Alexander Hamilton Papers
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To Alexander Hamilton from Benjamin Lincoln, 3 April 1794

From Benjamin Lincoln

Boston, April 3, 1794. “A Vessel has lately arrived here navigated by a number of American masters who say that they purchased her in the British west indies that she was an American Vessel condemned as a lawfull prize. The vessel was undoubtedly owned in this State and is now here without papers. Can she have new ones? If new ones To whom should they be granted?”1

LC, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston; LC RG 36, Collector of Customs at Boston, Letter Book, 1790–1797, National Archives; two copies, RG 56, Letters from the Collector at Boston, National Archives.

1On April 26, 1794, Oliver Wolcott, Jr., comptroller of the Treasury Department, replied to Lincoln’s letter as follows:

“The Secy of the Treasy has referred it to me to reply to your Letter of the 3rd inst.

“It is my opinion that a condemnation of a Vessel of the United States, in a foreign Court of competent jurisdiction, changes the property, & that such a Vessel on being purchased & wholly owned by Citizens of the United States, is qualified to be registered anew in favour of the Purchasers.

“It is however necessary, that an authenticated Copy of the decree of Condemnation should be produced; & to avoid imposition it appears to be a consequence of the proviso contained in the 14 sect. of the Act concerning the Registering & Recording of Ships & Vessels, that the decree of condemnation should recite the former Certificate of Registry.” (ADf, Connecticut Historical Society, Hartford.)

Section 14 of “An Act concerning the registering and recording of ships or vessels” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 287–99 [December 31, 1792]) reads in part as follows: “And be it further enacted, That when any ship or vessel, which shall have been registered … shall, in whole, or in part, be sold, or transferred to a citizen or citizens of the United States,… the said ship or vessel shall be registered anew, by her former name,… and her former certificate of registry shall be delivered up to the collector to whom application for such new registry shall be made, at the time, that the same shall be made to be by him transmitted to the register of the treasury who shall cause the same to be cancelled. And in every such case of sale or transfer, there shall be some instrument of writing, in the nature of a bill or sale, which shall recite, at length, the said certificate, otherwise the said ship or vessel shall be incapable of being so registered anew.…”

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