George Washington Papers

Executive Order, 15 March 1791

Executive Order

15 March 1791.

Arrangement made by the President of the United States, with respect to the subdivisions of the several Districts thereof into Surveys, the appointment of Officers, and the assignment of compensations, pursuant to the Act of Congress passed the 3d day of March 1791, entitled “An Act repealing after the last day of June next, the duties heretofore laid upon distilled Spirits imported from abroad & laying others in their stead; and also upon spirits distilled within the United States, and for appropriating the same.”

New Hampshire forms one Survey of Inspection. The duties of Inspector are performed by the Supervisor. To this Office Joshua Wentworth has been appointed. his compensation is a salary of Five hundred Dollars, and a commission of one half per centum.

Massachusetts forms three Surveys of inspection: No. 1 consists of the Province of Maine; No. 2 of the Counties of Essex, Middlesex, Worcester, Hampshire and Berkshire; No. 3 of the residue of the State. Nathaniel Gorham has been appointed Supervisor: his compensation is a salary of Eight hundred Dollars, and a commission of one half per cent. The Supervisor performs the duties of Inspector of Survey No. 1. Jonathan Jackson has been appointed Inspector of Survey No. 2. and Leonard Jarvis for Survey No. 3. The compensation to each of these Inspectors is a salary of Five hundred Dollars, & a commission of one half per cent. Rhode Island forms one Survey. The duties of Inspector are performed by the Supervisor: John S. Dexter has been appointed to this office, with an allowance of Five hundred Dollars, & a commission of one half per centum.

Connecticut forms one Survey. The duties of Inspector are performed by the Supervisor, who is John Chester. His compensation is a salary of Six hundred Dollars, & a commission of one half per centum.

Vermont forms one Survey, of which the Supervisor performs the duties of Inspector. Noah Smith has been appointed to this office: his allowance is a salary of Four hundred Dollars, & a commission of one half per cent.

New York forms one Survey, of which the Supervisor performs the duties of Inspector. Willm S. Smith has been appointed to this Office, with a salary of Eight hundred Dollars, & a Commission of one half per Cent.

New Jersey forms one Survey. The Supervisor performs the duties of Inspector. To this Office Aaron Dunham has been appointed. His compensation is a salary of Four hundred Dollars, and a Commission of one half per cent.

Pennsylvania forms four Surveys. No. 1 consists of the City & County of Philadelphia, and the Counties of Bucks & Montgomery; No. 2 of the counties of Berks, Northampton, Luzerne, & Northumberland; No. 3 of the Counties of Delaware, Chester, Lancaster, York, Dauphin, Cumberland, Franklin, Mifflin & Huntington; No. 4 of the Counties of Bedford, Westmoreland, Washington and Alleghaney. The Supervisor of the District, George Clymer, acts as Inspector of Survey No. 1. His compensation is a salary of one thousand Dollars, and a commission of one half per cent. James Collins has been appointed Inspector of Survey No. 2. Edward Hand of survey No. 3. and John Neville of survey No. 4. The allowance to each of these Inspectors is a salary of Four hundred & fifty Dollars & a commission of one per cent.

Delaware forms one Survey, of which the supervisor Acts as Inspector. His compensation is a salary of four hundred Dollars and a Commission of one per cent. Henry Latimer, who was appointed Supervisor, has resigned his office.

Maryland forms two Surveys. No. 1 comprehends the Counties of St Mary’s, Somerset, Calvert, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Kent, Charles, Talbot, Dorchester, Baltimore, Ann Arundel, Dorcester, Harford, Ceecil, and Prince Georges. No. 2 consists of the Counties of Montgomery, Washington, Frederick, and Alleghany. The Supervisor of the District, George Gale, officiates as Inspector of Survey No. 1—his compensation is a salary of Seven hundred Dollars, & a commission of one per cent. Philip Thomas has been appointed Inspector of Survey No. 2 with a salary of Four hundred & fifty Dollars, & a commission of one per cent.

Virginia has been divided into seven Surveys of Inspection. No. 1 consists of the Counties of Lancaster, Northumberland, Richmond, Westmoreland, King George, Caroline, Hanover, Henrico, Charles-City, James-City, Warwick, Elizabeth-City, York, Gloucester, Matthews, Middlesex, Essex, King & Queen, King William, & New Kent. No. 2 of the Counties of Stafford, Prince William, Fairfax, Loudoun, Fauquier, Culpepper, Orange, Albemarle, Louisa, & Spotsylvania; No. 3 of the Counties of Goochland, Fluvanna, Amherst, Bedford, Franklin, Henry, Patrick, Pittsylvania, Halifax, Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Lunenburg, Nottoway, Amelia, Powhatan, Cumberland, Buckingham, Prince-Edward and Campbell: No. 4 of the Counties of Princess-Anne, Chesterfield, Norfolk, Isle-of Wight, Sussex, Surry, Prince George, Dinwiddie, Brunswick, Greenesville, Southampton, Nansemond, Accomack & Northampton; No. 5 of the Counties of Frederick, Berkly, Hampshire, Hardy, Monongalia, Ohio, Harrison, Randolph, Pendleton, Augusta, Rockingham and Shenandoah; No. 6 of the Counties of Rockbridge, Botetourt, Montgomery, Wythe, Washington, Russel, Greenbriar, and Kanhawa; No. 7 consists of the District of Kentucky. Edward Carrington has been appointed Supervisor with a salary of one thousand Dollars, and a Commission of one per centum. Drury Ragsdale has been appointed Inspector of Survey No. 1—Edward Stevens of No. 2—Mayo Carrington of No. 3—Thomas Newton of No. 4—Edward Smith of No. 5. James Brackenridge of No. 6 and Thomas Marshall of No. 7. The compensations to these Officers are, to each a salary of four hundred and fifty Dollars, & a Commission of one per centum.

North Carolina, forms five Surveys. No. 1 consists of the Counties of Wilminton, Onslow, New-Hanover, Brunswick, Bladen, Dauphin, Anson, Richmond, Moore, Cumberland, Robertson and Sampson; No. 2 of the Counties of Carteret, Hyde, Beaufort, Pitt, Craven, Jones, Dobbs, Johnson & Wayne; No. 3 of the Counties of Kurrituck, Cambden, Pasquatank, Perquinans, Chowan, Gates, Hartford and Tyrrell; No. 4 of the Counties of Northampton, Martin, Halifax, Nash, Edgecomb, Warren, Franklin, Caswell, Orange, Randolph, Grandville, Wake & Chatham; No. 5 of the Counties of Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Roan, Iredell, Surry, Stokes, Rockingham, Guilford, Lincoln, Rutherford, Burke & Wilkes. William Polk has been appointed Supervisor, & a salary of seven hundred Dollars, & a commission of one per cent have been assigned him as a compensation. James Read has been appointed Inspector of Survey No. 1—John Daves of No. 2—Thomas Benbury of No. 3—John Whitaker of No. 4—& Joseph McDowell the elder of No. 5. The compensation to the Inspectors of Surveys No. 1. 2. & 3. are to each, a Commission of two per Centum; those inspectors being also Officers of the customs. A salary of four hundred & fifty Dollars & a commission of one per cent have been assigned as a compensation to the Inspectors of Surveys No. 4 and 5 respectively.

South Carolina forms three surveys. No. 1 consists of the Counties of Colleton, Berkeley, Washington, Marion, Bartholomew, Charleston, Granville, Hilton, Lincoln, Shrewsbury, Winton, Orange and Lewisburgh; No. 2 of the Counties of Winyaw, Williamsburgh, Liberty, Kingston, Darlington, Chesterfield, Marlborough, Clarendon, Clermont, Lancaster, Kershaw, Richland, Fairfield, Chester, & York; No. 3 of the Counties of Edgefield, Abbeville, Newbury, Laurens, Union, Spartanburg, Greenville & Pendleton: The duties of Inspector of Survey No. 1 are performed by the Supervisor, Daniel Stevens, to whom a salary of seven hundred Dollars and a Commission of one per cent have been assigned as a compensation. Benjamin Cudworth has been appointed Inspector of Survey No. 2 and Sylvanus Walker of No. 3—the compensation assign’d to the Inspector of Survey No. 2 is a salary of three hundred Dollars and a commission of two per centum—to the Inspector of Survey No. 3 a salary of four hundred & fifty Dollars & a Commission of one per Cent.

Georgia forms one survey. The Supervisor, John Matthews, officiates as Inspector. The compensation assigned him is a salary of five hundred Dollars, and a Commission of one per centum.

The Commission in each case is computed upon the nett product of the duties on spirits distilled within the jurisdiction of the Officer to whom it is allowed: which nett product is determin’d by deducting at each stage of the compensation all preceding charges.

With regard to the Ports, the following arrangements have been made. At the Ports at which there are both a Collector and a surveyor, the latter has been appointed an Inspector; where there is a Collector only, he has been appointed; and where there is a Surveyor only, he has been appointed. The Ports, at which neither surveyor nor collector resides, have been placed under the inspection of the Collector or Surveyor of the District to which they belong, as the one or the other is the Inspector of the Revenue for the Port where he resides. The duties of these Inspectors are confined to Spirits imported from abroad; and, as they bear an analogy to those which they have been accustomed to perform, no compensation has been assigned.

The Officers directed, by the 18th Section of the Law, to be appointed by the Supervisors, have been denominated Collectors of the Revenue. Their number has been of necessity left to the discretion of the Supervisor, with these general intimations—that they should be in all cases as few as the proper execution of the business would permit—and that, in regard to the collection of the duties on Stills, one for each County would suffice. But this regulation necessarily varies, as the stills are more or less dispersed, where they are much scattered, two, three, or more counties have been assigned to the same person. The compensation to these Officers is a commission, on the sums collected by each, of two per centum on the product of the duties on spirits distilled from foreign materials; and of four per centum on the product of the duties arising from Spirits distilled from Domestic materials, whether per gallon or by the Still. This difference was dictated by the different nature of the Business.

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LB, DLC:GW.

On 9 Aug. 1790 the House of Representatives instructed the secretary of the treasury to make a report on additional measures for establishing the public credit. Hamilton presented his “First Report on the Further Provision Necessary for Establishing Public Credit” on 13 Dec. 1790 (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 7:210–36). This report recommended additional duties to be laid on imported spirits and the establishment of a uniform national tax on spirits produced by domestic distillers. On the same day Hamilton presented his “Second Report on Further Provision Necessary for Establishing Public Credit,” recommending the establishment of a national bank (see Hamilton to GW, 10 Dec. 1790). On 27 Dec. 1790 the House referred the first report to a committee; this committee brought in an excise bill on 30 Dec. 1790. Debate in the House over the measure consumed most of January 1791; the House finally passed a bill on 27 Jan. 1791. The Senate took up the excise measure on 7 Feb. and adopted an amended bill on 12 February. The process of reconciling the two bills took up the remainder of February. The final amended version, titled “An act repealing, after the last day of June next, the duties heretofore laid upon distilled spirits imported from abroad, and laying others in their stead; and also upon spirits distilled within the United States, and for appropriating the same,” was agreed to by the House on 25 Feb. by a vote of 30 to 29; the Senate adopted the amended version the next day. GW signed the bill into law on 3 Mar. 1791 (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 4:571–82).

The act divided the country into fourteen revenue districts, each consisting of one state, and directed the appointment of a supervisor of the revenue for each district, who would be responsible for the collection of the excise and making returns to the treasury. The act further authorized the president to divide the districts into surveys and to appoint an inspector of the revenue (sometimes referred to as a surveyor) to oversee collection in each survey. The actual work of levying and collecting taxes was to be done by excise collectors, to be appointed by the supervisors at a rate of no more than one to each county (1 Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends 199–214 [3 Mar. 1791]).

GW began to receive applications for appointments in the excise service beginning in December 1790, several weeks before the legislation was adopted. By 15 Mar. he had received at least thirty-four individual applications; many of these were accompanied or followed by letters of recommendation. He also received several letters from members of Congress, recommending individuals for positions in the excise service, most of whom did not make separate application. All of the letters are printed in the present volume, with the exception of applications from five individuals who had previously applied for federal appointment—Jesse Higgins and George Bush of Delaware, Stephen Hall of Massachusetts, John Conway of New Jersey, and Peter Baynton of Pennsylvania. Their applications for office in the excise service are documented in the notes to their prior applications.

GW almost certainly made appointments in the excise service in consultation with the secretary of the treasury, but little evidence of such consultation has been found. Only two of the thirty-four individuals for whom personal letters of application have been found—Aaron Dunham and James Collins—received appointments as a supervisor or inspector (see Dunham to GW, 4 Feb. 1791 and Collins to GW, 7 Feb. 1791). Dunham was recommended for supervisor by New Jersey congressman Philemon Dickinson and Collins for inspector by Pennsylvania congressman Thomas Hartley, but in general recommendations from members of Congress seem to have been no more successful than personal applications. Of the other recommendations known to have been received from members of Congress, only that of Benjamin Bourn, recommending John Singer Dexter for supervisor for Rhode Island, was successful (see Bourn to GW, 2 Mar. 1791). Several of the applications and recommendations GW received were for the subordinate office of collector; according to section 23 of the excise law, these offices were to be filled by the supervisors. No evidence has been found suggesting that these applications and recommendations were referred to the respective supervisors after the latter were appointed; indeed the disposition of the applications and recommendations among GW’s papers suggests that they were not referred to anyone. Some of these applicants ultimately may have been successful in obtaining appointments as county collectors.

In anticipation of the pending adjournment of Congress, section 4 of the act specified that “if the appointment of the inspectors of surveys or any part of them shall not be made during the present session of Congress, the President may, and is hereby empowered to make such appointments during the recess of the Senate by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next Session” (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972—. description ends 4:552–53). GW sent his list of nominees for supervisor to the Senate on 4 Mar. 1791; those nominations were confirmed by the Senate on the same day. The appointment of inspectors was delayed until 15 Mar. when, in accordance with the provisions of the excise act, appointments were made by executive order, pending confirmation during the next session of Congress. GW presented these appointments, along with those of inspectors of the revenue for particular ports, to the Senate for confirmation on 6 Mar. 1792; the appointments were confirmed on 7 Mar. 1792 (Executive Journal, description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America: From the commencement of the First, to the termination of the Nineteenth Congress. Vol. 1. Washington, D.C., 1828. description ends 102–6).

On the same day he issued this executive order, GW sent a letter to Alexander Hamilton, formally notifying him of the appointments and directing him to notify the appointees (see GW to Hamilton, 15 Mar. 1791).

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