"From the smallest boy to the oldest seaman not a look of fear was to be seen- (Captain Isaac Hull) as the USS CONSTITUTION, the fledgling United States Navy's new warship, closed in on the HMS GUERRIERE. The USS CONSTITUTION would reign victorious in the subsequent battle, and thus establish the United States as a fierce new naval power, and begin a tradition that eventually leads to the prestige and world recognition of the power of our modern navy.
After the revolution the United States of America's economy depended on unrestricted, worldwide, sea born commerce. Previously guarded by His Majesty's Royal Navy, America's merchant ships were left unprotected against foreign threats, especially the Barbary pirates of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. After December 8, 1793 when eleven United States ships were captured and their Christian crews sold into slavery, President George Washington sent a letter to Congress officially urging action.
A select committee, "weighted heavily with people of maritime persuasion"() advised Congress that four 44-gun and two 22-gun ships needed to be constructed. Through heated debates along the normal North-South and inland-tidewater lines, Congress authorized the construction of three 44-gun frigates, the UNITED STATES, the PRESIDENT, and the CONSTITUTION, one 38-gun frigate, the CONSTELLATION, and two 36-gun frigates, the CONGRESS and the CHESAPEAKE.
Joshua Humphreys, a Quaker from Philadelphia was assigned with designing the nations first men-of-war. Humphreys had a belief that since the young country could only afford a few ships, those that she did build "ought to be built of the highest standards using the finest materials available". () He also developed a revolutionary design for the frigate, that some believe might have come from Pennsylvanian barn roof construction. .
At the end of the eighteenth century most fighting ships were either the heavily armed but sluggish ship-of-the-line types, or the nimble but weak frigates.