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1831 Stay at Grosse Isle For The Mary

(From the Montreal Gazette of June 14, 1834. The dates are different, between the paper and the letter, but this was because they were trying to have things changed at Grosse Isle--the quarantine station--and they were using this letter as an example of what could happen. )

To the Editor of the Quebec Gazette
Sir,--You would do a public good by inserting the enclosed letter from the Captain of the "Mary," as I am sure the hardships he complains of, will not again happen.

The injustice towards the British ship-owner, in making the vessel chargeable with providing her passengers during the time she undergoes quarantine, is so glaring, that I am sure it only wants to be known generally to the mercantile community to be redressed.

The same fund which provides for the establishment at Grosse Isle, ought assuredly to bear the expense of feeding the emigrant during his detention; for an unfeeling Captain (who, by the way, only gets about 30s. for the passage) might allow his passengers to starve, rather than find them, which is no part of his contract.

A detention of a few days makes little matter, as the Emigrants generally are supplied before sailing for a six weeks passage; but when three or four weeks are spent at Grosse Isle, the expense should be borne by the public.
H. _________ (no name given)

Grosse Island, May 27th, 1831.
I arrived here on the 18th, with three hundred passengers, forty of whom were sent to hospital on the 18th and 19th, more or less affected with measles and typhus fever. We lost seven on the passage, viz one man, by a fall, and six children, from the want of proper attention being paid them, their parents being sea-sick. I landed the remainder of them on the 20th, got the vessel cleaned and fumigated on the 21st, and the passengers were sent on board on the 24th. The poor creatures have been on board ever since, with only eleven beds between two hundred and fifty. The straw-beds which they had were thrown overboard, and they are now obliged to lie on the boards, without a covering, the greater part having nothing on the passage but their wearing apparel, which they are obliged to keep on to prevent the boards from cutting their hips. There are mothers and their children in this state. It is inconsistent with reason to expect them to remain healthy while they are in this state. There is no constitution able to bear such treatment in these piercing nights. There are fifty of my passengers in hospital at present, and the remainder must be soon there if something is not done for them.--The people ought to be kept on shore until the vessel is liberated for, while there is such a number together there will always be somebody complaining. Dr. Poole has reported seventy-eight in hospital. There have been six deaths and a few bad cases, but the greater part of them were very slightly affected; in fact there was nothing the matter with some of them. I think it advisable to allow the vessel to proceed immediately with the passengers she has on board, as there have been but two fresh cases of measles since they have been re-embarked--or allowed to re-land them and then proceed, provided their passage be found them to Quebec. It is a sad thing to detain the vessel here such a length of time. Dr. Poole expected I would be allowed to proceed last Sunday, but there is no likelihood of it. I stated our situation to the commandant, who said he could do no more than give me a little straw for them, when he gets it. He has also told me that I will have to victual the passengers, which is a great imposition.
Henry Deaves.
Master of the bark Mary, of Cork.

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