Previous to the year 1803 there was no legislation which restricted the carriage of emigrants from the United Kingdom to America. Until the close of the eighteenth century efficiency of service had been maintained by the spirit of competition and rivalry which existed among shipowners. 1 Early in the nineteenth century, however, a great impetus was given to emigration by the conditions of distress at home So overwhelming were the streams of people who desired to proceed across the Atlantic that one master no longer competed with another for passengers, no longer was there any need to tempt men and women by low fares and comfortable quarters. If competition still existed, it existed among the would-be emigrants in their frenzy to secure berths, and not among the captains in an endeavour to obtain full complements of passengers. Such a state of things naturally led to an independent spirit among shipowners; unseaworthy boats were pressed into service, overcrowding became a constant source of danger, whilst the provisions and comforts afforded the unfortunate travellers were of the worst possible nature. Instances of extreme suffering on the part of the emigrants were so frequent that a committee sat in 1802–3, which enquired into the abuses then affecting the transport trade. The report, 2 which was subsequently published, clearly demonstrated the 102need for immediate legislation. Ships, it was found, seldom reached the American shores without sustaining one or more losses by death; the supplies of water, which were frequently polluted, and the system of sleeping passengers in relays, having much to answer for in this matter.