Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

The Gentleman Emigrant

“The world is a well-furnished table
Where the guests are promiscuously set;
We all fare as well as we’re able,
And scramble for what we can get.
My simile holds to a tittle:
Some gorge, whilst some scarce have a taste;
But if I am content with a little,
Enough is as good as a feast.”

DAME BRITANNIA is at the present time pretty much in the same predicament as was the celebrated old lady who lived in a shoe—she “has so many children, that she doesn’t know what to do.” A good mother, she wishes to act fairly towards them all; but she doesn’t appear to see her way very clearly, and keeps on demanding, in piteous accents, “What’s to be done with the children?”

The answer would seem plain enough. If you can’t find work for them at home, assist them to emigrate. Did your first-born only do their duty, instead of the portionless brats of the family having to be got rid of by hook and by crook, there would be a cry for more helpers.. But the prosperous are seldom open-handed, and those who talk the loudest of the obligations of nobility are too often the first to forget the obligations of wealth.

Although it is of the Gentleman Emigrant— his joys and sorrows, his pleasures and his pains—that we are about to write, a few words on the emigration of the masses will, we think, be hardly out of place; they will serve as an introduction.

Whatever may be done for our poorer brethren, it is but little after all; and that in great and wealthy England men should be suffered to die for lack of the common necessaries of life is infamous. “If a man work not, neither shall he eat,” is a sound maxim; but then, work must be given when demanded.

There is, we hold, one thing which every man has a right to demand of his country—work. One thing which Fatherland has the right to demand of every man—his services as a soldier for national defence. If work cannot be found at home, it should be found abroad, and the nation be charged with the expenses. The cost ought not to be considered for an instant. So long as money is forthcoming in abundance for the conversion of the heathen, who have no claim upon our good offices, money can be found for our starving poor who have. We may laugh at Brigham Young and his Mormon absurdities; but one portion, at least, of the address which he is or was accustomed to deliver to newly arrived emigrants, shows sound common sense.

“Your first duty, my friends, is to learn how to build a hut, to grow corn, to plant potatoes, to raise your garden stuff—in a word, your first duty is to live.”

Turn and twist the matter as you will; bring the Scriptures, or the Fathers of the Church, to prove to the contrary—if so it seems good to you—one conclusion must ultimately be arrived at by all save the stupid, the perverse, and the bigoted—man’s first duty is to live. It is his country's duty that he be put in the way of doing so; and how this can best be effected is a matter for the most serious consideration. To transport a number of penniless families to Australia, Canada, or New Zealand, and there to leave them with nothing more than a “Good luck to ye,” would be little less cruel ( than to land them on some sterile rock in mid* ocean.

Can anything more pitiable be imagined than a score of families with boxes and bundles of bedding piled around them, seated on the beach or jetty, where they have been landed, and staring about them in a helpless, bewildered manner, not knowing what on earth to do in that far country, where everything seems so new and strange. We have witnessed such scenes before now, and we sincerely trust that we may be spared the pain of ever having to witness them again.

So long as the transportation of emigrants is a private concern, almost altogether in the hands of a few Liverpool, London, and Glasgow shipowners, no radical change can be effected. No matter how overstocked the labour market may be, the shipowner is always ready to affirm that never was there so great a demand for labour, and had he a vessel on the berth for Patagonia, would assure the applicant that it country was, as a field for emigration, second to none.

Colonial emigration should, we opine, be to some extent under Government control. When vessel succeeds vessel in rapid succession, the labour market is glutted, the “ Home” is overcrowded, and the immigrant is obliged either to accept a lower rate of wages than his fellow-labourers, or to live upon his own little capital until such time as the balance is restored. He often prefers the latter course, and pays the penalty for so doing. Hundreds and thousands of men who would have succeeded in life, had they only obtained remunerative employment on first landing, have, from being obliged to wait their tarn, fallen into habits of idleness and dissipation, and become a public charge. Much has been done of late years in the United States and elsewhere for the protection of the newly arrived immigrant; but still the task of the various immigration commissioners is but half complete. Immigrant dep6ts and homes are admirable institutions, insomuch that they afford temporary shelter to the stranger, and prevent his falling—for a time at least—into the clutches of the harpies who are on the watch for him. Further than this, they are not of much service. Like Sailors Homes, there is more of the hotel about the asylum. To be of any real utility, they should be conducted in the same way as are our hospitals—the patient admitted, and not discharged until cured—that is to say, until such time as work shall have been found him, he being properly lodged and fed in the interim.

Instead of the emigrant being packed off as heretofore, to this or that colony to take his chance, he should be duly invoiced, John Bull, with correspondents in every British colony, himself conducting the business, like a fine old merchant prince that he is. His ledger might be kept in very simple fashion—on one sheet, the orders on the other, the expenses incurred for the completion of the same. To order received on such a date, from Otago, New Zealand, six hundred emigrants, of sorts, as follows:—Twenty carpenters, ten blacksmiths, &c. &c. To the fitting out of H.M.S. Speedwell, so much; to provisioning the same, so much. There would he as little difficulty in the despatch of six hundred souls to order, as in the shipment of six hundred puncheons of rum.

But it is not our intention to rush headlong into statistics. We know too well what would be the result of any attempt on our part to give even an approximate estimate of the numbers likely to apply at Uncle John’s emigration office, or of the sums he would be called upon to disburse. We should have a score of amateur statisticians down on us like a shot. It will answer our purpose that X and Y, two unknown quantities, represent the emigrants, and the moneys to be expended, it will be at the reader’s discretion to add what figures he may think fit.

Emigrants may be divided into five classes. Firstly, emigrants with a considerable capital; secondly, emigrants with a small ditto; thirdly, working farmers and respectable mechanics, who can afford to pay their own passage; fourthly, artisans and labourers who are unable to raise the entire amount demanded for a passage ticket, but who are ready to contribute something towards it; lastly, those who are totally unprovided with funds, and who would have to be conveyed at the public cost. It is only for the last two classes that Uncle John would have to loosen his purse-strings, and this he would have to do for them did they remain at home. Is it too much to say, that under a proper system ot emigration the entire number could be easily absorbed by the different British colonies throughout the world ? We think not. If in England an ever-increasing population means pauperism, it means wealth in a new country. Provided that the tide of emigration be under proper control, the more the merrier. There can be no two opinions as to the advantages which must ultimately accrue to any colony from a steady influx of emigrants. The only question is, what arrangement can be made, so that the primary expenses may not be too grievously felt by either the Home or Colonial Governments ? This must ever be a matter of special agreement between the respective colonies and the mother country; but if we were willing to pay one-half the expenses of transport, and a small capitation tax for each statute adult, the colonists would have every reason to be satisfied. If they went to work in a practical way, their share of the expenses ought to be but little the heavier of the two. Huts having been erected, and provisions stored prior to the arrival of the immigrants, they would, immediately upon landing, be started up country to the scene of their future operations—some tract of country, miles away from the high road, in the heart of the bush or wilderness. Instead of each man going to work on “his own hook”—digging a patch of ground here, cutting down a tree there, without having the remotest idea of what he was after—all hands would at once be set about the task of converting the rough log-road or bush track, over which they had so recently toiled with their packs and bundles, into a broad and substantial Macadam. There are many reasons why road-making should take precedence of all other labours. Employing the immigrant for the first few months on public works gives him breathing time, and allows his greenness to wear away. Were he to be at once given his lot of ground, and told to go to work and put in his crops, he would have, until those crops were harvested, to be fed at Government expense—a very bad beginning. Let the immigrant only once get it into his head that it is the duty of the Government to provide for him, and his wants are never ending. Make him thoroughly understand that everything he gets at the store must be paid for, and instead of subsiding into a lazy mendicant, he becomes a thrifty, self-reliant man. Paid a fair wage for road-making, and purchasing every requisite at cost price from the Government store, not only would the immigrant be able to provide for his family, but to save a little money into the bargain. Unless a very lazy, helpless lot, his family ought to be adding something, if never so little, to the common stock. They might not be able to fell trees or wield the pickaxe, but they ought to manage to collect sufficient provender for a cow, and to plant squash, cabbages, and a few bushels of potatoes.

Over and above the grant of the land, the only expenses likely to be incurred by the Colonial Government would be for hut building, the first year's seed, and farm implements, with perhaps the further donation of a cow and pigling to each family. A log-house or split cedar hut can be erected at a very small cost, especially when the future proprietor thereof gives his labour gratis; farm implements suitable for bush work are of a very inexpensive description; the seed would be a mere bagatelle; the gift of a cow would not be ruinous. Supposing half the lots to have been reserved for sale, their increased value would more than counterbalance the money sunk on the remainder. The construction of a good road should double, or even quadruple the value of the land in its immediate vicinity. No people are more fully alive to this fact than the Americans. For the concession of a certain quantity of land on each side the track, a company will often engage to lay down a line of railway through a howling wilderness. It is all outlay and no profit at first start, but the promoters well know that it must pay eventually, and they patiently bide their time. First one lot is taken up, then another, and before very many years have rolled away, the surrounding country is thickly populated, and the line paying a handsome dividend. Civilization may not advance with such giant strides in a colony where a macadamized road has to serve in lieu of a line of railway; but it must be indeed a poor spot where “opening up” the country is found to be a losing game, and where the lots along a new line of road do not forthwith double in value.

Installed in his hut, or shanty, and his first year’s crop garnered, the settler ought to be able to get along without any further assistance. Many a prosperous farmer with whom we have conversed in Canada and the United States has assured us, with a blush of honest pride, that he began life without a “red cent” in his pocket. It was generally the same story. Unable to purchase a quarter section of land, even at government price, he had one fine morning humped his pack, and, accompanied by wife and children, struck boldly into the wilderness. For years he had wrestled with the forest, backing all his supplies into the woods, and existing he hardly knew how. But, little by little, he had managed to clear the land near his shanty; field had been added to field, bam to barn, bullock to bullock, the land upon which he had been a squatter upon sufferance had been purchased outright, and, thanks be to God, he has prospered. If men can thus make headway without assistance of any description, “Assisted” emigrants ought surely to be able to do the same. It is the absence of a road that disheartens and retards the settler. Not only would the government emigrant have a road past his door, but he would have neighbours to assist him, and would begin his new career at a stage which could only be reached by the ordinary settler after long years of anxiety, toil, and privation.

"With proper men at the wheel, Colonial Emigration, on the reciprocity principle, could hardly fail to be a great success; but it would have to be a national undertaking. Private Emigration Associations are of little use. They are spasmodic in their action, faulty in their organization, expensive in their working; and as their assistance is only extended to men of irreproachable character, whilst relieving us of the thrifty, industrious mechanic, whom we would desire to keep at home, they considerately leave us the unskilled and the improvident, with whose presence we could readily dispense. It would never do to send out only picked men. The vicious we are in honour bound to keep at home—we have the hulks, ready for their reception—but that the country should reap some benefit from the transaction, the good and the indifferent would have to be shipped in fair proportions. When we say the indifferent, we mean those who are so owing to circumstances beyond their own control; for there is many a man amongst us classed as a vagrant, who would be ready and willing to work if the chance were only given him. The genuine loafer would decline to emigrate, for he knows right well that it is only in densely populated England that his peculiar dodges for obtaining a living without labour can avail him aught.

If a National Emigration scheme be ever laid before Parliament, there would be, it seems to us, but some half dozen questions for consideration.

"Would the Colonies, according to their respective size, consent to take annually so many thousands of our surplus population? Would not the supply always exceed the demand? Would not the existence of a National Emigration Fund put a stop to the working of all independent emigration societies and clubs, and tend to increase, rather than diminish, the improvidence of our labouring classes? Would not an emigration tax be excessively unpopular? and if not, in what manner should it be levied ? The funds in hand, how should they be expended ? Of how many members should the emigration board be composed, and what should be the powers confided to it?

As regards the first question, it is merely a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. The colonists want emigrants, but they naturally object to paying all the expenses incidental to their transportation and settlement. If we are benefited by the advent of your unemployed poor, they argue, so are you by their exodus. The advantage being mutual, it is but fair that the expenses should be so too. What offer do you feel disposed to make us ? If it be only a fair one, we shall be happy to close with you at once, and . you can send us a first instalment of emigrants - as soon as convenient. If the money be forth-coming, on our side there will, we feel assured, be no backing out on the part of the Colonies.

That the number of applicants would be overwhelming, is, we think, highly improbable. There would doubtless at first be a great demand for free and assisted passage tickets, and every man who had no work to do would declare his willingness to be off by the first ship to the Antipodes. But it would only be for a time. Write and lecture as one may on the charms of colonial life, emigration will never be really popular with the masses. The British workman is a home-loving mortal; if he can obtain work he has no desire to leave Old England. If he cannot, he will consent to emigrate—under protest. There is besides, a certain amount of pride about the British workman. Unless he be a very bad specimen of his class, he hates the very name of charity. He wont go into the “ House” until driven to it; he will subsist on a crust rather than ask relief. Were it his desire to emigrate, he would sell his clothes and his tools rather than be carried at public cost. He has his faults, but sponging is not one of them. The applicants at a government emigration office would consist chiefly of artisans who had neither work nor the wherewithal to raise sufficient money for their passage ticket, bankrupt tradesmen, servants of all work, ill-paid, poorly fed, agricultural labourers, with large families, and a fair proportion of “Micawbers”— men to whom any change is a godsend. Of those physically disqualified for colonial life—sinewless mill operatives, effeminate clerks, shopmen, &c.— no account need be taken, nor yet of our Irish fellow-countrymen; not because they have not as much right to government aid as the English and the Scotch, but that the vast majority of them would infinitely prefer paying their own passage to the United States, where their brethren have already “possission of the flure,” to being carried gratis to Australia or New Zealand. Notwithstanding the existence of a National Emigration Office, the tide of independent emigration would roll on as before. The United States would still continue to receive her tens of thousands yearly—a new channel would have been opened, but it would only receive the overflow, not drain the country. Far from a National Emigration Board putting a stoppage to the working of all independent emigration societies and clubs throughout the country, it ought rather to increase their number and efficiency. What has hitherto been the greatest stumbling-block in the way of all such Associations P That not one of them has been on a scale of sufficient magnitude to enable it to make the most of the funds at its disposal. A few families, all that could be despatched at a time, the incidental expenses were necessarily enhanced, the passage tickets had to be purchased at the highest rates, and the club money was dribbled away. A National Emigration Board once established in London, all the disadvantages under which these clubs labour would be removed; for to it would be confided the most onerous part of the business— that of providing the ships and embarking the emi- 2 grants. The duties of the different provincial clubs might be confined to the collection of subscriptions and to the despatch to London, Liverpool, or Glasgow, of such members as had been elected by their respective boards. As each club would have the right to nominate members only in proportion to the amount it had paid into the general account, no misunderstanding could possibly arise. What that sum should be per head, and what the government subsidy, would be a matter for further Imperial legislation. If shipowners can afford to carry emigrants to Australia for thirteen or fourteen pounds per statute adult, a government with any number of ships (rotting for want of use) at command, ought surely to be able to do it at a considerably lower figure. Let the amount demanded of the emigrant be only moderate, and instead of a National Emigration Fund tending to augment the improvidence of the British workman, as has been predicted, it will have just the contrary effect; for it is the very magnitude of the sum that he has been required to raise—the time that it has taken to accumulate that has hitherto disheartened him and made him reckless. If that sum were only in lair proportion to his earnings, he would go to work with a will, and save every penny, until his little purse was made up.

That the enterprise might be in a great measure self-supporting, as it ought to be, and, still further, to prevent that “improvidence” which is so dreaded, seventy-five per cent, of the entire number of emigrants despatched might be Club or Government nominees (assisted passages), the remaining twenty-five being composed of such impecunious families, orphans, &c., as should have been recommended by the different Poor Law Guardians throughout the country. In this way the special emigration tax which would have to be levied would be comparatively insignificant. That it would be unpopular is highly probable j all taxes are, but the diminished poor-rates would soon reconcile the wrathful taxpayer to the imposition. The amount required would have to be raised by direct taxation, for there are many reasons why parochial ratepayers should vol. I. c not be called upon to bear the entire burden. If parishes were to be mulcted in proportion to the number of inmates in their respective workhouses, some would be surcharged, whilst others would escape scot free. A tax upon all cultivable lands allowed for purposes of sport to remain uncultivated, would perhaps be the fairest of any. That every man has a right to do what he likes with his own, holds good only so long as the exercise of that right does not interfere with the commonweal; which is not the case when lands which, if properly cultivated, would find employment for a large number of people, are left uncultivated in order to minister to the sporting proclivities of the owner ; and the man who can afford to allow any portion of his estate to remain unproductive as covert for the fera natura, can afford to send the men who are thereby thrown out of employment to some colony where work is plentiful and where there is “room enough for all.” There may be a thousand ways of mitigating the sufferings of our unemployed poor, but only one, we feel assured, by which their perfect cure can be effected—by a well-organized system of Government emigration. The remedy is sharp, but it is effective. It is, no doubt, a hard thing to be forced to leave the land of one’s birth, and to go forth into the world to seek a home amongst strangers. But the emigrant can have this assurance to console him—that, in all our wanderings, we have never yet come across an unsuccessful immigrant whose misfortunes could not be distinctly traced either to laziness, intemperance, imprudence, or else to some one or other of those unforeseen disasters from which, alas! there is no escape. That there should be at the present moment thousands of people starving in New York, Boston, and other large American cities, proves nothing. Men who are so gregariously inclined that they cannot tear themselves away from the great cities, must pay the penalty. When we speak of settlers, we mean bona-fide settlers—those who have had the good sense to turn their attention to the cultivation of the soil; Such men, we repeat, be they only sober and industrious, are almost sure to prosper.

But before advising any man to emigrate, we would first put to him the following questions. If a gentleman by birth and education, have you a strong right arm and a sound constitution? Can you divest yourself of your gentility, and take it rough-and-tumble with those similarly circumstanced to yourself?


Well, then, have you the equivalents of bone and muscle—Capital?

You have not? Then stay at home. You would be almost certain to go to the wall in a new country.

If a working man, what has been the nature of your employment? Has your constitution been impaired by the noisome atmosphere of factory or workshop, or from bending over the loom, the desk, or the counter are your muscles relaxed, your tissues wasted, and your shoulders rounded?

Yes? Then stay where you are. You would only be in the way in the colonies.

The only men. likely to succeed in the colonies are, besides household servants and skilful mechanics, capitalists, both large and small, and those of iron thews and sinews.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.