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On December 29th the USS Constitution defeated the HMS Java off the coast of San Salvadore
On December 29th the USS Constitution under the command of Captain Bainbridge was off the coast of San Salvadore. Bainbridge spotted a British ship closer to shore. The ship was the 38 gun HMS Java commanded by Captain Henry Labert. The Java was quicker then the Constitution while the 44 gun Constitution out gunned the Java.
The Java was towing an American Merchant ship that it had captured. When it spotted the Constitution it sent its captured ship into San Salvador Harbor and raced to face the Constitution. At 2PM the two ships were within cannon range. The two sides faced each other with broadsides While the Java initially out maneuvered the Constitution, the latters larger number of guns and the greater accuracy of its gunnery took a steady toll on the Java. By 3PM Captain Lambert had concluded that his only hope was to board the Constitution. That attempt failed when an accurate broadside struck his ship by the constitution that brought down his Top Mast and foremast. By 4:20 the Java’s main mask fell. An hour later when the Constitution was nearing for another run on the stricken ship the Java struck her colors and surrendered.
U.S. Constitution signed
The Constitution of the United States of America is signed by 38 of 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Supporters of the document waged a hard-won battle to win ratification by the necessary nine out of 13 U.S. states.
The Articles of Confederation, ratified several months before the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, provided for a loose confederation of U.S. states, which were sovereign in most of their affairs. On paper, Congress–the central authority–had the power to govern foreign affairs, conduct war, and regulate currency, but in practice these powers were sharply limited because Congress was given no authority to enforce its requests to the states for money or troops. By 1786, it was apparent that the Union would soon break up if the Articles of Confederation were not amended or replaced. Five states met in Annapolis, Maryland, to discuss the issue, and all the states were invited to send delegates to a new constitutional convention to be held in Philadelphia.
On May 25, 1787, delegates representing every state except Rhode Island convened at Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania State House for the Constitutional Convention. The building, which is now known as Independence Hall, had earlier seen the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and the signing of the Articles of Confederation. The assembly immediately discarded the idea of amending the Articles of Confederation and set about drawing up a new scheme of government. Revolutionary War hero George Washington, a delegate from Virginia, was elected convention president.
During an intensive debate, the delegates devised a brilliant federal organization characterized by an intricate system of checks and balances. The convention was divided over the issue of state representation in Congress, as more-populated states sought proportional legislation, and smaller states wanted equal representation. The problem was resolved by the Connecticut Compromise, which proposed a bicameral legislature with proportional representation in the lower house (House of Representatives) and equal representation of the states in the upper house (Senate).
Articles of Confederation
America’s first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, was ratified in 1781, a time when the nation was a loose confederation of states, each operating like independent countries. The national government was comprised of a single legislature, the Congress of the Confederation there was no president or judicial branch.
The Articles of Confederation gave Congress the power to govern foreign affairs, conduct war and regulate currency however, in reality these powers were sharply limited because Congress had no authority to enforce its requests to the states for money or troops.
Did you know? George Washington was initially reluctant to attend the Constitutional Convention. Although he saw the need for a stronger national government, he was busy managing his estate at Mount Vernon, suffering from rheumatism and worried that the convention wouldn&apost be successful in achieving its goals.
Soon after America won its independence from Great Britain with its 1783 victory in the American Revolution, it became increasingly evident that the young republic needed a stronger central government in order to remain stable.
In 1786, Alexander Hamilton, a lawyer and politician from New York, called for a constitutional convention to discuss the matter. The Confederation Congress, which in February 1787 endorsed the idea, invited all 13 states to send delegates to a meeting in Philadelphia.
The Constitution’s Last Victory
Constitution (center) engages Levant and Cyane in February 1815. An American officer reported that Cyane had taken on five feet of water and was listing badly when its colors were struck. Levant's hull, he added, was "pretty well drilled and her deck a perfect slaughter house." (Navy Art Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC)
Early in the War of 1812, the fledgling U.S. Navy displayed its mettle against Britain’s vaunted Royal Navy. The British had a far larger fleet than the United States, but U.S. frigates were fast and formidable. The crews of USS Constitution and USS United States, for example, outgunned British warships in the Atlantic. Americans were doubly thrilled when United States’ commander Stephen Decatur sailed the damaged enemy frigate Macedonian back to a U.S. port as a trophy.
But the second year of the war proved more difficult for the United States. There were military setbacks on land and a gathering British presence off the U.S. coast, both of which cast a shadow on American expectations. Stung by early naval defeats, the British Admiralty in 1813 forbade any one-on-one battles with America’s heavy frigates, which tended to have bigger cannons and stronger hulls than their British rivals. Britain had already blockaded much of the Eastern Seaboard, and with its war against French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte winding down, Britain aimed to deploy more ships to completely choke American navy and merchant-ship traffic. What’s more, the six big frigates that functioned as the U.S. Navy’s muscle—all commissioned by the Naval Armament Act of 1794 to thwart the Barbary pirates—were at that moment in no position to trade fire with the Brits. One was “in ordinary” (out of commission), three were blockaded and one, Chesapeake, had been captured on June 1, 1813. That left Constitution, affectionately known as “Old Ironsides,” as the Navy’s sole fighting option, but even it was in dry dock and under threat of being corralled in Boston Harbor.
Against this backdrop, Captain Charles Stewart took command of Constitution on July 18, 1813. Born in 1778, Stewart grew up in Philadelphia, where he was a boyhood friend and classmate of Decatur. Stewart went to sea as a cabin boy when he was 13 and rose quickly in the merchant service. Just before his 20th birthday, the Navy offered him a commission as a lieutenant. Stewart accepted and soon distinguished himself in the Quasi-War with France when, as commander of the schooner Experiment, he captured two French ships and freed several American vessels from the French. Stewart did not always endear himself to his superiors, but his naval skills were unquestioned. Transferred to the Mediterranean, Stewart was given command of the brig Siren and provided cover for Decatur’s daring raid to blow up Philadelphia, the American frigate captured in the Barbary War with Tripoli in 1803. When war with Britain broke out in 1812, Stewart commanded several smaller ships before being given the helm of Constellation—one of America’s big frigates. Problem was, the Royal Navy had penned up Constellation at Norfolk, Va., leaving Stewart with little chance of achieving the glory he sought.
Stewart lobbied for a change of command and got his wish when he was reassigned to Constitution. Constitution had scored two notable victories in 1812, defeating HMS Guerrière in August and HMS Java in December, and after an overhaul the next year was ready for more action. So was Stewart, and a brilliant bit of seamanship by the American captain signaled the arrival of a new military competitor on the high seas—one that would soon take its place among the globe’s superpowers.
Stewart wasn’t thinking of geostrategic matters in late 1813. He was simply relieved to sail Constitution out of Boston Harbor. It was his first cruise of the war, and within a couple of months he and his crew had captured three British merchant ships. In March, near Barbados, Constitution spotted HMS Pictou, a 14-gun British schooner that was escorting other British ships through the Caribbean. Constitution overpowered the smaller ship, destroying Pictou’s main mast and deck in one pass. Stewart had his first victory of the war, though not one worth bragging about. He nearly got a sterner test after spotting the 36-gun Pique, but the latter, following the Admiralty’s orders not to engage, took advantage of a favorable breeze and sailed out of sight.
When his crew discovered a crack in Constitution’s main mast, Stewart decided to return to Boston—and barely made it. On April 3 two British frigates peeled off from a Royal Navy squadron en route to blockade Boston and chased Constitution north of the city. Stewart slipped into Marblehead Harbor ahead of his pursuers. The arrival of Old Ironsides caused a stir in Marblehead. It was a Sunday, and the faithful were attending services when word came of the ship’s arrival. Led by their preachers, parishioners dashed to the shore to help defend their town. There was no threat, however, and a few days later Constitution sailed down to Boston.
And there the big ship stayed for more than eight months after the Royal Navy deployed outside Boston Harbor. The British hoped that antiwar sentiment, which was rife in New England, would create a separatist movement in the city, but it never materialized. Some local politicians, alarmed by the burning of Washington in August 1814, argued that Constitution should be kept in port and positioned to defend the city. But Stewart aimed to make a run for it, even as the British ships, lurking on the outskirts of the harbor, monitored the readiness of Constitution, no doubt aided by reports from sympathizers.
A rotation of British ships to Halifax for repairs gave Stewart his chance, and on Sunday, December 18, 1814, Constitution left Boston Harbor unchallenged. There were rumors that it was to join other American frigates to attack shipping off the British coast, but Constitution headed south to Bermuda and then sailed east. Stewart’s objective was to disrupt British merchant convoys—and to fight if he got the chance. But as he approached Spain, Stewart learned that a treaty ending hostilities had been signed. A German ship bound for Portugal, he noted in his log on February 8, 1815, carried the news that “peace had been signed at Ghent between the British and American Commissioners.”
Although the treaty had been signed on December 24, 1814, it would not take effect until the U.S. Senate ratified it. So Stewart continued his hunt for British ships—and on February 16, near the Rock of Lisbon, Constitution sighted two sails. One was a neutral Portuguese merchant, the other British, the 74-gun Elizabeth, which Stewart took pains to avoid. Later that day Constitution captured the British merchant Susanna, bound for Liverpool with a cargo worth $75,000. Stewart himself spent the next several days in a fruitless search for merchant convoys while avoiding his well-armed foes, and then came the fighting chance he’d pined for.
Dawn broke to a cloudy sky on February 20, 1815, and found Constitution about 180 miles from Madeira, sailing before a light northeasterly wind. At about 1 p.m. a lookout spotted a sail two points off the larboard bow that changed course and headed in Constitution’s direction. Forty-five minutes later the lookout sighted another sail. The two ships, HMS Cyane and Levant, were the rear guard of a convoy en route from Gibraltar to the West Indies. Each ship was smaller than Constitution, with its 52 guns, but combined they carried more firepower. The Cyane, a light frigate rated for 24 guns, was armed with 35, while the 18-gun corvette Levant actually carried 21 cannons.
Although Stewart did not know the identity of either ship, he was certain that the two were Royal Navy craft and ordered all sails set to intercept the first ship before it could join forces with the second. Two hours into the chase, the highest section of Constitution’s main mast gave way with a sickening crack. Sailors scrambled to replace it and keep the ship on course with its target.
At 5 p.m. Stewart opened fire with a forward-mounted cannon, but the British ships were out of range. A half hour later, with the range narrowing, Stewart ordered the decks cleared for action. Muskets and pikes were placed within reach for sailors to use should the opportunity arise to board the enemy ships. Sand was thrown across the decks to absorb blood. Gun crews loaded and primed their cannons. The two British ships, now within hailing distance of each other, made similar preparations.
With all three ships sailing on a starboard tack, the British attempted to gain the advantage by positioning themselves upwind of Constitution, but they failed. As Constitution came up from the stern on the windward side, the British ships fell in line separated by a hundred yards, with the smaller Levant in the lead. At 6 p.m., just as the sun was setting, Constitution raised its colors and the Brits responded immediately. Constitution surged alongside at 600 yards, and all three ships commenced firing. British fire slackened quickly and Stewart ordered his gunners to hold their fire to allow the smoke to clear and see what damage they had inflicted.
Constitution had caught up to Levant, but Cyane was coming up behind the American ship, intent on raking the American frigate. It was a devastating naval tactic: firing a broadside down the length of an enemy ship that was not in position to return fire. Stewart then tried an unusual maneuver. According to his own battle report, he backed Constitution, allowing the wind to catch the front of the main and mizzenmast topsails, bringing the ship to a halt before slowly swinging it around to face Cyane. The two ships traded fire until once again the British ship’s fire slackened. Constitution then turned to Levant, raking its stern twice and forcing it to fall back for repairs. Cyane managed one last broadside before signaling its surrender with a single cannon shot away from Constitution. At 6:45 Cyane struck its colors.
Did Stewart actually move Old Ironsides backward? According to Matthew Brenckle, historian with the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, Stewart seemed to think so. “On the other hand, the Cyane was moving forward at the same time, trying to close on Constitution. . . . It is possible that the backward movement was simply an optical illusion produced by one ship stopping in its tracks and the other moving forward. Such maneuvering was nothing radical—this sort of ship handling was performed all the time in narrow or congested seaways to avoid obstructions or other ships. . . . That Stewart and his crew had the discipline and peace of mind to pull this off in the midst of a heavy cannonading is pretty remarkable.”
At 8:40, as an American prize crew took control of Cyane, Levant remarkably returned to the fight. Broadsides were exchanged, and Constitution raked Levant. Levant’s captain, recognizing the futility of fighting a much larger adversary, tried to escape but finally struck his ship’s colors about 10 p.m.
The British captains were bad-tempered in defeat and argued about who was to blame. Stewart silenced them: “Gentlemen, there is no use getting warm about it it would have been the same whatever you might have done. If you doubt that, I will put you all on board and you can try it over.” The British sailors were equally chagrined, first breaking into the liquor lockers on the captured vessels and then complaining repeatedly that Americans had stolen their personal belongings, prompting several searches of Old Ironsides, which turned up nothing. Assheton Humphreys, Constitution’s chaplain, summed up the situation succinctly. “Suffice it to say, that the sun of Britain’s naval glory has set.”
Stewart took his prize ships to Porto Praya in the Canary Islands for repairs and provisions, but their stay was cut short by the appearance of HMS Leander, Newcastle and Acasta—coincidentally, three of the ships that had blockaded Boston Harbor. Within minutes, Constitution and its two prize ships cut their anchor cables and headed out to sea with the Brits in pursuit. Stewart ordered his captured ships to split up. Cyane escaped, reaching New York on April 10. Levant returned to Porto Praya, where it was attacked by the British and forced to surrender, even though the port was officially neutral. Returning to Boston by way of the Brazilian coast and then Puerto Rico, Stewart learned that the U.S. Senate had ratified the Treaty of Ghent on February 16. A clause in the treaty allowed an additional 30 days to notify ships at sea that the war was over, which meant that technically, the capture of Cyane and Levant could be counted as legitimate wartime victories.
Was it a balanced fight? It depends on one’s perspective. The smaller British ships had the potential to outmaneuver their larger foe but weren’t able to do so. The Brits were principally armed with carronades, small cannons capable of throwing a 32-pound ball a short distance. Constitution, on the other hand, was armed with long cannons capable of throwing a 24-pound ball a much greater distance. According to Dr. David Winkler with the Naval Historical Foundation, “While the two British ships with their carronades could mount a greater throw weight versus the Constitution, the commander of the Constitution had greater range with his long guns and used that to his advantage.”
Captain Stewart’s victory made him a national hero, and he, in turn, heaped praise on his all-volunteer crew in a letter to the secretary of the Navy. “Considering the advantages derived by the enemy, from a divided and more active force, as also their superiority in weight and number of guns, I deem the speed and decisive result of this action the strongest assurance which can be given to the government, that all under my command did their duty, and gallantly supported the reputation of American seamen.”
The significance of the battle was more psychological than strategic. “Technically, it did not affect the overall state of British-American relations since the Treaty of Ghent had been signed,” according to Winkler. The treaty reaffirmed the status quo between the two countries—and for that reason many consider the war to have been a draw. But Constitution’s victory at sea, when combined with Andrew Jackson’s post-treaty success at New Orleans, equaled victory in the minds of Americans. “Confidence in the Federal government and the armed forces was restored,” said Winkler.
Charles Stewart continued his naval career after the war, rising to the rank of rear admiral. When the Civil War broke out, Stewart volunteered for active duty at age 83, but President Lincoln regretfully denied his request. Stewart resigned his commission in 1862 and died seven years later. He had been the oldest surviving captain from the War of 1812.
USS Constitution : The Legendary Survivor
Of the numerous ships that have added to the laurels of the United States Navy since its official inception more than two centuries ago, a handful stand out, both for their individual deeds and for their ability to epitomize the era in which they earned their fame. Of those, arguably the most famous is the frigate Constitution. Besides achieving renown in several actions during the War of 1812, USS Constitution managed to endure to the present day, despite some close brushes with destruction–the last of which was at the hands of her own navy.
Constitution‘s very genesis coincided with that of the U.S. Navy itself. The naval phase of the War of American Independence had been carried out by a combination of state fleets, privateers and a relatively small Continental navy. Notwithstanding some noteworthy successes, the Americans had suffered near-crippling losses at the hands of Britain’s Royal Navy by the time American independence was achieved in 1783. In 1785, the last of the few surviving Continental warships were sold off, leaving the newborn United States with no navy at all.
Following the War of Independence, President George Washington and most congressmen favored a policy of noninvolvement in world affairs. It soon became clear, however, that the world would not cooperate. Pirates, operating from the North African Barbary states, such as Tripoli and Algiers, regularly intercepted American merchant ships plying the Mediterranean and demanded tribute (i.e., extortion money) from their crews, with seizure of ships and cargoes as the alternative. In the Atlantic, British warships regularly stopped American ships and searched them for deserters from the Royal Navy–often impressing American citizens into service along with the legitimate fugitives.
After years of enduring such humiliations, in March 1794 a reluctant U.S. Congress authorized the construction of six large frigates as the nucleus of a new navy. Like light cruisers or destroyers of a later century, frigates served as fast scouts and versatile utility vessels for the fleets of such major sea powers as Britain, France and Spain. Ill-disposed toward expenditure on larger vessels, the Americans settled for compensating as best they could with frigates that would be somewhat larger, faster and more heavily armed than their foreign counterparts–in essence, ships capable of outgunning whatever enemy they could not outrun and outrunning any that they could not outgun.
The basic design of the new frigates was conceived by Joshua Humphreys, an experienced Quaker shipbuilder from Philadelphia. Construction was carried out at different seaports throughout the country. Two of the ships, Chesapeake and Congress, were to carry 36 guns and were built in Norfolk and Portsmouth, respectively. A third, the 38-gun Constellation, was built in Baltimore. The heavy hitters of the new fleet, however, were the three frigates of the President class, each displacing 1,576 tons and mounting 44 guns. Of those, President was built in New York, United States in Philadelphia and Constitution in Boston.
Launched in October 1797 and completed the following summer, Constitution was soon put to work patrolling the West Indies against French commerce raiders during an undeclared ‘quasi-war’ between the United States and Revolutionary France. From 1800 to 1803, Constitution and her sisters were recalled to port and held ‘in ordinary,’ in accordance with the isolationist policy fostered by President Thomas Jefferson. On September 12, 1803, however, Constitution arrived off the Barbary Coast to confront the Tripolitan pirates. The war with the Barbary pirates ultimately ended with a treaty, signed aboard Constitution on June 10, 1805, granting American ships passage through the Mediterranean without further payments of tribute. The conflict’s outcome set a precedent for similar free passage for other nations, and served notice that the United States was prepared to fight to protect its interests abroad as well as at home, if necessary.
Meanwhile, relations between the United States and Great Britain were deteriorating. On June 22, 1807, the British frigate Leopard accosted Chesapeake off Hampton Roads, Va., demanding to’stop and inspect’ the American frigate for deserters. When Chesapeake‘s captain, Commodore Samuel Barron, refused, Leopard fired a broadside, inflicting 23 casualties. Barron struck his colors, and without even acknowledging the surrender, Leopard’s captain boarded Chesapeake and interned four of her crew. Two of the men were indeed deserters, one of whom, William Ware, was left to die of his injuries the other, Jenkin Ratford, was hanged. The other two prisoners, Americans Daniel Martin and John Strachen, were sentenced to receive 500 lashes, but a strong appeal from President Jefferson persuaded the British to return them to their ship with a token apology.
The Chesapeake affair marked the start of a downward spiral to war. On May 1, 1811, the British Guerrière, a frigate that had been captured from the French in 1806 and was now under the command of Captain James Richard Dacres, stopped and boarded the American brig Spitfire off Sandy Hook, N.J., and made off with an American passenger named John Deguyo. The United States responded by dispatching the frigate President, commanded by Captain John Rodgers, to intercept Guerrière and recover Deguyo. On the night of May 16, Rodgers encountered a British ship and, assuming her to be Guerrière, demanded that she stop and be boarded. It is not certain who fired the first shot, but an exchange of cannon fire broke out, resulting in the British ship’s being disabled several minutes later. At daybreak, however, Rodgers learned that his victim was in fact the 22-gun sloop Little Belt, which had lost 11 men dead and 21 wounded in the unequal fight. It is not known whether or not Rodgers apologized, but he did offer assistance to Little Belt, which her captain angrily declined.
As Little Belt limped home, it was the turn of the British public to be outraged, especially when it became known that Rodgers was being viewed at home as more of a hero than a blunderer. By the autumn of 1811, more than 6,000 cases of American citizens’ being impressed had been registered in Washington, of which number the British themselves admitted to 3,000.
While American and British diplomats argued, relations between the United States and Napoleon Bonaparte’s French empire improved, and American merchant ships defied Britain’s blockade to trade in French ports. In Washington, a growing faction of ‘young war hawks’ called for war with Britain and even the invasion and assimilation of Canada into the United States. Finally, on June 19, 1812, Congress declared war on Great Britain.
The conflict that Americans would call the War of 1812 found the U.S. Navy pitting a total of 17 seagoing warships against the 219 ships of the line and 296 frigates at the Royal Navy’s disposal. For the British, the American War, as they called it, represented no more than a quaint sideshow to their global struggle against Napoleon. Just a relative handful of their warships, the British reasoned, would suffice to sweep the upstart Yankees from the seas.
Constitution was made operational just days before war was declared. In mid-June 1810 she had returned from Mediterranean service, and Isaac Hull, a portly seadog from Derby, Conn., who had worked his way up from cabin boy to captain, took command of the big frigate. Soon afterward, Hull noticed that Constitution‘s speed and handling were not all that he expected and had divers go below to investigate. What they found was an estimated 10 wagonloads of oysters, mussels, barnacles and weeds hanging off her coppered bottom ‘like bunches of grapes,’ as Hull described it. Hull sailed Constitution to Chesapeake Bay, hoping the fresh water would kill some of the Mediterranean organisms, then removed the rest by dragging an iron scraper of his own invention back and forth along her bottom. In April 1812, he laid her up in the Washington Navy Yard to have her bottom recoppered, where he learned that there was only enough metal available to patch it partially. Satisfied that his frigate had at least been restored to a semblance of competitive performance, Hull took the additional step of replacing a number of the 42-pound carronades on her spar deck with lighter and less potent but longer-range 32-pound cannons.
On June 18, Constitution was out of the yard and taking on stores in Alexandria, Va., when Hull received a message from Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton, advising him of the imminence of war and instructing him to join Commodore John Rodgers’ five-ship squadron in the Atlantic. Sailing to Annapolis, Hull prepared his ship for a long voyage and took on new recruits, carefully assessing each man’s experience. He also took some time out on July 4 to mark his country’s Independence Day with a salute from Constitution‘s guns before departing Annapolis the next morning for New York, where Rodgers’ squadron was supposed to be.
While Hull was making his preparations to join him, Rodgers had already left New York, hoping to intercept a 100-ship merchant convoy reported to be en route from Jamaica to England. Rodgers never found the convoy, but on June 23 he encountered the British frigate Belvidera. As the British ship fled to the northeast, Rodgers fired the first cannon shot of the war from President‘s bow chaser. Three hits inflicted nine casualties aboard Belvidera, but when a cannon on President‘s main deck was fired once more, it burst and ignited the ‘passing box’ used for bringing gunpowder up from the magazine. Among the 16 Americans killed or injured by the resulting blast was Rodgers, who was blown skyward off the forecastle deck and came down with a broken leg.
Supported by his officers, Rodgers ignored the pain of his injury and continued to direct the pursuit, but with President‘s bow demolished, it was necessary to yaw the ship to bring her broadsides into play against Belvidera. That evening, Belvidera‘s captain, Richard Byron, ordered his ship’s anchors, many of her boats and most of her food and water cast overboard. Thus lightened, Belvidera was able to leave President behind.
Three days later, Belvidera reached Halifax, Nova Scotia, the principal British naval base in North America, and Byron reported his close brush with Rodgers to his squadron commander, Captain Philip Bowes Vere Broke. Reacting to the news that the Americans were operating in squadron strength, Broke recalled three lone British warships that were patrolling the American coast, and on July 5 (the same day that Constitution left Annapolis), Broke led his squadron out of Halifax to help establish a blockade of American coastal waters and, if possible, engage Rodgers’ force. On July 15, Broke’s squadron ran into the American 14-gun brig Nautilus and promptly captured her, renaming her HMS Emulous. The British then continued their patrol, and on the following day they spotted another ship on the horizon, following an eastward tack 12 miles off Cape Barnegat, N.J.
The ship that approached the British that afternoon was none other than Constitution, whose lookout informed Captain Hull at 2 that afternoon of the discovery of four ships on the horizon to the northwest, as well as a fifth vessel, a frigate, coming from the northeast. Rodgers’ squadron was comprised of five ships–the frigates President, United States and Congress, the sloop of war Hornet and the brig Argus–but to Hull, such a timely encounter seemed too good to be true, so he prudently chose a slow and careful approach until he was sure that the ships were indeed American.
Although a fresh breeze was blowing from the northeast, at 3 p.m. Hull decided that he was getting too near the coast and therefore took an opposite tack, sailing due east, with the lone unidentified frigate following him from a discrete distance. At 10 that night, the frigate closed to signaling distance–six to eight miles–and Hull ran up a prearranged sequence of lights that would identify his ship to Rodgers. When no reply was forthcoming, Hull realized that his misgivings were justified whatever those five ships were, they were not from Rodgers’ squadron.
Constitution and the unknown frigate maintained their guarded parallel courses until daybreak on July 17, when a visual sighting at last confirmed Hull’s misgivings. All the unidentified ships–a ship of the line and four frigates accompanied by a brig and a schooner–were flying British colors.
The principal warships in the far group were, in fact, the 64-gun man-of-war Africa and three frigates–the 32-gun Aeolis, the 36-gun Belvidera and Broke’s flagship, the 38-gun Shannon, as well as the recently acquired brig Emulous. As for the nearer frigate that had been shadowing Constitution all night, she was the 38-gun Guerrière.
At that point, the serendipity of the encounter was Broke’s, not Hull’s. As a prize, Nautilus was small fry to the British commander but now the 44-gun Constitution, one of the three most powerful ships in the U.S. Navy, was his for the taking. Hull, for his part, judged discretion the better part of valor and headed Constitution south as fast as the feeble wind would carry her. Guerrière wasted 10 to 15 minutes wearing and tacking, allowing Constitution to slip out of the range of her guns and put some precious distance between herself and her pursuers before the hunt began in earnest.
Constitution was now involved in a race for survival, although it would not have seemed so to an outside observer if he judged it on speed alone. The weather was clear, but the wind remained slight all day and throughout the night. At 5 the next morning even that breeze died, fixing Constitution in a state of limbo while her enemies slowly began to overtake her. At 5:15, Hull lowered a cutter and soon had his other boats engaged in towing his ship forward. What followed was among the strangest, and certainly one of the most agonizingly slow, sea chases in history.
As the prospect of contact with the British became imminent, Hull had one of Constitution’s 24-pounders brought up from the main deck to the quarterdeck and an 18-pounder brought aft from the forecastle, while a portion of the taffrail was cut away to accommodate it. Two more guns were run out of the stern window, giving Constitution a total of four stern chasers. The frigate then set her topgallant studding sails and staysails, while hammocks were removed from their nettings, and any cloth other than the sails was rolled up to streamline the ship as much as possible in the event of the wind’s returning.
By then the British, too, were becalmed. At 5:45, Belvidera‘s Captain Byron saw Constitution slowly drawing away and figured out what Hull was up to. He, too, sent his boats ahead to tow, and soon the other British ships were doing the same. The pursuit of Constitution now became a strenuous rowing and towing match one for which Broke’s frigates held the advantage, since they were lighter than the ‘overbuilt’ Constitution, and their hulls produced less drag for their crewmen to overcome as they strained at the oars. Moreover, at 8 Broke ordered most, if not all, of the other ships’ boats to be put at Shannon‘s disposal and had all the sails of his flagship furled.
With her speed raised to as much as 3 knots, Shannon soon lay off Constitution‘s port bow, tantalizingly close to gun range, but just then a light breeze arose. Hull, who had taken the trouble to have buckets of sea water hoisted and poured over his sails to render them less porous, was able to take the greater advantage of it, leaving Shannon behind while Constitution‘s own boats rowed frantically to keep up with her.
In 30 minutes, Constitution increased her lead on Broke’s ships by a few hundred yards, but then the wind failed again. Soon Shannon‘s straining boatmen had drawn her back within striking range, and she was taking a few test shots with her bow chasers. Some of the projectiles passed over Constitution.
At that critical juncture, one of Hull’s officers, Lieutenant Charles Morris, suggested a technique that he had used in the past to make his way out of windless harbors–kedging, which involved rowing an anchor ahead of the ship, dropping it and then having, the crew haul the ship along by the hawser. Hull sounded the water and, on finding it to be 26 fathoms (156 feet) deep, agreed to give Morris’ idea a try. All nonessential ropes were spliced into a line nearly a mile long. One end was tied to a small, sharp-fluked kedging anchor, which was then rowed ahead in the ship’s cutter.
When the anchor was dropped, Constitution‘s crew grabbed the hawser and walked aft–slowly and gingerly at first, then gradually increasing the pace as the ship began to move. Each crewman who reached the stern let go of the line and raced forward to pull anew. Meanwhile, more rope was spliced and another anchor attached, so that while Constitution was being kedged along on one anchor, the second could be hauled ahead. Hull lost some distance on the British while improvising his kedging arrangements, but once the laborious process got underway, he found Constitution beginning to leave Shannon behind again. In what for him was a rare fit of overconfidence, Hull ordered his ship’s colors hoisted high and a stern chaser fired a cocky farewell salute to his would-be captors. It did not take long, however, before Captain Byron again figured out how the Americans had increased their speed and signaled it to Broke. Soon, British crews were hauling away at their own kedging lines.
At 9:09, a light breeze sprang up from the south, and Hull skillfully caught it on the port tack. At the same time, Hull pulled his boats up on davits, or on temporary tackles rigged to various spars, with the crews still in them, ready to be lowered and take to their oars at minimum notice. As Hull had anticipated, at 10 the wind died again, and the boats were lowered. Gripping the kedging hawsers, the crews of both ships–hunters and hunted–plodded their way aft silently, their purpose too earnest to warrant the rhythmic shanties that normally accompanied their labors.
On the British side, it was now Belvidera that was given the extra boats, advancing by both kedging and the continued towing efforts of her boats’ crews. As she slowly but visibly advanced on Constitution, Hull tried to lighten his ship by pumping 2,335 gallons of fresh water overboard. At 1:35 p.m., Byron thought he had narrowed the range enough to fire, to which Constitution answered with a volley from her stern chasers. All shots fell short of their targets, however, and both ships subsequently curtailed the futile gunplay.
For the rest of the afternoon and early evening of July 18, the bizarre chase continued. At 7 p.m. Hull lowered three boats to give his ship a complementary tow while the kedging proceeded. At 10:53 a fresh, southerly breeze arose, and Constitution set her fore-topmast staysail and main topgallant studding sail to catch it. At the same time, Hull hastily picked up his boats to prevent their falling behind and into the hands of the British–and to give his crew a much-needed rest.
At midnight the breeze died again, but this time, almost by unspoken mutual agreement, Hull and his British counterparts decided to give their exhausted crews some additional time to regain their strength. A few optimists caught some snatches of sleep, though none strayed far from their assigned posts. At 2 a.m. on July 19, the towing and kedging resumed, and the ships glided silently on at their snail’s pace through the darkness.
By sunrise, Belvidera had advanced to a threatening position off Constitution‘s lee beam when a renewal of the wind offered the Yankees another reprieve. Hull tacked away from Belvidera only to find himself coming within firing range of Aeolis, which had also managed to narrow the distance from the opposite side of the American frigate. Much to Hull’s relief, however, Aeolis did not fire a shot, and Constitution was again able to make her way out of danger. By noon the breeze slackened, but remained sufficient for Constitution to increase the distance between herself and the leading British vessel, Belvidera, to four miles.
At 6:30 p.m. Hull noticed a summer rain squall approaching. Although a heavy squall was capable of tearing away a yard or a topmast, Hull judged the coming storm to be relatively light–and therein, he thought, lay a stratagem. Recalling that the British had copied every trick he had employed to stay ahead of them up to that time, he decided on a feigned tactic. As the storm closed in, Hull ordered his heavy canvas secured, a double reef put in the mizzen topsail and his light canvas taken in. As Hull expected, the British observed his precautions and followed suit, also turning their ships in the opposite direction of Constitution‘s flight in order to face the coming blow bows-on.
When the rain squall finally overtook his ship, obscuring it from the eyes of the British, Hull ordered as many sails set as possible with all the alacrity his tired crew could muster. His calculated risk paid off the storm was not heavy enough to damage his sails or rigging, but its winds were brisk enough to propel Constitution ahead at 11 knots before blowing over 45 minutes later.
By the time the British realized they had been hoodwinked, Constitution lay close to the horizon and was making steady progress away from them. Unfurling all sails, Broke’s ships tenaciously kept up their pursuit through the night, but by 8 a.m. on the 20th, Constitution‘s sails could barely be seen as she slipped away to the southwest. Ordering his crews to stand down, Broke finally gave up the chase after 66 hours and 30 minutes of tense pursuit.
Hull was probably congratulating himself on having had Constitution‘s bottom cleaned, but he made no secret of what a near thing it had been, noting, ‘… had they taken advantage of their early proximity and crippled me when in gunshot range, the outcome might have been different.’
As it was, Constitution‘s hairbreadth escape represented a remarkable achievement of resourcefulness, coolness and discipline by a crew that had only mustered five days before she put to sea. That she had managed to outwit and outrun an entire squadron of His Majesty’s ships was a sobering blow to British pride. And Broke’s squadron could not have let a more troublesome adversary escape, as subsequent events would prove.
After doubling back north and arriving in Boston on July 26, Constitution left her home port on August 2 and patrolled off Halifax, during which time she captured two British merchant brigs on August 10 and 11. On the 15th she encountered Adeline, an American brig that had been captured by a British sloop and placed under a prize crew. Following Adeline‘s recapture by Constitution, Hull learned from her crew that Broke’s squadron was in the vicinity and prudently set course for Bermuda. On the night of August 17, Constitution met the privateer Decatur, whose captain, William Nichols, told Hull of a lone British man-of-war not far to the south. Shortly afterward, off Sandy Hook, N.J., Constitution encountered the enemy ship, which turned out to be one of her pursuers of the previous month–Guerrière, whose Captain Dacres had reportedly challenged Captain Rodgers in President, ‘or any other American frigate,’ to meet him for ‘a few minutes tête-à-tête.’ Dacres had Guerrière‘s topsails painted with a slogan referring to USS President‘s victim of 1811–‘THIS IS NOT THE LITTLE BELT’–when Constitution closed to accept his challenge.
Dacres got the duel he wanted but not the outcome he expected. After 45 minutes of maneuvering for position, combat commenced with Guerrière‘s guns volleying relentlessly at the American’s rigging while Hull held his fire and closed bows-on to present the smallest target possible. Finally, as Constitution drew abreast of her opponent at a range of 25 yards, Hull cried, ‘Now, boys, pour it into them!’ The stout American captain’s trousers split with the force of his abrupt command while his gunners hurled a full broadside of double shot and grape into the British frigate. Guerrière‘s crew never recovered from the shock of that first crippling salvo, and after half an hour their ship was a battered and dismasted hulk. When Guerrière fired a gun to leeward as a signal of surrender, Hull backed off for half an hour to effect repairs to his own damaged spars and rigging before returning to accept Dacres’ formal surrender.
The officer whom Hull sent aboard Guerrière, Lieutenant George Read, found her beyond salvaging, with 30 holes below the waterline and her decks already awash. Of her crew of 302, there were 101 casualties, including Dacres, wounded in the back by a musket ball while urging his crew to fight on. Dacres accepted Read’s offer to put Constitution‘s surgeon at his disposal, but added that he might be too busy with his own patients. ‘Oh, no,’ replied Read. ‘We have only seven wounded, and they were tended to long ago.’ In addition, Constitution had suffered only seven dead out of her 456-man crew.
Hull and Dacres had met several times before the war. After helping the wounded British captain aboard Constitution, Hull gently declined the token of his sword in surrender, saying, ‘No, no, I will not take the sword from one who knows so well how to use it.’ Before having Guerrière blown up, Hull saw to it that a Bible, which Dacres had been given by his mother, was recovered for him. ‘The conduct of Captain Hull and his officers to our men has been that of a brave enemy,’ Dacres later reported. ‘The greatest care being taken to prevent our men losing the smallest trifle, and the greatest attention being paid to the wounded.’ But then, Dacres had been no less chivalrous, allowing 10 impressed American seamen serving in Guerrière‘s crew to shelter below decks rather than force them to fight their own countrymen. After the war was over, Hull and Dacres became lifelong friends.
If Constitution‘s escape from Broke’s squadron had been a source of mild humiliation to the Royal Navy, news of her victory over Guerrière came as an unqualified shock to the British. ‘It is not merely that an English frigate has been taken, after what we are free to express, may be called a brave resistance,’ noted The Times of London, ‘but that it has been taken by a new enemy, an enemy unaccustomed to such triumphs, likely to be rendered insolent and confident by them.’ Apparently forgetting some American successes from the War of Independence, The Times added, ‘Never in the history of the world did an English frigate strike to an American.’
Dacres was later paroled from captivity by the Americans, only to face a court-martial for the loss of his ship. He was exonerated, however, when it was revealed that Guerrière’s masts were rotten at the time of the fight. That disadvantage aside, the British frigate had been outgunned and outclassed by her larger American opponent. As for his confidence that British experience, seamanship and fighting élan would prevail over Constitution’s greater firepower, after having witnessed the coolheaded discipline of Hull’s crew during the earlier sea chase, Dacres should have known better.
For the Americans, the victorious outcome of the war’s first naval engagement provided an immeasurable boost to morale–and a natural foundation for legend. The words of a young crewman as he watched one of Guerrière‘s round shot glance harmlessly off the triple-layered live oak superstructure of his ship–‘Good God, her sides are made of iron!’–became a fixture in American folklore and the source of the nickname by which Constitution was known thereafter: ‘Old Ironsides.’
Constitution‘s first success would not be her last. Shortly afterward, Hull relinquished command to Captain William Bainbridge, and Constitution was made flagship of a squadron comprised of herself, the 36-gun frigate Essex and the sloop of war Hornet. Sailing from Boston on October 26, Constitution and Hornet had to proceed without Essex, which was still being fitted out in Philadelphia, and they, too, later parted company off Bahia, Brazil.
Three days later, Constitution encountered HMS Java, a new French frigate captured 18 months earlier and pressed into British service, which was escorting William, an American merchantman that she had recently captured. Java dispatched her prize to Bahia, then turned to square off with Constitution.
Although Java was the faster ship, after an hour of maneuvering Constitution managed to score a hit on Java‘s head rig, bowsprit and jib boom, depriving the British ship of her headsails and much of her control. Bainbridge, though struck in the leg by a musket ball and wounded in the hip by a copper bolt when his wheel was shattered by a shot from Java, closed in to press his advantage and dismasted her with two more raking broadsides.
Even in this helpless state, Java put up a gallant fight. Her captain, Henry Lambert, was shot in the chest by a marine while attempting to lead a boarding party onto the American vessel, and his first lieutenant, Henry Ducie Chads, kept up the fight for a time thereafter. But finally, when Constitution took position off Java‘s bow for a final broadside, Chads decided that ‘it would be wasting lives to resist any longer’ and struck his colors.
Compared to the 15 minutes it had taken to disable Guerrière, Constitution‘s slogging match with Java had taken nearly four hours. Too badly holed to take as a prize, Java was burned. Only her wheel was salvaged and used to replace Constitution’s. The 360 survivors of her crew, including about 100 wounded, were put ashore at Bahia, where Captain Lambert succumbed to his wound soon afterwards.
Java‘s destruction marked the third British loss in less than a year in addition to Constitution‘s two victories, her sister ship, United States, commanded by Captain Stephen Decatur, had dismasted the 35-gun Macedonian off the Canary Islands and, after spending two weeks restoring the prize to sailing condition, brought her back to New York after a return voyage of nearly 4,000 miles.
After undergoing a complete yard overhaul in Boston, Constitution returned to sea in December 1813. By then, the British blockade was tightening all along the Eastern seaboard, and the Royal Navy, having acquired a new respect for the big American frigates, was making it a policy for its own frigates to operate in units of two or more, so that in the event of an encounter they could team up to overpower their larger opponent. In the course of running in and out of Boston for what proved to be ineffective commerce-raiding sorties, Constitution had a few more close brushes with superior forces, avoiding combat on each occasion. During one such encounter, on April 3, 1814, Constitution ran foul of British frigates Juno and Tenedos off Cape Ann, Mass., and was only able to outrun them by the use of every inch of canvas, including the royal studding sails, taking temporary shelter in Gloucester Harbor before making her way back to Boston.
On December 17, 1814, ‘Old Ironsides,’ now under the command of Captain Charles Stewart, managed to slip past the Boston blockade and resume her commerce-raiding activities. She managed to seize a merchantman off the Portuguese coast, but shortly afterward, on February 22, 1815, she encountered the light frigate Cyane (34 guns), under Captain Gordon Falcon, and the corvette Levant (22 guns, mostly 32-pound carronades), captained by the Honorable Sir George Douglass. Although they were individually outgunned by the big American frigate, the two British ships might have overpowered Constitution by a skillful team effort (the kind of effort that had helped the British frigate Phoebe and the sloop Cherub to capture USS Essex in Valparaiso Bay on March 28, 1814–and, in a later century, allowed the Allied cruisers Exeter, Ajax and Achilles to foil the German pocket battleship Graf Spee off the River Plate on December 13, 1939). Indeed, by the time action commenced at 6 p.m., the captains of Cyane and Levant were prepared to work together to corner Constitution in their collective cross-fire–aided, they hoped, by the gathering darkness.
Captain Stewart, however, understood exactly what the British were trying to do and was not about to let them succeed. Using the skill and discipline of his now well-seasoned crew to advantage, he put Constitution through some extraordinary maneuvers to keep the British vessels separated and deal with them in turn. At one point, a broadside of double shot had disabled Levant when Stewart saw Cyane coming up astern and positioning herself to rake his ship. He reacted by having Constitution‘s headsails cast loose and the main and mizzen topsails backed, with the incredible result of stopping and backing his ship out of danger and positioning himself to give Cyane a murderous, diagonal raking broadside.
After an hour of punishment from Constitution‘s guns, Cyane surrendered. Levant fled to effect emergency repairs, then bravely returned to resume the fight. By that time, however, Constitution had turned the odds decisively in her own favor, and one last murderous broadside forced Levant to strike her colors as well.
Of a collective total of 313 men, the two British ships lost 35 killed and 46 wounded. The virtuoso seamanship of Constitution‘s captain and crew had kept her casualties down to four dead and 10 wounded. In Stewart’s cabin, Captains Falcon and Douglass got into an argument over who had been responsible for losing the battle until Stewart intervened: ‘Gentlemen, there is no use in getting warm about it it would have been the same whatever you might have done. If you doubt that, I will put you all on board and you can try it over.’
Given a prize crew, Levant was later recaptured by three frigates of the Boston blockade that had been hunting for Constitution since her breakout. Constitution and Cyane managed to reach Puerto Rico, where Stewart learned that the war had ended. Signed on Christmas Eve, the Treaty of Ghent was officially ratified on February 18, with a 30-day grace period to allow for the time needed to convey the news to the United States and to the combatants’ ships at sea. Under those circumstances, Constitution‘s victory over Cyane and Levant was regarded as the excusable result of slow communications, rather than an embarrassing breach of the treaty. On May 15, Stewart returned to a gala reception in New York, having won Constitution her third naval victory.
In the course of the War of 1812, Constitution had successfully defied the odds on several occasions, her escape from Broke’s squadron being undoubtedly the most suspenseful. After serving in the peacetime navy, she was returned to Boston on July 4, 1828, and left to rot until the autumn of 1830, when she was declared unseaworthy and condemned.
Constitution‘s final struggle for survival was won against her own navy. A public outcry of patriotic fervor, spurred on by Oliver Wendell Holmes’ poem Old Ironsides, prevailed over the Navy Department to save the ‘eagle of the sea’ from the ‘harpies of the shore,’ as the poet himself put it. In February 1831, the first of a number of restorations returned Constitution to a seaworthy state. As a diplomatic ship, she paid goodwill visits to ports all over the world. From August 1853 to June 1855, she patrolled the African coast to enforce the 1807 law banning the slave trade, taking her last prize in September 1853 when she caught the American schooner Gambril in the act of trying to smuggle slaves to the United States. From 1860 to 1871, she served as a school ship, then was retired once and for all from any duties other than that of an historic relic of the Age of Sail. Preserved by the U.S. Navy in the Charlestown Navy Yard unit of the Boston National Historical Park, Constitution is the oldest warship still in commission on the Navy’s rolls. About 20 percent of the ship is original.
In September 1992, Constitution was placed in the Quincy Adams dry dock, where she had undergone her first major overhaul in 1833. There, sailors and civilian employees working for the Navy, aided by ultrasonic testing and X-rays, performed an inspection and repairs worth $5 million, including the reinstallation of key structural supports. Even while such maintenance was being carried out, on-board tours of the ship continued, together with tours of the nearby USS Constitution Museum and the World War II-vintage destroyer Cassin.
This article was written by Jon Guttman and originally published in the February 1997 issue of Military History magazine. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Military History magazine today!
The Bill of Rights: What Does it Say?
The Bill of Rights is the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. It spells out Americans’ rights in relation to their government. It guarantees civil rights and liberties to the individual—like freedom of speech, press, and religion. It sets rules for due process of law and reserves all powers not delegated to the Federal Government to the people or the States. And it specifies that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
The First Amendment
The First Amendment provides several rights protections: to express ideas through speech and the press, to assemble or gather with a group to protest or for other reasons, and to ask the government to fix problems. It also protects the right to religious beliefs and practices. It prevents the government from creating or favoring a religion.
The Second Amendment
The Second Amendment protects the right to keep and bear arms.
The Third Amendment
The Third Amendment prevents government from forcing homeowners to allow soldiers to use their homes. Before the Revolutionary War, laws gave British soldiers the right to take over private homes.
The Fourth Amendment
The Fourth Amendment bars the government from unreasonable search and seizure of an individual or their private property.
The Fifth Amendment
The Fifth Amendment provides several protections for people accused of crimes. It states that serious criminal charges must be started by a grand jury. A person cannot be tried twice for the same offense (double jeopardy) or have property taken away without just compensation. People have the right against self-incrimination and cannot be imprisoned without due process of law (fair procedures and trials.)
The Sixth Amendment
The Sixth Amendment provides additional protections to people accused of crimes, such as the right to a speedy and public trial, trial by an impartial jury in criminal cases, and to be informed of criminal charges. Witnesses must face the accused, and the accused is allowed his or her own witnesses and to be represented by a lawyer.
The Seventh Amendment
The Seventh Amendment extends the right to a jury trial in Federal civil cases.
The Eighth Amendment
The Eighth Amendment bars excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishment.
The Ninth Amendment
The Ninth Amendment states that listing specific rights in the Constitution does not mean that people do not have other rights that have not been spelled out.
The Tenth Amendment
The Tenth Amendment says that the Federal Government only has those powers delegated in the Constitution. If it isn’t listed, it belongs to the states or to the people.
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Indonesia has a long history that began with organized civilizations on the islands of Java and Sumatra. A Buddhist kingdom called Srivijaya grew on Sumatra from the seventh to the 14th century, and at its peak, it spread from West Java to the Malay Peninsula. By the 14th century, eastern Java saw the rise of the Hindu Kingdom Majapahit. Majapahit's chief minister from 1331 to 1364, Gadjah Mada, was able to gain control of much of what is present-day Indonesia. However, Islam arrived in Indonesia in the 12th century, and by the end of the 16th century, it replaced Hinduism as the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra.
In the early 1600s, the Dutch began growing large settlements on Indonesia's islands. By 1602, they were in control of much of the country (except East Timor, which belonged to Portugal). The Dutch then ruled Indonesia for 300 years as the Netherlands East Indies.
By the early 20th century, Indonesia began a movement for independence which grew particularly large between World Wars I and II. Japan occupied Indonesia during WWII following Japan's surrender to the Allies, a small group of Indonesians proclaimed independence for Indonesia. On August 17, 1945, this group established the Republic of Indonesia.
In 1949, the new Republic of Indonesia adopted a constitution that established a parliamentary system of government. It was unsuccessful, though, because the executive branch of Indonesia's government was to be chosen by parliament itself, which was divided among various political parties.
Indonesia struggled to govern itself in the years following its independence, and there were several unsuccessful rebellions beginning in 1958. In 1959, President Soekarno re-established a provisional constitution that had been written in 1945 to provide broad presidential powers and take power from the parliament. This act led to an authoritarian government termed "Guided Democracy" from 1959 to 1965.
In the late 1960s, President Soekarno transferred his political power to General Suharto, who eventually became Indonesia's president in 1967. The new President Suharto established what he called the "New Order" to rehabilitate Indonesia's economy. President Suharto controlled the country until he resigned in 1998 after years of continued civil unrest.
Indonesia's third president, President Habibie, then took power in 1999 and began rehabilitating Indonesia's economy and restructuring the government. Since then, Indonesia has held several successful elections, its economy is growing, and the country is becoming more stable.
What the U.S. Constitution says. The law and abortion
PIP: The US Supreme Court in its January 22, 1973, decision on Roe v. Wade abolished virtually all abortion restrictions previously imposed at the state level in states across the country. That decision marked the beginning of an ongoing national debate on a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. Some Americans think that abortion should be permitted at some stages of fetal development and in certain circumstances, while others strongly oppose abortion under any circumstances. Americans enjoy certain fundamental liberties which are protected by the US Constitution. The right to abortion is not one of these freedoms. The Bill of Rights balances individual rights and majority rule by allowing the majority to pass legislation through its elected representatives. The decision in Roe v. Wade is an example of such legislation passed by pro-choice Supreme Court judges. As such, the author stresses that a conservative Supreme Court could one day enact legislation denying women in the US the right to abortion on demand. It is clear that many states will pass legislation regulating abortion if the Roe v. Wade decision is ever overturned. Pro-choice supporters therefore want US President Bill Clinton to select pro-choice judges for the Supreme Court.