Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Charles Lee, 18 January 1792

To Charles Lee

Treasury Department
January 18 1792.


Sufficient time having been given to the owners and commanders of vessels to provide regular manifests, according to the last collection law,1 I am of opinion that the clauses you refer to2 should now be enforced. You will do well to let this idea be communicated immediately among the Gentlemen in Trade, as the season admits of their taking measures to make it known. Their possessing the Pilots of hand bills containing an extract from the law to inform their Captains when they are met with on the coast, or in the Bay, would be an useful step.

I observe your intimations in regard to a table of fees &c which will be under consideration with the new Coasting law.

The Surveyor of your district has written to me upon the subject of a person, who should be authorised by you to aid him in the admeasurement of vessels.3 This appointment you will perceive is attended with no expence to the United States. No provis⟨ion⟩ for the compensation of such a person being made, the wages he receives will be defrayed by the Surveyor out of his emoluments. It should seem therefore, if he wants such assistance, and the person he recommends to you is unexceptionable, that it might be well to appoint him. But as I do not know particularly how the matter is circumstanced, I should be glad to receive information, if objections occur to you.

The Inspectors of the Customs, on those days when they are actually employed under the Inspector of the Revenue for your port, are to be allowed by you daily pay as in the Customs: but no person is to be compensated for his hire in the Customs on any day in which he shall be engaged in the Revenue business.

I am, Sir, with great consideration,  Your Most Obed Servant.

Alexander Hamilton

Charles Lee, Esquire,

LS, RG 56, Letters to and from the Collector at Alexandria, National Archives; copy, RG 56, Letters to Collectors at Small Ports, “Set G,” National Archives.

1“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]).

2H is referring to Sections 9 and 10 of the Collection Law. See Lee to H, January 11, 1792, note 2.

3The letter which Samuel Hanson, surveyor of the customs at Alexandria, wrote to H has not been found. On March 10, 1792, however, Hanson wrote to George Washington as follows:

“… About 6 Weeks ago I submitted a part of my Grievance to the Secretary of the Treasury, but, not having been favoured with a reply from that Gentleman, I hope I shall be excused in appealing to your self, as the last Resort.

“Sir, it appears that Mr. Lee, from resentment of my information to you of his neglect of duty, is determined to harass and incommode me, as much as possible in the execution of mine.…

“With respect to the Assistant Measurer of Vessels, I beg leave to state that, upon my request, he appointed one about 18 Months ago, without the smallest objection—that this Person was always paid by me—and performed the duty with fidelity and accuracy, untill the said 9th. Jany last, when Mr. Lee thought proper to revoke the appointment, without any complaint against the Assistant. I immediately addressed the Secretary upon the Subject. His reply was as follows: ‘The Collector has authority to appoint one; and, if you are willing to be at the expence of such assistance, and recommend a fit Person, as no doubt you will, I presume the Collector will appoint him. This Assistant to the Surveyor is only contemplated when his other duties shall render one necessary; and therefore you will perceive he is left to be agreed with and compensated by the Surveyor out of his fees for Admeasurement.’

“A Copy of this passage I enclosed to Mr. Lee, hoping and expecting he would, upon that authority, reinstate my assistant. But, instead of doing so, he writes to me as follows: ‘Whenever it shall be necessary, I shall appoint a Person to measure each and every Vessel that cannot be measured by yourself conveniently with your other official duties.…’”

Hanson continues his letter to Washington by complaining that Lee is absent for most of the year and asks if the acts of Lee’s deputy are valid and binding upon himself. (ALS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters of the Department of State, National Archives.)

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