George Washington Papers

To George Washington from James Collins, 7 February 1791

From James Collins

Philadelphia Feby 7th 1791


The bill for laying certain duties on distilled Spirits being now in great forwardness in Congress, will it is expected shortly come before your Excellency and in Case you should be pleased to pass it into a Law, it is provided by the said bill that the States may be divided by you into General Districts and an Inspector appointed for collecting the Duties in each.

From my long residence in the County of Berks in this State from my general knowledge of the Inhabitants in that and the adjacent Counties and my extensive family connections therein, I flatter myself that I could execute satisfactorily the Duties of the Office of Inspector for the District that may include those Counties and am therefore induced to offer myself to Your Excellency as a candidate for the Appointment. Encouraged in this application by most of the Members of Congress for this State I beg leave to refer you to them for my Character. I have the honour of being with the greatest respect, Sir, Your Most Obedient Servt

Jas Collins


James Collins (d. 1810), a native of Ireland, emigrated first to New York and later to Philadelphia, where he established himself as a dry-goods merchant in partnership with Thomas Truxton. He represented Berks County in the Pennsylvania house of representatives in 1790–91 (Campbell, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Hibernian Society, description begins John H. Campbell. History of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and of the Hibernian Society for the Relief of Emigrants from Ireland. March 17, 1771–March 17, 1892. Philadelphia, 1892. description ends 105). Collins was recommended for a post in the excise service by Thomas Hartley, who wrote to GW on 26 Feb. 1791: “Mr James Collins of Berks County in this State, has called on me and informed me that he has applied to you for an Appointment in the Excise Department in Case the Law should pass, and has wished that I should give you some Account of his Character and Fitness. I therefore beg Leave to mention that, He now represents the County of Berks in the Legislature of this State and is a Gentleman of a good Character—His Connexions by marriage are very respectable—He was bred an Accountant, and should he be honoured with An Appointment in the Excise so as to include the County of Berks—I think he would acquit himself with Propriety” (DLC:GW). GW appointed Collins excise inspector for the second survey of Pennsylvania, consisting of Berks, Northampton, Luzerne, and Northumberland counties (see Executive Orders, 15 Mar. 1791). Opposition to the excise there proved particularly fierce, and Collins was unable to fulfill the duties of his office to the satisfaction of his superior. George Clymer, supervisor of the revenue for Pennsylvania, reported to Tench Coxe, commissioner of the revenue, that he was “apprehensive Mr. Collins would not prove a very regular official Man” (Coxe to Alexander Hamilton, 15 Dec. 1792, Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 13:328–29). On 23 Dec. 1793 Hamilton wrote to GW that “It has at length become certain (what has been for some time feared) that Mr Collins is incapable of executing the duties of office and that the good of the public service requires his removal” (DLC:GW). On 29 Jan. 1794 GW nominated John Boyd to succeed Collins (see GW to the U.S. Senate, 29 Jan. 1794, DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–1795, Records of Executive Proceedings, President’s Messages—Executive Nominations).

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