HC Deb 20 February 1872 vol 209 cc773-86

, in calling attention to the last Report of the Commissioners for Emigration, and, in connection therewith, to the large proportion of the Emigrants from the United Kingdom who go to foreign parts and become aliens, and to move an Address for certain Returns, said, this subject concerned deeply the welfare of the masses of the people, and concerned the stability and progress of the Empire. In the instructions issued by the Queen to the Emigration Commissioners they were entitled Commissioners for the Sale of Waste Lands of the Crown throughout the Colonies. They were also called Colonization Commissioners. If the exceedingly judicious instructions given by Lord Russell when he was Minister for the Colonies had been carried out in the spirit in which they were dictated, they must have resulted in great benefits to the Empire. Lord Russell stated that the Sovereign held these waste lands in trust for the public good; that the first principle of the official conduct of the Commissioners should be to afford to all applicants the most easy access to all authentic means of knowledge with reference to emigration; and that to promote emigration, they ought to interpose actively. In the Returns the number of acres disposed of was given as 700,000, but in the United States it appeared that, independent of certain free grants and other appropriations, the sales amounted to about 7,000,000 acres. It must be manifest, therefore, that the original instructions given by Her Majesty's Government as to the disposal of our waste lands for the encouragement of emigrants had altogether lapsed. Unhappily, Her Majesty's Government and this House, in dealing with the colonies, had shown the same gentlemanly, confiding, and conciliatory spirit which had led and was now leading us into endless trouble with the United States. In the negotiations carried on about 20 years ago much was implied and much expected, but what was said was not expressed with sufficient clearness, and thus it had come to pass that the people of this country had no longer any control over the greater part of those territories which had been acquired by their prowess, their foresight, and their vigour. The hon. Gentleman, having quoted the authority of Earl Granville and the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies to show that much land in Southern Africa, and very much more in Western Australia is still under the direct control of the mother country, proceeded to say that there were in the colonies of this Empire more than 2,000,000,000 acres, or between 5 and 10 per cent more than the acreage at the disposal of the United States. If this quantity of land were divided in equal proportions among the English, Scotch, and Irish subjects of the Crown residing in all parts of the world, it would give to each man, woman, and child a farm of more than 50 acres. The number of English, Scotch, and Irish emigrants last year was about 200,000. In 1870 the number of emigrants of all nationalities who had gone from this country was about 257,000, but many of them were Germans who arrived here merely in transitu. Of the 200,000 emigrants of whom he had spoken, 122,000 were males, the great bulk of them adults, and about half of the latter were artizans, gardeners, and farmers. The value of the gift which we thus made to other parts of the world might be estimated from the large percentage of males and of high-class emigrants, and by regard to their training and skill in the arts. That these men were of a good stamp would appear from the fact that in three years only, according to the Report of the Commissioners, emigrants from Ireland had remitted home more than £4,500,000. In 1869 and 1870 the Irish emigrants amounted respectively to 73,000 and 74,000; last year the number was 71,000; in 1864 and 1865, the first years given in the Returns, it was 105,000 and 101,000. But while the number of Irish who voluntarily expatriated themselves was diminishing, that of the English and Scotch was increasing. In 1869, 1870, and 1871 the number of Scotch was 22,000, 23,000, and 19,000 respectively; in 1864 and 1865 it was 15,000 and 13,000 only. In 1869, 1870, and 1871 the English emigrants amounted to 90,000, 105,000, and 102,000 respectively, while in 1864 and 1865 they were only 57,000 and 61,000. Such was the information given by our own Commissioners. But, according to the United States Commissioners, the number of English and Scotch, exclusive of Welsh, who emigrated to that country in 1849–50 was only 12,000; 10 years later it had risen to 31,000, and 10 years later still—namely, in 1869–70, it had risen to 139,000. Hon. Members might smile at the idea of men being estimated at a money value, but it had been done in this country, and was extensively done in the United States. Dr. Kapp, the Commissioner for Emigration in the State of New York, said that in the time of slavery a good field-hand was worth $1,200 and over, and added that he felt safe in assuming the capital value of each male and female immigrant to be $$1,500 and $750 respectively, and that estimate had been confirmed by a friend of his, a prominent political economist. Another authority said that nearly half these emigrants were skilled labourers and workmen who gave Americans the benefit of their skill without calling on America to pay for the cost of their education. Dr. Kapp spoke of "this colossal emigration of the European masses," adding—"It is still in its infancy." While the Government of this country were relaxing in their efforts to induce emigrants to go to the British colonies, the American Government were redoubling their efforts to attract population to their territory. Publications were disseminated here to promote emigration to America, and English emigrants, in the words of one American, were everywhere enriching the country and themselves. The United States Consuls abroad acted as emigration agents, and distributed the necessary papers and maps; and foreigners were instructed by advertisements published in various European languages how to become citizens of the United States. When such successful efforts were made to take from their allegiance to the Queen the best of our population, it surely became this House to take the subject into their earnest consideration, and see what could be done. In the first place, we ought to lay down and carry out with spirit a national policy—to infuse into the minds of the English people greater national spirit and patriotism, which, he feared, were in many quarters giving way to mere cosmopolitanism. More should be done to promote agriculture at home. Hitherto, the entire energies of the British Government had been devoted to the extension of manufactures and trade; but, pari passû, we ought to attend to the cultivation of the soil, to free the soil to the utmost, and so raise up a suitable population who would overflow into the colonies. We should also seek to remove every obstacle to the circulation of British capital throughout the Empire, especially facilitating its employment in the promotion of agriculture in the colonies. We should enter into friendly correspondence with the colonies, opening up offices throughout the country, in which maps and plans should be placed showing the available land and the colonies best fitted for emigration. Facilities should be afforded for removing our fellow-subjects to parts of the Empire where they would be far more useful to us than if they were alienized in America. A system of inter-communication should be established at moderate rates, which he believed could be arranged so as to be no burden upon the mother country. Lastly, the Crown should continue to bestow honours upon our fellow-subjects in the colonies, especially for any services rendered by them in reclaiming waste lands, and successfully establishing English emigrants there. In doing, all that we should be only following out, perhaps feebly, the policy of the people of the United States, who were the greatest colonizers in the world. We should be conferring advantages both on the men left at home and on those who emigrated; we should benefit the colonies by increasing there the number of taxpayers, of land-buyers, and of producers of wealth; while the United Kingdom would derive great advantage from a policy which would develop her agriculture and make her less dependent on manufactures, a much less stable occupation. He contrasted the amount of our exports taken by our colonies with the amount taken by other countries. Victoria took £9 a-head one recent year, and £6 the year after, while France, with the vaunted Treaty of Commerce in force, took only 6s. a-head, including the coals, of which it had far more than was good for us, and the United States only 15s. a-head. It was objected that the carrying out of any systematic scheme of emigration would entail expenses upon the Government, and that it was unfair to tax one labouring man to help another. There was, however, no necessity to have recourse to taxes. Let the land be disposed of at such a price as would induce people to go out to it with capital and take their labourers with them, and let the labourers, after seven years' service, have an allotment. The integrity of the British Empire would be more effectually secured by planting loyal men in all parts of the world in this way than by any other means. He therefore moved, in preference to at once asking for a Committee, for Papers showing the duties of the Emigration Commissioners, and the number of emigrants sent out under their auspices.


seconded the Motion. It would be of the greatest importance to America as well as to this country, if emigration could be so encouraged that a great highway could be established across North America to communicate with the Pacific. It had been ascertained that the district most favourable for such an operation and colonization, and which was some hundred miles in width, was as fertile as any portion of the globe; but the expenses of that emigration should be borne by those who would derive benefit from it. Ample and correct information should be forwarded to all those who were about to leave this country to establish homes in far distant lands.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House, Returns showing the names of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners:

The Instructions originally given for their guidance, and any others that may have been given subsequently, and are now in force: The functions actually discharged by the Commissioners: (1.) The number of Emigrants who have been despatched to the several Colonies by or under the auspices of the Commissioners; (2.) in connection herewith, the number who have gone to each Colony independently of the Commissioners' initiation, each year to be distinguished, and totals to be made up: The number of Emigrants, distinguishing adult males, aged males (if possible), women, and children, also distinguishing farmers and agricultural labourers and artizans, and distinguishing English, Scotch, Irish, and Foreigners (totals to be made up), who left in the several years 1860, 1870, and 1871 for the British Colonies, and other parts, distinguishing Australasia, Southern Africa (if possible and convenient), British North America, the United States of America, South America, and other parts, together with an approximative estimate of the number who went through British territories to the United States and through the United States to British territories in each of these years, and an adaptation of the figures hereto: The number of Emigrants who sailed in 1871, with Estimates of the number who are likely to sail in 1872 (or have been contracted for) to Queensland and to New Zealand under the auspices of Colonial agents, and to some extent at the expense of these Colonies, distinguishing nationality and ports of embarcation: The names and addresses of the principal Officers and Offices in this country for the sale of Waste Lands in other parts of the world: The prices of land in the United States and in the several Colonies: The number of acres sold or otherwise disposed of in each of the Agricultural Colonies and in the United States, according to public official Returns, in each of the latest three years for which there are returns or records at the Colonial Office, together with the price or rent obtained or promised, and the objects to which the monies are applied: And, the title and price of any Books explanatory of the inducement to Emigrate to British Colonies, which have been compiled or are issued by any of the Colonies or the British Government, resembling the volume annually printed and distributed by the Government of the United States concerning lands in that country."—(Mr. Macfie.)


said, he regretted that a subject of so much importance had failed to secure a good attendance of hon. Members to discuss the subject. The small number present would appear to indicate that a question of such vast importance to the working classes failed to interest their Representatives. The facilities given in England by the Parliamentary train to the working classes for travelling, had suggested the idea that some plan might and ought to be devised by which the cost of emigrating might be diminished, so as to bring the waste lands of the colonies within more easy reach of the labouring population of this country. The time had passed for considering the colonies as quasi-independent States, the property of the first few thousands who happened to settle in them. They were part and parcel of the Empire, as the great Western States were a part of the United States dominions. What we needed, he thought, was some Confederation embracing them all, and some central power intrusted with the revision of laws affecting the whole Empire. If we wanted a proof of the evils of the absence of such a power, we had it in those labour laws which had issued in a modified slave trade in the South Seas. By some joint action, authorized by Parliament, certain ships might be chartered to take passengers at a very low rate—say one-third the ordinary rate—and, like the Parliamentary train, be open to everyone—to Members of that House, if they liked to go by them. Practically, those only would in general take advantage of the facility offered, who ought to do so, because the comforts would be very inferior to those of passengers paying full fare. It would be for Parliament to settle how the deficiency in the payments was to be made up to the shipowner. He was persuaded that some plan of that kind would develop a wholesome stream of emigration, regulated by the greater or less redundancy of labour, and that one speedy effect would be the diminution of poor rates and prison rates; and that public funds expended on emigration would diminish the charges on other public funds.


said, he doubted if it was desirable to further stimulate emigration, because he thought it was now as large as it should be. He did not make that statement so much that he objected to emigration, as to its being carried further. If the Government attempted to recognize a scheme for greatly stimulating emigration, it would have the effect of arousing a serious amount of opposition on the part of the employers of labour, especially having regard to the great and successful efforts that had taken place of late years on the part of Trades Unions. He entirely concurred that it was desirable that the stream of emigration from this country should be turned from America to our own colonies, and he expressed his regret that so little interest appeared to be taken in the House on a question of such great national importance in a commercial and political point of view. Figures and statistics showed that while the United States took from us goods and manufactures to the value of 15s. per head, the value taken by some of our colonies amounted to £6 per head. What his hon. Friend (Mr. Macfie) asked us to do for the sake of our own colonies and our own people, we were willing enough to do for the purpose of opening and establishing a trade with foreigners. To establish such a trade in the case of Japan, we had incurred considerable expense; and the present Government, who would probably decline any grant or expenditure for the purpose contemplated by his hon. Friend, had only just concluded a negotiation for the acquisition of a portion of territory on the West Coast of Africa. Those who argued that it was justifiable to lay out money in China, Japan, and other countries for the sake simply of promoting trade, would find it impossible to show that it was not desirable to spend money in sending to Australia persons who now went to the United States. The people of the United States were, no doubt, one with us, as persons were fond of pointing out, in religion, language, and tradition; but recent events encouraged the belief that they would allow all the associations growing out of a common origin to be overbalanced by considerations of private advantage. One of the most gloomy features in the future prospects of the world consisted in the disproportionate growth of some States as compared with others. The embarrassments which might be looked forward to in Europe in the course of the next half-century would doubtless be connected with the overwhelming growth of Russia and of the United States. To the latter, however, Canada might, perhaps, be raised up as a counterpoise; and if this end could be attained by such pacific means as emigration, it would be far better than attempting hereafter, with great efforts and at great loss, to accomplish similar results with warlike armaments. For these reasons he heartily concurred in the Motion of his hon. Friend.


Sir, I appreciate, on behalf of the Government, the motives of the hon. Gentleman who has brought forward the question; but unfortunately we have to deal with things as they are in stern reality. What we desire is, I think, in the nature of things almost impossible, and cannot be obtained by any action the Government may take. I will, however, accede to certain parts of the hon. Gentleman's Motion, by consenting to provide the information asked for in cases where it has not already been given. It is quite true that when the Emigration Commissioners were first appointed, their principal duty was to superintend the location of emigrants in the waste lands of the colonies; but as time went on, this country deemed it right that all, or nearly all, our colonies should control their own waste lands, without any interference on our part. That being the case, the question of the duties of the Commissioners became much altered, and they now practically exist for these purposes—to afford to the Colonial Office every possible information respecting emigration, and to superintend the working of the Passengers Act, and to see that good provisions and good water are provided, and every possible arrangement made for the convenience of persons leaving this country for another. What the functions of those Commissioners really were would be stated in the Returns to be furnished to the hon. Member. The evident desire of my hon. Friend is, that there should be some system of State assistance to emigrants, which should people the waste lands of the colonies with our surplus population. That, however, opens up a large question. Are we striving to supply colonial wants, or to relieve an Imperial embarrassment? In one case, we shall be sending out a class of which even this country ought not to be in too great a hurry to get rid; in the other, we run the risk of causing dissatisfaction in the quarter to which the emigrants are sent; and we must remember that as we had got rid of our criminal population at one time at the expense of our colonies, and thereby incurred great unpopularity with them, they were naturally suspicious of any apparent intention on our part of getting rid of a portion of our surplus population which, having failed here, might not do better in the colonies. Again, there is the great objection to State assistance to emigration, that we interfere with the labour market at home, and either run the risk of sending away labour that some of our capitalists may require, or else of being obliged periodically to find work for surplus hands retained in the country. I believe that the adoption of the proposal of my hon. Friend will tend to dry up the source from which emigration now so satisfactorily proceeds, while it will also throw additional burdens upon the working classes at home. Besides, hon. Members ought not to forget that there is such a thing as the migration of labour within a country itself, and my hon. Friend the Member for South Durham (Mr. Pease) could probably, if he had been in the House, have given some useful and instructive information on the point. I believe it is our duty to see that migration in our own country is properly looked after, before we determine on exporting our best labourers. Then there are difficulties relating to the colonies themselves which stand in the way of the adoption of my hon. Friend's proposal. The colonies maintain—and I think maintain fairly enough, that they are entitled to select their own labourers, and when my hon. Friend complains that the colony of New Zealand has secured the services of 5,000 foreign labourers, I feel rather pleased at finding that they cannot obtain so large a number of a very useful and valuable class of our population. To insist upon the colonies employing English labour would constitute an interference which would not be tolerated, while it is at the same time undesirable to assist in sending away those for whom employment can be found at home. A great deal of the want of employment in this country arises not from the absence of employment, but from the idleness and vagrancy fostered by the system of indiscriminate charity so much in vogue in our large towns. As the hon. Gentleman says, the emigration from this country and Ireland is very considerable. In the year 1870 the amount sent home by emigrants in North America to friends at home for the purpose of enabling them to leave Great Britain was £727,000, and during the same year £12,304 was sent home from Australia and New Zealand for the same purpose; while between the years 1841 and 1870 there had been sent home through the banks, exclusive of what was forwarded privately, no less than £16,334,000. That showed great providence on the part of the emigrants from this country; and I maintain it would be a great mistake to dry up the source of emigration. I hope, Sir, that although my hon. Friend may not be entirely satisfied with the matter of my reply, he will at least admit that I have treated the subject which he has introduced with that respectful consideration to which it is entitled. I am far from underrating either the importance of the subject or the attractive nature of that proposal for State-assisted colonial emigration to which my hon. Friend evidently inclines. I will even say more. To my mind there is something touching—I had almost said sublime—in the notion that the colonies should come to the aid of the mother country in this matter of emigration. It is as if England should say to her great and thriving colonies—"I have made you what you are. In days past and gone I have sent forth my children across the seas to lay the foundations upon which you have built. From them you spring; on your account they have endured perils and hardships without number; your very existence in the past, your prosperity in the present, and all your aspirations for the future, you owe to their exertions; under the flag of England you have flourished; her prestige has protected you; her blood has been shed for you; her treasure has been lavished on your behalf: now, at last, the time has arrived when you may repay something of the debt, and that, too, not only without loss but with positive advantage to yourselves. Receive England's surplus population to occupy your surplus lands; reciprocate the benefits which, during a long course of years you have received at her hands, and thus strengthen, by one more link, the tie which still binds us together to our mutual interest and advantage." I say, Sir, that there is something touching—something captivating in that appeal, and I do not wonder at the adhesion given to any proposal founded thereupon. But we have fallen upon dull, prosaic, practical times, and when, as practical men, we come face to face with this question, and have to reduce our theories to practice, we are obliged to leave the regions of romance and enthusiasm, and to deal as best we may with the stern realities which we have to encounter. First, if then, State interference with the labour market be dangerous and impolitic; secondly, if the progress of free emigration—hitherto satisfactory—would be unduly checked by such interference; thirdly, if well-organized migration within these islands may diminish the evils as a remedy for which State-assisted emigration is proposed, and if, after its adoption, its working would be attended with great and inherent difficulties, we may well pause before we assent to any such proposal. I commit myself—I commit the Government to no pledge with respect to the future. In moments of exceptional exigency exceptional measures may be necessary, and in such a matter as this no such hard and fast line can be laid down, as shall declare that at no time and under no circumstances can ever a temporary approach be made to the policy of State-assisted emigration; but as a general and established rule of policy we cannot adopt it. Let not my hon. Friend for one moment suppose that I question his discretion in having mooted the subject to-day. On the contrary, I regard with satisfaction, its ventilation within these walls. It is well that we should show to the thousands of our fellow-countrymen, who are touched by this question of emigration, that we can at least afford a small portion of our time to discuss a matter of ten-fold greater interest to them than many of those questions upon which hours of useless debate are sometimes wasted in this House. It is well that the opinions of thoughtful men upon this subject should be known to the country. It is well we should show that we feel, and feel deeply, for those who, without any fault of their own, and being willing to work, are driven by the want of employment at home to turn their faces towards distant lands—and the more plausible—the more attractive, at first sight, is the proposal that the State should assist such persons to emigrate—the more essential is it that the obstacles and difficulties which stand in the way should be calmly, fairly, and fully stated in this House. And, Sir, although I may not be able to go as far in this matter as the hon. Gentleman might wish, none the less do I recognize the good service which he has done by its introduction; none the less do I thank him for the discussion which he has inaugurated; and none the less do I assure him that the expression of matured opinion from him, and from others who have addressed the House must have its due weight and force with Government. It will stimulate us—if indeed such a process were needed—to increased activity in probing to the bottom those great social problems connected with the employment of labour in this country which are fraught with deep interest to the minds of English politicians. We have to deal with a circumscribed area—with a redundant population—and with an Empire of which, whilst it preserves its unity intact, the surplus lands and the surplus inhabitants are found in different regions of the world. In that sentence alone you will find the groundwork for almost innumerable political problems. One of these—and that not the least important—we have been discussing to-day. It is one which has pressed, and will press, still more, upon us; it is one which deserves—nay, which commands—earnest thought and deep attention; and I can assure my hon. Friend, and the House, that it is one to the magnitude and gravity of which Her Majesty's Ministers are not insensible, and to the satisfactory solution of which, upon sound and intelligible principles, their best efforts will continue to be directed.


said, he had listened with deep interest to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman opposite who had just sat down, and concurred in the opinion that some fair balance should be struck between what he had termed colonial want and Imperial embarrassment. It was, he thought, a matter of regret that the House manifested such little interest in a question of this importance, when others of far less moment had often enlisted its attention. He regretted, too, that the right hon. Baronet who usually sat on the front Opposition bench, and who in the Recess had suggested the taking of artizans from overcrowded towns and planting them out in the clear, had been absent from this debate, because he would have had an excellent opportunity of instructing the House, or adding to his own stock of information. He could not allow the subject to drop without expressing his gratitude to the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Macfie) for bringing it forward.


, in reply, said, that employers as a class were desirous that the labouring classes should have the alternative of either work or emigration. He did not contemplate rendering State assistance in the form of a money grant; but he wished to see offices opened, information afforded, land sold cheap, and obstacles in the way of emigration to our colonies removed. He feared that next year would see from two to three hundred thousand British subjects emigrate to the United States, and 20 or 30 times as many emigrants become aliens as became our colonists. He advocated not so much an increase of emigration as the diversion of it to our colonies. He gladly accepted the Return in the amended form in which it was offered on the part of the Government.

Motion amended, and agreed to.

Address for— Returns showing the names of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners: The Instructions originally given for their guidance, and the functions actually discharged by the Commissioners: The prices of land in the United States and in the several Colonies: The number of acres sold or otherwise disposed of in each of the Agricultural Colonies and in the United States, according to public official Returns, in each of the latest three years for which there are returns or records at the Colonial Office, together with the price or rent obtained or promised, and the objects to which the monies are applied: And, the title and price of any Books explanatory of the inducement to Emigrate to British Colonies, which have been compiled or are issued by any of the Colonies or the British Government, resembling the volume annually printed and distributed by the Government of the United States, concerning lands in that country."—(Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen.)