The Tide of Emigration to The United States And to The British Colonies.
What follows are extracts from an article printed in the Illustrated London News on Saturday July 6th 1850. It is a contemporary account of the procedure of Emigration from the port of Liverpool to the New World and the Colonies.
The great tide of Emigration flows steadily westward. The principal emigrants are Irish peasants and labourers. It is calculated that at least four out of every five persons who leave the shores of the old country to try their fortunes in the new, are Irish. Since the fatal years of the potato famine and the cholera, the annual numbers of emigrants have gone on increasing, until they have become so great as to suggest the idea, and almost justify the belief, of a gradual depopulation of Ireland. The colonies of Great Britain offer powerful attractions to the great bulk of the English and Scottish emigrants who forsake their native land to make homes in the wilderness. But the Irish emigration flows with full force upon the United States. Though many of the Irish emigrants are, doubtless, persons of small means, who have been hoarding and saving for years, and living in rags and squalor, in order to amass sufficient money to carry themselves and families across the Atlantic, and to beg their way to the western states, where they may 'squat' or purchase cheap lands, the great bulk appear to be people of the most destitute class, who go to join their friends and relatives, previously established in America.Large sums of money reach this country annually from the United States. Through Liverpool houses alone, near upon a million pounds sterling, in small drafts, varying from 2 Pounds or 3 Pounds to 10 Pounds each, are annually forwarded from America, for poor persons in Ireland, to enable them to emigrate; and the passage-money of many thousands, in addition, is paid in New York. Before the fatal year 1847, the emigration was very considerable; but, since that time, it has very rapidly increased. The following document, issued on the authority of her Majesty's Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, shows the progressive increase in the numbers of British subjects who have annually quitted our shores as Emigrants, from 1825 to January 1st 1850:-
Years N.American Colonies U. S Aus+N.Z. others 1825 8741 5551 485 114 1826 12818 7063 903 116 1827 12648 14526 715 114 1828 12084 12817 1056 135 1829 13307 15678 2016 197 1830 30574 24887 1242 204 1831 58067 23418 1561 114 1832 66339 32872 3733 196 1833 28808 29109 4093 517 1834 40060 33074 2800 288 1835 15573 26720 1860 325 1836 34226 37774 3124 293 1837 29884 36770 5054 326 1838 4577 14332 14021 292 1839 12658 33536 15786 227 1840 32293 40642 15850 1958 1841 38164 45017 32625 2786 1842 54123 63852 8534 1835 1843 23518 28335 3478 1881 1844 22924 43660 2229 1873 1845 31803 58538 830 2330 1846 43439 82239 2347 1826 1847 109680 142154 4949 1487 1848 31065 188233 23904 4887 1849 41367 219450 32091 6590 Total 808740 1260247 185286 30911Average Annual Emigration from the United Kingdom for the last twenty five years- 91,407
The emigration of the present year bids fair to exceed even the unprecedentedly large emigration of 1849. This human stream flows principally through the ports of London and Liverpool; as there is but little direct emigration from Scotland or Ireland. In the year 1849, out of the total number of 299,498 emigrants, more than one-half, or 153,902 left from the port of Liverpool. We learn from a statement in a Liverpool newspaper, that in the months of January, February, March and April of the present year, the total emigration was 50,683 persons; and as these four months include two of the least busy months of the year, it is probable that the numbers during the months of May, June, July and August, the full emigrational season, will be much more considerable, and that the emigration for the year will exceed that for 1849.Her Majesty's Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners publish in the spring of every year a useful little pamphlet, entitled the ' Colonisation Circular', which contains the names and duties of the Emigration offices in the ports of The United Kingdom and in the colonies- the cost of passage to the various colonies-a statement of the demand for labour-the rate of wages, and the price of provisions in each colony-an explanation of the mode of disposal of Crown lands-the privileges granted to naval and military settlers-the victualling scale on board ships-an abstract of the Passengers Act, and other valuable particulars. The Government however, gives no information relative to the United States-so that its admirable little circular is of comparatively little service to at least one-half of the great crowds of emigrants.
The majority of emigrants take a steerage passage, and go out at the cheapest rate. Out of the 153,902 mentioned above as having left the port of Liverpool in 1849, the number of first and second cabin passengers was only 4639.
The walls of Liverpool are thoroughly placarded with the notices of the days of sailing of the various packets, for which many firms act as passenger-brokers, and set forth in large letters the excellent qualities of such well known and favourite packets as the YORKSHIRE, the NEW WORLD, the ISAAC WEBB, the WEST POINT, the CONSTITUTION, the ISAAC WRIGHT, the LONDON, the STAR OF THE WEST, the QUEEN OF THE WEST, and scores of others. The average number of steerage passengers that can be accommodated in these fine vessels (which are mostly owned in New York) is 400; but some of them, such as the ISAAC WEBB, can comfortably make room for double that number. After the emigrant has chosen the ship by which he will sail, and perhaps run the gauntlet through scores of designing and unscrupulous 'man-catchers'-a class of persons who get a commission from the passenger-brokers for each emigrant that they bring to the office-his next duty is to present himself at the-
All persons who may be discovered to be affected with any infectious disease, either at the original port of embarkation or at any port in the United Kingdom into which the vessel may subsequently put, are to be re-landed, with those members of their families, if any, who may be dependent upon them, or unwilling to be separated from them, together with their clothes and effects. Passengers re-landed are entitled to receive back their passage-money, which may be recovered from the party to whom it was paid, or from the owner, charterer, or master of the ship, by summary process, before two or more justices of the peace.
2 and 1/2 lb of Bread or biscuit (not inferior to navy biscuit) 1 lb Wheaten Flour 5 lb Oatmeal 2 lb Rice 2 oz Tea 1/2 lb Sugar 1/2 lb MolassesPer week. To be issued in advance, and not less often than twice a week. Also:- 3 quarts of Water daily.
5 lb of good Potatoes may, at the option of the master, be substituted for 1lb of oatmeal or rice; and in ships sailing from Liverpool, or from Irish of Scottish ports, oatmeal may be substituted, in equal quantities, for the whole or any part of the issues of rice.
Vessels carrying as many as 100 passengers must be provided with a seafaring person to act as passenger's cook, and also with a proper cooking apparatus. A convenient place must be set apart on deck for cooking, and a proper supply of fuel shipped for the voyage. The whole to be subject to the approval of the emigration officer.
But, as the hour of departure draws nigh, the music ceases. Too many fresh arrivals take place every moment, and the docks become too much encumbered with luggage to admit of the amusement. Although notice of the day and hour of departure may have been given for weeks previously, there are a large class of persons (-not confined to emigrants it may be observed 'en passant'-) who never will be punctual, and who seem to make it a point of duty and conscience to postpone everything to the last moment, and to enjoy the excitement of being within a few minutes or even moments of losing their passage. These may be seen arriving in flushed and panting detachments, driving donkey-carts laden with their worldly stores, to the gangway, at the ship's side. It often happens that the gangway has been removed before their arrival, in which case their only chance is to wait until the ship reaches the dock-gate, when their boxes, bails, barrels and bundles are actually pitched into the ship, and men, and women, and children have to scramble up among the rigging, amid a screaming, a swearing, and a shouting perfectly alarming to listen to. Not infrequently a box or barrel falls overboard, and sometimes a man or a woman suffers the same fate, but is speedily re-saved by men in a small boat, that follows in the wake of this ship for the purpose, until she have finally cleared the dock.
'Farewell, England! Blessings on thee- Stern and niggard as thou art. Harshly, mother, thou hast used me, And my bread thou hast refused me: But 'tis agony to part:
-is doubtless the feeling uppermost in the mind of many thousands of the poorer class of English emigrants at the moment when the cheers of the spectators and of their friends on shore proclaim the instant of departure from the land of their birth. Even in the case of the Irish emigrants, a similar feeling-though possibly less intense-can scarcely fail to be excited. Little time, however, is left to them to indulge in these reflections. The ship is generally towed by a steam-tug five or ten miles down the Mersey; and during the time occupied in traversing these ten miles, two very important ceremonies have to be gone through: the first is 'the Search for Stowaways;' and the second is the ' Roll-call of the Passengers'.
As many as a dozen stowaways have sometimes been discovered in one ship; and cases have occurred, though not frequently, of men, women, and young boys, having been taken dead out of the barrels or chests in which they had concealed themselves, to avoid payment of 3 Pounds or 4 Pounds passage money. When the ship is fairly out, the search for stowaways is ordered. All the passengers are summoned upon the Quarter-Deck, and there detained until the search has been completed in every part of the ship. The Captain, Mate, or other Officer, attended by the clerk of the passenger broker, and as many of the crew as may be necessary for the purpose, then proceed below, bearing masked lanterns or candles, and armed with long poles, hammers, chisels, etc, that they may break open suspicious looking chests and barrels. Occasionally, the pole is said to be tipped with a sharp nail, to aid the process of discovery in dark nooks; and sometimes the man armed with the hammer hammers the bed-clothes, in order that if there be a concealed head underneath, the owner may make the fact known, and thus avoid a repetition of the blows. If a stowaway be concealed in a barrel, it is to be presumed that he has been placed with his head uppermost, and the searchers, upon this hint, whenever they have a suspicion, deliberately proceed to turn the barrel bottom upwards,- a process which never fails, after a short time, if the suspicion be well founded, to elicit an unmistakable cry for release.Although this search is invariably made with the upmost care, it is not always effectual in discovering the delinquent; and instances have occurred in which no less than eight, ten, or even a larger number, including both men and women, have made their appearance after the vessel has been two or three days at sea. Some captains used to make it a rule to behave with great severity, if not cruelty, to these unfortunates; and instances are related of their having caused them to be tarred and feathered, or to walk the decks through the cold nights with nothing on but their shirts: but this inhumanity does not now appear to be practised. As there is a great deal of dirty work that must be done on ship-board, the stowaways are pressed into that service, and compelled to make themselves useful, if not agreeable. They are forced, in fact, to work their passage out, and the most unpleasant jobs are imposed upon them. After the search for them in every corner of the ship, the next ceremony is commenced.
The ship has to pay a poll-tax of one dollar and a half per passenger to the State of New York; and if any of the poor emigrants are helpless and deformed persons, the owners are fined in the sum of seventy five dollars for bringing them, and are compelled to enter in a bond to the city of New York that they will not become a burden on the public. To obviate this risk, the medical officer of the ship passes them under inspection; and if there be a pauper cripple among the number who cannot give security that he has friends in America to take charge of him of arrival, and provide for him afterwards, the captain may refuse to take him.
The business of verification and inspection generally occupies from two to four hours, according to the number of emigrants on board; and, during its progress, some noteworthy incidents occasionally arise. Sometimes an Irishman, with a wife and eight or ten children, who may have only paid a deposit of his passage-money, attempts to evade the payment of the balance, by pleading that he has not a farthing left in the world; and trusting that the ship will rather take him out to New York for the sum already paid, than incur the trouble of putting him on shore again with his family. Sometimes a woman may have included in her passage-ticket an infant at the breast, and may be seen, when her name is called, panting under the weight of a boy of eight or nine years of age, whom she is holding to her bosom as if he were really a suckling. Sometimes a youth of nineteen, strong and big as a man, has been entered as under twelve, in order to get across to America for half the fare of an adult; and sometimes a whole family are without any tickets, and have come on board in the hope that, amid the confusion which they imagine will be attendant upon the congregation of so many hundred people on a ship, they may manage to evade notice, and slip down unperceived amid those whose documents are found 'en regle'.
These cases, as they occur, are placed on one side; and those who have duly paid their passage money, and produced their tickets, are allowed to pass down and take possession of their berths. Those who have not paid, either in whole or in part, and are either unable or unwilling to satisfy the claim against them, are then transferred on board the tug, with bag and baggage, to be reconveyed to port. Those who have money, and have attempted a fraud, generally contrive, after many lamentations about their extreme poverty, to produce the necessary funds, which, in the shape of golden sovereigns are not unfrequently found to be safely stitched amid the rags of petticoats, coats, and unmentionable garments. Those who have really no money, and who cannot manage to appeal to the sympathy of the crowd for a small subscription to help them to the New World, must resign themselves to their fate, and remain in the poverty from which they seek to free themselves, until they are able to raise the small sum necessary for their emancipation. The stowaways, if any, are ordered to be taken before the magistrates; and all strangers and interlopers being safely placed in the tug, the emigrant ship is left to herself. May all prosperity attend her living freight!
|'Far away-oh far away-|
We seek a world o'er the ocean spray!
We seek a land across the sea,
Where bread is plenty and men are free,
The sails are set, the breezes swell-
England, our country, farewell! farewell!
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