Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Edward I. Peyton, 15 April 1794

From Edward I. Peyton1

Philadelphia, April 15, 1794. “Permit me to supplicate your attention and interference in a Case wherein your Petitioner has infring’d a law of the Revenue not from intention, but arising from ⟨a⟩ total ignorance of such a law existing. Your Petitioner some time since purchas’d four Hhds of Jamaica spirits mark’d 4th. proof, and from motives of facilating its sale reduced three of the said Hhds as near as he cou’d conceive to the standard of 2nd: proof.… Your Petitioner therefore presumes as fraud was neither intended nor committed he is entitled to a restoration of his property.…”2

ALS, RG 58, General Records, 1791–1803, National Archives.

1Peyton was a Philadelphia merchant.

A more detailed description of Peyton’s case is given in the formal petition which he prepared for the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on April 29, 1794, and in the statement of facts which Judge Richard Peters prepared on May 7. Frequently liquor dealers purchased rum in the West Indies and reduced the proof by adding water on its arrival in the United States. Peyton did this in the case of three hogsheads of rum and changed the revenue mark from “4th” proof to “2nd” proof on the casks (D, RG 21, Records of the District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, National Archives). In doing this he violated Section 30 of “An Act repealing, after the last day of June next, the duties heretofore laid upon Distilled Spirits imported from abroad, and laying others in their stead; and also upon Spirits distilled within the United States, and for appropriating the same” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 206 [March 3, 1791]). This section provided that “if any person … shall … deface any of the marks set upon any cask … pursuant to the direction of this act, such person … shall, for every such offense, forfeit and pay the sum of one hundred dollars.” On July 11, 1794, H remitted all penalties except court costs and twenty dollars which was not claimed by the United States but by private citizens (D, RG 21, Records of the District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania, National Archives).

2On verso H wrote: “To be sent to the Commissioner of the Revenue who will probably possess a knowledge of the case. AH.” Below H’s note, Tench Coxe wrote the following: “The Commr. of the Revenue has given his opinion on the case. He has no knowledge of it but from papers. It is entirely before the Secy. of the Treasury being a Case of remission.”

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