The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 23, 1837

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p.3 The lake and river navigation is now fully open. The Bay of Quinte is almost entirely free from ice, and the Rideau Canal is nearly in the same condition. All the steamboats, with the exception of those belonging to the Canal are in full operation.

We give a willing place to the following communication, extracted from the Montreal Gazette. It places the differences between the Merchants and the Forwarders in a much fairer light, than either the Brockville Resolutions, or those passed at the late Meeting in Kingston, at which J. Counter, Esq. was Chairman. Mentioning this gentleman's name reminds us that, an impression has gone abroad, that because he was in the Chair, he must of necessity have been favorable to the object of the Meeting. The very contrary was the case: Mr. Counter went to the Meeting for the direct purpose of opposing the resolutions, & was prevailed upon to take the Chair in order to drown his opposition. It should also be stated, that Mr. C. as Chairman, protested against several of the resolutions, particularly to the one condemnatory to the O. & R. Company's conduct.

To The Editor of the Montreal Gazette.

Sir, - I am induced to notice the document sent forth to the world by the Merchants of Brockville, giving a glarning and exaggerated picture of the probable effects and changes to be produced by the Tariff lately published by the Forwarders, in order that I may point out the injustice of its application, and the false and erroneous impressions it may give of their general business.

I find, on looking over some English and Scotch Bills of Lading, that the rates of freight, as they are proportioned to each other in them, fall much more severely on some descriptions of goods, than they do, as proportioned in the Tariff in question. I see charged for Iron, Castings etc. 15s. per ton weight, and at the same time, for Dry Goods 25s. per ton measurement. If merchants do not consider 50s. per ton weight, an exorbitant rate for heavy Hardware, viewing it in the same disinterested manner, they would hardly look upon 83s. 4d. as a rate too high for light packages. As 15 is to 25s. so is 50s. to 83s. 4d! The Tariff rate is 45s. per ton measurement! Again, when Iron, etc. is at 15s. per ton weight, I find Earthenware at 10s. per ton measurement. As 15s. is to 10s. so is 50s. to 33s. 4d.

The Tariff rate is 25s. per ton measurement! I see also, that when Iron, etc. is carried at 15s. per ton weight, Loaf Sugar is charged 2s 3d. per cwt. or 45s. per ton weight. As 15s. is to 45s. so is 50s. to 150s.! If 2s. 6d. per cwt. is paid for Iron etc., and 7s. 6d. per cwt. should be paid for Loaf Sugar! A hhd. will weigh about 9 cwt. At 7s. 6d. the freight would be £3 7d. 6d.! It may be estimated at about a ton measurement, the Tariff rate for which is 45s.

I have reason to think that serious mistakes have been made in stating the measurement of packages. They, probably, are not aware that it is a rule to deduct one fifth from the gross measurement of casks. They state a hhd. as measuring 72 feet. If they did not deduct one fifth, it should have been stated as 57 3 5 feet - if they did, the gross measurement must have been 90 feet! - a monstruous cask to be sure.

I have, this morning, measured a few hhds. and satisfied myself that, on making the customary allowance, they average, as nearly as possible, 40 feet, or one ton. Any person can perceive that the Brockville Merchants have gone the full length of their tether in making their statements. On somewhat the same principle that they have made theirs, permit me now to make mine. I will suppose that I am doing the business of a dealer in Earthenware. I find that on board of one of the boats usually employed, I cannot well stow more than 10 hhds. of Crockery. The average weight of these will be about 5 1/2 cwt. This would be, on the old system, 55 cwt. @ 2s. 6d. giving £6 17s. 6d. as the freight of the cargo! Say that they measure one ton each; there will be ten tons per measurement at 25s. according to the tariff, giving £12 10s. as the freight of the cargo! Truly Forwarders would soon realize fortunes if they had only such customers to serve. Why, it costs them more than either of these sums, for the mere towing and hauling of their boats. What a brilliant prospect they would have before them if they had only cotton-wadding in crates, to forward.

When they speak of an article, bulky but of small value - Cotton-wadding for instance - they ought not to forget that person in the same trade have frequently trunks & cases, over £300 stg. each in value, which did not, formerly, pay one-third of the freight incurred by a cask of Nails. To use the phraseology of the Highland Drill-Sergeant, they ought to "let that stand for that."

They have made an unfair statement. They have carefully selected extreme cases. But even those extreme cases, if shewn in their proper light, tell against them. They know that if Forwarders understood to do a business, entirely made up of light goods, even at the rates of the tariff, they would soon ruin themselves. They know that each boat's cargo must necessarily be an assortment of various kinds of goods. They know that taking such an assortment into consideration, their statements of per centage advances are notoriously mis statments, and that they cannot, for a moment, be applied to the general business.

The absurdity of carrying light and bulky packages on the same principle as bars of Iron and Steel, was too gross to be continued. The Forwarders naturally desired a remunerating return from their capital invested and their arduous toil. Hitherto their disunion and the consequent influence exercised over them, prevented such a consideration. They are not of opinion that their tariff rates are exorbitant. If the result of a practical test shall convince them that they are so, I am sure they will willingly modify them. I fear that the great outcry against the tariff has been produced more by the promptings of private or selfish interests, than by a sympathetic impulse on the part of the public. If it be really so, the Forwarders may well despair of ever giving satisfaction, let them strive as earnestly as they can.

The assertion that boats generally go up partially filled, is unfounded. When there is a lack of hardware or heavy goods, they are frequently laden so bulkily, ere they get anything like a hold of the water, the serious danger is incurred in ascending the Rapids. It may, indeed, be the case with boats arriving at Brockville. If they cannot employ them better, the greater the necessity of paying them well for what they do.

"Common honesty, the law of the land," and the Forwarders, conjointly, have been sinned against so frequently, that it is absolutely necessary some measure should be adopted for their common protection. It is really very pretty and very edifying, to witness one class of men sitting themselves up to judge and condemn the actions of another class, and to express their "contempt," forsooth, towards this demand, and their "entire approbation" of the other: their opinion that "they are entitled to an advance of twenty-five per cent," on the business - that the mode is a mystification, and so on. Their condescencion is extraordinary; their gracious kindness almost paternal. It is a pity such resolutions were not imbued with the merest trifle with the merest trifle of "common honesty" in giving their humble dependants the benefit of one or two statements which might tell in their favour. That the mode or system spoken of is a mystification to them, no one can doubt. It is very evident that they do not understand it.

In conclusion, I must say, it is to be regretted that, in their abberations, they did not temper their flinty asperity by a more bland and courteous feeling. Their purpose would have been served as well.


Montreal, April 15th, 1837.

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April 23, 1837
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), April 23, 1837