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At the instance of several persons who take a deep interest in the cominercial prosperity of the city of New York, the compiler of these sheets has here attempted to set the question of the repeal of the pilot law of 2d March, 1837, in its proper light, by making as clear an exhibition of the facts and circumstances of the case, as the haste with which they have been selected would allow
Pilot laws should not be made for the benefit of Pilots, having in view their interests alone. The establishment of a system of pilotage is but the adoption of a means to attain an end: that end is the protection of commerce; and in legislating on this subject, the end should always be kept in view, and every thing in the law should tend to its attainment. The interests of merchants, ship-owners, and underwriters, are the primary interests at stake; consequent upon thesė, and immediately connected with them, are the interests of the community at large. These positions are perfectly consistent with the encouragement of eminent proficiency and faithfulness in pilots themselves. Such encouragement is, in fact, conducive to the principal design; but though an object of importance, it is, or should be, a subsidiary
That the Congress of the United States have full power to regulate the Pilotage of the different ports and harbors of the States, there can be no doubt. It is their right "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes ;" and few things can with less hesitation be set down in the category of commercial regulations, than laws of Pilotage. No State, therefore, should consider it as bearing hard upon its own legitimate sovereignty, for Congress to exercise the right of passing such laws, or, which amounts to the same thing, of adopting laws created by other legislative bodies on that subject. Part of the territory of New Jersey is included within the bounds of the Collection District of New York, and is thus subject to the supervision of Custom House authority emanating from the Eastern side of the Hudson. But New Jersey does not complain. She knows that the collection of the customs, and all regulations relating thereto, is a matter that belongs to the cognizance of the United States, and not to the cognizance of one State; and therefore she is contented, under such circumstances, to be ignorant of State lines, and State jealousies, And thus it should be with regard to any laws that Congress may see fit
, in its wisdom, to pass respecting Pilots and Pilotage. It is an unjust and, unauthorized cry that is raised by the Pilots of New York and New
Orleans, &c., or their friends, that they are deprived, by existing laws, of any of their rights, or that their respective States are deprived of any part of their proper sovereignty.
For many years Congress saw fit to pass no law on the subject of Pilotage, except the following, which left the matter entirely to the care of State Legislatures :
Act of Aug. 7, 1789. Sect. 4.-"All pilots in the bays, inlets, rivers, harbors, and ports of the United States, shall continue to be regulated in confor. mity with the existing laws of the States respectively wherein such pilots may be, or with such laws as the States may respectively hereafter enact for the purpose, until further legislative provision shall be made by Congress."
Under this act, the pilots in the several harbors of the United States, were regulated by the laws of the several States respectively; and, as a general rule, no Pilots authorized to act as such by the laws of one State, could pilot a vessel into the harbors of another; though, from the contiguity of the waters, they were as competent to do it, as the Pilots of the latter could possibly be. This species of exclusive right, or monopoly, often bred confusion and jealousy; and deprived the general commerce of the country of that full, free and concentrated assistance of its Pilots, which the interests of that commerce required. The Pilot laws of individual States were sometimes inefficient, and their mercantile and insurance interests were often exposed to severe suffering, when the aid of the Pilots of a neighboring State would have remedied the evil, and offered an incitement to improve those inefficient laws.
Such was the case in New York; and what I have further to say on this subject will be principally confined to her case.
The Pilot system of New York up to 1837 was very inadequate to the protection of her extensive commerce. The Master and Wardens were restricted to the appointment of thirty Pilots, and as many deputy Pilots. The practical inefficiency of this system may be seen at once. The Master and Wardens were unauthorized to appoint any new Pilots, how much soever the wants of the community called for it, until the death, resignation, or suspension of one or more of the Pilots already licensed. Some of these might be superannuated, or disabled by sickness, or otherwise incompetent to the discharge of their duties; but the hands of the Master and Wardens were tied:—they had no power of providing for the exigencies of the occasion. Besides this, the thirty actual Pilots, secure of their monopoly, were exposed to the temptation of remissness--which temptation became more powerful in proportion to the need there was of their indefatigable exertions--as in cases of stress of weather, &c. By another provision of the laws of New York, the Pilot who brought a vessel into port, was entitled to the preference of taking her to sea again. This was often an inducement for lounging about the shore, when their assistance was needed outside of the harbor.
Such were some of the objectionable features of the New York Pilot laws previous to 1837. The inefficiency of these laws was the occasion 80 much dissatisfaction, that Congress, by act of 2d March, 1837, enacted,
That it shall and may be lawful for the master or commander of any vessel coming into or going out of any port situate upon waters which are the boundary between the States, to employ any Pilot duly licensed or au
thorized by the laws of either of the States bounded on said waters, to pilot the said vessel to or from said port, any law, usage, or custom to the contrary notwithstanding."
The Legislature of New Jersey had passed a general Pilot law in the beginning of February preceding; and Pilots were in a short time after the passing of the Act of Congress, duly commissioned, and entered upon the discharge of their duties; whereby a spirited competition was soon excited between them and the Pilots of New York. In addition to this, the Pilot laws of New York underwent a revision in April of the same year. All things combined, the security of vessels entering and leaving the port of New York, was enhanced in an eminent degree. The New York Pilots are now attempting to get a repeal of the said Act of Congress, in order to prevent the competition of the Jersey Pilots.
It is my object to shew, by selections from such documents, affidavits, and statements of men competent to judge, as I hope will be satisfactory to every candid mind,
That all the evils which might be apprehended from the pre-existing Pilot laws of New York actually occurred, and gave just occasion of complaint to merchants, ship-owners, and underwriters;
That these evils called for a more enlarged and liberal system of pilotage, wherein the emulation of a large number of competent pilots might be excited, for the protection of the extended commerce of New-York;
That this desideratum was, as far as practicable, attained by the reforms introduced in 1837, particularly by admitting the New Jersey pilots into competition with those of New-York; and
That there are no substantial reasons for modifying the present laws, or for excluding the said pilots from such competition.
I shall commence by showing the state of things that existed prior to 1837,-and the complaints that arose therefrom.
I. I will here set down with only some verbal alterations, a few extracts from the Diary of the late Capt. John Earl, well known for many years as one of the most able and efficient officers for the preservation of wrecked vessels and property, and for performing the general duties of marine inspection, that the under-writers of New-York had in their employ. I find in the said Diary many observations of great value on various topics of marine interest, and much on the subject of pilotage; of which the following was principally written in 1835:
This is a source of sore vexation.--In 1819 when our commerce might have been three sevenths of what it now is, the number of Pilots was limited to 30 branch Pilots, who might each appoint a deputy, thereby securing a monopoly. If 30 Pilots were insufficient at that time, no less than 70, in the same ratio, are now required. But since that period any attempt to get the legislature to increase the number, or to revise the system, has failed. Perhaps the only legislation on the subject in the interim, has been to add one fourth to the established rates, if a Pilot should happen to take a vessel so far from the land that Sandy Hook was not visible-a distance, in clear weather, not exceeding 15 miles; whilst the Chesapeake and Delaware Pilots are bound to cruize 40 miles each way, and are often met 30 leagues at sea. But our Pilots, with an average of 5 boats, being combined, keep, at most, two boats below to take off outward Pilots, whilst the others are at the city watch.
ing the signal poles at Staten Island, where all vessels are announced, and then set off to meet them, which they do, sometimes at the Spit, sometimes at the point of the Hook, but rarely before they cross the bar. The boats kept below answer a double purpose, to take off outward Pilots, and to speak our numerous coasting vessels, and thereby subject them to half-pilotage. Nor do they fail, in every instance to extort. One hundred dollars has been charged for bringing (Capt
. Lyon) from his ship, which was in distress at the Spit, to the city; fifteen dollars for bringing a letter from the Brig Frances Ann, which was ashore, and in distress, on the West bank.
" And although protected in their monopoly by legislative enactment, the community receivo no adequate equivalent. It is a fact susceptible of proof, that before the De Rham struck she was seen to leeward by one of our Pilots, but because they had but one Pilot on board they would not go down to warn them of their danger. The course pursued by this class (who are mostly natives of New-York) has had such an influence on their character that they are never seen on change, or associated and acting with ship-owners, or masters of vessels, but if wanted, you must seek them at a Porter house, &c.; and whilst the law enjoins it on each boat to have 2 apprentices, and to instruct them in every respect, and that an examination annually, in May, shall take place before the Wardens, it is believed that the thing is totally neglected, and that the apprentices run wild, and are induced to leave the boats, lest they should claim the privilege of becoming Pilots in their turn; else why don't we hear something about the hardships of a five years apprenticeship, except in a Ward Court when Pilots are supporting a claim for services never performed. It is then our sympathies are assailed, setting forth the privation and hardships of a Pilots life.
" In conclusion, I have only to remark that the recent discovery of Lieut. Gedney, proves how little dependence can be placed on our Pilots, who have left it to a stranger to discover a channel to them unknown, through which a ship of the largest draught on one course from the Bar might reach the city in two hours, with a wind that by the usual channel, would often occupy two days. And since it is susceptible of proof that only three or four of our Pilots have even an imperfect knowledge of the channel to Amboy, what would they do with a ship that had the misfortune lose her anchors at the Spit or on the Bar, blowing hard from N. E. } She could not get to sea, nor approach New-York, but half, or more, of our Smack fishermen and others, could run her to Amboy with safety, while if in charge of a Sandy Hook Pilot, like the Draper and the Eagle, she would be run on shore.
"I am aware of the adage "To mend the world is an arduous task," and I am also aware of Nature's law, that we cannot acquire any permanent benefit, without self-denial; but I verily believe that by suitable and well directed efforts, this reproachful system could be revised."
He then goes into a minute calculation of the emoluments accruing to the Pilots of New York, during the years 1834 and 1835, deduced from entries at the Custom House, reports of Boarding masters, &c., which, after making all due deductions and allowances, he thinks could not have been less than $120,000 for the former, and $115,000 for the latter of those
From this he argues the propriety and justice of admitting a more extensive competition. "If this statement," he continues, "is near the truth, it is evident that the income is sufficient to support one hundred efficient Pilots; if not, it