The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 27, 1850

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Aylmer, L.C., August 22nd, 1850

My Dear Whig:-

Before I allude to matters and things connected with this promising village, I will trouble you with the result of my observations in, on and about Bytown. The Rideau Canal, which from its presumed practical utility, ought to be the main stay of a town situated like Bytown, is from the gross misdirection of the Board of Ordnance, of little or no consideration. The high rate of tolls prevent any trade between Lake Ontario and the Ottawa River; it being cheaper to bring a barrel of pork down the St. Lawrence and up the Ottawa, a distance of 300 miles, passing through sundry canals, than to direct, via the Rideau Canal, a distance only of 120 miles. After the immense outlay of nearly two million sterling, a single steamboat making a bi-weekly trip from one end of the Canal to the other, is all that can find employment on it. That the Board of Ordnance is to blame there can be no question;- they do all they can to drive trade away from the town, and they have succeeded to a degree. Hear what the Bytown Packet says on this subject:-

"It seems strange that two boats cannot be supported on this route, with all the trade between Kingston, Newboro, Portland, Perth, Smith's Falls, Merrickville, Kemptville and Bytown. But on enquiry we find that the very high rate of tolls on this Canal has been the means of turning the greatest proportion of the legitimate trade into other channels. And now Pork, Flour, and other supplies for our extensive Lumbering operations find their way to us by the Ottawa after descending the St. Lawrence, instead of coming through by the direct route (the Rideau.) We do not hesitate to say that the toll is out of all proportion high, as compared with tolls on other canals in the country. The rates at present charged were fixed some years ago, when no other Canal could be brought into competition, and we have no doubt it answered the end of its projectors at the time, and brought in a large revenue. But on the St. Lawrence canals being completed, the position of this canal was completely altered; and it seems strange that the scale of tolls was not at once remodelled to meet the change.

Prior to the establishment of the present rates, a barrel of flour was charged from Kingston to the Ottawa 2 1/2 d., and pork 3 1/2 d.; now the former pays 6 d., the latter 11 1/4 d. A barrel of flour can be transported from Kingston to Montreal for about 9 d.; shewing freight and toll to be little over one penny more than the toll alone for about half the distance by this route.

Cabin passengers are charged 3s. 11d., and deck passengers 11 1/4 d. On the St. Lawrence Canals all are charged alike, and go the whole distance for about 7d.

Why cabin passengers are charged more toll than those on deck we cannot see. On board steamers they receive very different accommodation, including meals, berths, etc., and of course pay accordingly. We feel satisfied if this matter were brought under the notice of the very active Officers now in charge, they would at once make such changes as would not only secure to the inhabitants on the line of canal all the benefit of cheap transportation, but also greatly increase the revenue of the canal."

It is not in one instance only that the Board of Ordnance, or rather the Board of Perspective Officers in Canada, are to blame. There is but one steamboat landing in this place, and that is on Government property, at the mouth of the Canal. This landing is in a most ruinous and delapidated condition; and a great many respectable firms and private individuals have made proffers for liberty to purchase, lease, license to occupy, or for some permission to make or rebuilt the wharf, or otherwise make the wharf approachable. Well, the Board will neither do one thing or to'ther. They won't make the wharf, and they won't allow any body else to do it; but like the dog in the manger, strive to obstruct what they must know is imperatively necessary for the actual accommodation of the town they profess to pet and patronize. It is very true, that the former Corporation of Bytown did all in their power to annoy the local authorities at Bytown, by vexatious lawsuits; still the British Government should be magnanimous, and not make a whole population suffer by the impertinence or folly of its Corporation.

Bytown suffers from another cause, but the mischief doers are the Provincial, not the Home Authorities. A vast and increased sawed lumber business is transacted at Bytown; and the chief transportation to the New York market is performed in American bottoms. Upwards of 30 American barges are engaged in this business, and the reason why they are employed, almost exclusively, is because a cargo of sawed lumber can be carried to New York without transhipment, whereas a like cargo in a Canadian bottom would have to be transhipped into an American bottom at Whitehall. The Provincial Government, with a liberality unprecedented for stupidity, allow American barges to pass through all the Canals of Canada in search of cargoes of sawed lumber, on the same terms as Canadian vessels, while the moment a Canadian barge attempts to pass through the Canal at Whitehall into the Hudson River, it is stopped by the law of nations. In this case we have another glaring instance of Reciprocity, like the handle of a jug, all on one side. The Yankees are a sensible people - they take all they can get, and they take care to give back as little as possible in return.....


Kingston Imports.

Aug. 24th - Str. Cataract, Oswego, gen. cargo.

Schr. Empire, 11,150 feet lumber and 3084 standard staves

Aug. 26th - Northerner, passengers and baggage.

Schr. Sir C. Bagot, Chatham, 12,000 standard staves, Calvin & Cook.

Brig Breeze, Port Dalhousie, 170 pieces oak timber, Calvin & Cook


Aug. 24th - Str. Cataract, Ogdensburgh, passengers and baggage.

Aug. 26th - Str. Northerner, Oswego, passengers and baggage.

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Aug. 27, 1850
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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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Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Aug. 27, 1850