HL Deb 17 May 1852 vol 121 cc672-80

moved, in pursuance of notice, for the following Returns:— 1. A Return of Vessels, with Tonnage, and number of Emigrants—men, women, and children, specified—which have sailed from British ports for South Australia and Victoria respectively, from the 1st of September, 1851. 2. A similar return for the previous five years, severally. 3. A Return of the Money now at the disposal of the Emigration Commissioners for the purposes of emigration to those settlements. 4. For Copies of Letters addressed to Her Majesty's Secretaries of State for the Colonies, from the 1st of December last to the present time, on the subject of increased activity in supplying the great want of labour in the pastoral and agricultural districts of Australia, from Captain Stanley Carr, Chairman of the Committee of Australian Colonists. His Lordship, who was very indistinctly heard, said that his object in calling for these returns was to learn the intentions and proceedings of Her Majesty's Ministers on the subject to which they referred. A great industrial revolution had occurred in the prospects of South Australia, owing to the recent discovery of gold within it, and the Colony was now exposed to great peril, Owing to all its resources and energies being now diverted from its old into a new direction. There was a general feeling abroad that Her Majesty's Government had not taken any step at all in proportion to the sudden evil which had sprung up; and there Was also another general feeling abroad, that Her Majesty's Government were pursuing a course which was injurious to the Colonies, by adhering to rules and regulations which were no longer applicable to the altered circumstances of the case. Hitherto there had been restrictions as to the number of children, and as to the classes from which emigrants were to be selected. There had also been provisions by which no emigrant from a town could be sent as such to South Australia. The feeling at present, however, so far as he could collect it, was, that the emigrant from the town made a better and more useful colonist than the emigrant from the agricultural districts. In regard to the emigration of children, parties in Australia would now rather have children than adults, inasmuch as the services of children were secured to their employers by their want of physical ability to dig for gold. He had heard that a considerable amount of money had been sent from the Australian Colonies to England to meet the expense of emigration; and yet it was a curious fact that rather less emigration to those Colonies was going on at present than was usual, in consequence of the great difficulties thrown in the way of emigration by the Emigration Commissioners. He dwelt on the importance of supplying those Colonies with labour, and observed that if the Commissioners would relax their rules and make their terms better known, there would be a large supply of labour from Yorkshire and Lancashire.


admitted the importance of the question which the noble Earl had just raised, and, as he did not wish the Government to be accused of mystery and vacillation in every department, proceeded to say a few words upon it. It was undoubtedly true that great apprehensions were entertained, and that much evil was expected to accrue from the abandonment of labour in the various occupations of all who were employed in Victoria and other parts of New South Wales. Her Majesty's Government, which had not a strong disposable force at its disposal in those colonies, had done its best to assist them in obviating this evil, and in preventing the desertion of seamen, who were abandoning their vessels to go to the gold diggings. The Secretary of State for the Colonies had informed the other House of Parliament the other night that a military force had been applied for, and that four service companies of the 59th regiment were about to be sent to those colonies. He also informed the House that the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty had received a requisition, desiring that he would station at Melbourne one of Her Majesty's ships of war, and also troops, to render such assistance and protection to the authorities there as they might require. The noble Duke, in reply, had stated that directions should be sent to the commander of our naval force in that part of the world to assist the colonists in every way as far as he could. With regard to the statement of the noble Earl, that large sums had been sent from the colonies to promote emigration, it was undoubtedly true that from Victoria 173,000l. had been sent, which in the remainder of the year would involve the transmission of 11,000 persons to Victoria, that is, about six ships a month. There had also been received 67,000l. from New South Wales, and a sum from South Australia, which would warrant the sailing of two ships a month during the year. In consequence, there would be sent nearly ten ships a month to those colonies for the remainder of the year. At least, that was the present view of the Emigration Commissioners, who had the disposal of the funds which he had just mentioned. But on this part of the subject there was a question deserving of grave consideration. He was not sure that these emigrants might not he the very persons from whom great danger would arise. They were likely to be more subject to the gold fever than the old colonists; and the sudden influx of a great population, taken from those classes which were not too prompt to consider the real interests of the community, might tend to increase the very evils which it was meant to alleviate. At the same time, he felt that so much evil was likely to accrue from the abandonment of field labour, especially now, when it was known that we had such funds at our disposal for the promotion of emigration, that he considered it to be the duty of Government to facilitate the transmission of emigrants to the colonies, and to avail itself of all the means at its disposal to meet the evils which might arise from the labourers selected for emigration. At the same time, it might be considered questionable whether a labourer who left this country with a view of engaging in agricultural labour in the Australian Colonies, might not, from the high price which agricultural produce must soon command there, realise larger sums of money by confining himself to the productions of agriculture even than by going to the gold diggings. He might thus benefit himself, and contribute to a great public benefit, preventing the immense loss of capital which must ensue for the abandonment of the vast flocks which, at present wandered unguarded over its extensive plains.


thought it right that the attention of the noble Earl opposite should be drawn to the extreme stringency of the regulations which the Emigration Commissioners had laid down in reference to the emigrants sent to the colonies. Many of these were so minute that it was scarcely possible to comply with them; and to his certain knowledge many of them were complied with in such a manner that he thought the Commissioners would be very much disappointed if they had the certificates before them. Among other conditions, the emigrant was required to produce the register of his birth and baptism. Among those who came from rural parishes, this might be easy; but in the class of people to which these emigrants belonged, there were many who had great difficulty in ascertaining where that register was to be found; so that he thought this one of the requirements which might very advantageously he reconsidered. Another point concerned the very large payments required from mechanics, who were charged a much higher sum than agricultural labourers, though he took it they were required in the colony almost as much; and there could be no possible reason why one man should be charged for his passage as much as 8l. when another was charged only 1l. or 2l. Even the certificates required were excessively stringent, and, he knew very well, often signed by men who were not very scrupulous as to what they wrote about the character of the applicants. He believed that these and other regulations required the serious attention of the noble Earl opposite; and if he were prepared to send out this year such a number of emigrants as he had stated, he (Lord Port-man) thought that the noble Earl would not be offended with him for offering him these suggestions.


concurred with the preceding speakers, that this was a question of the highest importance. The money to be expended on emigration was furnished by the colonies, and was to be expended for their benefit; it was derived from the purchases of land in consequence of an Act passed not long since, in which the principle was clearly laid down by Parliament, and had since been strictly acted on by the Emigration Commissioners— namely, that the money so raised should be expended in this country in sending out to the colonies emigrants of the best description. The instructions which he (Earl Grey) had issued to the Emigration Commissioners were these:—That the Commissioners were to consider themselves in the light of trustees for the colonies, bound to spend the money at their disposal so as to produce the largest possible amount of benefit to the colonies, and not to consider that object which he knew many landholders to be pressing on their attention—he meant the object of removing from this country those who, from their character, or from some other cause, were considered not to be a benefit, but an incumbrance to England. Those men, who were an incumbrance to society in England, would also be an incumbrance to it in the colonies; for he knew, from the accounts which he had received from various quarters, that the man who was idle and drunken in England would also be idle and drunken in the colonies. It was unquestionably true, that in spite of the severity of the existing regulations, there were attempts made to impose on the Commissioners, and to elude their vigilance, by false certificates. The Emigration Commissioners had resisted and would resist those attempts at imposition to the utmost, and would avail themselves of the power intrusted to them by the law to punish those guilty of such scandalous misconduct. His noble Friend behind him complained of the rule which had been established three or four years ago at the earnest request of the colonies themselves, demanding from mechanics a higher sum for passage than that demanded for agricultural labourers. He (Earl Grey) had consented, very much against his own opinion, to relax the rule which sent agricultural labourers almost exclusively as emigrants to these colonies, and had allowed a certain number of mechanics to be sent there at a higher rate of passage-money. The consequence was, that complaints soon reached him from all the colonies, stating that this change was an injudicious change, and that the mechanics, who had received almost a free passage on condition that they would go into the country districts on reaching Australia, thought no more of that promise, but hung about the towns, and became incumbrances to the colonies. Men were the creatures of habit, and those who had been accustomed to a town life, and to the advantages of society in towns, became discontented and disaffected when they were required to go into remote country districts, where they scarcely saw a human creature for weeks, and where their sole occupation was looking after sheep. To such colonies all accounts concurred in stating that agricultural labourers alone were of great advantage. It was found, too, that if a large number of children were embarked on board of ships, great sickness and mortality resulted, in spite of all the precautions which could be taken. It was found almost impossible, in a long voyage, such as to the Cape, to prevent sickness breaking out among children, and when it broke out among children it almost always extended to adults. That was the reason which induced the Commissioners to lay down the rule that not more than a certain number of children should be taken. He admitted, on the other hand, that the money sent from the colonies should be expended as rapidly as possible in sending emigrants back to them. He was not unaware of the danger to which the noble Earl had adverted; but he believed that it would be very much aggravated by any attempt to arrest the course of emigration. The instructions which he had given to the Commissioners were, that as fast as the money came in it should be expended. Since there had been of late greater demand for labour in in this country, it had been found that there was a material diminution of appalications from the best class of emigrants; and the Commissioners had found it expedient to reduce the amount of deposit required. Should the present gold fever increase the desire for emigration, he hoped advantage would be taken of this circumstance on behalf of the colony. He thought the Commissioners might very fairly raise the proportion of charge which the emigrants themselves were required to contribute, so that the amount sent over from the colonies might secure a greater number of emigrants.


called their Lordships' attention to the candidates for emigration, who were now to be found in the Irish poorhouses. The class lying idle, and constituting a serious burden on the country in the unions of Ireland, were a fit class of emigrants to Australia, for this reason—that they could not get employment at home, that they were a dead weight on their fellow countrymen, and that they had no tie attaching them to their own country. In the union with which he was connected, in Tipperary, out of 600 paupers, 500 were young paupers, of both sexes; and it would be a manifest blessing to those paupers, and to the whole country, if facilities could be afforded to them for emigration to a land where they were undoubtedly in request. Great efforts had been made, by the establishment of agricultural schools in connexion with these workhouses, to render these paupers fit for the common duties of agricultural life; and, in his opinion, better emigrants as labourers, for a new country could not be found. It might be said that if these paupers were landed in New South Wales, they would at once rush to the gold diggings. He believed that the majority would; but that was only saying of them what might be said of every other class of emigrants now going out, for clearly no one was going to Australia for any other purpose.


did not think the Australian colonists would thank the noble Earl very much for his suggestion. In considering this subject, their Lordships should not overlook the vast amount of wool imported from the colony into this country, and how necessary it was to the successful carrying on of our manufactures. If a large immediate emigration were contemplated, he believed they would not obtain emigrants, in the present temper of the inhabitants of this country as to emigration to Australia, unless they relaxed the present regulations in force. Having superintended the emigration of several families, which had been conducted strictly in conformity with the regulations of the Commissioners, he knew the extreme difficulty and also the expense of doing so. It was not merely the charge of 1l. or 2l. per head, but the provision of a considerable quantity of clothing, which, with the expense of sending them to the port of embarkation, amounted generally to from 4l. to 8l. a head. Men who could afford this were not to be obtained in great abundance for emigration; they were men whom he wished to retain in this country. He hoped that Government would lose no time in applying a speedy remedy; and if this Were not done soon, there would he great danger of the wool-clip being lost, our imports of which article last year from Australia amounted to 40,000,000 lbs.


also agreed with Earl Grey in the general principle he had laid down, that the Commissioners were to be considered to a great extent as trustees for the benefit of the Colonies; but it certainly was a question whether the ordinary regulations of the Commissioners might not be relaxed with good effect at the present moment. The noble Earl seemed to wish that these regulations should be left to all time, exactly as they had existed when he himself quitted office. He (the Duke of Argyll) was interested in the matter as a landowner, anxious for the welfare of all persons with whom by his possessions he was connected. But he was very far from thinking that the Commissioners ought to look solely to the agricultural labourers. He would point to such a town as Paisley. There was in that manufacturing town severe periodical distress. The weavers at these times were utterly helpless, and at all times they were too numerous; and yet a rule had been laid down by the Commissioners that weavers should on no account be encouraged to emigrate. This regulation was enforced under the idea that a weaver who had passed his life in sedentary pursuits could not be a fit man for out-of-door labour in a colony. As regarded the Paisley weavers, this was the greatest possible mistake. The Paisley weavers alternated between agricultural and manufacturing employments; and he (the Duke of Argyll), in conjunction with another noble Lord, had of late years, in distressed times, very largely employed the weavers of that town in agricultural and other works, such as embanking the Clyle, in which they had proved most efficient workmen. Such a rule, therefore, was absurd. He would not injure the Colonies; but there were vast tracts and countries in Australia unoccupied, and teeming with resources, and the Legislature could benefit this country by relieving it of a surplus population without in any way doing any mischief to the established emigrants.


denied that he had insisted on maintaining the regulations unchanged. On the contrary, he had advised changes with a view to fixing rules according to the greater or lesser demand on the funds. The noble Duke might be quite correct in his account of the Paisley weavers; but then the Paisley weavers could not be such excellent agriculturists as the men who had never laboured at anything but agriculture; and the rule of the Commissioners was, therefore, only a rule for preferring those emigrants who were best fitted for the purposes for which the colony demanded emigrants. With respect to the suggestion of the Earl of Donoughmore, he had to say this: that a great opening had been offered to the paupers in Irish poor-houses, but that that opening had been stopped in consequence of unfair conduct of the boards of guardians. Large numbers were sent out from the poorhouses; but the guardians altogether departed from their agreements with the Commissioners as to the class of emigrants that were to be selected; and the consequence had been so many abuses at home, and such dissatisfaction in the colony, that no more could be taken from those districts.


believed it to be quite true that men accustomed to sedentary labour were found adapted for agricultural improvement.


assured their Lordships that the best shepherd who ever went out from this country to Australia was a Spitalfields weaver.

On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative.