Illuminating the Republic: Maritime Safety and the Federalist Vision of Empire

Isaac McComb, A View of the Lighthouse on Montauk Point, circa 1796, New York. (National Archives)

The national government under the Federal Constitution effectively began its reign on April 6, 1789, as an invisible and unremarkable presence in the lives of most ordinary Americans.[1] The army boasted about 750 men stationed mainly on the western frontier, there were no national buildings, roads or even construction sites, while few federal bureaucrats and fewer elected officials dotted the political landscape.[2] Scholar Allen Miller correctly observed that, at this early moment, “the federal state was merely a state of mind only on paper or in the imagination.”[3] To remedy this, the Federalist administrations of the 1790s embarked on a series of ambitious public works programs to memorialize the national presence in the American consciousness.[4] These early endeavors aimed to put the proverbial sinews on the skeletal framework of the young federal government.

Eager to promote the general welfare while attending to national security concerns, Federalists aimed to diversify the national economy and modernize the republic. Promoting maritime commerce and navigational safety became key to achieving these critical objectives. Aware of the dangers of naval and commercial navigation, the Washington administration initiated an aggressive campaign to nationalize existing lighthouses while constructing new ones on the darkened coasts of the United States. For Federalists, lighthouses came to embody national vision, federal competence and American empire during the 1790s. These partisans aimed to encourage domestic manufacturing to ween Americans off of their industrial dependence on foreign nations and eventually compete in the production of finished commodities, particularly military hardware. Anticipating increasingly busier ports and waterways, the national lighthouse project offered observers a clear window into Federalists’ commercial intentions and vision of empire. Successful construction of these buildings would not only reveal these aspirations, but also plainly advertise the new government’s ability to commence and complete its national ambitions. Finally, federal lighthouse construction showcased a visual permanence along American shores and projected a vigorous young nation barreling toward maturity.

On Tuesday, April 21, 1789, Virginia representative James Madison introduced a motion before Congress to earmark maritime revenue “for the support of light-houses . . . and other establishments incident to commerce.”[5] On May 5, Georgia Representative James Jackson similarly commented on the need to construct lighthouses for the “purpose of improving our navigation.”[6] Once the lower house drafted a bill addressing the aforementioned concerns, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts presented it before that assembled chamber for its first reading in early July.[7] In August, President George Washington signed into law An Act for the Establishment and Support of Lighthouses, Beacons, Buoys, and Public Piers, the first federal infrastructure program undertaken by the new government.[8] This motion authorized the national government to assume the costs of constructing, maintaining and operating lighthouses and other navigational components for one year. Once that time expired, states had to either cede their lighthouses and accompanying acreage to the federal government for continued maintenance or resume funding the structures themselves.[9] This oft-overlooked stipulation is critical for understanding why both Washington and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton became so deeply invested in overseeing lighthouse proliferation and regulation. The act gave the new government a single fiscal year to demonstrate its competence and inspire the general public to trust its initiatives. Federalists hoped the new government would prove its successful yet limited activism benefited the political community as a whole, protecting individual state coasts while strengthening the nation.

By January 3, 1790, Hamilton had compiled for the president a detailed inventory of all known lighthouses in the several states along with their estimated maintenance costs and the names and salaries of the men who tended to their operation and upkeep. In this report, Hamilton outlined eleven of these maritime markers, though there were technically thirteen. Of the two overlooked structures, Delaware’s Cape Henlopen and Georgia’s Tybee Island, the former was in a state of disrepair and possibly went unreported due to its condition, while builders of the latter had just commenced construction when the new government took charge.[10] This document likely represents the first national assessment of local conditions and their potential effects on federal designs. Sensitive to local politics, the treasury secretary remarked to Washington that all lighthouse keepers had been “recommended as proper to be continued, and that no objection has been made to any.” Yet Hamilton suggested the president place lighthouse superintendents under the direction of the “Collectors of the principal ports” in most states. Pennsylvania and New York, according to Hamilton, did not require this arrangement since their proximity to the seat of government placed those specific superintendents “sufficiently under the Eye of the Secretary of the Treasury.”[11] Though comfortable with parochial considerations during the initial stage of nationalizing American lighthouses, Hamilton considered federal management of these structures and their keepers vital to curating an image of national professionalism and proficiency. Once Hamilton’s department took charge, he expected all local keepers to find themselves governed by the exacting standards of a federal officer.

Eager to demonstrate government effectiveness and fiscal responsibility, the president and treasury secretary obsessed over virtually every detail of the federal lighthouse project. They carefully considered construction sites, sought the best contractors and demanded certain dimensions and space allocation for the safety of the keepers and utility of the structures themselves. Virginia’s Cape Henry Lighthouse became the first such building constructed by the federal government and it naturally received considerable attention from the executive branch.[12]

In December 1789, Virginia governor Beverly Randolph wrote to the president his intention to “convey certain land to the United States … for the purpose of building a light House.”[13] Hamilton expressed concern to Washington that the site in question was “peculiarly exposed to accumulations of sand in its vicinity” and recommended appointing a “trusty and judicious person” to examine the location with some experienced sailors “who may possess local information.”[14] Washington agreed and authorized the treasury secretary to pay Edward Carrington and two seafaring people to visit Cape Henry to select the most advantageous location.[15] When Carrington failed to execute his responsibilities, Washington approached Thomas Newton, Jr., a trustee of the lighthouse’s proposed location, to investigate the matter.[16] Newton declared the original site safe and Governor Randolph promptly ceded it to the federal government.[17] The president and Hamilton considered the location of that lighthouse critical for selling their federal vision to the American public. If workers set the structure’s foundation in an area where sand accumulation created dangerous sandbars, the national government would start off with a breathtaking failure and sweeping loss of public confidence. This first project, then, demanded nothing short of unmitigated success.

Hamilton advertised federal proposals for lighthouse construction “in the Gazettes of Virginia and the principle sea ports of the United States.”[18] Virginia commissioners estimated the project would cost $34,076.66 and Washington chose New York architect John McComb to build the lighthouse. McComb began construction in August 1791 and finished fourteen months later.[19] The Gazette of the United States informed the public that the “light-house on Cape Henry, Virginia, is now completed, and the lamps were lighted for the first time” on the evening of November 17, 1792. The paper continued, “The foundation of this building stands about fifty feet above the level of the high water mark, and the lamps in clear weather may be seen to the distance of 30 miles.”[20] The busy waters of Cape Henry, the paper revealed, had just become safer. Hamilton’s persistent advertisements for lighthouse contracts clearly credited the federal government for this remarkable achievement.

While the president and treasury secretary tended to the completion of Cape Henry Light, other states began ceding their structures to the national government or pleading to the executive branch for similar maritime construction. In January 1790, for example, a collection of merchants from Hartford, Connecticut, published an open letter in the Gazette of the United States asking Alexander Hamilton to construct a lighthouse “for the improvement and safety of the navigation of this and neighboring states.”[21] That April, Washington received word that New York governor George Clinton had ceded control of Sandy Hook Lighthouse to the national government.[22] In the district of Maine, Portland Head Lighthouse equally benefited from federal involvement as Congress approved $1,500 in 1790 for its completion. Federal directives instructed builders to finish the structure using local materials to cut costs.[23] Washington advised Congress on October 6, 1791, that North Carolina’s governor had ceded to the national government one acre of land at Ocracoke and ten acres on Cape Island for lighthouse construction.[24] That November, American gazettes reported that a fire had consumed the new wooden lighthouse on Tybee Island, Georgia, leaving the busy northern coasts of that state dangerously unmarked. “Notice will be given in the public prints,” the announcement advised, “when it is so re-pared as to be re-lighted.”[25] After the Treasury Department and Georgia’s assembly worked through some murky constitutional issues, the federal government took ownership of the site and rebuilt the lighthouse.[26] An announcement in the Georgia Gazette advertising the successful repairs made its way to the press, another public reminder of federal competence.[27] States, eager for national relief, embraced both federal subsidies and the Washington administration’s designs for a commercial future.

As American commercial activity intensified during the early 1790s, the New York City Chamber of Commerce grew alarmed by the dangers commercial vessels faced while journeying between England and the United States. Much of this maritime engagement, of course, went through New York. With one eye toward safety and the other toward lowering insurance costs, the Chamber of Commerce began petitioning the Washington administration for another lighthouse beyond that of Sandy Hook.[28] Merchants asked Ezra L’Hommedieu, former member of the Continental Congress, to plead their case to the president. L’Hommedieu’s persuasive lobbying resulted in Congress authorizing the construction of a lighthouse at Montauk Point; Washington approved it on April 12, 1792.[29] The following year, Congress provided $20,000 to erect that structure. L’Hommedieu, with the advice of some local sailors, selected the flat plains of Turtle Hill for the site and Washington again hired John McComb (who constructed Virginia’s Cape Henry lighthouse) to design the building.[30] Upon its completion some five months later, McComb’s younger brother Isaac memorialized the structure in watercolor.

The administration sought not only to demonstrate that it could successfully construct and maintain American lighthouses, it aimed to execute every transaction involved with precise management of federal revenue. In October 1789, Hamilton sent out a circular letter to all “wardens of the Ports,” cautioning them to attend to their expenditures with “proper economy” and make certain they supported every purchase with the appropriate receipts.[31] While supervising the lighthouse at New Haven, Connecticut, Hamilton reminded Superintendent Jedediah Huntington of the limits of federal generosity. The Treasury Department guaranteed all maintenance expenses on behalf of New Haven’s structure, Hamilton acknowledged, but warned Huntington against submitting any receipts dated after August 15, 1790, since Connecticut had yet to cede its lighthouse and accompanying acreage to the new government.[32] Connecticut stood to lose its federal subsidies and, more importantly, a reliably operated and maintained lighthouse if it did not submit to the nationalization of its building.

Regarding the ruins of Henlopen Light, Delaware’s lone lighthouse, Hamilton submitted, for the president’s approval, five contracts. The secretary’s attention to detail is remarkable as he carefully calculated the proposed costs of a range of goods and services, weighing them against the market rate to evaluate whether or not the federal government benefited from each exchange. Hamilton considered the cost of whale oil, the rate of transport for said oil, the price of iron casts to fasten buoys and beacons to seafloors and structures as well as the cost of the required chains to anchor them. He reported to Washington, “After due examination . . . the Contracts appear advantage[ou]s to the United States.”[33] The president’s secretary, Tobias Lear, informed Hamilton the following day that Washington had approved each contract.[34]

When the top of Henlopen Light burned down the following month, Hamilton immediately sought contractors to rebuild it. After prolonged negotiations, he finally sent Washington a builder’s contract. The secretary explained to the president that he had delayed sending a proposal since he felt local contractors were inflating their rates. Reputable local workman convinced him otherwise, however, and the secretary accepted the initial terms before sending the contract off for approval.[35] After South Carolina’s wooden lighthouse caught fire, Hamilton received two proposals for its reconstruction. He recommended the contract from Conrad and John Naverson as the more favorable deal for the government.[36] It is clear that the president and treasury secretary spent federal dollars carefully, keeping accurate records in their effort to make maritime travel safer while inspiring public confidence in national governance.

Hamilton in particular concerned himself with virtually every detail while nationalizing and constructing lighthouses for the federal republic. On at least one occasion, the treasury secretary even provided architect John McComb instructions for space allocation. Hamilton “did not approve of placing the oil vault within the lighthouse,” fearful of a fire erupting and burning down both the building and attached house. He equally demanded McComb frame two rooms in the home and protect them with a square shell since the abode was “in so exposed a situation.” The secretary closed by directing McComb to make the dwelling of stone rather than wood and construct a cellar to store, among other things, whale oil.[37] Whether identifying the soundest construction sites, seeking the most advantageous contracts for the federal government or simply adhering to basic safety measures, the Washington administration strived for probity, proficiency and prudence. Each completed project communicated to the political community an energetic and successful federal government, a stark contrast over what many observers considered the largely impotent former confederation government.

Partisan politics also played a role in this federal endeavor. When it came time to select lighthouse keepers and superintendents, the administration had at least two criteria: candidates must be qualified and competent, and must support the Federal Constitution. As early as 1782, Alexander Hamilton, in “The Continentalist VI,” argued in favor of granting the national government power to appoint its own officers “to create in the interior of each State a mass of influence in favor of the Federal Government.” Contrary to some anti-federalists’ most fervent fears, Hamilton’s logic rested not on an urge to violently wrest liberties from the people, but rather on a desire to provide the new government with “power enough to defend itself and preserve the union.”[38] This statement was not a call for military action against federal skeptics or even opponents. It only expressed Hamilton’s impression that federal officials who diligently attended to their duties would become instrumental in helping the national government realize its objectives. He expected each national success to bind the states and citizens more closely to the Constitution.

Once Virginia’s Cape Henry Lighthouse became operational, Washington drafted a letter to Secretary Lear directing him to “examine the characters” who had applied to be its lighthouse keeper.[39] Washington expected Lear to rigorously vet any potential candidates before the president returned to Philadelphia from Mount Vernon. Hamilton had sent the president two hopefuls that September, one backed by the state’s governor, the other by Virginia congressman Josiah Parker. Though Parker’s candidate was an experienced mariner and veteran of the Revolutionary War who had sustained permanent injuries, Hamilton noted his known alcoholism was “peculiarly disqualifying in such a station.”[40] For keeper of Portland Head Light, Boston collector Benjamin Lincoln sent Hamilton multiple recommendations for two men hoping to get the appointment.[41] Lincoln confessed he knew neither and only sought a reputable man with solid principles. One of the nominees, Capt. Joseph Greenleaf, had experience as a ship captain, which likely persuaded Washington to ultimately grant him the position.[42] Washington commissioned Col. Jeremiah Olney as Customs Collector for Providence, Rhode Island, after that state finally ratified the Federal Constitution in 1790. Writing to Hamilton, Olney informed the secretary he would do all in his power to appoint “Federal Characters” to state offices. He warned that the state’s governor planned to appoint “Ante-Revenue officers” to sensitive positions and advised Hamilton to be on guard for these “Bitter and Uniform opposers of the Constitution.”[43] Federalists pragmatically aimed to appoint not only respectable characters, but men committed to advancing the national agenda as well. The partisan feelings over ratification naturally caused men of the Federalist persuasion to remain wary of granting individuals who opposed the Constitution any degree of federal authority.

The national lighthouse project continued during the Adams administration, with Congress authorizing construction of a lighthouse at Eaton’s Neck, New York, in March 1798.[44] Adams approved the project that summer and brought back New York architect John McComb to design the building; construction wrapped up that December. The second president also authorized construction of Gay Head Light at Martha’s Vineyard in late 1798 and, by the close of the decade, Federalists had built a total of ten lighthouses to facilitate trade and help modernize the republic.[45] These guardians of the coasts expressed Federalists’ shared national vision of creating an empire of liberty dedicated to safely advancing the nation’s commercial interests.

President Washington, for his part, saw real political capital in each successful federal initiative. In his first speech before Congress, the chief magistrate theorized that each national project that ameliorated American life only further strengthened the public’s “attachment [to] and confidence” in the new government, reinforcing the bonds of union.[46] The following year, the president marveled at America’s rapid progress in agriculture, manufacturing, commerce and navigation. Sound administration, he boasted, had conjured a “revival of confidence, public as well as private,” among American citizens in government.[47] Washington expressed his desire to “lay the foundations of the public Administration in the affection of the people.”[48] In other words, he expected federal achievements to rouse public support for constitutional governance. This support, the president surmised, would then generate enthusiasm for future national proposals. At the close of his first administration, the president privately reported “our agriculture, commerce, and navigation are in a flourishing state.”[49] At least part of Washington’s unusual optimism and glowing evaluation of the national condition rested on an assessment of his administration’s successful federalization of American lighthouses.

Lighthouses have represented safety and prosperity since the Pharos of Alexandria and Colossus of Rhoads gazed out over their respective harbors in the ancient world.[50] Once the American confederation reorganized under the Federal Constitution, the Washington administration continued promoting these expressions of maritime sophistication. The peculiar political circumstances under which the new American government set about achieving its vision, however, also required the first administrations to attend to building public confidence in federal abilities. Lighthouses became, for Federalists, markers of modernization as well as benchmarks of national potency. And Federalist initiatives made American coasts safer for travel and transport, further facilitating the nation’s commercial exchange.

On August 7, 2014, the 225th anniversary of President Washington signing into law the Lighthouse Act of 1789, Congress’s upper chamber passed Senate Resolution 507, designating August 7 as National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day. This resolution recognized the national government’s successful construction and operation of lighthouses as “the first public works act in the young United States.” It further proclaimed that the construction and maintenance of these navigational aids advanced the nation “to the forefront of international maritime prominence,” as American influence spread beyond the Atlantic basin. Lighthouses, it offered, “have symbolized safety, security, heroism, duty, and faithfulness” to the nation. The resolution next praised the countless architects, builders and keepers who jeopardized “their lives for the safety of others” while promoting national interests.[51] Those silent cylinders, built on some of America’s most remote and dangerous spaces, helped usher in a period of profound commercial and naval progress. Their stone walls embodied the successful execution of the Federalist vision of empire just as they stood watch for all, illuminating the republic.

 

[1]The Confederation Congress designated March 4, 1789 as the date to cede authority to the new government. Due to travel delays, the House of Representatives did not reach a quorum until April 1; the Senate not until April 6. At that point, the senate elected New Hampshire’s John Langdon as President pro tempore, and he guided the opening and counting of electoral votes before both assembled chambers, essentially ushering in the reign of the national government. See Gazette of the United States, April 15, 1789; Forrest McDonald, The Presidency of George Washington (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1974, 1974), 23; Gordon S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 53-65.

[2]William B. Skleton, An American Profession of Arms: The Army Officer Corps, 1784-1861 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1993), 5.

[3]Allen S. Miller, “‘The Lighthouse Top I See’: Lighthouses as Instruments and Manifestations of State Building in the Early Republic,” Buildings and Landscapes: Journal of the Vernacular Architecture Forum 17, no. 1 (2010): 13.

[4]The First Congress attended to the creation of the State, War, and Treasury Departments before conjuring the Federal Judiciary, Customs Service, and Federal Revenue Cutter Service into existence. See Stanley Elkins and Eric McKitrick, The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788-1800 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 50-64; Irving H. King, George Washington’s Coast Guard: Origins of the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, 1789-1801 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1978); Irving H. King, The Coast Guard Under Sail: The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service, 1789-1865 (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1989).

[5]Joseph Gales, ed., Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, 21 vols. (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1834-56), 1:183.

[6]Ibid., 1:262.

[7]Ibid., 1:619.

[8]An Act for the Establishment and Support of Lighthouses, Beacons, Buoys, and Public Piers, August 7, 1789, in Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America from the Organization of Government in 1789, to March 1845, 61 vols. (1845-74) 1:53-54. This act became law on August 15, 1789.

[9]Ibid. This bill activated the Constitution’s “Enclave Clause,” which provided Congress with “exclusive legislation” over property any state government deeded over to the federal government. U.S. Constitution, art. I, § 8, cl. 17.

[10]Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, January 3, 1790, in Harold C. Syrett, ed., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 27 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961-87), 6:43-49; D. Alan Stevenson as referenced in Miller, “Lighthouse Top I See,” 16.

[11]Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, January 3, 1790, in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 6:43-49.

[12]Though Cape Henry received the first federal assistance, Virginia had already chosen a site and purchased materials for its lighthouse The national government hired an architect and finished the job. New York’s Montauk Point, however, remains the first structure the federal government became involved with from the approval to completion of the project. Contrary to the conclusions drawn by this research, Ray Jones argued that the first project the federal government involved itself with was Portland Head in the district of Maine. See Ray Jones, The Lighthouse Encyclopedia: The Definitive Reference (Guilford: Globe Pequot Press, 2004), 19.

[13]Beverly Randolph to George Washington, December 18, 1789, in Dorothy Twohig, et al., eds., The Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 21 vols. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1987-2020), 4:420.

[14]Alexander Hamilton to George Washington, May 6, 1790, in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 6: 406.

[15]William Jackson to Hamilton, May 7-10, 1790, in ibid., 6: 408.

[16]Hamilton to Beverly Randolph, June 19, 1790, in ibid., 6: 468-69.

[17]Thomas Newton to Hamilton, July 11, 1790, Hamilton to Randolph, August 19, 1790, in ibid., 6:491-92, 560-61.

[18]Hamilton to Washington, January 5, 1791, in Twohig, et al., Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 7:183-86.

[19]Hamilton to Richard Harison, April 14, 1791, Hamilton to John McComb, April 1, 1791, Newton to Hamilton, July 18, 1791, Newton to Hamilton, July 8, August 8, 1791, Tench Coxe to Hamilton, October 17, 1792, in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 6:284, 238, 555-56, 553; 12:587.

[20]Gazette of the United States, December 5, 1792.

[21]Gazette of the United States, January 13, 1790.

[22]George Clinton to Washington, April 2, 1790, in Twohig, et al., Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 5:304; George Washington, Diary, April 3, 1790, in Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds., The Diaries of George Washington, 6 vols. (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1976-79), 6:56.

[23]An Act Authorizing the Secretary of the Treasury to Finish the Lighthouse on Portland Head, in the District of Main, in Enclosure B: [Appropriations Made by Congress, August 1789-December 1790], February 3, 1792 in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 11: 10-13.

[24]George Washington to the House of Representatives, October 25, 1791, in Twohig, et al., Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series,9:110-17.

[25]Gazette of the United States, December 5, 1792.

[26]Hamilton to the Senators and Representatives of the State of Georgia, November 17, 1792, in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 13:155-56.

[27]For the announcement of the lighthouse’s recently acquired functionality, see Gazette of the United States, November 16, 1791; National Gazette, November 14, 1791.

[28]Michael Salvarezza and Christopher Weaver, “Montauk Point Lighthouse: George Washington’s Lighthouse,” Lighthouse Digest, July 2005, accessed May 18, 2023, www.lighthousedigest.com/Digest/StoryPage.cfm?StoryKey=2271.

[29]Harry Osmers, “Montauk Point Lighthouse,” Lighthouse Digest, September/October, 2012, May 18, 2023, www.lighthousedigest.com/Digest/StoryPage.cfm?StoryKey=3740

[30]Osmers, “Montauk Point Lighthouse”; Washington to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., August 17, 1795, in Twohig, et al., Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 18:556-57.

[31]Treasury Department to the Wardens of the Ports, October 5, 1789, in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 5:424.

[32]Hamilton to Jedediah Huntington, April 21, 1790, in ibid., 6:369-70.

[33]Hamilton to Washington, May 28, 1790, in Twohig, et al., Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 5:421-22.

[34]Tobias Lear to Hamilton, May 29, 1790, in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 6:445.

[35]Hamilton to Washington, June 19, 1792, in Twohig, et al., Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 10:467-68.

[36]Hamilton to Washington, August 15, 1791, in ibid., 8:428-29.

[37]Hamilton to McComb, April 1, 1791, in Syrett, Papers of Alexander Hamilton, 8:238.

[38]“The Continentalist VI,” in ibid., 3:99-106.

[39]Washington to Lear, October 1, 1792, in Twohig, et al., Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 11:185-87.

[40]Hamilton to Washington, September 22, 1792, in ibid., 11:137-141.

[41]Benjamin Lincoln to Hamilton, November 17, 1790, in ibid, 7:156.

[42]Hamilton to Lincoln, January 17, 1791, in ibid., 7:437.

[43]Rhode Island did not ratify the Federal Constitution until 1790. Jeremiah Olney to Hamilton, June 7, 1790, in ibid., 6:458-59.

[44]“An Act for the Erection of a Lighthouse, and Placing Buoys at the Several Places Therein Mention,” in Peters, Statutes of the United States, 1:540.

[45]Miller, “‘Lighthouse Top I See,’” 13.

[46]Washington to the House and Senate, December 8, 1790, in Twohig, et al., Papers of George Washington: Presidential Series, 7:45-49.

[47]Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, October 25, 1791, in ibid., 9:110-17.

[48]Ibid.

[49]Washington to Edward Newenham, October 20, 1792, in ibid., 11:246-47.

[50]Doris Behrens-Abouseif, “The Islamic History of the Lighthouse of Alexandria,” Muqarnas23 (2006): 1-14.

[51]U.S. Congress, Senate, Designating August 7, 2014, As “National Lighthouse and Lighthouse Preservation Day,”SR 507, 113th Cong., 2nd sess., introduced July 17, 2014, www.congress.gov/bill/113th-congress/senate-resolution/507/text.

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3 Comments

  • Collecting revenue to fund these changes putting a face on the new federal govt’s presence, and to demonstrate its own credibility to govern, were critical.

    Suppressed for over 200 years, I recently discovered files in the national archives (Boston) that Vermont’s first governor, Thomas Chittenden, was convicted by a jury in a federal court (first and only governor in the state’s history) in Windsor, VT in 1797 for violating federal revenue laws relating to the dispensing of alcohol. More to come.

  • Hey Gary, it sounds like you have uncovered a federal conviction that warrants some further research. I look forward to learning of the results.

  • Terrific article on what I called in my blog post of August 7, 2019 (americansystemnow.com) our nation’s “first public infrastructure project.” One interesting detail — the Cape Henry lighthouse was called by some “Hamilton’s Light,” due to his role in getting the job done. Thank you, Shawn, and I look forward to meeting you at Fort Plain in June. Nancy Spannaus

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