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APPOINTED BY THE
LEGISLATURE OF NEW-YORK,
TO EXAMINE INTO
FRAUDS UPON EMIGRANTS.
Dec. 6, 1817.
Of, the select committee appointed to investigate frauds
upon emigrant passengers arriving in this State.
Mr. T. Smith, from the select committee appointed to investigate frauds
upon emigrant passengers arriving in this State,
That said committee, immediately after their appointment, entered upon the discharge of their duty. That it became apparent to them at once, that if they intended to make a thorough investigation of the subject committed to their charge, it would be necessary to go to tlie city of New-York, where these emigrants were mostly landed, and make themselves acquainted with the various stages through which they passed after reaching our shores, till they get on board the steamboats to come up the river. Your committee accordingly took the liberty of going to the city of New-York, trusting that the result of their labors would justify them in so doing.
Upon their arrival in New-York, they were kindly tendered by the Commissioners of Emigration, through their agent, Robert Tay(Assembly, No. 250.]
lor, Esquire, with the use of their office for the purpose of conductting said investigation.
The committee summoned before them a large number of witnesses embracing those engaged in every branch of business connected with the emigrants, the testimony of which will be found in the accompanying documents. From this testimony it will appear, that the reports and rumors which have, from time to time, appeared in the public newspapers, within the last year, of the frauds and impositions practised upon these strangers in our land, have fallen vastly short of the reality. It will further appear that this is no new invention, but that these frauds have been carried on for several years to a more limited extent, without attracting much notice, or seeming to excite much interest amongst those who should be the first to protect and the last to prey upon this class of their fellow beings. But it has been left to the present year, when the increase of emigration owing to causes well known to exist in the old world, has been not only beyond all former precedent but beyond all calculation, for those who make it their business to subsist by defrauding aad plundering these people, to realize a golden harvest.
Your committee must confess, that they had no conception of, nor would they have believed the extent to which these frauds and outrages have been practised, until they came to investigate them.
As soon as a ship loaded with these emigrants reaches our shores, it is boarded by a class of men called runners, either in the employment of boarding house keepers or forwarding establishments, soliciting custom for their employers. In order the more successfully to enable the latter to gain the confidence of the emigrant, they usually employ those who can speak the same language with the emigrant. If they cannot succeed in any other way in getting possession and and control over the object of their prey, they proceed to take charge of their luggage, and take it to some boarding house for safe keeping, and generally under the assurance that they will charge nothing for carriage hire or storage. In this way, they are induced to go to some emigrant boarding house, of which there are a great many in the city, and then too often under a pretence that they will charge but a small sum for meals or board, the keepers of these
houses induce these people to stay a few days, and when they come to leave usually charge them three or four times as much as they agreed or expected to pay, and exorbitant prices for storing their luggage, and in case of their inability to pay, their luggage is detained as security.
Some of these runners are employed by the month, and some work upon commission. Where they are in the employment of the forwarding establishments or passenger offices, and receive a commission for each passenger they bring in, they are, in many cases allowed by their employers to charge all they can get over a certain sum for transporting the passenger to a particular place. This, it will be seen, stimulates the runners to great exertions, not only to get as many passengers as possible, but to get them at the highest possible prices. To enable them to carry out their designs, all sorts of falsehoods are resorted to to mislead and deceive the emigrant as to the prices of fare and the modes of conveyance.
Your committee have been shocked to find that a large portion of the frauds committed upon these innocent and in many cases ignorant foreigners are committed by their own countrymen who have come here before them ; for we find the German preying upon the German—the Irish upon the Irish-the English upon the English, &c. ; but at the same time we cannot hold our own countrymen entirely guiltless, for many of them it is to be regretted, are engaged in this nefarious business.
Amongst the numerous frauds practised by these runners and forwarding houses, there is perhaps none greater than that which exists in the sale of passage tickets.
The emigrant is shown a neatly printed ticket, with a picture of a steamboat, railroad cars, and canal packet with three horses aitached to it, and is given to understand that such a ticket will take him to a given place beyond Albany in a specified manner, and for a price to be agreed upon, and after disposing of the ticket for an exorbitant price, the emigrant is furnished with a steamboat ticket to take him to Albany, where he is to present his passage ticket to some person or company upon which it is drawn, where it is often