Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from William Ellery, 5 March 1792

From William Ellery

Newport [Rhode Island] March 5, 1792. “I have received a Letter from the Assist. Secry of the Treasy.1 in which he informs me that … two Thermometers will be forwarded … and mentions that it appears proper that you should be informed, in what cases I would find an Hydrostatic balance useful.…2 I have written to the Surveyor of Pawcatuck3 to send me his broken Thermometer, as soon as I receive I will transmit it by Post to the Treasy. The cases in which I would find an hydrostatic balance useful would be all cases in which I should suspect the gold coin offered in payment for duties and fees was counterfeit, or not of equal fineness, with the gold coins of the Nations specified in the 55 Sec: … of the Revenue Law.4 Some pieces of coined gold of suspicious appearance have been offered to me, and I had no other way to ascertain their quality but by sending them to a person who is possessed of an hydrostatic balance; and gold cobbs5 have been offered some of which had been received from the bank of Providence, and were manufactured in this town, where the others were made I could not tell.… I also received a letter of the 20th. of the last month from the Assist. Secry acknowledging the Receipt of the Bank of Providence for Seven Thousand Dollars, and a Letter from you Sir, of the 15th. of the same month6 respecting the case of Capt. Elliot,7 and directing that the attention of the Owners and Commanders of vessels must be drawn to the requisition of the manifest, as made by the Legislature.… It is probable that a quantity of sugars will be imported into this District in the course of two or three months. It is very disagreeable to the merchants here that the tare should be taken out of each 112 lb. imported by them, when in New york and Philadelphia it is taken out of each 100 lb. I wish that the mode of deducting the tare from all articles imported might be regulated and made uniform as soon as it can be conveniently done.…”8

LC, Newport Historical Society, Newport, Rhode Island.

1Tench Coxe.

3George Stillman.

4Ellery is referring to Section 56 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,” which determined the rates at which foreign coin would be receivable in payment of customs charges (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 173 [August 4, 1790]).

5This is an eighteenth-century designation for Spanish-American dollars, distinguishing them from those struck in Spain with greater care and precision.

6Letter not found.

7See Ellery to H, January 9, February 7, 1792.

8See “Treasury Department Circular to the Collectors of the Customs,” May 13, 1791.

Ellery endorsed this letter “Ansrd Mr. 21.” H’s reply has not been found.

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