p.2 The Admiralty Court Meeting (cont'd) - Captain Patterson read extracts from Lee's Shipping Laws, showing that in Scotland a vessel might be seized for a debt under 50 pounds, and that there was a limit from the time of incurring the debt to the time of seizure.
Captain Taylor was asked to give his opinion as to the necessity of an Admiralty Court, and said he had always thought with Captain Gaskin that articles were necessary. He instanced the conduct of a crew of his at Toledo, where they came aft and said there were higher wages there, and that they must have the wages of the port, which were $1.50 per day. But the men could not get off the vessel in time, as there was a steam tug ready to tow them out of Toledo, and the mate and himself passed the line to the steam-tug, and the vessel was towed out before the men could pack up to get their things ashore. If, said Captain Taylor, these men had once set their foot ashore, they could have set their agreement aside, and set him at defiance. If we had a Court of Admiralty as well as a system of articles, the thing would be done through the Custom House, and a vessel could not have a clearance until everything was made right.
Captain Gaskin said it was not necessary to have the articles go through the Custom House. There might be a shipping master appointed here, who would attend to it. He also suggested that some hospital fee might be exacted from sailors as in England, as he thought it hardly fair that sailors should be a burden to the General Hospitals.
Mr. John Carruthers asked Captain Taylor what would be the effect if sailors who had signed articles went ashore at Oswego?
Captain Taylor replied, that under the American laws the sailors would be held to fulfil their agreement.
Mr. Carruthers said it was the seamen's own fault if they neglected to take up their wages once a month. After that they became common creditors.
Mr. James S. McCuaig called attention to the ruling of Mr. Justice Smith, who held that a vessel was liable, no matter how many times she had been sold and resold, unless at Sheriff's sale.
Mr. Campbell and the Chairman both said that this was a special law of Lower Canada, and was not law here.
Mr. McCuaig said the law in Lower Canada had been made with a view to encourage the building of vessels in preference to the sale of vessels from hand to hand. He said, if we had a law in Upper Canada which would put a limit on the time for which seamen should trust the owner of a vessel, it would be well.
The Chairman thought it would be just if the seamen had a claim upon the vessel so long as she was the property of the owner who hired the seamen.
Mr. McCuaig thought it would be well if seamen should have a lien upon the vessel when they had signed articles. At present there was no difficulty to obtain articles, but it was difficult to get men to sign them. He explained a case of a person advancing money on a vessel in Chicago, and said he thought there should be some remedy against seizure of a vessel on account of the owner where it proved a detention to the consignee or owner of the freight. He said the Admiralty Court at Quebec was a very expensive Court, and he thought it would be well if we could have a Board of Commissioners who would co-operate with the Common Law Courts, and by a simple and cheap process remedy the evils which now occurred.
Mr. Campbell suggested the appointment of a committee of practical men who would draw up a report, and lay it before the Attorney General West.
Dr. James Henderson said that under the Masters' and Servants' Act, a sailor could claim his wages from his master, but the amount was limited to $40, and the master had 20 days to pay it in, so that the vessel might go away again before the man's claim was settled. He thought that in case of collision between an American and a Canadian vessel, it was very right that there should be some claim against the vessel itself, and he thought that if an Admiralty Court was established or the common law extended, redress could be had at our own door.
Captain Walker, late of Chicago, but now of Montreal, was called upon to speak. He said he had long felt it was a great injury that we had no Admiralty Court in Canada. There were a great many matters that did not come under common law, such as bottomry, for instance; but he spoke with a good deal of diffidence on this point. However, if a vessel were to procure a bottomry bond at Chicago, it would not be such as would satisfy a Canadian Court. Such a bottomry bond would satisfy an English Court, because the English had done all they could to encourage foreign commerce. The English law was that the last bottomry bond was the best and most valid. He illustrated the difficulties under which he had labored as a consignee at Chicago, particularly the seizures to which vessels were subject. These seizures, he said, which were so much a matter of complaint, were not committed at the instance of the Admiralty Court, but by the police magistrates and civil courts.
Mr. B.M. Britton observed that the discussion had so far been chiefly conversational, and taken up with details which could be compiled by a committee. He therefore moved -
"That a committee of the Mayor, Captains Gaskin, Adams, Taylor, William Bowen, and Mr. McCuaig, and Captain Patterson, be requested to prepare a statement setting forth in detail the grievances and inconveniences which the shipping trade now suffer, and suggesting appropriate remedies, and report to an adjourned meeting to be held this day week."
This was seconded by Mr. Carruthers, and on being put to the meeting, was carried unanimously.
The meeting then adjourned, after passing a vote of thanks to the Chairman.
p.3 Imports - 9.