HC Deb 06 April 1854 vol 132 cc579-85

said, he rose to bring forward the Resolution relative to the establishment of an Emigration Depôt at one of the Irish ports, of which he had given notice. The subject to which he wished to call the attention of the House was one which he thought involved a very considerable grievance to Irish emigrants. He would state shortly the circumstances which had given rise to his Motion. If he were not able to state particularly, he could assure the House it was not his fault; for on the 2nd of March he had moved for returns to assist him in his Motion, but, in consequence of his asking subsequently for something further, those returns had been unfortunately delayed. He did not, however, blame the Government for that delay. It appeared some time past that a fund had been placed at the disposal of the Colonial Office, by certain parties in the Australian Colonies, for the purpose of promoting free emigration. That sum was very considerable, and was administered under the direction of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners. It was stated that, as far as it was possible, it should be apportioned in this way—one-third of the emigrants were to be sent from England, one-third from Ireland, and one-third from Scotland. He believed that it was found for several past years that these propositions could not be practically carried out, and it was necessary to take from Ireland more than the one-third. Those emigrants received their passages free. They were collected at depôts, which were formed at the expense of this fund, and were there supported until their passages were procured. Now, the grievance of which the Irish complained was this. The Commissioners established three depôts, namely, one at Plymouth, one in London, and one in Liverpool, but there was not one depôt established at an Irish port. The House would see how this system operated, both upon the fund itself and also upon the Irish emigrants. The Commissioners paid the expenses of those emigrants from an Irish port to an English depôt. This was a great expense to the fund, besides an infliction of a great hardship upon the emigrants. Hon. Gentlemen would be surprised to hear—he confessed he was, and could scarcely credit the fact—that in consequence of the bad accommodation provided for those emigrants upon the cross-passage, it often happened that the emigrants endured more hardship in the short passage across the Channel than in their voyage out to Australia. Well, again, there was some encouragement to be given to the Irish trade by establishing a depôt in the country; but he would not rest his case upon that foundation. He submitted that the Commissioners had no right to exclude the Irish from a fair share of those funds. There was a great expense incurred in bringing those emigrants from Ireland, and the system pursued was one calculated to discourage the Irish emigrants. If the same thing were done in another country, it would be said that it was a very Irish way of doing business. They brought an emigrant from Cork to Plymouth, and brought him back again in view of Cork lighthouse at a great and unnecessary expense. He had heard it said that they could not get their ships into Irish ports; but he would say that it was easier to charter a ship from Cork than from an English port. He did not wish to press the Motion to a division, if the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies would give him an assurance that the subject should be considered by the Government. If it had already been considered by them, and they would accede to the principle, he would be just as much pleased that it came from the Colonial Office as an act of grace, as if it were carried in the shape of a Resolution by that House. Should the hon. Gentleman, however, be unable to give him that assurance, he should feel himself compelled to take the sense of the House with regard to that which was a simple act of justice—first, to the Colonies; and secondly, to the Irish emigrants themselves.


seconded the Motion. He said, from his own experience he could bear testimony to the fact mentioned by his hon. and learned Friend who had introduced the Motion, that the passage round the western coast of Ireland to the English port of embarkation, inflicted greater hardship and inconvenience upon the emigrants than the entire voyage to Australia. He saw no reason why an emigrant vessel should not call at the port of Cork as well as at Plymouth.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that an Emigration Depôt of the Colonial Land Emigration Commissioners for free Emigration to the Australian Colonies should be established at one of the Irish ports.


said, that without reference to the circumstances or grounds that might be urged in support of the reasonableness of the view propounded in the Resolution, it appeared to him that there was an objection to it which had not been adverted to by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and that was, that the subject was one upon which this House could hardly be expected or fairly called on to express an opinion; because it must be remembered that the fund which was administered by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners was the land fund of the Australian Colonies. It was, in fact, the produce of their land sales, which took place under an Act of Parliament, and the proceeds of which were remitted to this country to be appropriated in different ways, but principally to emigration purposes, superintended by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners. The House would observe, therefore, that the Commissioners were in some respects the agents of the Australian Colonies. It was to the Colonies that they were responsible, and were bound to render an account of their acts; and it was the duty of the Commissioners to discharge their functions in this respect in a manner the most economical, and most likely to give satisfaction to the colonists. Standing in this capacity, it was clear that the Commissioners ought to be allowed full discretion; but see the inconvenient and embarrassing situation in which the Commissioners would be placed if that House interfered with that discretion, and said that an emigration depôt should be established at Cork or any other Irish port, and a certain proportion of money belonging to the Australian Colonies expended thereon, without reference to the opinion of the Commissioners whether it would be of advantage or not. With regard to the proposition contained in the Motion, it turned entirely upon the point of expense. If it were cheaper to send Irish emigrants direct from Cork rather than from the depôts at Liverpool or London, they ought certainly to be so sent. There was no indisposition to expend a fair proportion of the land fund upon the removal of Irish emigrants to the Australian Colonies, and he believed that even more than the usual proportion had of late years been expended for the purpose, and that the Irish emigrants had given satisfaction to the colonists. The proposition of the hon. Member was one which turned entirely on the point of expense. Notwithstanding what the hon. and learned Member for Youghal had stated, it must be remembered that the ships which were taken up by the Emigration Commissioners as emigrant vessels were to be found only in those ports whence the Australian trade was carried on; that they must go to London or Liverpool in order to find the ships best fitted, in their opinion, for the conveyance of emigrants. If, therefore, the emigrants were removed from Cork, it would become necessary that a vessel, on leaving either of these ports, should call at Cork for the purpose of there taking the emigrants on board. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. F. W. Russell) had stated that there was no good reason why these vessels should not call at Cork as well as at Plymouth. But the hon. Member seemed to forget that Plymouth was in the direct route of vessels leaving London for Australia, whilst Cork was not. The question was, then, should vessels proceed to Cork, or should they receive the emigrants on board at Liverpool? It might seem strange to bring the emigrants to Liverpool instead of taking the ship to them at Cork; but an analogy was furnished in the case of the unassisted emi- gration from Liverpool, nine-tenths of which consisted exclusively of Irish. The charterers of emigrant vessels gave tickets to the Irish, which paid their expenses across St. George's Channel; and he hardly knew an instance in which those vessels, on leaving Liverpool, called at an Irish port to take passengers on board. Invariably, the Irish emigrants proceeded to Liverpool, and there got on board the vessel. He was willing to allow that the expectation he entertained that the expense of sending the Irish direct from ports in Ireland would be greater than that of sending them from English ports, might prove to be incorrect. There was, therefore, no indisposition to try the experiment of establishing a depôt in some port in Ireland; and the Emigration Commissioners had informed him that they had made application to the Poor Law Commissioners for a building at Cork, formerly used as a lunatic asylum, to be set apart for the purpose. That application had not, however, succeeded, but he believed the Emigration Commissioners were still ready to make the experiment as soon as they could obtain a suitable building. He understood, moreover, that vessels had recently been taken up on such terms as to enable them to call at Cork, or any other place where a depôt might be formed, for the purpose of receiving the emigrants on board.


said, he was glad to hear that the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies admitted the correctness of the proposition conveyed in the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Youghal. It would be necessary to ascertain, however, in the first place, from what port in Ireland the largest number of emigrants proceeded to Liverpool or elsewhere, and make that the port at which to establish the depôt. He begged leave, then, to put forward the claim of Dublin as the place from which he believed on investigation it would appear the largest number of emigrants embarked for the Colonies.


said, he begged to tender his thanks on the part of his constituents to the hon. Under Secretary for the Colonies for the very proper manner in which he had met the Motion. All they had to look at was, what was the best and most economical manner of sending out emigrants, and he believed that Cork was the best port for the emigrants, not only of Ireland, but of the whole United Kingdom to embark at.


said, he wished to remind the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. I. Butt) who had brought this subject before the House that there was a Committee sitting to inquire into the subject of emigration, and the question now mooted had been brought partially before them; if, however, any additional evidence could be brought before them, it would meet with the fullest consideration. He did not agree with the opinion that had been expressed that Cork was the best port for emigration from all parts of the United Kingdom, because the ships that sailed to Australia did not carry emigrants alone, but also a considerable quantity of cargo. He did not think either that the fact of the funds coming from Australia entitled the people of that colony to have the whole management of the matter.


said, he could assure the House that in Cork a very strong feeling existed upon the subject. He did not himself think that the question ought to be considered as a mere financial question, for it involved also a question of humanity. He thought, however, in a financial point of view, that Cork would be a more economical depôt for emigrants than any other port in the kingdom; and he wished to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for Ireland to the fact of the Poor Law authorities having refused to place the lunatic asylum, which was unoccupied, at the disposal of the Emigration Commissioners, in order that the experiment should be tried.


said, that the hon. Member was in error in supposing that the Poor Law Commissioners had any power over the lunatic asylum, as the property of that establishment was vested in the county for the benefit of the Commissioners, and the Commissioners had no power in the matter.


said that, after what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies he would withdraw his Motion, but must reserve to himself the right to renew it at a later period of the Session, in case this experiment should not be tried, or that it should, after being commenced, be abandoned without its appearing to him that there were substantial reasons for its abandonment. He was surprised that there should have been any refusal to lend the building formerly used as the lunatic asylum at Cork, for the trial of this experiment, but hoped that this obstacle would speedily be removed, and that the experiment would have a fair trail.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.