Immigration Archives - Inspection of Emigrants at Liverpool, 1904
In Liverpool, the system of embarkation of passengers differs from that prevailing at nearly every other port, this difference arising from the great rise and fall of tide (over 30 feet). All ships take their cargo in enclosed docks. When the steerage passengers get on the ship they have to undergo the real examination by the Board of Trade medical inspector and the ship's surgeon. They are mustered on deck and made to pass between the two doctors.
Liverpool Landing Stage, Early 1900s
Every emigrant is examined personally and individually. The object of the Board of Trade official is to reject those persons who are prohibited from sailing under British law from a British port. This is primarily (or the protection of the ship and of the passengers, as well as of the crew (who also are examined), and is, in an official sense, apart from consideration of .the laws of the United States upon the subject.
The ship's surgeon is expected to look sharply after those cases which come within the prohibition of the laws of the United States. He has to go farther than the official purview of the British Board of Trade examiner.
But, by force of circumstances and from a developed desire to avoid any friction and to facilitate and aid the shipping companies in their business, the latter official really goes beyond the mere letter of his instructions, and, as a rule, freely gives the benefit of his professional knowledge and experience in helping the ship's surgeon in deciding whether any particular case comes under the prohibition of the United States laws.
An official from the United States consulate is also present at the examination, and he bands a certified landing card to every emigrant who is “passed" by the two doctors.
It appears to me to be impracticable for an examination to be made at the home (this side) of the intending emigrants. As to first and second-class passengers, the British examination includes them only under exceptional circumstances. . The ship's surgeon stands at the gangplank at the entrance to the ship and is supposed to scrutinize these first and second saloon passengers as they come on board. It is fairly open to doubt whether this examination is very thorough, but it is claimed that it is not practically necessary.
My opinion is, however, that the consular authority should include first and second saloon passengers, as well as steerage passengers, to be put in force when necessary, even though the necessity would seldom arise. I have never come across any cases of rejection from the steerage being allowed to embark as saloon passengers.
"Inspection of Emigrants," In Special Consular Reports, Emigration to the United States, Department of Commerce and Labor, Bureau of Statistics, Volume XXX, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1904, P. 149