of The Tablet's first edition
The Rev. Mr. Palin, rector of Stifford, in Essex, and a magistrate for that country, accompanied by several gentlemen of high respectability in the county, waited upon the Lord Mayor, on Tuesday, for the purpose, as a note of the rev. gentleman's to his lordship signified, of laying before him a transaction in which the public were greatly interested, and in which his own life was all but sacrificed, by the racing of steam-boats.
On Saturday afternoon, The Star, Gravesend steam-vessel, in which he was a passenger, left London Bridge. At the commencement of the voyage, he inferred, from what was evidently going on between the Star and the other vessel, called the Sons of the Thames, which started exactly at the same moment, that there was to be a race between them, and his inference was quite right. When the vessels arrived at Blackwall, the Vesper steam-vessel, which was moored at that place, let go her moorings, and, although without passengers, started off and joined in the race. Off the three dashed, the Star first, but closely followed by the other two. The Star, in which there appeared to be 300 or 400 passengers, kept a-head all the way. At last, when the Star reached Grays, where he was to go ashore, the boat into which he was to descend from the steamer was hooked on by one of the men, but the vessel was neither stopped nor eased, as was generally the case when passengers wanted to leave a vessel. Two persons got into the boat, and as he was about to follow he saw the water rushing in at the boat's bow. He immediately called to the mate to stop the engine, and said that otherwise the boat would be swamped; to which the mate replied, "Nonsense, go in;" and in an evil moment he attempted to get in. The man who had hooked on the boat, however, apprehensive, as was afterwards ascertained, that if he did not at once quit his hold the boat would go down, let go the hook, and he (Mr. Palin) was precipitated into the river. As soon as he regained his consciousness he saw the Star continuing her course, without making any attempt to stop or do anything for his assistance. The boat into which he had endeavoured to step from the Star was at the time at a considerable distance, and if he had not been a good swimmer, he must certainly have been drowned. He was picked up by a boat which was about twenty yards a-head of him when he rose. He never witnessed such a total recklessness about human life before. He could prove, by evidence, that the man who held on with the hook let it go to prevent the boat from sinking.
The Lord Mayor. You consider that the Star was going at full speed? - The Rev. Mr. Palin. I do. They were continuing the race, and were utterly regardless of the consequences.
The Lord Mayor. Where were the Vesper and the Sons of the Thames at the time? - The Rev. Mr. Palin. The Vesper came abreast with the boat in which I got just as I was getting in; but I was so exhausted and agitated I observed nothing of the other vessel. I reside in the neighbourhood of Grays, and was then landed there.
Several gentlemen declared that it was the constant practice of the ruffians who have the charge of the vessels which had been named, to run races in the river from London to Gravesend.
The Lord Mayor said he had heard of the conduct of the persons alluded to. A company of captains, he believed, had set up the Sons of the Thames to go to Gravesend at a cheaper rate than usual, and the Star and Diamond Companies, which had lately joined, were determined to keep up the dangerous competition.
Mr. Palin, the brother of the complainant, said, he had in his hand the Morning Advertiser newspaper, in which appeared a regular challenge, signed by the accredited agent of the Star and Diamond Companies, to run a race for 200 guineas to Gravesend, against the Sons of the Thames. He considered it necessary to mention that, in consequence of the verdict given at Grays, on the coroner's inquest on the bodies of persons who were lost by the running down of a vessel by a steam-vessel, a prejudice existed against the inhabitants of that place amongst those who superintended the steamers. The most respectable inhabitants of Grays were subject to the greatest possible annoyances from such persons, and it was the intention of the gentlemen who waited on his lordship, to the further extent the law would allow, to punish such gross misconduct as that which had been described. They therefore requested to be informed by the Lord Mayor as to the most advisable course for them to pursue for the protection of the public.
The Lord Mayor highly commended the resolute intention of the gentlemen who waited upon him on the subject, and after a consultation with Mr. Hobler, advised the Rev. Mr. Palin to apply at once to Mr. Clarke, the clerk of the peace at the Central Criminal Court, to hear whether the offence was not indictable, and if it were, to proceed by indictment; but if not, to prefer a complaint before the magistrates who had jurisdiction, for the infliction of a penalty.
Mr. Tickner, a proprietor of the Star Gravesend Steam-vessel Company, waited upon the Lord Mayor, accompanied by Mr. Matthews, the solicitor to the company, in consequence of the complaint made by the Rev. Mr. Palin, rector of Stifford, in Essex, on Tuesday last.
Mr. Tickner said that the directors of the company had, immediately after the accident to which he adverted, caused an examination of the strictest nature to be made into the circumstance. The facts from that investigation appeared to be that the rev. gentleman and other passengers wished to land at Grays, and the vessel stopped as usual on the occasion. Mr. Palin got into the boat, but perceiving that there was a fracture in it, determined to return to the vessel. It was the habit of the watermen, when it was proper to let go the hook, to cry out, "All right." That notice had been given, and then it occurred to Mr. Palin not to go in the boat, and having two large parcels with him, in trying to return he fell into the river.
The Lord Mayor - This statement is very different from that which was made to me.
Mr. Matthews said that the Rev. M. Palin's brother had said that an advertisement had appeared from the Star Company, signed by their agent, challenging to race for 200 guineas. Now neither the directors nor their agent knew any thing at all of such a challenge, and if the agent, or any person employed by the company, had inserted such an advertisement, he would be immediately dismissed.
The Lord Mayor said he was convinced that the answer to the accusation would be as fairly represented to the public as had been the accusation itself. As to any ulterior proceeding, however, what took place before him had nothing to do with them.
STEAM-BOAT RACING. - The Rev. William Palin, the rector of Stifford, in Essex, and a magistrate for that country; Dr. Pal, his brother, of Cleveland-house, Barne's-green; Mr Hamber, a gentleman of property, residing in Barnsbury-park, Islington; and several other persons of respectability, applied on Wednesday to Mr. Broderip for a warrant against the master and mate of the Star, a Gravesend steamer, which nearly caused the death of the reverend gentleman, while racing with the Sons of the Thames on Saturday evening last.
The Rev. Mr. Palin said the Lord Mayor had referred him to that office, and he had to complain of a most gross outrage on the part of the people conducting the Star-boat. The reverend gentleman then reiterated the statement he made at the Mansion-house on Tuesday.
Mr. Broderip said he was afraid the only remedy for the reverend gentleman was an action at law, and he did not hesitate to say, if he made out such a case as he had just represented, a jury would give him very heavy damages. The watermen in the boat would be very good evidence.
The Rev. Mr. Palin said the boat was really sinking, and the waterman afterwards told him that if they had not let go, the boat would have been drawn under and cut to pieces. He asked if he could not lay an information against the captain and mate of the steamer for racing.
Mr. Broderip was afraid not. The case did not resolve itself into one of common assault.
Dr. Palin said his brother was determined to seek redress, not so much for his own sake as to protect the public from similar outrages.
Mr. Broderip said, he understood a bill had been introduced in the House of Commons to regulate steam navigation, but he could not tell the exact purpose of it. Perhaps the chief clerk knew something about it.
Mr. Symons said he did not. He was sure, if the reverend gentleman consulted his attorney, the Star Company would soon be brought to their senses.
Mr. Broderip said, if the reverend gentleman had lost his life, a coroner's jury would no doubt have returned a verdict of manslaughter, and levied a heavy deodand on the Star packet, but circumstanced as the boat was, he could not summon the conductors to that office for racing. The want of a summary remedy was very great. The master of steamers did not care about fines, but if they were liable to be sent to the treadmill for racing, or for such an outrage as the one complained of, they would be more careful of people's lives and property.
Mr. Hamber - Could not the magistrate grant a peace warrant to restrain the conductors of the rival steamers from navigating their vessels so dangerously.
Mr. Broderip - I am afraid not: I do not see how I can do it, as no threats or bad language have been used to the Rev. Mr. Palin, who has got a very strong case against the steamer. He can proceed by indictment at the Essex quarter sessions, or by an action on the case in the common law courts.
The Rev. Mr. Palin - Perhaps, sir, I can be furnished with the names of the captain and mate.
Mr. Symons, the chief clerk, said he would do that, and after being closeted with the three gentlemen for some time, they left the office.