Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Chronicle & Gazette (Kingston, ON), May 7, 1842
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In the year 1837, an Act was passed by the Provincial Parliament of Upper Canada, entitled "An Act to compel vessels to carry a light during the night, and to make sundry provisions to regulate the navigation of the waters of this Province." Some of the Provisions of this Statute appear to be greatly overlooked. The first section provides that all Steamboats, Schooners, Vessels and Rafts that shall be navigated upon the Lakes and Rivers of this Province, and the British Channel of the St. Lawrence, between the Port of Kingston and the eastern boundary of the Province, shall have affixed, and the person and persons commanding or having charge of the same, are required to affix one or more lights on the bow, or some conspicuous place of such Steam Boat, Schooner or other vessel, during every night that such vessel shall be navigating the said Lakes, Rivers and Channel, or either of them. The night to be construed to extend from one hour after sunset, to one hour before sunrise at all seasons of the year.

The Third Section provides that all Steamboats or other vessels carrying passengers, shall be provided with a good and sufficient Gang Board or Gang Boards with substantial Hand Rails, and that the master thereof shall, on stopping at any wharf or landing place, cause the same to be firmly secured to the said vessel and wharf, or landing place, for the safe and convenient transit of passengers; And shall cause to be affixed to the gang ways (in the night time) good and sufficient lights; And the owners or occupiers of every such wharf or landing place, shall also (in the night time) cause to be shown conspicuously, on such wharf or landing place, and at every angle or turn thereof, a good and sufficient light.

The following Clauses of the Act are so important that we give them in full:-

IV - And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, That all Vessels navigating as aforesaid, shall be bound to take the Starboard or Right Hand side of every Channel in proceeding up or down the said Lakes, Rivers or Channel, or any or either of them, so as to enable all Vessels meeting each other to pass in safety; And when any two vessels are trying to windward, and there may be a doubt which Vessel should pass to windward, the Vessel being on the starboard tack shall keep her wind, and the Vessel on the larboard tack shall bear up or go to leeward.

V - And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that whenever any Steam Boat, Schooner or other Vessel, or any Raft, as aforesaid, shall be going in the same direction with another Steam Boat, Schooner, or other vessel, or with any Raft or Rafts ahead of it, it shall not be lawful to navigate the first mentioned Boat, Schooner, Vessel or Raft, so as to approach or pass the other Boat, Vessel or Raft, so bearing ahead, within the distance of 20 yards; and it shall not be lawful so to navigate the Boat, Schooner or Raft, so being ahead, as unnecessarily to bring it within 20 yards of the Steam Boat, Schooner, Vessel or Raft following.

VI - And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid; That all Steam Boats, Schooners, Vessels or Rafts, which shall be at anchor in the night time, the Master or person having charge of every such Boat, Schooner, Vessel or Raft, shall cause a good and sufficient Light to be shewn in some part of her Rigging, or in some other conspicuous place of the said Boat, Schooner, Vessel, or Raft, lying at anchor as aforesaid.

VII - And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That any person commanding or having charge of any Steam Boat, Schooner, or other Vessel navigating the said Lakes, Rivers or Channel, or any or either of them, offending against the provisions of this Act, shall be liable to a penalty of £5, to be recovered upon Conviction of such offence, upon the oath of one credible Witness, before any two of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace; and on default of payment of such Penalty, together with the costs and charges of said incident to Conviction, it shall and may be lawful for the said Justice or Justices, to commit such person or persons, to the Gaol of the County or District wherein such Conviction shall be made as aforesaid, for any period not exceeding Thirty days, as the said Justices in their descretion shall direct.

VIII - And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid; That the Owner or Owners of all Steam Boats, Schooners, and other Vessels, the persons commanding or in charge of which shall neglect to comply with the provisions of this Act, shall be liable for all damages to be sustained by any person or persons, from any accident arising from the non-compliance with, or during such time as the provisions of this Act shall not be complied with, such damages to be recoverable by trial at law, before His Majesty's Court of King's Bench of this Province.


The case of Ham vs. Macpherson & Crane, lately tried at the Spring Assizes for the Newcastle District, before His Honor Mr. Justice Macaulay, we find reported in the Cobourg Star as follows:

On the civil side the great object of interest was a case between Mr.Ham and Messrs. McPherson and Crane, the well known forwarders, and which case had been tried at our last Assizes when a verdict for £805 was given for Plaintiff, but being argued in Banco a new trial was had, it was tried on Friday and the following is a report:-

Ham vs. Macpherson & Crane.

This was a special jury case, to try which the following jury were sworn - Robert Waddell, John Parker, E. Barnum, P. Gross, F.B. Spillsbury, D.G. Hubbell, James Sculthorp, D. Brand and N. Mallory.

There were two counts, the first charging the Defendants with a liability as carriers between Kingston and Montreal, the second with a liability between Cobourg and Montreal, damages laid at £2,000. Mr. Boulton, with whom were, Mr. Boswell, Q.C., and Mr. Smith, opened the case, he stated that he did not think any difference on points of law would exist as the question had already been so fully argued, the only question would be as to matters of fact, he explained the liability of common carriers for all damages except those caused by the act of God or the Queen's enemies, he had heard the plea set up was that they (the defts.) had received the goods not as carriers but as warehousemen, in which case they would not be liable, but it would be plain that such was not the case, they never charged storage and their stores were only for the purpose of keeping produce forwarded to them from different ports to be sent on to Montreal; he maintained that they assumed the liability at Cobourg having expressly ordered a schooner to take Mr. Ham's produce.

H. Bennett, was captain of the schooner Commerce, knew the defendants who were forwarders at Kingston, the Commerce was owned by Mr. John McDonell, witness was never in the employ of defts., he was in the habit of freighting for them as for every forwarder in Kingston, and several other persons, in the spring of 1840 he was ordered to take a load of stone from Kingston to Cobourg and then proceed to Port Credit, where he was to get a load of staves for Mr. Counter, Mr. Kittson stopped him at Cobourg and told him to take in the flour, Mr. Counter had directed him to go for staves, does not know what control defendants had over the vessel, spoke to Macpherson who told him that they did not want any more produce as their stores were too full and that he had better get a load of lumber, stopped at Cobourg in place of going to Port Credit by order of Mr. Kittson, would have taken a load for anyone under the same circumstances, had much rather have a rolling load than lumber, received 400 bbls. Defendants' wharf whom he knew to be forwarders, no objection made to land them, had but one bill of lading which he signed as master of the vessel, and which he delivered in to Defendants' office, he left the flour and whiskey on the wharf, does not know where it was stored. Defendants' office was on the wharf, the property was consigned to McPherson & Crane, Kingston, to be forwarded to Montreal, but to whom there witness does not recollect; the bill stated it to be the property of G. Ham, defendants paid freight to Mr. McDonell.

(The notice to produce bill of freight admitted.)

Cross-examined by Mr. Sherwood - The bill was signed by witness at Kingston, Mr. Counter gave me no order for staves, but said I would get them, altered my voyage by order of the Harbour Master at Cobourg, Mr. Counter for whom I had carried staves before was to give me $20 a thousand, should have taken a load for anyone, it is the custom among schooners to take loading wherever they can get it, unless masters had express orders, all advantage went to Mr. McDonell, took a receipt for produce which he gave to McD. It was in April he arrived at Kingston, heard of the fire four days after at Port Dalhousie, thought it was four it might have been more; there was a large quantity of produce in defendants' store all winter and thinks it was on that account Defendants did not wish for any more, the navigation of the St. Lawrence was open before he arrived, was never down the Lachine Canal, before he left Kingston he went to defendants to see about freight on his way to Credit.

Re-examined by Mr. Boulton - Knows no agreement between McPherson and McDonell, such an agreement might be without his knowledge, does not know for a fact that McP. paid McD., McD. had the earnings of the vessel, which was afterwards seized and sold for his debts, defendants might have chartered the boat, in which case they would not have paid any freight to McD.

Mr. Routh proved letter from McPherson to Kittson, dated April 6th, 1840, requesting him to direct Capt. Bennett to take in a freight of wheat for Mr. Ham, as they had directed him to go to Credit for staves for Mr. Counter, as also a letter from Alex. Ferguson, who was considered a partner of defendants, the letter was dated April 21st, 1840, and addressed to Messrs. McGill & Co. acquainting them with the destruction of property.

Neil McMullen was in charge of Defendants' barges in 1840, took a barge down from Kingston to Montreal before the fire, of which he heard (line unreadable) Lachine Canal, through which no boat had passed, it was scattered stuff which had remained over winter that he took down, one barge had gone down before his, it was at the Cedars when he passed it.

Cross-examined by Mr. Draper - Found the only boat that had gone down before him at the Cedars, McPherson had no boats in Kingston, boats must come up through the Rideau, has heard that the first boat got up to Kingston towards the latter end of May.

E. Perry is a merchant, knows the defendants, who were in 1840 forwarders on the Lake, he believes they owned schooners, defendants' practice had been to forward from Ports on Lake Ontario, but this depended on special arrangements, in the Spring of 1840, the Flour Market opened at Montreal at 33 s. 3 d. per bl., knows nothing of the price of Whiskey, has forwarded through defendants to the amount of some thousands of barrels, does not recollect any charge for storage.

Cross-examined by Mr. Draper - 27 s. 6 d. would cover charges at Kingston, the expenses to Montreal were at least 3s 6 d. per barrel, the wharfage at Cobourg was, flour 4 d. per barrel, whiskey 6 d.

J. Calcutt is a distiller, whiskey was worth 1 s. 6 d. per gallon, had sold a good deal of it at that price in Kingston in 1840, the barrels usually contained from 50 to 56 gallons, and were worth 1 s. 6 d.

By Mr. Sherwood - Witness generally sent an agent to Kingston to sell his whiskey

L. Broughall is a cooper, made casks for plaintiff, sometimes charged 8 s. 9 d. but in consequence of the large quantity made charged only 7 s. 6 d.

J.S. Smith, proved interest to be £107 14 s. 4 d.

A. McFaul, lives at Wellington, thinks that in 1840, defendants were forwarders from Kingston to Montreal, but does not know they were from the Lakes, cannot state the earliest date barges went down in 1840, some of witness's produce had been sent down before the fire.

Cross-examined by Mr. Draper - Witness had a large quantity of goods which had remained all winter in the defendants' store and which goods would have had the precedence, knows it was not the custom to bring up the barges from Montreal till the Spring, here the case of the Plaintiff closed.

Mr. Sherwood then moved for a non-suit, 1st on the ground that no evidence had been offered to shew a contract, and 2ndly that this action should have been brought in the name of the consignee.

The Court held that the objection of Mr. Sherwood was not sufficient as it applied only to cases where the property was clearly vested in the consignee, and there was sufficient evidence to go to the jury in support of the action by the consignment of the property to defendants.

Mr. Draper, in one of the best specimens of forensic eloquence we have ever heard, argued the non-liability of the defendants as common carriers, he showed how hard a judgement it would be to compel the defendants to pay so heavily for what was not their own malfeasance, that to them the effects of the fire had been ruinous, they had lost an immensity of property themselves, he besought the jury if they found themselves constrained to give a verdict for the Plaintiff not to aggravate their cruel loss by giving interest also. "I envy not the feelings of the Plaintiff," and the honorable gentleman, "which could tempt him to make a demand, neither do I envy the counsel who is directed to set forth such a claim."

Mr. Kittson was Harbor Master in 1840, acted also as wharfinger and agent, received a letter from Defendants stating that they could not receive any more produce and requested him to acquaint their customers, the latter was dated 1st of April and received in due course of mail, knew that Mr. Ham and Mr. Clark did business with defendants, does not recollect communicating the letter to Mr. Ham, thinks he did to Mr. Clark.

Mr. Boulton - The wharfage at Cobourg is 4 d. per bl. on flour, and 6 d. on whiskey, does not know that Defendants are carriers on the Lake.

Mr. Watt - A great quantity of goods were remaining in defendants' stores during the winter of 1839-40, about 3,000 bbls., none of their boats wintered in Kingston, boats from Montreal to Kingston must pass through the Lachine, the Grenville and the Rideau Canals which are usually open from the 6th to the 8th of May, defendants are forwarders of Produce generally, never forward during winter, no property nor boats had arrived at Kingston from Montreal before the fire, Mr. Ham dealt with defendants, who in 1840 were forwarders between Kingston and Montreal, and confined there to only intermediate ports, the fire happened on the 18th of April, does not recollect having seen the produce in question, defendants kept their papers in an office on Counter's wharf which was burned, recollects a letter from Pl'ff to Def'ts the letter was kept in the office, it was received before the produce and contained a request to Defendants to relieve him as his mill was breaking down, it was received some days before the fire and believes it is the letter referred to by Mr. McP. in his to Mr. Kittson, the schooner Commerce was sent in conformity to the application of Mr. Ham, the produce arrived about the 18th, does not know where the fire commenced, defendants were not in a position to forward produce nor would they for a month, is quite sure the notice referred to by Mr. Kittson was written in consequence of inability to forward.

Cross-examined by Mr. Boswell - Is book-keeper, the business generally comes under his knowledge, there are several departments of book-keeping, witness then had the "up-freight shipping part," there being then no up-freight. I attended to all things, defendants kept letter books and the younger clerks copied letters, but all the clerks did it occasionally, letters received are filed, letters were left on Mr. McP.'s table for a few days after they were received, the table was in the same room in which witness wrote, saw Plaintiff's letter on the desk, generally read the letters laying there, did so to keep a train of business, recollects most distinctly reading Mr. Ham's letter, nothing in that letter saying he would be obliged to employ other persons to forward his produce, first told contents of letter to Mr. Craig at last assizes, with the exception of two boats built at Kingston, Mr. McP. had no opportunity to send produce down, the flour was under a shed or verandah, and the whiskey was on the wharf, a great deal of property was left out as they had no storage.

C. McDonnell is in the employ of defendants, knows of some flour and whiskey having been received by schooner Commerce, found the receipt, now produced among his brother John's papers. John was sole owner of the Commerce, which he sailed for his own benefit, at the time produce arrived no forwarders were in a state to carry, the first boat up arrived in Kingston on the 27th April, and those had been frozen in on the canal on their way up, the schooner would take in a freight for any one, defendants were forwarders between Kingston and Montreal, and could not at that time have forwarded produce.

Cross-examined by Mr. Boulton - Goods were received to be forwarded, his brother would give defendants the preference, there was no agreement.

Edward Browne was in the employ of defendants, saw letters from Mr. Ham before produce came, or before any produce could have been forwarded, defendants did all they could to make it known that they were not prepared to receive produce.

Col. Pearson gave an account of the fire.

Mr. Hunter, captain of the steam boat Bytown, proved being frozen in, in the Indian Lake up to the 17th April, before which time no boat could have passed through the canal.

Mr. Boswell then addressed the Jury at great length. He argued the liability of the defendants in their capacity of common carriers, and thought it strange that if the produce was taken merely to relieve Mr. Ham's mill, that whisky should have formed part of the cargo; he contended that the defendants were much better able to bear the loss than his client.

His Honor then charged the jury that if they, the defendants, were common carriers above Kingston, and that the goods were delivered to them in that capacity at Cobourg, they were then clearly liable; he did not think the evidence warranted such a conclusion; he left it to the jury to find from the evidence whether the goods had been received under any agreement, counting the liability, and mooted the question whether the effect of climate would not lessen the liability of common carriers for goods received by them, when the effect of frost would render it impossible that they could be forwarded; to this Mr. Boulton took exception by asking, in that case when the liability would naturally and legally commence.

The jury in a short time returned a verdict for £806 13s. 4d., throwing aside the interest.



The Steamer


Capt. Sutherland,

Will leave Kingston for Niagara, Queenston and Lewiston, (direct,) every Tuesday and Friday Evening, at 6 o'clock.

And will leave Niagara for Kingston, (direct,) every Monday and Thursday, at 12 o'clock, noon.

Parcels and Baggage at the risk of the owners unless booked and paid for as freight.

Royal Mail Packet Office, Kingston, May, 1842.

Item Type
Date of Original
May 7, 1842
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Language of Item
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), May 7, 1842