Today marks the 214th anniversary of the enactment of the original legislation establishing a “system of cutters” to protect the revenues and other maritime interests of the young United States
of America. Though today’s Coast Guard is a melding of a number of prior organizations, the Revenue Cutter Service constituted
the largest single element and its creation has continued to be recognized as the current organization’s founding. In that regard, it is useful to reflect on Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton
’s letter of instructions to commanding officers of the first revenue cutters. The letter stated, in pertinent part:
While I recommend in the strongest terms to the respective officers, activity, vigilance, and firmness, I feel no less solicitude, that their deportment may be marked with prudence, moderation and good temper. Upon these last qualities, not less than the former, must depend the success, usefulness and consequently continuance of the establishment in which they are included. They cannot be insensible that there are some prepossessions against it, that the charge with which they are entrusted is a delicate one, and that it is easy by mismanagement, to produce serious and extensive clamor, disgust and alarm.
Secretary Hamilton’s advice is as sound today, with the recent maritime security initiative, as it was so many years ago. Semper Paratus! (HK Law)