American Maritime Documents, 1776-1860 - Stein, Douglas L.
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To qualify for drawback money, numerous documents were required. All were printed forms of various sizes, usually having little or no ornamentation. Several typefaces may be found on a single certificate, and many contain printing on both the front and the back. These forms remained fairly standardized between 1790-1860, with minor variations in size and style. Most of these documents were obtained through the customhouse, and carried the signatures of the collector and naval officer at the issuing port. Others would come from U.S. Consuls at foreign ports.
During its formative years, America did not have many finished products to export. Most domestic products and raw materials did not garner high profits for their exporters. One way in which Americans could make large profits, however, was to participate in the carrying trade, in which the more expensive products from the British and French West Indies (such as sugar) were bought by Americans and resold to Europeans. The first tariff law of 1789 recognized the importance of this carrying trade by providing for a refund, or Drawback, of virtually all duties paid on goods that were imported only to be exported within the year. Drawbacks made the carrying trade profitable.
Initial use of Drawback was not great, but when war broke out between England and France in 1793, Europe's need of the American carriers increased. To reattain their neutral status, Americans had to declare West Indian goods in the United States before re-exporting them to Europe as American goods. By 1798, the New York Customhouse was refunding as Drawbacks more than one-third of all duties collected.
To claim drawback monies, the importer first needed to obtain an entry of merchandise and one that certified his intention of exporting the cargo listed on the form of entry. If the goods were transferred within the united States, the new owner would also need to attest that he intended to export the cargo. If the cargo was transported along the coast, the owner had to obtain forms permitting him to do so. Lists of the transported cargo would be made at the original port and would be checked at the next port, providing that the owner had obtained a form permitting him to unload the goods at those ports. The maximum number of coastwise transfers an owner could make was two, after which the Drawback could not be claimed. When the goods were exported, their owner could apply for a debenture in the amount of the Drawback, but he was required to sign a bond for twice that amount. The bond was released if proof of exportation, usually in the form of sworn statements by the consignees, the principal officers of the delivery vessel, and the American consul at the foreign port, arrived within the time specified with the bond, unusually one or two years. Notary documents, swearing compliance with drawback regulations, might also be required to support an exporter's request for a rebate.
No Drawback could be obtained on some goods (a changing list) or on packages broken or goods damaged while in the United States. Drawbacks did apply to imported goods that were used in American products that were exported, such as the molasses-rum conversion.