Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Brief History of Municipal and Local Government Navies

Most people are unaware that local and municipal governments once had their own navies. 

During the settling of the original thirteen colonies, pirate ships often sailed into the harbors of coastal American cities. Once in the ports, the pirates would pillage and plunder from the struggling colonists.   To prevent these marauding pirates from destroying their communities and stealing their goods, many local and municipal government officials decided to pass resolutions to hire privateers who would act as their private navies and guard and protect their city harbors. 

Late one night, the Captain of one of these charted municipal naval vessels was awakened by his first mate who yelled, "Captain, there’s a Spanish galleon rapidly approaching." The captain jumped out of bed and raced to the deck.  Once on deck, he scanned the sea with his telescope.  Sure enough, there was a Spanish galleon with her guns readied  and heading into port.

"Quick!" shouted the Captain to his new first mate.  "Run down to my quarters and bring me my red silk shirt."
"Captain!" cried the new first mate.  "Now is not the time to worry about how you look."
Again the Captain barked - "Go down to my quarters, you fool, and get me my red silk shirt – now don't argue with me."  Reluctantly, the first mate ran downstairs and returned with the Captain’s red silk shirt.  The Captain removed his white blouse and put on his red silk shirt.

Within minutes, a battled ensued with the Spanish ship. Bullets and cannon balls flew everywhere and shrapnel filled the air.  After several precarious minutes, the Spanish galleon broke off its attack, turned its sails and sailed out of the harbor.   The crew of the privateer vessel turned toward their Captain and let out a mighty cheer.  
After the jubilation had subsided, the first mate approached the Captain and apologized for his hesitancy in following his order.   He did however, ask, "Captain, why was it so important for you to be wearing your red silk shirt during the battle?"

The Captain replied, "Son, I am the leader of this municipal naval vessel and its crew.  The taxpayers of this community pay us good money to guard their harbors.  Had I have been hit by a stray bullet or struck by a piece of  shrapnel during the battle, blood may have seeped out on my white shirt.  If the crew had seen me bleeding, they may have lost their courage and will to fight.  They may have given up and we could have easily lost this battle.  However, if I were hit and started bleeding while wearing my red silk shirt, the men would have never known I was hit.  They would have continued to fight with valor until their death." 
"Wow," said the first mate, "I never thought of that.   I promise I will never question your orders again."

A few days later, the first mate again ran to the Captain’s quarters and announced, "Captain, there is a French frigate headed towards the harbor.   She’s is a big one, the biggest frigate I have ever seen.   I think she aims to enter the port." The Captain ran to the deck and clearly saw the silhouette of the frigate on the horizon.   It was indeed a big one, the biggest one the Captain had ever seen in his entire naval career. All of her 16 guns were loaded and fully manned.  She was sailing straight for the harbor. 
"Captain, what should we do?" asked the first mate. 
"Quick, run downstairs to my quarters and bring me back my dark brown pants," was his reply.

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