Alexander Hamilton Papers

Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs, 23 April 1794

Treasury Department Circular
to the Collectors of the Customs

Treasury Department, April 23d, 1794.


It is understood that by virtue of the seventeenth article of our Treaty with Sweden,1 vessels of that nation are exempted from the operation of the embargo, now in force, in the ports of the United States, pursuant to the resolutions of Congress of the 26th of March and 18th instant.2

You will therefore upon application grant clearances, as usual, to such Swedish vessels as may happen to be in your port, and wish to depart, whether laden or in ballast; guarding with due care against imposition; none is to be deemed a Swedish vessel which did not enter as such, and with a Swedish register.

In every instance where such vessel shall have been permitted to depart in consequence of this instruction, I request that you will immediately transmit to me a copy of her clearance.

With great consideration   I am Sir,   Your obedient Servant,

A Hamilton

LS, The Andre deCoppet Collection, Princeton University Library; LS, Bureau of Customs, Unbound Letters, National Archives; L[S], Office of the Secretary, United States Treasury Department; copy, RG 56, Circulars of the Office of the Secretary, “Set T,” National Archives.

1The United States signed a treaty of amity and commerce with Sweden on April 3, 1783. Article 17 of this treaty reads in part as follows: “Merchants, masters and owners of ships, seamen, people of all sorts, ships and vessels, and in general all merchandises and effects of one of the allies or their subjects, shall not be subject to any embargo nor detained in any of the countries, territories, islands, cities, towns, ports, rivers, or domains whatever, of the other ally, on account of any military expedition or any public or private purpose whatever, by seizure, by force, or by any such manner; much less shall it be lawful for the subjects of one of the parties to seize or take anything by force from the subjects of the other party, without the consent of the owner. This, however, is not to be understood to comprehend seizures, detentions, and arrests made by order and by the authority of justice and according to the ordinary course for debts or faults of the subject, for which process shall be had in the way of right according to the forms of justice” (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 136–37).

2See “Cabinet Meeting. Opinion on the Best Mode of Executing the Embargo,” March 26, 1794; “Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs,” March 26, April 18, 1794. On April 16, 1794, Edmund Randolph had written to the Swedish consul, Richard Soderstrom, that he had expected “that Congress would by a special resolution exempt the Swedish vessels from the operation of the embargo” since its enforcement in this case would “infringe the treaty with Sweden” (LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 6, January 2–June 26, 1794, National Archives). While the resolution for extending the embargo was under consideration, a motion had been made in the House of Representatives to exempt Swedish vessels. The motion was opposed on the ground that if Swedish vessels were exempt, those of other nations, such as France and Holland which had most-favored-nation clauses in their treaties with the United States, would also be exempt. The resolution as it passed the House contained a proviso against infringing existing treaties, but all provisos were eliminated in the Senate (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , IV, 598, 84).

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