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