A Scotch Victim

John Francis Maguire
CHAPTER X (8) start of chapter

As a companion picture to the foregoing, the story of a Scotch victim, who was driven crazy by the vigorous application of the fleecing process, will exhibit the manner in which things were done before the Castle Garden era. This was part of the evidence taken in 1847:—

Testimony of the St. Andrew's Society. We, the undersigned, officers of St. Andrew's Society, in the city of Albany, do hereby certify that on or about the 2nd day of August last it was represented to us by a manager of our society that a Scotch emigrant, by the name of James Heeslop, had been grossly defrauded and swindled out of his money by the runners, or the robbing concerns for whom these runners do business. We immediately went on the dock, and made inquiries after Heeslop, when we were informed that he had been despatched on a boat to his destination; we had him followed to Troy, and brought back. The story he told the police justice, Cole, in our presence, in asking for a warrant against the notorious Smethurst, was in substance as follows:—That he arrived in New York from Scotland a few days previous; that his destination was Port Washington, in the State of Ohio; that he was accosted by a person in New York near the Albany steamboat, who represented himself as a forwarding agent, and with whom he (Heeslop) agreed for the passage of himself and family (three persons), from there to his destination, and paid the said agent therefore four British sovereigns, the agent consigning Heeslop to the care of Smethurst and Co. He gave Heeslop tickets which the agent told him would carry him through. That a short time after the boat started, Heeslop was accosted by a second person, who likewise represented himself as forwarding agent, and having learned the destination and particulars of Heeslop's affairs, asked to look at his tickets; that Heeslop showed him the tickets, and the agent told Heeslop that the other agent had mistaken, that these tickets were only good as far as Buffalo, and that in order to make sure his passage, it would be necessary for him (the said Heeslop) to pay him (the said second agent) a further payment of three sovereigns which Heeslop had to pay when he arrived at Albany. They told Heeslop at the office of Smethurst and Co., that he should pay in addition the sum of eight sovereigns, together with fifteen sovereigns more for his luggage; that the said Heeslop being rendered almost crazy by these repeated plunderings, and wishing at all hazards to proceed to his destination and true friends, he paid down the further demand of twenty-three sovereigns, and was then put on board a canal boat, where the undersigned found him and brought him back as aforesaid. That the police justice, on hearing the poor plundered man's tale, immediately issued a warrant for the arrest of Smethurst, but he was nowhere to be found; and when Smethurst made his appearance again, the Scotch emigrant was missing—the instruments and associates of Smethurst having in the meantime cajoled or sent him from the city.

Thus it will be perceived, that thirty sovereigns, or one hundred and forty-five dollars, were extorted from this poor man for fare, and to a place the ordinary price to which from New York is two dollars and eighty-seven cents a passenger, or eight dollars and sixty-one cents for Heeslop and his family, thus leaving those rapacious forwarders the swindling profit of one hundred and thirty-six dollars in this single case. All of which is respectfully submitted.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America