To the Editor of the Montreal Gazette.
Sir, - It was with feelings of great indignation, that I, in common with every respectable inhabitant of this place, read in the Montreal Herald of the 23rd instant, an editorial article, said to be founded on a communication from an "eye witness," of an alleged outrage by the Americans in our waters, in relation to the seizure by the Collector of Customs (Colonel Frazer) of this port, of the schooner G.S. Weeks.
The object of the writer must have been to lacerate the feelings of one of the oldest and best of our country's military champions - a man universally esteemed in private life, both here and where he held his last command.
No sooner this this false and unmanly statement appear, than a meeting was held to denounce so unworthy a production as that of the "eye witness." An address to the gallant subject of it was drawn up and presented to him, expressive of the public feeling, and signed by the most respectable inhabitants of all classes and denominations; in proof of which I send you the address itself with the signatures.
Allow me to state to you, for publication, the facts of this case:- On the morning of the 17th inst. the U.S. schooner in question arrived at this port; the Captain having exhibited his papers in the usual way to the Deputy Collector, had obtained permits to land that part of his cargo, which was consigned to several merchants here. An iron six pound gun, with its appointments, was lying on the deck in separate pieces. The Captain had commenced landing his cargo, under the superintendance of the Deputy Collector and the several consignees, about ten o'clock.
In about half an hour later, James Morris, Esq., was sent for, and on his arrival at the wharf, he found a number of persons collected together, and who were clamorous for the delivery to them of the gun, alleging that it was intended for a man at Ogdensburgh, who was a notorious encourager and supporter of the brigands. Mr. Morris enquired of the Deputy Collector, if the vessel's papers were right, and if the entry had been properly made - who replied in the affirmative, and entreated Mr. Morris to remain and protect the vessel, whilst the cargo was being delivered.
At this period, a number of the mob, more daring than the rest, rushed on board, and fastened a rope to the gun, for the purpose of hauling it ashore. Mr. Morris succeeded in resisting them, and sent the Deputy Collector to Colonel Marshall, requesting that he would send a party of the 73rd to his assistance. The Collector returned, and stated that Colonel Marshall would attend immediately in person, with as many men as could be got together. At this time the Captain of the schooner expressed his desire to leave the port, as he did not consider his vessel and cargo safe. Mr. Morris entreated him not to do so, as he was unwilling that he should return to his own country, and have it in his power to state, that he was prevented from discharging his cargo by the authority of a lawless mob. The Deputy Collector also assured him that he would be protected, and desired him to proceed in discharging the goods consigned to this town.
Colonel Marshall, with Lieutenant Fitzgerald and about fifteen of the 73rd arrived on the wharf, and the crew resumed their labours, which continued for about half an hour, when the steamer Brockville arrived from Prescott, having Colonel Frazer (the Collector) on board. He had been recognized by some of the most active individuals concerned, who joined him as he landed on the adjacent wharf, and accompanied him to the wharf where the schooner was lying.
The Collector, without ascertaining from the Magistrate what had occurred, or learning from his Deputy whether permits had been granted for the discharge of the cargo or not, made a regular seizure of the vessel and cargo, and ordered the gun to be taken ashore, which was readily done by, and amidst the cheers of the principal actors in the scene, and by them drawn in triumph through the town, and on their return to the market square, three times discharged, after which it was deposited in Mair's yard, where it remained during the night.
In the meantime, the seizure of the schooner had been communicated to Colonel Worth, at Sackett's Harbour, by the Captain of the United States - that steamer having gone up on Friday evening. Col. Worth came to Morristown on Saturday morning accompanied by an American Revenue Officer; about three o'clock the Oneida was observed crossing the river for this place, and when about half way across, a boat was despatched with the Revenue officer, accompanied by two American Military officers, who approached one of the wharves for the purpose of landing. A party of the mob proceeded to the spot, armed with muskets, etc., some of them daring the Officers to land, and it is stated, cocked their muskets as if preparing to fire. Lieut. Fitzgerald, of the 73rd, happened to be walking near the spot, and seeing the violence of the party, immediately announced himself to the Americans as a British Officer, and said he would protect them. They landed, and proceeded towards Col. Marshall's house, to enquire for Col. Frazer, the Collector, for whom they had a communication from Col. Worth. These gentlemen were accompanied by Mr. Fitzgerald, and followed, and indeed surrounded, by the mob before alluded to, with fixed bayonets. Col. Marshall told them that the vessel and cargo had been seized by the Collector of Customs for an alleged infraction of the revenue laws, and the matter was entirely out of his control. The Officers returned on board the Oneida but, before they left, invited Mr. Morris and Col. Marshall to go on board with them, which they did.
Col. Marshall was received with the most marked attention, and on an allusion to the seizure being made, Col. Marshall observed to Col. Worth, that he viewed it entirely as a civil matter, and one in which he could not interfere. After which Col. Worth addressed himself on the subject to Mr. Morris alone. Col. Worth made no demand of the gun from Col. Marshall, nor did he use any language which could be construed into anything like a threat, as has been represented; on the contrary, he said, if the Captain had done anything in violation of our Revenue laws, he must abide the consequences.
Mr. Morris had, from his conversation with the Deputy Collector, from the first, been of opinion that the seizure could not be supported - and under that impression, considering all circumstances, thought if the vessel was to be given up, the sooner it was done the better. He therefore proceeded to the residence of the Collector, at Prescott, with a brother Magistrate, Dr. Hubbell - where he held a consultation, not only with Colonel Frazer, but also with the Collector of Customs at that place, and other respectable individuals, all of whom, except Colonel Frazer, were of opinion that the seizure could not be supported. Indeed, Colonel Frazer himself seemed to doubt it, and promised to give his answer by eleven o'clock next morning, at Brockville.
The American Revenue Officer had, in the morning, been apprized by the Collector, that he had been made acquainted with some circumstances connected with the seizure, of which he had before been ignorant; and that he had determined on giving up the vessel with as little delay as possible.
A new difficulty, however, now presented itself. The mob, who had taken possession of the gun, refused to let it go on board, notwithstanding the Collector, in person, anxiously desired that they would assist him. The aid of the Magistrates was again required, and they, finding the civil power unable to effect the restoration of the gun, again applied to Colonel Marshall for the aid of the Military; accordingly, the company of the 73rd, with that of Captain Edmonston's independent company of Militia, and Captain Hervey's company of Cavalry, were ordered to attend, which they did, and, after considerable difficulty, and great opposition, the gun was taken to the wharf, near where the schooner was lying. Finding it difficult, however, to get the gun on board at this wharf, it was removed to another lower down, by and under the protection of the Military.
The Oneida had, by this time, again crossed from Morristown, and was waiting at a short distance from the shore - her proximity was felt to be offensive, and Captain Hervey was sent on board with a message from Colonel Marshall, requesting that she would withdraw, as the gun was now ready to be put on board the vessel - and she withdrew, accordingly, to some distance out. At this time Her Majesty's armed steamer Traveller arrived, and, shortly after, the Oneida again returned to nearly the same place she had previously occupied. The Traveller passed on the outside of her, went round, and anchored between her and the shore, amidst the cheers of the populace. A second message was then sent, by Colonel Marshall, on board the Oneida, by one of the Magistrates, Mr. Morris, who had an interview with Colonel Worth, when she immediately proceeded into American waters.
Previous to this, however, the Kingston steamer had arrived, having on board two companions of the 83rd, who landed on the wharf, and measures were immediately taken to get the gun on board, which was at length effected by the aid of the Military, and the schooner left the wharf for Morristown.
Now, how Colonel Marshall, who, from first to last, was acting in this unpleasant affair, in aid of the civil power, and under the direction of the Magistrates, could have done otherwise than he did, I am at a loss to imagine, much less can I conceive on what ground his conduct should be stigmatized as "dastardly and deserving disgrace and punishment." If punishment is deserved by any one, it is by the individual, who would thus rashly and unjustly wound the feelings of a highly meritorious Officer, whilst he was in the exercise of a difficult and arduous public duty.
The above is a simple recital of facts, and if they are cooly considered, they cannot fail to convince even the most prejudiced mind, that, at any rate, Colonel Marshall cannot be blamed, and equally so, that no blame attaches to the civil authorities, who, throughout, exercised the utmost forbearance and patience in the performance of their public duty.
If Colonel Frazer thought that a vessel bringing arms alongside a British wharf, was an infraction of the revenue laws, he had a perfect right to seize the vessel - nor would the Americans have any more right to complain in this case, than of any other of the numerous seizures which have been made.
If he acted in error, and was afterwards convinced he had done so, he was doing all the parties concerned a kindness in immediately giving up the vessel.
It cannot, however, be denied, to say the least of it, that it was highly imprudent, if not something worse, in the present excited, and justly excited, state of feelings of our population, to bring the gun here at all - especially a gun so much associated as this was with the battle at Prescott - where eighty of our neighbours and friends were either killed or wounded by a body of brigands who, it is well known, were encouraged and supported by the very Mr. James to whom the gun was consigned.
I am, Sir, your obedient, humble servant,
Brockville, May 27, 1839.
The Oswego papers make light of the attempt that was made to detain the Hamilton there, and say that it was only 2 or 3 drunken loafers who made the disturbance.
The Great Britain Steamer commenced her trips last week, and on Friday Capt. Herchmer favoured his numerous friends with a pic nic party.
THE STEAM BOAT ALBION,
Capt. W.T. Johnson.
This new, comfortable and fast sailing Steam Boat will ply on the Bay of Quinte for the remainder of the Season as follows:
Will leave Kingston, Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9 o'clock, and arrive at River Trent in the evening, touching at the intermediate ports.
Will leave Belleville Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, at 7 o'clock, and stopping as usual at the intermediate ports, arrive at Kingston in time for the Lake Boats going up, and the River Boats going down.
N.B. Passengers leaving the Bay of Quinte for Montreal by the Albion, on the above mentioned days will arrive at Kingston to meet the fast sailing steamer Brockville, which runs to the head of the Long Sault.