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THE UNITED STATES.
farmer or western settler, who usually accompanied his venture, had to wend his way homewards, frequently a distance of some sixteen or eighteen hundred miles, in the best way he could. All these difficulties, with the trouble and delay which they occasioned, have been overcome by the powerful aid of modern steam navigation ; whilst it is by no means improbable, that at an early day, we shall witness an entire revolution in all the former staid and accustomed modes of commercial dealing, by which the wants of the people of these vast regions are wont to be supplied, by a more immediate and direct maritime and commercial intercourse between the nations of the old world and those important though remote inland sections of the new.
Yet, is America far, very far behind Great Britain in the serviceable build or construction of steam vessels intended for sea service,- but more especially in the manufacture of marine steam machinery; which is demonstrated in the rude, unfinished make, and cumbersome materials, of which her engines are generally constructed and put together;still further evidenced in the many and repeated accidents that have occurred in every river in which they are employed, and amongst the very few that have ventured on a coasting trip along her shores. It was only in 1837, that the “Home,” built and constructed in the city of New York as a model vessel, in her first voyage to a southern port, actually opened, fell to pieces, and foundered off the coast of Carolina, sending one hundred luckless individuals VOL. I.
on board, many unprepared—unprovided for--to a sudden and premature grave.
It appears by authentic returns of material accidents and loss of life by explosions and other disasters, which have occurred in the United States, ending 1838, that the whole number has been 228 ; that of these, 99 appear to have been by explosion and collapses ; 28 by fire; 25 by shipwreck, by gales, collisions &c.; 52 from snags and sawyers; and 24 from different unknown causes. Of these, only 9 occurred in 1835, which number was fearfully increased to 24 in the following year. Still augmented in 1837 to 30, and in 1838 to 39, with a sacrifice of life beyond all proportion; which at length compelled Congress to adopt measures for the purpose of giving some better security to steam navigation, and offering some reasonable guarantee for the safety and preservation of human life. An act was accordingly passed by both houses for this purpose, and approved of by the President, July 7th, 1838.
This act contains many salutary provisions, and enjoins, that competent persons shall be appointed
under its authority by the district judges of the "United States, to inspect steam vessels, &c., their boilers and machinery; and that the hull of every steam-vessel of the United States, or of the citizens thereof, shall undergo such inspection, once at least within every twelve months, and of the boilers and machinery once in every six months; and provides, that the person or persons appointed and called
THE UNITED STATES.
upon to inspect the hull of any steam-boat or vessel, shall after thorough examination of the same, give to the owner or master a certificate, in which shall be stated the age of the said boat or vessel, when and where originally built, and the length of time that such has been running, and shall state also, whether in his or their opinion the said boat or vessel is sound, and in all respects sea-worthy and fit to be used for the transportation of freight or passengers.
And that the person or persons, who shall be called upon to inspect the boiler and machinery of steam-vessels, shall after a thorough examination of the same, make a certificate, in which he or they shall state his or their opinion, whether said boilers are sound and fit for use, together with the age of the boilers; it also provides —
That every captain, engineer, pilot, or other person employed on board of any steam.boat or vessel propelled in whole or in part by steam, by whose misconduct, negligence, or inattention to his or their respective duties, the life or lives of any person or persons on board said vessels may be destroyed, shall be deemed guilty of manslaughter, and upon conviction thereof before any circuit court of the United States, shall be sentenced to confinement and hard labour, for a period of not more than ten years; and declares,
That in all suits and actions against proprietors of steam-boats, for injuries arising to persons or property, from the bursting of the boiler of any
steam-boat, or the collapse of a flue, or other injurious escape of steam, such shall be taken as full prima facie evidence, sufficient to charge the defendant or those in his employment with negligence, until he shall shew that no negligence has been committed by him or those in his employment.
These humane provisions in the law of America are rendered in great part inoperative—the federal power possessing but little local influence or means of enforcing its authority against a determined resistance of any number of its citizens. Steamboat accidents are quite as numerous and appalling in their consequences, since the passing of this act, as at any period since their first introduction.
Of the whole number of steam-boats, respecting which returns have been made, 351 are in use on the waters adjoining, or flowing into the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico; 64 on the great north-western lakes, and 285 on the waters of the Mississippi valley, viz:
High pressure. Low pressure. Not known. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico
222 North-Western Lakes : 32 Mississippi Valley . . 284
Total . . 408 254
TONNAGE SO FAR AS ASCERTAINED.
High pressure. Low pressure. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico 10,477 55,469 North-Western Lakes 7,986 9,301 Mississippi Valley
Total. 65,946 17,332 43,440
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No returns have been made of the tonnage of 45
boats on the waters of the Atlantic, nor of 9 boats
boats, estimated at 200 tons each, of . 10,800 Making a probable aggregate in all the ascertained
boats, equal to . . . Tons, 137,473
HORSE POWER SO FAR AS ASCERTAINED.
High pressure. Low pressure. Total. Atlantic rvrs. & Gf. of Mexico 2,927 10,391 13,318 North-western Lakes
2,910 2,947 5,857 Mississippi Valley
21,771 13,338 35,109 Estimated for 213 boats, viz 139 boats on the waters
of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico; 1, on the Western lakes, and 73 on the valley of the Mississippi, of which no returns have been made, at 70 for each boat, and which is pretty near the
average · · · · · · · 14,910 Making an aggregate of horse power in the 700 boats
returned equal to . . . . 50,019 Add for 100 boats considered not to be returned, but whose horse power is estimated at 70 each
Ascertained and estimated total of horse power in
Steam-boats in the United States, supposed to number 800 . . . .
The whole number of Steam-boats built for the western waters of the United States, up to the 20th of April 1839, is stated to be 378. Of these, there were built at Pittsburg, and immediate vicinity,