The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), Dec. 27, 1834

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p.3 The declaration of Capt. Burns of the schooner Lord Wellington, relative to the proceedings of the good people of Port Hope, in their crusade against Capt. Harper, was published last week. The statement of John Brown, 2nd mate of the St. George, and the letter of Capt. H. himself, are subjoined. They speak for themselves. What will Port Hope do next.?

I, John Brown, late 2nd mate of the steam-boat St. George, and now of the schooner Wellington, hereby declare:

That on Tuesday, the 9th Dec. I was on board the schooner Wellington, then lying between the piers at Port Hope, when Messrs. J. Brown, Crawford, two Messrs. Smith and others, whose names and persons I do not know, came on board. Mr. J. Brown came up to me, and in a very condescending and familiar manner, shook hands and asked me how I did. After I had returned the compliment, he asked me to go with him and the other gentlemen and see the water sounded; I refused, whereupon he went to Capt. Burns, the master of the schooner, and asked permission, which being given, I took the lead line, and was stepping into the boat, when I was stopped by one of the gentlemen, saying, they had a pole of their own. Capt. Burns then accompanied the gentlemen and myself, and we left the schooner and went towards the west Pier; on the way one of the persons in company abused me in a most shameful manner; I told him to leave off, or I should quit, and he was stopped by the remonstrances of the others. One of the Messrs. Smith then said, I had done the town a great injury, by what I had stated in my evidence before the proprietors of the St. George in Kingston. I went with the party and saw the water sounded with the pole, and found the depth to be greater than that which I had found it to be, when I sounded at the desire of Capt. Harper on the 16th November. This I attribute to the late general rising of the lake, and to the late general prevalence of south westerly winds; the northern shore of the lake having more or less depth of water according to the state of the wind. To the best of my knowledge and belief, at the time I did sound for Capt. Harper, there were only six feet and a half water, at the very place at which I now found nearly eight feet.

On our return, some of the gentlemen declared, that it was high time to take a glass of grog together, and consequently we all went to a neighbouring tavern. Some of the company went into a room by themselves, while the rest of us partook of refreshments in another. After some delay, they returned with a paper written on both sides, which they read over to me, and asked me to swear to. I objected, saying I was unwilling to make oath. Messrs. Brown and Smith replied, that I need not fear offending Capt. Harper, or Mr. D.J. Smith of Kingston, for I might be master of a schooner out of Port Hope yet. I rejoined, that I did not care more about the St. George or Capt. Harper, than I did about them, for I was as able to gain my living in one port as in another. Not finding I was willing to swear, Mr. J. Brown said, "You know that I am a Magistrate, and if you refuse to make affidavit, I can put you into confinement." I told him, that were he to put me into confinement for three years, he could not make me swear to any thing I disliked. I then left the house, and on my way on board, I was followed and stopped, and my jacket torn by a man who said he did so by order of Mr. J. Brown. He held me until Mr. J. Brown and the others came up; they again asked me to swear to the document, and on my again refusing, they asked me to sign my name. This I refused, whereupon one of the Messrs. Smith said, he would do it for me. I then turned away, and went on board.

I moreover take this opportunity of saying, that the expressions attributed to me in a paper signed by Messrs. Brown, Smith and others, in the Port Hope Warder of the 16th instant, were not said by me, and that they are false and malicious.


Kingston, Dec. 22nd, 1834.

To the Editor of the British Whig.

Sir, - It was my intention to have replied at some length to the statements made in the Port Hope paper, which I saw on Saturday last, but having since seen the declaration of Capt. Burns and also of Mr. John Brown, I consider it quite unnecessary further than to remark, that if those declarations are correct, it is impossible for me or any individual to wage a satisfactory warfare, when such means and such weapons are used against him as those declarations unveil.

I have no wish Sir, that any part of my case should rest upon equivocation or error. If therefore my second mate in taking the soundings as I directed him, made a mistake, I regret it; but I could act no otherwise than I did, supported as his report was by the statement of 9 feet water contained in a letter to Mr. D.J. Smith, and also by the conclusive fact of the St. George having been aground at the Pier on the previous trips, and her having struck the ground on backing out with much less sea on.

The waters of the Lake are much influenced by the winds, and before the day in question there had been 3 or 4 days of strong northerly gales, which might cause the water on the north shore to be lower than usual. This seems probable, as Brown informs me that the water at Port Hope is now considerably higher than it was when he sounded according to my orders. I am informed by several masters of schooners, who from longer acquaintance with the lake have more knowledge of those peculiarities, that such ebb and flow (if it may be so termed) is by no means uncommon, the mud and sand may also have been partly washed away from the pier, which is a frequent case.

But whether Brown was right or wrong is not the question, although that seems to have been eagerly seized upon at Port Hope to the exclusion of every other part of the evidence. This is adroit - I am sorry that I cannot say it is fair.

I was charged with aiming a deadly blow at the interests of Port Hope by persuading the Captain of a schooner not to go there; this charge was rebutted, and completely disproved by the evidence, (not of Mr. Brown as the Port Hope paper says,) but of Mr. Kirkpatrick, a gentleman whose high sense of honor and integrity is too well known to admit of panegyric from me, yet in spite of this, a similar charge is again brought forward relating to another vessel with the Captain's name put to it; that charge is as false and groundless as calumny can make it; and how Capt. Burns treats it, you Sir have seen.

I shall not continue the subject further than again to declare, that I never entertained one sentiment hostile to the interests of Port Hope, and that every act of mine in relation to that town was performed solely with the view to the safety of the ship and great property entrusted to my care.

I consider that I have been most cruelly and harshley treated by the gentlemen of Port Hope, but strong in the conviction of my own integrity of purpose, I can afford to take leave of the subject without fear, and without self reproach.

I am, Sir,

Your obed't servant,


Kingston, Dec. 22nd, 1834.

*Extract of a letter addressed to D.J. Smith, Esq., by Capt. Kingsmill, dated Port Hope, Nov. 10th, 1834. "I took the trouble of getting the water near the west pier plumbed, and there were 9 feet, weather moderate."

Sale of the United Kingdom.

The Subscriber wishing to retire from business, now offers for sale the best Sea Boat on Lake Ontario, - all her tackle and furniture, with a complete and excellent set of new sails. This Boat is 380 tons burthen, and will carry about 1200 barrels of Flour. She is the only sea boat that has run from Niagara to Prescott, which has not been attacked with the fever called "shaft breaking," so prevalent on this Lake for these two years past; and notwithstanding all the opposition of interested parties, the Subscriber is prepared to show, to those wishing to purchase, that she has made money this present year.

N.B. Should the said Steam Boat United Kingdom not be disposed of before the 2nd day of February by private contract, she will on that day be put up to Auction and knocked down to the highest bidder at Niagara, without reserve.


Niagara, 20th December, 1834.

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Dec. 27, 1834
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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), Dec. 27, 1834