Hopley Yeaton - Father Of The US Coast Guard

Hopley Yeaton - Father Of The US Coast Guard

Hopley Yeaton was a sailor in the Continental Navy who made a name for himself among the Founding Fathers.

After the ratification of the Constitution, Yeaton was named as the Master of a cutter in the Revenue Marine. He is now known as the Father of the United States Coast Guard.

The Revenue Marine

The United States had begun meeting in Congress Assembled.

The national government was under way, but there were still issues that needed to be settled. For one, the country needed money.

Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan had several schemes for raising revenue.  One of these was the collecting tariffs on imported goods.

There was a problem, however.  

Smugglers were bringing products into the United States illegally.  They had been doing this since before the Revolution (ehem…John Hancock) and were quite good at it.

The plan then became to set up an organization which would patrol the coasts, arresting any ships attempting to offload goods without paying the tariff.  To accomplish this, Hamilton created the Revenue Marine.


The Revenue Marine in many ways acted as the Coast Guard does today, minus the saving lives part.  (Actually, after merging with the Lifesaving Service and a quick name change, the Revenue Marine would be absorbed into the Coast Guard in the 20th century.)

There were initially ten vessels assigned to the Revenue Marine.  These boats were known as cutters. Cutters were built for speed, the expectation being they could run down any ship that tried to escape.

Each cutter was given a Master (captain), who was a commissioned officer of the Unites States Army.  

The first Master to be named was Hopley Yeaton.

Hopley Yeaton

Hopley Yeaton was a New Hampshire born sailor who took to the sea early in life.  By the time the American Revolutionary War came around, Yeaton was already Captain of a merchant vessel.

Hopley worked as a privateer in the early days of the war, but quickly signed up for the Continental Navy.

Yeaton was chosen by George Washington as the first officer in the Revenue Marine based on his duel backgrounds of commanding ships and trading with merchants.  He was stationed in Portsmouth, NH.

Party Politics

All records point to Yeaton serving with dignity.  

However, he began to associate with the Democratic-Republican Party.  This did not sit well with President John Adams who had Hopley replaced during his term in office.

When Thomas Jefferson took over the presidency, both John Langdon and Albert Gallatin recommended Yeaton be reinstated as a Master in the Revenue Marine.  This was done and Hopley resumed his duties for several years before retiring to his farm.

Father of the Coast Guard

Hopley Yeaton’s most notable contribution to the Founding of the United States was his recommendation that young men be properly trained in the art of handling cutters.  He thought men of the sea should be given the same type of education that army men were receiving at West Point.

Eventually, people agreed with Yeaton and his ideas were (albeit after his death) assembled into today’s Coast Guard Academy.

His promotion of sailing education, coupled with his naming as first Master of the Revenue Marine, left Hopley Yeaton with the legacy of Father of the United States Coast Guard.

If you’d like to learn more about Founders who sailed the oceans, you might want to pop over to my articles on Esek Hopkins and John Paul Jones.

The only book I know about Hopley Yeaton is ‘His Window on the World.’ Unfortunately, it is extremely rare an therefore fairly expensive. Because of this, I cannot speak to it’s contents but if you are interested in this person and would like to learn more about him, try picking up the book through our affiliate link below and let me know how it is!

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