The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Steamboat Monopoly on Lake Ontario
Globe (Toronto, ON), 19 Aug 1845, p. 2
Full Text
Steamboat Monopoly on Lake Ontario

We have hesitated long as to whether we should bring this subject before the public, and expose the exactions which are imposed on the travelling community on our waters. We are fully aware that where private individuals have embarked in extensive enterprises,and staked large sums of money on their success, they, being dependent on the public for that success, are likely to guide their proceedings so as to give general satisfaction. We are well aware too, that as to safety and speed, the Lake Ontario Boats are all the can be desired, and as to comfort the Cabin Passengers have no room to complain. We admit these boats have been very expensively fitted up, and that the present high charges may be defended (though erroneously in our opinion) on the plea that lower fares would not maintain the boats now running, and pay the interest of capital invested in those which are laid up. Such are the arguments of the Steamboat proprietors and their friends, and we acknowledge that the Press should not attack the system until satisfied that its effect on the public interest in injurious. We are satisfied that the present high fares not only press heavily on private persons and individual enterprise, but that the public weal is deeply affected by it.-- However necessary it may be for Mr. Bethune to levy heavily on the public to support his mammoth steamboat speculations, this' it may be absolutely necessary for him to get out of one route means to support two, and the funds for buying and laying up all the boats which can be brought to oppose him; still these are not demands which can fairly be made on the public. All which can justly be demanded of the community is, How much will it take to build and support a steamer on the Hamilton route? and how much per head will meet the sum necessary, and give a reasonable return in the shape of profit? The question is not how much can we rack out of the Eclipse to pay for keeping the Admiral, the Cobourg, and other boats idle. If Mr. Bethune has entered into unprofitable speculations, he has no right to expect the community to make it up for him.

To show the precise state of the case as it now stands, we will endeavour to give a list of the Boats owned in this Port, with the names of the proprietors:--

Names. Owners. How occupied.
America Mr. Bethune Toronto and Rochester
Sovereign Mr. Bethune Toronto and Kingston
City of Toronto * Captain Dick and Mr. Hearn, [Heron] Do.
Princess Royal Mr. Bethune Do.
Eclipse Mr. Bethune Toronto and Hamilton
Chief Justice Capt. Richardson Toronto and Lewiston
Transit Do. Toronto and Lewiston
Queen Victoria Do. Toronto and Hamilton
Admiral Mr. Bethune Laid up
Cobourg Mr. Bethune Laid up
Traveller Mr. Bethune Laid up
Frontenac Mr. Bethune Laid up
St. George Mr. Bethune Laid up

It thus appears that out of 13 Steam-boats, 5 are laid up; nine of the thirteen are owned by Mr. Bethune, and so good a business is it, that he makes four pay the expenses of the whole nine. He has no fear of opposition this year, for an agreement has been struck between all the lines not to oppose each other. Last year we had an American boat touching at Toronto every day -- the Chief twice a week to Kingston and the Admiral and the Gore regularly plying to Oswego and Rochester. This certainly was a great accommodation to the public, but the steam-boat owners though they could make more money otherwise. Accordingly a bargain was struck; the American line to have the whole States' coasting to themselves, with the exception of the America touching at Rochester; Captain Richardson to have the Lewiston and Toronto, and Lewiston and Hamilton routes; while Mr. Bethune should have all the rest.

One difficulty arose in this division of the spoils, how the large amount of freight coming by canal to Oswego for Canada was to be forwarded, and who was to reap the rich proceeds of it. The way in which this was settled shows how coolly the gentlemen went about the matter, and how little the convenience of the public was consulted. It was agree that the Steamer Admiral should be taken off the Oswego route, and as it was though Mr. Bethune had the best bargain otherwise, the freight was divided between the American boats and Captain Richardson. The consequence is, that when a Cobourg merchant brings goods from New York, via Oswego, they are shipped by the American boats to Lewiston, tumbled ashore there, re-shipped by the Chief Justice or Transit, tumbled ashore again in Toronto, and again shipped by Mr. Bethune's boats for Cobourg! Three days are thus consumed, and the goods certainly are not benefitted by the handling which they receive.

The Canadian public are at the mercy of Mr. Bethune and Captain Richardson, and the fares have been put at a rate which will certainly not induce an increase of travelling. The fare from Lewiston to Toronto is two dollars, a distance of 36 miles,--from Lewiston to Hamilton, about 45 miles, we believe the rate is two dollars by the Express, an American boat,--from Hamilton to Toronto, it is a dollar and a half -- and from here to Kingston it is five dollars. Thus the charge for a passenger coasting from Lewiston to Kingston is $8 1/2, a distance of about 250 miles, while on Lake Erie you may go in splendid boats from Buffalo to Detroit for $5, though the distance is 100 miles greater. The fare from Kingston to Prescott, we think, is $3, which makes the fare from Lewiston to Prescott on the Canadian side $11 1/2, while passengers can go by the American boats for about one half of the money.

The charge of $5 from Toronto to Kingston is exorbitant.

* It is understood that Messrs. Dick & Hearn [Heron] have exchanged a share of the City with Mr. Bethune for a part of the Princess Royal.

Media Type
Item Type
Date of Publication
19 Aug 1845
Personal Name(s)
Bethune, Donald ; Heron, Andrew ; Dick, Thomas
Language of Item
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
WWW address
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Steamboat Monopoly on Lake Ontario