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Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Pioneers, Ploughs, and Politics: New Brunswick Planned Settlements

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The Crossing Steamships

The Passenger Acts

The British Parliament revised the Passenger Act in the 1820s, which improved the situation somewhat for travellers. After 1825 ship captains were required to provide passengers with food and water and the quantity of food per passenger was stipulated. However, these amendments resulted in increased fares. In addition, ship masters were obliged to have a physician and medicine chest aboard ship to attend to immediate medical needs.

In 1827 the Passenger Act was repealed with a new act, which applied only to ships bound for North America enacted in 1828. A skeleton of the former act, it regulated the space between decks at 5 1/2 feet as well as the amount of space allotted to each passenger. These changes were intended to reduce overcrowding and illness. Moreover ship captains could be penalized if they debarked passengers at any port other than the one agreed upon.

Another Passenger Act, enacted in 1835, provided that enough food and water be carried on board to last 10 weeks, down from the previous 12, and that only ships transporting more than 100 passengers be required to supply the services of a surgeon. To help the newcomers, the act allowed passengers to remain aboard ship, after reaching port, for up to 48 hours so that further travel arrangements could be made. Despite all these changes, immigrants still faced dangerous and unpleasant conditions on the high seas, and some paid for their passage with their lives.