Alexander Hamilton Papers

Enclosure: From Jeremiah Wadsworth, [10 December 1791]

From Jeremiah Wadsworth2

[December 10, 1791]

Dear Sir

A duty of ten per Cent on our Salted provisions imported into the French Islands would be too much unless we were relieved from other impositions which you will see by the paper herewith are more than ten per Cent on our Cargoes. When our Vessels arrive in Hispaniola the Captain must find a Bondsman tho his whole Vessel and Cargo is in the Power of the Government; this Bondsman is the Merchant who charges five per Ct on the Sales and the same on the return Cargo. We are happy if he will let our Captains do the business & not meddle in the Sales or purchase for in bothe we are in most instances sure to suffer, in the first from want of knowledge of the Value of our Horeses in the latter a carelessness of the quality of the goods, and often short weght & Short measure, sometimes delay of payment we are under the necssity of imploying a Captain or Merchant of our own who is paid five per Cent to save us from greater impositions

Our t[r]ade to the French Islands consists of a great Variety of Articles [on] many of which a small duty is charged, for Horses Oxen Sheep & Hogs alive Beans, Peas Hoops Staves, Boards, Scantling &c. What the legal duties are I do not know but We pay about one per Cent and the duty on Melasses outward is about the same.

It would be of consequence to have the Charges of every kind Mentioned in the treaty as their general regulations are not easily known; if it is agreed that we shall pay the same as the French Ships pay they will make us pay all the Charges which are made on their Ships & men for the purpose of establishing funds for their Various Cases, Beureaus &c.

a Brigantine of 130 Tons entered

Port au Prince in 1788
Paid duties on Cargo
duties 1 per Ct 344  
on 50 Quintal Salted Beef
@ 3 livres 150  
on Melasses exported 1 per 712  
1 206  
Collectors fees. 8 dollars 66  
Expedition 66  
Admiralty & Anchorage 210  
Harbour Master 60  
Gratification Extra 66  
Commandant 49.10
Soldiers 49.10
interpreter 99  
Sales—40 Hor[s]es @ 390 livr 14 600  
Beef Lumber Beans Peas &c    5 400  
Commission 5 per C    1 000      1.000  
18 000   2 866  
   2 866  
15 134  
Commission 5 per c     700  
14 434  

Thus a Cargo of 20-000 livres is reduced to 14434 livres without any Commission to our own Merchant or Captn. In many instances the French Merchant takes 10 per Cent at once out of the Grocce Sales. The Melasses rising in price they latterly put water into it. On an average the Melasses falls short on Gauge 5 per Ct. Our trade has so increased to the French Islands that American produce gradually falls & that of the Islands has rapidly increased. We do not now get more Gallons of Melasses or pounds sugar &c for £1000 than we used to get in 1786. 7. & 8 for £750. I do not mean since the insurrection,3 but before.

The Practise of Extorting a Commission under Pretence of Being Bondsman is confined to Hispaniola. The Windward Islands do not practice so but all the Other impositions are nearly the Same. Many Vessels of the Burthen of 130 Tons Carry lumber only which does not amount to the Sum Stated above. The Charges are the Same except the duties thus of a Cargo of Lumber in such a Vessel sells for 10.000 livr.

Port Charges would be   666
leaving 9 334 livres
from which a Commisn of 5 per C on the   500
groce Sales 8 834
from which 5 per C more as Commn.   434
8 400

which is 16 per Ct in port Charges & Commissn. without any duties which is at least one per Ct.

2AL, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

3This is a reference to the slave insurrection which began in Santo Domingo in August, 1791.

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