Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Benjamin Lincoln, 20 August 1794

From Benjamin Lincoln

Boston August 20th 1794


Captain Magee1 returned here a few days since from a long voyage to the Northwest shores of America Canton &c. He has been absent about three years during which time he has sailed about fourteen thousand leagues. He left Boston in a new ship with two new suits of sails one of Boston manufactured cloth and one foreign. I asked him particular respecting the Boston duck and had for answer that none could be better.2 It is impossible for a man to express himself in strong terms in favour of any thing than he did in favour of this Cloth.

On the 17th of May last I addressed a line to you covering a complaint from Mr. Tisdale3 and others respecting the value we put on the goods they imported from France. What gave rise to the discontent was the estimate made in New york & Philadelphia on like goods imported at the same time. They as is represented put the value of a liver much lower that we did. Their first bonds have been paid; their second are now due. Your decision on the question will probably prevent an action being brought on them. What ever you shall say on the subject will I doubt not put an end to the business. This leads me to wish your early attention to this complaint.4

Secy of the Treasury

LC, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston; LC, RG 36, Collector of Customs at Boston, Letter Book, 1790–1797, National Archives; two copies, RG 56, Letters from the Collector at Boston, National Archives.

1James Magee, a Boston ship captain, had left Boston on the ship Margaret on December 24, 1791, on a voyage to the northwest coast of North America and to Canton.

2In a letter, dated August 27, 1794, Magee wrote: “It is unquestionably the duty of every citizen to render that justice to the Manufactures of his country which truth and experience will justify. It is therefore that I request you to inform the public, That in August, 1791, I purchased a quantity of Sail Cloth, made at the Manufactory in Boston, for the use of the ship Margaret, on a voyage to the Northwest coast of America; that the sails made of the sail cloth, were on the yards, and in constant wear, thirty-four months, and are now in good condition. I feel happy in being able to make this declaration, and farther to say, that I never sailed with better cloth, and that I think it equal if not superior to any imported” [Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States and Daily Evening Advertiser, September 8, 1794). See also H to Lincoln, June 28, 1794; Lincoln to H, July 5, 1794; Stephen Higginson to H, July 12, 1794.

3James Tisdale was a Boston merchant.

4On October 28, 1794, Oliver Wolcott, Jr., wrote to Tisdale and other Boston merchants: “Your letter of the 30th of Sept. has been rec’d.…

“Your application relates to a subject which is of an embarrasing nature, the value of assignats to the price of Exchange being continually fluctuating in consequence of causes which have no effect upon the value of Merchandize. A variety of practice within a certain extent, appears therefore to be unavoidable.

“It may be inferred from your letter that the rate of Exchange between France & London was considered by you as affording a rate for estimating the value of assignats.

“This has however been deemed by the Treasury a very imperfect criterion.… It cannot therefore be certainly inferred from what you have stated, that the duties have been erroniously estimated by the Collector.

“… I take the liberty to request that copies of your Invoices as far as they relate to articles subject to ad valorum duties may be made out & certified by the Collector, & transmitted to this Department.…” (ADf, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.)

On January 19, 1795, Wolcott wrote to Lincoln: “I have recd. your favour of the 9th. instant & consent to a postponement of the demand of the public upon Mr. Tisdale untill his claim for a drawback of the duties can be brought forward in a form which will admit of an official decision.

“Instead of the unauthenticated copies of letters which have been transmitted, the originals or notarial Copies, ought to be lodged with you, and Mr. Tisdales representation should be confirmed by his Oath. Any information or evidence which the officers of the Customs can afford ought also to be transmitted to this Office.

“In cases where the formal proofs of delivery abroad, cannot be exhibited to substantiate a claim for a drawback of duties, it is deemed reasonable to require the most authentic evidence which the nature of the case will admit.” (ADf, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.)

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