Alexander Hamilton Papers

Report on the Petition of Henry Howell Williams, [21 November 1792]

Report on the Petition of Henry Howell Williams

[Philadelphia, November 21, 1792
Communicated on November 22, 1792]1

[To the Speaker of the House of Representatives]

The Secretary of the Treasury, to whom was referred, by the House of Representatives, the petition of Henry Howell Williams,2 makes the following Report thereupon.

Respectfully referring the House of Representatives, to his general report of the 19th Instant,3 concerning the provision heretofore made for cases of the property of citizens used, damaged or destroyed by the Troops of the United States.

The Secretary begs leave to add, that it appears by the petitioner’s own shewing, that the State of Massachusetts has considered his case, and granted him a conpensation:4 And that it further appears, from a document, which was produced by the petitioner, that the compensation allowed by the State was meant to be in full.

The State of Massachusetts having decided upon a matter respecting one of its own citizens, having made him a considerable compensation, for the loss which he sustained; that compensation having been made, as in full, and having been accepted by the petitioner, it would be, as far as the information of the Secretary goes, without precedent, in any similar case, to revise the compensation made, on the suggestion of its being inadequate; nor, considering the various incidents of the war, would comparative justice be promoted by doing it.

Though duly sensible of the respectability of the petitioner, and of the extent of the losses, which he originally sustained,5 the Secretary cannot but regard the considerations, which have been stated, as a bar to the object of his petition.

Which is respectfully submitted

Alexander Hamilton
Secry. of the Treasy.

Copy, RG 233, Reports of the Treasury Department, 1792–1793, Vol. III, National Archives.

1Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends , 625–26. The communicating letter, dated November 21, 1792, may be found in RG 233, Reports of the Treasury Department, 1792–1793, National Archives.

2On February 27, 1792, the House received “A petition of Henry Howell Williams, praying compensation for injuries sustained in his property by the Army of the United States, during the late war.

Ordered, That the said … [petition] be referred to the Secretary of the Treasury, with instruction to examine the same, and report his opinion thereupon to the House.” (Journal of the House, I description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I. description ends , 521.)

4On June 23, 1789, the House of Representatives and the Senate of Massachusetts concurred in a resolution to grant Williams “two thousand pounds & interest by a state note to be charged to the United States” (Journal of the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts … Commencing 27 May 1789 Ending 9 March 1790, Microfilm Collection of Early State Records, Library of Congress).

5An earlier petition to Congress, dated April 7, 1787, states that Williams’s eight-hundred-acre farm on Noddles Island in Boston Harbor had been stripped of livestock, grain, and farm implements and that what could not be removed was destroyed in May, 1775, in order to prevent the British from using it. Williams’s losses were estimated at twelve thousand dollars (LS, Papers of the Continental Congress, National Archives). The report of the Board of Treasury on this petition states that the property was used by the state and suggests that Williams apply to Massachusetts, adding that “should Claims of a similar description be hereafter allowed by the general Board of Commissioners [for settling the accounts between the states], the State will obtain reimbursement for such sums as shall appear as equitable compensation for the real damage sustained by the Memorialist” (JCC description begins Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789 (Washington, 1904–1937). description ends , XXXIV, 390–91).

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