The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Kingston Herald (Kingston, ON), Aug. 25, 1847

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Our talented contemporary of the Toronto Globe has, in a late number, exposed a bit of selfishness, of no ordinary magnitude, on the part of the proprietors of the Royal Mail Line of steamers on Lake Ontario. It appears that Captain Sutherland had taken advantage of an offer of £5000, made by the British Government, and built the steamer Magnet, which was to be used in times of peace as a merchant vessel, but in case of the breaking out of war with the United States, she was to be given up to the Government. The London and Canada on Lake Erie, and the Magnet on Lake Ontario, were built upon these conditions. Messrs. Bethune, Dick and Heron, it seems, not relishing any opposition to their great monopoly on this Lake, actually petitioned the Home Government to grant them the same privilege, or to annul the agreement entered into with Captain Sutherland. By the influence of certain members of the "Compact," whose selfishness and arrogance have long been put forth against the encouragement of enterprise in this Providence, the game had well night been successfully played. However, the trick was discovered in time, and the indignant proprietors of Her Majesty's "Royal Mail Line of Steamers," walked off with a flea in their ears.

Failing in this disingenuous attempt at the destruction of a rival, the "Royal Mail" proprietors had the effrontery to petition the Colonial Legislature, and endeavor to coax our Parliament into an espousal of their cause; Mr. Boulton the immaculate Mayor of Toronto, whose fame, in consequence of his figuring among the "Bloxom birds," has spread "the country round," brought the petition up, when the following debate, which we take from the Globe, ensued:

"Mr. Boulton thought it a great case of great hardship, and he thought the prayer of the petitioners ought to be granted without hesitation, and he now moved for a committee of enquiry.

The prayer of the petition, as we understood it, was that the House should address the Home Government, showing the great injury inflicted by them on Bethune & Co., and praying Her Majesty to be pleased either to quash the bargain with Capt. Sutherland, at any cost, or to grant from the Imperial Treasury a sum of £5000 to Bethune & Co., as each of their beautiful monopoly boats, without interest! and all to put these interesting individuals on an equal footing with Capt. Sutherland! And the effect of passing such an address would just be to admit that the exigencies of the public service had inflicted an injury on Bethune & Co., for which they are entitled to compensation; once ( ) to this principle. The Provincial Government must have adhered to it - and had the Home Government declined acceding to their request, they must in consistency have indemnified the martyrs out of the Provincial Chest. It was a deep dodge of Messrs. Bethune & Co.

When Mr. Mayor Boulton had concluded his harangue the fun began.

Mr. Baldwin wished to know the opinion of the Government on this subject.

Mr. Attorney General Sherwood said the Government would be prepared to give their opinion when the question of its merits came up for decision.

Mr. Baldwin thought this was the proper stage for the Government to give their opinion - it was clearly one of those questions which the ministry should take the responsibility of sustaining or rejecting. He (Mr. B.) was always desirous of supporting the Government, as they well knew, but he did not know how they ( ) on this question, but he trusted they would explain their views.

Nothing could be extracted from Her Majesty's confidential advertisers; - have Mr. Cayley and "the company of Blacksmiths" any (bot ) bonds?

Mr. Boulton, to bring the house back to the main question, remarked that the whole trade of Upper Canada existed by the energy of three or four enterprising individuals (Bethune & Co.)

Mr. Hall said this was the most modest thing he had ever heard of in the whole course of his life.

Mr. Boulton - Why should it not carry ( )!

Mr. Hall - Oh, sir this is the wrong place for modesty.

Mr. Price said this was one of the most extraordinary applications he had ever listened to.

Mr. Monro said this was one of the most absurd proposals ever made.

Mr. John S. M'Donald said he did not wish to hurt Mr. Boulton's feelings, but, he must say this was a most outrageous request; a set of monopolists who had ground the country for years and extorted $4 for the same length of trip for which the Montreal and Quebec boats (receive ?) $2, to come to Legislature and ask to be (secured ?) in their monopoly! It was the very height of assurance.

Mr. Merritt so far from agreeing with the (no ) of the petitioners conceived that the system adopted by the Imperial Government was a ( ) greatly in advance and highly commendable. Instead of building vessels exclusively for war purposes to lie up and rot, the Government now made their plans subservient to the interest of commerce.

Mr. Meyers laughted at the proposals of Messrs. Bethune & Co.

Mr. Gowan said this was the most ridiculous thing he ever heard coming from any member of the House.

Mr. Chambers opposed the notion of Mr. Boulton, and having read a letter from Capt. Sutherland, he showed that although the general principle that Government should not fund private enterprise were admitted, the peculiar circumstances of this case put it out of the ( ); when the contract was made the Home Government conceived they were the parties who had the most reason to be satisfied with the bargain.

Mr. Henry Smith said the monopoly of Bethune & Co. was first injurious to the country. He would not have spoken had Mr. Boulton not vaunted their great services to the community. Every one of these gentlemen had a complete monopoly of Lake Ontario, and how they got it by running all their opponents and buying up their boats. The case of the Messrs. Ives was a well known case of this. These young men had presumed to buy a steamboat, and put her on Lake Ontario; Mr. Bethune immediately ran one of his best boats along side of her, fare 7 1/2 d., and decried her as unseaworthy. The consequence was the young men were ruined, their boat sold - and who bought it? why Mr. Bethune, and he owns her now, as he and his partners do all the boats on the Lake. "Do unto others as you would be done unto you," was not in the vocabulary of these men, and he was only glad that they were about to be opposed.

Mr. Williams thought the conduct of the Imperial Government in this matter most praiseworthy.

Mr. Boulton was not prepared for such treatment. Why, said he, even the hon. member for the third Riding of York, (Mr. Munro,) for whom I did so much to place in his present position (query: as an election committee man?), even he laughs at me!

Mr. Duggan said this was the most extraordinary, unjustifiable, and absurb proceeding ever brought before the House.

Mr. M. Cameron objected on principle to the interference of Government with private enterprise.

Mr. David Thomson said monopolies were the ruin of Canada, and this one of Bethune's on Lake Ontario was the most injurious. And yet the House was asked to sustain with the public money, these men from whom the country has suffered so much! The thing was absurd.

Mr. Baldwin said the petition was first sent to him for presentation; he laid it on the table, and wrote to the gentlemen who sent it, that he could have nothing further to do with it. Mr. Boulton then took it up. He was sorry the Government would not state their views on it. He was very anxious to hear them, and as he doubted not that such was their wish, he would vote for the reference of the matter to the committee, in order to give the Government an opportunity of explaining their views, when the Committee reported. He was against the prayer of the petition, but he thought the Government should be allowed to shirk their duty.

Cries of question, question, now echoed through the House and a division being at hand Mr. Attorney General Sherwood, and Mr. Receiver General McDonald, cleared out of the House.

The division was then taken when there appeared for Mr. Motion, 5 - against it, 44."

We take pleasure in publishing below, a letter from Mr. Kirkpatrick, containing a statement relative to the late Steam Boat row, about which he has been so much misrepresented. The good which must result from the matter being set forth in its true light, is already apparent, in a change which has taken place, from furious attacks to conscientious scruples in a certain quarter.

Kingston, August 1st, 1847.

A letter addressed to me by Donald Bethune, Esq., having appeared in the public prints, I feel it a duty which I owe to my own character and to the office which I have the honor to fill, to offer a few remarks for the public information.

The first intimation I had of the occurrence which gave rise to the riot on board of the Princess Royal steamer on the 2nd instant, was from a member of the Board of Health, who informed my, while presiding over that body, that he feared unpleasant consequences would ensue from the excited state of public feeling, resulting from a misunderstanding which had occurred the night before between the Rev. Mr. Higgins and Capt. Twohy. I immediately sent for the latter gentleman, in order to learn from him whether there was any ground for the apprehension. He came to the Mayor's Office, accompanied by John H. Greer, Esq.; and after hearing his relation of the occurences of the previous evening, I was pleased to learn that an explanation had taken place between Mr. Greer and the Rev. Gentleman, satisfactory to both parties, and that Capt. Twohy apprehended no danger. The Board of Health then proceeded to transact its ordinary business, during the course of which Bishop Phelan attended at the Board. After it was closed I mentioned to him what I had heard, and expressed a hope that the rumour was unfounded; he also assured me that no danger was to be apprehended, and that an explanation of the difficulty of the preceding evening had taken place. Shortly after I left the Mayor's office, & was proceeding to my own, when I met a number of persons running, who stated that a riot had taken place on board the Princess Royal, and that the military had been sent for to protect her. I immediately went down to the boat, and found her at Brown's Wharf. Capt. Twohy was on the upper deck, and had apparently been much abused. I asked what I could do for him - he said "Call out the Military to save me and my boat from destruction." I requested him to come ashore and that I would go with him and procure the soldiers; he did so, and we left the wharf together. At this time there was a large collection of persons, and a very angry state of feeling existing, but no riot or violence offered, save a handful of gravel thrown, which I shared in common with Capt. Twohy. When we reached the City Hall, we met a party of the 46th Regiment, who had been called upon by Mr. Greer, in his capacity as a Magistrate, and with them I returned to the boat. The wharf was quickly cleared of every one; and the mate of the boat took her off, and making a detour came to Mr. Greer's wharf, and to where Col. Garrett and the military also proceeded. Captain Twohy again joined us, and shortly after Bishop Phelan and several Roman Catholic Clergymen came to the ground. Every exertion was then used to calm the excited state of public feeling, and to prevent bloodshed. And I regret to say, that I found several persons whose station in life ought to have induced them to adopt a different course endeavouring to aggravate instead of allay the angry feelings of the populace. In this I am happy to say, they were disappointed. The crowd dispersed by degrees, and I went on board the boat with Capt. Twohy. After he had washed the blood from his face and had become somewhat composed, I obtained from him the particulars of the riot, which I had not learned. I asked him if he, or any of his men, could identify the parties who had attacked the boat, to which he replied he could not. Bishop Phelan and several gentlemen came into the Cabin, and the affair was again discussed. Mr. Higgins who was absent from town at the time of the riot, and had been sent for by the Bishop, then made his appearance, and the occurrences of the night having been related by both parties before a number of persons, the explanations offered by each were deemed satisfactory, and Mr. Higgins and Capt. Twohy shook hands.

The soldiers had been dispersed by the desire of Capt. Twohy and on the party leaving the Wharf in company with him, Bishop Phealan addressed a few words to the small number of persons still there, exhorting them to go home peaceably, which they at once did. No row of any description occurred in my presence, nor was any one pointed out to me as having been on board the Boat, nor was any information lodged with me against any one.

On the return of the Steamer from Toronto, I was called upon on my arrival in the city, in the morning, by Kenneth Mackenzie, Esq., who handed me an open letter from Mr. Bethune, the contents of which have appeared in all the papers. On perusing it I requested Mr. Mackenzie to accompany me to the sitting magistrate, to investigate the matter and take the information requested by Mr. Bethune. On our arrival there, we found Mr. Manahan officiating as the Magistrate for the and on stating the case and consulting upon the proper steps to be pursued, Mr. Mackenzie declared that he would not proceed any further in the affair, but would write to Mr. Bethune to come down and attend to it himself. The terms of Mr. Bethune's letter charging to Mr. Higgins with inciting the mob to commit the riot, I told Mr. Mackenzie that I could not consent to the delay unless he withdrew the letter, which he did, and I have not seen it since, nor was I aware at the time that Mr. Bethune had published the letter immediately after he wrote it. On that day and on each succeeding arrival of the Boat, I informed Capt. Twohy that I was prepared to take his information against the parties concerned in the outrage, and on Thursday last I waited for a length of time at the Court House by desire of Mr. Mackenzie, to swear Capt. Twohy to an information prepared by Mr. Bethune, in which the names of Mr. Higgins and Garrett Comerford were mentioned as instigators of the riot. Finding that no one appeared, I went to Mr. Mackenzie and was told by him, that Capt. Twohy would not make the deposition, fearing that he would be detained from the Boat for the examination. I immediately informed him, and subsequently Capt. Twohy, that I would summon the parties to appear on Monday the 16th inst. at the Court House, and desired that he would then appear and make good his charges. I have done so and I requested the Chairman of the Quarter Sessions to assemble a full bench of Magistrates who will no doubt patiently investigate the affair, and bind over the guilty parties to the Assizes for their trial.


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Aug. 25, 1847
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Kingston Herald (Kingston, ON), Aug. 25, 1847