Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Stephen Higginson, 21 April 1793

From Stephen Higginson

Boston Apr. 21. 1793

D Sir

The Event of a general War in Europe may give rise to some Questions which the Collectors will think necessary to be referred to you for decision. I will state a case that may soon arise. A Cargo of Sugars may be sent here from Hispaniola for Sale in an American Vessel. I may buy it & want to send it to market in the same Vessel without unlading or being at additional expence.1 But an Entry & Clearance2 from here will be desireable, as a collateral & strong Evidence of the property being neutral; it will be a new Security against detention trouble & expence. Every ground of suspicion as to the property being neutral is very much against us, & to be avoided if possible. Now why may not an Entry be admitted in such case without unlading? In a bulky heavy Cargo much expence may thereby be saved, & the Security wished for acquired without any injury or danger to the Revenue. The Duty on the Cargo & the drawback being equal, save the 1 per Ct deducted,3 no loss to the public can arise, there being an actual exportation; & of this you will have the same Evidence as in other cases where drawback is claimed, & smugling will be checked by the usual guards. There is indeed much more room for fraud in case of landing the Cargo, it being much easier to obtain a drawback on Goods not reshipped, than to smuggle Goods out of a heavy Cargo.

Why may not an Entry be made by the Invo. attested by the Importer, as is done by dry Goods? Will there not be the same Check in both Cases? If the Oath of the Party is taken as to the amount, where Duties are to be paid, may it not be admitted where no Duties are expected, & no loss or injury can arise but from smugling? And if the risk of smugling is to prevent such an Entry, will it not operate as strongly against admitting Vessels to report, & after laying some time to go away? If the Letter of the Law be already against such an Entry, the Spirit of it may not be; & the general principle of giving facility to Trade, compatible with the interest & safety of the Revenue pleads in favour of it.

I am the more induced to state this to you, & to wish for a decision, because I may very probably wish to purchase a Cargo under those circumstances, & I shall certainly be glad to save the expences which must attend the unlading & relading, which will be great. But I shall prefer increasing that expence, rather not have the Evidence wanted. With much haste I am respectfully

Sir your very hum Serv

Stephen Higginson

PS: The Vessel with my Geneva has not yet arrived & will exceed this month probably. I may land it under care of the Officer to reship, if nothing better, in another Vessel. The Vessel it is in can not be trusted any farther, She has been so torn & injured already. Perhaps it may in your mind be recivable & may be marked. The Officers will do nothing here without your direction.4

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Section 18 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” provided in part “That it shall be lawful for the said ship or vessel to proceed with any goods, wares and merchandise brought in her which shall be reported by the … master … to be destined for any foreign port or place from the district within which such ship or vessel shall first arrive, to such foreign port or place, without paying or securing the payment of any duties upon such of the said goods, wares or merchandise, as shall be actually re-exported in the said ship or vessel accordingly; any thing herein contained to the contrary notwithstanding. Provided always, That the said master … shall first give bond with one or more sureties, in a sum equal to the amount of the duties upon the said goods, wares and merchandise, as the same shall be estimated by the collector to whom the said report shall be made, to the satisfaction of the said collector, with condition that the said goods, wares and merchandise, or any part thereof, shall not be landed within the United States, unless due entry thereof shall have been first made,… which bonds shall be cancelled in like manner as bonds herein after directed to be given for obtaining drawbacks of duties …” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 159 [August 4, 1790]).

2Section 73 of the same act provided in part “That the master or person having the charge or command of a ship or vessel bound to a foreign port or place, shall deliver to the collector of the district from which such ship or vessel shall be about to depart, a manifest of the cargo on board the same, and shall make oath or affirmation to the truth thereof, whereupon the said collector shall grant a clearance for the said ship or vessel, and her cargo …” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 177).

3Section 57 provided in part “That all drawbacks … on the exportation of goods, wares and merchandise imported, shall be paid or allowed by the collector at whose office the said goods, wares and merchandise were originally entered,… retaining one per centum for the benefit of the United States …” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 173).

4H endorsed this letter “Answered May 8.” Letter not found.

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