George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Oliver Wolcott, Jr., 22 December 1795

From Oliver Wolcott, Jr.

Treasury Department Decr 22d 1795

The Secretary of the Treasury, has the honour to transmit to the President of the United States, the petition of Joseph Agnew, with sundry documents accompanying the same, by which it appears, that the said petitioner has violated the Revenue Laws of the United States, by being concerned in landing from a Vessel in the port of Philadelphia, a quantity of Coffee, without a permit and without having previously paid or secured the duties thereon.1 It however appears to the Secretary, that the petitioner, was not the principal actor in the said violation of Law, that he is a poor man & utterly unable to pay the penalty imposed, that an aged mother depends upon his assistance for support and moreover that his testimony may be necessary for the conviction of the principal offender. As however it does not appear in this case that the penalty for which the petitioner is held in confinement, was incurred without intention of fraud, or wilful negligence, the Secretary is of opinion that no relief can be had under the provisions of the Act entitled “an Act to provide for mitigating or remitting the forfeitures and Penalties under the Revenue Laws in certain cases therein mentioned.”2

On this statement, the Secretary therefore respectfully submits it to the consideration of the President of the United States to determine whether it be not expedient to grant a pardon to the petitioner, the effect of which would be a remission of one half of the penalty incurred.3 All which is most humbly submitted by

Oliver Wolcott.

LB, CtHi: Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Papers.

1The enclosed petition and documents have not been identified. Joseph Agnew is identified in his pardon (see n.3) as a “Mariner” of Pennsylvania.

2The act of 26 May 1790 gave the secretary of the treasury power to remit “if in his opinion” the underlined conditions were met (1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 122–23).

3On 4 Jan. 1796, citing the reasons given in the first paragraph of this letter, GW signed a pardon to “discharge so much of the said penalty of four hundred dollars as by law hath become due and payable to the said United States” and requiring that further prosecution “shall forthwith cease,” provided that Agnew “do enter into sufficient recognizance … to appear and give evidence in behalf of the United States” (LB, DNA: RG 59, Copies of Presidential Pardons and Remissions).

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