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Preparing to Report to Congress on Public Credit, Alexander Hamilton Establishes the New U.S. Treasury Department’s Forms & Procedures (SOLD)
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The First Federal Congress established the Treasury Department on September 2, 1789, only three months before this letter. Hamilton became Secretary of the Treasury – actually the very first member of George Washington’s cabinet – on September 11. Hamilton speedily created processes to organize and run the new nation’s financial system. He requires weekly returns of cash receipts and disbursements, and notes that while monthly returns on import duties will normally not be required, they are for the year about to end. He mentions the need for this information so he can make timely reports to Congress near the beginning of their sessions, with “the information relative to the Revenue which they will necessarily require.” In fact, responding to the request of Congress, Hamilton delivered his seminal Report on Public Credit on January 14, 1790. This letter, introducing his subordinate customs and tax collectors to the developing system, is an early and important part of the process.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON. Letter Signed as Treasury Secretary. New York, December 1, 1789. 2 pp., 8 x 10 in.

Inventory #23949       SOLD — please inquire about other items

Complete Transcript

(Circular)                    Treasury Department

                                                December 1st 1789

The Comptroller of the Treasury will forward to you by this or the ensuing post, the whole of the Forms necessary for making your Returns to the Office, and rendering your Accts at the Treasury.

            You will observe that in these General Forms it is not required, that you should make a monthly Return of the Duties on Imports, and that in the Weekly Returns of the Cash Receipts and Disbursements (and not the Bonds) are only included. It is necessary however to observe that I have special reasons for directing you to make out Monthly Returns of the Merchandize imported, to the 31st of December Instant, in the mode pointed out in my former Circular Letters after which they may be discontinued.

            The public service requires the strictest care and Punctuality in adhering to the Forms now established and in forwarding them regularly to this Office; I therefore rely on your attention to these points, and if from any Circumstances you should be prevented from forwarding them, in course after they are made out, you will not omit to embrace the first Occasion of transmitting them as soon after as possible so that the whole of the returns required may be certain of reaching me with as little delay as possible.

            It is particularly desireable that the Returns to the end of the present month may be forwarded as soon after the expiration of it as possible; unless this is done I shall not be able to lay before the Legislature at the early part of their Sessions that information relative to the Revenue which they will necessarily require.

            I am sir

                                    Your obedient Servant

                                                A. Hamilton

                                                            Secy of the Treasury

P.S It is not expected that in making up your accounts to the time [the] comptrollers instructions reach you, you will be able to adhere exactly to the forms of the Receipts transmitted you wither for the payment of the orders drawn on you heretofore, or other disbursements, such as you have taken for disbursements, must accompany your accounts as well as the orders &c with the Receipts on them—in other respects I presume you will be able to follow the forms—

Historical Background

In order to place the new nation on firm financial ground, Alexander Hamilton spearheaded the establishment of customs districts, a national bank, impost duties and excise taxes, and counter-intuitively proposed that the federal government take on most of the states’ remaining Revolutionary war debts. Hamilton’s ambitious plans for the federal government required information from  a wide array of inspectors and collectors from districts ranging from Massachusetts to Georgia. In this circular letter, Hamilton introduces the forthcoming forms necessary to provide the Treasury with accurate information on the Returns.

Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804). Born on the island of Nevis, in 1777, Hamilton became Washington’s aide-de-camp. After the war he studied law and became one of the most eminent lawyers in New York. In 1782 he was returned to Congress. In 1786, Hamilton took the leading part in the convention at Annapolis, which prepared the way for the Constitutional Convention that met at Philadelphia in 1787. In the same year, he conceived the series of essays afterward collected as The Federalist, and wrote 51 of the 85 works himself. Upon the establishment of the new government in 1789, Hamilton was appointed Secretary of the Treasury and restored the country’s finances to a firm footing. In 1795 he resigned his office, but remained the actual leader of the Federalist Party at the forefront of political strife between the Federalists and the newly-formed Democratic-Republicans until his death in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr.

Condition

Fine. Old folds as expected. One chip from left margin, likely from wax seal; affecting one word (“the”) in the postscript, but nothing on the first page. Slight toning on right edge.