Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Sharp Delany, 22 January 1795

To Sharp Delany

Treasury Department January 22d. 1795


It appears from the Petition of Thomas Elder,1 owner of the Schooner Eliza, that when you gave a permit to land the Cargo of the said Schooner, you were acquainted with the circumstance of their being a Cask of spirits on board of less capacity than ninety Gallons.2

I cannot help therefore expressing my disapprobation of the transaction as being both improper & irregular.

I am with consideration   Sir   Your Most obedt. Servt.

Sharp Delany Esquire
Collector of Philadelphia

Copy, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.

1Elder was a Philadelphia merchant. His petition, sworn before Richard Peters, United States judge for the District of Pennsylvania, on January 3, 1795, reads: “That Sy Smith Captain of the Sloop Eliza owned by your Petitioner being with the said Sloop in the Island of Jamaica purchased for & on Account of your Petitioner a Quantity of Spirits which were shipped on Board but on examining the Casks he found that most if not all of them wanted filling up to do which he purchased a Hogshead which was sufficient to fill up the Deficiency and leave a Surplus of about sixty Gallons which he thought advisable to have put into a sixty Gallon Cask (& dispose of the empty Hogshead) which together with the rest of the Cargo he brought into this Port of Philadelphia never having heard to the best of your Petitioner’s Knowledge and Belief of the Act of Congress that prohibits the Importation of distilled Spirits except Arrack & sweet Cordials in Casks of less Capacity than ninety Gallons. That when the said Captain arrived in the River Delaware he delivered to the Officer of the Revenue Cutter a Manifest of his Cargo in which this Cask was included and also a similar one to the Custom House Boat and to the Collector of this Port. That your Petitioner was sensible that the Cask contained a less Quantity than the Law prescribed but being conscious in his own Mind that it was not the Intention of Capt. Smith to act contrary to any of the Laws of the United States knowingly and being determined that the Revenue should not lose by any Importation of your Petitioner he included the said sixty Gallon Cask in the Entry he made at the Custom House … and the Collector after some Time being convinced as your Petitioner verily believes of the Purity of the Intentions of your Petitioner informed him that the Matter might be easily accomodated by applying to the Secretary of the Treasury and gave your Petitioner a Permit to land the whole of the Cargo amongst which the sixty Gallon Cask was expressly mentioned. That as soon as your Petitioner obtained the Permit the Cargo began to be discharged but as soon as the said Cask of sixty Gallons was landed it was seized by Mr. [Alexander] Boyd one of the Revenue Officers of this district and carried off to the Custom House where it is still detained …” (copy, RG 21, Records of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Containing Statements of Facts in Forfeiture Cases, 1792–1918, Vol. 1, October 23, 1792–September 25, 1807, National Archives).

2The seizure was made under Sections 10 and 13 of “An Act concerning the Duties on Spirits distilled within the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 267–71 [May 8, 1792]). Section 10 reads: “And be it further enacted, That from and after the last day of April, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three, no distilled spirits except arrack and sweet cordials, shall be brought into the United States from any foreign port or place, except in casks or vessels of the capacity of ninety gallons and upwards.” Section 13 reads in part: “… if any distilled spirits, except arrack and sweet cordials, shall, after the last day of April next, be brought into the United States in casks or vessels of less capacity than ninety gallons, all such spirits, and the casks and vessels containing the same, shall be subject to seizure and forfeiture, and every such penalty or forfeiture shall be one half to the use of the United States, and the other half to the use of the person who shall first discover and make known the matter or thing whereby the same shall have been incurred.”

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