The Continental Congress capped a number of months of debate when it authorized on October 13th 1775 the arming of two sailing ships with guns. The two ships were then ordered to try to intercept two British ships on the way to Canada with armaments. Some of the members of the Congress led by John Adams had been advocating for the establishment of the Naval forces for many months, arguing that they could help protect coastal communities and disrupt British communications. The Southern delegates opposed the move which they felt as too radical and would do little to protect Southern ports. An initial proposal by the Rhode Island delegation to establish an American naval fleet was attacked as too vague and never came to a vote. Circumstances changed when news reached the Congress that the British were sending two unarmed ships laden with arms to Canada.
At the same time Congress received a report from General Washington in which he reported that he had enlisted three coastal schooners into his forces to help intercept British ships. Since the US now effectively had naval ships, authorizing the arming of additional ones no longer seemed a stretch for members of Congress. Thus on October 13th they so authorized the action While the US navy during the Revolutionary War could never really threaten the British Naval superiority, it fielded over 50 ships of various kinds during the war, and captured 200 British ships. The Navy was key in maintaining the American communications to Europe and bringing vital supplies to the US.
The building began as a one and one-half story house built in 1734 by George Washington’s father, Augustine Washington, and received its well-known name from his half-brother Lawrence Washington.
George Washington began running Mount Vernon in 1754, and over the next 45 years slowly enlarged the dwelling to create the 21-room residence we see today. Washington oversaw each renovation, advising on design, construction, and decoration, despite being away much of the time. Conscious that the world was watching, Washington selected architectural features that expressed his growing status as a Virginia gentleman and ultimately as the leader of a new nation.
On New Year’s Day, 1802, President Thomas Jefferson penned a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut. In his written address, he used the celebrated “wall of separation” metaphor to describe the First Amendment relationship between reli- gion and civil government. Jefferson wrote, in sweeping, memorable phrases:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.
~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptist Association of Connecticut