Rhode Island Stampless Covers & Letters

1800 Stampless Letter Signed by Treasury Secretary Oliver Walcott
to William Ellery Collector of the Port of Newport, Rhode island
Signer of the Declaration of Independence (Docketed by Ellery)
(Scroll Down for Complete Text of Letter & Historical Background)

   Docketing written by William Ellery

This very interesting letter from Secretary of the Treasury, Oliver Walcott to William Ellery, Collector of Customs for the Port of Newport, Rhode Island concerns a request from James and Charles D'Wolf, (two members of the slave trading D'Wolf family of Bristol, Rhode Island) to unload the cargos of two of their ships in the East India trade at Bristol instead of Newport. The letter also mentions a division of the district of Newport into two separate districts for the collection of customs. (There are records 
indicating that this division had already taken place in February of this year.) The letter is signed by Oliver Walcott and is docketed, as shown above by William Ellery, who along with Stephen Hopkins signed the Declaration of Independence for Rhode Island. There were no postal markings on the cover side of the letter and it was most likely carried by private courier. William Ellery was the collector for Newport from 1790 until his death in 1820.  He was anti-slavery and he had several run-ins with the D'Wolfs and other slave traders including John Brown of the Providence Brown family. The complete text of the letter is reproduced below followed by a  
NOTE: I have seen three versions for the spelling of D'Wolf//De Wolfe//DeWolfe and in this letter it was rendered as DeWolfe. In another letter to John D'Wolf from one of their Captains, it is spelled D'Wolf -
1825 Letter to John D'Wolf)
of William Ellery

Treasury Department
March 29th 1800

    The subject of a division of the district of Newport, is I find likely to occasion considerable duplication -- I wish therefore that it may receive a deliberate consideration and that I may be favored with your sentiments -- Nothing will be done this session, you will therefore have time to mature your opinion.
    Messrs James & Charles DeWolfe represent that they expect two India ships, which they are desirous of unloading at their own wharves -- It is certain that the entry must be made at Newport where the duties must also be secured and the permits granted -- The obligation to unload at Newport is not so clearly expressed in the law of 1790 or 1799 as I had imagined -- I wish to know, whether any danger to the revenue, or inconvenience to the business of the district, would result from allowing the vessels to be discharged at Bristol under the eye of the surveyor and such inspectors as you may specially designate -- The point is new and unsettled -- If no special inconveniences would result, I should be inclined to grant the indulgence as a far less questionable measure than the erection of a new district -- If you are satisfied that the permission to discharge at Bristol, after the entry at Newport will involve no troublesome consequences, and the vessels arrive before you can write and receive an answer from me, the business may take that course -- Otherwise you will be pleased to state your objections -- I have been careful in my letter to Messrs DeWolf's to go no further than to say that I have written to you for information on the subject of their application.
    I am very Respectfully
Your Obed Servant
Oliver Walcott
William Ellery Esq
Collector of Newport 
View Page Two - William Ellery Biography

RI Historical Society
Stampless I
Stampless II

Stampless III
Stampless IV
Stampless V
Stampless VI
Brown & Ives Letters
The Hazard Family Letters
Joseph Tillinghast
Free Franked Letters
DeWolf Family Letters

Recently Added Pages
William Ellery BIO