Query from Albert Gallatin, with Jefferson’s Reply
Is it worth while to institute an enquiry?
Banning is a very weak man.
[Reply by TJ:]
I think he should be called on to shew that no inconvenience is produced by his non-residence, or be compelled to move to the port, or lose his office.
MS (NHi: Gallatin Papers); undated, but see below; on a scrap of paper, with an undated query from John Randolph to Gallatin written on the other side: “Will you look at the enclosed bill & say whether it is right? particularly the last clause. yrs. J.R. jr.”
Gallatin forwarded a number of documents to TJ with his query regarding Robert BANNING, who had served as collector at Oxford, Maryland, since 1795. Jacob Gibson, a prominent resident of Talbot County, wrote Gallatin on 2 Apr., regarding numerous complaints from Talbot and Dorchester counties that the federal officer did not reside at the port, causing “frequent Delays to Vessels.” Gibson enclosed vouchers and “Petitions from most of the water men” in the district to justify the Treasury secretary’s interference. He recommended John Willis, who resided in Oxford, as a proper person to replace Banning (RC in NHi: Gallatin Papers, endorsed by Gallatin on address sheet: “Talbot, Ct. Md. Ap. 1802 Jacob Gibson & others to remove Banning”; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:171). Gibson may have enclosed two undated petitions addressed to the House of Representatives and the Senate, both in the same hand, with little variation in wording, the one signed predominately by residents of Talbot County, the other by residents of Dorchester County. As “watermen and owners of Vessels,” they wanted Congress to compel the collector to reside at Oxford. They also spoke against the cutter at the port being kept at U.S. expense, “She being of No use to the Publick.” Gallatin may also have forwarded an undated certificate signed by Thomas Pamphilon and John Cockey, residents of Oxford, testifying that vessels were delayed for hours because no one was there to conduct business, leading masters and owners of vessels to plead to have a resident of the port appointed. They closed by noting: “mr. Banning Says Sooner than he will move to oxford with the office they may Take it away from him and be damnd.” Richard Barnaby and Mordecai Cockey signed a certificate dated 3 Apr. in which they testified that the cutter belonging to the port of Oxford was of no use to the government because it was primarily used as a pleasure boat. Gallatin may also have sent TJ a letter Joseph H. Nicholson received from Thomas Coward, dated 3 Apr. 1802. Coward complained that Banning refused to use the revenue cutter to board the schooner Nancy, suspected of carrying a “Cargo of Negroes,” some entitled to freedom. Coward had served as a security for the purchase of the schooner when he thought it would run as a packet between Easton and Baltimore. He feared he would never see the vessel again and blamed Banning for his loss (all in NHi: Gallatin Papers; see 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 , 9:303–5). More serious charges were brought against Banning in 1803. The final decision to replace him with Willis was made in February 1804 (JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States … to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 1:464; 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 , 8:177–8; Gallatin to TJ, 20, 21 Feb. 1804).