Report on the Petition of Samuel Prioleau, Junior1
[Philadelphia, February 27, 1794
Communicated on March 3, 1794]2
[To the Speaker of the House of Representatives]
The Secretary of the Treasury, to whom was referred the Memorial of Samuel [Prioleau, Jr.],3 respectfully reports thereupon as follows—
The Memorial seeks compensation for sundry buildings of the Memorialist situate in the Town of Charleston, which are alleged to have been pulled down by Order of General Lincoln,4 then Commander of the Army of the United States, that the Materials might be applied to the defence of the Town.
The Allegation is supported by Certificates of George Melven Assistant Deputy Quarter Master General, and of John Neufville and J. Saraizn who appear to have been appointed by Governor Rutledge5 to appraise the buildings, which they certify to be worth 10,000 pounds South Carolina Currency, Exchange with Great Britain 700 for one.
It would appear likewise from an Indorsement, in the hand writing of the then Secretary of Congress6 on the paper herewith transmitted, that Application had been made to Congress by the Memoralist in February 1782, and that they had ordered his papers to be filed in the Comptroller’s Office, a mode which was sometimes adopted by way of referring the case, to future consideration, after the termination of the War. But no Order for the purpose appears in this Instance on the Journal, as does in some other instances.
It is, in the Opinion of the Secretary, a clear principle, that Compensation is due from the State to a Citizen whose buildings have been taken down, and the Materials applied to public Use by Order of the Commanding General of an Army in the Service of such State; and that therefore supposing the facts stated to be sufficiently proved, the Memorialist had a just Claim for Compensation from the United States.
A question arises whether that Claim is now barred by the Acts of Limitation.7 It does not appear to have been preferred in the manner required by those Acts. But there is room to consider the Application to Congress in 1782, and a reference of the Case by them to future Consideration as a virtual exception to the Operation of those Acts.
The Claim is of a Nature to require, in the opinion of the Secretary a favorable Consideration. He therefore submits it as adviseable to authorise the accounting Officers of the Treasury to examine into, and if duly established to allow the Claim.8
Which is respectfully submitted.
Secy. of the Treasury.
February 27th. 1794.
Copy, RG 233, Reports of the Secretary of the Treasury, 1784–1795, Vol. IV, National Archives.
1. This report was one of twenty-nine reports on petitions enclosed in H to Frederick A. C. Muhlenberg, February 27, 1794.
3. On December 15, 1790, the House received a “petition of Samuel Prideau, Junior, of the city of Charleston, praying to receive compensation for the value of certain wharves and houses which were taken from him, and appropriated to the use of the American Army at the siege of that place.
“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 description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I, II. description ends , I, 337.)
In both the Journal of the House description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I, II. description ends and H’s report the name of the petitioner is incorrectly cited, for the petitioner was Samuel Prioleau, Jr., a Charleston merchant and a member of a prominent South Carolina family. For background to this petition, see H to Simeon Theus, April 8, 1793.
4. Benjamin Lincoln was appointed to the command of the American Army in the southern department on September 25, 1778.
5. John Rutledge.
6. Charles Thomson.