The US Revenue-Marine Service

By | Aug 4, 2009

The United States in 1790 was still very much a new and struggling nation. One that was just trying to survive. Most of its National Income came from tariffs from imports. Even then people were looking for ways not to pay taxes, in the form of tariffs and there was a great deal of Smuggling happening. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton saw it as did Congress and upon his urgings Congress passed on August 4, 1790 an Act that created the Revenue-Marine.

The Revenue-Marines had authority to enforce maritime laws including to see that all tariffs were collected. An order for 10 cutters were approved and between the time that the first ship set sail and the creation of the US Navy in 1798, they were the only armed maritime service for the United States.

These Cutters, Captain and crews, received their orders and were answerable to the Custom Collectors.

The first Cutter believed to enter service, most early records of the service were destroyed in 1814 when the British attacked and burned Washington DC, is the Vigilant, launched in March of 1791 and patrolling New York waters. The others were Active, General Green, Massachusetts, Scammel, Argus, Virginia, Diligence, South Carolina and Eagle.

The Revenue-Marine became the Revenue Marine Division in 1871 and on July 31, 1894 the the Revenue Cutter Service.

Woodrow Wilson on January 28, 1915 signed into law an Act to create the United States Coast Guard. This act combined the Revenue Cutter Service with the Lifesaving Service. Later the Coast Guard would grow when the United States Lighthouse Service was moved under their authority in 1939 and the Navigation and Steamboat Inspection Service in 1942.


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