The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Dec. 6, 1852

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To the Editor of the Daily News;

Sir, - Having been an attendant of a public meeting convened at Northrup's Hotel some short time since, for the purpose of taking into consideration the benefit that might accrue to the residents of the Bay by the establishment of a Company for taking stock for building one or more Steamboats; and the time having, in my estimation, arrived for taking such action as may be deemed most advisable, I address this communication to you for the purpose of advising caution. Our stock in boats from past experience having taught us this necessity, I need refer no further than to the results of the Brockville and Prince Edward, and conceiving the past to be a guide for the future, I have been induced to solicit a space in your columns, having, with other of my fellow townsmen, long considered ourselves recreant to our interests in not taking that prominent interest in the waters of our noble bay to which we feel ourselves justly entitled to share, and which the growing importance of our fast increasing county and flourishing town, on which we look forward with the pleasing and satisfactory anticipation, to say the least, that they will not be seen to disadvantage in comparison with any in Canada. But I sincerely dissent from some of the opinions expressed at the meeting just referred to, as also the union with the then proposed company, for reasons now assigned and grounded on the motives as explained by the gentleman who appeared in behalf of the proposed American stockholders. The avowed object was to connect the boats with the Rome and Cape Vincent Railway, making the convenience of time a secondary consideration so long as the interest of the road was forwarded. I at once advance, without fear of contradiction, that any such announcement would clash with the convenience of the travelling public of our bay, and the interest of the Canadian stockholder. We must not lose sight of the Sacketts Harbor road, the Oswego road and canal, the Ogdensburgh road, the Montreal trade, and the Lake and River Steamers, all of which are equally open to us.

A further objection to tying ourselves to the Rome and Cape Vincent Railroad is, that the Engines and Boilers were proposed to cost in New York £4,500, the freight say would cost £200, extras, in putting up £100, import duties £560, so that the engine alone would, in the end, cost £5,360, whereas, I have been informed that the whole cost of the building and placing in perfect working order the engines and boilers of the new steamer Bay of Quinte, whose stroke is the longest of any boat on these waters, except one, and consequently so much the more expensive, was £2,700. The steamer St. Lawrence's engines and boilers, with 9 feet stroke, 36 inch cylinder, £2,300, the hull and rails £1,650; steamer St. Helen, with 8 feet stroke, 38 inch cylinder, £1,900; and for further information, the hull of the steamer Ottawa cost £1,800. I therefore see no necessity to run heedlessly into such extremes. If memory serves me, the estimated cost of the two boats was to be £18,000, and I fearlessly assert, with such an expenditure, the Canadian stockholder who should risk a venture on "that ere Yankee ship," will "run again a snag." Having a pretty correct knowledge of the Bay, I can, with equal confidence, add that with such a sudden increase of the present floating stock, were the present rates to continue, and not the slightest opposition to be anticipated, no reasonable person for a moment could suppose such an investment would be a paying one. But we could not expect that those now occupying that line of route would be driven from it without a considerable sacrifice of what they have already made, and consequently to obtain a footing a serious loss would have to be met in the first going off, the more especially as we could not expect any assistance or support from rival Roads or boats in the interest of their routes. And we may find, to our cost, that while fighting out a hopeless opposition on one element, a more formidable opponent would have sprung up in another; and when too late to repent our folly, the rattling wheels of the iron horse as he went howling over his metal track between Kingston and Belleville at the rate of forty or fifty miles an hour would warn us that he too had thrown down the gauntlet, and defied us to the contest. Having maturely considered all the questions relative to the prospect of profit, experience gives them an unquestionable negative.

That those of our fellow residents on the Bay should have an opportunity to possess an interest in Steamboats plying on the Bay there can be no doubt, and, if I have been correctly informed, that opportunity is about to be offered, inasmuch as in a conversation with a gentleman connected with the Bay of Quinte company, he stated that they proposed building a boat to replace the Gildersleeve to be out as early as possibly next spring, to be named The Belleville, that they proposed to place at our disposal as much of the stock as we chose to take, whereby our interests will be amalgamated with theirs, and we might by such an arrangement be placed in the pleasing position of serving our travelling friends by an extended accommodation, and serve our own interests, at the same time all prospect of a foolish opposition would be avoided. But to pursue the original subject further, it is proposed by those who were trying to hook us onto Cape Vincent that we are afraid of the operation, to take just as little stock as we please, and to enable us to do so, they proposed to put the stock as low as £5 shares, so that we could not lose a very great deal after all, and our American friends will take the balance. Exclusive of the absurdity of such stock insuring the interest requisite to give to any Company an influence by dividing it into 3,600 shares, can it be supposed that an individual possessing such a small individual prospect of benefits would have even his own person or goods conveyed by these vessels in case of opposition and consequent reduction of conveyance. The probability is, he would save more in one trip at the reduced rates on the opposition boats than the dividends on his stock would amount to for a whole season; and past experience confirms my opinion, that when £ s. d. are concerned, public patronage is at the best a fickle affair, and rarely carry the public farther than interest or convenience serve. That a portion of the stock could be held by the Americans, as proposed, is quite out of the question. If what the lawyers say is correct, viz: that tho the matters at one time stood differently, the law now is, that no individual, other than a British subject, can either directly or indirectly, possess an interest in a Canadian vessel navigating our inland waters. The reasons for this are very just. Foreign vessels are prohibited from navigating our inland waters, whereby they would be coming in competition with those who support our government by contribution of taxes; then why permit the same thing in another form, namely, nominal British bottoms owned by Americans; and Canadian Stockholders in steam boats, are compelled to pay a heavy tax upon their stock in the localities where they reside; the effect of this would be that foreigners residing out of the jurisdiction of the tax, would be enabled to run their vessels in competition with ours at an advantage, they not being liable to the tax; and lastly, whilst we have every confidence in the high standing and integrity of the proposers of this American company, it is a mere matter of business in which each must look out for himself, and should it prove otherwise than paying, we might find to our utter astonishment ourselves in a similar fix to the Canadian Stockholders in the steamer London, on Lake Erie, and for the sake of man's honesty, I regret to add, that that is not the only case which can be advanced where, when American interests required, the stock has been at once transferred from Canadian stock to American, in toto, through the assistance of an American Custom House Officer; and what has occurred, I may say, not once, twice or thrice, might occur to our astonishment again; but we are told even if this should occur, the loss to us, as individuals, could not be great, as the stock is in only five pound shares; but who gets the benefit ? Then in conclusion, allow me to say I have but one object in view, that of securing what we all desire - an interest in a speedy and comfortable class of boats which will repay the outlay, accommodate the public, and hoist and keep nailed to the mast-head that glorious flag which we are proud to reside under.

Yours, etc. A Belleville Subscriber

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Dec. 6, 1852
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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 News (Kingston, ON), Dec. 6, 1852