Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Robert Purviance, 14 June 1792

From Robert Purviance1

[Baltimore, Maryland, June 14, 1792. “The 21st. of last month, I was informed by three reputable Merchants of this place, that there had been landed from on board the Sloop Ceres, Jno. T. Child, Master, from district of New Port, a quantity of Rum, part of which was said to be West India, and that they had cause to believe that the same was Rum distilled within the United States.… I was fully convinced of the deception, and accordingly directed the Inspector to make a seizure of the whole of the rum under that description, and likewise to proceed without loss of time to seize on the Sloop.…” Letter not found.]

Extract, Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore.

1Purviance was naval officer at Baltimore. For background to this letter, see Jeremiah Olney to H, May 31, 1792, note 2.

On June 4, 1792, Tench Coxe, in a letter to George Gale, supervisor of the revenue for the District of Maryland, marked “Confidential,” wrote:

“A Communication has been made from Providence Rhode Island, relative to the Seizure of a parcel of Rum belonging to Messrs. Clarke Nightingale and Bowen, alleged to be Spirits distilled in the United States which has paid duty altho it is in Casks marked as containing foreign Rum and accompanied with certificates for foreign Rum. It is proper that you be confidentially informed that Mr. Bowen who goes on to Baltimore has admitted that and declared to the Secretary that the Spirits are of the distillation of the United States and that he alleges the duty has been paid.

“On this Case two points occur. In the first place, the claimants will have to prove the payment of the Excise, and the greatest care will be requisite in regard to the proofs of the identity of the rum seized and of that which they shall prove to have paid the duty.… Should the Claimants prove this to be American rum, which has paid the duty and which may afterwards have been shifted with mercantile Views only the penalty … of five hundred Dollars will be incurred for ‘making use’ of ‘false’ and ‘untrue’ Certificates.

“There has appeared in the course of this Business some disposition to take the ground of the Casks, certificates, and spirits being conformable, and to trust to the Jury’s deciding on the quality of the Spirits, which (it seemed to be confided) is such as would prevent an unfavorable Verdi[c]t. This is intimated to put you on your guard. Should any such attempt be made you can rely on the Fact that the Spirits were distilled in the United States.

“It is not known whether this Seizure has taken place in the department of the Customs or the internal Revenue. If it should prove to be the former, a confidential communication of this letter will be necessary to General [Otho H.] Williams—as also to his or your Council.” (LC, RG 58, Letters of Commissioner of Revenue, 1792–1793, National Archives.)

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