Alexander Hamilton Papers

From Alexander Hamilton to Jeremiah Olney, 25 August 1792

To Jeremiah Olney

Treasury Department
August 25. 1792.


I have considered the seventh Section of the Act, “concerning the Duties on Spirits distilled within the United States &c,”1 and agree with you in the opinion, given in your letter of the 14th instant, that the abatement of two per Cent for leakage is to be made, on securing the Duty at the end of the quarter, from the whole quantity distilled during the preceding three months. The Supervisor of Rhode Island will be instructed accordingly.2

On the question, what steps are to be taken in cases where the quantities or proof of Spirits, notified for exportation, disagree with the certificate accompanying them, I answer that if the disagreement be such as to justify a suspicion that the Spirits are not the same, not only the drawback ought not to be allowed, but the Spirits ought to be seized. This however will require great discretion and care. Both quantities and proof are liable to vary from the difference of instruments and of the accuracy of the Persons who use them. Where there is reasonable ground to believe that all is right, the drawback3 must be adjusted according to the Rate paid upon the quantity mentioned in the Certificate, if the Cask be full, if not full, upon the actual quantity.

I am, Sir,   Your Obed. Servant

A Hamilton

Jere. Olney Esqr.

LS, Rhode Island Historical Society, Providence; copy RG 56, Letters to Collectors at Small Ports, “Set G,” National Archives; copy, RG 56, Letters to the Collector at Providence, National Archives.

11 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 269 (May 8, 1792).

2On August 22, 1792, Tench Coxe wrote a circular to the supervisors of the revenue stating: “A question has been incidentally brought to the Treasury concerning the allowance for leakage granted in the 7th Section of the Act concerning the Duties on Spirits distilled in the United States. It is my opinion, that, if it be the case of Spirits paying the duty by the Gallon, the allowance of two pr. Cent for leakage is absolute, and that it is to be made without subsequent examination or enquiry, whether the Cask shall have or shall not have leaked in that degree. It will be proper, that an intimation be given to the Port Inspectors to keep this allowance in view, when they shall be engaged in superintending the Exportation of domestic distilled Spirits” (LC, RG 58, Letters of Commissioner of Revenue, 1792–1793, National Archives).

3Section 51 of “An Act repealing, after the last day of June next, the duties hereto-fore laid upon Distilled Spirits imported from abroad, and laying others in their stead; and also upon Spirits distilled within the United States, and for appropriating the same” provided that “if any of the said spirits (whereupon any of the duties imposed by this act shall have been paid or secured to be paid) shall … be exported from the United States to any foreign port or place, there shall be an allowance to the exporter or exporters thereof, by way of drawback, equal to the duties thereupon” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 210 [March 3, 1791]).

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