Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Tench Coxe, 22 December 1794

From Tench Coxe1

Treasury Department
Revenue Office December 22d: 1794

Sir,

I have had the honor to receive this day the order of the House of Representatives relative to the measures that have been adopted concerning the naval armament,2 in your letter of the 20th. instant.3

It was on the 4th. day of April that a participation with you in the Treasury business for the War Department was committed to this office.4

After the requisite examination into the objects to be procured, advertisements were issued on the 16th. of April for the Live Oak & Cedar timber required by the Secretary at War; as also on the same day for Cannon ball, twenty four pound Cannon, & Kentledge or Iron ballast.5 On the 7th. of May, advertisements were issued for the yellow & pitch pine & white oak materials, & for the locust treenails; & measures were taken for examining into the terms on which the Cordage could be procured.6

Many other enquiries were likewise made, but no contracts or purchases were or could be completed before the 9th of June, the legislature not having granted until that time, the money requisite for the naval armament.7 On that day (the first moment when it was legal) an agreement was made with John T. Morgan a master shipwright of Boston to go to Charleston for the purpose of procuring in concert with persons in that place & in Savannah the live oak, red cedar & pitch pine materials.8 His business was to search for the timber, to superintend the cutting & forming it by the moulds for the frigates, & to procure it to be shipped for the six several ports at which the frigates were to be built, it was further agreed, with consent of the Secretary of War, that he should be employed to build a Frigate at Charleston, if one should be built there.9 By the concurrence of both Departments, he was to be allowed pay at the rate of two thousand dollars per annum in full of all claims of services & expences in the Carolina’s & Georgia, or while building. Like this all the principal contracts were made, as you will remember in concert with you after the necessary conferences from time to time.

Daniel Stephens Esqr Supervisor of the Revenue & Isaac Holmes Esqr. Collector of the Customs, both of Charleston were appointed, by you to make the contracts for the timber in North & South Carolina & John Habersham Esqr Collector of the customs & Joseph Clay Esqr both of Savannah in Georgia were appointed to make the contracts for the timber in Georgia & to give all possible aid towards the advancement of the business to Mr. Morgan.10 No allowance for their agency has been yet made.

On the 16th of June, a letter was written to Jedediah Huntington Esqr. Collector of the customs at New London,11 to procure 60 Axemen & 30 Ship Carpenters in the Ports of Connecticut, Rhode Island & the Western Coast of Massachusetts, & provisions & other supplies were sent from New London, New York & Philadelphia as œconomy & the nature of the articles appeared to require.

The time necessary for the collection of these persons and their apprehensions from the Climate & season occasioned their departure from New London to be delayed until the 23d day of September.

The agreements for the Live oak were made on the 2nd. day of September at Savannah at the rate of Six pence, money of Georgia per foot, to be cut by the United States, but hauled to Water, navigable for Vessels of Eleven feet draught, by the Contractors.

On the 7th day of July, instructions were given to Mr. Habersham & Mr: Clay to hire such additional wood cutters & other hands as the public service might require & admit,12 it being deemed more expedient, that the business should be effected in a short time by a certain number, than that it should be effected in a term of twice the length by half the force of hands.

On the 25th day of June I furnished you with an estimate of the composition-metal, sheathing-copper, bolts & nails, bunting & Iron kitchens, for the Six frigates, all which were ordered from Europe; and a note of the anchors, which last were postponed for further inquiry, whether they could not be manufactured in the United States. The articles ordered are daily expected to arrive.

On the 30th of June some further measures to procure Anchors, by a circular application were taken,13 & proposals to make those of the smaller sizes at 8 Cents per lb were received & accepted:14 as also proposals to furnish those of the larger sizes, which tho’ accepted by the United States,15 were not confirmed by the Proposer, from unexpected circumstances.

Immediately after the appointment of the Naval Agents at the Six ports by the Secretary at War,16 it was determined from considerations of œconomy to employ the same Agents in the Treasury business. Instructions were sent to them in consequence, on the 5th: & 7th:17 days of July to procure all the White oak, yellow pine & treenails it being found, that they could be more easily, & œconomically procured by those Agents & in most instances from the country in their vicinity.

On the 15th day of July other instructions were sent to them to procure the articles usually supplied or made by the Mastmakers, blockmakers, coopers, & boat builders; also to pay further attention to the procuring of Cordage & to make measures for the procuring of Sail Cloth, made in the United States.18

On the 9th day of July a Contract was executed with Messrs. Levi Hollingsworth, Son & Company of Jersey & Pennsylvania for 92 tons of Cannon ball at 37⅓ dollars, & 198 tons of Kentledge, at 28⅔ dollars,19 & some time after the Contract was further extended to about 340 Tons.20

On the 28th of July a contract was made with Messrs. J.J. Faesch & Compy. of New Jersey for 98 tons of Cannon ball & 256 tons of Kentledge at the same prices;21 and authority was since given to Henry Jackson Esqr. Naval agent at Boston to purchase 150 tons of Foreign Kentledge which had lain some time in the hands of a Citizen of Boston & which was sold at the reduced price of 25 dollars, because of that circumstance.22

On the 28th day of June, a contract was made with the Cecil Iron Company (Samuel Hughes Esqr & others of Maryland) for three sixth parts of the twenty four pound Cannon.23

On the 8th of August a contract was made with the owners of the furnace Hope (Messrs. Brown Francis & Co. of Providence)24 for two sixth parts of the same. The prices were 106⅔ dollars & the difference of expence for boring from the solid. The first contract was made in concert with the Secretary at War & yourself; and 2nd: in concert with you. The two parties were then willing to have agreed for the remaining sixth part, but it was postponed to give to the Iron masters, in different quarters, an opportunity to contract. Since that, Contracts for the remaining sixth have been offered to the two parties abovementioned25 who are to give answers as soon as they shall have proved some of those Cannon for which they have already contracted.

Vessels amounting to about 2600 Tons have been dispatched or ordered to transport the timber from Georgia to the Six several ports, & they carried to the Southward, Axemen, Carpenters, provisions, Oxen, forage & implements.

Captain John Barry was dispatched to Georgia, in one of the Public Vesels, on the 5th of October to examine into the state of the business & to give expedition to the procuring & transportation of the timber.26 He had no allowance, but the amount of his expences. About the time of his return Mr Asa Copeland was sent thither to assist permanently in the Superintendance of one division of the Wood Cutters, & to expedite the transportation to the water side, & the shipment & stowage of the timber27 as Mr: Habersham & Mr: Clay are too remote to be of any use in that part of the business. His compensation is 3⅓ Dollars per day.

Oxen with grain & hay for them, & setts of timber wheels have been necessarily sent to Georgia for the purpose of transporting the timber, as the Contractors were deficient in means of that kind & on account of the live oak timber for one frigate, which was procured under circumstances that rendered it necessary to provide for its transportation.

On the 30th of August 100 tons of Kentledge was engaged of Messrs Gardner & Olden of Philadelphia, at the price of 28⅔ Dollars.28

A second party of Carpenters have been engaged on the Delaware, 20 in number by Tench Francis29 Esqr & are now about to sail for Georgia.

The Naval Agents have been authorized to contract for Blacksmiths work, including the bar iron, when it may have or shall become necessary: also for composition bolts so far as the same may be requisite before the arrival of those ordered from Europe.30

It is understood that agreements have been made by those Agents for the white oak timber, & other articles in pursuance of several instructions already mentioned.

It remains only to notice the Contract made in the month of September with the Boston Company for sail Cloth,31 sufficient for one entire suit of Sails for each frigate. The price which I understand to have been settled is from 13 to 15 dollars per bolt of 39 yards.

Besides the foregoing measures, which have been thus far matured, others are in that train of investigation, which the time necessary for the collection of the timber admits, in most instances & which is peculiarly desirable, in a new undertaking, of so great moment & expence.

I cannot transmit to you this communication without suggesting the inconveniences & injuries to the United States particularly from external Quarters, which may arise from giving publicity to all its details.

I have the honor to be   Sir,   Your most obedt. servant

Tench Coxe
Commissioner of the Revenue

The Secretary
of the Treasury.

LC, RG 233, Reports of the Secretary of War, Third Congress, National Archives; LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives.

1On December 23, 1794, H sent this letter to Henry Knox. Knox enclosed Coxe’s letter in his report to the House of Representatives of December 29, 1794 (ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Naval Affairs, I, 6–17).

For information concerning the naval armament in 1794, see Knox to H, April 21, 1794.

2On December 16, 1794, the House of Representatives “Resolved, That the President of the United States be requested to cause a report to be laid before the House of the measures that have been adopted, pursuant to the act of the twenty-seventh of March last, for building ships; of the progress hitherto made; the compensations allowed to persons employed in the different branches of the business; together with an estimate of the expense for completing the same” (Journal of the House description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, 1826), I, II, III. description ends , II, 267).

The House resolution refers to “An Act to provide a Naval Armament” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 350–51 [March 27, 1794]).

On December 18, 1794, Coxe wrote to Knox: “Mr Coxe has the honor to inform the Secy at War, that he suggested to the Secy of the Treasy the Election of Mr Co’s passing a letter to him, & its being communicated to the Secy of the Treasy., or its going directly from this Office to the War department.

“The former being elected, a letter communicating to the Secy. the order of the House relative to the Naval armament is rendered necessary.” (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives.)

3Letter not found.

4Letter not found.

5On April 17, 1794, Coxe wrote to newspaper publishers in New York, Baltimore, Richmond, Savannah, and Charleston asking them to place an advertisement in their newspapers for these materials (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives). For this advertisement, see [Philadelphia] Gazette of the United States & Evening Advertiser, April 17, 1794.

6See Coxe to John Hunter, May 3, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives). Hunter was a member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina. See also Gazette of the United States & Evening Advertiser, May 7, 1794.

7Section 1 of “An Act making appropriations for certain purposes therein expressed” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 394–95 [June 9, 1794]) provided “That there be appropriated for the several purposes herein after specified the respective sums following, to wit: To defray the expenses which shall be incurred, pursuant to the act, intitled ‘An act to provide a naval armament,’ six hundred and eighty-eight thousand eight hundred and eight-eight dollars, and eighty-two cents.…”

11RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives.

13“Treasury Department Circular,” June 30, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

14Coxe to Nathaniel Cushing, September 25, 1794; Coxe to Hodijah Baylies, September 25, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives). Cushing was a resident of Pembroke, Massachusetts. Baylies was collector of customs at Dighton, Massachusetts.

15Coxe was negotiating with Elijah Phelps of Norfolk, Connecticut, and Solomon Townsend of the Stirling Works, Orange County, New York, for large anchors. See Coxe to Phelps, September 25, 1794; Coxe to John Blagge, November 18, 27, December 24, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

16See Knox to H, June 25, third letter of July 9, 1794.

17Coxe to the Naval Agents, July 5, 7, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

18LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives.

19See Coxe to H, September 23, December 1, 1794.

20Coxe to Levi Hollingsworth and Son, October 18, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

21See Coxe to H, August 1, October 1, 1794.

22See Coxe to Jackson, August 26, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

23See Coxe to H, June 27, 30, October 8, 1794

24See Coxe to H, June 27, August 9, October 8, 1794, 24, 1794.

25Coxe to Brown and Francis, October 9, 1794; Coxe to Samuel Hughes and Company, October 9, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

26See Coxe to Barry, October 5, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

27On October 23, 1794, Coxe wrote to Knox: “… in pursuance of the Idea entertained by you and my self in a late conference, I have engaged Mr. Asa Copeland a trader in this town, To go to Georgia for the purpose of assisting Mr. J. T Morgan in expediting the hauling &c. of Timber & dispatching the Vessels …” (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

28This contract between H for the United States and John Gardiner, Jr., and Ephraim Olden may be found in RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 7907, National Archives.

29Francis was agent for purchasing supplies for the War Department.

30See Coxe to the Naval Agents, July 15, 1794 (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives).

31On December 29, 1794, Coxe wrote to Samuel Breck, a resident of Philadelphia and agent for the Proprietors of the Boston Sail Cloth Manufactory: “Mr. Coxe presents his compliments to Mr. Breck & requests the favor of a call at the Treasury when convenient. The Secy of The Treasy has acceded to the prices at which the canvas was first offered …” (LC, RG 75, Letters of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, Relating to the Procurement of Military, Naval, and Indian Supplies, National Archives). On January 1, 1795, H signed a contract with Samuel Breck. See “Articles of Agreement Between H and Samuel Breck,” January 1, 1795. The account between the “Proprietors of the Sail Cloth Manufactory at Boston” and the United States may be found in RG 217, Miscellaneous Treasury Accounts, 1790–1894, Account No. 7567, National Archives.

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