The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Dec. 10, 1866

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p.2 Damage to a Wood Barge - A barge loaded with wood was coming down the Bay of Quinte to this city last night when a squall struck her, tearing away her mast and bowsprit. She floated down into the harbor, and the crew managed to anchor her not far from "the cottages" at Point Frederick, where she rode out the squall. The barge belongs to Jordan and Cott ?, and was towed into port this afternoon without any loss of cargo.

-(editorial) It is well known that a large trade in the freightage of grain has been carried on by Canadian shipping for years past between Chicago and the lower lake and river ports. Chicago and Milwaukee have been the headquarters of resort for Canadian vessels seeking downward freights; and, up to the season of navigation just closing, our vessels have been very successful in competing for the business that offered. Gradually,however, with the maintenance of high protectionist doctrines in regard to manufactures, restrictions have been put upon Canadian shipping by Congress, until it has become exceedingly difficult, nay, almost impossible, for Canadian vessels to get any share of the American trade. Canadian vessels are forbidden to coast between American ports; and as regards coasting, an interpretation has been put upon it which even restrains Canadian vessels from conveying grain from Chicago to Port Colborne in Canada, whence it can be conveyed by railway to Port Dalhousie, and again shipped for Oswego or Ogdensburgh, or other ports in the United States. These rigid laws against coasting and the admittance of Canadian vessels to a share in the American grain trade, would not be of such material consequence were it not that this year there has been little doing in the exportation of grain from the St. Lawrence. The Montreal merchants have been exceedingly cautious in their purchases for exportation. There has consequently been little employment for the Canadian fleet on Montreal account, and the American business has been hampered by severe restrictions that amount virtually to a prohibition.

The design of the American shipping laws and trade regulations as regards the commerce of the lakes, appears to be to encourage, not simply the transference of Canadian property to American ownership, but more to induce Canadians to go over to the United States, become naturalized citizens, and take their property with them. The tendency of the American law is to rob Canada of the capital invested here in shipping, and of the enterprise in Canada which is directed to the commerce of the lakes.

Several things contribute to induce (under present circumstances) the transfer of Canadian shipping to the American marine by the migration and naturalization of shipping owners. First, a simple transfer of a Canadian vessel to an American owner only secures partial privileges; to share the trade and earn the profits of the American fleet, the Canadian owner must become an American, and so entitle his vessel to an American register. Second, the great scarcity of return freights from Canadian ports to the western cities, and the prohibition of coasting deprives the Canadian vessel of this opportunity of making money. In the third place, Canadian owners have to do battle with American speculators and corrupt "rings," and they find the custom house officers bribed, it may be, to exert the utmost vigilance over Canadian vessels, and ready to seize them on the slightest and most vexatious pretext that can be construed as a violation of their restrictive laws.

The disadvantages under which Canadian lake shipping accustomed to do business with the western ports has laid, have been very oppressive and injurious this year. Canadian vessels have been lying idle at the wharves in Chicago unable to secure freights, while American ships have come into the port laden with up freights and have gone out in quick succession with full downward cargoes. A tantalizing spectacle has thus been presented to the owners of Canadian shipping; and it has become a serious question with many owners whether they should not for the sake of a livelihood desert the country claiming their allegiance and try to get rich under the stars and stripes. Unless something is done to better the position of Canadian shipping the distasteful resolve will probably be taken before next spring by many Canadian owners.

What is it that the Canadian government should do? Retaliation has been advised. Impose heavy differential canal tolls. Set up vexatious regulations to apply to American shipping doing business with Canada, and compel American vessels passing through Canadian waters in their course from Lake Huron to Lake Erie to enter a British port and pay tonnage duty. Do towards the Yankees as the Yankees are doing towards us, say these advocates, and we shall speedily bring them to their senses. It would be a violation of our trade principles to do so; but there is, no doubt, very much force in the idea that the American presume upon our continuing to give them every advantage of free trade while they greedily retain the whole of their own trade to themselves. But as to the success of measures to be taken against the Americans, the motive to promote annexation, so definitely acted upon by the American government, deserves to be considered. Acting upon this motive, they would retaliate afresh; and though perhaps we could destroy the shipping prosperity of Oswego and Ogdensburgh, we should probably find that retaliation would simply confine American trade to American vessels and leave Canadian trade to Canadian vessels, of which latter there are more than are necessary for the business. We might find matters not much mended unless we could create an impression upon the Americans that it is time for them to desist from their restrictive policy. That is a very hopeless view, however. If they find that Potter's screw punches a little, we may rather expect them to give it another turn.

Perhaps the best view to take is to look upon the circumstances of this year as exceptional. The true normal condition of the western grain trade is one of export to Europe; and as soon as exportations to Europe can be safely effected, we shall find them made from Montreal and the ports of the St. Lawrence. Our government can legitimately encourage Canadian shipping by freeing it as much as possible from artificial expenses of construction and maintenance. Cheaply built and cheaply managed boats can carry freights cheaply; and we could successfully pit the St. Lawrence against the Hudson and Erie Canal.

But it is a difficult matter to deal with, and there is little or no room to dogmatize about it. It is one worthy of public and governmental attention, and ought to be solved in some advisable way before the commencement of next season's navigation. Kingston itself, in common with other lake ports in Canada, has serious local interests at stake.

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Dec. 10, 1866
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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. 10, 1866