Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Thomas Jefferson, 12 September 1793

From Thomas Jefferson

Philadelphia Sep. 12. 1793.


I have the honor to inclose you a paper delivered me1 by mr Bournonville2 on the part of the Minister of France reclaiming against the demand of tonnage on the vessels which came hither from the West Indies in their late calamity.3 It is urged that they were driven out of their harbours by superior force, & obliged to put to sea without water or stores, & therefore to make the first ports where they could be relieved, which constitute in their opinion those circumstances of distress and necessity which exempt vessels from the payment of tonnage.4 This case belonging to your department, I take the liberty, in the absence of the President & to save time, to transmit it to you directly, for your consideration.

I have the honor to be with great respect   Sir   Your most obedt. servt

Th: Jefferson

The Secretary of the Treasury.

ALS, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress; LC, RG 59, Domestic Letters of the Department of State, Vol. 5, February 4, 1792–December 31, 1793, National Archives.

1According to a letter that H wrote to Jefferson, November 30, 1793, this letter was from “the Vice Consul of Virginia.”

2Charles François Bournonville was secretary of the French legation in Philadelphia.

4Section 38 of “An Act to provide more effectually for the collection of the duties imposed by law on goods, wares and merchandise imported into the United States, and on the tonnage of ships or vessels” provided that cargoes of ships forced into the United States by “distress of weather or other necessity” might be unloaded under a permit granted by the collector of the customs. The act further provided that “all goods so unladen shall be stored under the direction of the said collector; who, upon request of the master or other person having charge or command of such ship or vessel, or of the owner thereof, shall grant a license to dispose of such part of the said cargo as may be of a perishable nature (if any there be) or as may be necessary to defray the expenses attending such ship or vessel, and her cargo: Provided, That the duties thereupon be first paid. And the said goods, or the remainder thereof, may afterwards be reladen on board the said ship or vessel, and the said ship or vessel may proceed with the same to the place of her destination, free from any other charge than for the storing and safe-keeping of the said goods” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 167 [August 4, 1790]).

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