Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Sharp Delany, 12 May 1792

To Sharp Delany

Treasury Department,
May 12th. 1792


It has been represented to me by a Committee of the Merchants of Philadelphia, that the Delaware Pilots have entered into a combination1 very inconvenient to the movements of their vessels, and which may produce injury to the National commerce and Revenue. The officers of the Revenue Cutter being acquainted with the River and bay of Delaware, and the chief mate Mr. Roach2 being a Pilot of the first Class it will be proper that you will immediately apprize Captain Montgomery3 of these circumstances, and that you communicate to him my desire that he should do every thing in his power by means of the officers and seamen under his command to aid and accomodate the vessels going out and coming in, during the present difficulty.

It may be well to apprize Capt. Montgomery that there are apprehensions that some of the Pilots may be so indiscreet as to attempt the removal or injury of the buoys and beacons. It will be proper therefore, that he or the person employed by the superintendent should have an intimation of this, and in order to the more perfect attention to the business, it may be well for you to confer with Wm Allibone Esqr4 the superintendent to whom I shall also write.5

I am Sir, Your Obedt. Servt.

Alexander Hamilton.

LC, RG 26, Lighthouse Letters Received, Revenue Cutter Service Letters Sent, Vol. “O,” National Archives; LC, RG 56, Letters to Collectors at Small Ports, “Set G,” National Archives; LC, RG 56, Letters to the Collector at Philadelphia, National Archives.

1On May 14, 1792, “… a letter was received at the Coffee-house, from the convention of Pilots assembled at Marcus-Hook, dated May 12th,… enclosing a copy of seven resolutions they have agreed to.… A respectable meeting of Merchants took up these resolutions, and resolved, unanimously, that no further notice should be taken of them” ([Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States, May 16, 1792). On the same day, Governor Thomas Mifflin of Pennsylvania met to consider a similar complaint with the Board of Wardens of the Port of Philadelphia, under whose authority the pilots operated (Pennsylvania Archives [n.p., 1931], 9th ser., I, 390–91). On May 17, 1792, “immediate employment and good encouragement” was offered to prospective pilots by Nathaniel Falconer, master warden of the port. On May 22 the pilots returned to their jobs (Gazette of the United States, May 19, 26, 1792).

2Isaac Roach.

3James Montgomery was captain of the revenue cutter General Greene.

4Allibone was superintendent of beacons, buoys, and public piers for Philadelphia, Cape Henlopen, and Delaware.

5H’s letter to Allibone has not been found. On May 18, 1792, Tench Coxe wrote to David H. Conyngham, Robert Waln, and Thomas Murgatroyd, “A Committee of the Merchants of the City of Philadelphia,” as follows:

“In Consequence of your Application this morning Enquiry has been made of the Collector of the port of Philadelphia and of the Superintendent of the Delaware Lighthouse, Buoys &c., concerning the measures which have been taken by them in Consequence of the letters from the Secretary of the Treasury of the 12th: instant. It appears that Mr [Michael] Dawson [a pilot] was dispatched on the following day with a letter from the Collector to the Captain of the Revenue Cutter, containing a copy of the Letter from the Treasury, and instructions to Captain Montgomery to make every exertion in his power to aid the Trade and Revenue in the present Difficulty by employing the officers under his Command and the Cutter in that service.

“The attention of Mr Dawson was directed by the Superintendent to the Objects of his immediate legal duty an examination of the Buoys and beacons, and both he and Captain Montgomery were generally authorized and instructed to give their assistance according to their best Judgment on the occasion. By a letter of the 15th: from the Captain of the Cutter to the Collector it appears that he was then possessed of the letters sent by Dawson and gave the strongest assurances of his best exertions. Since that time it is understood that Mr Dawson was to ply with his boat at the mouth of the Bay and is to bring up from thence to Bombay Hook all the inward bound Vessels with which he may fall in, and that the Cutter was to ply between Bombay Hook and New-Castle to receive from Mr. Dawson the inward bound Vessels, which Capt. Montgomery was to conduct to New Castle, and there to take Charge of the outward bound Vessels and to exchange them in like manner with Mr. Dawson at Bombay Hook. The desire of the Merchants in regard to the outward bound fleet was stated to the Collector and Superintendent, who will write letters to Captain Montgomery and Mr. Dawson instructing them to employ the pilots on board their two vessels, to assist the pilots provided by the Merchants in leading the fleet safely to Sea by means of several of the largest Ships. If your Committee will give Notice to the Collector and Superintendent a few hours before the departure of your dispatch boat, their letters will be prepared accordingly and delivered to you. The Superintendent is also ready to give every Assistance in his power in the placing the new buoys and leding marks, according to your desire, and for that purpose it will be proper that early notice be given to him of the time when the boat will sail on that service.” (LC, RG 58, Letters of Commissioner of Revenue, 1792–1793, National Archives.)

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