Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Alexander Hamilton, [13] May 1793

From Alexander Hamilton

Philadelphia May 8. [i.e. 13] 1793.

The Secretary of the Treasury has the honor to transmit, for the information of the Secretary of State, the Copy of a letter of the 23rd. of April last from the Collector of the District of Nantucket to the Register of the Treasury. Copies of the declarations on the Registers, therein referred to, are also transmitted.

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RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Hamilton; endorsed by TJ as received 13 May 1793 and so recorded in SJL. Enclosures: (1) Joseph Nourse to Hamilton, Treasury Department, Register’s Office, 10 May 1793, enclosing certified copies of Nos. 2–4 (RC in DLC). (2) Stephen Hussey to Nourse, Collector’s Office, District of Nantucket, 23 Apr. 1793, enclosing the registers of the Beaver and the Washington, which had been returned to his office for cancellation because of the Spanish declarations written on the back of them; stating that the captain of the Spanish frigate Hare, which encountered the Beaver, Captain Paul Worth, on a whaling voyage twelve leagues off the coast of Peru in thirteen degrees latitude, informed Worth that he had no right to sail in these waters because he lacked a passport from the Spanish king and wrote a declaration in Spanish on the back of the Beaver’s register that it was subject to seizure, but after ascertaining that it was not on a trading voyage released the ship and warned Worth to leave the Peruvian coast or risk the loss of the ship as a prize to another armed Spanish vessel; reporting that upon putting into Lima in distress because of the sickness of the crew and the lack of supplies Worth was ordered by a Spanish officer to leave port as soon as possible for want of a passport from the king; and concluding that these circumstances showed that participation in “the Whale Fishery in the Southern Ocean must be lost to American Vessels unless some Credentials can be obtaind sufficient to protect them against Insults and Injuries from Spanish armed vessels” (Tr in DLC; in Nourse’s hand and attested by him; notation by TJ next to Hussey’s name: “Collector of the district of Nantucket”). (3) Ship Register, issued at Sherbourne, Nantucket County, 3 Sep. 1791, to the Washington, Captain George Bunker, with declaration on verso in Spanish by Nicolas Lobato, Callao, 18 July 1792, stating that he had informed Bunker, whose ship had taken on supplies at this port the previous night, that navigating this sea was prohibited and that any Spanish warship may seize any ship found therein. (4) Ship Register issued at Sherbourne, Nantucket County, 7 Oct. 1791, to the Beaver, Captain Paul Worth, with declaration on verso in Spanish by Tomas Geraldino, on board the Hare, 10 July 1792, stating that he had informed Worth, whose ship had taken in 900 of an intended 1,300 barrels of oil on a whaling voyage, that Spain forbade all nations to navigate or fish in these seas and that his ship would be detained and confiscated if he did not leave this coast; and another by Luis Lasqueti, Callao, 4 Aug. 1792, stating that the Beaver was not allowed to enter this port, there being no necessity for it, and that he had informed Worth that his ship may be detained by any Spanish warship in this sea (Trs in DLC: TJ Papers, 85: 14763–6; with accompanying English translations of Spanish declarations, all attested by Nourse).

Hamilton could not have written this letter before 10 May, when Nourse sent him the enclosures from Hussey, and it seems more likely that he actually wrote it on the 13th, the day TJ received it. Although the Beaver and the Washington were the first American whaling ships to venture into the Pacific, TJ and Hamilton evidently took no further action on Stephen Hussey’s plea for federal intervention to protect American whalers from Spanish interference (Edouard A. Stackpole, Whales & Destiny: The Rivalry between America, France, and Britain for Control of the Southern Whale Fishery, 1785–1825 [Amherst, Mass., 1972], 130).

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