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To Alexander Hamilton from William Bradford, 13 January 179[5]

From William Bradford

[Philadelphia] Jan. 13th 179[5].1

Sir.

In conformity to your request I have perused the records annexed to the Writs of error sued out in the case of Jeremiah Olney plntf in Error against Edward Dexter and Welcome Arnold.2

The pleadings do not state with clearness the fact which you consider as the material one in the cause to Wit, that the assignment of the Cargo was pretended & Collusive. In such case, Welcome Arnold would have been the real proprietor of the Cargo at the time of the Collector’s refusal & that should regularly have been avered and the averment of the plntf, that the property was at that time in him, should have been traversed. But still as the transfer is stated to have been fraudulent, I conceive the opinion of the Court ought to be taken on the record as it stands, since the pleadings cannot be amended nor aided by the assignments of errors.

The assignments of errors appear to be drawn in a manner proper to give jurisdiction to the S. Court of the United States. But I am inclined to think that they should be signed either by the party himself or by some person who is an Attorney of the Supreme Court. Mr. Barnes3 who signs them is a Counsellor and not an Attorney of that Court. I would therefore recommend out of caution that copies of the Assigments be forwarded to Mr Olney to be signed by him & returned here. The name of “Edward” is by mistake inserted in one of the Assignments of Errors instead of “Welcome Arnold” & must be corrected accordingly.

It would have been a more regular mode of Serving the Citations, if the defendants in Error had been furnished with a Copy of them: but this cannot now be done.

I have the honor to be with great Esteem   Sir Your Most Obedt Servt.

Wm. Bradford.

The Secretary of the Treasury

Copy, Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence; copy, RG 56, Letters to the Collector at Providence, National Archives.

1Both copies of this letter are incorrectly dated “1794.” This letter was enclosed in H to Jeremiah Olney, January 22, 1795.

2Dexter and Arnold’s case (Olney v Arnold) reached the Supreme Court of the United States in February, 1796. For background on this case, see Olney to H, November 7, 15, 28, December 10, 13, 27, 1792, March 14, 25, April 15, 25, September 23, October 7, 21, November 21, 1793, February 17, March 31, April 14, first letter of April 24, May 5, August 11, September 19, December 16, 1794; H to Olney, November 27, 1792, November 7, 1793, March 19, April 24, September 9, 1794.

The facts of the case are stated in the Supreme Court’s decision, which was handed down in its August, 1796, term and which reads as follows: “This was a writ of error on a judgment given in the Superior Court of judicature, court of assize and jail delivery, for the county of Providence, in the state of Rhode Island; and the case, appearing on the record, was as follow:

“Olney, the plaintiff in error, was the collector of impost for Rhode Island; Arnold, the defendant in error, was owner of the Ship Neptune; and a citizen named Dexter, as the declaration alleged, was owner of the cargo of the ship; which arrived from Surinam, at Providence, about four o’clock P.M. on the 6th of November 1792. On that day, the parties applied for a permit to land the cargo, and offered bonds to pay the duties; but the collector refused or neglected to accept the bonds and grant the permit. On the 7th of November, a second application was made for a permit, and bonds, actually executed, were tendered for the payment of the duties; but the collector again peremptorily refused to accept the bonds or to grant the permit; in consequence of which, the vessel, with cargo on board, remained at a heavy expense, from the 6th to the 13th of November; and Arnold laid his damages at 200 l.” (3 Dallas, U.S. Reports description begins A. J. Dallas, Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Several Courts of the United States and of Pennsylvania, Held at the Seat of the Federal Government. Vol. III, Second Edition. Edited, With Notes and References to Later Decisions, by Frederick C. Brightly (New York and Albany, 1882). description ends , 308.)

Arnold then sued Olney for damages. In his defense, Olney pleaded that by Section 14 of “An Act to provide more effectually for the collection of the duties imposed by law on goods, wares and merchandise imported into the United States, and on the tonnage of ships or vessels” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 145–78 [August 4, 1790]), he could not accept the bonds because Arnold was still indebted to the United States for a bond which he had given on January 17, 1792, and which was due on May 17, 1792. Olney also pleaded that Arnold was the real owner of the cargo and had transferred it fraudulently to Dexter in order to obtain credit at the customhouse.

In its summary of the case, the Supreme Court stated that “the court of common pleas for the county of Providence decided, that the plea was a sufficient bar to the action; and in December 1792, gave judgment for the defendant accordingly. From this judgment, the plaintiff appealed to the superior court of judicature, where it was adjudged, in December 1794, that the plea in bar was not sufficient; and the cause was remitted to the county court for trial. On the trial, the jury gave a verdict for the plaintiff, damages 13 l. 5s., with costs: and the defendant below brought the present writ of error to remove the proceedings into the supreme court of the United States; the construction and validity of the act of congress, under which the defendant justified, being involved in the decision of the state court” (3 Dallas, U.S. Reports description begins A. J. Dallas, Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Several Courts of the United States and of Pennsylvania, Held at the Seat of the Federal Government. Vol. III, Second Edition. Edited, With Notes and References to Later Decisions, by Frederick C. Brightly (New York and Albany, 1882). description ends , 309).

The case of Olney v Arnold was argued before the Supreme Court at its February, 1796, term, “but The Court declaring it to be unnecessary to give any opinion on the principal case, until it was decided, whether the record was regularly before them, directed the … question to be discussed” at the August, 1796, term (3 Dallas, U.S. Reports description begins A. J. Dallas, Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Several Courts of the United States and of Pennsylvania, Held at the Seat of the Federal Government. Vol. III, Second Edition. Edited, With Notes and References to Later Decisions, by Frederick C. Brightly (New York and Albany, 1882). description ends , 310). On August 8, 1796, “The Chief Justice then delivered the opinion of the court … in consequence of which, the judgment of the superior court of Rhode Island was reversed, and the judgment of the inferior court affirmed” (3 Dallas, U.S. Reports description begins A. J. Dallas, Reports of Cases Ruled and Adjudged in the Several Courts of the United States and of Pennsylvania, Held at the Seat of the Federal Government. Vol. III, Second Edition. Edited, With Notes and References to Later Decisions, by Frederick C. Brightly (New York and Albany, 1882). description ends , 318).

3David Leonard Barnes. See Olney to H, December 16, 1794, note 2.

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