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To Thomas Jefferson from Albert Gallatin, 16 June 1801

From Albert Gallatin

Treasury Department June 16th. 1801

The Secretary of the Treasury has the honor to enclose copies of two Letters from the Collector of Norfolk and from the Master of the Revenue Cutter “Patriot,” together with a “Statement of the disbursements for Revenue Cutters for 3 Months” prepared by the Comptroller with the observations of the same officer on that subject generally.

It appears most eligible under present circumstances to direct the Cutters which from their size are better calculated for War, than for the protection of the Revenue, to be sold, substituting in their place others of a burthen better adapted to that purpose, and to reduce the establishment to one Master, one Mate, and not more than four1 Seamen for each Cutter—The annual saving resulting from that measure would amount to near 40.000 Dollars.

Should the President’s opinion coincide with that of this Department, measures will be taken, on receiving his directions, immediately to carry them into effect.

Respectfully submitted by

Albert Gallatin

RC (DLC); in clerk’s hand, signed by Gallatin; at foot of text: “The President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 16 June and “Revenue cutters” and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) William Ham to William Davies, Norfolk, Virginia, 22 Dec. 1800, requesting an additional three hands and one officer and four more swivels for the newly launched revenue cutter, Patriot, under his command. (2) William Davies to Oliver Wolcott, Jr., Norfolk, 24 Dec. 1800, enclosing, along with other statements from the collector’s office, the letter from Ham (see Enclosure No. 1), prompting Davies to inquire of the Treasury secretary: “Not knowing your former instructions respecting the establishment of this vessel nor the special purposes for which she is designed—I decline my opinion respecting the application, as its propriety depends upon the object which she was built.” (3) John Steele, “Aggregate Statement of Disbursements for Revenue Cutters for three months,” 15 June 1801, being a list of nine of the ten revenue cutters in service, with a total of 28 officers, 110 men, and an expenditure of $13,772.60 that included extra costs for the Patriot, “probably about equal to the expenditures for the Cutter Bee” at Savannah for which accounts had not been received; with the Governor Jay at New York employing the highest number, 4 officers and 22 men, and expending $1,727.20 for the quarter; and also including two paragraphs comparing stipulations for revenue cutters under the “old collection law” of 1790 and the “new Collection law” of 1799, noting that the new law dropped the limitation on expenditures and the regulation that “each Cutter should be navigated by One Master, and not more than three Mates, four Mariners and two boys,” explaining “Both these differences are ascribable to the State of things which existed in the Year 1798 and have no relation to the safety of the Revenue”; and also noting that the 1799 law gave the president the discretionary power to reduce the number of revenue cutters, the size of the vessels, and the number of men employed on them (Trs in same).

In his observations, John Steele stated that the “old collection law” of 1790, “where the safety of the revenue was the sole object,” deserved more attention. He concluded: “Vessels smaller than some of those now employed, and navigated by Men possessing the habits of Inspectors of the Revenue would be certainly less expensive, and probably more efficient. The extravagance and indolence of Military Men, or men with Military Notions, are not suited to this service” (see Enclosure No. 3, above).

On this same date, TJ responded stating that he approved of the Treasury secretary’s proposition “to sell the present revenue cutters, or such of them as are too large for their object, to build or purchase others of smaller size to be [commanded] and navigated by one master, one mate and not more than [four seamen,] and to reduce the system of revenue cutters in […] from that provided for by the act of 1799. c. 128. § 97. 98. which regarded [them] rather as [vessels of war and return to the] antient system first established by the act of 1790 [c. 35.] § 62. 63,” where the cutters were employed “with a view to the safety of the revenue only.” TJ wished to speak with Gallatin and others acquainted with the proper dimensions of the vessels to be built or bought and urged that the “reformation” be carried out without delay (PrC in DLC, faint; not recorded in SJL).

On 3 May 1801, George House, at New London, Connecticut, wrote James Madison, noting that because of his republican principles, he had not received an appointment from President Adams as master of the revenue cutter Argus upon the death of Captain Jonathan Maltbie, although he had served as first mate for seven years and had the recommendation of Connecticut congressman Joshua Coit. “Taking notice of the justice of Mr. Jefferson in the restoration to Office of Mr. Whipple & Gardiner of Portsmouth who were superceded,” House wrote, “I request the favor and implore your assistance in representing my case to the President that as it is in his power he wou’d restore me to the command of the Cutter & my Brother Officers to their rank in succession” (RC in DNA: RG 59, LAR; endorsed by TJ: “House George to mr Madison. to be restored to the command of his revenue cutter”; with additional note in TJ’s hand: “refd. to the Secretary of the Treasury. the writer is a man of entire honesty and worthy. Th:J”). For Jacob Wagner’s note on this letter, see Madison, Papers, Sec. of State Ser. description begins J. C. A. Stagg, ed., The Papers of James Madison, Secretary of State Series, Charlottesville, 1986–, 8 vols. description ends , 1:141. In May 1803, TJ appointed House master of a revenue cutter (same, 4:588).

1Preceding four words interlined in place of “two or three.”

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