The phenomenon of protectionism in the international merchant marine has a long history. The USA is one of several countries that has, for many years, supported its national merchant fleet using various means. The author presents the history of protectionist US merchant marine legislation, beginning with President Washington and the first American Congress. The outline of these practices in the USA demonstrates that legislative acts regarding cargo provisions have the longest history.The Merchant Marine Act of 1936 played a fundamental role in the development of the financial aid system for the US merchant fleet. Additionally, tax deductions designed to stimulate investment were available to ship owners. US federal government loan guarantees for American ship owners are one of the most universal forms of indirect support for the private merchant fleet. Other legislative means for supporting the national merchant fleet include war insurance, special arrangements, and the financing of maritime schools.The measures taken to support the interests of its own fleet have not proven to be effective. The tonnage of the fleet registered under the American flag has not increased significantly.