Archive for the 'Revenue Cutter Service' Category

Aug 1

Hamilton’s Revenue Fleet

Thursday, August 1, 2013 2:00 AM

The following article, Hamilton’s Revenue Fleet by Hyman R. Kaplan was first published in Naval Institute Proceedings in October, 1962.

After nearly 172 years of obscurity, a hitherto neglected exchange of correspondence between Alexander Hamilton, first Secretary of the Treasury, and Sharp Delany, first Federal Collector of Customs at Philadelphia, has been uncovered in the voluminous files of the Philadelphia Customs House.

Fragile and yellowed with age, the letters shed new light on early American history as well as on the origins of the U . S. Coast Guard, initially sponsored by Hamilton in 1790.

Illustration of USRC Massachusetts

Illustration of USRC Massachusetts

The story begins on 7 August 1789, when Colonel Delany gratefully acknowledged his appointment as Collector of Customs at Philadelphia to President Washington about three months after the first President had taken office. His letter follows:

Phila. 7th August 1789


I inclose an acknowledgment as directed in your letter of the 5th Inst.

I shall this day enter on the Duties of my Office and I trust execute them in the only manner which can give satisfaction to the best and most beloved of men, that of doing my Duty and promoting the interests of the Union.

I hereby acknowledge to have received my appointment as Collector of the Port of Philadelphia by the President of the United States on the 6th Inst. at 9 o’clock PM. 

S. Delany

To Tobias Lear Esq. Secretary to the President of the United States

Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 4

Establishment of U. S. Coast Guard

Thursday, August 4, 2011 2:00 AM

August 4, 1790

 Congress establishes the U. S. Coast Guard as part of a new revenue law.

In March 1976, Proceedings published a special issue about the U.S. Coast Guard, which included an article by Commander Roger P. Vance, U. S. Coast Guard Reserve, about the origin of the Coast Guard. Vance’s article describes how, under the newly-formed Constitution, the need for a revenue system that would discourage smuggling resulted in the creation of a small fleet of cutters responsible for enforcing the revenue laws of the new American government:

We now know our Constitution to be sound and durable. But in early 1789, it was only an ambitious, untested plan. As members of the new government gathered in New York City that year, they would have to breathe life into the new instrument. And they would have to do so under the burden of debt inherited from the Continental Congress. They faced no problem quite so immediate and serious as that of finance. Read the rest of this entry »

Aug 4

Founders of the U. S. Coast Guard

Thursday, August 4, 2011 1:00 AM

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 »