George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Alexander Hamilton, 28 February 1794

From Alexander Hamilton

[Philadelphia] February 28. 1794.

The Secretary of the Treasury presents his respects to the President, & has the honor to send him a Communication from the Commissioner of the revenue, of this date, with its enclosures respecting the Survey comprehending Kentucke.1 Also a letter from the Collector of Charlestown of the 6th instant, with its enclosures, respecting the case of the Spanish Vessel the St Joseph.2 These dispatches appear to him important enough to be submitted to the particular attention of the President.


1The letter from Tench Coxe to Hamilton of 28 Feb. and its enclosures have not been identified. At this time, there was difficulty in collecting the federal excise tax on whiskey from the citizens of Kentucky, and this problem may have been the subject of this communication.

2The letter from Isaac Holmes to Hamilton of 6 Feb. and its enclosures have not been identified, but they concerned the Spanish brigantine San Josef, under Capt. Castello, which had been captured by the French privateer Aimée Marguerite in September 1793 and brought first into the harbor of Wilmington, N.C. (see Spaight to GW, 21 Oct. 1793, 8 Feb. 1794 [second letter], and 16 Feb. 1794). Ensuing events are best described by Thomas Bee, the U.S. judge for the District of South Carolina, in the case of Castello v. Bouteille et al., 18 March 1794: “The libel states that Castello was owner and commander of the brigantine St. Joseph, which was loaded in the port of Carthagena by himself and other subjects of Spain, which is in amity with the United States. That on the 22d of September last, in his way to Cadiz, he was captured on the high seas by the sloop Fair Margaret, commanded by F. H. Hervieux, and carried into Cape Fear river in North Carolina. That two days after their arrival within the bar of Wilmington, the said sloop and brigantine suddenly weighed anchor and proceeded to sea. This is said to have been in consequence of directions from the president of the United States to the governor of North Carolina to take possession of the brigantine and deliver her up to the libellant.

“The libel further states that Hervieux then proceeded to Charleston, where, upon some agreement between him and the defendant [Jean] Bouteille, the latter went to sea in the Sans-pareille, and, at some distance from the bar of Charleston, took possession of the brigantine, landed the Spanish crew in Georgia, and brought the vessel into Charleston. Hervieux and his people had previously quitted her.

“The libel also states some proceedings respecting the brigantine and cargo in consequence of directions from the president of the United States to the governors of North and South Carolina, the latter of whom declined all interference. And the collector of Charleston, not thinking himself authorized to detain the vessel, she was finally left in the hands of Bouteille. Whereupon, by a decree of the consul of France [Michel-Ange-Bernard de Mangourit], the said vessel and cargo were advertised and sold, except fifty bales of cotton, which were taken into the custody of the marshal [Daniel L. Huger] of this court by a warrant issued therefrom. The libel concludes by praying restitution of vessel and cargo, and compensation for the detention of the same” (Bee, Reports of Cases description begins Thomas Bee. Reports of Cases Adjudged in the District Court of South Carolina . . .. Philadelphia, 1810. description ends , 29–34).

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