Did you know that the U.S. Coast Guard celebrates three different birthdays, and that today isn’t one of them?
October 2, 1789, however, is the reason all three exist. Here’s the skinny.
The Coast Guard considers August 4, 1790, its true date of birth. On that day, Congress approved the construction of 10 ships for the enforcement of tariffs and trade laws, to prevent smuggling, and to protect federal revenue collection.
However, the Coast Guard did not become official under that name until President Wilson signed it into law on January 28, 1915. That became birthday No. 2.
Then there is the Coast Guard Reserve’s birthday, created by the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Reserve Act of February 19, 1941.
The date that made all three birthdays possible? October 2, 1789, or 231 years ago today.
On that day, U.S. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton commissioned a report on the potential use of boats and ships for the “security of the revenue against contraband.”
While the Revolution ultimately created this nation, it also triggered an economic crisis because some states were unable to repay their Revolutionary War debt while other states simply refused.
The British seized upon the crisis by refusing to buy American exports. It instead flooded U.S. markets with cheaper British products to undercut the fledgling American economy, while replenishing its own following an expensive war with France in 1778.
Hamilton pushed to impose duties and tonnage taxes on foreign goods and ships, to aggressively stop smugglers, and to give the American economy a fighting chance. It did more than that.
Hence, on October 2, 1789, Hamilton began the process of creating the Revenue Service. A year later, Congress funded the 10 ships that became the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790, which begat the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, which begat the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve in 1941, and all of those birthday parties.