Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 4.djvu/15

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1807
5
THE "CHESAPEAKE" AND "LEOPARD."

ington. The inefficiency of the Government in doing those duties which governments had hitherto been created to perform, was shown even more strikingly in the story of the "Chesapeake" than in the conspiracy of Burr. The frigate "Constitution" had sailed for the Mediterranean in August, 1803. The Government knew that her crew were entitled to their discharge, and that the President had no right to withhold it. The country was at peace; no emergency of any kind existed. A single ship of about one thousand tons burden needed to be fitted for sea at a date fixed three years beforehand; yet when the time came and the "Constitution" ought to have reached home, the "Chesapeake" had not so much as begun preparation. Captain James Barron was selected to command her as commodore of the Mediterranean squadron; Captain Charles Gordon—a native of the eastern shore of Maryland, the youngest master-commandant on the list—was appointed as her captain. Both were good officers and seamen; but Gordon received his orders only February 22, and could not take command until May 1,—long after he should have reached Gibraltar. Such was the inefficiency of the navy-yard at Washington that although the Secretary of the Navy had the "Chesapeake" under his eye and was most anxious to fit her out, and although Gordon fretted incessantly, making bitter complaints of delay, the frigate still remained in the mechanics' hands until the month of May. According to Commodore Barron the Washington