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Ship Washington - Conditions and List of Some Passengers 1850

The following information was extracted from the British Parliamentary Papers.

Ship Washington, sailed from Liverpool to New York about the end of November, 1850. Mr. Vere Foster sailed on this ship in steerage to investigate the possibilities of sending assisted emigrants to North American. He later sent thousands of emigrants, many of them women, to both the US and Canada.

Ship "Washington,"

1 December 1850.

My dear ______,

As the weather is very beautiful to-day, and the wind and sea perfectly still, I will take advantage of so fair an opportunity of writing you some account of my voyage thus far, during the intervals between the performance of my household duties as cook to our mess. We are now, and have been for several days within one day's sail of our destination, if we had a fair wind, but unfortunately there is now no wind.

This is a magnificent vessel of 1,600 tons register burthen, or 3,500 tons measurement, with two lofty and well-ventilated passenger decks, each between seven and eight feet high, and very high bulwarks, over six feet, to protect the deck from the spray of the sea; she is a new vessel and very strong and dry, and probably as well furnished with all necessary conveniences as the best of the emigrant ships between Liverpool and New York. Her crew consists of 31 men, 3 boys and 5 officers; namely, the captain and 4 mates, and she has on board upwards of 900 passengers, whose sleeping berths are a shelf along each side of the whole length of the two decks, with low boards dividing the shelf into berths, all of one size, and each containing from four to six persons; one end of the upper deck is divided off as a separate apartment, containing 12 enclosed cabins, each having two, four, or six berths, Mr. James Ward, late literary teacher at Glasnevin Model Farm, being my bedfellow; and there are four other men in the same cabin, one of whom is a plasterer, another a miller (American), a third a tanner, and the fourth a young American, who has been travelling in England for his amusement.

The quantity of provisions, which according to Act of Parliament and according to the stipulations of our contract tickets, in which their price is included, ought to be served out to each emigrant weekly, is, besides three quarts of water daily, and the supply of sufficient firing,
2½ lbs. of bread
1 lb. Of wheaten flour
5 lbs of oatmeal
2 lbs of rice
2 oz. of tea
½ lb. of sugar
½ lb. of molasses

and John Taylor, Crook & Co., agents to this company, which is that of the "Black Star Line of Packets," engage to supply in addition to the above, one pound of pork (free of bone) to each passenger weekly.

The extra provisions which I have brought on board for the use of my bedfellows and myself, in addition to the ship's provisions, are the same as what I have been in the habit of supplying to such passengers as I have sent at my expense to America, viz., for each of us,
1½ stone wheaten flour
6 lbs bacon
2½ lbs butter
¼ lb of tea
A four pound loaf
2 lbs sugar, brown

These extra provisions cost 10s. 6d.

I also brought some cooking utensils, and other tinware, bedding, towels and dishclouts.

I consider the above quantity of extra provisions to be plenty, so far as necessity is concerned, with the exception of a pint of vinegar in summer; a cheese, more flour, a few herrings and some potatoes would however be, and were found to be, by many of my fellow passengers, a palatable and desirable addition, particularly during the first fortnight, until the stomach becomes inured to the motion of the ship.

All the passengers who arrive at Liverpool a day or more before the sailing of an emigrant ship, have to be inspected by a surgeon appointed by Government, who will not allow any one to go on board who has any infectious disease of a dangerous character. I passed before him for inspection, which occupied only one or two seconds. He said without drawing breath, "What's your name? Are you well? Hold out your tongue; all right," and then addressed himself to the next person. We were again all mustered and passed before him on board the ship, while sailing down the river.

There was no regularity or decency observed with regard to taking the passengers on board the ship; men and women were pulled in any side or end foremost, like so many bundles. I was getting myself in as quickly and dexterously as I could, when I was laid hold of by the legs and pulled in, falling head foremost down upon the deck, and the next man was pulled down upon the top of me. I was some minutes before I recovered my hat, which was crushed as flat as a pancake. The porters, in their treatment of passengers (naturally) look only to getting as much money as they possibly can from them in the shortest space of time, and heap upon them all kinds of filthy and blasphemous abuse, there being no police regulations, and the officers of the shop taking the lead in the ill-treatment of the passengers.

The "Washington" went out of dock on the 25th, and anchored in the river; I went on board on the next day, and witnessed the first occasion of giving out the daily allowance of water to the passengers, in doing which there was no regularity; the whole 900 and odd passengers were called forward at once to receive their water, which was pumped out into their cans from barrels on deck. The serving out of the water was twice capriciously stopped by the mates of the ship, who during the whole time, without any provocation, cursed and abused, and cuffed and kicked the passengers and their tin cans, and, having served out water to about 30 persons, in two separate times, said they would give no more water out till the next morning, and kept their word. I gently remonstrated with one of the mates, who was cuffing and kicking the poor steerage passengers, observing to him that such treatment was highly improper and unmanly, and that he would save himself a great deal of trouble and annoyance, and win, instead of alienating, the hearts of the passengers, if he would avoid foul language and brutal treatment, and use civil treatment, and institute regularity in the serving out of the water, &c.; but he, in reply, said that he would knock me down if I said another word. I was happy to find, however, that my rebuke had the effect of checking for the moment his bullying conduct.

Provisions were not served out this day, notwithstanding the engagement contained in our contract tickets, and notwithstanding that all the passengers were now on board, the most of them since yesterday, and had no means of communication with the shore, and that many of them, being very poor, had entirely relied upon the faithful observance of the promises contained in their tickets, the price of which includes paym,ent for the weekly allowance of provisions. I was on board of a fine vessel, of the same size as the "Washington," about five weeks ago, named the "Constellation," one of Tapscott's line of packets, in which I sent some passengers. There were 875 passengers on board, and the provisions were served out punctually on the day appointed for sailing, although she was yet in dock, and did not sail for several days afterwards.

While a steamer towed the "Washington" down the river on Sunday, 27th October, all the passengers were mustered on deck, and answered to their names as they were called over by the chief clerk of the agency office at Liverpool. This formality was for the purpose of ascertaining that there was no one on board but such as had tickets. One little boy was found hid, having made his way on board, thinking to escape notice; he was sent ashore.

On the 28th we were so fortunate as to have a most favourable breeze, which carried us out of the Irish Channel, being that part of the voyage in which we expected the greatest delay.

On the 29th I went the round of the lower deck with Mr. Charles Reynolds, surgeon of the ship, observing him take down the numbers in each berth. These berths are constructed to hold four persons, and would conveniently hold five persons; some of the berths had four persons in them, and some as many as six. I observed that the doctor noted down, in many instances, persons between the ages of 14 and 16 as under 14, that is, as not adults, although it is expressly stated in our tickets that 14 years of age constitutes an adult, and any one above that age is paid for extra as such; this was for the purpose of making a saving in the issuing of provisions, as half rations only are served out to passengers under 14 years of age. The doctor remarked to me at the time, that as regarded the issuing of provisions, 16 years of age was considered on board the "Washington" as constituting an adult.

On the 30th October no provisions had yet been served out, and the complaints of the poorer passengers in the steerage were naturally increasing, as they had no means of living, excepting on the charity of those who had brought extra provisions. At their request I drew up a letter, of which the following is a copy, addressed to the captain of the ship, A. Page:
"Respected Sir,
"We, the undersigned passengers on board the ship ‘Washington,' paid for and secured our passages in her in the confident expectation that the allowance of provisions promised in our contract tickets would be faithfully delivered to us. Four entire days having expired since the day on which (some of us having been on board from that day, and most of us from before that day) the ship was appointed to sail, and three entire days since she actually sailed from the port of Liverpool, without our having received one particle of the stipulated provisions excepting water, and many of us having made no provision to meet such an emergency, we request that you will inform us when we may expect to commence receiving the allowance which our due.
Vere Foster John Hickey Denis Mangan
James Molony Samuel Thorn Charles O'Donoghue
John Collins James Ward H. Hopkins
Jas. McNamara Thomas Hotchin  

P.S.–From want of conveniences of writing, but particularly from the fear of being interfered with by the officers of the ship, no more signatures have been proceeded with, otherwise nearly 900 might have been added. While writing the former part of this letter at the request of my fellow passengers, the first mate, Mr. Williams, knocked me down flat upon the deck with a blow in the face.

Another day has elapsed without provisions being served out. 31 October 1850 (signed) Vere Foster

When the mate knocked me down, which he did without the smallest previous intimation or explanation, he also made use of the msot blasphemous and abusive language. I said not a work, knowing the severity (necessarily so) of the laws of discipline on board of ships, but retired as he bade me to my own cabin. He then forbade my going into any of the steerage part of the vessel. A passenger heard him make use to the cabin cook, of the observation, that if he caught me in ‘tween decks again he would not hit me, but that he would throttle me. I ought to have noticed that last night the mate said to me, "Damn and blast you, come and give us a hand at the rope;" on which I said, "If you'll be civil perhaps I may;" and at the same time I went forward to pull at the rope at which the sailors were hauling, on which the mate seized hold of me by the collar and thrust me aside swearing at me like a trooper, and saying that he remembered having seen a specimen of me before, alluding to the first day of serving out the water.

On the morning of the 31st October, I presented the letter to Captain Page. He asked me the purport of it, and bade me read it. Having read out one-third of it, he said that was enough, and that he knew what I was; I was a damned pirate, a damned rascal, and that he would put me in irons and on bread and water throughout the rest of the voyage. The first mate then came up, and abused me foully and blasphemously, and pushed me down, bidding me get out of that, as I was a damned b______. He was found by one of the passengers soon afterwards, heating a thick bar of iron at the kitchen fire; the cook said, "What is he doing that for?" and the mate said, "There is a damned b_____ on board, to whom I intend giving a singeing before he leaves the ship."

Provisions were issued to the passengers for the first time this day. I took the precaution of bringing a weighing-machine on board, weighing as low as two ounces, in order to compare the allowances issued with the quantities due, which afterwards proved extremely useful for my own purposes, and to other persons. Mr. Ward and I received about 2¾ lbs. of wheaten flour, which was ¾ lb. more than our due; and 2½ lbs. biscuit instead of 5 lbs., and 7½ lbs. of rice and oatmeal mixed, instead of 14 lbs. The steerage passengers did not receive so much.

On Saturday, 2d November, groceries were issued for the first instead of the second time to the passengers; the six persons in my cabin received all their provisions together; we get 6oz. of tea instead of 12 oz., nearly our proper allowance of sugar, and 1¼ lb. of molasses instead of 3 lbs., and no vinegar. We have as yet received no pork, though we should have received our second weekly allowance of pork to-day.

On Thursday, 7th November, flour, biscuits, oatmeal and rice were issued in the same proportion as before excepting that the flour was a little under the allowance. I was looking on during nearly the whole of the time, and could see that the quantities were the same to each person. The six persons in my cabin received-

8 lbs. of oatmeal instead of 30 lbs., 8 lbs. of rice instead of 12 lbs.,
8 lbs. of flour instead of 6 lbs., 8¾ lbs. of biscuits instead of 15 lbs.

A slight mistake occurred by a second person coming for the provisions for berth No. 115, not knowing that another person had just received the provisions for the whole of the persons in that berth; the first mate told him to get out of that and go to hell; and on the man, an old man he was, saying that he had not yet received his provisions, the first mate rushed at and beat him and knocked him down, using the most violent and blasphemous language.

On Saturday the 9th November an allowance of pork was issued for the first instead of the third time; the six persons in my cabin got 6 lbs. When one of the occupants of berth No. 180 came up for his pork, not knowing that another man from the same berth had just received for the whole of its occupants, the first mate instantly ran at him and hit him with his clenched fist, and with a rope's end, about the face and head, and then added, "if any other b_____ annoys me, God damn his soul, I'll smash his head for him." Whenever provisions are served out, a sailor stands by with a rope's end and capriciously lays about him, with or without the slightest provocation. The captain never appears to trouble himself in the slightest degree about the passengers, nor even ever to visit the part of the ship occupied by them. The first and second mates, the surgeon and the man specially appointed to look after the passengers, and the cooks-all these very seldom open their lips without prefacing what they may have to say, with "God damn your soul to hell, you damned b______," or, Jesus Christ I'll rope's end you," or some other expression from the same category.

I hear occasionally some of the passengers complain to the first mate or to the captain, of the favoritism shown by the passengers' cooks to those who give them money, or whiskey, and who consequently get five or six meals cooked daily, while those poor passengers who have not the money to give, or who do not give, are kept the whole day waiting to have one meal cooked, or can have only one meal cooked every second day. In my own case, on one of the first mornings of my being on board, the cook took up my kettle of water, which had been waiting one hour and a half to be put on the fire, and siad to me, "What are you going to give me to cook that for you?" I replied, that I intended to take my chances, the same as the rest of the passengers, and was contented to take my proper turn in having my victuals cook ed, for that if I paid for a preference in having them cooked I should be monopolizing a right which is common to us all, at the expense of those fellow passengers who were not able to pay. The cook then put down the kettle again, saying, "That God damn fellow is not going to pay up, so his kettle may wait." The captain's cook cooks for those passengers who give him 10s. or 12s. each person for the voyage, and a great many do so. I did not, for I wished to place myself as much as I conveniently could in the same position as the general run of my fellow passengers. I find now, that either in consequence of good words in my favour from some of those passengers whom I have had small opportunities of being of service to, or in consequence of an appreciation of my fairness in taking my proper turns, though I am well able to pay for doing otherwise, or of my aiding him by remonstrances to keep the galley (kitchen) from being too crowded and to keep order, the cook now favours me as much as if I did pay him. Asked the third mate where we were, and received the same reply as usual, that he could not tell. No one knows the whereabouts of the vessel except the captain and first mate, and they keep that a profound secret from the ship's company and passengers. No groceries were issued, as they should have been this day.

13th November.-I have spoken frequently with different sailors, asking them if this was the first time of their sailing in this ship; all answer yes, and that it will be the last, and some of them express an opinion that the first and second mates will get a good thrashing at New York.

One of the female passengers played the dirty trick this evening of committing a nuisance on the deck at the top of the steps; being caught in the act, she was (very properly) made to take it up, with both her hands and throw it overboard.

14th-Provisions of oatmeal, biscuits, flour and rice were issued this day as usual. I weighted what was given to four adults and a boy, occupying one of the steerage berths they received-

10¾ lbs. of oatmeal, instead of 22½ lbs. due
4½ lbs. of biscuits instead of 11¼ lbs. due
4 lbs. of flour instead of 4½ lbs. due
5½ lbs. of rice instead of 9 lbs. due

16th-Groceries were issued as usual

17th-November.-The doctor this evening heaved overboard a great many chamber-pots belonging to the female passengers, saying that henceforward he would allow no women to do their business below, but that they should come to the filthy privies on deck. I heard him say, "There are a hundred cases of dysentery in the ship, which will all turn to cholera, and I swear to God that I will not go amongst them; if they want medicines they must come to me." This morning the first mate took it into his head to play the hose upon the passengers in occupation of the waterclosets, drenching them from head to foot; the fourth mate did the same a few mornings ago.

18th November-A three-masted vessel in sight, going in the same direction as ourselves; this is the second vessel only that we have seen since leaving Liverpool. About noon a heavy squall came on, which split the fore-topsail and staysail.

19th November-Mr. Williams, a surgeon passenger, has been canvassing for a subscription among the passengers as a testimonial to the good services of the doctor, for the purpose of serving as a inducement to him to conduct himself well during the rest of the voyage, but he appears now disposed to abandon his project, as his canvass has not been favourably received. This morning the ship doctor remarked to one of the passengers that this project seemed likely to fail, as most similar projects usually do; that the steerage passengers had plenty of pence amongst them, which they would not know what to do with when they got to New York, and that if they would not look after him, he would not look after them. When it was bruited about the ship that a subscription was sought to be raised for the doctor, some passengers remarked, that they would not mind each contributing a shilling to buy a rope if they thought he would be hanged with it. This is a correct index of the general feeling towards him.

A delicate old man, named John M'Corcoran, of berth No. 11, informed me that on Sunday last he had just come on deck, and, after washing, was wringing a pair of stockings, when the first mate gave him such a severe kick with his knee on his backside as he was stooping down, that he threw him down upon the deck, since which he has been obliged to go to the watercloset three or four times a day, passing blood every time.

A passenger having a family with him told me that one of the first days after coming on board, the doctor applied to him for a present, saying, that of course he was paid for his services to the passengers, but that to those persons who liked to give him anything, of course he should pay more particular attention; the passenger then gave him 2s. 6d. He applied in the same manner to Mr. Homer, of cabin No. 8, who gave him 1s. The doctor then said, "And there was that glass of castor oil of the other day, for which you owe me 6d.," which Mr. H. then gave him. The doctor has no right to charge for any medicines, but has, I am told, received a great deal of money on board in the same way. The first mate beat one of the sailors severely this evening with a rope.

20th-Pork was issued to the passengers as usual.

21st November-Provisions as usual were issued of flour, rice, oatmeal and biscuits. A violent gale commenced this evening.

22d.-The gale became perfectly terrific; for a few minutes we all expected momentarily to go to the bottom, for the sea, which was foaming and rolling extremely high, burst upon the deck with a great crash, which made us all believe that some part of the vessel was stove in. The wave rushed down into the lower deck, and I certainly expected every moment to go down. Some of the passengers set to praying; the wind blew a perfect hurricane, so that it was quite out of the question to attempt to proceed on our proper course. We therefore scudded before the wind, having up the main-topsail close reefed and the fore-topsail staysail only. The water which had rushed upon the deck remained there to the depth of several feet; it was got rid of by breaking holes in the bulwarks with a hatchet. The whole sea was a sheet of foam. Towards 9 P.M. the gale began to be less, though still violent, and moderated during the night.

25th November-Another child, making about 12 in all, died of dysentery from want of proper nourishing food, and was thrown into the sea sown up, along with a great stone, in a cloth. No funeral service has as yet been performed, the doctor informs me, over any one who has died on board; the Catholics objecting, as he says, to the performance of any such service by a layman. As there was no regular service, the man appointed to attend to the passengers seized the opportunity, when the sailors pulling at a rope raised the usual song of-

Haul in the bowling, the Black Star bowling,
Haul in the bowling, the bowling haul-

to throw in the child overboard at the sound of the last word of the song, making use of it as a funeral dirge.

We passed some ships' spars this and the following day, belonging, perhaps, to vessels which may have suffered in the late gale.

26th-Tea and sugar issued to those who lost any during the late storm. I and my two mess companions received our allowances together, receiving between us 2 oz. of tea and ½ lb. of sugar.

28th-The same quantities as usual issued of four, oatmeal, biscuits and rice.

30th-The doctor came down to the second cabin in company with the first mate, and to display his authority, drew himself up and swelled himself out excessively tremendous, roaring out, "Now then, clean and wash out your rooms every one of you, God damn and blast your souls to hell." Tea and sugar as usual.

2d December.-A beautiful day and a favourable breeze; took a pilot on board.

Many of the passengers have, at different times during the voyage, expressed to me their intention of making a public complaint respecting their ill-treatment on board this ship, so to mee their wishes I wrote the few following lines, which were signed this evening by the persons whose names are attached.

"Ship Washington, off New York, 2 December 1850.

"We testify, as a warning to, and for the sake of future emigrants, that the passengers generally, on board of this noble ship, the 'Washington,' commander A. Page, have been treated in a brutal manner by its officers, and that we have not received one-half the quantity of provisions allowed by Act of Parliament and stipulated for by us in our contract tickets.

Vere Foster July Flynn Michael Hurley
H. Hopkins Peter Cullen Mary Neary
James Ward Anne Doyle Edward Roe
John Swinburne Bridget Doyle Honour Delany
Catherine Swinburne L. Hopkins Catherine Delany
Benjamin Homer Mrs Richd. Sulivan Denis Martin
Emmeline Homer John Phelan Michael Mangan
James Moloney Eleanor Slattery Owen Heputtlan
Catherine Moloney Mary Hoyne James Troymor
William Harvey Robert Cleary Francis Turht
James Macnamara James Kavanagh James M'Elroy
Michael M'Callan Peter Walsh Francis Foley
Thomas Cowper Denis Bryan John S. Kelly
Oratura Cowper Thomas Curry John Marvill
Henry Disney Michael Walsh John Doran
G. Hannity James Cormons John _______
Matilda Dickson Mary Curry James Wilson
Marianne Dickson Caroline Malone James Kelsey
John Robertson Richard Kealy John Collins
George Elliott Pat Cahill M. Ma
David Crolly John Clancy Peter Mathias
George M'Nab John Murry Denis Mangan
Anne Brenief Martin Maher J.R. Hennelly
Eliza Stokes Sally Kiggins M. Killar
Marianne Horsfall Denis M'Evoy E. Longworth
Ann Mellet John Hefferman B. Connolly
Thomas Canavan Eliza Lynard John Treavy
Sarah Thomson Judith Farrell James Coroney
George Elliott, Jun. James Byrne Thomas Callan
Mary Conall Bridget Murphy Michael Lynch
Anne M'Cabe James Hutchin Peter Mathews
John Williams James Doran Daniel Myraw
Emma Williams James Tyrrell John Magee
Samuel Thompson Thomas Anderson James Frances
Eliza M'Nab Pat. Bryan James Hugh
Margaret M'Nab Catherine Bryan John Welsh
John Hales Lawrence Bryan John Morrison
Michael Flynn Mary Byrne Patrick M'Cabe
James Farrell Thomas Fitzpatrick Eugene Lynch
Fanny Flynn Richard English Thomas Hartney
Timothy Cullen James Delaney Thomas Mangan
Catherine Flynn Martin Riley John Mason
Margaret Campbell Patrick Shea 3d December

3d December- A few of the passengers were taken ashore to the Hospital at Staten Island, and we arrived alongside the quay at New York this afternoon. The 900 passengers dispersed as usual among the various fleecing houses, to be partially or entirely disabled for pursuing their travels into the interior in search of employment.

6th December- I met this day with some friends of mine, who came out two months ago in the "Atlas," Captain Osborne, with 415 passengers. They described the treatment of the passengers on board that vessel by the officers, as considerably worse than what I have related respecting the "Washington." The provisions, as on board the "Washington," were not served out till about the end of the first week, and no pork was served out at all, excepting to such persons as were willing to buy it. The "Atlas" is also one of the "Black Star line of packets."

I also met to-day with some friends who came out in the "St. Louis," which arrived here the day before yesterday. It was gratifying to hear them describe the treatment of the passengers on board that ship, on the part of the captain, the mates, the cooks, and the men specially appointed to attend to the passengers, as most kind and considerate, and the rations of provisions and water as ample. There were 350 passengers, and there was no death from dysentery on board this vessel, for the captain paid, and caused to be paid, every necessary attention towards the sick. The "St. Louis" sailed from Liverpool one day after the "Washington," and arrived at New York also one day after her.

To attend to the 900 and odd passengers on board the "Washington,: only one man was appointed, and he a brute.

I have since met with passengers whom I sent out in the "Washington" on her previous voyage, and I learn from them, that no provisions were served out during the first fortnight of her voyage, and that no meat was served out during the whole of her voyage; I have also met with passengers whom I sent in the "Wm. Rathbone," whose treatment by the officers, and as regards provisions, was similar. The "W.R." is one of the same line of packets.

Here follows a comparison of the provisions due and the provisions received by each passenger during our voyage of 37 days.
Due Received Deficiency
Pork 5 2/7 lbs 2 lbs 3 2/7 lbs
Flour 5 2/7 lbs 5 lbs 2/7 lbs
Oatmeal 26½ lbs 11¼ lbs 15¼ lbs
Rice 10½ lbs 6¼ lbs 4¼ lbs
Biscuits 13¼ lbs 6 lbs 7¼ lbs
Tea 10½ oz 4 oz 6½ oz
Sugar 2 lb 10 oz 1 lb 13 oz 13 oz
Molasses 2 lb 10 oz 6 oz 2 lb 3 oz
Vinegar no specified quantity None

UWInfo | Young Immigrants | Genealogy | Local History | 19th Century Immigration

© Marjorie P. Kohli, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 1997-2007
Last updated: February 15, 2007 and maintained by Marj Kohli