Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to George Nicholas, 15 July 1793

To George Nicholas

Philadelphia July 15.1 1793.


Your letter of May 7. was received and duly laid before the President of the US. On enquiry into the circumstances which you mention as producing difficulty in the district of Kentuckey, in order to see what could be done, he found that a letter had been written by the Commissioner of the revenue to the collector which would relieve much of that difficulty, at least as much of it as there is legal authority to relieve. I have the honor to inclose you a copy2 of that letter, and it is hoped that it will lessen so much the number of disagreeable cases which would present themselves in the exercise of the office proposed to you, as to place it nearly on the footing you desired; and therefore that we may consider your objections so far removed as that you accept the appointment. It will give me pleasure to be authorised by a letter from yourself to inform the President that you do. I have the honor to be Sir Your most obedient & most humble servt.

Th: Jefferson

RC (NNP); at foot of text: “George Nicholas esq.”; alterations in punctuation by a later hand have been ignored. PrC (DLC). FC (Lb in DNA: RG 59, DL); with marginal note identifying enclosure (see note 2 below). Enclosure: Extract of Tench Coxe, Commissioner of the Revenue, to Thomas Marshall, Inspector of the Revenue for Survey No. 7 at Buckpond, Kentucky, Treasury Department Revenue Office, 13 Mch. 1793, stating that he had conferred with the Secretary of the Treasury about the discontent and questions that have arisen about duties on spirits and stills which may have accrued after the Excise Act was passed but before officers were appointed or knowledge of the law became widely dispersed; that the similar problem which arose when the impost and tonnage duties were first collected was resolved with the decision that duties were owed only after customhouses were organized and not from the date the acts were passed; and that prudence and judgment called for analogous leniency as the excise duties came into effect, though such clemency was not to extend beyond the first year of the act’s operation (PrC of Tr in DLC; in a clerk’s hand; attested at foot of text as extracted on 10 July 1793).

Nicholas’s Letter of May 7, recorded in SJL as received from Kentucky on 15 June 1793, has not been found, but in it he must have declined his recent appointment as United States district attorney for Kentucky because of concern about the difficulty and unpopularity involved in enforcing the excise laws. Nicholas evidently remained adamant in his missing letter to TJ of 25 Aug. 1793, recorded in SJL as received from Kentucky on 2 Oct. 1793, for a successor was appointed later that year (note to William Murray to TJ, 7 Dec. 1792).

1Month and date written over “May 7,” erased.

2Marginal note keyed to this word in FC: “Vide Letter of Tench Coxe Esqr. to T. Marshal Inspector of Revenue. Buckpond. Kentucky. dated March 13th. 1793. on file.”

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