James Madison Papers

To James Madison from Robert Ballard, 1 April 1792

From Robert Ballard

Baltimore April 1st 1792


I had a long while impatiently waited to see the Secretary of the Treasurys report on the mode of compensation to the Officers of Revenue. Since that report was made, I cannot see by the debates, that the Honble. Congress, have acted on it.1 To speak of myself, my fees as Surveyor last year did not exceed £300—out of that sum, I have to pay for House rent & Clerks hire, £175. From last December to the Middle of March I did not receive a fee, being blocked up by the ice. I see nothing before me but inevitable ruin, if the Honble. Congress does not do something for us, before they close the Session.

Since I was honored w[i]th the Commission of Surveyor, my fees fall short of support upwards of Four hundred Pounds, which money is now owing to the Merchants and Tradesmen here: and if the Surveyors fees are not raised, and a generous compensation given to the Inspectors of the Revenue; (whose Arduous service is well known) I then know my fate. My Creditors will distress me; the consequence, will be I must go to Goal. My Commissions (the only things I have to look up to) taken from me, thereby beggaring my Wife and a house full of fine Boys, whose education is my greatest wish.

I have not the pleasure of being personally known to you, yet I have taken the liberty of addressing you on this subject, being fully persuaded that it is your Wish, the Officers of the Customs should be amply compensated; and that your aid in bringing forward the business before the Session is over, will not be wanting. I have the Honor to be with great respect, Sir, Your most Obedt. Servt.

Robert Ballard

RC (DLC). Addressed by Ballard. Docketed by JM.

1Hamilton urged the House of Representatives to increase the compensation for revenue officers in his “Report on the Difficulties in the Execution of the Act Laying Duties on Distilled Spirits” of 5 Mar. An act which became law on 8 May increased the compensation to officers in many ports but for the collectors at Baltimore provided only that one-fourth of their expenses would be paid by the district naval officer (Syrett and Cooke, Papers of Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and Jacob E. Cooke, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton (26 vols.; New York, 1961–79). description ends , XI, 77, 104–6; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America … (17 vols.; Boston, 1848–73). description ends , I, 274–75).

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