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Emigration from the United Kingdom in 1827: House of Commons Papers

SOURCE British Parliamentary Papers, 1827, (237) 1826-27 V 2
ARCHIVE The Central Library, Belfast
Ordered by The House of Commons, to be Printed, 5 April 1827
Transcribed & Compiled by Bill


Sabbati, 3o die Martii, 1827.

Alexander Carlisle Buchanan, Esq. called in; and Examined.

815. YOU are generally acquainted with the circumstances of the trade in the carrying of passengers
between this country and the United States, as well as between this country and Canada?
- From Ireland I am perfectly.

816. Have you made any comparision between the expense that will be occasioned by the restraints proposed
in this Act, which has been laid before the Committee as a substitution for a former Act, and the expense occasioned
by the Act of the year 1825?
- I have.

817. What would be the difference of expense between the two Acts?
- About 12s. 6d. for each passenger.

818. What do you consider would be the expense at present?
- It is now perhaps 40s. for an adult, or 3l.

819. From what port to what port?
- From Londonderry and Belfast, which are the great ports of emigration to our colonies; to the United States
it is about 5l. or 6l.

820. What would be the expense of the poorest class of passengers from Belfast to Quebec?
- About 50s., finding their own provisions.

821. By this Act, a certain quantity of provisions is necessary?
- They are; but the representations were so numerous from the poor people, that the provisions prescribed by the
Act were so expensive, that the officers of His Majesty's Customs saw that it would in effect almost prohibit emigration
if it were enforced, and they took upon themselves, I believe, to wave [waive?] that part of the Act.

822. Do you consider that in point of fact, with respect to emigrants going from Ireland generally, the
provisions of that Act have virtually been waved [waived?]?
- Not generally; the restriction as to numbers, and a proper supply of water, surgeon, &c. was particularly attended to
by the officers of Customs, and although they waved [waived?] that clause repecting a certain description of provisions,
they generally made inquiry into the supply the passengers had.

823. Have you an opportunity of knowing that to be case with respect to the south of Ireland as well as the
- I have not.

824. Is it your impression that it has been so in the south?
- I should think it has been. I dare say I have accompanied 6,000 emigrants to America myself, within the last ten years.

825. In those cases, the provisions of that Act were not enforced?
- Not to any great extent; it has been the custom, for the last six or seven years, for the passengers to find their own
provisions; formerly the ships found them.

826. Then in point of fact, the passengers themselves took that quantity of provisions which they thought necessary?
- They did.

827. Do you imagine that the amount of provisions proposed to be required by this new Act, is greater than
what is taken by the poorest of the emigrants who provide for themselves?
- I do not think it is near so much.

828. The question applies to the quality as well as the quantity?
- I understand it so.

829. Do the emigrants take pork or meat, for instance?
- Very seldom; they take a little bacon.

830. Have the provisions which the Act prescribed with respect to tonnage, been actually observed?
- They have.

831. The Custom-house officers have uniformly taken care, although they have relaxed with respect to provisions,
to have the proportions of passengers to tonnage preserved?
- They examine the list of passengers going out, to see that it corresponds with the licence; the licence is granted
in proportion to the registered tonnage.

832. Is it the custom after the Custom-house officer has examined the list, that passengers are taken off the
- I do not think it is; I have heard of trifling instances of the kind; the price paid for passage to our own
colonies is so trifling, that a captain of a ship would hardly take the trouble.

833. Did you ever know it to happen in any vessel which you yourself were on board?
- Never; I have repeatedly seen some relanded that have hid away on board; on the captain examining on leaving port,
if he found he had any above his number, he would hove to, and put them on shore.

834. What practical inconvenience do you anticipate from allowing passengers to take with them such provisions
as they may think fit, without any legislative enactment on the subject?
- I think that the description of emigrants from Ireland particularly are very ignorant, and they have latterly got such an
idea of the quick dispatch to America, that they would take a very short supply; they hear of packets coming over from
New York to Liverpool in twenty or twenty-five days, and many of them come into Derry, calculating upon a twenty
days passage, and without a quantity of oatmeal and other necessaries in proportion, and they are obliged to provide themselves with a larger quantity before they go on board.

835. Have you ever known any inconvenience actually arise in consequence of a deficiency of provisions?
- I have not known any myself, but formerly I haveunderstood there were very great privations suffered, and a
great many lives lost, before the Passengers Act passed.

836. Is that an opinion which you have heard from so many quarters as to leave no doubt in your mind of it
being the fact?
- I am perfectly satisfied of it.

837. Have you not stated that these legislative regulations have, in point of fact, not been adhered to?
- They have not, as regards provisions.

838. But although they were not adhered to, they were not so entirely evaded as not to leave them in
considerable operation? - Decidedly not.

839. Supposing a passenger, under the expectation of a quick passage, had brought only half the food which
this new Act contemplates, what would have taked place in that instance; is any inquiry made by the captain of the
passenger, as to the quantity of provision he has?
- Always.

840. If the quantity of provisions he had brought with him was mainfetly under what was necessary for an
average voyage, would not the captain insist on his taking more?
- Decidedly, he would not receive him without.

841. With respect to the tonnage, will you state to the Committee the reason why you are of the opinion that
there is a necessity for requiring the height of five feet six inches between the decks, and for prohibiting all stores
from being placed between the decks?
- I consider it indispensable in a ship carrying at the rate of one passenger to every two tons, to reserve the entire
space between decks for their accomodation, and the deck of the ship not being at least five and a half, it would not
be proper to have it double birthed [berthed?]; and a ship carrying at the rate of one passenger to every two tons,
will require to be double birthed [berthed?], and to have six persons in each birth [berth?].

842. Are the double-decked merchant vessels usually of that height between the decks?
- Generally more; there are very few that are not.

843. Then have you any reason to anticipate that ships would be built for the express purpose of carrying out
emigrants, which would be of a less height between decks than the ordinary merchant vessels, or that the vessels that
would be used for that purpose would probably be old merchant vessels?
- Not at all; there are very few ships that trade to America that are not five feet and a half high between decks, and over.

844. Then do you conceive that there is any necessity for any regulation enforcing that which actually
exists without any regulation?
- The reason of that clause is, that ships carrying one to every five tons would be saved the necessity of any delay in
making an application for a licence; they could take their one to five tons, and proceed on their voyage in the ordinary
way; whereas if they take in a greater number than that, some restriction should be imposed.

845. Do you imagine that there will be any practical inconvenience in these regulations being enforced,
either at the Custom-house at the port from which they go in England, or at the Custom-house at which they land in the
- None whatever.

846. Do you consider that any expense would be incurred in consequence of those regulations, which would of
necessity add to the expense of the passage?
- None whatever.

847. Then you are of the opinion, that if those regulations were considered to be necessary, there would be
no objection against them upon the ground of any real inconvenience being sustained by the trade in consequence of
- None whatever; I am satisfied they would be approved of, both by the emigrants and the shipowners.

848. Do you entertain the opinion, that the parties going out would rather be protected by legislation to the
extent proposed, than to have no legislation upon the subject?
- I am perfectly satisfied they would.

849. Are the Committee to understand that they object very much to those extreme regulations, which make
the expense of the passage beyond their means?
- They have a great objection to being obliged to have a particular description of provisions, but that has been latterly dispensed with.

850. Then, in point of fact, has emigration from Ireland been prevented, in consequence of that part of the
Act which relates to provisions?
- I do not think it has.

851. As you have stated that the restrictions of this Act with respect to provisions have been virtually
superseded in practice, it is presumed that emigration from Ireland cannot have been prevented by the operation of this
- To a very small extent; perhaps to the amount of 100 a year or 200 a year more at the outside might have gone;
the difference can only be about 10 or 12 shililngs in the expense. I have heard a great many statements made about
the Passengers Act; as to the Act increasing the expense of passage to the United States, and amounting to a prohibition
of emigration, I am satisfied that if the Act were repealed the price would not be diminished one farthing, as the
American law imposes a greater limitation as to number than the British and other local regulations.

852. Supposing this Act were not to be passed, requiring the emigrant to take with him a certain specified
quantity of food for 75 days, do you imagine that the emigrant could in prudence take a less quantity?
- I do not think he could, for I have known instances of very fast sailing ships from Liverpool being 75, 80 or 90 days
going out to New York, and frequent instances occur of ships being 60, 70 and 80 days going to Quebec.

853. You say, that you think the emigrants would not take a less quantity of provisions than that which is
prescribed by the Act?
- I do not think they would; they generally consult the captain; they tell the captain of the ship what quantity they have got,
and if he thinks they have not got enough, they put on board more.

854. That Act provides for a certain quantity of bread, meal and flour; is that the species of provision upon
which the lower classes in Ireland live, either entirely or in a great measure?
- It is generally their chief support.

855. You are not much acquainted with the south of Ireland?
- Not particularly; I consider that oatmeal and potatoes form the principal food of the Irish peasantry generally; I include potatoes when in proper season, say in the spring of the year, very necessary, but in case of bad weather or other casualty, oatmeal, flour or biscuit can only be depended on.

856. You are not aware that in the south of Ireland the peasantry never taste bread from one year's end to
- I am not aware that they never taste bread, they chiefly live on potatoes; but this Act merely says, that there shall be that quantity of that or any other wholesome food equivalent thereto; I only submit that there should be a certain quantity of something on board, enough to keep them in life for 75 days.

857. If there were no restriction whatever by law as to the food to be taken by the passengers, do not you
think that the captain or every ship carrying out passengers would for his own sake take care that no person should be
taken on board who had not a proper quantity of provisions?
- I think he would, or ought to do.

858. Have not you state that that is the habit?
- They generally inquire what quantity of provisions the
passengers have brought; the ship is under a very heavy responsibility; I have known instances where the ship has
taken on board a quantity of meal to guard against the possibility of the passengers falling short; I have done so
myself, I have taken in a few tons of oatmeal, at the expense of the ship, to prevent any accident.

859. In case of a passenger falling short of provisions, would not the captain have to supply that
- Perhaps the captian might not have any to spare.

860. Does the captain generally go to sea so short of provisions?
- A ship going to sea in the North Americantrade, if she victuals at home, may take in three or four months provisions, but what would a redundancy of a barrelof biscuit or a barrel of meal be among 300 emigrants.

861. What is the general burthen of those ships that carry 300 persons?
- From 300 to 400 tons.

862. How many emigrants, according to the regulations of this Act, would be shipped on board a vessel
of 300 tons?
- I have put on paper a few observations with respect to the points of difference between the proposed Act
and the former Act, which I will read to the Committee. In the first place, the proposed Act permits the ship to carry
her full number, say one to two tons register, children in proportion, exclusive of the crew; the former Act included
the crew. Secondly, it dispenses with carrying a doctor; the former Act imposed that necessity. Thirdly, it permits
the ship carrying cargo, reserving a sufficiency of space, with the whole of the between-decks, for passengers,
provisions, water &c.; the former Act prohibited carrying cargo, or it was so construed by the Irish Board of Customs.
Fourthly, it relieves the shipowner and captain from obnoxious and frivolous clauses and expenses that never
perhaps would be resorted to, but operated in the calculation of a conscientious shipowner, not to permit his
ship to embark in such trade. Fifthly, it permits the passenger or emigrant to lay in own provisions, or to make
any contract they think fit with the captain for that purpose, the captain being responsible that a sufficiency
of wholesome food for 75 days of some kind is on board for each adult passenger; the former Act obliged the ship to
have on board a particular description of provisions, not suited to the habits of emigrants, and of increased
expense. And the proposed amended Act gives every protection to the emigrant, at the same time removing many
absurd difficulties to the ship, and permits as many passengers to be put on board as could possibly be justified
with any due regard to their health and lives. I shall state in my humble opinion how it operates in a pecuniary
way: first, a ship 400 tons by the former Act could only carry, deducting crew, about 180 adults; now 200; difference
20, at 40s. per head, deducting expense of water, &c. 40l.: secondly, free from expense of doctor, at least 50l.:
thirdly, giving liberty to carry cargo, is at least worth equal to 25l.: fourthly, I consider that dispensing with the
obligation that many ships are under, to put salt provisions on board to comform to old Act, although not used equal with
other matters, to 25l.; making a total of 140l., which on two hundred emigrants would be equal to 12s. or 14s. per
adult; and supposing that a ship was taking in emigrants, and that plenty were offering, it would enable the ship to
carry them for so much less than under the former Act, and form as much actual gain on the passage as charging so much
higher, so that in fact the emigrant gets his passage for so much less, and without any loss to the ship. A ship of four
hundred tons has about seventy-five feet in length of space, and twenty-six wide between decks; so, to have her double
birthed [berthed?], would give you about twenty-six births [berths?] aside, or fifty-two in all; and allowing six
persons to each birth [berth?], would accommodate three hundred and twelve persons, which a ship of four hundred
tons is permitted to carry; say two hundred adults, with average proportion of children, would at least make (if not
more) the number stated, and with twenty of crew, would give on board altogether 332 persons in a space about 95 feet
long, 25 to 26 feet wide, and 5 1/2 or 6 feet high.

863. If there were no responsibility imposed upon the captains of vessels, either with respect to provisions
or with respect to tonnage, are you apprehensive that captains might be found who would be willing to incur risks
from which great evils might occur to the passengers?
- I am afraid many instances might occur, and unless some legislative regulation existed, I fear captains and shipbrokers would be found that would cram them into any extent, and great hardship would be likely to follow.

864. Do you know of any serious consequences that did arise previous to the passing of the Passengers Act?
- I know instances where passengers were carried a thousand miles from the place they contracted for.

865. You know of cases of great individual hardship and suffering?
- I do not know of any myself personally, but I have heard of several, particularly a brig from Dublin a year or two ago; but there are positive instances of anumber of lives being lost in foreign vessels going from Germany to Philadelphia, which was the cause of the American Act being passed.

866. In the evidence taken by the Irish Committee in 1824, there is a letter printed, from you, quoting that
case which you have just mentioned, of the brig William in Dublin; do you know nothing more of it than what is stated
- I have heard since that the captain was arrested in Quebec, and, I believe, proceeded against by order of the
Irish government; it was a very flagrant case.

867. Was it a case of deficient provisions?
- I do not know particularly what the causes were.

868. In what year did the Passengers Act pass, was it not 1823?
- I think it was.

869. Are you aware that 10,300 voluntary emigrants in 1823 left Ireland for America?
- I do not know the exact number; I could tell, by referring to documents, the number that left Londonderry, which is the great focus of emigration.

870. Are you not aware that in 1824, that is, the year after the Passengers Act passed, the number of 10,300
was reduced to 7,500?
- I am not aware particularly, I think it very possible; we can always tell in the season before,
in the north of Ireland, whether we are likely to have a large emigration; it depends upon the success that the
emigrants met with in the preceding year; they write home letters, and if the season has been favourable, if there has
been any great demand for labour, like the Western Canal, that absorbs a grat many of them, they send home flattering
letters, and they send home money to assist in bringing out their friends.

871. If the fact be as it has been stated, that in the year in which the Passengers Act passed, the number of
emigrants was 10,300, and year immediately after the passing of it, it was reduced to 7,500; would you not be disposed to
ascribe some portion of that diminution to the passing of the Passengers Act?
- I think there has been more stress laid upon the Passengers Act than is warranted by the fact.

872. Do you not know enough of the labouring classes in Ireland, to know that if a person who had
emigrated to Canada, one of Mr. Robinson's settlers for instance, were to write home and speak of his success,
without explanation, it might be the means of inducing an emigrant to go without any capital, upon the calculation
that he would recieve similar assistance?
- Decidedly; it would operate very strongly upon them.

873. You have lately been in communication with Lord Dalhousie?
- I have; I left Quebec in November last.

874. Lord Dalhousie addressed a letter to the Colonial Department, saying that you were apprized of his
views upon the subject of emigration generally; have you, from your own observation, formed any opinion, or have you
recieved information from Lord Dalhousie as to his opinion, of the consequence of emigrants landing in any part of the
Canadas without the means of subsisting themselves, and dependent upon employment for their success, after such
- I have had the honour of conversing a good deal on this subject with Lord Dalhousie, and I know it to be his
lordship's opinion, and in which I decidedly concur, that if any great quantity of emigrants came out without having
proper arrangements made for them previous to their landing, and means provided for their location, he should regret it
excessively, and it would be the source of great distress to them and inconvenience to the government.

875. Your own knowledge of it will enable you to speak to the fact of emigrants landing, and suffering great
distress, from being without any means?
- I cannot reger to any particular case; those that I have known, were generally of a superior description, from the north of Ireland, from Tyrone and Fermanagh; they were men generally possessing a little property, and in any thing but a distressed state.

876. Do you know sufficient of the situation of the United States, to know what would be the consequence of a
very unlimited body of emigrants without capital, being landed there?
- You could not land them there, the laws would prevent it.

877. You do not mean to say there are not every year landed in the ports of the United States, a great
number of paupers, emigrants from Ireland and England?
- I should think, very few. I should think the great bulk of the emigrants that go to the United States, have friends in America; they generally have some money. I knew of an instance last year, that emigrants, perhaps to the extent of five hundred, went from Londonderry to Philadelphia and New York, and I should think out of those, near four hundred of them had their passage paid in America.

878. Do you mean to apply the same observations to Quebec?
- No; I should think that there are many in Canada that would send for their friends from Ireland, if they had the means of remitting money to them; but a person living in the Talbot, or other distant townships, has no way of remitting five or seven pounds home.

879. Do you think that the American Passengers Act has had any influence upon the class of emigrants that have
gone there?
- Decidedly; if there are two ships taking in emigrants at Derry, one taking in for Philadelphia, and the
other for Canada, the one will have quite a different class of people from the other; in the American ship, they will be
better provided and better clad. I have known owners of ships in New York pay as much as a thousand dollars for the
support of pauper emigrants, previous to the American Acts.

880. Is that the case in Philadelphia, and the parts of Chesapeake?
- The Passengers Act extends to all thestates; but particular states, for instance New York, have local impediments. I do not know that local impediment extends to the Chesapeake; but if they found in Baltimore that there were a great number of pauper emigrants coming in, they would very soon pass a State Act to prevent it.

881. In point of fact, can you state to the Committee that any law of that description exists in any
State south of New York?
- I cannot tell decidedly.

882. When you represent that difference to exist between the class of emigrant who go to America, and the
class that go to Quebec, do you mean to draw the inference, that an extension of the provisions of the American
Passengers Act to Quebec would produce a similar effect upon the class of emigrants who would go thither?
- If we were to restrict the emigration to Quebedc, the more expensive it would be to the free emigrant; of course, the more
respectable would be the class of people that would go.

883. It would have the effect, then, of keeping at home the poorest and most destitute class?
- I should think it would, decidedly.

884. Of those pauper emigrants that so arrive in the Saint Lawrence from Ireland, do you think any large
proportion remain in the country?
- There are more remain in now than did formerly; I should think last year there might have arrived in Quebec about 9,000 emigrants, and a great portion of those that go to Quebec make it a stepping-stone for going to the western parts of the United States; it is the cheapest route. All those going to the back parts of Pennsylvania, bordering upon Lake Erie, and to Ohio, take the route of Quebec and Montreal, from the great facility of transport.

885. Are you not of opinion that if a great body of pauper emigrants were taken from Ireland to the Saint
Lawrence, by far the greater number would be induced, by various circumstances, to go to the United Staes, and would
not settle in the British Colonies?
- I do not think there is so much of that feeling as there was, nor in fact is there that inducement.

886. Do not you think that a demand for labour on public works occurring in the United States, would attract a
great number?
- It has attracted a great number, but the great Western Canal is nearly finished, and there will be a great number of hands ready to go from that canal, to carry on any new work.

887. Is there not generally a great disposition in the Irish emigrants to go to public works, or to towns and
manufactures, rather than to cultivate the soil?
- Not where there is a family; if the emigrant is a single man, he goes wherever he can get a day's work, and at public work their pay is generally in cash.

888. Supposing the case of a pauper emigrant landing at Quebec, upon the speculation of going to the
Western States without any means, and without any capital, how is he to accomplish it?
- If he has any work he will avail himself of that work, but unless there is a demand for his labour, he must remain there and depend upon charity; all those originally that intended going to the States or to Quebec, are provided with money, which is generally sent them by their friends.

889. Do you know of a charitable institution existing in Quebec, called the Quebec Emigration Society?
- I have heard of it.

890. In the year 1823, of 10,258 emigrants that went out, all those who were destitute were supplied with the
immediate necessaries of life by that society, at the charge of 550l?
- I should think that merely referred to those that loitered there during the winter, just the mere offal of the emigration.

891. You have stated, that Lord Dalhousie has complained of many of the emigrants having arrived in a bad
state; do you understand that many of those persons who were in that state, have been persons who had friends in that
country, and who had been induced by the representations of their friends to come out?
- Those that have gone out to their friends have generally had money remitted by their friends in America, or arrangements made to carry them out; for instance, a person who has gone out to New York or Upper Canada, writes to his friend in Ireland to come out to him, and if he thinks he has not the means of coming out, he either sends him money, or makes some arrangement at his place of landing to assist him.

892. Does a great proportion of the emigrants consist of persons of that class?
- The greater proportion that go from the part of the country that I am acquainted with, are people in general of some property, and who have friends before them.

893. Is not the proportion of persons that are landed at Quebec in a state of destitution, very small?
-Very small, from the reason I have stated; in fact we cannot call the emigrants that pass through Quebec a pauper

894. If the governor in Canada had the power of making a small advance, to the extent of 20s. or 25s. to
each person well disposed to work, to carry him up the country, do you suppose that a relief to that extent might
remove the pressing scenes of distress to which you allude?
- It might with the present extent of emigration, but if it were to go to any large extent, the thing would be quite impossible, and great distress would ensue.

895. Do you consider that the class of persons who loiter about the town of Quebec taking any casual employment
the can get, are generally an improvident class of emigrants?
- It is generally the worst class of emigrants that loiter about the towns.

896. Do you not think that if that worst class of emigrants were taken up the country and located and assisted,
they would become steady and industrious persons?
- No doubt if they were taken up the country immediately after they were landed, they would become valuable settlers.

897. Does much inconvenience arise from many of the settlers arriving at the bad season of the year?
- They seldom arrive in a bad season, they generally arrive in May, June and July.

898. Would there not always be a certain number, of any mass of poor emigrants that would go out, that would
remain in a destitute state about the port at which they disembarked, whatever might be the encouragement that might
exist for their settlement in the interior of the country?
- I do not think that they would to any extent, for during the passage they make up a kind of friendship and a kind of intimacy, so that they rarely wish to separate; I have seen instances of persons going out, whose views of settlement were totally different on going on board, who in the course of their voyage amalgamated, and all went together, upon their landing.

899. Is there not a certain refuse of indolent or incapable persons who are not able to provide for themselves,
and who always hang about the ship port at which they land?
- A great number; I have seen people that were very opposite to industry at home, become at once, from necessity, very industrious there: I have seen lounging drunken characters in Ireland, gladly sit down to break stones in Canada.

900. Keeping in view that there must always be a great number of helpless persons out of a large body of
emigrants, what number of emigrants do you suppose could be passed in the course of a year through Quebec into Upper
Canada, without serious inconvenience to the town of Quebec itself?
- I should think if there was any proper arrangement made for their reception, there could be no inconvenience whatever; they need not land in Quebec at all, they could send any number of people up the St. Lawrence without having any intercourse with Quebec at all.

901. You stated, that the emigrants you have spoken of have generally some little property; with respect to those
that go out with families, what amount of property do they take with them, upon an average?
- I should think those that emigrate from Derry with families will have from 30l. to 50l. upon an average; I have known families have five hundred pounds.

902. Do they take it out generally in money?
- Generally in specie.

903. You have spoken of a law in the United States prohibiting the landing of poor emigrants; even if that law
were not evaded, is not any man depositing three dollars, though he be possessed of nothing else, entitled to land
under the provisions of that law?
- As the law at present stands, he is; but I presume, if there was any increase of pauper emigrants, the mayor and corporation of New York would soon increase the amount required.

904. Are you aware that any poor persons are in the habit of making an agreement to repay the passage money by an
engagement for their labour after their landing?
- That was the case to a very small extent some years ago in the north of Ireland, especially in the case of servants, but it is entirely done away with.

905. Do you think it is at all the practice at present?
- I believe not in the north of Ireland.

906. Are you able to say whether it is the case in any other part of Ireland?
- I think not.

907. Do you concieve that captains very often break their engagements with poor emigrants, as to the ports at
which they are to be landed?
- I have known instances of passengers being landed at St. John's in New Brunswick, who had engaged their passage for Philadelphia.