George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Alexander Hamilton, 5 August 1792

To Alexander Hamilton

Mount Vernon, Augt 5. 1792.

Sir,

Since the date of my last dispatch to you of the 1st instant, I have received your Letters of the 26. & 30 ulto, and have affixed my signature to the arrangement of Compensations to the Officers of Inspection in consequence of additional latitude given to The President of the United States by the Act of the last Session, intitled “An Act concerning the duties on spirits distilled within the United States.”1

I have done this on full conviction that the best information the nature of the case would admit, has been obtained at the Treasury to keep the aggregate within the limitations of the Law, & to proportion the Compensations to the services of the respective Officers; presuming also that it appeared essential (from a full view of circumstances, and the benefits likely to be derived from the measure, to the public) that an increase of the Officers of Revenue was really necessary; for I should be unwilling to add to the former establishment, unless the propriety of it was apparent. Unless the Attorney General should be of opinion that The President of the United States has power under the Act of March 1791. or the subsequent one of last Session, to appoint (in the recess of the Senate) an Inspector of the Survey newly constituted in Maryland, it must remain, as is proposed, under the immediate direction of the Supervisor.2

If, after these regulations are in operation, opposition to the due exercise of the collection is still experienced, & peaceable proceedure is no longer effectual, the public interest & my duty will make it necessary to enforce the Laws respecting this matter; & however disagreeable this would be to me, it must nevertheless take place.

The Collector was not at Baltimore when I passed through that place; but from the Naval Officer I learnt that the service wou’d sustain no loss by the resignation of the Master of the Maryland Revenue Cutter—that the first Mate was a more competent character, and that the general expectation was that he would be appointed to command it. That I might know how far the sentiments of others accorded with those of the Naval Officer, I requested the Supervisor (Mr Gale) to make enquiry & to inform me of the result; but not having heard from him since, the first Mate (his name I do not recollect) may be notified by you, of my intention to commission him Master so soon as I am provided with Commissions for that purpose—at present I have none.3 The same may be given to John Adams as first, & Benjamin Gunnison as second Mate of the Revenue Cutter in New Hampshire: and to Ashur Cook first and John Fenley second Mate of the New York Cutter. The third Mate for the latter may remain for further enquiry & consideration.4

If your information with respect to the proposed characters for the Cutter in New Hampshire is not such as you can entirely rely upon, Mr Lear who is on the spot might afford you some aid in the investigation of them, or others.5 I am Sir &c.

G: Washington

P.S. As I have neither time nor inclination to copy the enclosed, I would thank you for having a transcript of it made & sent to me.6

LB, DLC:GW.

1For the “arrangement of Compensations to the Officers of Inspection,” see Proclamation, 4 Aug. 1792. GW is referring to the additional latitude given him in section 16 of “An Act concerning the Duties on Spirits distilled within the United States” of 8 May 1792 (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 1st sess., 1374–79).

2GW is referring to section 4 of “An act repealing, after the last day of June next, the duties heretofore laid on 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” of 3 Mar. 1791 and section 17 of “An Act concerning the Duties on Spirits distilled within the United States” of 8 May 1792 (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 1st Cong., 3d sess., 2384–2405, 2d Cong., 1st sess., 1374–79). Tench Coxe wrote George Gale, the supervisor of the revenue for the district of Maryland, on 20 Aug. that the “appointment of an Inspector for the third survey is defered only because the special power to appoint the Revenue Officers, vested in the President by the Act of March 3rd 1791 has expired, and this being a new office created by the President it is conceived that he cannot fill it by his ordinary power of appointment, which is applicable only to vacancies in pre-existent offices created by law occasioned by the Death &c. in the Recess of the Senate” (DNA: RG 58, Letters of the Commissioner of the Revenue and Revenue Office, 1792–1809). For the attorney general’s judgment in a similar case, see Edmund Randolph’s Opinion on Recess Appointments, 7 July 1792, Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950–. description ends 24:165–67.

3David Porter (1754–1808) of Boston served as a privateer captain during the Revolutionary War. In 1783 he moved his family to Baltimore, where he joined the merchant marine, and in 1792 he was first mate on the Maryland cutter Active. George Gale (1756–1815) of Somerset County, Md., served in the Maryland house of delegates for several terms, in the Maryland ratifying convention of 1788, and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1789 to 1791. A Federalist, he was appointed in March 1791 to be supervisor of the revenue for the Maryland district and inspector of the first survey. Gale’s letter of recommendation to GW, which is dated 4 Sept., arrived after GW had decided to appoint Porter master of the Active. On 13 Aug., Alexander Hamilton had written Otho Holland Williams, the collector at Baltimore, asking him to inform Porter of his appointment, which was to be effective 5 Aug. (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 12:199; Tobias Lear to Thomas Jefferson, 26 Oct. 1792).

4For the recommendations of Adams, Gunnison, Cook, and Fenley, see Hamilton to GW, 26 July 1792. For the appointments of Adams, Gunnison, and Fenley, see Lear to Jefferson, 26 Oct. 1792. GW appointed William Loring first mate of the N.Y. cutter, effective 15 Nov., and Caleb Stacey third mate, effective 6 Nov. (see Lear to Jefferson, 18 Dec. 1792).

5For the reasons for Tobias Lear’s trip to New England in the summer of 1792, see Lear to GW, 15 July, source note. Lear had arrived in Portsmouth, N.H., on 20 July (see Lear to GW, 21 July).

6Hamilton enclosed a copy of this letter, which has not been found, in his letter to GW of 10 Aug. 1792.

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