Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 22 January 1806

Treasury Department January 22d 1806


It appears that David Duncan, Collector of Michillimakinac, left that district without leave of absence in August or September last, and, proceeding by way of Detroit and New York arrived at Philadelphia early in December. I was not acquainted with that circumstance till the commencement of this year, when Judge Woodward of Michigan delivered to me the collector’s accounts for the second quarter of 1805, schedules of bonds take[n] for duties in July and August of the same year, a general account current embracing all his transactions to the end of the year 1804 & including his receipts during 1805, with sundry explanatory statements. Those documents, unaccompanied with any letter to this Department, had been enclosed in a letter of Mr. Duncan to Judge Woodward, in which he stated that the accounts were duplicates which he was sending because the receipt of the original accounts had not been acknowledged. Upon enquiry I found that such accounts had not been received, nor indeed any communication whatever from his office relative to the transactions of the year 1805. The accounts for the year 1804 had been received. Before the accounts were delivered to the accounting officers, to whom they ought to have been transmitted directly, I exmined the general account current, and found that he acknowledged a balance due to the United States of Drs. 6,050.65, (exclusively of the duties accrued in 1805 & which exceed 40,000 dollars) and charged them with bills amounting to Drs. 25,232.09, drawn in payment of duties by Canadian merchants on sundry merchants of New York. As these bills had not been received at the Treasury, the letter, of which copy is enclosed, was immediately written to him, requesting him to state when & how they had been transmitted, and directing him to pay any balance in his hands in the Bank of the United States. Fearing that the bills might have fallen in improper hands, I wrote by next mail to the cashier of the Branch Bank of New York a letter, of which copy is also enclosed, requesting him to enquire whether the bills had been presented for payment, and received the answer, copy of which is also enclosed; by which I learnt with astonishment that the bills had been presented by Mr. Duncan himself, and that he had received payment on the 30th Nover. last. His departure from Michillimakinac, his receiving the amount of the bills, and his concealment of that transaction as well as his continued silence, (for no answer has been received to the letters of 3d instt.) so clearly evinced a premeditated plan to receive and retain the public monies that I gave directions for having his accounts settled and a suit to be immediately instituted. I now lay the facts before you, and respectively submit the propriety of an immediate removal from office. It has not been usual to institute suits against delinquent officers without previously removing them; and, in this instance, if he has left the uncollected bonds with a deputy at Michillimakinac, there is a hope that a successor may, by an early application obtain them.

It is proper to add that in the case of the seizure of goods belonging to the North west company, complained of by the British Minister; on which subject I also wrote to the collector a letter which remains unanswered, I am informed by Judge Woodward that, as late as September last when he left Detroit in company with Mr. Duncan, the goods had not been libelled nor any suit instituted by the Collector: an omission for which I cannot account, which causes a delay oppressive to the parties, and may ultimately, in case of waste or damage, expose the United States to a just reclamation for the injury sustained.

I have the honor to be with the highest respect Sir Your most obedt. Servant

Albert Gallatin

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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