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On 4 August 2019, the United States Coast Guard celebrated its 228th birthday. So, let’s take a brief walk back into the 1700’s to see what was going on around the time of the service’s creation: (Quotes below courtesy of the US Coast Guard Historian’s Office at https://www.history.uscg.mil/Complete-Time-Line/Time-Line-1700-1800/ )
1716 First lighthouse built in America at Little Brewster Island, Boston, Massachusetts.
1789 7 August. An Act of Congress, the first to make any provisions for public works, created the Lighthouse Establishment, when it accepted title to, and joined jurisdiction over, the 12 lighthouses then in existence, and provided that “the necessary support, maintenance and repairs of all lighthouses, beacons, buoys and public piers erected, placed, or sunk before the passing of this act, at the entrance of, or within any bay, inlet, harbor, or port of the United States, for rendering the navigation thereof easy and safe, shall be defrayed out of the treasury of the United States.” Prior to this time the lighthouses had been paid for, built and administered first by the colonies and then the states.
1790 4 August. Congress authorized Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton’s proposal to build ten cutters to protect the new nation’s revenue. Alternately known as the system of cutters, Revenue Service, and Revenue-Marine this service would officially be named the Revenue Cutter Service in 1863. The cutters were placed under the control of the Treasury Department. This date marks the officially recognized birthday of the Coast Guard.
1791 The cutter, Massachusetts, was commissioned at Newburyport, Massachusetts. She is thought to be the first ship constructed by the Service.
1793 First anti-piracy action. Cutter Diligence ran a pirate vessel ashore in the Chesapeake Bay. Revenue cutters were charged with suppressing piracy.
1794 5 June. The Third Congress authorized an additional ten revenue cutters and gave the Treasury Department responsibility for lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and piers.
1798 Hostilities began in the Quasi-War with France. The Revenue Cutters Pickering, Virginia, Scammel, South Carolina, Governor Jay, Eagle, General Greene, and Diligence were the first to be placed under Naval orders, comprising about one-third of the U.S. Fleet. Unaided revenue cutters took eighteen of the twenty-two prizes captured by the United States between 1798 and 1799.
1799 25 February. The Service becomes responsible for enforcing quarantine laws at sea. “That the quarantines and other restraints, which shall be required and established by the health laws of any state…respecting any vessels arriving in, or bound to, any port or district thereof, whether from a foreign port or place, or from another district of the United States, shall be duly observed by the masters and crews of the several revenue cutters…”
(Top photo from US Coast Guard, copywriter 1999 by Ray S. Morton, from site for public use at https://www.history.uscg.mil/Our-Collections/Photos/igphoto/2001789833/
Second photo from US Coast Guard All Hands publication at https://allhands.coastguard.dodlive.mil/files/2018/08/cg228-bday.jpg)