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Memorial of Charleston Merchants to the Senate, 2 November 1797

Memorial of Charleston Merchants to the Senate

Charleston, 2 Nov. 1797. They represent that by the laws of South Carolina and by practice of long standing, the wharves onto which imported goods are unladen in the city of Charleston are privately owned and the proprietors of the wharves have collected fees for the weighing of merchandise. The present collector of the port refuses to recognize the wharfholders’ agents as weighers. He insists, according to his construction of the 4 Aug. 1790 act for regulating the collection of duties, that customs officers weigh all landed goods. The proprietors of the wharves refuse to allow custom house officials to weigh merchandise on their wharves, and the collector requires that importers convey goods to locations away from the wharves for weighing. The memorialists represent that they are “burthened with the performance of duties and loaded with Expences not contemplated by any Law of the United States,” suffer injury to their merchandise by exposure to the weather, and believe the present arrangement provides opportunities for fraud. Many of them became proprietors of stores and warehouses near the wharves in order to superintend the unloading, weighing, and storage of their goods and to avoid the expense and risk of transporting goods. They pray that the previous practice of weighing be sanctioned by law, or hope that they may obtain some other legislative relief.

MS (DNA: RG 46, Senate Records, 5th Cong., 2d sess.); 3 p.; signed by 104 individuals and firms; addressed: “To The Honorable Thomas Jefferson Esquire Vice President, and the Honorable the Members of the Senate of the United States”; endorsed by a clerk as received on 28 Dec. 1797.

The collector of customs at Charleston was James Simons, a merchant associated with a Federalist group that included Senator Jacob Read. Earlier in the year Simons had succeeded Isaac Holmes, whom the president had removed from the collectorship for failing to remit hundreds of thousands of dollars in customs duties. On 28 Dec. 1797 the Senate ordered the above memorial to lie on the table (Prince, Federalists, description begins Carl E. Prince, The Federalists and the Origins of the U.S. Civil Service, New York, 1977 description ends 127–30; JS description begins Journal of the Senate of the United States, Washington, D.C., 1820–21, 5 vols. description ends , ii, 417).

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