Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Jeremiah Olney, 11 April 1791

To Jeremiah Olney

Treasury Department
April 11th. 1791


In answer to your letter of the 27th. of December I have to observe, that under the existing laws, I consider it as indispensible to an entry at any customhouse, that the vessel be actually within the district appertaining to it. The question has occurred in the port of Philadelphia, where cases of the nature you mention, frequently happen.

The legislature at a late stage of their session directed me to consider and make report upon the compensations and emoluments of the officers of the customs.1 It was my wish to have done it, but the difficulty of making amidst so many other pressing objects a proper arrangement, and the shortness of the Session put it out of my power to form a satisfactory report. This business will however receive due attention the next Session, and I recommend to you not to think of a resignation till you have seen the issue of it.

In regard to the small articles mentioned in your letter of the 17th. January, the law does not contemplate the exemption of any dutiable goods, except sea stores and certain articles belonging to emigrants, and it will be most proper that you adhere to those two exemptions and make no other.

The deduction of 7½ per Cent from a Captain’s or owner’s account in lieu of due measurement is not a legal mode of ascertaining the duty on goods imported. Due examination into the case will be immediately made. In all cases of goods to be gauged, weighed, measured &c. to ascertain the duties no other mode can be legally adopted.

I am, Sir,   Your obedt. servant

A Hamilton

Jerh. Olney Esqr.
Collector Providence

LS, Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence; copy, RG 56, Letters from the Collector at Providence, National Archives; copy, RG 56, Letters to Collectors at Small Ports, “Set G,” National Archives.

1On January 18, 1791, the House “Ordered, That the Secretary of the Treasury be directed to report to this House his opinion whether any, and what, further compensation ought to be made to the respective officers employed in the collection of the revenue” (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826). description ends , 357).

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