August 4, 1790 – Beginning of The U.S. Coast Guard

On this day in history, President George Washington signed the Tariff Act authorizing the construction of 10 vessels, or “cutters” to enforce federal tariff and trade laws and to prevent smuggling. This service was originally proposed by Alexander Hamilton as part of The Federalist Papers. In Federalist No. 12, Hamilton wrote:

A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of the laws.”

The service expanded in size as the nation grew, serving in almost every war since the Constitution became the law of the land in 1789. It gained other responsibilities over the years as well, including protection of the country’s strategic natural resources pursuant to the Timber Act of 1822, cruising coastlines for those in distress. In 1848, Congress passed an appropriation for $10,000 to allow for “the better preservation of life and property from shipwrecks.” With the purchase of Alaska in 1867, patrols were assigned to help curtail the illegal seal trade. After the Titanic sank in 1912, the service began conducting international ice patrols.

In 1915, an act of Congress merged the Revenue Cutter Service with the U. S. Life-Saving Service, creating the U.S. Coast Guard. Additional agencies were later merged into the Coast Guard, including those administering lighthouses, merchant marine licensing, and more.


In 1967 President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the Coast Guard transferred from the Department of Treasury to the newly created Department of Transportation. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Coast Guard was again transferred by President George W. Bush, this time to the newly established Department of Homeland Security.

As of 2012, the Coast Guard had over 43,000 active duty members, over 8,000 reservists, over 8,800 civilian employees, and over 30,000 volunteer Auxiliarists. Of the workforce, 85.7% are men.

Alexander Hamilton is honored by the service as “The Father of the Coast Guard.” To this date, five ships named after Alexander Hamilton have served in the US Coast Guard.

National security cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753) is seen on builder's sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico in July 2014.

National security cutter Hamilton (WMSL 753) is seen on builder’s sea trials in the Gulf of Mexico in July 2014.

Congressional Research Service Reports for Legal Research

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress provides research reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics.

As stated on their website:

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for more than a century.

CRS is well-known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nation’s best thinking.”

CRS reports are excellent sources for anyone conducting legal research. They are extremely well-research and many are updated regularly. There is no direct access to the reports for the public, however.

Nonetheless, a large number of them are freely available on the Internet but not all in the same places and not always easy to locate.

Here is a list of some free internet sources: is a free web-based repository of Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports.

There is a search engine but no browsing. You can, however, search by date.

Stanford University has a repository of CRS reports here. The archive goes back to 2008, and allows you to browse by subject or do a word search.

The University of North Texas Digital Library CRS Collection allows for browsing by subject or word searching.

The University of Maryland Thurgood Marshall Law Library CRS Collection specializes in reports in Homeland Security/Terrorism and Health Law & Policy.

The Homeland Security Digital Library posts a number of CRS reports, available both as abstracts or complete PDFs and keeps very current.

The U.S. Department of State has a repository of CRS Reports, here.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) hosts a site for CRS Reports, here. It is browsable by topic or searchable.

Full Text Reports describes its database as “A top-tier research professional’s hand-picked selection of documents from academe, corporations, government agencies (including the Congressional Research Service), interest groups, NGOs, professional societies, research institutes, think tanks, trade associations, and more. Obviously, then, it has research reports from other places besides the CRS, and you can see them listed in a sidebar. (It has not updated its reports since mid-2015 but is still a valuable resource.)


This is just a partial list. Be aware that you may have to check multiple sites for the subject or report you are seeking.

July 28, 1932 – General Douglas MacArthur Brings Out the Tanks in D.C. Against U.S. Army Veterans

In 1924, Congress awarded WWI veterans a bonus to compensate for lost wages by serving overseas, in the form of government bonds that would collect interest over two decades, and to be paid out no earlier than 1945.  But in 1932, as the Great Depression deepened and frustrations mounted, jobless veterans started pressing for early payment of the bonuses.  

An unemployed veteran from Portland, Oregon, Walter Waters, encouraged veterans to join a march on Washington, D.C. to lobby for passage of a bill authorizing the payouts. He convinced about 300 to “ride the rails” toward the nation’s capital. Thanks to media coverage, other veterans across the country also started jumping on freight trains and heading for Washington. On May 25, 1932, the first veterans arrived.  Waters and his men arrived on the 29th. Within a few weeks another 20,000 had joined them. 

Critics called these veterans “bonus seekers,” and those in their ranks the “Bonus Expeditionary Force” (BEF), a play on the “American Expeditionary Force,” as they had been called in France.

World War I veterans aboard a freight train headed to Washington, D.C. to join the Bonus Army

World War I veterans aboard a freight train headed to Washington, D.C. to join the Bonus Army

The men (many of whom brought their families) made camp in vacant lots and abandoned buildings around D.C. in areas the press called “Hoovervilles” after President Herbert Hoover, who was blamed for the economic crisis. The largest such “Hooverville,” by the Anacostia River, soon had a library, post office, a school for the children, and even a newspaper.

On June 4, the whole B.E.F. marched down the streets of Washington and spilled into the halls of Congress. On June 15, the House of Representatives passed the bonus bill by a vote of 211 to 176.

On the 17th, about 8,000 veterans gathered at the Capitol to lobby for passage of the bill in the Senate, but another 10,000 were stranded behind the Anacostia drawbridge, which police had raised to keep them out of the city. The bill was defeated. Many marchers left, but Waters and some 20,000 others declared they would not leave until they got their bonuses.


Inevitably, however, conditions in the camps deteriorated, and President Hoover, Army Chief of Staff Douglas MacArthur, FBI head J. Edgar Hoover, and Secretary of War Patrick J. Hurley feared that the Bonus Army would turn violent and trigger uprisings in Washington and elsewhere.

On July 28, on President Hoover’s orders, 100 policemen tried to evict the men, but the men resisted. The policemen turned to nightsticks, and the veterans fought back with bricks. It wasn’t long before the altercation involved guns. After skirmishes in the afternoon, one veteran lay dead, another mortally wounded, and three policemen had been injured.

Bonus Army marchers (left) confront the police.

Bonus Army marchers (left) confront the police.

At this point, Army Chief of Staff General MacArthur assumed personal command. Nearly 200 mounted cavalry with sabers drawn rode out of the Ellipse, followed by five tanks and about 300 helmeted infantrymen, armed with loaded rifles with fixed bayonets. Soldiers with gas masks released hundreds of tear gas grenades at the crowd, setting off dozens of fires in veterans’ shelters.


By evening, the Army arrived at the Anacostia camp. General MacArthur gave the inhabitants twenty minutes to evacuate the women and children, and then led an attack on the camp with tear gas and fixed bayonets.  They drove off the veterans and set fire to the camp.

Over the next few days, newspapers and newsreels in movie theaters showed graphic images of violence against the World War I veterans and their families. 


For each of the next four years, veterans returned to Washington, D.C., to push for a bonus. Many of the men were sent to work on road construction projects in the Florida keys. On September 2, 1935, several hundred of them were killed in a hurricane. The government attempted to suppress the news, but the writer Ernest Hemingway was aboard one of the first rescue boats, and he wrote of his outrage, helping eliminate any residual resistance to the bonus, which was finally authorized in 1936.

Sources include:

Authentic History

PBS American Experience


Florida Historical Society

Captioned images from BeingButmen Blog

July 26, 1948 – President Truman Issues Executive Orders For Civil Rights

On this day in history, President Harry Truman issued two executive orders.  Executive Order 9980 instituted fair employment practices in the civilian agencies of the federal government:

All personnel actions taken by Federal appointing officers shall be based solely on merit and fitness; and such officers are authorized and directed to take appropriate steps to insure that in all such actions there shall be no discrimination because of race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Executive Order 9981 directed the armed forces to provide “equality of treatment and opportunity for all personnel without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin” and established a presidential committee to monitor compliance.

The online Truman library has a nice hyperlinked chronology of events surrounding the desegregation of the Armed Forces, which you can access here.


July 19, 1996 – First Murder Conviction Based on Animal’s DNA

On this day in history, Douglas Leo Beamish was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment with 18 years of parole ineligibility in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island (Trial Division).

Beamish, the estranged husband of Shirley Duguay, was the primary suspect in Shirley’s disappearance. When the body was found, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) found a leather jacket nearby covered in Duguay’s blood. Although Beamish’s friends and family acknowledged that Beamish owned a similar jacket, none would positively identify it.

But in addition to the blood, investigators pulled two white hairs from the jacket. The hairs turned out to be not human but cat fur. Detectives recalled that Beamish’s parents owned a white cat named Snowball and obtained a blood sample. (Beamish was at that time living with his parents.) Police inspector Roger Savoie could not find a Canadian laboratory to perform DNA analysis of the cat hairs, so he called experts in the U.S. and eventually reached Dr. Stephen J. O’Brien, chief of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Md., an expert on cats and their genes. He agreed to do the testing, analyzing the hairs in the jacket and Snowball’s blood. But even though they matched, Dr. O’Brien wondered if the cats on the island were so inbred that all of their DNA was essentially identical. He asked Detective Savoie to round up 20 cats in the neighborhood and send their blood too. To everyone’s relief (with the undoubted exception of Mr. Beamish), they found abundant genetic diversity among the cats.

Convicted murderer Douglas Beamish and his cat Snowball. Photo by Dr. Stephen O’Brien

Convicted murderer Douglas Beamish and his cat Snowball. Photo by Dr. Stephen O’Brien

The introduction of Snowball’s hair as evidence was the world’s first use of non-human DNA in a criminal trial. Douglas Beamish was charged with first-degree murder and found guilty of second-degree.

Beamish appealed his conviction in 1998 and 1999. Both appeals were rejected.

Since this groundbreaking case, several prosecutors in the United States have presented in court forensic DNA evidence derived from animal samples.

July 8, 1777 – Vermont Becomes the First State to Abolish Slavery

On this day in history, Vermont formally adopted its State Constitution, which stressed that all men were born equally free:

Therefore, no male person, born in this country, or brought from over sea, ought to be holden by law, to serve any person, as a servant, slave or apprentice, after he arrives to the age of twenty-one Years, nor female, in like manner, after she arrives to the age of eighteen years, unless they are bound by their own consent, after they arrive to such age, or bound by law, for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.”

You can read the entire text of Vermont’s 1777 Constitution here.


July 1, 2016 – 100th Anniversary of the First Day of the Battle of the Somme

On July 1, 1916, the first day of the Battle of the Somme during World War I, the British Army incurred its heaviest casualties in its military history in a single day: 52,471, including 19,240 killed. As Andrew Roberts reports in his book Elegy: The First Day on the Somme, by 8:30 a.m. that day the rate of casualties was as high as 500 per minute for the battle thus far. In late afternoon, stretcher-bearers were sent out, and they carried stretchers under fire continuously for the next 24 hours. Back in the trenches, the wounded continued to be bombarded.

British soldiers "going over the top", or leaving their trenches in the Battle of the Somme

British soldiers “going over the top”, or leaving their trenches in the Battle of the Somme

The Battle of the Somme was the major British offensive of 1916. Together with French forces to the south, the British attacked along an eighteen-mile front. The allied forces thought the Germans would be incapacitated and demoralized by the week-long artillery barrage preceding the ground offensive. Instead, the Battle of the Somme came to represent, according to a Cambridge University Library website on the battle, “the ineffectiveness, incompetence, and ruinous wastage of life which characterized trench warfare.”

Siegfried Sassoon, c. 1916

Siegfried Sassoon, c. 1916

The famous WWI poet Siegfried Sassoon, best remembered for his angry poems about the meaninglessness – as he perceived it, of the First World War, served in the British Army at the Somme, in and around Mametz Wood, and he kept journals of his experiences. Sassoon wrote of the horror and brutality of trench warfare. He described the first day of the Somme as a ‘sunlit picture of hell’. (You an access his journals online, here.)

This poem, Aftermath, is about the Battle of the Somme:

Aftermath – Poem by Siegfried Sassoon

Have you forgotten yet?…
For the world’s events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you’re a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same–and War’s a bloody game…
Have you forgotten yet?…
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you’ll never forget.

Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz–
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench–
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, ‘Is it all going to happen again?’

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack–
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads–those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?…
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you’ll never forget.”

Note: For more about the role that poets played in helping to form the collective memories of World War I, see our review of The Long Shadow by David Reynolds. The book is a masterful analysis of interpretations of World War I and their causes and effects.


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