MEETINGS (other) – Samuel Plimsoll, M.P. address to his constituents

Accreditation the Redcar and Saltburn-by-the-Sea Gazette 14/01/1876

Address to his constituents

            That brave and loyal champion of the sailors, Mr. Samuel Plimsoll, M.P., addressed his constituents on the 10th inst., at Derby, the honourable gentleman’s audience being large and enthusiastic. In the first instance he replied to a charge made against him by the Member for Whitehaven, of having “supported the cause of seaman with scandalous fabrications.” Mr. Plimsoll admitted himself in error as to a matter of fact on one point, viz., As to the number of men being crews of missing ships in 1874, but shows that the error was unintentional on his part, and one into which Commander Dawson had also fallen, as the latter states, owing to the obscurity of the Wreck Register – both gentlemen having added the number of 2,381, being the crews of missing vessels, to the total which the Wreck Register showed to have been lost – such number having already been included in that total. After the correction is made, Mr. Plimsoll shows that the fact remains that no tidings have ever been heard of the

2,381 men, who were registered as missing during that year. Having settled with the Member for Whitehaven, Mr. Plimsoll disposes in the few pregnant sentences with the attacks of the Nautical Magazine, and then proceeds to deal with the subject of deck loading. Far from withdrawing from the position he has issued, Mr. Plimsoll proceeds to make his indictment in the grave and explicit terms and it behoves those who think Mr. Plimsoll merely an enthusiastic agitator, to meet the charge in terms equally grave and explicit. Mr. Plimsoll’s case is substantially:- In 1839 public attention was called to the reprehensible practice of deck loading timber vessels from the North American ports. Parliament appointed a committee of 15 members to enquire into the subject. This sat many days enquired into the matter with exemplary divergence, and reported during the next session. A Bill was passed, 2 and 3 Vic., c.44, for one year Lord Melbourne’s Whig administration, prohibiting the practice from the North American ports. The subject was again examined into, and fully debated the following year, and the temporary Act was re-enacted in 1842. This was 3 and 4 Vic., c.36. This law was again extended until May, 1845, by 5 and 6 Vic., c.17, by the Conservative administration of Sir Robert Peel. The subject was again enquired into in 1842 by a committee of 15 members, the conclusions of the former committee were re-affirmed, and the scope of the legislation based upon them was extended to other ports. This was by 8 and 9 Vic., c.45 , by a Conservative administration, which made this law of prohibition perpetual. The subject received further attention in 1853, when this law was re-enacted and amended – 16 and 17 Vic., c.107 – in more precise terms, under the coalition Ministry of Lord Aberdeen. Notwithstanding all this elaborate examination and re-examination of committees under various administrations,  the whole of this legislation was repealed in 1862 by a simple reference in figures to the clauses comprising it, and which figures were inserted in the Schedule of 25 and 26 Vic., By Mr. Milner Gibson, the President of the Board of Trade, the only reason given by Mr. Gibson being the following words, quoted from his speech of March 21st, 1862: “It was also proposed to repeal certain clauses of the Customs Consolidation Act, prohibiting the carrying of deck loads in timber ships, which were found to be totally nugatory, and to interfere with the fair competition of the British with the foreign ship owners.” Thus, after all the Labour and painstaking investigation of the various committees, which is attested by the 756 pages of the reports of their proceedings, and after full discussion and deliberate investigation of the question by the House of Commons, and the subsequent legislation, the whole was swept away without discussion, by a simple reference to the figures and clauses. There is probably (as Mr. Plimsoll says) no tribunal in the world more competent to examine the merits of a question, and it is presumable that this subject was fully discussed at the time of the passing of the various Acts. There is therefore no justification for the removal of the act of 1862 from the Statute Book, for the gravity of the issues demanded an equally careful investigation of the case by an equally competent tribunal. Mr. Plimsoll states that he has, with great pains and Labour examined carefully the whole of Hansard’s Debates, comprising the Statutes from 1801 up to the present time, to see “if there were any circumstances which mitigate this great crime,” and has failed to find them. We shall return to this subject next week, for there is an especial reason why we should support Mr. Plimsoll in his endeavours to obtain justice for the British seamen, for it was on the beach at Redcar, after a perilous voyage from London by steamer to join Mrs. Plimsoll, who was staying here, that Mr. Plimsoll made his