August 4, 1790
Creation of U. S. Revenue Marine
In March 1976, Proceedings published a brief article by Truman R. Strobridge and Bernard C. Nalty about the discovery of correspondence between Alexander Hamilton, credited with the creation of the Revenue Marine, and Colonel Sharp Delaney, a Customs collector at the time. This correspondence, regarding the use of ships to enforce the new Customs laws of the Constitution, suggests that Hamilton may not have been solely responsible for the conception of the service that is today known as the U. S. Coast Guard. As Strobridge and Nalty write:
No one denies that today’s Coast Guard is descended from Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s U. S. Revenue Marine, but letters discovered in 1962 at the Philadelphia Customs House raise questions about other aspects of the story. Did the Revenue Marine originate at Philadelphia or at Newburyport, Massachusetts, where the first revenue cutter was built? Was its founder Alexander Hamilton or Colonel Sharp Delany, an Irish-born veteran of the Revolution who in 1789 became the first Collector of Customs at the Pennsylvania city?
About two months after Delany took office, but while he was absent because of illness, a circular letter arrived from Secretary Hamilton. The question of revenue cutters was already on the cabinet officer’s mind, for he asked “to have your ideas of the expediency of employing them in your quarter, and (if any appear to you necessary) of the number and kind you deem requisite, their armament and probable expense.” If any cutters “have been in use under State Regulations,” Hamilton continued, “I desire they may be continued and that I may be advised with accuracy of the nature of their establishment.” Read the rest of this entry »