Carriage of Passengers Act (United States) (1855)

2011-02-08 10:31:17

The rapid influx of Irish, German, and Chinese immigrants into the United States after 1845 was accompanied by a series of steamship disasters and the prevalence of cholera, typhus, and smallpox among arriving immigrants. In late 1853, New York senator Hamilton Fish, a Republican, called for a select committee to “consider the causes and the extent of the sickness and mortality prevailing on board of emigrant ships” and to determine what further legislation might be necessary.
With the support of President Franklin Pierce, Congress repealed the Manifest of Immigrants Act (1819) and subsequent measures relating to transportation of immigrants, replacing them on March 3, 1855, with “an act to extend the provisions of all laws now in force relating to the carriage of passengers in merchant-vessels, and the regulation thereof.” Its main provisions included
1. Limitation of passengers, with no more than one person per two tons of ship burden
2. Requirement of ample deck space—14–18 square feet per passenger, depending on the height between decks—and adequate berths
3. Requirement of ample foodstuffs, including the following per each passenger: 20 pounds of “good navy bread,” 15 pounds of rice, 15 pounds of oatmeal, 10 pounds of wheat flour, 15 pounds of peas and beans, 20 pounds of potatoes, one pint of vinegar, 60 gallons of fresh water, 10 pounds of salted pork, and 10 pounds of salt beef (with substitutions allowed where specific provisions could not be secured “on reasonable terms”)
4. Requirement of the captain to maintain sanitary conditions on board
5. Extension of all provisions to steamships, superseding the Steamship Act of August 13, 1852
With advances in shipbuilding technology greatly increasing the size of ships, modifications in the space and food requirements were made in a carriage of passengers act of July 22, 1882.