Barry L. Dressel
THE EARLY CAREER OF COMMODORE JAMES BIDDLE.
(Under the direction of Professor William Still) Department of History, August 1972.
This thesis is a study of the early career of Commodore James Biddle of the United States Navy. Biddle (1783-1848) is chosen as the subject of this thesis for two reasons. First, Biddle was an outstanding figure in the early history of the American navy. His career was notable not only for skill as a sailor and commander of fighting ships, but also for diplomacy and naval reform. Historians have from time to time dealt with aspects of his career, but no scholar has yet discussed the background and training that later made that career so brilliant. This thesis will make it possible to assemble a piecemeal biography of Biddle, albeit by different authors.
The second reason for a study of Biddle's early career is its typicality. Biddle's background, education, training, early service, and personality are all typical of the naval officers whose careers stretched from the Barbary to the Mexican wars. It is often said that naval officers' subsequent careers are most affected by their early commanders. Along with such men as William Burrows, Stephen Decatur, Jacob Jones, James Lawrence, Thomas McDonough, Daniel Patterson, and David Porter, Biddle was exposed to considerable molding by William Bainbridge, Issac Hull, Edward Preble, John Rodgers, and Thomas Truxtun. Biddle was typical of the officers trained by these men: he was competent, impetuous, punctilious, and reform-minded. This study will follow Biddle's career from its beginning to the end of his first post command.