Stephen Decatur - Domestic Life

Domestic Life

After his victory in the Mediterranean over the Barbary states who had terrorized and enslaved Christian merchants for centuries, Decatur returned to the United States, arriving at New York on November 12, 1815, with the brig Enterprise, along with Bainbridge of the Guerriere who arrived three days later. He was met with a wide reception from dignitaries and countrymen. Among the more notable salutations was a letter Decatur received from the Secretary of State James Monroe that related the following tidings of appreciation: "I take much interest in informing you that the result of this expedition, so glorious to your country and honorable to yourself and the officers and men under your command, has been very satisfactory to the President."

The Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin W. Crowninshield, was equally gracious and thankful. Since a vacancy was about to occur in the board of Navy commissioners with the retirement of Commodore Isaac Hull, the Secretary was most anxious to offer the position to Decatur, which he gladly accepted. Upon his appointment Decatur made his journey to Washington, where he was again received with cordial receptions from various dignitaries and countrymen. He served on the Board of Navy Commissioners from 1816 to 1820. One of his more notable decisions as a commissioner involved his strong objection to the reinstatement of James Barron upon his return to the United States after being barred from command for five years for his questionable handling of the Chesapeake, an action that would soon lead to Barron challenging him to a duel.

During his tenure as a Commissioner, Decatur also became active in the Washington social scene. At one of his social gatherings, Decatur uttered an after-dinner toast that would become famous: "Our Country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but right or wrong, our country!" Carl Schurz would later distill this phrase more famously as, "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

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