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Report on the Petition of Elisha Bennett, [27 February 1794]

Report on the Petition of Elisha Bennett

[Philadelphia, February 27, 1794
Communicated on March 3, 1794]1

[To the President of the Senate]

The Secretary of the Treasury to whom was referred the petition of Elisha Bennett, by an order of the Senate of the 20th. of November 1792,2 thereupon Respectfully Reports

That the claim of the Petitioner is one, to the adjustment of which the power of the Treasury is competent.

That it has been rejected at the Auditors Office for the following reasons:

The only paper in that Office relating to the frigate Trumbull, while under the command of Dudley Saltonstall,3 is a muster Roll signed by him and dated the 15th of September 1777, by which it appears that Elisha Bennett entered on board the said frigate in the Capacity of second Mate on the 13th. of January 1777.

It appears from the Books and Records of the late Marine Department that Captn. Saltonstall received from the Public, through different channels, to the amount of 22,416 Dollars: the whole of which remains unaccounted for, and which it is to be supposed was advanced for the purpose of discharging the wages due to the Crew.

This supposition is supported by the following circumstances. It appears first—that the Vessels disbursements were made by the Agents, Secondly, That a Pay Master was not appointed for the Eastern Department until August or September 17784 previous to which period advances were generally made to the Captains for the purpose of paying the Crew; and thirdly, that very few applications have been made to the late Commissioner5 or at the Auditors Office for balances due for the time that Captain Saltonstall had the command of the Trumbull. Such as were made to the Commissioner were accompanied with Certificates signed by Captain Saltonstall, stating, that agreeably to the ship Books a certain sum remained due to the Claimant.

On the 12th. of June 1787 the late Commissioner of Marine accounts finding no regular Rolls relative to the Trumbull, for the time she was under the command of Captain Saltonstall, called on him to render his account and the Ships books. He received for answer that the papers of the Trumbull were burnt in the conflagration of New London,6 and that those relating to the Warren, while under his Command, were lost with that Vessel in the Expedition to Penobscot.

The bare information of Persons making demands upon the United States, not confirmed by any authentic document, as in the present instance, particularly as it relates to monies, which may have been received by the Claimants, on account, is considered as an insufficient ground for adjusting such demands. And under all the circumstances before mentioned it has hitherto appeared dangerous and improper to attempt a settlement with any of the Persons who served on board the Trumbull under Captain Saltonstall.

These reasons appear to the Secretary valid, and such as in his opinion would render any special interposition in favor of the Petitioner unadviseable.

Which is humbly submitted

Alexander Hamilton
Secy of the Treasy

DS, RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–1795, Reports from the Secretary of the Treasury, National Archives.

1Journal of the Senate, 3rd Cong., 1st Sess. description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States of America, Being the First Session of the Third Congress, Begun and Held at the City of Philadelphia, December 2d, 1793. And in the Eighteenth Year of the Sovereignty of the Said United States (Philadelphia: Printed by John Fenno, Printer to the Senate of the United States [1794]). description ends , 68.

2On November 20, 1792, the Senate received the “petition of Elisha Bennett, a seaman on board the Continental frigate the Trumbull … praying to be allowed the arrearage of his wages, the payment of which hath been hitherto impeded by accident.

Ordered, That this petition be referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, to consider and report thereon to the Senate.” (Annals of Congress description begins The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature (Washington, 1834–1849). description ends , III, 616.)

Elisha Bennett’s petition, dated November 19, 1792, may be found in RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–1795, Reports from the Secretary of the Treasury, National Archives.

3Saltonstall had commanded the Alfred, the flagship of the first Continental fleet, when the fleet captured the island of New Providence early in 1776. In 1777 he was given command of the new frigate Trumbull, but before that ship finally put to sea in 1780, his reputation as a naval commander had been ruined by his procrastination and defeat as commander of the Warren in Penobscot Bay, at what is now Castine, Maine, in July and August, 1779.

4For Joseph Henderson’s service as paymaster of the eastern department, see “Report on the Petition of Joseph Henderson,” April 27, 1792.

5Benjamin Walker had been appointed commissioner to settle the accounts of the hospital, marine, and clothing departments in 1786.

6On September 6, 1781, Benedict Arnold, at that time holding the rank of brigadier general in the British army, led a raid on New London, Connecticut, destroying twelve American ships and a large portion of the town.

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