Following the Revolutionary War, the 13 American Colonies needed revenue for defense and other purposes. Revenues to fund these requirements were raised by Customs tariffs, which also served to protect fledgling American industry. Customs houses were established in all major ports, and merchants were expected to clear customs and pay their tariffs on imported goods prior to unloading their cargoes. To evade paying Customs tariffs, lawless merchants, or smugglers, unloaded their cargoes at isolated locations. To stop this loss of revenue due to smuggling, in 1790 Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of Treasury, under President George Washington's direction, started the Revenue Cutter Service whose job was to patrol the coast preventing smuggling and ensuring Customs tariffs were paid. Revenue Cutters were called "Cutters" due to their typical fore and aft rig which gave them the ability to point higher and sail faster, enabling them to out sail and run down the slower, square rigged, cargo-laden smugglers. Revenue Cutters were sometimes armed with one or two small cannon adequate to stop lightly armed smugglers. They established American law on the Atlantic coast and have been credited with putting our infant nation on its economic feet.
DILIGENCE I was one of the first ten Revenue Cutters. Built in 1791 in Washington, North Carolina, DILIGENCE I temporarily sailed out of New Bern, North Carolina prior to moving to her permanent homeport of Wilmington in October of 1792. DILIGENCE I distinguished herself by seizing a noted French smuggler in the Cape Fear area. The cutter's original master, Thomas Cooke, and his son, mysteriously disappeared in 1796 never to be seen again. Purportedly, the Cookes were killed in retribution for interdicting smugglers. The original Cooke home on 4th street near St. Mary's church in Wilmington is reportedly haunted by the soul of Thomas Cooke.
DILIGENCE I was replaced in fairly quick succession by DILIGENCE II, III, and IV. Each new cutter was bigger and faster, and all remained homeported along the Cape Fear River. By the 1830's, the DILIGENCE line temporarily ended after DILIGENCE IV was decommissioned. In 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service joined forces with the Lifesaving Service to become the modern day U.S. Coast Guard. The Lighthouse Service was subsequently added to the ranks of the Coast Guard in 1939.
DILIGENCE V, a 125' diesel-powered Coast Guard cutter, commissioned in 1919, sailed out of New York, New York; Boston, Massachusetts; Cleveland, Ohio and finally Long Beach, California before being decommissioned in 1961. DILIGENCE V guarded the American coast against smugglers during the prohibition era and also served under the Department of the Navy in World War II.
DILIGENCE VI, the current DILIGENCE was commissioned in 1964. DILIGENCE VI is a 210', diesel powered, helicopter-capable Coast Guard cutter with 76 crewmembers. DILIGENCE VI was originally home ported in Key West, Florida but changed homeports to Cape Canaveral, Florida in 1983. In 1990, DILIGENCE VI was temporarily decommissioned for modernization. In 1992, following a 28 million dollar refurbishment, a virtually brand new, rebuilt, DILIGENCE VI was placed back in commission and home ported in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Returning to the homeport of her namesake, DILIGENCE VI has remained "On guard for America," patrolling the east coast of the United States, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico rescuing mariners in distress, protecting our environment and valuable fisheries resources, halting the immigration of illegal migrants, and helping staunch the flow of illegal drugs and contraband from entering the United States.
DILIGENCE VI is the only active Coast Guard Cutter named after one of the first ten Revenue Cutters that is home ported in an original homeport.