The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily British Whig (Kingston, ON), Sept. 11, 1850

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part 2 - The disparagement of the Canadian River Boats - This is a sore subject, and perhaps I had better let it alone; but I never yet shirked a thing, because it was disagreeable, and I shan't now. During the height of the travelling season, a season hitherto unprecedented for American travel, the two finest River boats, replete with every comfort and elegance, the Passport and New Era, were taken off the route and laid up; leaving to do the work the Ottawa, a fine, fast boat, but without state-rooms, the Lord Elgin, an ordinary vessel, with state-rooms, and the Canada, a worn out slow boat with state-rooms it is true, but in every other respect wholly inadequate to do the business cut out for her; independent of maintaining on the St. Lawrence the character of a Royal Mail amid the fierce opposition there encountered. In going down to Montreal I partly went in the Canada; I heard the ugly remarks made by the very numerous party of Americans then on board; and again, while finishing the journey on board one of the American liners, I heard other remarks, all to the gross disparagement of the Royal Mail steamers; and then calling to mind that the Mail Contractor had two elegant boats, under his sole control, laid up at Kingston, I wrote what I did, which I do not now regret; for though I may individually suffer, I feel assured, that in no future season will the finest river vessels be laid up, leaving the old and the crippled to contend with the Americans.

To the Editor of the British Whig.

The Argus of the 6th inst. quotes part of my last communication on the "Tug Line of Steamers," and comments freely thereon; he has, however, been above narrow criticism on the bad English. The printer of the Whig has made me appear to have written, especially in the concluding sentence, where is printed, "The Telegraph and his patrons will have no more reason to complain than an Innkeeper, who sees travellers depart who has further to go." Instead of has it should have been have to go.

The Argus still writes on this subject in a manner very unsatisfactory to some of his friends, who feel as much interested in the prosperity of Kingston as he does; he admits "there probably was some secret, selfish influence exerted in favor of Prescott." If the establishing of Prescott as the terminus for the Tug Line was effected "by secret selfish influence" as thus admitted, then it follows that it was not established by reason of its being the fittest place. There the Argus and I both agree, and this being the main point in dispute, formerly, as I supposed, we need no longer sustain any argument about unimportant particulars. I will however, take the liberty of pointing out to the Argus what I conceive to be erroneous views entertained by him on some of the particular parts of the Tug Line question.

The Argus says, "The Tug Line was intended, we believe, to assist in passing the vessels navigating the Lakes through the Canals on the St. Lawrence between Prescott and Montreal, rather than to afford general aid along the whole length of the River, or any other part of it." This certainly could not have been the case, because it is well known the first contract for the maintenance of this Line was executed so as to embrace the distance from Prescott to Kingston, thereby leaving Kingston as the terminus upwards. As to the satisfaction the Line has given, let the Argus and all others having many customers to deal with, look at home and there see how difficult, if not impossible it is, to please all.

But my good friend, Mr. Argus, let you and I be good natured and candid over this discussion, and call to mind the days of old, when the Forwarding trade was a monopoly in the hands of a few large houses; and when the merchant had to pay 3s. 9d. per cent freight, from Montreal to Kingston. This was not a monopoly established by the artificial or statute law of man, but a law of nature; the natural difficulties were such as could not be surmounted by the industrious man of small capital, but was left in the hands of such as could maintain independent Tug Lines of their own.

The Tug Line was put on by the Government to promote competition, to enable the owner of one barge or schooner to pass upwards or downwards all the natural obstacles between Kingston and Montreal, on payment of moderate charges for towing.

Now my friend of the Argus, if the Tug Line shall continue to end at Prescott, and you should own a few barges in Kingston that you have in the forwarding trade, would it not be your interest the Tug Line should take them in tow both up and down? - or if you owned schooners on the lake, and found by practical experience that it was a saving for you to pay for towing them between Prescott and Kingston, rather than to have them to depend to their sails, would you not say it was your interest, the interest of others similarly situated, and even the interest of the Province, that the facility of towing could be procured; and the more especially until by experience we, as a people, shall have had time to determine on the best means of making our great natural channel of Forwarding and Trade complete in cheapness and despatch, with our very active and enterprising neighbors?


Sept. 10th, 1850.

Kingston Imports.

Sept. 9th - Schr. Duke, Darlington, 617 bbls. flour, H. & S. Jones.

Schr. California, Sandusky, 10,000 bush. wheat, and lot lumber, Macpherson & Crane.

Schr. Iona, Quebec, 940 bars railway iron, Macpherson & Crane.

Barge Carolina, Quebec, 1200 bars railway iron, Macpherson & Crane.

Barge Cleveland, Quebec, 1100 bars railway iron, Macpherson & Crane.

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Sept. 11, 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), Sept. 11, 1850