Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Otho H. Williams, 28 May 1793

From Otho H. Williams

Collectors Office Baltr. 28 May 93


Inclosed are, A, a copy of my letter to the Surveyor of the port1 respecting a French Privatier and her prize lately arrived; B, a Copy of the Surveyors report and, C, a translation of the French Commission in possession of the commander of the Privateer.2

As the laws of Congress, which govern the conduct of the Officers of the customs have no reference to the present case, and as we have received no instructions relative to the construction of existing treaties I am forced to hesitate about the proper conduct to be observed upon this new occasion.

I am Sir,   Your most obedient   Humble Servant

O H Williams

A Hamilton Esqr.
Secretary of the Treasury

ADf, RG 45, Unbound Records, Area 7 Files, National Archives.

1Robert Ballard.

2These enclosures, which concerned “the arrival of a french privateer called the Sans Coulote, with a prize at Baltimore,” were submitted to the President on May 31, 1793, together with “a letter from Saml. Smith Esqr starting the apprehensions of the people of Maryland on acct of the captures made by the french Privateers which had been fitted out from the U.S.” Washington “Sent the … letters &c. to the Atty Genl. for his consideration & desireing him to lay them before the Secretary of State & let the President Know their opinion of the steps wh. shd. be taken by the Governmt. in the case” (JPP description begins “Journal of the Proceedings of the President,” George Washington Papers, Library of Congress. description ends , 135). On May 31, 1793, Edmund Randolph referred the papers to Thomas Jefferson (AL, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress), who wrote: “On the letters & papers from Genl. Williams & Colo. Smith. It is the opinion that the writers be informed that with respect to vessels armed & equipped in the ports of the US. before notice to the contrary was given, the President is taking measures for obliging them to depart from the ports of the US. and that all such equipments in future are forbidden: but that as to the prizes taken by them, no power less than that of the legislature can prohibit their sale” (ADf, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).

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