Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Jeremiah Olney, 14 December 1791

To Jeremiah Olney1

Treasury Department Decemb 14 1791


I do not think you will be justifiable in making a deduction from the legal rate of duty on Coffee, on account of its being broken, nor on cocoa, because of an inferiority of quality, they being in each instance as I presume the unmixed article, on which the Legislature has imposed an uniform impost, without providing a variation of duty in case of differences of quality.2

The shells of Coffee cannot properly be considered as included in the duty on coffee, which was meant to apply, it is presumed, to the grain. It is however difficult to determine on the requisite deduction. If the Owners will permit a bag or cask of about one hundred weight to be impartially taken out, by one of the Officers of the Customs, and to be shelled, at their expence, by some person to be employed by you for the purpose, I would recommend your deducting from the whole in that proportion. The result I would wish to be communicated to me.

I am sir,  Your obedt Servt

Alexander Hamilton

Jeremiah Olney Esquire
Collector Providence

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

1For background to this letter, see Olney to H, November 28, 1791.

2See “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]).

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