Cholera on the ship Brutus 1832

Liverpool Mercury 15 June 1832



GENTLEMEN, Your paper of tomorrow will no doubt, give some particulars of the distressing events which have occurred on board the Brutus, which returned to this port yesterday, having lost from her crew and passengers 82 persons, (as report states,) from the generally prevailing disease. It is probable this circumstance may occasion a subject of argumentation, not only amongst those of the faculty, who admit the existence of Asiatic cholera in this part of the world, and those who deny it, but also furnish a theme for discussion between those who admit it, but differ in opinion as to its being contagious or not. With this part of the matter I have as little inclination as I have ability to meddle, but there is one point of view of this melancholy event which appears to me so self evident, that it will admit of no difference of opinion, and that is, that people in so distressed and deplorable a condition, have an undeniable claim upon their countrymen who have the means to contribute towards the alleviation of their sufferings. My object in now addressing you is to request, or rather to suggest, that in announcing the melancholy tidings of what has happened to these poor creatures, who, from various causes, were leaving the land of their fathers, that a subscription should be made for their relief; not doubting that you would receive it at your office.

Yours, etc. AN ENGLISHMAN,

Who sympathizes with all those who feel compelled to quit the island.

June 14th 1832

We have great pleasure in stating that the Liverpool parish authorities, as soon as they heard of the arrival of the Brutus, under the afflicting circumstances described, sent on board a supply of provisions, medicine and bedding. The promptitude with which this was done is most praiseworthy, and we hope that there is not to be found amongst our parishioners one man so selfish, and so lost to common humanity, as to object to the expenditure thus incurred. The temporary relief thus afforded by the parish authorities will not render the further assistance recommended by our correspondent the less necessary. The distress on board of this ill fated vessel, the family bereavements, blighted prospects and sufferings of the survivors, entitle them, in no ordinary degree, to public sympathy. The Editor

Liverpool Mercury 15 June 1832


We have received several communications respecting this ill fated vessel and the unfortunate passengers who have been thrown back upon our shores under such appalling circumstances. Many of these communications are unfit for the public eye, as the writers do not scruple to make the most serious charges against the proprietors of the vessel, for having taken more passengers on board than the law allows, and for other alleged conduct, which it would be improper and unsafe to publish on anonymous authority. All that we shall say upon the subject is, that, in our opinion, a full investigation of the circumstances of the case ought to be instituted, and if we were like the owners of the vessel under such peculiar circumstances, we should feel it our duty to court rather than to shun inquiry. We particularly recommend an examination of the water casks, as the quality of that element may have had much to do with the production of the pestilence which has proved fatal.


(From Gores Liverpool Advertiser of yesterday.)

With feelings of the deepest sorrow, we have to convey to our readers intelligence of the most distressing nature, which will carry dismay to many, and regret to all, and further arrest the public mind to the consideration of a disease which is so fearful and desolating in its progress. After devastating the land, it has invaded the deep, and the sum of human suffering which we this day announce, shows how fell and destructive has been its short career on the waters.

The ship Brutus, Captain Neilson, left the Mersey on the 18th May for Quebec, with three hundred and thirty passengers, principally composed of persons from the agricultural districts, anxious to find in the Canadas profitable returns for their labour and capital. The crew was efficient, the captain able and attentive. The services of a surgeon and clergyman were also engaged, and every thing promised a favourable and pleasant voyage. The weather was calm and beautiful , and the first six days were spent without regret of the past, but in pleasing anticipation of the future. On Friday the 25th May there was illness on board, but it created no alarm. On Sunday, the 27th, the crew and passengers were summoned to prayers, and the Rev Gentleman preached from 1 Cor. “Now abideth faith, hope and charity.” He was listened to with the most marked attention and the day closed in serenity and peace. The sun on the following morning rose unclouded, it shone on health, it set on dismay and death! A man, in the vigour and prime of life was suddenly seized with illness, and soon the principal symptoms of malignant cholera manifested themselves. The surgeon, aware of the necessity of prompt and vigorous exertion, at once applied the necessary remedies, and his patient recovered. His next case was not so fortunate, and soon the news of the death of a woman thrilled through the ship with awful solemnity. A child of a few days old soon followed , and the next day, Tuesday, death made a fearful advance. Alarm then arrived at its height, and each passenger began to view his fellow with looks of fearful apprehension. Sympathy became absorbed in the fear of general danger, and many sought protection by keeping aloof from those parts of the ship in which the sufferers lay. This was to no avail, and when, on the following Sunday, the awful splash told of thirteen bodies being committed to the deep! then, indeed,

“Shrunk the timid, and stood the brave!”

The brave! few, few, in truth they were, despair seemed to sit on every visage, the stillness of the grave was around, and the doctor’s melancholy movements were viewed with almost the listless gaze of inanition. On Monday the deaths swelled in their amount, and the captain, finding himself deprived of the services of his second mate, carpenter, and steward, thought it in accordance with his duty to bear up for Cork, but finding that impossible, he altered his course for Liverpool, and arrived yesterday morning, and was immediately reported. The deaths amounted to 79, and two having died after coming into port leaves the amount of mortality 81 individuals since the disease broke out.

The Board of Health had all the particulars laid before them, and the Newcastle lazaretto ship in the Slyne was ordered for the accommodation of the remaining passengers, and the necessary supply of provisions sent on board. The number of cases were in all 117, and the recoveries 20, a proof that the medical gentleman [one] efficiently discharged his duty. We have obtained the names and former residences of the deceased, which we deem it our duty to publish.

Alice Jackson, Oldham

George Pegg, Leicester

Samuel Justin, Deddington

William Gilks, Oxford

Ann Gibbs, ditto

David Robinson, 2nd mate

George. Bradshaw, Lancashire

James Wild

Christian Garford, Leeds

Ann Garford, ditto

G Smith, ship's cook

Silvester Newton, Oldham

Martha Newton, ditto

Charlotte Armstrong, Yorkshire

Dorothea Myres, ditto

Jean Myres, ditto

John Dickenson Leeds

J Logan, Dublin, ship's steward

John Dickenson, Yorkshire

William. Dickenson, ditto

Joseph Lucas, Leeds

Hannah Ball, Manchester

Mary Mason, Newcastle

Edward Baines, Yorkshire

Julia Will, Worcestershire

John Hayford, Leicester

Mary Henderson, Glasgow

George. Donahoe, Manchester

Berne Donahoe, ditto

Susannah Green, Oxfordshire

John Green, ditto

John Green jun., ditto

Benjamin. Green, ditto

Mary Atrim, ditto

Maria Gardner, ditto

Edward Gardner, ditto

Mary Paine, ditto

George. Paine, ditto

Joshua Paine, ditto

John Eddin, ditto

John Workham, Oxfordshire

Sarah Gilks, ditto

Elishia Gilks, ditto

Mary Gilks, ditto

Elizabeth Gilks, ditto

William. Gilks, ditto

Ann Bateman, Buckinghamshire

Alicia Bateman, ditto

Sarah Bateman, ditto

Provis Redhead, ditto

William. Redhead, ditto

Eliza Redhead, ditto

James Redhead, ditto

William. Mellors, ditto

Thomas. Mellors, ditto

George. Judith, ditto

Emas Williams, ditto

Ann Beesley, ditto

William. Beesley, ditto

Elizabeth Beesley

William. Snead, Nottingham

John Fitzpatrick, Louth

Martin Daily, Queen's County.

Sarah Wood Coats, Yorkshire

John Gardner

W. Newman, carpenter, Cork

Jonah M'Can and child, Lancashire

Mary Webb, Worcestershire

Mary Jane Morris, Anaghlone

Mary Wild, Holdon

John Green, Oxfordshire

Hannah Green, ditto

John Wood Lumer, Huddersfield

John Webb

William. Williams

Paul Weed

John Dickinson

Thomas Eaton

Two others yesterday, make 81 in the whole.


The following letter was yesterday forwarded to the Board of Health:—



With deepest feelings of regret I have the painful duty to perform of transmitting you one of the most melancholy and distressing accounts of cholera, which occurred on. board the British barque Brutus, bound for Quebec, from Liverpool, with three hundred and thirty passengers. The first case presented itself on the 25th of May, (being the eighth day after we left the river,) in a strong, healthy man, 35 years of age, the symptoms were all well marked, the spasms particularly severe. Under the usual means of treatment he recovered. The next case was an old woman of sixty, who died in ten hours after the commencement of the attack, the disease continued gradually to increase. (notwithstanding every means having been employed to arrest its progress, until the night of Saturday, the 2nd June, when we were a good deal tossed about by a heavy sea, and dark hazy weather, it spread to such an alarming extent, that on Sunday most of the ship’s crew being attacked, and having lost some of them the week before, we were obliged to bear up again for Liverpool; it is impossible to describe the scene of misery of the third, fourth, and fifth, people dying in every direction, the greater number of them destitute of the common articles of bed covering; on the sixth the weather became more favourable, the disease less severe, and the number of new cases diminished, which has since been on the decline.

I annex the number of cases, deaths, recoveries and the number labouring under the disease at present on board. May I therefore request you will have some arrangement made, as soon as possible, to remove the sick where they can have the necessary attendance, as their situation here is so truly deplorable, that there is little chance of recovery, and the remainder of the passengers are in imminent danger of being attacked with the disease.

I have the honour to be,


Your obedient humble Servant,

W. W. THOMPSON, M.R.C.S in London

The number of cases, deaths, recoveries and those on board

May 25th, 1 case, May 26th, 0, May 27th, 1 case, 1 recovered,

May 28th, 1 case, 1 death, May 29th, 3 cases, 1 death,

May 30th, 2 cases, 1 remaining, 2 deaths, May 31st, 4 cases, 1 recovered 2 deaths,

1st June, 3 cases, 2 remaining, 2 deaths,

June 2nd, 21 cases, 1 remaining, 1 recovered, 3 deaths,

June 3rd, 19 cases, 8 remaining, 1 recovered, 13 deaths,

June 4th, 17 cases, 9 remaining, 1 recovered, 17 deaths,

June 5th, 11 cases, 13 remaining, 1 recovered, 12 deaths,

June 6th, 5 cases, 17 remaining, 3 recovered, 4 deaths,

June 7th, 4 cases, 14 remaining, 2 recovered, 6 deaths,

June 8th, 9 cases, 11 remaining, 3 recovered, 4 deaths,

June 9th, 2 cases, 11 remaining, 2 recovered, 3 deaths,

June 10th, 8 cases, 10 remaining, 1 recovered 2 deaths,

June 11th, 4 cases, 7 remaining, 2 recovered, 4 deaths,

June 12th, 2 cases, 6 remaining, 1 recovered, 4 deaths,

June 13th, 0 cases, 7 remaining, 0 recovered, 1 death.


Liverpool Mercury 22nd, June 1832




Although the number of persons stowed together in the Brutus was such as was very likely to produce some pestilence or mortal malady, it has been stated that the vessel did not take a greater number on board than the law allows If this be the fact, it would subject us, or any other person connected with the press to actions for damages were we to remonstrate with the proprietors of the vessel in language such as humanity would suggest upon the melancholy occasion. The Legislature should be instantly petitioned to amend the law, and adopt the precedent set by the United States of America, where a vessel is prohibited taking on board more than two persons to each five tons burden. According to the seale a vessel would not have been permitted to carry as many passengers as the Brutus contained unless she had been of 825 tons burden. Now the Brutus was only a vessel of 380 tons burden, and had there been the same prohibitory law here as in America, instead of 330 passengers, she would not have been allowed to receive on board so many as 200. We conceive that the total number of persons on board the Brutus must have exceeded the number stated, as we presume that the 330 were passengers only, to which the number of crew must be added.

Bt the Passengers Regulation Bill, passed in 1828 vessels taking emigrants to the ports of British America are prohibited from taking more than four persons for every three tons of the registered burden, and it is enacted that two children under the age of fourteen, or three under the age of seven, or one child under the age of twelve months and its mother, are to be computed as one person. Thus it will be seen, that whilst the American law prohibits the taking more than two passengers for every five tons, the British law actually allows four persons for every three tons, or nearly three times the number. In the Mercury of April 4th 1828, we gave the substance of this precious bill, and accompanied it by some remarks, from which we extract the following :-

The first section actually permit’s the carrying of more passengers on board a ship than the number of slaves which were allowed to be carried by the traders from Africa to the West Indies in the latter days of the traffic, when, we have just been reminded, 274 slaves were the greatest number carried by a vessel of 301 tons burthen. By the new law a vessel like the Canada of 570 tons, is entitled to carry 760 full grown passengers, or, if the average families of emigrants should each consist of a man, his wife, a servant, and three children, which we conceive to be about the mark, these would be reckoned only as four persons, and consequently the Canada may lawfully carry 1140, men, women and children across the Atlantic”

We can confidently say that we have done all in our power to call the attention of the public and the Legislature to the important subject of emigrant ships, and we have been repeatedly threatened with prosecution for our interference. We trust, however, that the frightful mortality on board the Brutus will be forced upon the attention of the Legislature, and we strongly recommend the subject to the notice of Mr Ewart


To the Worshipful the Mayor and the inhabitants of Liverpool.

We, the passengers and ship’s crew, now lying in the Brutus, find ourselves called on to acknowledge the receipt of your favours under our depressed and unprecedented trials, yet trusting that out of all our troubles the Lord shall set us free.

Your favours have revived some, strengthened others, and called forth expressions of gratitude from all. In hopes of a continuance of your sympathy and exertions, we wish to assure you, as we hereby do, of our most unqualified thanks.

Signed on behalf of all the passengers,



W. M. THOMPSON, M.R.C. of Surgeons in London.


On board the Brutus, 18th, June 1832.


To Correspondents


We have the pleasure to acknowledge from Mrs. Lawrence, of Wavertree hall, the sum of one Pound for the relief of the unfortunate persons on board the Brutus. This is the only sum which has been tendered for the purpose, and we feel at a loss how to dispose of it, or to whom to entrust it. We shall, however, make the requisite inquiry


Liverpool Mercury 29 June 1832


We have just received the following letter, which we publish with pleasure. Something ought to be done in this urgent case, and we hope some good Samaritans will step forward.



Your well known humanity emboldens us to address you, your valuable paper has always been an advocate for the poor and distressed, and in many instances much good has been done through your charitable interference.

Feeling, as every humane person must feel, who reflects for a moment on their distressed situation, we allude to the passengers per ship Brutus, we hope you will have the goodness to recommend the necessity of raising a fund to enable those passengers, who have no alternative left but to proceed with the vessel, to provide themselves with the necessaries for the voyage, and subsistence while they are detained.

We shall feel great pleasure in your acceptance of our mite of ten pounds for their relief. We remain, respectfully, your obedient humble servants,

O. BECKETT and Co.

P. W. BYRNES and Co.

N.B We shall be able to furnish you with the names of the persons who wish to proceed, and the expense attending their outfit, if you require it.


Liverpool Mercury 6th, July 1832

Discovery of a Murderer on Board the Ship Brutus.

The melancholy affliction which occasioned the return of Brutus to this port has been the means of securing a man who has, to all appearance, been engaged in the murder of one of his fellow creatures. Amongst the passengers on board the Brutus were two individuals who went by the name of Daly, and also a pensioner of the Garrison Battalions, named Jer. Whelan. When the vessel had proceeded some distance from land, Whelan had some conversation with the Dalys, from which he was led to conclude that they had been concerned in a murder, or at least something not far short. He also ascertained that they had come from the neighbourhood of Portarlington, in Queen’s County. His suspicions were so strongly confirmed that, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, by the return of the ship to Liverpool, he despatched a letter to Lieutenant Ray, the chief of police at Maryborough, Ireland, in which he stated the circumstances we have mentioned, and also that one of them had declared, after they put back, that he would go by the first vessel to Quebec, as he durst not return home. The result of this letter was the arrival of an officer from Ireland, with a warrant for the apprehension of Richard Connor, a labourer, aged about 26, William Connor, a blacksmith, aged 24, Richard Connor, jun., and James Conrohy, who were charged with having assaulted a person named Peter Dowling, at Ship House, in Queen’s County, and beaten him so severely that he died. The warrant for their apprehension was received at the police-office, in this town, on Tuesday forenoon, and placed in the hands of Turner, the police officer, for execution. The passengers and crew of the Brutus had been removed to the Newcastle lazarette, and as he would not have been allowed to make a search there, the officer proceeded to the parish office, where he learned that no person of the name of Connor had applied there, but on looking at the description of the applicants he found one belonging to Queen’s County, under the name of Daly. He was told that he had applied for relief, and would shortly call again, in about five minutes he accordingly made his appearance, when Turner tapped him on the shoulder and asked him his name. He answered, without hesitation, “Richard Connor,” but had hardly uttered. the words before he tried to recall them, and added “Daly.” When asked why he had at first said Connor, he replied that he had made a mistake. From these circumstances Turner was satisfied he was one of the men included in the warrant, and immediately brought in the pensioner to identify him. He was then taken into custody. Thus, in less than twenty minutes after the arrival of the warrant, the diligence and prudence of the police officer had enabled him to discover and secure the object of his pursuit. William Connor fell a victim to the cholera after the Brutus put back, and of the other two persons named in the warrant nothing has yet been heard, nor is it understood that they were ever on board the vessel.

July 6th 1832

Passengers in the Brutus

About the middle of last week, such of the passengers of the Brutus as had not been affected by the cholera were allowed to land, After having been upwards of a fortnight on board the Newcastle lazaretto, and on Sunday all the rest were released from the Margaretta, the disease having entirely disappeared. The unfortunate ship Brutus still lies in the river near the lazarettos, but we suppose she will not remain much longer. The inhabitants of the New Ferry will sincerely rejoice at her departure

Liverpool Mercury 6th, July 1832



It has been doubted by some persons that the mortality on board the ship Brutus was entirely occasioned by cholera, and that the answer from on board, when hailed at sea by other vessels, was that there was a very bad fever in the ship. We give this report just as we have heard it. We have also heard from a respectable medical gentleman who visited the Brutus on Saturday night, and made particular inquiries into the circumstances of the recent calamity, that the typhus fever was in the ship. On making inquiries amongst the passengers he learned that a poor family, from the neighbourhood of Manchester, had been afflicted with the typhus, some time before they came to Liverpool for the purpose of emigrating to America, and that the trouble, fatigue, and anxiety, consequent on securing their passage, and getting out to sea, their poverty, and the badness or insufficiency of their provisions, produced a relapse amongst them, and the disease was communicated to their fellow passengers, who, from the latter causes, were nearly all, more or less, predisposed for the reception of that or any other infectious disease.

Our only object in publishing this paragraph is to allay, as much as is in our power, the panic which the mortality on board the Brutus excites in this town. There was, in all probability, a complication of disorders, occasioned by the shameful mode of stowing the passengers, which is permitted by the law, an abominable law, as we last week showed, when we compared it with the humane regulations respecting emigrants in the United States of America.

That there. were other disorders on board the Brutus besides cholera, is rendered almost certain by the testimony of the medical gentleman who interrogated the passengers in the Brutus, as we have just stated, and the fact derives further confirmation from the following letter from one of the persons now on board the lazaretto ship in our river. The letter appeared in the Lancaster Herald, and the writer would hardly have made such a statement if it were wholly unfounded :-

Liverpool, Lazaretto Ship, June 20th, 1832

Dear Uncle,

I write these few lines to let you know that we are all very well at present, thank God for it. I am sorry to say that my father died on the 5th June of the cholera morbus. Here have ninety three died of the smallpox and cholera morbus. We had got about half way over when it first broke out, and the Captain was obliged to return on account of the loss of so many of his sailors. My brother Thomas was very ill of the cholera, but he soon recovered when we got back to Liverpool. None of us were permitted to land, but those who were well were ordered to ride quarantine in a fresh vessel, called the Newcastle Lazaretto Ship. Those who are ill still remain in the ship Brutus. We think of returning home if it please God to spare our lives, but we don’t know how soon we shall get onshore, as we have to remain ten days after the cholera has subsided.

It appears from a paragraph in the Liverpool Courier of the 29th ult, that there were on Saturday, amongst the passengers remaining in the Brutus, eighteen sick of the smallpox, and only four of cholera. Are we not then as justified by all the facts we have here stated, in concluding that the mortality on board that ill-fated ship, and which has been ascribed to cholera, was the result of a variety of diseases, aggravated by the manner in which the British laws so disgracefully permit proprietors to stow the passengers on board emigrant ships? Some persons may, perhaps, say, “What matters it whether the passengers died of Cholera, colic, typhus or smallpox, it cannot be denied that they did die, and that is the main question.”

In reply to so superficial an observation, we should say, it is, in the present state of excitement, a matter of great importance to show that the mortality arose, in some degree, from other causes than the cholera, because such knowledge must have a tendency, in some measure, to allay the panic which is now doing so much mischief in the country.

Unfortunate Sufferers in the Brutus

We last week published a letter addressed to us by Messers Beckett, Byrne and Co, intimating their intention to forward to us 10 pounds for the use of the unfortunate sufferers on board the Brutus, in order to aid their necessities, and to provide them with the necessary outfit, if they should prosecute the voyage. We take this opportunity of informing these gentlemen that the commission which they have entrusted to our management is of such a nature that we must decline acting at all, and we shall return the 10 pounds to them. It is impossible for us to ascertain whether the applicants are the persons whom they describe themselves to be. We have no means even of knowing whether they ever were on board at all, and in one or two instances we have had applications for relief from persons who are impostors. Under these circumstances after procuring some aid to the applicants from the District Provident Society, we have referred them to the persons from whom we received the 10 pounds, and who, as they are connected with the Brutus, can best identify the sufferers, and distribute the relief. We greatly regret that the public has not been more alive to the sufferings and privations of those miserable individuals and their families. We think their case ought to have been taken into immediate consideration at a public meeting. We have done our duty in the affair, and as we have much more of our own business than we can well attend to, we must decline further interference beyond recommending those of the sufferers, who chose to avail themselves of such an accommodation, a temporary refuge in the Night Asylum.

Dr James COLLINS, M.D, on cholera on board the Brutus

Lancaster Gazette 07 September 1833


From the Montreal Herald July 22nd

The accounts from Quebec mention the arrival of the Brutus at Grosse Isle, having lost 20 passengers by cholera during the voyage. This is the same vessel in which so many cases of cholera occurred last year. It is strenuously asserted by those on board, that the deaths which took place were not cholera. However this may be, orders were transmitted, as soon as the circumstances were reported, for subjecting the vessel, crew, and passengers to the same rigid quarantine as was successfully observed in the case of the Harvey, and we see no reason for alarm in consequence of the sickness which occasioned the unusual mortality in the Brutus of this season.

Destruction of human life by Cholera

The disease called spasmodic cholera appears to have been unknown previous 1817, when it appears in India. Since that time, till near the end of 1832, a period of 15 years, there have been throughout the world, as near as can be estimated, one hundred millions of cases. Of these, fully one half at the very least must have died, which gives a mortality, from this single disease, of fifty millions in the above period, or upwards of three millions three hundred and thirty three thousand annually. In India alone, the mortality has exceeded eighteen millions. These calculations have been made by Jonnes, the celebrated French physician, and it is estimated that they are rather under than above the truth.


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