From Alexander Hamilton
Treasury Department November 30th 1793
I have taken the opinion of the Attorney General on the case of the St. Domingo vessels, mentioned in your letter of the 2d. of September last, which confirms that which I had before entertained, and on further reflection continue to entertain … namely that those vessels do not fall within the meaning of the 38th. Section of the collection Law respecting vessels that put into our Ports from distress or Necessity; and of course are liable by law to the payment of the duty of Tonnage; from which it is not within the compass of Executive Discretion to relieve them, whatever circumstances of hardship may exist. A copy of the opinion of the Attorney General is herewith transmitted.
The law appears manifestly to contemplate cases of distress or necessity from causes which compel a vessel, being on a voyage for another port to change her destination for a port of the united States; not the case of a vessel which, induced by a civil insurrection to quit a foreign port, finds it most convenient to make a voyage to the united States.
I return enclosed the letter from the Vice Consul of Virginia; and have the honor to be with respect Sir Your obedient Servant
RC (DLC); in a clerk’s hand, signed by Hamilton; ellipsis in original; at foot of text: “The Secretary of State”; endorsed by TJ as received 2 Dec. 1793. Enclosure: Edmund Randolph to Hamilton, Germantown, 15 Nov. 1793, stating, in response to Hamilton’s 9 Nov. 1793 letter received the day before, that, disagreeable as it was “for the cause of humanity,” the French ships in question should not be exempted from tonnage duties under the Collection Act of 1790, “the cause of their quitting the Island of St. Domingo; not being the Species of necessity contemplated by that act” (Tr in DLC; in a clerk’s hand; endorsed by George Taylor, Jr.; printed in Syrett, Hamilton, description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends xv, 398). Other enclosure not found, but see note to TJ to Hamilton, 12 Sep. 1793.
For the letter to the Attorney General that elicited the enclosed opinion, see Syrett, Hamilton, description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends xv, 394. TJ’s letter to Hamilton was actually dated 12 Sep. 1793.