Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 23 May 1801

From Albert Gallatin

Treasury Department May 23d. 1801.


I have the honor to transmit for the information of the President, a letter dated the 16th instant, from Benjamin Reynolds formerly Gaugher for the port of Wilmington in the District of Delaware, on the subject of certain charges heretofore exhibited by him to Mr Wolcott late Secretary of the Treasury against Allen McLane, Collector of said District. The letter of Reynolds to Mr Wolcott as also the one from the collector on the subject of those charges, with sundry other documents in relation thereto are enclosed herewith.

I have advised Reynolds by letter of this date, that his communication with its enclosures would be submitted to the President, and furnished him at the same time, with such parts of McLane’s answers as related to the charges in question.

I have the honor to be very respectfully Sir Your Obedt. Servant.

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); in clerk’s hand, signed by Gallatin; at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 May and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures not found, but see below.

Benjamin Reynolds filled the position of weigher and gauger at Wilmington, Delaware, for about seven years before he was dismissed by Allen McLane, who took office as collector in 1797. Reynolds then went to Philadelphia, where he worked as a cooper, making oak casks, and as a gauger. In 1803, Reynolds recalled that he first stated his case against McLane in correspondence with Oliver Wolcott, Jr., on 1 June 1799. Later that same month, Wolcott informed Reynolds that McLane had satisfactorily answered the charges made against him. Reynolds reiterated the facts to Gallatin in the spring of 1801, and on 28 May and 7 June sent the Treasury secretary documents, including affidavits by James Welsh, a bargeman, Thomas Moore, James Bevins, and Lewis R. Brown, to support his case (Stafford, Philadelphia Directory, for 1801, 18; James Robinson, The Philadelphia Directory for 1804 [Philadelphia, 1804], 193; Reynolds to TJ, 23 Feb. 1803). Gallatin forwarded the documents to TJ with a short note indicating that he had received them from Reynolds, “the accuser” of McLane, and concluding: “The question now is—Shall an enquiry be instituted?” (RC in DLC: TJ Papers, 114:19578; undated; endorsed by TJ: “Departmt. of Treasury Mc.lane’s case”). Gallatin also sent TJ a summary of the charges contained in the documents, organized under three major headings: “Employment of Bargemen,” “30 Dollars receipt,” and “Reynolds fees” (MS in DLC: TJ Papers, 114:19579; in Gallatin’s hand; undated; on verso in Gallatin’s hand: “Substance of Reynold’s proofs agt. A. M’Clene”).

TJ decided, by 18 June, to appoint George Read, Jr., Delaware’s district attorney, and James Tilton, former commissioner of loans for the state, to investigate the evidence against McLane. In letters to Read and Tilton of that date, Gallatin requested that they enquire into the complaints that the Wilmington collector “had employed the Bargemen of the Revenue Barge or Cutter in menial services for himself, to the detriment of the public service”; had tried to induce the bargemen to give receipts for $30 in pay per month while actually receiving only $24; and had insisted that Reynolds, as gauger and measurer, share his fees with him, including “half of the liquors taken from the Casks as specimen of proofs.” In December 1801, TJ decided not to remove the collector, but the allegations came to the president’s attention again in 1802 and 1803 (Malone, Jefferson description begins Dumas Malone, Jefferson and His Time, Boston, 1948–81, 6 vols. description ends , 4:491–3; Cunningham, Jeffersonian Republicans in Power description begins Noble E. Cunningham, Jr., The Jeffersonian Republicans in Power, Party Operations, 1801–1809, Chapel Hill, 1963 description ends , 44–9; Gallatin, Papers description begins Carl E. Prince and Helene E. Fineman, eds., The Papers of Albert Gallatin, microfilm edition in 46 reels, Philadelphia, 1969, and Supplement, Barbara B. Oberg, ed., reels 47–51, Wilmington, Del., 1985 description ends , 5:204, 206; Gallatin to TJ, 21 Dec. 1801).

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