Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Sharp Delany, 12 July 1792

To Sharp Delany

Treasury Department July 12. 1792.


The practice of demanding Tonnage of a licensed vessel, when clearing out on a foreign voyage, and delivering up her license, as mentioned in your letter of the 10th instant,1 is conceived not to be conformable with law.2 A vessel cannot be liable to the Tonnage Duty whilst trading under a legal license. The practice must therefore be discontinued, and the Tonnage, charged in such cases, ought to be refunded to the parties.

It might happen, as you state, that a vessel would pay Tonnage but twice in three years, as a licensed vessel; if, in the last month of the year, she should clear for Europe, and, after a voyage of six months, was to renew her license, paying Tonnage for one year—then, at the expiration of the year, should again clear for a foreign port, and return in six months. But such vessel would, in the mean time, pay the Tonnage Duty upon each entry from her foreign voyage, and would fully have complied with what the laws require in those cases.

I am, Sir,   Your Obedt Servt.

Alexander Hamilton

Sharp Delany Esqr.

LS, Harvard College Library.

1Letter not found.

2“An Act imposing duties on the tonnage of ships or vessels” provided that tonnage duties would be paid “upon all ships or vessels which … shall be entered in the United States from any foreign port or place … also … upon every ship or vessel of the United States which … shall be entered in a district in one state from a district in another state.…” The act also provided that these duties “shall not be paid on any ship or vessel having a license to trade between the different districts of the United States … more than once a year” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 135–36 [July 20, 1790]).

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