discusses in his work, The Gallic Wars. The same is true for access to grain in the Sicilian Expedition, the Roman Empire’s ties to Egypt, or in some of the decision-making in major campaigns.

In terms of maritime security, maritime life provides the most fundamental need for protein. Contrary to the popular adage used in another context, there aren’t always other fish in the sea. Fish consumption continues to increase with population, but the population of fish doesn’t necessarily increase with human demand. It is difficult to find a report on fishing that doesn’t paint a bleak picture of overfishing in most waters. Marine protein for people and as fishmeal for cattle is growing unabated. Some dire reports suggest that by mid-century commercial fishing will be unviable due to fish depletion. Fish as a resource will be fought over just as spice and oil have been the cause of conflicts, but it could be far worse considering that spice was a nicety and not a necessity in the hierarchy of needs. And while all nations are dependent on oil economically, its unavailability would not be as immediately life-threatening as would the disappearance of fundamental marine protein. In fact, some countries have already begun firing on fishing vessels intruding on local waters. This is the canary in the coal mine for maritime security.

At nearly every maritime forum, audiences are reminded of the 90/80/70 percentages: the proportions of shipping by water, human population that lives near the water, and surface of the Earth that is covered by water. In this case, we need to consider a new set of numbers that affects maritime security, 50/40/30/20, including:

  • 50 percent of global fish stocks that are fully exploited
  • 40 percent of the world’s population relies on fish for food
  • 30 percent of the world’s fishing fleet is Chinese
  • 20 percent of global fish is caught illegally

Part of the problem is that 20 percent, otherwise known as Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. One needs only read the work being done at the Pew Charitable Trusts or the superlative journalism by reporter Ian Urbina that cast a light on illegal fishing and its relationship to other security issues. 20 to 30 percent of fish sold in the United States, for example, was caught illegally. It can be higher elsewhere.

The U.S. Navy is not in the business of dealing with illegal fishing, as one senior Navy advocate once told this author. “That is not our job. It is not our mission. We have China to deal with.” China is at the heart of the problem given how its fishing fleets have moved well beyond the South China Sea to nearly all parts of the globe in recent decades. The issue is recognized by the current U.S. administration: “The PRC ranks first in the world for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in coastal nations’ waters around the world, threatening local economies and harming the marine environment. Chinese leaders’ unwillingness to rein in these globally harmful practices does not match their rhetorical promises of environmental stewardship.” In Congress, the Maritime SAFE Act to address the threat of IUU fishing to national security was incorporated in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. Just a few elements of this legislation direct the inclusion of counter-IUU fishing as part of the mission of the Combined Maritime Forces, including counter-IUU fishing exercises in the annual at-sea exercises conducted by the Department of Defense, in coordination with the United States Coast Guard, and creating partnerships similar to the Oceania Maritime Security Initiative and the Africa Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership in other priority regions. It also encourages shiprider agreements.

The Navy would understandably resist this added mission for a variety of reasons. Organizationally, it changes very slowly, and is fundamentally opposed to shifting some construction resources from capital ships to smaller vessels that would be more appropriately suited for maritime security missions such as IUUF partnerships. Influential defense contractors are also predisposed to larger ship programs given the financial considerations. In addition, some of the most threatened areas, such as off the coast of West Africa, are not where the Navy can invest many assets given other threats and missions in the Western Pacific and the Middle East. While the Coast Guard is the authoritative choice on countering IUU fishing, it needs more resources, particularly given the cost of even just prosecuting captured vessels.

However, the Navy is deeply involved in great power competition, and IUU fishing is now part of that dynamic. Diminishing marine protein has the potential to destabilize China, given its insatiable appetite to feed its enormous population, and that increases the risk it poses to other nations as it tries to satisfy its essential needs at others’ expense. China will increasingly pressure states for access to their waters or outright impose itself as it has already done before. In the near term, IUU fishing denies local populations resources and economic benefits from marine protein. Today, Chinese fishing vessels are plying global waters for their own interests, but tomorrow, their white hulls will follow to protect these interests. And then, given the quickly growing size of the Chinese Navy, gray hulls will eventually ensure that fishing fleets go virtually unimpeded by any nation.

To counter this, the Department of Defense should establish a new Joint Interagency Task Force for IUU fishing (JIATF-IUUF) that has initial responsibilities off Africa. Such a JIATF, ideally led by U.S. Coast Guard officers, must work closely not only with partnered nations but with nongovernment organizations which have been at the forefront of the IUU fishing challenge. Organizations such as Global Fishing Watch, C4ADS, and others ought to be consulted, as should the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which has shifted its focus from challenging Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean to successful public-private partnerships, especially in Africa. Sea Shepherd provides platforms and crews while the partnered host nations embark law enforcement detachments. This has resulted in the capture or seizure of more than 50 illegal fishing trawlers in recent years. Sea Shepherd, an organization with more than a dozen ships globally, is able to operate for about $10 million annually (due in part to most of the crew being unpaid volunteers). Whether the U.S. Government is willing to admit it or not, Sea Shepherd is providing capacity building and maritime partnerships that have been successful. In some cases, it has used former Coast Guard cutters. But the fact they are able to have such an impact at low cost ought to be looked at as a possible model for future U.S. partnerships.


Between NGOs, elements of U.S. government agencies, and Congressional legislation, there are positive moves toward addressing IUU fishing. Given the rapid depletion rates of fish stock, China’s growing global presence, and the impact of IUU fishing on economies, more action must be taken. Part of that action requires a reassessment of real innovative and adaptive measures that NGOs have used in partnership with host nations to counter what may be the greatest challenge in the twenty-first century.

Commander Claude Berube, USNR, PhD teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy. The views expressed are his and not necessarily those of the Academy or the Navy.

Featured Image: (South Korean Coast Guard photo)

NavyCon 2020: Navies, Science Fiction, and Great Power Competition

By Claude Berube

Three years ago, Jerry Hendrix, Mark Vandroff, CDR Salamander, and I were reminiscing about old sci-fi shows and their navy traits. Half-jokingly, I suggested we put together a science fiction convention focused on navies. And then it happened. The result was the first NavyCon in 2017 which was a one-day event held at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

At its conclusion, I received comments from the audience and emails from strangers asking when the next event would be held. We won’t wait three years for the next one. This event is intended to take a serious (as well as sometimes light-hearted) approach in understanding how science fiction might help us think differently about navies of today or the near future. Science fiction is often unbound by conventional thinking. The technologies and platforms we find commonplace might have been considered fantastical just a century or two ago. It is human imagination that envisioned going to the moon and human ingenuity that made it happen. It is that same creativity and inspiration that will move us forward together.

Thank you to the presenters, special guests, and all the people who made this happen. I hope you enjoy this NavyCon.

See the NavyCon 2020 Program Guide here, and the full video replay and a listing of specific presentations below.

00:00-02:05 CDR Claude Berube, USNR, PhD
Director, US Naval Academy Museum

Opening remarks

02:06-07:25 CDR BJ Armstrong
Associate Chair, Department of History, U.S. Naval Academy

“The U.S. Navy and SciFi: From the Civil War to Midway”

07:26-09:04 Message from LT Kayla Barron
Naval Academy Class of 2010, NASA Astronaut

09:05-21:20 Keynote: Major General Mick Ryan
Commander, Australian Defence College
“Science Fiction and its Utility for the National Security Community”

21:21-30:02 CDR Claude Berube, USNR, PhD
Director, U.S Naval Academy Museum
“How the Federation Overcame the Shipbuilding Gap before the Defense of Coppelius in
‘Star Trek Picard’”

30:03-42:28 Cory Hollon
U.S. Air Force
“The Kaiju Should Have Won: Force Deployment and Strategy in Pacific Rim”

42:33-43:52 Message from Dr. Kori Schake
Director of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies
American Enterprise Institute

44:06-57:40 August Cole
Co-author of “Ghost Fleet” and “Burn-In”
“When A Robot Has The Helm”

Standalone Video Jennifer Marland
Curator, NSWC-Carderock
“A Navy is Essential for your Planet: Wars Between Barrayar and Cetaganda in Lois
McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosiverse” 

1:03:15-1:07:17 Message from CDR Salamander 

1:14:55-1:26:18 Clara Engle
Department of Commerce
“Babylon 5 and International Relations Theory”

1:26:45-1:41:37 Randy Papadopoulos
Historian for the Secretary of the Navy
“Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Why Space Warfare will be about Fleets”

1:41:47-1:43:38 Message from Hugh Hewitt

1:43:52-1:59:40 MAJ Thomas Harper, JAG, USAR
“It’s a Trap! The Intersection of the Battle of Endor & the Law of Armed Conflict”

2:00:02-2:12:08 Jonathan Bratten
Command Historian/Maine National Guard
“Perils of Joint Command: Imperial Disaster at Endor”

2:12:37-2:24-54 Ian Boley
PhD candidate, History, Texas A&M University
“Sidewinders, Sunbeams, and Negaspheres: Skunkworks and Rapid Innovation in the
Lensman Series”

2:25:21-2:38:40 CAPT Jerry Hendrix, USN (ret.) PhD
Vice President, The Telemus Group
“Honorverse: Revolutions in Military Affairs and the Weapons Development Board”

2:38:53-2:41:55 Message from Congressman Mike Gallagher

2:42:49-2:56-53 David Larter
Reporter, Defense News
“Alien and the Operators”

2:57:00-3:06:21 CAPT Mark Vandroff, USN (ret.)
Deputy Assistant to the President & Senior Director for Defense Policy, National Security Council
“Engineering for Great Power Competition”

03:06:35-3:10:27 Message from author David Weber

03:10:40-03:31:10 Christopher Weuve
“Aircraft Carriers in Space!”

03:31:25-3:46:05 CDR Phil Pournelle, USN (ret.)
“Traveler’s Trillion Credit Squadron Game and Future Fleet Architecture”

03:46:21-3:47:05 CDR Claude Berube, USNR, PhD 
Director, U.S. Naval Academy Museum
Closing Remarks

Commander Claude Berube, USNR, PhD, teaches history at the U.S. Naval Academy, is the Director of the Naval Academy Museum, and is a former Senate staffer and defense contractor. His next two books will be released in the next year. The views above are the author’s alone and not necessarily reflect those of the Navy or Naval Academy.

Featured Image: “Star Wars: Battle of Coruscant” by Dave Seeley via Artstation.

“Pixelated Covers in the Sky”: Graduating The Naval Academy Class of 2055

In 1876, Lieutenant Theodorus Mason, later the first head of the Office of Naval Intelligence, published an article “Two Lessons from the Future.” Using the literary device of letters in the future, he wrote that “they are supposed to be written in the future, and are merely conjectures as to the probable results of possible events.” The letters predicted the impact in 1880 of torpedoes defeating the Navy in a great battle and a later victory due to trends and necessary changes. As he wrote in the latter: “Something had to be done and was done” including throwing the Naval Academy open to all applicants, with “great weight being given to professional aptitude and officerlike qualities.”

It is in the spirit of Theodorus Mason that the following speech is offered.

By Claude Berube

Commissioning Day, 2055

Good morning, Brigade.

It doesn’t seem that long ago that I sat where you are now – sort of. Thirty-five years ago. I was in the Naval Academy Class of 2020, the first class to have a virtual graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I can’t say a few of us weren’t disappointed while we were just weeks away from celebrating four years of hard work, some fun, and the foundation of lifelong friends and shipmates. But we and our families saw the immediate consequences of COVID-19. Some of our parents and siblings lost their jobs as the nation closed most businesses – some of them permanently. Eventually, nearly every one of us lost someone we knew – family, friends, neighbors. We had dreamt of that one day – commissioning – being on the football field under the sunshine and roar of the Blue Angels. Our loved ones were going to be in the stands cheering as we approached leadership and receive our diploma. We were to be sworn in as officers in the Navy and Marine Corps. We were going to toss our covers in the air and leave before children swarmed the field to pick them up.  

That did not happen.

That Superintendent made some of the toughest calls any Superintendent in the history of the Academy had to make, from not reforming the Brigade after Spring Break to cancelling graduation. The history – the data – in the past 35 years has proven what those decisions meant. He protected the health and safety of the midshipmen, the faculty, the staff, and the community. History shows what would have happened if he hadn’t demonstrated that leadership – that ability to make tough calls.

He saved lives. And we welcome and recognize he and his wife who are with us here to share in this day.

[Resounding applause from the midshipmen via the speakers.]

Our class took that leadership by example to heart. It prepared us to make the tough calls in our own careers. We learned to be agile like when the entire faculty and Brigade had to literally shift overnight from teaching in the classroom to teaching online as we were spread across the country on computers – those things you only see in museums today. We learned how to modify our services. We learned the importance of the situational awareness of our people when they’re overseas. And in the aftermath of COVID-19, the nation and the Navy learned to adapt our education and training.           

COVID-19 had many effects but three especially on how we had to change the navy including the Naval Academy. The first was its effect on the economy. The Dow Jones tanked – three times. The debt spiraled out of control. The president and Congress had little choice – they had to shrink the military budget. The navy was the first hit because of the cost of its platforms. In recognition of his prophecies about the “Terrible Twenties,” CDR Salamander was given the rank of brevet Commodore. When we graduated in 2020, some navalists were touting a 355-ship Navy. [Gasps from the midshipmen]. That’s right. Who could have predicted the 155-ship Navy that you will join in a few weeks?

We had to be leaner, so autonomous, unmanned vehicles proliferated. By 2040, we grounded the last of our manned air platforms and that’s why modern graduating classes don’t select naval aviation as a community like their parents and grandparents did, and why Pensacola was BRAC’d shortly after. Only a few officers are needed to command drone squadrons from our aircraft carrier.

The second effect was on jobs. Jobless rates soared in 2020. Some businesses closed until the pandemic abated the following year. Other businesses closed permanently. Those businesses that returned found ways to reduce costs. Fast food was the first to turn to automation. Even restaurants began replacing service staff. Soon there was a permanently high unemployment rate which led to more people competing for enlistments in the military and admission to the Naval Academy. When I was in high school, about 16,000 students competed for 1,100 slots. Nearly 40,000 students across the United States competed for one of the 500 slots in your class. The Navy determined that it should expect more years of service. In addition to the competitive entry to the Academy, constantly high unemployment meant we could no longer lose our educated and trained officers after only five years. Back in 2018, I signed my 2-for-7 [groans from the midshipmen]. Today, you sign your 2-for-17s+5s (active and reserve.) But you all have a guaranteed job defending our country and you’re still young enough to embark on a second career.

The third effect was the options and flexibility presented by online teaching. As the fleet shrank in size, so too did the need for officers. Additional cost savings came from smaller crews from increased automation. The Navy revisited how we commissioned officers.

When I was your age, officers commissioned through the Academy, ROTC, Officer Candidate School, or a few in the Direct Commission Officer program for Reserves. The Naval Officer Commissioning Act of 2037 consolidated the programs for the first time since before the first World War. But we knew we couldn’t return to the past. We had to adapt. And that’s why we changed how the Academy prepared officers. We asked ourselves a fundamental question: how could the navy and the nation retain the best of the Academy, OCS, and ROTC? We couldn’t maintain the four-year program we had become accustomed to. Some alumni argued, “you shouldn’t change tradition.” But what tradition? The Academy wasn’t always a four-year program. And it didn’t always require four years for a class to graduate, as we witnessed in previous wars. Commissioning didn’t always include a hat toss – that started in 1912. The Herndon climb only started in 1940 and they didn’t grease it until 1949.

Tradition is not constant. It has a start. It changes. Tradition rarely retains its original qualities and people rarely remember the historical reasons that began those traditions.

The Navy and Congress found the right formula for our 21st century conditions. Anyone accepted to the Academy could choose whatever accredited domestic or international college to attend that they wanted to for one year. Because of advancements in online teaching, they would have one online course with a Naval Academy professor to start their tie to Annapolis. In their second year, they would serve on a ship as a midshipman. These conditions allowed the students to grow by seeing a bit of the world around them, to experience other schools and cultures, and to see what life in the Navy meant. If they did well in that one-year college program and received a positive recommendation from their ship’s commanding officer, they would come to Annapolis for I-Day. Induction Day. And here you would learn for the next three years.

Class of 2055, we must be aware of the conditions around us. We must adapt to those conditions. We must remain agile. And just as my class faced its challenge and sacrifice, so too does yours. Because of that, you are each ready to join the fleet and the challenges you will face in your careers.

I salute you, good luck, and hold fast.

[The midshipmen stood, cheered, and tossed their covers in the air. As media digitographers captured the moment, the covers and the midshipmen slowly pixilated, disappearing off the field to leave behind neat rows of holograph emitters.]

Commander Claude Berube, USNR, PhD, teaches history at the U.S. Naval Academy, is the Director of the Naval Academy Museum, and is a former Senate staffer and defense contractor. His next two books will be released in the next year. The views above are the author’s alone and not necessarily reflect those of the Navy or Naval Academy.

Featured Image: ANNAPOLIS, Md. (December 19, 2019) U.S. Naval Academy delayed graduation ceremony. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathan Burke/Released)

President Charles Stewart and the Making of American Naval Power

Alternate History Topic Week

By Claude Berube

Having just completed his latest assignment as Commodore of the Home Squadron, Charles Stewart had returned to his intermittent business interests that had afforded opportunities to officers without orders.  He had seen the flyers, his stately image emblazoned above the appeals for him to run for president of the United States.  At the behest of fellow Philadelphian merchants, he agreed to join them in Baltimore where both the Whigs and Democrats held their conventions.  Henry Clay was already certain to be the Whig nominee; the fight for the Democratic nomination was far more complex.

Martin van Buren’s lock began to falter based on his position on slavery and opposition to the annexation of Texas.  War of 1812 hero Lewis Cass supported annexation.  There were other contenders: James Buchanan, John C. Calhoun, and Silas Wright.  In the background was the decidedly non-political hero of the War with the French in 1798, the Barbary War, and the War of 1812.  Van Buren was gone by the seventh ballot.  Massachusetts delegate George Bancroft offered Speaker of the House James Knox Polk as a running mate for Van Buren or Stewart.  Polk’s supporters vowed to endorse Stewart if he selected Polk as his vice president.

The matter was offered to Stewart at a dinner.  He said nothing, appearing unusually nervous and fidgety.  This was the moment of decision.  If he turned them away, there would never be another opportunity and he would return to his estate in Bordentown to live out his days as the chance for another sea command – particularly as he had already been commodore of the Mediterranean, Pacific and Home Squadrons – was unlikely. 

“If nominated,” he finally said, “I will accept.” His nomination was immediately reported by Samuel Morse’s new telegraph.

With Jackson’s protégé, Polk, by his side, and the delegates from Pennsylvania and New York committing to the ticket, the northern and western states soon followed suit.  The sixty-six year old Stewart provided a heroic narrative for the newspapers, much as Jackson’s army experience had vaulted him into the presidency.  In the general election, Polk’s Tennessee roots offset Clay’s enough for Stewart to be elected president.

Though his vice president kept pushing an agenda to annex Texas and secure the northwestern territories, Stewart was resistant to fighting on too many fronts for a nation with a small army and navy. He named his friend and navalist James Fenimore Cooper Secretary of the Navy, a move not unprecedented since another of the literary Knickerbocker Group James Kirke Paulding, had held the same position under Van Buren.  Cooper’s extensive non-fiction writing in the previous decade about building up the fleet convinced Stewart that he was the right man for his administration. Stewart focused his administration on building and modernizing the navy and providing new markets for the merchant fleet.  Westward expansion held no interest to the sailor-president. 

Naming Matthew Perry America’s first admiral, Stewart had read his 1839 report on the navies of Europe.  A young French ship designer had also come to his attention.  The days of wooden frigates and ships of the line designed by Stewart’s former colleagues, the Humphreys, were passing.  Stewart realized that the country had to make a leap forward if it was to become a great power.  He hired Henri Dupuy de Lome, a French ship designer proposing an iron-hulled-screw-driven frigate.  Together with Commodore James Barron, who had designed a steam-powered tri-hulled ram ship in the 1830s, and a young engineer Charles Ellet proposing his own ram ship, the team built a new naval force.

In late 1845, Stewart sent his Secretary of State Richard Rush, a former Minister to Great Britain, to issue demands of the British Empire including accepting U.S. terms on the Oregon Territory.  Rush and Stewart alone remained from their Philadelphia schoolyard from where two other friends perished – first Richard Somers at Tripoli and then Stephen Decatur in a duel.  Stewart built a coalition of those defeated by the Royal Navy that had allowed it to rule the seas.  Spain had a small navy with some ships that remained in harbor since the days of Trafalgar.  But France offered Stewart more hope.

In 1836, Louis-Napoleon, the nephew of Bonaparte, had attempted a coup.  Failing that, he sailed for the United States.  He met in New York with the elite including generals and naval officers.  He vowed to poet Fitz-Greene Halleck – one of the Knickerbockers – that he would become Emperor.  He was welcomed at the Naval Lyceum at the Brooklyn Navy Yard then he traveled to Bordentown where his uncle Joseph – the dethroned King of Spain – had exiled himself.   Here Louis-Napoleon became acquainted with Stewart and his family.  Stewart funded Napoleon in 1845 to overthrow the government then sent his own son, Charles Tudor Stewart, as emissary to the throne of Napoleon III.

England rebuked Rush and when he returned, Stewart asked for a declaration of war.

Queen Victoria, Prime Minister Robert Peel by her side, sent the British Fleet under the aged Admiral of the Fleet James Hawkins-Whitshed off to the Americas to put the upstart nation down quickly, lest other nations be inspired by their defiance.  The Royal Navy hadn’t been defeated in forty years and its wooden walls would not fail now.  Its objective was the Chesapeake Bay where transport ships would land in Norfolk, Baltimore, and up the Potomac River to Washington.

A recognized Constitutionalist, Stewart had averted a war with Algiers in 1805 when he pointed out to the squadron’s Commodore that only Congress could declare war and again in 1815 when notified that the Treaty of Ghent had been signed pressed the crew of the Constitution to continue its wartime footing since only the Senate could ratify a treaty – and there had been no such news.   It allowed him just a few weeks later his greatest victory of the USS Constitution over the HMS Cyane and HMS Levant. Now, he followed the Constitution again while anti-British fervor in Congress overwhelmingly supported a third war for American independence and reduce England’s control of the oceans and the trade it dominated.  He also knew Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution which stated that the President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy.  He would lead the fleet.

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Perry objected as the honor should have been his as Admiral until Stewart divided the fleet.  One squadron under Perry steamed south from Baltimore toward Norfolk.  The English fleet of nearly one hundred ships sailed slowly into the mouth of the Chesapeake toward the unmistakable plumes steamships to the north.  Stewart’s fleet waited in Gosport.  Thirty years before, Stewart was in command of USS Constellation and was prevented from getting underway because of Admiral Sir John Warren’s squadron.  This new British fleet had several steamships, but no ironclads.  Unfortunately the British, who had always been prone to overpowering their ships at the risk of maneuverability, sent their expedited screw-propelled ships-of-the-line like the QUEEN and ALBION classes at the head of the fleet.

Perry’s squadron was the first to fire upon the fleet while Stewart’s squadron of iron-clad ram ships steamed east into the heart of British fleet.  Ships of the line and frigates were holed one after the other while others fell to Perry’s barrage.  A quarter of the fleet, including most of the transports, tried to escape to the Atlantic, but soon encountered a joint French-Spanish fleet at the mouth of the Chesapeake.  The remaining ships surrendered without firing a shot.  In just a few hours with the Battle of the Chesapeake, Stewart had achieved the greatest maritime victory since Trafalgar.

England soon sent diplomats to negotiate a peace.   During negotiations, Stewart provided aid to his son-in-law, John Parnell, to foster a rebellion in Ireland as Napoleon III became more active in the English Channel.  The Peel government acquiesced to Stewart’s primary demand and lost not only claims to the Oregon territory but all of Canada.  Stewart had doubled the size of the country in a short war, secured a western coast for the country with additional ports, increased the number of free states, and assured additional pro-Stewart members of Congress in the 1846 election. 

Stewart was able to turn to domestic issues, particularly that of slavery which continued to politically divide the country.  With the addition of the new northern states, Stewart had enough support in Congress to outlaw slavery, fomenting revolt in the South.  Stewart averted a civil war by listening to his vice president who for years had been advocating Texas annexation and a war with Mexico.

Encouraged by Stewart’s stance, Napoleon III launched an invasion of Mexico claiming the right of free trade was being denied by President Farias and then Santa Anna.  Stewart announced support for France as he ordered squadrons to support US operations in Texas and California.  After a long-standing feud with General Winfield Scott (Stewart’s marriage of proposal to Maria Mayo, Scott’s eventual wife, was rebuked,) Stewart appointed General Zachary Taylor to command the Army.

Within two months, the US controlled all of Mexico’s territory north of the Rio Grande while France controlled all territories to the south.  The final battle occurred outside Mexico City where the French defeated and killed Santa Anna on the fifth of May, 1847, a day still celebrated in 21st century France as “Cinque de Mai.”  With this war concluded, Stewart dispatched a squadron under Commodore John Aulick to open trade with Japan and expand trade with China.

After the First Franco-American Coalition War, Stewart knew he could not avert a civil war with pro-slavery and states’ rights forces demanding that Texas and the new territories become slave-holding states.  While Congress debated the Great Compromise of 1848, Stewart took preemptive action and sent the fleet under Commodore David Conner to secure southern ports and Admiral Perry into New Orleans to take the Mississippi River.  Taylor took his army and advanced them on all federal arsenals and depots before the southern states could organize. 

The south began a guerilla campaign led by a young hero of the Coalition War, Robert E. Lee.  But Lee, an engineer accustomed to large troop operations was either by temperament or experience unable to conduct the only warfare option available to the south.  Within four months, Lee’s Raiders and their associated militias were captured with the loss of nearly one thousand Union troops.  Stewart was criticized for such a costly operation but soon found favor from both the north and south with the Stewart Proviso.  A delegation composed of Stewart, Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, Stephen Douglas, and Nicholas Trist, agreed that: 1) slavery would be abolished in the United States, 2) any freed slaves would be offered five acres of land in the new Canadian states, 3) federal occupation of the port cities would end, and 4) the former slave states would receive exclusive trade rights due to the recent agreements in southeast Asia.

Having gained control of most of North America fulfilling his party’s dreams of Manifest Destiny, diminishing the role of the world’s superpower, increased America’s geopolitical position, and enriching the country – particularly the South which enjoyed unprecedented riches, enabled Stewart to easily defeat his opponent in the 1848 election, the Whig nominee Winfield Scott.  The Free Soil Party dissolved before the election because of the resolution of slavery.

His first term marked by rapid military operations and overtures to both Europe and Asia, Stewart’s second term soon took advantage of the European Revolutions of 1848.  Stewart’s son-in-law John Parnell took control of an independent Ireland as his wife gave birth to their son, Charles Stewart Parnell.  Stewart formed global squadrons to secure America’s interests and expand commerce in South America and Africa as European powers yielded what little control they had in the wake of the revolutions.

In 1852, the seventy-four year old chose to run for a final, third term.  James Fenimore Cooper remained one of his closest cabinet members and penned a major treatise on the American navy’s global imperative.  The tome was advanced by Stewart in his third inaugural address and embraced by Congress which supported the Naval Expansion Act of 1853 assuring construction of the largest fleet in the world and ensuring global security for nearly sixty years.

Claude Berube is the co-author of A Call to the Sea: Captain Charles Stewart of the USS Constitution” and has taught in the Political Science and History Departments since 2005.  His latest novel, “SYREN’S SONG,” will be published in November by Naval Institute Press.