Tobias Lear to Alexander Hamilton
United States [Philadelphia] 14th March 1793.
By the President’s command T. Lear has the honor to return to the Secrey of the Treasury, the papers respecting the case of Hezekiah & George D. Usher, which have been submitted to him;1 and to inform the Secretary that the President has no doubt, from the statement of Facts in the above papers, of the intention to defraud the Revenue; but if it shall appear to the Secretary, from his information on the subject, that the said Ushers have suffered by the loss of their goods, and expences attending the suit, enough to answer the intention of the Law2—the President leaves it to his judgment, to remit the penalty in such way as, upon consulting the Attorney General of the Ud States, shall appear best.3
S. P. U. S.
1. Hezekiah Usher (d.1795) and his brother, George Dunbar Usher (d.1798), were, respectively, the captain and first mate of the ship Ruth. In 1791 both men had been found guilty of smuggling goods into Rhode Island. The unidentified enclosures to this letter may have included statements on the Ushers’ case from Henry Marchant, the district judge for Rhode Island, and William Ellery, the collector of customs at Newport (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 8:37–38, 332–33, 9:283–84, 26:597–600). The enclosed papers also contained a request from Hamilton and Edmund Randolph that “the President w[oul]d approve of. . . devising some mode to stop the levying the fine inflicted by law” (JPP, description begins Dorothy Twohig, ed. The Journal of the Proceedings of the President, 1793–1797. Charlottesville, Va., 1981. description ends 89). Congressman Benjamin Bourne and William Channing, the district attorney for Rhode Island, also supported leniency (see ibid.).
2. Section 13 of “An Act to provide more effectually for the collection of the duties imposed by law on goods, wares and merchandise imported into the United States, and on the tonnage of ships or vessels,” 4 Aug. 1790, stated that goods unladed without authorization from “the proper officer or officers of the customs” were to be confiscated, and “the master . . . and the mate . . . shall respectively forfeit and pay the sum of one thousand dollars” (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 157).