HC Deb 11 February 1853 vol 124 cc36-7

wished to put a question with reference to the very distressing mortality which, according to the accounts recently received, had taken place on board four vessels chartered by the Emigration Commissioners to convey emigrants from Liverpool to Melbourne. In one of those vessels, which made an unusually favourable passage in point of time, the voyage having occupied only sixty-four days, no less than 104 persons perished, and the remainder on reaching Melbourne were in a state of great prostration from sickness. The question which he wished to ask was, whether the Government had caused inquiry to be made into the mortality which, according to the recent accounts from Australia, took place on board four vessels chartered by the Emigration Commissioners to convey emigrants between ports of Liverpool and Melbourne?


said, the Government had received an account of the great mortality which had occurred on board the vessels to which the hon. and learned Gentleman had alluded. He believed that upwards of 104 deaths had occurred on board one vessel, and that on her arrival in the harbour at Melbourne no less than 300 persons were labouring under sickness arising from one cause or another. No doubt a great mortality had occurred on board all the four vessels. They were vessels of unusual size, and carried more than the ordinary number of passengers, having two decks prepared for their accommodation. Up to that time it had never been the practice of the Emigration Board to put passengers on board vessels with more than a single deck; but the state of the shipping interest at the period the vessels were taken up rendered the engagement entered into unavoidable. He understood when the vessels were engaged by the Emigration Commissioners, that no other vessels were tendered for that purpose. On board the three other vessels he found, from the information which had been received, that no less than 175 deaths had occurred; but of that number 163 were the deaths of children—an unusual number of children in proportion to the number of adults having been sent out by these vessels. That arose from the relaxation of the regulation of the Emigration Commissioners, made in compliance with the urgent representations of parties connected with the colony, and interested in agricultural and other pursuits. But immediately on the receipt of the information by the Emigration Commissioners of this deplorable loss of life, they issued instructions that for the future no vessels with move than a single deck should be engaged by their agents; and they had refused to take out at the expense of the colony families having more than two children under seven years of age, or three under ten years of age. He believed these regulations would prevent the recurrence of such deplorable events for the future. The communication which had been received from Melbourne had been referred to the Emigration Board, with directions to report thereon. That report had been received, and there would be no objection to lay all the papers connected with the subject on the table of the House.