This Day in History: Two Agencies become the
United States Coast Guard
Writen by by Tara Ross
On this day in 1915, two agencies are consolidated into a new United States Coast Guard.
Of course, the foundations for the Coast Guard were laid long before 1915! In fact, the Coast Guard considers its real birthday to be August 4, 1790. On that day, President George Washington signed an act authorizing the construction of “so many boats or cutters, not exceeding ten” to “secure the collection of” tariffs. This system of cutters was known by various names over the years, including Revenue Service, Revenue-Marine, and the Revenue Cutter Service. Its job was to enforce federal trade laws and to fight smuggling along the coast. The cutters were placed under the control of the Treasury Department, which is why the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, is sometimes called the Father of the Coast Guard.
You’ll love Hamilton’s early orders to his new commanding officers! He reminded them that they are public servants. “[Officers] will always keep in mind that their countrymen are freemen,” he instructed, “and, as such, are impatient of everything that bears the least mark of a domineering spirit. They will, therefore, refrain, with the most guarded circumspection, from whatever has the semblance of haughtiness, rudeness, or insult.”
Until a regular navy was organized in 1798, the Revenue Marine cutters were the only armed ships protecting American waters.
Creating a force to protect the American coast and prevent smuggling might seem like a no-brainer to us, but it was less obvious back in the 1790s. Americans feared a standing army, remember.
What caused Americans to overcome this fear? The story continues HERE.