Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Jeremiah Olney, 31 March 1794

From Jeremiah Olney

Custom House
District of Providence 31st March 1794.


Your Letter of 26th. Instant1 inclosing a Resolution of Congress laying an embargo on all vessels bound to Forreign Ports was Received by Express on the 29th Inst. at 11 oClock A.M. to which I shall pay an attentive observance. The Letters, to my care, for the Several Collectors were immediately dispatched, by Express, by the Dy. Post Master.

Your Letter of the 19th Inst. approving my employing other Counsel in the Suits of Messrs. Arnold and Dexter has been Received.2 My first intention was to have employed Judge Sullivan3 but previous engagements prevented his attending. I then applyed to H. G. Otis Esqr.4 of Boston a Gentleman of approved abilities and Tallents in the Law who attended, & the Suit of Mr. Arnold was Tryed, before the Superiour Court in this Town on the 21st Instant, but Judgment has not yet been given, the Case being Postponed for Consideration untill the meeting of the Court at Washington County on the Seventh of April next when I have hopes of a Favourable dicision in which I presume the fate of Dexters Suit will be involved, as the Two Suits are considered very Similar.

I have the Honor to be very respectfully   Sir   Your Most Obed. Hum Servt.

Jereh. Olney Collr.

Alexander Hamilton Esqr.
Secretary of the Treasury

P.S. I have Just received information to be relied upon, that the Brigantine Maria which Cleared at this office on the 25 Inst. for St. Thomas also the Schooner Nancy which Cleared on the 27th Inst. for Monte Christo, & both Sailed from this District at Sunrise on the 29th Inst. Touching at Newport were there Stopped by the Collector5—but the Schooner the Property of W. Arnold Esqr. under pretence of returning to this Port weighed Anchor and Stood up the Bay, but passed the West Passage at the North End of Conanicut Island & proceded on her Voyage. I find that it is the opinion of Some Gentlemen here that the Vessel Master nor owner are not Liable to any Penalty for Such a Breach of the law. My opinion is that a penalty will be incurred though it is not defined by the Resolution of Congress laying the Embargo nor your Letter.6 I respectfully request Sr. your particular instructions as to the Steps Necessary for me to persue in the present Case. The Maria remains at Newport.

ADfS, Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence; copy, RG 56, Letters from the Collector at Providence, National Archives.

2For Olney’s protracted legal dispute with Welcome Arnold and Edward Dexter, see Olney to H, November 7, 15, 28, December 10, 13, 27, 1792; March 14, 25, April 15, 25, September 23, October 7, 21, November 21, 1793; February 17, 1794; H to Olney, November 27, 1792; November 7, 1793; March 19, 1794.

3James Sullivan was attorney general of Massachusetts.

4Harrison Gray Otis, whose political career lay before him, had practiced law in Boston since 1786.

5William Ellery.

6Olney is referring to the congressional resolution of March 26, 1794, laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in ports of the United States for thirty days (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 400). Neither this resolution nor H’s instructions for enforcing it (“Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs,” March 26, 1794) prescribed penalties for evasion of the law.

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