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Report on the Petition of Margaret Fisher, [21 November 1792]

Report on the Petition of Margaret Fisher1

[Philadelphia, November 21, 1792
Communicated on November 22, 1792]2

[To the Speaker of the House of Representatives]

The Secretary of the Treasury, to whom was referred by the House of Representatives, the petition of Margaret Fisher,3 respectfully makes the following Report thereupon.

The petition seeks compensation for expenditures and services, alleged to have rendered and made, by Henry Fisher (the petitioner’s deceased husband) he having been stationed, during the late war, at Lewes near Cape Henlopen, under the appointment and instruction of the Council of Safety of the State of Pennsylvania.

As far as may regard a general compensation, for the time and service of the petitioner’s late husband, ’tis evident, from the nature of his appointment,4 that the application can be properly addressed only to the State of Pennsylvania.

Special services, immediately rendered to the United States, and expenses, incurred for their purposes, would be entitled to compensation and reimbursement, according to their nature and extent. But to these also an objection arises, in the present case, from the Acts of limitation,5 no account having been exhibited against the United States, ’till  .6

From the face of the account, it appears, that several of the items would not be admissible in the course of the Treasury, if no bar existed; and the propriety of some others could not be safely investigated at so late a day. There is a possibility, that some of the articles charged may have been paid for by the officers, to whom, or to whose order, they may have been furnished.

For so long a delay, no sufficient reason, by way of excuse, is assigned.

Wherefore, though the Secretary is under a general impression, from the documents produced to him, that there are probable grounds of equitable claim upon the United States, on behalf of the petitioner, in some particulars, he does not consider it, as a case, presenting reasons of sufficient force, for making an exception to the operation of the Acts of limitation; the cautious maintenance of which, as a general rule, is recommended by so many weighty considerations.

All which is humbly submitted

Alexander Hamilton
Secry. of the Treasry.

Copy, RG 233, Reports of the Treasury Department, 1792–1793, Vol. III, National Archives.

1On April 4, 1777, Congress “Resolved, That blank commissions be sent to Mr. Henry Fisher of Lewistown, with orders, to raise, on continental establishment, an independent company … that if he chuses to accept the command of the company, Congress will confirm him therein; but, if he should decline … [that] he … nominate a proper person … and in either case, that he nominate the subalterns” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , VII, 224).

Fisher declined the command, and on June 2, 1777, he wrote to John Hancock requesting compensation for his expenditures on behalf of the company which he had raised and staffed (LS, signed by Fisher and William Perry, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives). No record of any action taken by Congress on Fisher’s request has been found.

2Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends , 625–26. The communicating letter, dated November 21, 1792, may be found in RG 233, Reports of the Treasury Department, 1792–1793, Vol. III, National Archives.

3On January 18, 1791, “A petition of Margaret Fisher, administratrix of Henry Fisher, late of Sussex County, in the State of Delaware, deceased, was presented to the House and read, praying that a claim against the United States, for sundry expenditures and services of the deceased, during the late war, may be liquidated and allowed.

Ordered, That the said petition … be referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, with instruction to examine the same, and report his opinion thereupon to the House.” (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends , 357).

4On September 16, 1775, the Committee of Safety of Pennsylvania resolved that Henry Fisher of Lewistown be appointed to inform the committee of the arrival of any armed British ships at the Cape of Delaware. The resolution and instructions sent to Fisher may be found in Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania, from the Organization to the Termination of the Proprietary Government. Published by the State (Harrisburg, 1852) (Colonial Records of Pennsylvania), X, 337–38.

5JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXIX, 866; XXXIII, 392. See also “Report on Sundry Petitions,” April 16, 1792.

6Space left blank in MS.

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