The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), Feb. 5, 1842

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Defences On Lake Ontario.

Remarks of Mr. T.C. Crittenden, in the House of Representatives, in relation to the defenseless condition of our northern frontier. [American Paper]

Mr. Crittenden, of New York, when presenting (on Thursday,) the proceedings of a meeting of citizens of Sackett's Harbor, together with various memorials of citizens of the counties of the counties of Jefferson and Oswego, setting forth the defenceless and unprotected condition of Sackett's Harbor, and asking an appropriation at the present session of Congress for the defence of that important military and naval station, remarked that he begged leave, for the information of the House, to state some of the prominent facts set forth in the papers which he was about to present, the most of which were within his personal knowledge.

The memorialists state that Sackett's Harbor is the only natural harbor accessible at all times during the season of navigation upon Lake Ontario. During the last war with Great Britain, it was decidedly the most important military and naval depot upon our northern frontier. It is situated upon the eastern extremity of Lake Ontario, and directly opposite to Kingston, the present seat of Government of the Canadas, and one of the most strongly fortified towns in the British dominions, where a large military force is constantly maintained; and, in the event of hostilities between the two nations, Sackett's Harbor would be exposed to fall into the hands of the enemy in less than 12 hours from the time that information of a collision should reach Kingston. Sackett's Harbor is now occupied as a military station, and we have a large amount of valuable public property there, including barracks, an hospital, and a large vessel of war in an unfinished state, which would most inevitably fall a prey to the enemy in case of an invasion. In time of the last war, it was the principal military and naval station on Lake Ontario. Twice was it attacked by the enemy and successfully defended with the aid of the militia, when it had only a temporary fortification for its protection. It is now wholly destitute of any fortification whatever, and in an unprotected and defenceless condition.

Besides its importance in a national point of view, it is the principal port for the exports and imports of the county of Jefferson, embracing a population of more than sixty thousand souls; a territory larger than some of the States of this Union; and a soil inferior to no other in the State of New York. The amount of exports through that port, composed of the agricultural, mechanical, and manufacturing productions of the enterprising, industrious and wealthy inhabitants of that district which I have the honor to represent on this floor, have exceeded two millions of dollars in a single year.

In the case of a collision between the two governments, the inhabitants of that enterprising village and district would have much less to fear from the incursions and ravages of the enemy, should it be wholly abandoned as a military station, and left without any public property, than in its present deplorable condition. The petitioners have, therefore, a right to demand from this government, either an abandonment of that station for military purposes, or such an appropriation as will furnish security and protection from an invading foe. If that harbor and district of country are not to receive the protection of this Government, but are to be abandoned to the mercy of the enemy in case of a war, it is of the first importance to my immediate constituents to know it and the sooner they know it the better.

I regret to be obliged to state that no recommendation has been made to this Congress by any officer of this Government for any measures for the security and protection of that important station; yet I hope and trust that an appropriation will not be withheld by this body, and I ask a reference to the papers which I present to the Committee on Military Affairs, with the instructions which I send to the clerk to be read.

The arrangements entered into between the Honourable John Hamilton and Donald Bethune, Esquire, for the navigation of Lake Ontario and the River St. Lawrence, during the ensuing season, are stated to be, that Mr. Bethune is to furnish the daily line of Mail steamers on the lake, and Mr. Hamilton the line on the river, from Kingston to Dickenson's Landing. Further, Mr. Hamilton's new boat the Canada, will ply on Lake St. Francis, and it is proposed to place the Highlander, favourably known on that lake, on the route between Montreal and Quebec.

Great improvements have been effected within the last few years, in the arrangements for travelling and for transport, on the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario; and splendid as the line of Royal Mail Packets on the lake is admitted to be, still greater improvements may be looked forward to under the enterprizing and spirited management of Mr. Bethune.

Mr. Bethune has lately launched from the Niagara Dock, a new Steamer called the America, which we understand is to form one of a daily line, to be established between Toronto and Rochester. This will be of vast advantage to Toronto, and we sincerely trust the traffic on the route will be sufficient to reward liberally, Mr. Bethune for his exertions. From this arrangement, Rochester will derive essential benefit. With a line of railroad completed to Albany and another to Boston, and a daily steam communication with Toronto, it will become the thoroughfare for travellers, and the most easy and expeditious route for transporting merchandize, the greater proportion of which having heretofore been forwarded by Oswego.

But every year's experience proves that, in proportion to the increase of exports and imports, the means for transport is enlarged; and it is probable, from the preparations that are now going on, we shall witness next season, not only an increase in the means of conveyance on the lake and river, but a material change affected in the system. It is expected that the barges building by Mr. Burnett of Quebec, will be ready at the opening of the navigation, and the object is, to convey goods from Quebec to Kingston, and probably to Toronto, without breaking bulk. One of the anticipated advantages from this is, that the barges can load from and alongside of the British ships, and proceed at once with their cargoes up the river, to whatever port they may be consigned. Further, we have lately seen it advertized that the two Ericson schooners, building at Port Stanley, on Lake Erie, by Mr. Woodward, of St. Thomas, and another gentleman, whose name at present we forget, will be ready for sea at the opening of the navigation. It is contemplated by these gentlemen to transport produce from Lake Erie to Montreal, without breaking bulk, and to return with cargoes of merchandize. Should they succeed, it will prove of very great benefit to the extensive and fertile country depending upon Lake Erie for the means of transport; and we should soon probably witness a considerable fleet of Ericson schooners, from the Upper Lake, making stated visits to our different harbours on Lake Ontario, and along the St. Lawrence.

What a pity it is that in Toronto, - possessing as it does the finest harbour on Lake Ontario, sustained by an extensive and fertile country, and possessing every facility to encourage, sustain, and even to invite enterprizing individuals, to embark in the business of ship-building, - there should as yet have been no effort of the sort made. The formation of a company to erect a Marine Railway here, has often been talked of, but it does not appear that any plan has ever been arranged to follow out the suggestion. [Toronto Colonist]

We learn with much pleasure that Messrs. Sanderson & Murray intend placing a Steamboat on the route between Kingston and Napanee, on the opening of the navigation. This arrangement will be of immense advantage to that flourishing village, and the rich agricultural country around it; and we hope Messrs. Sanderson & Murray will be liberally patronized for their laudable enterprize.

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Feb. 5, 1842
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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), Feb. 5, 1842