Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Benjamin Lincoln, 15 April 1790

From Benjamin Lincoln

Boston April 15. 1790.


By the 27 Section of the Coasting act1 it is provided that all vessels therein described & under certain circumstances shall enter within 24 hours after arrival. As no penalty is annexed to a nonperformance of the injunction in the law little attention is now paid to it, & the attention is daily decreasing, indeed it seems to decrease with the knowledge that there is no forfiture on a breach of the law. This leaves open a door through which every kind of fraud may pass without the knowledge of the officers of the customs & especially in this State where we have five or six hundred miles sea coast & almost as many harbours as leagues on our shores. From these harbours coasting vessels are constantly passing to this & the other principal towns in the State with lumber, fish, wood, &c. The harbours where they load are generally capacious & have a sufficient depth of water for any vessel & with the utmost ease they are suited in those harbours, especially in our eastern country where are but a few inhabitants. They may shift a cargo of Molasses or otherwise india produce. Our eastern vessels are mostly in that trade into those wood coasters & come to this town with the utmost safety unless they are obliged to enter before they break bulk. To appoint a sufficient number of Officers to attend to all the wharves in this town would be two heavy an expence upon the revenue. I think the fee should be small for entering these coasters then business will not have much expense but they should in all circumstances be obliged under a heavy forfeiture to enter or I am convinced the revenue will greatly suffer. I wrote some time since on the subject of employing a small vessel to inspect the coast as I have not received any answer to those suggestion I suppose you consider in measure as inadmissible. I have now to offer to your consideration one idea more to that of having a small boat which can attend to the different harbours round that bay there are many of those harbours very convenient for taking out part of the Cargo a boat of this kind may in good weather meet vessels in the offing have a man on board which will prevent their landing anythink before entery & the proper officer is on board. These are suggestions which I think it my duty to make I know your time must be so much engrossed by the many & complicated duties of your office that you cannot answer the various applications which are made to you I do not expect it silence will be a sufficient indication to me that the measure proposed cannot be adopted.

Hon Ye
Alexander Hamilton
Secy of the Treasury United States

LC, RG 36, Collector of Customs at Boston, Letter Book, 1790–1797, National Archives; copy, RG 56, Letters from the Collector at Boston, National Archives.

11 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 55–56 (September 1, 1789).

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