May 18, 1836, Congress passed an amendment to the Naval Appropriations
Bill authorizing the President to "send out a surveying and
exploring expedition to the Pacific Ocean and the South Seas,"
and a total of $300,000 was appropriated for the expedition. The
amendment passed the Senate by a vote of 26 to 3 while in the House
there was considerable opposition where the final vote was 79 to
primary purpose of the expedition was to aid commerce and navigation,
but it was also supposed "to extend the bounds of science and
to promote knowledge". In April 1838, four naval vessels were
assigned to the expedition, with the Vincennes, a sloop of war of
780 tons, designated as the flagship. Other vessels were the Peacock,
a sloop of war of 650 tons, the Porpoise, a brig of 230 tons, and
the store ship Relief. Two New York pilot boats, the 110-ton schooner
Sea Gull and the 96-ton schooner Flying Fish were purchased for
the expedition to be used as survey vessels close in to shore.
was not the navy's first choice to lead the expedition. Thomas Ap
Catesby Jones was originally placed in command but resigned in disgust
due to delays coming from the Secretary of the Navy. The command
was then offered to Commodore Shubrick, who declined. Captains Kearney
and Gregory were asked and they thought it politically incorrect
and so stepped aside. The next man chosen was Charles Wilkes.