Navy Cyberspace Submarine Website Header

An Act for the Government of the Navy of the United States

The first rules for the governing of the Navy of the United Colonies were enacted by Congress on November 28, 1775. The "Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies of North-America", with its 41 Articles, were ordered to remain in effect by order of SEC. 8. of "An act providing a Naval Armament" for the newly established navy of the United States.

It was not until "An Act for the Government of the Navy of the United States", enacted, March 2, 1799, that Congress established the United States Navy's first Constitutional law that provided rules and regulations. The Act:

Law as Written [1] (Eight Pages)

SECTION 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the following rules and regulations be adopted and put in force, for the government of the navy of the United States.

ARTICLE 1. The commanders of all ships and vessels, belonging to the United States, are strictly required to show in themselves a good example of honour and virtue to their officers and men, and to be very vigilant in inspecting the behaviour of all such as are under them, and to discountenance and suppress all dissolute, immoral, and disorderly practices, and also such as are contrary to the rules of discipline and obedience, and to correct those who are guilty of the same, according to the usage of the sea service.

2. The commanders of the ships of the United States, having on board chaplains, are to take care, that divine service be performed twice a day, and a sermon preached on Sundays, unless bad weather, or other extraordinary accidents prevent.

3. Any person who shall be guilty of profane swearing, or of drunkenness, if a seaman or marine, shall be put in irons until sober, and then flogged if the captain shall think proper--but if an officer, he shall forfeit two days pay, or incur such punishment as a court martial shall impose, and as the nature and degree of the offence shall deserve.

4. No commander, for any one offence, shall inflict any punishment upon a seaman or marine beyond twelve lashes upon his bare back with a cat of nine tails, and no other cat shall be made use of on board any ship of war, or other vessel belonging to the United States--if the fault shall deserve a greater punishment, he is to apply to the Secretary of the Navy, the commander in chief of the navy, or the commander of a squadron, in order to the trying of him by a court martial; and in the mean time he may put him under confinement.

5. The commander is never by his own authority to discharge a commission or warrant officer, nor to punish or strike him, but he may suspend or confine him, and shall report the case to the Secretary of the Navy, or commandant of a squadron, as soon as he arrives in port, if at sea, or if in port in ten days, in order that a court martial may decide on the offence.

6. The officer who commands by accident in the captain or commander's absence (unless he be absent for a time by leave) shall not order any correction but confinement, and upon the captain's return on board, he shall then give an account of his reasons for so doing.

7. The captain is to cause the articles of war to be hung up in some public place of the ship, and read to the ship's company once a month.

8. Whenever a captain shall enter or enlist a seaman, he shall take care to enter on his books, the time and terms of his entering, in order to his being justly paid.

9. The captain shall, before he sails, make return to the Secretary of the Navy a complete list of all his officers and men, with the time and terms of their entering, and during his cruise or station, shall keep a true account of the desertion or death of any of them, and of the entering of others, and after the expiration of the time for which they were entered, and before any of them are paid off, he shall make return of a complete list of the same, including those who shall remain on board his ship.

10. The men shall, at their request, be furnished with slops that are necessary, by order of the captain, and the amount delivered to each man, shall be regularly returned by the purser, so that the same be stopped out of his pay.


Law Continued On:

Navy Rules Page 2


[1]United States Statutes at Large, Volume 01, pg. 709-717, Government Printing Office.

©Navy CyberSpace. All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Service and Privacy Policy