Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Meletiah Jordan, 21 September 1794

From Meletiah Jordan1

Frenchman’s Bay [District of Maine] September 21, 1794. “I embrace the first opportunity to communicate to you the particulars of a seizure lately made in this District.… The account from the person who appeared as Master is as follows. That the Schooner William of St. John’s sailed from Martinique last July, that the day after their Departure the Master died, that the next day the Mate jumped or fell overboard they could not tell which, on the next a passenger who was a freighter died.… One Joseph Jamate who gave this account & brought the Vessel safe in 27 Days to the aforesaid harbour, says he cannot write; a young lad on board marked the Log but the account of the deaths in the Log does not correspond with a private minute kept by the same person. These circumstances with their having lain four days in the District without making any Report at the Custom House2 with a great probability of some violence having been committed on board, and their being in sight of a British Fleet at Guadaloupe where they might have relief induced me to stop the Vessel till the Owners at St. Johns might have an opportunity of clearing up the matter; One of the Owners accordingly came here & brought a descriptive Certificate of the Vessel from the Custom House at St. Johns, which corresponded with the one on board. As I had reason on enquiry to think that they had not infringed the Revenue Laws by landing or otherwise disposing of any part of their Cargo, And that if the Vessel was stopt for the fine liable for laying longer than the time limited by Law, Yet that on Trial she would be returned their being no Officer on board—and the distress manifest. Considering these circumstances & fearful of accumulating a further expense to the Revenue; after taking the advice of Counsel on the subject I liberated the Vessel yesterday the 20 on the Owners paying the expense that had already accrued in siezing bringing up & securing the Vessel, the expense of the Master & hands &c.…”

Copy, RG 56, Letters to Collectors at Gloucester, Machias, and Frenchman’s Bay, National Archives.

1Jordan was collector of customs at Frenchman’s Bay, District of Maine.

2This is a reference to Section 16 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,” which reads in part as follows: “That within twenty-four hours after the arrival of any ship or vessel from any port or place, at any port of the United States established by law, at which an officer of the customs resides, or within any harbor, inlet or creek thereof, if the hours of business at the office of the chief officer of the customs at such port will permit, or as soon thereafter as the said hours will permit, the master or other person having the charge or command of such ship or vessel, shall repair to the said office, and shall make report to the said chief officer of the arrival of the said ship or vessel; and within forty-eight hours after such arrival, shall make a further report to the collector of the district in which such port may be, of the name, burthen and lading of such ship or vessel, whether in packages or stowed loose, and of the particular marks, numbers and contents of each package, and the place or places, person or persons to or for which or whom they are respectively consigned or destined, also of the place or places where she took in her lading, of what country built, from what foreign port or place she last sailed, who was master or commander of her during the voyage, who is at the time of such report master or commander of her, and (if a vessel of the United States) who are owners of her; unless the whole of such information required on the second report as aforesaid, shall have been given at the time of making the first report, in which case it shall not be necessary to make a further report…” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 158–59 [August 4, 1790]).

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