HC Deb 07 December 1826 vol 16 cc298-303
Mr. W. Horton

presented petitions from Glasgow and Calton, in favour of Emigration, as a measure necessary for the relief of the distressed manufacturers.

Mr. Hume

hoped that ministers would be prepared to introduce some measure on the subject, as it was one in which thousands and tens of thousands were interested.

Mr. Wilmot Horton

said, he was on the point of rising to give notice, that on the 15th of February, he would move to renew the committee on emigration, which had sat during the last session. He assured the hon. member, that it would not at all forward his object to force a decision on the subject at the present moment. The individuals who desired to emigrate could not be removed at this season of the year with any advantage to themselves. The subject of emigration was so extensive in its nature, that the House ought to have the fullest information upon it.

Mr. Abercromby

contended, that government ought to come forward with some specific plan for the relief of the thousands of artisans who were now starving in different parts of the country.

Mr. J. Grattan

agreed with his learned friend, that some more explicit declaration was wanted from government. He did not entertain any great hopes of advantage from the renewal of the committee which had sat last session. Indeed, the opinion of that committee, as far as it could be collected from their report, was adverse to emigration.

Mr. W. Horton

dissented from the assertion, that the report of the committee held out no hopes of advantage from emigration. He knew not what better evidence could have been collected than that which was collected by the committee, to throw light upon this important subject. He hoped that the next committee would be able to propose some temporary measure, which would in no way interfere with any permanent measure which it might ultimately think proper to adopt.

Sir James Graham

said, it was evident, from the correspondence into which ministers had entered with the editor of the "Glasgow Free Press," that they were favourably inclined to the system of emigration. He was sorry to find that they were ready to see thousands of their fellow countrymen seeking to be exiled from their native land. The system of emigration was contrary to the spirit of our laws, and opposed to many of our most ancient regulations, he admitted, that it was necessary to do something to relieve the distresses under which so many of our artisans were at present sinking. He was sorry to inform the House, that since the petition from Carlisle had been presented, he had received accounts, stating that their distress was increasing daily. He could state to the House, that the hand-weavers did not at present receive more than 5s. a week; for which sum they laboured fourteen hours a day. They were most of them a year's rent in arrear, and were therefore liable not only to have that small portion of their property which remained unpledged, sold to defray the claims upon them, but to be ejected from, their tenements. Their diet was of the humblest description, oatmeal and potatoes, and their whole appearance showed that they were reduced to an extremity of want. In fact, there were thousands and tens of thousands of them on the verge of starvation at that moment. He was not going to examine into the causes which had led to this distress; but he believed that one, and perhaps the chief, was placed beyond the reach of parliamentary interposition: he alluded to the improvements which had been recently made in the power-looms. The hand-weavers could not be converted into power-loom weavers, and they were thus compelled to continue a hopeless struggle with power-loom weavers, at a rate of wages which was regularly decreasing. Under these circumstances, some special remedy ought to be applied by government to the distresses of the country. He thought they were so great as even to justify a grant of public money to relieve them.

Mr. Warburton

wished to be informed how, under the present system of our Corn-laws, the corn grown in the colonies was to be sent to England to pay the quit-rent, which was to re-imburse the government for the expenses it might incur in carrying emigrants to the place of their destination.

Mr. Secretary Peel

deprecated the continuance of the present discussion. It was of great importance that hon. gentlemen should keep their minds open to information on this subject, and that they should not pledge themselves to opinions now, which might, by possibility, fetter their judgments hereafter. There were many points connected with the subject of emigration, into which it would be incumbent on the House to examine before it came to any determination. They must consider; first, how far emigration would be available to meet the distress which now prevailed in this country on account of the population being greater than the demand for labour; and secondly, how far the encouragement of emigration would affect the interests of the colonies. It might be impossible to incur the expense of relieving the distress of the country by emigration, and when it was recollected, that an expense of 20l. was to be incurred for each emigrant, it could not be expected that the excess of the population could be sensibly relieved by emigration. One might, however, see an advantage in supplying the waste lands in the North American provinces with an active population, inasmuch as it would create, an increased demand for British manufactures. There would also be, in his opinion, a great advantage to the colonies by encouraging emigration upon a large scale, even though it might not mitigate the distress of the mother country. He was sorry that the hon. baronet had fallen into the fallacy which had been so ably exposed on a former night. He had said, that there were at present many individuals who were willing to place themselves in the same situation with convicts, and who voluntarily asked for that exile which the law attached as a penalty to great crimes. Now this was not the case. The exile into which the petitioners wished to enter was very different from that to which convicts were consigned. In the first place, the exile of the convict was a punishment, and inflicted upon him legal infamy. He went out stigmatized by a conviction for crime, and not as a free settler. His labour was not his own; but was appropriated to another individual who paid him no wages for it. On the other hand, so far was the exile into which the emigrant went from being considered as a punishment, that many individuals who were in possession of a small capital, and by no means in a state of distress, had made application to the government in the following style:— "Give me a grant of a hundred or two hundred acres, and I will transport myself and family to Canada, because I feel that I can turn my capital to greater effect in that country than I can do here." Individuals who made such applications scarcely considered themselves exiles, and certainly ought not to be described as individuals placed in the situation of convicts. It was the repetition of this extravagant argument that had induced him to rise upon this occasion, and to intreat gentlemen not to pledge themselves to any hasty opinions on the subject of emigration, until they had read the report of the committee upon it, and the evidence attached to that report. The information which colonel Cockburn had given to the committee was particularly valuable, from the knowledge which he possessed on the subject, and well deserved the attention of hon. gentlemen.

Mr. Maberly

trusted that ministers would take the advice which had been tendered to them by the hon. baronet, and would depart from the rule which they had laid down three sessions ago. On a motion which his hon. relative had then brought forward respecting the best mode of relieving the distress which prevailed in Ireland owing to a redundancy of population, it had been laid down by ministers, that the interference of government, in the way of an advance of money, was highly improper. He contended, however, that where there was a redundant population, it must be relieved by an advance of capital, otherwise it could not be got rid of. A special remedy was required for a special case of distress; and more inconvenience would be occasioned to the country, in the present instance, by adhering to fixed rules, than would be occasioned to it, in other instances, by departing from them.

Mr. Benett

contended, that it would be better to put the waste lands of England into cultivation, than to send our population abroad to engage in similar employment. The waste lands of England, would long since have been cultivated, had it not been for the embargo of tithes and taxation which was laid upon them. He thought it extraordinary that, at a time when we had eleven millions of acres ready for cultivation, we should send our population at the expense of 20l. a man, to cultivate the woods and deserts of Canada. He believed that nothing was wanted in Ireland but the security of life and property, to rescue the waste lands of that country from their present uncultivated state. If life and property were rendered secure in that country, English and Scotch capital would soon flow in. He objected to the project of emigration, and thought that the inquiry into the propriety of it, should be postponed till after the discussion of the Corn-laws. If the prayer of the numerous petitions which the hon. member for Aberdeen had presented should be granted, the House would have a number not only of manufacturing but also of agricultural labourers, praying to be banished from their country. He trusted, however, that both classes of labourers would soon find employment in their native country, and would long remain in it, adding to its wealth, and increasing its resources.

Mr. W. Horton

said, that if the hon. member would allow him, he would propose him as one of the committee; and he had little doubt, but he would soon be con- vinced, that it was much better that persons should leave this country to cultivate the richest lands in some of our colonies, than remain here to cultivate the worst.

Ordered to lie on the table.