From Stephen Higginson
Boston Apr. 28. 1793
In the present State of things new cases every day arise that require a referrence to you.
It is a very desireable thing to have our Vessels & Our Seamen so guarded, as to prevent any interruption in Our Commerce that shall appear unreasonable & affrontive. There are men among us who will make the most of every injury done to our property, or insult offered to Our flag. I wish there were Sea Letters or other proper Documents issued by the Officer of the Union, to serve as uniform mode of Evidence as to the property &c. For want of this every man follows his own fancy as to the manner of doing it, & each foreign Consul is tenacious of his own forms & modes of legalising or authenticating. Why may not the Secretary, to whom it belongs, consult with the ministers or Residents from the different powers, & decide on the form of such Documents to be sent signed, & countersigned or not, to the several Collectors to be issued by them; & also on the mode of authentication by the Consuls? We shall have a vast number of Vessels, scattered every where over the face of the Deep; & I fear much uneasiness may arise, & real injury be sustained for want of a proper & uniform mode of evidencing the property, beside what results from the common custom house papers. The Dutch Treaty contains a form settled & required by the 25th Article,1 it may serve as a model, but I should prefer ours more simple & clear.
This Object may not fall within your department, but you can put the business in train & help it forward.
I am in haste but with respect Yours &ca
ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. Higginson is referring to the Treaty of Amity and Commerce between the United Netherlands and the United States concluded on October 8, 1782. Article 25 provided that “in case that one of the Two Parties happens to be at War, the Vessells belonging to the Subjects or Inhabitants of the other Ally, shall be provided with Sea-Letters or Passports” (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 80). Attached to the treaty was “The Form of the Passport which shall be given to Ships and Vessells, in consequence of the 25th. Article of this Treaty” and a “Form of the Sea-Letter” (Miller, Treaties, II description begins Hunter Miller, ed., Treaties and Other International Acts of the United States of America (Washington, 1931), II. description ends , 85–88).