The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
rose, pursuant to notice, and made the following Motion:—That there be laid before this House, a return of all the Penalties imposed and levied on owners, masters, captains, and others, for breaches of the Act of 5th and 6th of Victoria, known by the name of 'the Passengers' Act,' since the said Act came into force; specifying the amount of fine, the year when such penalty was imposed, the period when paid, how such penalty was disposed of, the name of the ship, the name of the offender, and the offence he committed; together with the name of the port where the party was convicted, and the officer who enforced it.He said that he had delayed making this Motion at the request of the noble Earl at the head of the Colonial Department, who had told their Lordships that they ought to make themselves acquainted with the contents of the documents from the Colonial Office which had been laid upon their table before they proceeded to consider the present Motion. That certainly was a sufficient reason for postponement, and he, following the advice of the noble Earl, had done all in his power to make himself master of the information which those documents had furnished to their Lordships. But, though these statements were not without considerable effect upon his mind, yet they by no means deterred him from proceeding with the task that he bad undertaken, which was to call the attention 955 of the House to the abuses that occurred, not occasionally, but systematically, on board almost all emigrant vessels—not merely the wickedness and the profligacy for which they were notorious, but the infamous frauds that were practised with regard to the supply of provisions, and other abuses by which emigrants were exposed to sufferings of various kinds. He should state that his sources of information were numerous, comprising "blue books," pamphlets, and letters, as well as the authority of many captains and ship surgeons; and he therefore considered himself competent to bring the matter fully before them. The most cursory glance would at once show there was no safety or protection for female emigrants; and indeed scarcely anything like fair play for any class of emigrants. When the poor emigrant left his home, he usually proceeded to one of the outports, where his troubles really began, and where he became the victim of the most inordinate extortion. As to young female emigrants, so soon as they were placed on board an emigrant ship, they were deprived of the least security; they were exposed to every means of corruption and profligacy, a condition which chiefly arose in consequence of no sufficient care or attention being paid to the proper selection of officers and surgeons for those vessels—more especially the surgeons, to whom much was confided. It could scarcely be too often said that those surgeons were not selected as they ought to be; for, as their Lordships must be well aware, a great deal of power and authority was intrusted to them. When placed on board ship—although the printed regulations were admirable—in nine cases out of every ten the comforts of the emigrants, their wants, and, he might say, their safety, was not attended to. When the emigrant arrived at his or her destination, the agent came on board, and questioned them in presence of the captain, surgeon, officers, and crew as to whether they had any complaint or charge to prefer. But the emigrant well knew that he was too much at the mercy of these parties, who still retained control over the scanty stock of luggage possessed by him, and of course he remained silent. Now, he (the Earl of Mountcashell) felt convinced that, but for that system of silent intimidation, the emigrant could speak a great deal of his sufferings, his wrongs, and his bad treatment in general. The emigration agent, who took them in charge 956 on landing, generally felt favourably disposed to the captain and officers, who, in the majority of instances, were acquaintances of his, and whose misdoings he consequently wished to screen and slur over; for the emigrants, whom he might never see again, he felt little concern or interest. Such was the state of things which the emigrant to Australia had to encounter; but the truth of which seldom came out. However, there was sufficient evidence to prove the existence of such practices. As to the provisions on board emigrant ships, nothing could be worse, and nothing which more frequently produced disease and death, but in an especial degree had they a right to complain of the supply of water. Water was supplied by pumping from barges which came alongside the vessels. Now he would mention a case that had occurred in the port of London. It was the practice of the men who worked those barges to go on shore to dinner at a certain fixed hour every day. Upon one occasion it happened that their barge sank and went to the bottom during the dinner hour, and when they raised her it was found that holes had been bored low down in her sides, which caused her to sink; and what was the fact? That all this time, instead of supplying pure water, as the bargemen professed to do, they were sending into the ship nothing but the dirty filthy puddle of the Thames below bridge, which flowed through the holes bored in the barge for the express purpose of letting it in. That such water would necessarily lead to disease was a truth upon which it was scarcely necessary for him to insist; that it had done so was a fact perfectly well attested. He should come to the subject of meat. It had long been notorious that the passengers in the emigrant vessels were supplied with a very bad description of food; that a great deal of bad meat was received on board those vessels, of which a remarkable instance occurred on board the bark Aden. As soon as they got out to sea, the stench from the bad meat made them all so ill that they were glad to creep into any corner of the ship to escape from its dreadful influence. The passengers remonstrated, and the surgeon promised them that when they reached Plymouth, at which port they put in, the evil should be remedied; but that promise was not fulfilled. He should read the words of the statement that had been furnished to him:—The bark Aden, with 172 passengers, paying 957 their own expenses, left Gravesend on the 15th of last May, and arrived at Port Adelaide on the 11th of September. In a statement signed by thirty-five passengers they say—'Our first source of complaint and grievance arose out of the manner in which the ship was provisioned. We had good meat till we left Gravesend, but as soon as we got out to sea there arose such a stench as was quite unbearable from some flesh which was boiling in our cook's coppers. This, more than the rolling of the ship, turned us all sick, and we went into every out-of-the-way place to avoid the stench. The surgeon declared it would bring on some disorder, and promised to see the Government inspector about it on arrival at Plymouth; but he did not do so. This meat was given us on three successive days, after leaving Gravesend, and we all became so ill and hungry that we threatened to kill the cats and boil them. On the third day the stuff Was left boiling in the coppers, all the passengers having agreed to allow none to be taken between decks, or even out of the cook's boiler.'What was the inference to be derived from that and similar instances? The obvious inference was this—that if the laws were rendered stringent, were then properly enforced, and the offenders punished, the practices of which the country had such just right to complain would cease and disappear altogether. His impression was, that this class of offenders were very rarely punished; and in those cases in which they were brought to justice, the punishment was always of the most lenient kind. In one case—a North American emigration ship (the Concord) that came under his notice—the passengers on their landing made application to a magistrate, and he, as was usual in such cases, regarded the offence as very venial. On account of one case the magistrate inflicted a penalty of 6s. 8d., and then the master of the emigrant vessel compounded with several others at the rate of 5s. a head. He would ask their Lordships, when they looked at the circumstances, to say what other results could be expected. The people who went out in those vessels were necessarily very poor and ignorant; they knew nothing of the law, and it was next to useless for them to appeal to any magistrate; for the sympathies of magistrates were all with the captains and officers, and all against the unfortunate passengers; whereas the feeling ought to be all the other way, for good conduct on the part of captains, officers, and surgeon superintendents, was too often the exception, and evil conduct the rule. He held in his hand various documents, to some of which he would call the attention of the House; one particularly from Liverpool, which had reference to the supply of provisions. It was in these words:— 958I have been at a loss (knowing the great fastidiousness, and properly so, of the masters of London long-voyage ships as to the articles of beef and pork) to account for the large purchases made here from time to time (but more particularly very recently) of the most inferior and lowest-priced American beef and pork to be found at this port. It now strikes me that all this bad meat, rejected by our shipmasters in this port, has been purchased by the London contractors for the May emigrant ships, particularly for Australia, now fitting out in London. In the month of November I had occasion to institute particular inquiry as to the stocks of provisions here, and learned from our most respectable dealers and brokers that it consisted of some thousands of tierces of American beef and pork, which was, with the exception of a small quantity, perfect rubbish; that our dealers had culled all the good nearly out of some 26,000 tierces of beef, our import; and that what then remained was such as shipmasters and owners would not take.It was thus that the emigrants were treated on their voyages to Australia. It was manifest that no sufficient care was taken in England to appoint proper emigration agents. But, after all, it was not to be denied that those who examined the provisions had rather a difficult task to perform; for they could not open and examine all the tierces of beef or barrels of pork; it would not improve the provisions, but rather injure them, if anything of the sort were done. This state of things, however, sometimes led to very grievous frauds. The captains often concealed in the holds old provisions that they had loft over from a previous voyage. Those provisions were generally in the very worst condition—sometimes in a state almost putrid. They were kept concealed till the vessel proceeded out to sea, and such vile food often produced sickness and death. It was found, on calculation, that as many as 1½per cent of the passengers to Australia died on the voyage, which constituted a very large proportion. There certainly should not be so many in the short space of four months, and some of the chief causes might be traced to bad food and bad water. Up to this time he had spoken only of food; he should read a passage from a newspaper which he held in hand, called the South Australian News. [It was objected by Earl GREY that the noble Lord should confine himself to official documents.] If there were anything wrong in the paper, the noble Earl could answer it. The passage which he proposed to read consisted chiefly of questions, to which the noble Earl might give replies if he thought proper. The passage run thus:—We regret to observe that the passengers by 959 two of the vessels, the Aden and John Munnf were anything but satisfied with their treatment The commanders are charged with dereliction of duty, allowing drunkenness, gambling, and immorality to prevail, and neglecting to serve out sufficient and good provisions. The case of the latter ship, however, appears to have been the worst; and though the captain held a meeting on the 7th of October to vindicate and exculpate his procedure, he seems to have failed in doing so. About thirty or forty of the passengers were present, some of whom justified his conduct; and the South Australian Register, in noticing the matter, makes the following remark:—'No one impugns his (Captain Pearson's) nautical skill, but did he deny that his vessel was badly provisioned, and that in port many of the passengers were provisioning themselves? Did he deny the open sale of spirits from the cuddy during the voyage, even on the Sabbath day? Did he deny the prevalence of drinking, gambling, and smoking between decks? Did he deny the connivance at immoral conduct? Did he discountenance the foolish and dangerous use of firearms by way of pastime on deck? And is he ignorant of the fact that the ship was more than once in danger of being set on fire by such practices? Does he mean to say, that having signed the necessary certificate that the required quantity of provisions was on hoard, he was not to blame when the passengers were put on short allowance of water and provisions? Does he deny the use by himself and his officers of vulgar, profane, and abusive language towards the passengers?'The press, the public feeling of the country, public meetings, the House of Commons—in short, every power in the land would compel the noble Earl to alter a system which was degrading to the nation and oppressive to Her Majesty's subjects. These things were facts; they ought to be rectified, and as long as he had life he would persist till the atrocity was put a stop to. He would now call attention to the conduct of the Burgeons; and he believed the noble Earl had, by this time, made himself acquainted with the facts, and was satisfied that what he (the Earl of Mountcashell) had stated was correct. Indeed, he had rather understated than overstated the real circumstances. The blue book which had been laid on the table would amply prove all his charges, and, in fact, he had derived a vast deal of additional information from it. When their Lordships considered how much was intrusted to the surgeons of emigrant vessels, and that it was not enough for them to be merely medical men but men of character, he thought they would agree with him in thinking that care should be taken in selecting proper persons for the post. He had ascertained, however, that little or no attention had been paid at the Colonial Office to the character of the medical officers or surgeon- 960 superintendents. The Emigration Commissioners, indeed, required testimonials of competence, but after those had been produced, little further inquiry took place. [Earl GREY: No, no!] He asserted it—repeated that but little inquiry was made into the character of the surgeons. In that way the appointment of the madman, to which he alluded the other day, might be accounted for. Well, what had been the result? Let the pages of the blue book answer. At page 19 it was stated, "the surgeon of the Waverley treated one of the unmarried females improperly." The surgeon of the Lysander "was unable to maintain respect for himself, or proper discipline on board."—(P. 38.) The surgeon of the Thomas Arbuthnot "treated some of the single female emigrants indecently."—(P. 51.) The chief officer also had been found in the berth of one of the women. The surgeon of the William Morris was reported to be "ill-suited for his office."—(P. 53.) The surgeon of the Thetis "was careless of his duty and habitually drunk" (p. 83); and much sickness prevailed on board as a natural consequence. Next came the case of the Earl Grey (p. 117), in connexion with which the orphan girls from Belfast had got such a bad character. The surgeon was said "to have shown want of judgment and discretion." The matron was inefficient, and some of the officers paid improper attentions to the young girls on board, while the crew appear to have had an unrestricted intercourse with them. Now, here were a number of young and inexperienced girls put on board a vessel, and left to the mercy of the crew without protection or guidance. When they arrived they were branded as improper characters, and the guardians were accused of having sent out abandoned girls to the colony. Justice had not been done either to those young girls, or to the guardians, who had done their best to select proper persons. Because some few women from other unions, who were no better than they should be, particularly those from Dungannon, had got into the vessel, the whole body of the Belfast girls was charged in that wholesale way; whereas out of forty-six there were but four really bad, all the others having turned out to be excellent characters. To go on with the list of emigrant ships. Without dwelling on the case of the Sabraon, to which he had already called attention, he would pass to the James Gibb (p. 163), where the surgeon allowed the officers of 961 the ship to carry on an improper intercourse with the female emigrants. At page 193 it was stated, that the conduct of the captain, the surgeon, and of the matron of the Inconstant was "indiscreet," and that "the surgeon ought not to be employed again." Those extracts showed that things were not carried on in precisely the way the noble Earl would have the House and the country to believe. The conduct of some of the officers had been equally bad. It would be seen, on reference to the blue book, that the chief officer of the Thomas Arbuthnot and the second mate of the General Palmer had behaved improperly to the female passengers (p. 51, 88). On board the Earl Grey, the first and second mates were said to have paid "improper personal attention to some of the Irish orphan girls;" and the cook was said "to have taken liberties with some of them." On board the James Gibb, the officers and seamen were reported to have been guilty of similar conduct. He begged the attention of the noble Lord to a statement at page 125. It was of the most important character, and demanded the most serious consideration. It was stated, that six of the females who went out in the ship Manchester to Port Phillip, were hired, on board, the moment they arrived, by notorious brothel keepers. Was it for such purposes as those we sent out virtuous women to our colonies? Would Government deal with these facts or not? He called their attention to it, and the country would expect them to find a remedy. If any of their Lordships turned to page 188, they might see the details of the "flogging" inflicted on four girls on board the Ramilies. He knew how difficult it was to manage emigrant vessels, and how hard to control violent and ill-tempered women; but such a proceeding as that was disgraceful to those concerned in it. He believed these evils could not be remedied by the present Passengers' Act. It was defective and imperfect, and could never insure adequate control over the surgeon and officers; but it was the duty of the Government to amend it; and the country would look to the noble Earl opposite, on whom the responsibility rested, for a measure to put an end to such a system as that he had described. These facts were recent. They were all to be found in the last three books laid on the table, and entitled "Papers relative to emigration to the Australian colonies." But if they went further back they would find 962 just the same state of things. Ten years ago, just as great atrocities bad been perpetrated. On this point he begged to read an extract from a letter to himself, which afforded a striking instance of profligacy:—In 1841 I sailed from London in the preliminary expedition for the settlement of Nelson, New Zealand, in the capacity of principal surveyor and engineer for that settlement. Our party comprised nearly eighty picked men, most of them married. Their wives did not accompany them, as it was the professed intention of our employers that a careful selection of a suitable site should be made, which might probably occupy us for some months after our arrival at New Zealand. On our departure the directors of the New Zealand Company assured the men that the safety, comfort, and welfare of their wives should be most religiously cared for; and one of them, Mr. Ross Mangles, especially pledged himself to the exercise of such care on their behalf, About six months later, in 1841, the women embarked in a ship called the Lloyds;' on her arrival at Nelson, a complaint was made to the New Zealand Company's agent, that shortly after sailing the captain and his crew had frequented the women's apartments, and during the voyage had lived in debauchery with a considerable number, to the great grievance and discomfort of those who remained faithful to their husbands, and also that the great mortality amongst the children during the passage was attributable to gross neglect both on the part of the doctor and of the adulterous mothers. The case was investigated, the charge fully substantiated, and reported by the agent to the directors of the New Zealand Company. The second vessel which sailed from London for Nelson was the Mary Anne, carrying out a large number of cabin and steerage emigrants—amongst the former a son of a director of the company, in the capacity of emigration agent to the settlement. A highly respectable cabin passenger (now residing in England) informed me on his arrival at Nelson, that the ship had been a 'floating brothel' during the passage. In the instance of this ship no investigation took place, but I may state one case of peculiar depravity. The first mate of the Mary Anne had seduced and got with child a girl scarcely 15 years of age, a daughter of a cabin passenger. He had also cohabited with the wife of another passenger (recently married) and with other women, and at Nelson he left the ship, and continued to live in open adultery with the married woman.Those were melancholy statements, and showed the continuance of evils which they must all deplore. And what must the result be? That the well-disposed portion of the community would refrain from tempting such risks, that they would not trust themselves on the ocean, and that in future our only emigrants would be the very sweepings of the streets—the thieves, prostitutes, and vagabonds of England. A letter had been addressed to Mr. Sidney Herbert, in relation to his plan for sending out distressed needlewomen to Australia, from 963 which he would read an extract. With every respect for the motives of that gentleman, he feared that unless something was done to alter the present system, those poor women would be of no service to the colony, and 99 out of every 100 would end by going on the streets of Sydney. The writer of the letter to which he referred, said—I have only time to observe, that if you are about to depend on Government aid and the present Government machinery, for the care and distribution of your emigrants in Australia, God help the poor women! Had I time or space, I would prove the flagrant want of common sense displayed by the emigration officials, and the utter absence of all proper means for protecting and distributing female emigrants, as shown in the course of 1848 and 1849. If you have nothing better to depend upon than the present Government machinery, the principal result of your charity will be to increase the numbers of unfortunates who already crowd Australian seaports.Again, he said—The mere shovelling in of distressed degraded women will never do—the people who rejected cargoes of our convicts will not accept cargoes of our strumpets.The author of that letter was well known, and he (Lord Mountcashell) placed reliance on his statements. Bad as was the case of many poor women in London, he would not advise them to venture their persons on board an emigrant ship to Australia till better regulations for their protection had been adopted. The noble Lord concluded with the Motion already given, and stated that he would postpone another Motion which stood in his name for an Address to Her Majesty for a copy of the proceedings in the case of the Sabraon.
§ EARL GREY
said, the noble Earl opposite had stated in his speech that he had stated enough to induce their Lordships to grant the returns for which he moved; but he (Earl Grey) believed they would all agree with him in this, that the noble Earl had said enough to show that he had no ground whatever for the sweeping charge he made with regard to the manner in which the Australian agents had acted. He had divided his charge into two parts. First, he complained of the quality of the provisions served out to the emigrants on board the ships bound for Australia; and, next, of the general conduct of the superintending surgeons. With regard to any abuse as to the supply of provisions, he (Earl Grey) entreated of the noble Earl to mention any one individual case, and if he did so, he (Earl Grey) was satisfied he would be able to answer him; but he could 964 not produce a single case, except on the authority of a newspaper which had arrived overland from India, before the official intelligence could be received.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
begged to say he had referred the noble Earl to a particular page in the book on the table. He had referred the noble Earl to the facts, and stated the vessel.
§ EARL GREY
The noble Earl had certainly found a case where the ship was stated to be sinking, but the report with respect to that vessel said the provisions and water were good; so that that case, instead of making out his argument, did entirely the reverse. The other was a case founded on a report in a newspaper, from which it appeared that thirty-five persons out of 150 embarked complained of the quality of the provisions between Gravesend and Plymouth. That was not a Government ship; but he felt bound, in justice to the respectable shipowners by whom the trade was conducted, to say he did not think they were liable to the charge that had been made. He had seen the paper stuck up in the emigrant ships stating if any complaints were to be made about provisions, or any other matter, there was the emigration officer at Plymouth, and the agent of the charterers of the ship, who would be ready to investigate any complaint. With respect to this case that had been referred to, it appeared that the ship rolled very much, and those persons never having been at sea before got very sick. They did not know sea life, and were very much discontented with their dinner, perhaps in consequence of the state of their stomachs; but in that case there was no evidence that they had complained when they reached Plymouth. If they did complain, an investigation would take place, and, therefore they must dismiss that case. They had a sweeping and general assertion made that the provisions were of bad quality, and that bad water had been served up. Against that charge they had the official reports on the table (after a deliberate inquiry at the ports to which those ships were consigned), showing the result of the examination that took place. Just to show the sort of manner in which the very able and energetic emigration officer at Sydney had conducted the inquiry, he would refer to page 62. Mr. Merryweather stated that the Harbinger was very well suited for the conveyance of emigrants, and that the surgeon superintendent appeared to have performed his duty in an efficient 965 manner, and reported that he had received effective assistance from the officers and men. That was a specimen of the reports that had been made. Every ship that arrived was carefully examined by the emigration agent, and if there was any ground of complaint, there was the most ample opportunity to make it. The noble Earl said that the emigrants were overawed by the officers of the ship, but the manner in which the inquiry was conducted was this: Mr. Merry weather and the board who made the inquiry went down into the cuddy of the vessel, and no officer was present except the surgeon, whose control was at an end when they arrived—
§ EARL GREY
They might never see him again, and were entirely independent of him, and it was certainly found that when there was a ground of complaint, the complaint was made. The result having been inquired into in that manner, it was found that scarcely in one instance were provisions of bad quality stated to be used. No doubt the charterers of ships when getting a large quantity of provisions might sometimes get a cask of bad water in a ship. At any of their Lordships' tables were they certain always that bad meat would not by some accidental circumstance be served up to them? But every possible pains were taken to guard against it, and if they looked to the report from each individual ship that was printed for Parliament, they would find that the clearest testimony was given as to the manner in which provisions were supplied to passengers. He would pass from that subject, into which he would have wished to enter more fully if the noble Earl had given him the means of doing so; but when he gave no case of abuse, he (Earl Grey) could only meet his assertion by an equally general statement, and challenge him, from the report on the table, to show a case where bad provisions were used. Then came the case of the surgeons. The noble Earl said that the surgeon-superintendents habitually misconducted them selves—
§ EARL GREY
The noble Lord says not all, but a noble Friend near me reminds me that the noble Lord said "that good conduct was the exception." It was his (Earl Grey's) duty, since the noble Earl 966 had brought this matter forward, to have the report of the ships that had arrived since the emigration to New South Wales was resumed, analysed, and to see what had been the conduct of the surgeons, and he found the whole number of ships of the arrival of which they had received reports at Port Phillip and South Australia was 124. Of the 124 surgeons of those ships, it was reported that 70 had very efficiently performed their duty. There was no complaint of 28, making 98 that might be considered as good. Of four there were favourable reports, but qualified in some way or other, often in a very slight degree. Six were described as having been inefficient, including two who had became inefficient from bad health. Five were complained of for decided inefficiency and misuse of their authority, and eleven were positively bad. That was the result with respect to the whole number of 124; and when their Lordships considered how the selections were often made, that sometimes the surgeons must be found on very short notice, when illness prevented the person originally appointed from going into the ship, they would agree with him that that was not a very large percentage of misconduct. After all, some of the cases of misconduct were very slight. The noble Lord had certainly mentioned a flagrant case—the case of the Ramilies. He said that the surgeon had been guilty of administering corporal punishment to four women. He (Earl Grey) did not approve of that, but here was the report on the subject. It was certainly an error of judgment on the part of this surgeon, but here was the account from his own journal:—On investigating a charge made by Anne Shepheard against four girls, I found they had used scurrilous language, and knocked her down, and took from her a biscuit and butter. I thought it right to punish them with several stripes on the shoulders, in the presence of the matron.The punishment was inflicted in consequence of bad conduct, but be (Earl Grey) admitted it was wrong to beat women at all; but when violent women got board ship, and ill-used each other, and committed violent assaults upon unoffending parties, and it was thought necessary to punish corporally—that punishment not being a flogging as was represented, but a few strokes on the shoulder administered in the presence of the matron—it was an error in judgment on the part of the surgeon certainly, but not the monstrous crime the noble Earl had described. The noble Earl 967 had also referred to an Irish emigrant vessel, that had sailed from Belfast, and quoted a passage from one of the volumes on the table, for the purpose of showing that the surgeon was inefficient. He begged to remind the noble Earl that the report he quoted was from a gentleman who never saw the surgeon and never saw the ship. But what was the judgment formed by the committee at Sydney after looking over the ship, and investigating on the spot the conduct of the surgeon? They said the surgeon-superintendent appeared to have discharged his duty in an efficient manner, and stated that he had received all requisite assistance from the master of the ship. Those persons that the surgeon said had given him so much trouble, had been, as appeared from subsequent reports, dismissed for misconduct from the places they obtained on their arrival in the colony, but all the rest got good places. He believed, in point of fact, the mistake that had been made was in taking those persons from town workhouses, because the Irish emigrants selected from the country workhouses had given satisfaction. Those sweeping charges of the noble Lord's, though supported by no evidence, were doing very serious injury. They had a great national interest in promoting emigration to the Australian colonies; and to throw discredit on the manner in which that emigration was conducted, unless abuses could be proved, was, he must say, exceedingly injurious. He appealed to his noble Friend who sat on the bench near him (Lord Monteagle), who knew a great deal about emigration, as to the evidence he had seen on the subject. He had seen the most unsuspicious evidence of all, the letters written after their arrival by well-conducted emigrants, and they spoke almost in high terms of the treatment they received. But when so many as 30,000 emigrants went to the Australian colonies in the last year, it must be expected that there would be a considerable number of persons, who, from their own fault, or temper, found the passage uncomfortable—who were discontented with all the hardships of a long sea voyage, and therefore wrote very unfavourable accounts home. No doubt the noble Earl had made his statement from the best motives; but he (Earl Grey) was satisfied that the noble Earl had been deceived by the misstatements of parties of this description, and there was no ground whatever for the general charges that had been made. He 968 would say, in confirmation of that, that the percentage of deaths that took place on board those vessels was a conclusive proof that the charge was not true. For if ships went out on a three or four months' voyage with bad provisions and putrid water, it was impossible but that a large mortality should take place on board those vessels. But what was the fact? The whole mortality very little exceeded 1½ per cent in four months. Even if the emigrants consisted entirely of adults, taking the casual chances of human life and the hardship and sea voyage, it was no very large percentage; but four-fifths of those deaths were children under seven years old. They knew that no human care or precaution could make a long sea voyage otherwise than injurious to young children. If they took one of their own families to Australia, they would find that a long sea voyage would be extremely trying to children. In the great majority of those ships, if they examined the details of deaths, they would find no deaths of adults at all; the great bulk of the mortality that took place consisted of young children. That, in fact, was conclusive as to the wholesome character of the provisions supplied. He trusted the statement of the noble Earl would not have the effect of discouraging those persons who contemplated emigration to Australia. He thought they might safely take the passage in a ship chartered by a respectable house, with every certainty that they would be properly treated.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
said, that he had seen during very many years the correspondence which passed between numerous poor emigrants to Australia and their friends in Ireland, and in no one of such letters seen by him was there a single expression of opinion that did not confirm every statement made by his noble Friend (Earl Grey) with respect to the care that was taken of them on ship-board, and the humanity with which they were treated. Devoted as he had been to the question of colonisation for the last twenty-two or twenty-three years, he did not regret that the subject of the treatment of emigrants on ship-board should be brought before Parliament on every fitting occasion; but if he knew anything of the way in which the officers in the emigration department were performing their duty, he felt assured that no person could render them more acceptable service than by bringing before Parliament any well-ascertained case of abuse, with a view to immediate inquiry, 969 remedy, and, if necessary, to punishment. But he must say, the case of complaint ought to be selected in a different fashion, and dealt with in a different manner, from the way in which, on this occasion, it had been done. It must create an unjust prejudice against emigration, if a Peer of Parliament should with inconsiderate and sweeping censure condemn everything.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE
Would the noble Earl then retract what he had said, namely, that the instances of good conduct formed the exception, and the instances of bad conduct formed the rule? When he made such a charge, he should be prepared to prove it, and if he were not so prepared, it should not have been hazarded. It was a charge which affected the characters of numerous persons who were not there to defend themselves; and to advance it lightly, appeared to him an unjustifiable abuse of the privilege of Parliament. He (Lord Monteagle) would refer their Lordships to evidence of a better description, to the evidence taken before the Committee of which he was chairman—the Colonisation Committee—which showed what private shipowners had done in discharge of their conscientious duty. When the law was silent on the subject of employing surgeons in North American emigration ships, the respectable shipowners, Messrs. Carter, had voluntarily employed a surgeon for the purpose of accompanying the emigrants. The same firm had even provided a collection of books for the emigrants on their passage. He thought not only the shipowners, and the Emigration Commissioners, but the Secretary of State had been unjustly attacked. Who, he asked, had brought in the Amended Passengers' Act? The noble Lord near him (Earl Grey), who had thereby shown his anxiety to provide the best means of protecting emigrants on board ship, and it certainly was too bad that he should be charged with unconcern as to their condition. He (Lord Monteagle) had indeed charged his noble Friend with going too far in that direction. A young friend and relative of his own (Mr. de Vere), deeply interested in this subject, and distrusting the mode in which emigration was carried on, ventured himself in one of the ships, not as a cabin passenger, but sharing the risks and hardships of a common passage in one of the 970 emigration ships, wrote, on arriving in the St. Lawrence, not a public letter, but a private letter, relating every complaint that his experience pointed out. This letter was shown to the noble Earl: was it overlooked? No; it received immediate consideration; it was referred to the Governor General of the Canadas, and in some very important particulars the suggestions thus given by a private person wholly unconnected with Government, and speaking only with the authority of an independent witness, were made the foundation of an amendment of the law. With regard to the officers of the Emigration Office, if his noble Friend (Lord Mountcashell) was as well acquainted with them as he was, he would not suspect any of them as having been remiss in the discharge of his duties. They did not leave their primary duty to be performed by clerks or inferior agents, but they went themselves to the outports to make the necessary inquiries and to see that the law was studiously carried into effect. This he knew to have been done at Liverpool; but the House had further evidence from the acts of the colonists, which was unanswerable. At whose expense, he asked, was the Australian emigration chiefly carried on? It was carried on for the most part at the expense of the colonists. The colonists were deeply interested in this emigration—more directly interested than the public at large in this country—they all comprehended that the prosperity of the colony depended upon emigration. Now, if the instances of abuse were the rule, and if the instances of good conduct were the exception, did the House think the colonists would be disinclined to express their complaints? Would not petitions on the subject from the colonists have been laid, before now, on the table of the House? But he never heard of any complaint from them except that they had not emigration enough. Were they, then, to attach weight to one report in an obscure newspaper? Considering the multitude of emigrants that had quitted this country in the course of the last few years, this single complaint was in itself evidence that there neither existed many or well-grounded causes of complaint. His noble Friend (Earl Grey) and he might differ on the subject of emigration—they did so differ, and he would be prepared to maintain his own opinion, or an adverse one, on a fitting occasion—but in a case like the present, from what he knew of his noble Friend's personal 971 character and official conduct, and recollecting the exemplary humanity and the care he had taken, when Secretary at War, to provide fitting food and shelter for the soldier, both at home and abroad, he thought no one could doubt that the question of the proper treatment of the emigrants would be the very point in his official duty to which he would devote himself with the greatest earnestness and assiduity.
The EARL of LANESBOROUGH
bore testimony to the probity of character which the surgeons of emigrant vessels generally bore. He was happy to hear from the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies that he was ready to do everything in his power to provide a remedy in all cases where malpractices were shown to exist.
The EARL of MOUNTCASHELL
replied: He would repeat that in the case to which he had alluded, the surgeon had not done his duty, and that the surgeon was accountable for permitting unrestrained intercourse between the female passengers who were under his care and the crew. No emigrants were allowed to go on board except in sound health, and therefore the mortality of 1½ per cent on a voyage of four months was to be regarded as a very heavy mortality, which could only have been caused by the badness of the provisions given out. There could be no doubt but that the emigrants were intimidated from making complaints; but the noble Lord would find that the subject would be followed up, and disclosures laid bare, to which he should not at that hour allude further.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned to Monday next.