HL Deb 16 April 1869 vol 195 cc943-71

My Lords, my object in calling the attention of the House "to the question of emigration in its relation to the present state of pauperism in this country "is rather to elicit information from those of your Lordships who may take part in the discussion, than to impart any practical information on the subject myself. It is one which presses on the attention of the country with an urgency which, it seems to me, fully justifies Parliamentary intervention. The sad story of the state of the pauper population of this country may be told in half-a-dozen words. On the 1st of July last that population was very nearly 1,000,000, or 4½ per cent of the whole population, being an increase of 5 per cent as compared with the numbers on the 1st of July, 1867; while that again was an increase of 5 per cent as compared with the 1st of July, 1866. What are called the able-bodied poor considerably exceeded 150,000—that being an increase of 7 per cent on the numbers in 1867; while those numbers again were an increase of 6 per cent on the numbers in 1866. It is apparent, therefore, that, notwithstanding the increase of our wealth, pauperism is steadily increasing upon us. When, indeed, we consider what has been the commercial history of this country for the last three years, I do not consider that we can be very much surprised at this state of things. When we consider how much capital has been wasted upon foolish and ignorant enterprises, how unremunerative have been most of our staple trades, and how little pecuniary advantage can have been derived by the shipping interest; when we consider, moreover, that during that period our cotton and iron manufactures can hardly be regarded as having been, in any degree, remunerative—we cannot be surprised at this result with regard to the pauper population. Under these circumstances, the connection between pauperism and emigration is a question which has forced itself with peculiar earnestness on the public mind. Although emigration from the United Kingdom to our Australian, or other colonies, has, during the last two years, been rather declining than otherwise—there having been, in 1868, 196,000 emigrants, whereas in 1867, there were 195,000, while in 1863, there were as many as 223,000—nevertheless the impulse which has recently been given to the subject has been such that, during the first three months of the present year, 25,356 emigrants have left the United Kingdom—a fact unprecedented, I believe, in the history of emigration; whereas the emigrants from Ireland have only been 9,654. Your Lordships must have observed, by articles in the public Press, and by public meetings on behalf of old societies, or for the institution of new ones, that the belief is strongly impressed on the public mind that the pauper population of the country might be relieved as by a magic wand by a very large and systematic scheme of emigration. It requires, of course, very little imagination to place the position of the pauper in this country—the strong man really unable to find work—in the most vivid contrast with his position were he sent up the country in either our North American or Australian colonies; to state that here subsistence is dear, while there it is so cheap that it is almost to be had for nothing; that here employment is very difficult to obtain, while there it may be had for the asking. By putting these things strongly before these poor people, it is easy, no doubt, to impress them with the belief that they are members of an ungrateful, perhaps of an unwise, community, which does not at once transport them, like articles of commerce, from their present position to the position they would occupy on the other side of the ocean, where, instead of being destitute, they would become at once producers and consumers—consumers of English manufactures—instead of being, as now, a burden on the English public. I am not going, however, to present the subject in any such imaginative point of view. I admit the difficulty of carrying out any large and systematic scheme, for, somehow or other, large and systematic schemes seldom end in anything but cruel disappointment. The suggestions I have to make are of a very modest character, referring as they do to relations which it seems to me might be advantageously instituted between the Colonial Office, in the form of the Emigration Commissioners, and the Poor Law Board. Now, the attitude of our colonies with regard to the emigration question is one of peculiar interest. In the Australian colonies, as your Lordships are aware, a large proportion of labour was originally of a convict character, and almost all of it came over tainted with crime or misfortune. I feel—as we all feel—how great a difficulty has been brought upon our community by the persistent refusal of those colonies to relieve England of its criminal population—oven to their own detriment; but I have no right to say that a policy founded on so strong a moral sense, even to the extent of the abnegation of fair advantages, does not deserve every respect. I cannot, however, be unconscious that a good deal of that unwillingness to receive convict labour was in some of the colonies mixed up with a dislike to increase the competition of skilled labour in certain trades and professions. There may, indeed, be some exaggeration in the view presented to the public by Mr. Dilke in his book, Greater Britain, as to the intensity of that dislike in the more democratic Australian colonies; but it is clear that there are many grounds for that view. Nevertheless, the Australian colonies have, in many forms, given a bounty to British labourers, and have expended a very large amount of money for that purpose. In fact, the expenditure, I am informed, has been so large that they have incurred heavy debts and brought themselves into great difficulties, so that they are now for the most part unable to continue to assist free emigration from this country. It may be regarded as a great misfortune for us that, at the very time when we are most likely to want emigration, the colonies should cease to afford us the means of carrying it out. but I think your Lordships will see that there is another side to this question. If we desire to export any large portion of our pauper population, we cannot expect the colonies to receive them with exactly the same willingness and gratification as if they were picked men, chosen by the Emigration Commissioners or by the agents of the respective colonies. If, however, we bear in mind that these colonies feel very strongly the want of labour and are unable out of their own resources to obtain it, we can fairly tell them they must take an inferior article, whether they like it or not, if we are to give them assistance in obtaining labour. Now there is no reason why the degradation which in England is attached to the condition of pauperism should necessarily follow the honest pauper to the other side of the world, having been transported to a country where his antecedents would be unknown, and where he would be without any of the temptations which would lead him to relapse into the condition of pauperism. I should hope that any indisposition to receive men, simply because they had fallen into the condition of paupers in this country, would very soon disappear. That it should exist at the present moment, however, is no doubt a difficulty which has to be dealt with. That the demand for labour in the Australian colonies is very great is to be inferred from everything that has been told us by the agents of those colonies, and by the present condition of Australia. There are facts, indeed, which show the straits in which they are placed to obtain anything like competent labour. In Queensland an attempt has been made to get Papuan savages from the Feejee Islands for the purpose of securing their crops, and shepherds, with or without any character, from all parts of the world are welcomed, and have a free passage. Agricultural labour is certainly in demand in Queensland, certainly also in Tasmania, and probably in New South Wales; and there is no doubt that the colonial Governments, or public opinion there, would not stand out for such very hard terms as they have done hitherto. There is every reason to believe that pauper colonists landed on the shores of the Australian colonies would be received with a considerable degree of welcome. Moreover, in connection with this subject, an event of great importance has occurred within the last few days—the Hudson's Bay Company having agreed to transfer their territory to the Dominion of Canada. Now, the gentlemen who came over here, and who have carried through that important negotiation, have been loud in their demands for every kind of labour to aid them in making the territory productive, and at our public meetings they have used the most high-flown language for the purpose of inducing Englishmen to go out and settle there. They said, however, that the Canadian Government could hardly be expected to advance money for the purpose of transporting Englishmen to Canada, for the simple reason that, when they formerly did so, a very large proportion of the persons who arrived in Canada only made use of the money to transport themselves immediately to the United States. If the Canadian Government could only be persuaded to take charge of emigrants on their arrival, and to give them every assistance in establishing themselves, and in giving them a free passage up the country, so as to put them in a position of tolerable comfort until they had obtained some fixed employment, they would, I think, do all that would be required. Assuming, however, for the sake of argument, that those pauper colonists would be welcomed in Canada or Australia, and would in a few months be established in a position of comparative comfort and prosperity, the question arises, how are they to get there?—a question the gravity of which I do not for a moment deny. There are only two modes in which paupers desirous of emigrating can be conveyed to those colonies—either by money raised according to the Poor Law system of rates, or by some assistance from the Imperial Exchequer. "With regard to the former, by a recent enactment, Poor Law Guardians are empowered to give pecuniary assistance to emigration with the consent of the Poor Law Board, and this has been acted upon on two occasions in the Poplar Union, where so much distress has prevailed. It may also have been put in force in other unions; but this power is accompanied by so many limitations and has been so little pressed upon the guardians, that it has not been carried out to any extent. Such assistance can, moreover, only be supplied out of any superfluous funds that may be in hand. In an Irish Act, however, of 1849—the Act for more effectually relieving destitute poor in Ireland—some clauses were introduced, I believe by Mr. Monsell, the present Under Secretary for the Colonies, which authorize Boards of Guardians to raise money by a rate not exceeding 2s. 4d. in the pound for the purposes of emigration, and also—what is more important—to raise such sum by loans on the security of the rates, repayable by instalments, in such manner as the Poor Law Commissioners shall direct. The operation of this Act would be very much the same as that of the 26 & 27 Victoria, which enables guardians, with the consent of the Poor Law Board, to borrow money from the Public Works Loan Commissioners for any important works; and there would, I think, be no difficulty in an Act empowering English Boards of Guardians to raise money by debenture in that way for the purposes of emigration. Supposing it was thought advisable to give this power to the guardians, it would deserve consideration whether money should not be lent as cheaply as possible by the Government for this purpose. In this transaction there would be no injury to any party, and the security would be quite sufficient. Now, with regard to assistance to be given from the Imperial funds—considering that the pressure of this pauper emigration would be the heaviest on those unions which are already the most heavily burdened, and that the metropolis, especially, would be the area of the experiment—the question arises whether it would be fair to place the burden of the cost upon the entire kingdom by throwing the expense on the Imperial Exchequer. I am aware that we are at present under an especially economical Government, and that to hint, even in the vaguest way, at any unnecessary expenditure to the present Ministry, is almost a personal insult to them. It is impossible, however, not to see that the purely local feeling that every locality is to maintain its own poor is very much giving way. I need not refer in proof of this to the alterations that have been made in the Law of Settlement, and to the enactments respecting union rating. It is evident that the opinion is making way that the difference between local and general burdens is more apparent than real, and that as far as the real interests of the country are concerned—the wealth of the country, the power of consuming excisable articles, and all the other advantages of wealth—it matters extremely little whether taxation is levied locally or generally. The question of economy by means of local administration is a totally different one, having its own argument and its own sphere, and must not be allowed to affect the other question. I do not see, then, why some assistance given by the Government for the relief of certain localities for the purpose of pauper emigration should be regarded as hostile to national interests or to the principles of political economy. It is said, I know, that every pauper we send out, either by rates or by Government assistance, will in a very short time be replaced by other individuals generated in exactly the same condition. Now, there is no doubt that the English Poor Law, while founded on principles of great benevolence, has had the effect of producing a population with less self-control than any other population in the world. We must take the Poor Law with its immoral as well as its benevolent results, and it is not for me on this occasion to propose any alteration in so comprehensive a system. I must, however, remark that while other countries have been agitated to the very core, while revolutions have actually occurred from the notion of the people of their right to be supplied with work, Englishmen have been almost imbued with the notion of a right to be maintained without work. So imbued is this principle in them that to attempt in any degree to contravene it would almost provoke physical resistance; the grown population, adult men, unable to find work, believe that the country must support them if they cannot find means of supporting themselves, and this belief is one so fraught with danger in the future condition of the peoples of Europe that it cannot have entirely escaped your Lordships' attention. I do not wish to exaggerate, or to represent that this danger is much greater at the present moment than it has been for some time past; but if we can in any degree diminish that danger by a process in itself moral, salutary, and beneficial, it is well that we should do so. Now, the leading principle on which I suggest that this question might be approached is, that there should be a tripartite division of labour between the Imperial Government, the local or Poor Law authorities, and the colonies. I believe that if the noble Earl the Secretary for the Colonies (Earl Granville) and my most intelligent Friend at the head of the Poor Law Board (Mr. Goschen) would put their heads together to see in what way the issue might be brought about most cheaply and most beneficially, there would be very considerable results. It would be well, I think, not to press the colonial Governments for any assistance in conveying these emigrants. It should be clearly understood that as long as they bore, or assisted in bearing, the expense of transportation, they had a full right to pick out their own men, and impose such conditions as they chose; but when England, either out of Imperial or local taxes, takes upon itself the expense of transporting emigrants, all we have a right to demand is that the emigrants, when landed, shall be so received and treated that our object in establishing them there in comparative comfort and prosperity shall be carried out. I do not think the colonies to which I have alluded would be unwilling to accede to those terms, for they have already, through their agents, evinced their desire for some such arrangement. There is more difficulty in the other part of the scheme—namely, the relations of the Poor Law Board and the Poor Law guardians. The guardians, I need not say, are very difficult persons to deal with, and it would require great discretion to prevent them from desiring to send out unfit persons. It would be said that they were not doing their duty in sending out very young and unprotected persons, and occasionally they would desire to send out persons very unwelcome to the colonists. Some intermediate agency, therefore, is required between the Poor Law Board and. the guardians, to select such persons as would be perfectly fit—for it would be of no use sending out any large portion of our pauper population, who would not find themselves on their arrival in a different and much better condition to that which they would occupy in this country. The Poor Law Board might, I think, be depended upon for carrying out the plan as carefully as the colonial Governments could have a right to demand. As to assistance to be given by the Imperial Government, it need not be given in money or in any other way than facilities for transportation. At the present moment two ships, I believe, are being freighted at the public expense with dockyard labourers, as emigrants to certain colonies, these men having been recently discharged from our dockyards under the economical arrangements of the Government. I am not sure whether even more is not being done for them; but, at any rate, they are to have a free passage. Now, if this plan were adopted, I think there would be no fear of any serious expense. The emigratory tendencies of the English people are not naturally very strong—they have no great wish to leave their native country, and they do not like the Irish found homes on the other side of the Atlantic. This is shown unfortunately in the very small sums of money ever sent home by English colonists for the purpose of bringing over their relatives and friends, in proportion to what is done in that way by Irishmen. It would almost be necessary to stimulate a considerable number of persons to emigrate who would make excellent colonists, but who are here very useless, and some means of private benevolence could, I have no doubt, be easily devised for this purpose. Should this scheme receive any favour from the Government, they will, I am sure, only gratify a strong public sense of what is required. Benevolent persons have shown an intense desire to initiate action in this matter, and if their co-operation were demanded by the Government, it would, I am sure, be freely forthcoming. If, however, it be thought that the question is too large to be dealt with in this way, and that there are difficulties greater than those I have brought before your Lordships, it would be the duty of the Government to propose a larger measure. I do not know whether a Committee of either House of Parliament would be able to obtain information further than what is obtainable by the ordinary means of information, but it is possible that the authority and judgment of a Royal Commission might assist both the Government and public opinion. A Commission consisting of men who are really in earnest in this matter and capable of comprehending its difficulties—of men whose names would carry weight—might lay down a sounder basis for the future than can be done at the present moment. I should, however, much regret if the Government in coming to such a conclu- sion, should feel themselves precluded from any immediate action. It is not impossible to combine prompt action in the matter for the present with the appointment of a Royal Commission which should investigate the question for the future; for what is done now can only be regarded as a palliative, and the great question of pauperism is one which presses heavily upon the future. I am not sure that it would be easy to consider the question of the relation of pauperism to emigration without diverging into other and larger matters. It has been suggested by some to whom I much defer that the question of pauperism itself in its more general aspect is one which demands the appointment of a Royal Commission, which might consider the condition of the poor in different portions of the world, and analyze, as far as human wisdom can do, the present position of this country in this respect. We suffer from a calamity from which most of the other countries in Europe are free, and it deserves consideration whether we might not deal with that apparent calamity by such an extension, as it were, of the British Empire and its colonies as to combine them in one great whole for the purpose of productive employment, substituting the area of the world, which, taken altogether, is thinly populated, for this little island with all its difficulties and its dense population. If such a result could be arrived at, we should only, in dealing with the question of emigration to our colonies, be transporting the dense labour of one portion of the world to an enormous area where labour is urgently required.


The noble Lord has brought before the House a subject which cannot fail to interest those who pay any attention to the great social questions of the day, and, sad as was his picture of the state of pauperism in this country, I believe it was not overcharged. As the noble Lord, however, very properly remarked, it is not surprising, after the great financial panic—a great inflation of credit, followed by a sudden collapse—and after the great cotton famine in America, and the consequent condition of our chief trades and manufactures, and after several indifferent harvests in this country—that a large amount of pauperism should exist. The noble Lord stated, and no doubt correctly, that 150,000 able-bodied men and women are now receiving relief. But there are some circumstances to be borne in mind in reference to this matter. With regard to the men, an employer is naturally reluctant to dismiss men, even if they are not quite equal to their work, as long as employment can be found for them; but when once a suspension of work has occurred, the head of an establishment, on trade becoming better, will take back the stronger, more active, and more skilful men, and will leave the worn-out men, whom he had kept on before rather from charitable feelings than for any other reason, and they will consequently become chargeable to the parish as able-bodied poor, though they might be more accurately described in a different manner. That would, to some extent, account for the increase in pauperism. With regard to emigration, it is so obvious that it may be of great value in the event of an insufficiency of employment, that it is not surprising that public attention has been called to it, with a view to relieving the poor of this country. The noble Lord suggests three ways of proceeding in this matter, and alluded to the recent transfer of the Hudson's Bay Company's territory. I have received innumerable communications on the subject—some, I must say, taking a too sanguine view of present circumstances, and others of the wildest character. Only two days ago I was asked to arrest the transfer of the Hudson's Bay territory to Canada, on the ground that there was a scheme for transferring the whole of our criminal and pauper population to the point in that territory the farthest from the sea, where they could not contaminate others or be themselves contaminated; where the inducement to crime would be diminished by the prohibition of all spirituous liquors, and where, with regard to attacks on property, there would be this great remedy, that there would be nothing to steal. I am far, however, from quoting this as a typo of the really interesting schemes which have been suggested. The noble Lord's three remedies are these—first, that the President of the Poor Law Board and I should put our heads together; next, that there should be a tripartite arrangement, which he did not very clearly define, between the colonies, the Poor Law Board, and the Imperial Government, to promote emigration; and, thirdly, that a Royal Commission should be appointed to consider the whole subject. Now, I very much doubt the expediency of a Royal Commission. I believe it is a subject of which the facts are well known; and, if anything is to be done, it is the duty of the Government to attempt it, and not to refer questions of this kind to irresponsible Commissions, which are attended with great public expense. One of the noble Lord's wishes has already been gratified, for the President of the Poor Law Board and I have put our heads together, and I will inform your Lordships of the conclusion to which we have come. It is clear that one of the most advantageous modes of emigration is when an active man with a small capital sufficient to start himself goes and seeks his fortune. Such a man is highly welcomed in any colony: very often he adds greatly to its wealth; and he probably, unless he prefers settling permanently in the colony, brings back much wealth to his native country. On the other hand, the efforts of private benevolence, if well guided—and unless well guided they produce mischief instead of good—are no doubt very useful, but they can have only a very limited effect in relieving the poverty of a great and rich country. The three other modes described by the noble Lord arc—assistance given by the Imperial Government—assistance by the colonial Government—and assistance by the Poor Law guardians—so as to diminish the burden of the rates by sending out some of the most needy portion of the population. With regard to Imperial assistance, the noble Lord paid a compliment to the present Government which I most gladly accept; but I very much doubt whether any Government—even one the least economical in the noble Lord's opinion, would think it desirable to promote emigration by assistance from the Imperial funds. In the first place, if Imperial funds are administered by local bodies, we all know that they are not to be relied upon for that purpose; and if they be distributed by a central Board, it is impossible that such a Board should have the knowledge required for sifting the claims of numerous individuals, some of them quite ready and able to go out at their own expense if they had not this temptation of Imperial funds. Moreover, any assistance from Imperial taxation would inevitably produce a result which I am sure the noble Lord would deplore. You could not confine the action of Imperial taxation to England and and Scotland;—you must extend it to Ireland; and what would be the consequence? In a few years more than 2,000,000 of people have emigrated from Ireland by private means: and I think it is one of the most striking facts in history how in so many cases families sent out one or two of their strongest and most active members, who, when they succeeded in prospering in the manner which the noble Lord desires, transmitted £14,000,000—it is supposed even more—to their friends and relatives at home. It is really one of the most glorious traits in the Irish character, and goes far to take away the sting of some of those wholesale attacks which some of us are too apt to make with regard to the Irish character. It shows not only an amount of kindness and affection, but a power of self-control and self-denial which is truly admirable. Now, the effects of Imperial aid to emigration would be to stop this flow of money. I believe it now comes, almost without exception, in the form of passage warrants; but in future they would of course send money to the person who wished to emigrate, and he would then claim to be carried over the sea at the public expense. As to colonial aid, that is a matter which the Government can in no way command; it is at the option of a colony wishing for labour to make offers to induce emigrants to be sent out, but it is not for us to order colonies to do it; and even to make such an arrangement as the noble Lord suggests, would be extremely difficult. The noble Lord thinks the Australian colonies would not be very particular as to the class of emigrants they received. [Lord HOUGHTON: If they did not pay for them themselves.] If, however, emigration is to relieve this country of paupers, Australia surely is hardly the country you would select for the purpose. It is clear that the transmission of emigrants to Australia is almost without exception in sailing ships, taking, I believe, something like 100 days to get there. The cost, therefore, of removing a large number of destitute people at the expense of others would be so great that I cannot conceive—merely taking the question as one for the relief of this country—it could be entertained in the slightest degree. All the information we receive, moreover, is in support of Mr. Dilke's statement. During the cotton famine circulars were sent out by the Duke of Newcastle to all the colonies which were at all likely to receive emigrants. A great many of the colonies sent no answers; but those which did answer stated that, while willing to receive emigrants, those emigrants must be of a particular class. They said they did not want persons accustomed to sedentary employments, or very highly-skilled artizans; still less did they want persons of a worthless character, or those accustomed to habitual pauperism. What they wanted were able-bodied out-door labourers, bricklayers, and house carpenters, and also respectable female servants. Now, these are just the classes which would hardly be affected at all by any mode of dealing with the subject which the Government might propose. My noble Friend alluded to the efforts of private benevolence, aided by the Government, with respect to the distress caused by the diminution of work in our dockyards; but this is altogether a special case, in which the distress has arisen among persons who were lately in the employment of the Government, and two large transport ships being about immediately to go out to Canada empty, the Admiralty placed them at the disposal of certain benevolent persons—all the incidental expenses being paid—for the purpose of taking out those dockyard men who wished to emigrate. What has been the result? There are two ships in readiness, capable of holding each 750 men. Instead, however, of sending out 1,500 men, no applications have been received from Plymouth, while only 140 have been made from Portsmouth, and it is very likely that about the same number, or even more, will come from Woolwich. These facts show the difficulty of getting emigrants from a class of persons who would be really valuable to the colonies. My noble Friend behind me (Lord Port-man) mentioned to me, since he came into the House, that he had been employed by Mr. Canning to ascertain how far a scheme of emigration, aided by Imperial money, could be carried into effect, The House of Commons at that time however, it appears, refused to vote money for the purpose; but trade almost immediately improved, and even if they had voted the money they would not have found any able-bodied persons to have emigrated. My noble Friend (Lord Houghton) stated, I believe, quite accurately the provisions which now exist empowering Boards of Guardians to relieve the rates by sending out those who press most heavily upon them. But these provisions have, I understand, been found to be almost inoperative. My right hon. Friend Mr. Goschen ascertained that some of the regulations under which this class of emigrants are sent out were framed between twenty and thirty years ago, which the Passenger Act and other matters now make unnecessary. He has placed himself in communication with the Emigration department of the Colonial Office, and they too are of opinion that a change should be made. My right hon. Friend then sent a circular to the Boards of Guardians making inquiries as to the practical difficulties in the way of sending out persons. They complained that they had very great difficulties to contend with; and that even at this moment persons came to them applying for the £8 emigration money, who, when they were asked whether they had been sent by the relieving officer, were found not to be in the receipt of parochial relief at all, but to be merely sent by benevolent persons in the hope of getting them out of the country, with the view, no doubt, that they might better their fortunes in another place. What, under the circumstances, my right hon. Friend, after the greatest care and consideration, proposes to do—seeing that it is almost absolutely impossible to separate the parishes and to go into details—is to establish a central body which shall be in communication with colonial agents, or an Imperial officer, who would be a check on the emigrants, so that no improper person should be sent out. From the information which we have received, we have been led to believe that almost the only persons really receiving outdoor relief, except for a very short time indeed, are persons whom it is not desirable should be sent out. There are many poor widows who have been unexpectedly reduced to poverty, and other women of that sort, who, no doubt, would better their condition greatly by emigrating to the colonies; but that is a class of persons who shrink from the attempt: so that when I mention the administrative improvements by means of which Mr. Goschen hopes to enable the Boards of Guardians to relieve themselves and confer a benefit upon the colonies, I do so without at all holding out to your Lordships the idea that I myself entertain any extravagant notion that a really great relief, so far as the existence of pauperism is concerned, will be experienced. So far as relates to the colonies, I am bound to say that I think we should proceed with the greatest delicacy in this matter. The United States have guarded themselves most rigidly against receiving emigrants whom they did not look upon as desirable; and it is quite clear that the colonies would view with great suspicion any course of proceeding which would threaten to inundate them with paupers and others who it might be supposed would improve themselves in a wider country, and would take the most stringent steps to prevent that sort of immigration—a course which, I think, they would be perfectly justified in adopting. The answer which I have had to give to my noble Friend will not, I am afraid, be perfectly satisfactory to him; but the inherent difficulties of the subject—not any wish on the part of the Government to shrink from dealing with it—must be my excuse.


said, he almost felt that the most appropriate course with respect to the Motion would be to move "the Previous Question." He wished their Lordships to consider seriously what was the evidence that this country is in such a condition as to require that we should resort to an extensive system of emigration, to be worked through the authority of the Government and the Boards of Guardians, and defrayed by a charge upon the rates. His apprehension was that they were seeking to apply empirical remedies to a temporary evil. He could speak in a tone more hopeful than that of preceding speakers—he ventured to doubt whether there was really anything unsound in our condition. All the elementary principles which affect the social condition of a country told a very different tale from that with which the noble Lord who brought forward the question sought to impress the House. This country is the richest country in the world: we are lenders to other nations, and purchasers of the securities of all foreign Governments. Our imports and exports have increased to an enormous amount, and we are, year by year accumulating capital at a rate which was almost gigantic. He recollected that a few years ago the noble Earl (Earl Russell) who was then at the head of the Government had said to him with a tone of surprise, that an eminent financial authority had stated that our annual savings amounted to £75,000,000, and had asked him if he believed the statement to be correct. His (Lord Overstone's) answer was that he would have stated the amount at a much higher figure: and subsequently he had occasion to notice that the result of the inquiries of the ablest statisticians of the country had been to put our accumulation of capital at something like £150,000,000 a year. Now, the capital of a nation is its labour fund; and yet with the enormous accumulation of capital which he had just mentioned, we are told that we must resort to every means in our power for exporting our labour. But, following the matter up, we ought to see the effects of the increasing wealth of a country in a steadily increasing rate of wages. And looking upon the question in that point of view, whence, he would ask, had risen the necessity under which the Government had found themselves recently placed of raising the pay of the soldier? Was it not to be found in the fact that they could not otherwise secure the number of recruits which they required? How, again, was the agricultural labourer situated with regard to wages? Was it not notorious that the wages in the agricultural districts had risen within the last twenty years at least 25 per cent—from 9s. to 12s. in some counties; from 10s. to 13s. in other counties? What was the position of domestic servants? Had not their wages, too, largely increased; while the wages of skilled artizans in every part of England were high, and by some, said to be even excessive? That being so, it was clear that we had all the evidences of largely accumulated capital working out its legitimate results in a corresponding rise of wages. He came next to the Poor Law, and he feared there was much in the administration of that law which was unsound, and which required their Lordships' careful consideration. He was afraid the Poor Law had not been faithfully carried out. If the Poor Law were thoroughly and efficiently administered, according to the principles upon which the Poor Law Amendment Act was based, it would be easy to ascertain the classes of people who were to be dealt with and their moral characteristics. Effectual means were provided by that Act for distinguishing the professional pauper from the poor man who became so through misfortune. They should first ascertain of what class the increased number of paupers alluded to by the noble Lord consisted—whether they were habitual paupers, or persons thrown out of employment by distress of trade; the true remedy would then be a more rigid administration of the law according to the classes of the applicants. There were two main causes of distress and want of employment. First of all, there was what he might term local congestion, by which certain classes in particular parts of the country were thrown out of work. Now, this must always happen, and more especially in a prosperous and progressive country. If England were to go forward in the path of prosperity particular classes would necessarily be thrown out of employment from time to time, because other classes applying their labour to new processes, or in a more effectual form, were ready to take their places. Another cause of distress was the periodically recurring commercial crises; but he had always maintained that such events, however disastrous at the time, were the seed of expanding prosperity in the future. One of these crises had. recently occurred, and it was much intensified, and the period of recovery was much protracted, in consequence of the operation of the new laws on the subject of partnership. Only the other day, indeed, he asked a merchant in the City whether people were beginning to have confidence again in one another, and the reply was—"Very slowly indeed." Still, he had great confidence that, in the absence of untoward political events, a gradual return to our accustomed state of progressive prosperity may be confidently anticipated; and that, in the meantime—although local efforts to relieve by emigration the distress of a particular district may, in some cases, be both humane and politic—there is no unsoundness in the general condition of the country which calls for an organized system of national emigration.


said, that, after the admirable speech of his noble Friend who had just sat dawn, it would not be necessary for him to trouble their Lordships with some of the remarks which he should otherwise have made. The subject, however, was one which had occupied much of his attention for the last forty years, and he could not help adding a few words to what had fallen from his noble Friend. He entirely concurred with him in believing that this country was not, in the ordinary sense of the word, overpeopled. There was no excess of population beyond what the country was well able to sustain. He could conceive, indeed, that the country might have been overpeopled when the population were, to a great extent, debarred from obtaining supplies of food from foreign countries; but in these days, when the whole world was open to us for supplies, when a large proportion of the food of the people was annually imported from abroad, and when the quantity of those supplies might be indefinitely increased, because we could afford to pay for them, it seemed to him to be idle to talk of the country being overpopulated in the sense of its containing more able bodied, intelligent, and skilled men than it could find employment for. He maintained that to reduce the number of our working population would be to take away the very sinews and strength of the country. His noble Friend (Lord Over-stone) had referred to the immense annual increase in our capital: but how, he would ask, was capital to be made available unless by the hands of the working men? By diminishing their number, instead of improving the condition of the country, we should, he felt convinced, be doing exactly the reverse, because the productive power of the country and the number of the working population could not be diminished without causing the burthen of our debt and of our establishments to fall more heavily on those who staid at homo. In the distribution of labour there might be, as his noble Friend had remarked, local congestion in particular places; but it was perfectly clear that at this moment labour was not redundant on the whole in this country. What his noble Friend had stated with regard to the increase of wages in every department of industry proved that beyond all doubt. In the manufacturing districts, if the accounts which had appeared in The Times and other journals could be trusted, it was quite clear that the working men were not only receiving higher wages than they got forty years ago, but also that those wages would go much further than formerly in purchasing the necessaries and comforts of life. The same was the case with regard to agricultural labour. Very lately he had heard from a Northumberland farmer that, without any increase in the amount of labour he employed on his farm, he now paid £100 a year more for labour than he used to do twenty or twenty-five years ago: and there could be no doubt there had been a general increase in agricultural wages. No doubt the wages for agricultural labour were still much lower than was desirable, and every one must deplore the wretched condition of the labourers in some parts of England; but he was persuaded that improvement could only spring from natural causes, and could not be brought about by undue interference. Much had already been done in the way of removing obstacles that formerly stood in the way of the natural increase in the wages of labour. The Union Charge-ability Act, for instance, had done much in the way of promoting the circulation of labour and enabling labourers to seek for work in those parts of the country where the highest wages were to be had. Then, the spread of education had tended to improve the agricultural labourer's condition, by increasing his intelligence, and enabling him to apply his labour more effectively by means of the improved implements of modern times. This had done much, particularly in the Northern counties, to raise the condition of the labourers, al-though undoubtedly much remained to be accomplished in that direction. This was not the first time that emigration on a large scale had been recommended as being absolutely necessary in order to prevent great distress in this country, owing to the too great numbers of the people, and that, too, when the population was far below its present amount. Very soon after he entered the House of Commons, the late Mr. Wilmot Horton brought the subject under the notice of Parliament and of the public in several successive years. Many of their Lord- ships might remember that, at that time, and especially in the year 1830, the condition of the people in the South of England was truly deplorable. He had a vivid recollection of the winter of that year, when the dreadful "Swing" riots broke out in consequence of the general distress. In Hertfordshire and some other counties he had seen whole troops of able-bodied men standing round the churches waiting to be admitted into the vestries, where they were paid, not according to the value of their labour, but according to the necessities of their families. At that time the rates rose in some parishes to 20s. in the pound, and in one celebrated instance even higher. Cultivation of the land was suspended, and a rate-in-aid had to be called for. Again, after the potato famine in Ireland, in 1845 and 1846, there was an universal demand for a large system of emigration. But on both occasions there were found to be insuperable objections to any measure of that kind. The noble Earl the Secretary of State for the Colonies had justly described some of those objections. It was found both in 1830 and again sixteen years later, that if they were to send out labourers they could not safely do so without undertaking on behalf of the public the heavy charge, and still more serious responsibility of organizing arrangements for receiving them and employing them when they arrived; because, although it was perfectly true that the labour market in the colonies—and especially in the Australian colonies—was habitually in a state in which there was a great demand for labour, yet those colonies were not so large and not so populous but that a comparatively small excess of labour suddenly introduced might for a time produce great difficulty. Even without taking any artificial means to stimulate emigration by large grants of money from the poor rates, or from Imperial funds, it had more than once happened, that in Australia, the number of emigrants, from accidental causes, had exceeded the demand, and sometimes even the arrival of a few hundreds more than were required produced considerable distress, and the colonial Governments had some difficulty in meeting it; and they were compelled at times to organize special means of relief and employment for the able-bodied persons who went out. It was true that the colonies could receive, with great advantage to themselves as well as to us, a very considerable number of efficient labourers; but they must really be efficient—not persons tainted with pauper habits; still less persons given to profligate habits., and likely to be tempted by the low price at which drink could be obtained in the colonies to indulge in what he was sorry to say was the prevailing vice of Englishmen both in the colonies and in the mother country. Drunkenness was too often the cause of the failure of the labourer both at home and abroad, and there could be no greater error than to send to a colony a labourer whose disposition towards drunkenness had made him fail at home. But a considerable number of efficient labourers—those that were wanted—would find their way to the colonies without the adoption of artificial means, whether through the medium of the poor rates or of the Imperial revenue. If we sent out our best labourers we diminished the strength and productive power of the country. On the other hand, if we attempted to send out labourers of a different class we did an injury to the colonies. Even in 1846 and 1847 there was so great an alarm in the colonies with regard to the class of emigrants that were driven out by the potatoe famine, that all the American colonies, without exception, passed Bills imposing taxes for the express purpose of raising funds to guard themselves against the difficulties which might thus be thrown upon them. They did that most properly; and having then himself the honour of being Secretary of State for the Colonies he certainly, with the concurrence of the Government of the day, did inform the Governors of all those colonies that he thought, by imposing those taxes, and applying the money derived from them in order to benefit the emigrants and provide for their proper reception on their arrival, they were taking a course which was only just to the old inhabitants of the colonies and necessary for their protection. Those measures had answered exceedingly well. What it was deemed right at that time to do was not to resort to any artificial means of carrying on emigration at the expense of the public funds in this country, but still to afford all possible facilities and assistance to those who, of their own free-will, endeavoured to find in the colonies a better provision for themselves than they could obtain at home. And on looking back over a number of years it was remarkable what great results had followed from that course. His noble Friend (Lord Houghton) had suggested that a Royal Commission should be appointed. Now, he (Earl Grey) was heartily glad to hear the Secretary of State for the Colonies declare that the Government had no such intention, because he was persuaded that, at the present time, there was no occasion for any such Commission. But he remembered that a Commission was appointed in 1831, and presided over by the late Duke of Richmond, of which he had the honour of being a member, for the purpose of considering in what manner emigration might be promoted and assisted to the Australian colonies. On the advice of that Commission various measures were adopted which proved of great benefit. At that time there was no such thing as a merchant ship in which a passage could be obtained to those colonies at a price that was anything like within the reach of the labourer; but upon the recommendation of the Commission of that day, by means of colonial funds, arrangements on a very limited scale were made for sending out a small number of labourers of the kind most wanted in the colonies; and, at the same time, encouragement was given to shipowners and others to provide vessels in which emigrants of the labouring class could be taken out at an expense within their reach. From those small beginnings a great emigration to Australia afterwards ensued. The funds by which the emigrants who were wanted were sent out were entirely derived from the sale of colonial lands. The theory was brought forward at that time by a gentleman of great ability—the late Mr. Gibbon Wakefield—that, by the sale of colonial land, money might be raised by which labourers might be enabled to go to the colonies, who, when they arrived, would give a value to that land and make it worth the price given for it. That system was adopted under the direction of the late Lord Ripon, when Secretary of State for the Colonies, when he himself held the office of Under Secretary; under those arrangements and by an Act of Parliament passed upon the recommendation of a Committee presided over by the late Sir Henry Ward, funds to a very large amount indeed were ob- tained from the sale of land in Australia and by those means a considerable number of picked labourers were sent out from this country to whose arrival in the Australian colonies the present prosperity of those colonies was mainly due. He (Earl Grey) thought the Australian colonies had made a great mistake for their own welfare and that of the mother country in abandoning that system, and in proceeding in the manner they had done in respect to the giving of increased facilities for the purchase of that land, which really meant increased facilities for the buying up of land by certain capitalists and others who might engross it and prevent its being dealt with in small quantities when wanted, and at the same time entirely putting an end to that great fund which had been the means of sending out so large a number of labourers who had originated Australian prosperity. That system, he was sorry to say, had of late years been gradually broken in upon and almost entirely abandoned, and a very great check had been given to that successful and beneficial emigration. But though it was greatly to be regretted that that had ceased, he could not believe that to this country its cessation was so great a misfortune. This country would not be the loser, but mainly and chiefly the Australian colonies; because the number of labourers who had gone out was too small to have had any real or substantial effect on the labour market of this country; and moreover, as they were the picked part of our population, they were certainly not persons whom we had any desire to get rid of. He wished to point out to Ms noble Friend who had initiated this question (Lord Houghton) that, though it was perfectly true that money had been given by the Australian colonies to enable us to send out labourers, that was not attended by any of those disadvantages which would have arisen if it were distinctly done as a mode of relief for the poverty of this country. It was given as a fund to be employed to the best advantage of the colonies, and not for the purpose of relieving persons in this country—therefore, it had no tendency to check voluntary emigration, or the sending of money home by persons abroad to enable their relations to go out and join them. He was very glad to hear from his noble Friend (Earl Granville) that it was not intended by Her Majesty's Government to issue a Royal Commission for the purpose of inquiry. There was only one part of his noble Friend's speech which he had heard with any regret, and that was where he stated that it was the intention of the Government to see whether the central body, which was to be intrusted with certain powers for the relief of pauperism in the metropolis, might not apply some of the funds at its disposal to assist emigration. He trusted that if any money were to be applied in that way it would be done with extreme caution; but he was afraid that no caution would be sufficient to prevent such an application of money from being attended with extreme danger.


My Lords, I do not wish to travel over the ground which has been so ably gone over before in the course of this debate—it is quite sufficient for my purpose to say that I agree in the main, if not perhaps entirely, with the views expressed by my noble Friend who has just sat down (Earl Grey). The speech which my noble Friend has made is a speech perfectly consistent with the position which he has all along taken on this question, and is one which he might have spoken or a chapter which he might have written many years ago, when he held the Seals of the Colonial Office. I would only supplement his argument by saving that if my noble Friend was right in his views as to redundancy of population at the time he wrote those chapters which so many of your Lordships have read with interest, he is more right now; because the difficulty which then pressed and still presses so hardly was the unequal distribution of labour in this country. Since then you have had many alleviations of this evil—you have had relaxations of the Law of Settlement, you have had railway communication spread over the country, and you have had emigration information diffused through every class of the population. Therefore labour has been more equally distributed, and is in process of still more equal distribution; and though I am not quite prepared to go as far as my noble Friend on the question of wages, they have certainly very much risen in some classes, and perhaps in all. I was also very glad to hear the speech of the noble Earl the Colonial Secretary. I think he advanced incontestable objections to the scheme—if it can be called a scheme—of the noble Lord on the cross-Benches (Lord Houghton). My object in rising, however, is rather to say one word as to a particular phrase which escaped from the noble Lord in bringing this subject forward; and for this reason—because I think that phrase was calculated to be misapprehended, and by misleading persons, perhaps, to do a great deal of mischief. The noble Lord stated that there is at this time a very great demand for labour in the Australian colonies; and having made that statement he proceeded to base upon it an assumption that, by some little amount of pressure on our part, the Australian colonies would be willing to take what he called an "inferior article" as applied to the persons whom we might send out. Now, I doubt extremely whether there is that great demand for labour in the Australian colonies at this moment, and I am quite satisfied that none of those colonies would be induced to take what the noble Lord calls an "inferior article." Your Lordships are aware it is but a comparatively short time since transportation to Australia has come to an end; but the feeling with respect to transportation is, I believe, almost as strong now as it ever was. "Convictism"—for they have coined a word to express that particular meaning—"convictism" is still so fresh in their minds that the Australian colonists would shrink from anything which in the faintest degree approximated to what led them into such opposition to this country. And so far has this been carried that I know, a few years ago, one of the most prosperous of the Australian colonies held even the Emigration Commissioners of this country in some suspicion—most untruly, most undeservedly, because, though these Commissioners sent out to them labour at a cheaper cost and very often of better quality than they could command themselves, they entertained the belief—or the delusion I should rather call it—that the Commissioners were somehow or other connected with our workhouses, and that they were palming off on the colonies pauper labourers in order to relieve this country. I know that was the feeling on the part of at least one colony in Australia, and it shows how extremely sensitive they have been and are at this moment. As to Victoria, I believe the labour of that colony is about sufficient for its present requirements. I agree with all my noble Friend said on that subject. Your Lordships must remember that the margin is so narrow that if you send out any more labour than is sufficient you produce a glut in the labour market, and you practically derange all their arrangements. A small check in the labour system of Victoria is quite sufficient at this moment to throw everything into confusion, and the Victorian mechanics are keenly alive to this matter; so sensitive, indeed, are they upon this point that various theories of protection have sprung up which I hope good sense, wisdom, and experience will, in course of time dissipate, but which have led them, in more than one instance, to establish organizations for the purpose of preventing the introduction of additional labour. I am not aware that there is any other point on which I should trouble your Lordships; but I was very anxious to say these few words in order to guard against the misapprehension which might arise from what I think was an incautious expression of my noble Friend; for it might lead persons in this country to suppose that the labour market in Australia is capable of receiving any amount of labour we can send it. I believe that would be a very mischievous misapprehension. Therefore, while I readily admit all the difficulties and evils of the present state of things, I agree very much with my noble Friend who spoke from the cross-Benches (Lord Overstone) that these evils are transient, and I feel that the safest remedy to which we can look is the voluntary agency, on which we can count so largely, which has already produced such great results, and is likely to produce more. I am not averse to the Government supplementing these voluntary agencies as far as it can, and giving proper aid and encouragement to the objects they have in view; but I should view with very great doubt any active step taken by the Government in this matter to identify themselves with a movement which I doubt whether they could effectually control or bring to the conclusion which they desired.


said, he would not have spoken a word in the debate if it were not for a remark of the noble Earl, who seemed to think that the system of union rating had tended to diminish pauperism. On the con- trary, his own experience was that in rural parishes union rating had tended to increase pauperism, because it had tended to prevent ratepayers from making that exertion which otherwise they would have made to keep persons off the rates. It had also taken away that interest in parochial management which was of so much importance to the well-being of the country.


in reply, said, that the interest which their Lordships had taken in the debate justified him in having brought this question under their notice. With regard to what had fallen from the noble Lord on the cross-Benches (Lord Overstone), who always spoke in that House with so much authority, he could not help thinking that his estimate of the accumulated capital of the country, for the last three years at least, was very excessive. After the best judgment which he could give to the subject, the conclusion to which he had come was this—that during the last three years there had been so little accumulation of capital that it was owing to the want of that accumulation the present state of pauperism existed. He feared that the optimism of the noble Lord would be disappointed. He joined in the belief that the inefficient and unwise administration of the Poor Law was at the bottom of a great deal of our pauperism, but did not understand how his noble Friend (Lord Overstone) could hold this opinion and rest content with the existing state of things. He was obliged to re-affirm what the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Carnarvon) had been pleased to think a misapprehension, that the Australian colonies were in want of a great deal of labour; and that though Victoria might be in less need than others, she still required a great deal. Possibly the noble Earl had formed his opinion on personal experience some years ago; recent information of the best kind was, however, totally at variance with his conclusions, and enforced the belief that even the inefficient labour of Papuan savages and Chinese was welcomed with delight. Agreeing with almost everything which had fallen from the noble Earl at the head of the Colonial Department, he did not think it would be necessary to establish any general system of emigration; but, at the same time, he could not but believe that the emigration of labour from this coun- try, if carried on under strict superintendence, would be most beneficial to the colonies.

House adjourned at half-past Seven o'clock, to Monday next, Eleven o'clock.