Friday, June 8, 2012

E is for… Emigrants

I have joined Gould’s ‘Family History Through the Alphabet’ challenge. I can’t promise to participate for every letter (my track record for sticking with challenges is not good!) but I didn’t want to miss out on the fun. Here is my contribution for the letter E.

E is for… Emigrants

It’s so hard to find suitable ones.

As I was browsing the Twelfth General Report of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners I came across this passage describing the difficulty in finding suitable emigrants to the Australian colonies:

“… Besides this it is to be remembered that the class of emigrants to which our selections are almost confined, as the only one entirely satisfactory to the colonists, is more limited than at first sight would be imagined. Paupers, as they are called, are below the required class, mechanics arc generally above it; old people are useless; young children inconvenient. Idlers are mischievous in a colony; active people can generally get on at home. Single men are not desired in excess of single women, and respectable single women are not generally anxious to try the risks of a new country. People whose savings would enable them to become employers of labour instead of labourers, swell the evil which they are sent out to remedy. Lastly, the rate of contribution required by us from the emigrant himself was a further and very operative check on the number of applicants.”

Great Britain. Parliament. House of Commons.  Colonial Land and Emigration Commission. Twelfth general report of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, 1852.

I was going to make this a stand-alone post called “Old people are useless; young children are inconvenient”, but thought better of it…

11 comments:

  1. Did they have a definition of what was suitable? It seems like they left no room for suitable emigrants in that def. I think you should still do that stand alone post. It's a great title!

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    1. I was torn between the extra clicks and the hate mail.
      ;-)

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  2. Fascinating. How on earth did they manage to identify the idlers in advance?

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  3. That's some tough talk! I love the title of the publication and believe I shall drop it in conversation at the next dinner party I attend ;) Seriously, a very interesting post and I agree with the comments above regarding the question of just how did they manage to select suitable people?

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  4. Makes one wonder how the nation managed to prosper.

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  5. It's hard for us to imagine now. I came across this similar quote:
    'Giving education to the labouring classes of the poor ... would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments to which their rank in society has destined them; instead of teaching them the virtue of subordination, it would render them factious and refactory ... it would enable them to read seditious pamphlets, vicious books and publications against Christianity.'
    (Hansard, House of Commons, Vol 9, 13 July 1807, quoted in Chitty 2004:5)

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  6. Oh my goodness...and I had some fantasy that old people were more valued in the olden days...old people are useless...that is just awful!!!

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    1. They didn't hold back, did they?! I've been wondering if "useless" had a slightly different connotation. More that they don't have work suitable for older people, not so much that old people have no use...

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  7. These very restrictive and negative comments belie the statistics eg in my Irish sample (quite of few of whom were sponsored rather than assisted), there were a number of elderly parents (useless unless they freed up the productive generation to mind those inconvenient children); more than a few of those annoying kids; but also lots of single women -Irish women being more willing to emigrate as singletons albeit often with relatives or friends from home. I'm still puzzling over the negativity of those who can employ labour? Is it too late at night for my befuddled brain or did they not want to encourage more employees? Sharon's quote is a doozy.

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