George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Stephen Cross, 25 November 1793

From Stephen Cross

Newbury port [Mass.] November 25 1793


Inclosed is A Coppy of my last letter to the Secretary of the Treasury and his answer thereto, since which I have waited more than a year but have receiv’d nothing ferther from him, and Concluding that in the Multiplisity of Buisness he has forgoten boath me and his promis.1 Therefore I now take the liberty of addressing your Excelency, requesting your attention and reconsideration of my Case I am not insencible that it is in your power to remove any Officer of the Customs or Revenue without giveing any reason. But this power I conclude you will not exersise without a suffisiant reason operating in your own Mind. But that maters may be misrepresented, or such a Construction put upon A Persons Conduct as may lead to A wrong Judgement espesial when it is by those who are ameing at Revenge, had You been fully knowing to my whole conduct, and the temper and views of those who inform’d against me, I cannot but think it would have appeared to you in a verry differant light. although I was not gratified with an Information who my accuser was, I have good reason now to think who the person was which was the principal mover, and most offisious. And who I have reason to think was actuated by A malisious and revengful temper, and for no other reasons that I can conceive of but the following Viz: first I was ever a Zealous opposer of the British Goverment in their measures against this Countrry. And this person though lately crept into life and importance in his own esteem, his Connections fully attached to the British and of course Inemical to me. Second when I wanted assistance of Councill either in my private or Offsial capasity I did not Imploy him but another person whom I Esteeme his Supriour. And third my Brother2 & myself had A matter in Law in which this person was Imploye against us in which he used his utmost indevour to destroy my Brothers Reputation, and prevent me from obtaining my Just due in booth which he failed and to his great Mortification as it planly appeard. And fourthly I could not be prevailed on to imploy A Friend of his as an officer in the Customs who I deemed unworthy and unfit for the trust, and although he has since been imployed yet I believe it is evident to all who has been witness to his Conduct that he is not a sutable Person.

These are the only reasons I can think of which Indused him to use all his Contrivance to stir up every person he could perswade to joyn him in A representation to the Secretary of the Treasury against me. And although he failed with most of those with whoom he took much pains and earnestly soliseted to joyn him, (as some have since Inform’d me) and who dispised him for this Conduct, Yet I conclude he prevailed with some persons that were disafected for my strict attention to the Law and not Constureing it agreeable to their wish and in the Close watch I kept on their movements of those persons I had reason to suspect of fraudelant designs agains the Revenue. That this person Who had been seeking accaison against me should be Particularly pointed out by the Secretary to take depositions respecting my deportment in Office. And as I have been Informed had A private interview with that Mr Joseph Whittemor before the examination as (I suppose) to state the questions, and forme the answers. And to make A great perade invited most of the Merchants in the Town to attend an examination against me, all of which rejected and despised his invitation except three Persons, one of which was his Brother in law, and the person with whom my Brother and myself had the law sute before mentioned and one of the persons I had reason to suspect had defrauded the Revenue, and either he or his partner I suspect be Informers against me.3 And what was the enquiry, the questions will Shew. And no other part of my Conduct enquired into, as they had no hope of any thing which would serve their perpose, but must all terminte in my favour. And what was found against me, why really this and this only Viz. one of the under Officers had left in my hand A sum of money for me to divide with the Naval officer & Surveyer (and this was done of his own free will accord and without my ever makeing any proposal, or changing A word with him on the subject) and afterward when I found this was represented to my disadvantage I had paid it to him.4 this together with my imploying some of my own connections and against whome no one pretended were unfit or their Conduct improper: is the great Crime for which I have been removed from Office, not being even called on for my defence.5 And was ordered to deliver up the Bonds I had taken for duties and without that allowance, which the Law would have given my family if my removal had been by Death.

In my own justification I do now Sir assert that I did not look on my Office as A sinecure, but I ever attended to the duties of office in my own person I cast the duties on all goods, wrote all Bonds for duties and made the first entry with my own hands. I received and payed all monies, (except fees) administered the oaths required by Law, and in the presence of the Naval officer, and never allowed it to be done by him (and that in my absence) These matters I never Intrusted to any other person. I gave Bond in season, and to acceptance for my faithfull performance of the duties of my Office. And no person can support an accusation of intemperance against me. If my conduct had been different in any or all these maters I might have expected notice would have been taken of me, Whether all those now in office can say thus much of themselves and support It, I leave to those whose Buisness it is to enquire. Or whether the old adage yet holds good, that one man may better Steal A Hors than another look over the Hedge.

In support of my faithfull Conduct in office I appeal to all those who have been knowing thereto, and to a Letter wrote by some of the principall Merchanst in this Town to Mr Goodhew one of our Representatives in Congress and which was laid before the Secretary & also A letter wrote by some of the principal stockholders in this Town to the Secretary A coppy of one of them I have been since favoured with, and been told the purport of the other.6 And even to the Secretary himself respecting those matters which Came under his knowledge. And I challange all who have been acquainted with me from early life to fix on me one act of injustice or fraud. And suerly if I had been charged in a Court of Judicature with a crime of the most hanious nature, and even if it had been proved upon me yet all my other conduct through life would have in some measure pleaded a mitigation of some degree of punishment or at least pity for me (if not for me) yet for my inocent family espesially if they must be great sharers in the punishment. And although I have committed no breach of law or of trust or done any act of fraud either to the Publick whose servant I was or to any private pe⟨rson⟩ what ever, and that no officer in the United states kept a more Regular office pa⟨id⟩ greatetr attention to the duties of it kept closer to the law or gave better satisfaction to the Merchants. To the truth of what I now assert I dare appeal to all, even my enemies and that my conduct should be contrasted with the person now holding the office I dare to challange,7 yet punished I feel myself to be, and that with severity, and my inocent family which are dependant on me for support are sharers in my punishment and we are fallen on a sacrifice (as I verrily believe) to malice and revenge. And if Inocence and A faithfull discharge of the duties of any office can plead for a reconsideration, I think myself Intitled to it. And if you Shall think to do it, And enquire respecting my general carrecter, Mr Goodhew and Judge Holten, as well as Mr Wingate of New Hamshire, will be able to inform you what it has been and now is.8 To the two last mentioned Gentlemen I have communicated all that has past between the Secretary and me on this mater. And on A reconsideration I flatter myself that my conduct will appear in a differant light from what it did when I was removed from office. And on your Considering the Importance of this matter to me and my family I flatter myself you will excuse me for thus troubleing you. And I dout not of that Justice you shall find me intitled to as a faithfull servant of the Publick. And if their should be an opening that you will replace me in some Situation to serve the Publick as well as my own family, which will be accepted with gratitude. By your Excellcy most Obedient Humble Servant

Stepn Cross

ALS, DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters.

1Cross enclosed his letter to Alexander Hamilton of 18 Oct. 1792 and Hamilton’s reply of 29 Oct. 1792 (both DNA: RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters). Cross wrote, “I do not aprehend the President actuated by any other motive than the Publick good,” but protested that his “conduc⟨t⟩ in this matter has been misjudged.” He then posed fourteen questions (beginning, “What law have I violated”) to lay out his grievances and finished by reviewing his long career of public service to question whether “this is my demerrit and the reward I ought to have for all my past servises.” Hamilton replied, “I duly receved your letter of the 18th instant, to which I shall reply at the first moment of sufficient leisure. It will be communicated in the mean time to the President.”

2Cross’s brother Ralph Cross (1737/8–1811), an officer of the Massachusetts militia during the Revolutionary War, was employed as a weigher and gauger at Newburyport. He was appointed collector of customs there in 1802.

3The documents alleging Cross’s misconduct, which were submitted with Hamilton’s letter to GW of 23 April 1792, have not been identified. Joseph Whittemore (Whitmore; 1743–1821) was a gauger and weigher at Newburyport. According to a later letter from Cross seeking an appointment from then-president Thomas Jefferson, his enemies “resorted to a matter with one of the Gaugers respecting his fees, though it was a matter which no way concerned the Public” (Cross to Jefferson, 20 Sept. 1802, DNA: RG 59, Letters of Application and Recommendation during the Administration of Thomas Jefferson, 1801–1809).

4The naval officer at Newburyport was Jonathan Titcomb; the surveyor was Michael Hodge. Cross addressed this issue in the third question of his 18 Oct. 1792 letter to Hamilton: “had not the under officers a right to give the other Officers their whole pay or any part of it if they pleased, and what danger of abuse would arise there from if they did The money represented to be stoped by me I believe Mr Whittemore himself will own was voluntary left in my hands without any agreement made or suggested by me or by my proposal.”

5In addition to his brother Ralph, Cross employed his son Stephen Cross, Jr. (1760–1834), at the Newburyport customs (as an inspector) and apparently employed a second son there as well. In the thirteenth question of Cross’s 18 Oct. 1792 letter to Hamilton, he wrote: “What could be the reason of an enquiery whether some of the under officers were not my near connections, was there any Impropriety in appointing them, or was it not A disgust some person took on discovering my sons privately watching A Vessell where I suspected A Fraudelant design which I always ordered when I suspected such design. it is a satisfaction howeve to me that those People do not Pretend any neglect or Improper conduct in either of them.”

6Neither the letter to Benjamin Goodhue nor that to Hamilton has been identified.

7Cross had been replaced by Edward Wigglesworth, who retained the office until 1795.

8Samuel Holten (1738–1816), a physician by training, had been a judge of the Essex court of common pleas since 1775 and was also a justice of the court of general sessions. A former Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress, he was at this time a congressman. Paine Wingate (1739–1838) was a former senator and at this time a congressman from New Hampshire.

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