HC Deb 14 March 1826 vol 14 cc1360-4
Mr. Wilmot Horton

said, he rose for the purpose of bringing forward the motion of which he had given notice, for a select committee "to inquire into the expediency of encouraging Emigration from the United Kingdom." It would not be necessary for him to enter at length into the subject. The House would recollect, that, in the year 1823, a sum of 50,000l. had been voted for the purpose of enabling a certain number of men, women, and children; to emigrate to the North American colonies. The number who then availed themselves of the encouragement held out by government was, in all, 268. The expense incurred by the country was 22l. for each person. They were now placed in Upper Canada, and from a state of wretchedness and misery, were now comfortably and prosperously situated. This experiment having so far succeeded, it was thought advisable to extend it in 1825, and there were then sent out, including men, women, and children, 2,024 persons. The average expense of each was not so great as in 1823: it amounted to about 20l. The House would see, therefore, that for a sum of 20l. persons might be fixed in Canada, in a comfortable situation, with the prospect of independence before them, who, had they remained in Ireland, could hope for nothing but those privations, and that wretchedness and penury, in which the poor of many districts were obliged to drag out a miserable existence. The whole of those who had been sent out were in fact paupers, divested of all means of procuring a subsistence at home, and utterly incapable of providing for themselves and families. The most ample particulars connected with the subject of these experiments would be found in the reports of the committees of 1823 and 1825. It would therefore be unnecessary for him to go into them. He should content himself with saying, that the experiment of 1823 had completely succeeded, and that that of 1825 was in progress of success. In Upper Canada, the description given of the settlers by a person who might be relied upon was, that they were comfortably fixed on their land, perfectly contented with their situation, grateful for what had been done for them, making great progress, and living on the most friendly terms with the settlers who went out in 1817 and 1818. There appeared in the Canada paper a letter from a person named Fitzgibbon, one of the party who went out. Here the hon. member read an extract from the letter, speaking in high terms of the situation and prospects of his companions, and of the kind manner in which they had been received. He read another letter to the same effect, from a Roman Catholic clergyman, who accompanied them, and one from the superintendant, stating that the settlers were all comfortable, and doing well. To form an adequate idea of the misery of these poor wretches (for the emigrants who were sent out from Ireland were invariably Selected from the poorest and most destitute classes), it was only necessary to refer to the reports of the evidence given before the committee on Irish affairs in the years 1823 and 1825., The hon. member here read extracts from the evidence of Dr. Doyle, the archbishop of Cashel, Mr. O'Connell, and others, all uniting, in describing the situation of the Irish peasant as being most wretched. This was a picture which, however deplorable it might be, no Irishman who heard him would say was exaggerated. He would now read a letter from one of these identical emigrants, addressed to the superintendant. The hon. gentleman then read a letter, which mentioned the prosperous condition of the writer; that he had on hand a considerable surplus of corn, meal, and other produce; and that the only inconvenience experienced was the want of a market. Such was the change effected in the habits and comforts of these poor people by a transfer from one place to another. The hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Hume) had, in 1825, protested against such experiments, as an expense to which the country should not be put, and as not being likely to be productive of any advantage. He begged to remind the House, that government never had it iii contemplation to supply all the expenses necessary for carrying, such experiments further. Their object was to show, by a few trials, to those who might be interested in forwarding such a system, and in removing a redundant population, the ease with which it might be carried into effect, and the good consequences resulting from it. The hon. gentleman opposite had, upon a former occasion, contended that the mother country could have no interest in retaining the Canadas. In answer to the hon. gentleman, he had endeavoured to show the advantages that might be derived from them; from the facility they afforded of remedying, in some measure, the inconveniences arising from superabundance of population. It had been observed, in, reference to the subject of colonization, that the value of the commodities now taken from this country by the United States of America was seven times greater than at any period previous to the war, while they continued in the situation of a colony. The fact, however, was not so. The value of the commodities was only one half greater. The population of the United States was at present ten millions, and their consumption of English commodities was at the rate of about 12s. a head, while the consumption of the population of their own colonies, the, Canadas, was upwards of 2l. per head. This, he thought, should at least make them hesitate before they received, as a thing not to be disputed, the principle that colonies were productive of no benefit to the mother country. The hon. gentleman must be aware, that in the committee of last year one of the questions put to Mr. M'Culloch was this: If an adult man and woman, in a state of hopeless and helpless poverty, cannot be supported in Ireland for less than 20l. a year, and if four such can be removed for 80l. to the Canadas, where they may procure for themselves a comfortable subsistence, is it not clear that, when they could be thus settled for four years' purchase, it would be for the advantage of the country to send them out? Mr. M'Culloch's answer was, that, if it cost 20l. to support in Ireland, two persons who, by their labours, added nothing to the capital of the country, 80l. would be well disposed in sending away four individuals so circumstanced, provided means were taken to prevent the vacancies left by them in population from being filled up [hear! from Mr. Hume]. He understood the intimation given by the lion, member, but contended, that the condition of leaving vacant in Ireland the place which had been occupied by the emigrant, had always been entertained by the committee as inseparable from the plan of emigration. Mr. M'Culloch considered further, that the removal of poor individuals from Ireland might be carried into effect by the tenants, if the landlords gave securities to the government that the vacancies would not be supplied for the next fifteen or twenty years. He was sure a simultaneous and well-regulated emigration would not be denied to be superior to the desultory departures of straggling individuals; as the numbers who would emigrate under the authority of government would be better superintended, better supported, and better localized. He did not pretend to say whether Mr. M'Culloch's doctrine was right or wrong; but, at all events, the very first principle of emigration was, that the persons sent out should be assisted by the mother country for a certain time, until they received such an impetus as would enable them to go forward themselves. Nor could the assistance thus afforded be considered as so much lost or thrown away; for it should be recollected, that the mother country would share in the eventful advantages, and that the capital thus employed, though transferred to another place, still remained within the empire. He threw out these few observations merely for the purpose of drawing the attention of the House to the subject. The question of emigration mixed itself up with that of the colonial system; and if it were true that, in our trade with our colonies, both the parties were benefitted, it was clear that by means of emigration we should be doubly increasing the aggregate profits of the empire. He threw out this, because there seemed to be a disposition to impeach the present colonial system. He hoped that the question would be brought forward in a distinct shape, that it might be ascertained whether the system of our ancestors was to be departed from or not. He put it to the House, whether a measure which seemed calculated to convert a riotous peasantry into a class of industrious farmers and yeomen, was not deserving of consideration at the present moment, when we were devising improvements in our criminal code, and endeavouring to lessen crime. These were the grounds on which he should move, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the expediency of encouraging Emigration from the United Kingdom."

Mr. Hume

said, he had no objection to the inquiry; for he felt quite satisfied that when the subject was considered by a committee, they would have a report disapproving of the expenditure of the money of the country for such an object. It never could answer for them to incur the expense of 100l. for sending a poor man and his family from Ireland to the Canadas. Give the poor man the 100l., and he would establish himself as comfortably in Ireland as any where else. Mr. M'Culloch's opinion was not favourable to the extension of such a plan. He recollected asking him, on the committee, whether he thought the sending of 100,000 of the population from Ireland would be productive of much benefit. His answer was, that it would be no more than a drop of water in the ocean. Five hundred thousand, he said, might have some effect, provided reproduction could be prevented; for otherwise, in two or three years, we should have the same number again The question then was, whether 2,000,000l. were to be expended for a temporary relief of one or two years. The inquiry proposed, would, he thought, do good, and he should therefore give the motion his support.

The motion was agreed to.