Alexander Hamilton Papers

Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs, [8–12] July 1791

Treasury Department Circular
to the Collectors of the Customs

Treasury Department
July [8–12]1 1791.


In consequence of two questions lately proposed to me, the first upon the impost Act.,2 and the 2nd. upon the 41 section of the Collection law,3 I signify to you my opinion on the following points.

1st. That the teas called “Young Hyson” and “Hyson skin,” are not subject to the duties which, in the several cases are laid on Hyson, but to those only which are imposed on other Green teas; namely twenty Cents, if from China and India in Ships or vessels of the United States. Upon inquiry it appears to me that those teas are not in mercantile language comprehended under the denomination of Hyson; and from inferiority of quality & lowness of price they are not within the spirit of the duties on Hyson.

2ndly. That any merchant who imported teas during the year 1790, and prior to the 4th of August in that year and whose bonds for the duties upon such teas have not expired on paying the duties upon such as have been sold may deposit the residue, with an allowance of further credit not exceeding in the whole eighteen months, pursuant to the 41st. section of the Collection Law. In order to this the identity of the teas ought to be ascertained to the satisfaction of the Collector; In some cases, perhaps, this may be done by comparing the marks of the Chests &ca. with documents in the Office. Where this fails, the Oaths of the parties may be received and it is reasonable and proper that they should be required, as well as the production of such original documents, invoices &ca. as may be in their power.

This being an indulgence susceptible of abuse, it is confided that it will not be allowed without due caution and competent evidence.

I am, Sir,   Your obedt. servant

L[S], to Benjamin Lincoln, RG 36, Collector of Customs at Boston, Letters from the Treasury, 1789–1807, Vol. 4, National Archives; LS, to Jeremiah Olney, Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence; L[S], to Otho H. Williams, Office of the Secretary, United States Treasury Department; copy, United States Finance Miscellany, Treasury Circulars, Library of Congress; copy, RG 56, Circulars of the Office of the Secretary, “Set “T,” National Archives.

1The copy of this circular addressed to Jeremiah Olney was dated July 8, 1791. The other circulars were dated July 12, 1791.

2“An Act making further provision for the payment of the debts of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 180–82 [August 10, 1790]).

3H is actually referring to Section 42, rather than Section 41, of “An Act to provide more effectually for the collection of the duties imposed by law on goods, wares and merchandise imported into the United States, and on the tonnage of ships or vessels” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 168 [August 4, 1790]). This section governed the collection of duties on the importation of tea from China. For an explanation of the discrepancy in the numbering of this act, see H to Richard Harison, April 26, 1791, note 2.

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