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Six Frigates
Cover of Six Frigates
Six Frigates
The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy

"A fluent, intelligent history...give[s] the reader a feel for the human quirks and harsh demands of life at sea."—New York Times Book ReviewBefore the ink was dry on the U.S. Constitution, the establishment of a permanent military became the most divisive issue facing the new government. The founders—particularly Jefferson, Madison, and Adams—debated fiercely. Would a standing army be the thin end of dictatorship? Would a navy protect from pirates or drain the treasury and provoke hostility? Britain alone had hundreds of powerful warships.

From the decision to build six heavy frigates, through the cliff-hanger campaign against Tripoli, to the war that shook the world in 1812, Ian W. Toll tells this grand tale with the political insight of Founding Brothers and the narrative flair of Patrick O'Brian.

"A fluent, intelligent history...give[s] the reader a feel for the human quirks and harsh demands of life at sea."—New York Times Book ReviewBefore the ink was dry on the U.S. Constitution, the establishment of a permanent military became the most divisive issue facing the new government. The founders—particularly Jefferson, Madison, and Adams—debated fiercely. Would a standing army be the thin end of dictatorship? Would a navy protect from pirates or drain the treasury and provoke hostility? Britain alone had hundreds of powerful warships.

From the decision to build six heavy frigates, through the cliff-hanger campaign against Tripoli, to the war that shook the world in 1812, Ian W. Toll tells this grand tale with the political insight of Founding Brothers and the narrative flair of Patrick O'Brian.

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About the Author-
  • Ian W. Toll is the author of Pacific Crucible, The Conquering Tide, and Six Frigates, winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Award and the William E. Colby Award. He lives in San Francisco and New York.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from August 21, 2006
    Toll, a former financial analyst and political speechwriter, makes an auspicious debut with this rousing, exhaustively researched history of the founding of the U.S. Navy. The author chronicles the late 18th- and early 19th-century process of building a fleet that could project American power beyond her shores. The ragtag Continental Navy created during the Revolution was promptly dismantled after the war, and it wasn't until 1794—in the face of threats to U.S. shipping from England, France and the Barbary states of North Africa—that Congress authorized the construction of six frigates and laid the foundation for a permanent navy. A cabinet-level Department of the Navy followed in 1798. The fledgling navy quickly proved its worth in the Quasi War against France in the Caribbean, the Tripolitan War with Tripoli and the War of 1812 against the English. In holding its own against the British, the U.S. fleet broke the British navy's "sacred spell of invincibility," sparked a "new enthusiasm for naval power" in the U.S. and marked the maturation of the American navy. Toll provides perspective by seamlessly incorporating the era's political and diplomatic history into his superlative single-volume narrative—a must-read for fans of naval history and the early American Republic.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 4, 2006
    It's hard to imagine a better place for listening to this shrewdly abridged, excitingly read audio version of Toll's impressive history of the founding of the United States Navy than aboard some sort of seagoing vessel. One of Patrick O'Brian's warships would be perfect, but anything from a smaller sailboat to the Staten Island Ferry would be almost as auspicious. Veteran actor Lang, his voice instantly recognizable from films and television, never lets that familiarity take over. He trusts instead to Toll's virtuoso combination of details large and small (everything from the uniquely horrible ways men died during sea battles to the greed of shipbuilders and their representatives in government) to keep listeners intrigued—changing his voice in subtle ways when he brings to life the real words of American and British naval heroes from Lord Nelson to the officers who won the war of 1812. Lang is a lucid guide through the stormy seas of politics and commercial intrigue surrounding the birth of the U.S. naval fleet, which would soon surprise the world—especially the British navy, which thought of itself as invincible. Simultaneous release with the Norton hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 21).

  • Chris Patsilelis;Houston Chronicle Sweeping in scope, full of vivid descriptions... solidly grounded in the diplomatic landscape... a masterly work.
  • Bruce Linder;San Diego Tribune Toll has a light touch, much like noted historian David McCullough; well-researched facts are carefully balanced by smooth narrative flow.... The result is a thoroughly readable book that adds depth and significance to an important era of American history.
  • Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman [A] wonderfully atmospheric account, brilliantly researched, full of stirring action and rich with the scent of the sea.
  • Gilbert Taylor;Booklist Vibrant and comprehensive, Toll makes an impressive debut.
  • Joe Mysak;Bloomberg News Gripping... a masterful narrative... Toll captures the ambivalence of the government, and its reluctance to pay for even a tiny navy, very well.
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    W. W. Norton & Company
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Six Frigates
Six Frigates
The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy
Ian W. Toll
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