ALEXANDER HAMILTON WRITES TO CLEAR UP SOME ISSUES CONCERNING THE IMPLICATION OF RULES SURROUNDING THE TONNAGE ACT, AND ITS PROVISIONS
HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. (1755-1804). First Secretary of the U.S. Treasury; political philosopher and economist; author of ‘The Federalist Papers’; Aide to George Washington in Revolutionary War. Good Manuscript Letter Signed, “Alexander Hamilton.” 1 ½ pages, quarto. “Treasury Department” [New York City], June 10, 1791. To ”William Webb, Collector of Bath, Massachusetts”. Some marginal chipping, and stamp hinge affixed to margin on verso, else fine condition. Hamilton writes to clear up some issues concerning the Tonnage Act, and its provisions. He writes:
“In answer to your letter of the 10th May, I have to observe that it may be inferred from the general scope of the laws and from the reason of the thing. that unlicensed vessels going from one district to another are to enter and clear; but this is more particularly contemplated by the Tonnage Act and by the 42 Section of the Collection Law in the cases in which they ought to enter and pay Tonnage, if they, depart or attempt to depart without doing it they incur a penalty of 500 dollars. And in every case of a departure or attempt to depart without having entered or cleared there would be a strong presumption of law, that the vessel was subject to the Tonnage duty and had forborne to enter to avoid it, which might involve the penalty above mentioned. The law however is not at present as provisional in this particular as might be wished; owing to the suspension of the new coasting bill. And while the entry and clearance ought to be required it will be well if possible to avoid such a direct controversy. Should a neglect or refusal take place it would be proper to State to me. Particularly all the circumstances, in order that it may be judged what course shall be pursued. The fees for entry and clearing are those specified in the Collection Law. I am sir, your obdt Servant, Alexander Hamilton”
A very fine, early Treasury letter, signed by Hamilton, as first Treasurer of the United States. Letters signed by him in this capacity are eagerly sought after, and not often encountered.