The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), Jan. 13, 1847

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A very important meeting, as effecting the commercial interests of the Province, was held at Toronto on the 28th ultimo, "for the purpose of establishing a line of Freight Propellers between Toronto and Oswego." The necessity of building a different class of vessels for the navigation of the St. Lawrence has frequently been urged in the columns of this paper, and we are glad to find that steps are now being taken to effect it. At the meeting in question, after Mr. Ridout had been called to the chair, and the objects contemplated explained, a gentleman named Taylor was introduced, who submitted a proposal for building a propeller of certain dimensions for the Oswego trade, the building of which he offered to superintend, and also to take stock in her. The cost of the vessel he estimated at 5,000 pounds. In answer to questions, Capt. Taylor stated that a vessel of the description he proposed would go through the canal - that the tonnage would be about 250 tons - that she would carry about 2800 barrels, and be as fit to encounter storms as a regular steamer. He imagined that about 8 miles an hour would be the speed obtained.

Mr. Ridout - What is your opinion as to the fitness of such a vessel for the Montreal trade?

Captain Taylor - I think she could be admirably suited for it. She could carry 2500 barrels, and draw 6 feet 6.

Mr. Ridout - What rate of freight would she pay at?

Captain Taylor - I have not entered into any calculation as to Montreal; but I estimated that at 7d. per barrel of flour to Kingston, - two trips a week - her gross receipts would be 175 pounds per week.

Mr. Brunskill - That is too much - you must be content with 5 d.

Captain Taylor further estimated the monthly expenses of such a vessel at 200 pounds, and calculated at three trips per month.

These enquiries having been satisfied, Mr. Whittemore moved the first resolution. In doing so, he stated he had taken some pains to ascertain the amount of freight received at the Port of Toronto from Oswego, during the season of navigation that had just closed; and, from the result of his enquiries, he had no hesitation in asserting that propellers on that route would pay. The amount of tonnage was as follows: About 2340 tons merchandize, 1586 tons coal, 13,000 barrels salt, and 1000 barrels plaster. The freight on the above, at a reasonable rate, would be sufficient to pay the expenses of a propeller, and leave a handsome surplus - not taking into consideration the amount that would be received from passengers, and also on way-freight; that is, freight from this port to Windsor Harbour, Bond Head, Port Hope, Cobourg, etc. But in case there should not be business sufficient to engage one or more propellers during the season on that route, they could find plenty of employment for their craft by taking in produce say for Montreal and Quebec, and if they built vessels they ought to be adapted to the trade of the whole Province, and not to one particular section.

Mr. Bunskill said that any vessel built for the Oswego trade should be constructed with an ultimate view to her plying between Toronto and Quebec. He had no doubt that the forwarding trade by the St. Lawrence would ere long receive a great impulse - and the recent change in the sugar duties at home, he thought, would immediately divert a large portion of the Oswego trade by Montreal. He felt quite sure that if a proper class of vessels were placed on the Canadian Lakes and the St. Lawrence, that we could safely compete with the Erie Canal, not only in forwarding of our own merchandize, but as the carriers of the vast commerce of the Western States. The freight charges had heretofore been a monstrous grievance - but it could easily be shown that a proper class of vessels could do the business more efficiently at greater reduced rates, and yet yield a profitable return. If our Government would but take all duties off the larger articles of freight - commodities of which the freight charges constitute a large part of the value - such as pig-iron, earthenware, etc., he was convinced we could supply all the Western States with such articles, and create a vast forwarding business. Supposing a vessel such as Captian Taylor proposes, costing 5000 pounds, to be placed on the route between Toronto and Quebec, let us look at her probable returns. She would at any rate make two trips per month, and her down freight would be for both, 5000 barrels we shall say at 1s. 6d. per barrel (and at that rate I am authorized to say that one house in town will guarantee us 15,000 barrels per annum, and take 500 pounds stock) giving 375 pounds per month; and from the great facilities which an association of merchants would afford her, no difficulty could be had in insuring a large amount of back freight at 1s. per cwt. which would yield 300 pounds per month. Her gross receipts would thus be 650 pounds per month, which with 8 months' season, (A voice - You can only calculate on seven.) Well possibly so, but his estimation was made on eight, which would give a gross annual income of 5,200 pounds. Let us say in round numbers 5,000 pounds; ten per cent for wear and tear, 1,000 pounds per annum; expenses for the season 1,600 pounds - and canal dues 400 pounds, and we will still have remaining a clear margin of 2,000 pounds. Ten vessels of this class would cost 50,000 pounds, and the expenses of an establishment divided among them, would be 250 pounds for each propeller - still leaving a net profit on each of 1,750 pounds per annum. He thought that with such a favourable prospect before them, the Montreal trade should not be lost sight of, and as regarded the Oswego trade, it was doubtful in his mind whether it would not be better to place a steamer on that route. The Transit could be purchased at a low price, and her expenses would not exceed 12 pounds 10s. per day.

Mr. George Brown (of the Globe newspaper,) expressed his surprise that the merchants of Upper Canada had submitted so long to the exactions which were levied from them by grasping monopolists, or by an inefficient or expensive system of doing business; and he gladly welcomed the present meeting as the harbinger of a better state of things. He regretted, however, to observe the very limited scale of their present scheme; when he saw around him so many gentlemen who could readily establish such a line as that to Oswego, on their own responsibility - he felt that the aim of the meeting ought to be much higher and more extensive. How the merchants of Upper Canada can be content to allow the present system to continue, when they could so readily protect themselves - how they could pay 1s. 6d. per barrel for forwarding flour from Kingston to Montreal (the proposed scale for 1847,) when, by the clear statement of Mr. Brunskill, they could carry it themselves from Hamilton to Quebec for the same sum, and derive a profit from the trade - he could not imagine. It was quite clear that the rapid approach of Free Trade warned us to prepare for the future. The value of our great staples must come down, and unless the charges of transport are brought to the lowest point, and vigorous and united efforts are made to conduct the business of the country on the most efficient and profitable manner, we will be but ill prepared to meet the emergency. He thought there was but one course open to the meeting - to resolve to establish a broad joint-stock company for placing the forwarding trade of the Canadian waters on the most efficient and economical scale, and to call on their brother merchants in the other cities and towns to unite with them in the effort. Mr. Brown referred to the injury done to the country by the exorbitant steam boat fares, which shackled business, confined knowledge, and were felt as a grievous burthen by the whole of the community. He trusted that the present movement would be extended to the passenger traffic - that it would be considered as a national effort, and that all classes would come cordially forward to sustain it.

These opinions were responded to by Mr. Sheriff Jarvis.

Similar opinions were expressed by other gentlemen, and the meeting broke up with an unanimity of feeling which, if preserved in, must lead to a satisfactory conclusion, and give a new impetus to the trade of the country.

p.3 Capt. Kirk, of the schooner Caledonia was unfortunately drowned yesterday, by falling through the ice. We have received a copy of the Coroner's Inquest which came too late for insertion today, but shall be inserted in our next. Capt. Kirk was a man greatly respected.

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Jan. 13, 1847
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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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Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), Jan. 13, 1847