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Emigration to the Colonies.

From ‘The Western Daily Mercury’- 28th May 1880

This subject of Colonial Emigration is at present attracting consideration and causing much anxiety. The steam of emigration from the United Kingdom is as vigorous as ever; there is a lack of the numbers of people, who, finding that the old country has not elbow-room, are packing up their belongings and making towards other portions of the globe, which seem to offer greater facilities for advancing in life or more room for development of business energies. But then the serious feature in all this is that the tide of emigration does not flow in what many are naturally, and not without reason, inclined to consider is the right direction. The United States, for instance, seems still to have greater attraction for the emigrant than our own Colonies. This may possibly be explained in the natural tendency of the human mind to desire some novelty, some new or different mode of life than has been experienced at home, wherever “at home” may be.

That a good many people aim to get to the United States of America, is, doubtless, due to the fact that they think, free though our own institutions are (barring some notable exceptions), life in the Great Republic is still more free. There is a firm and settled conviction – born, it must be admitted, of incontrovertible evidence that energy, ingenuity, native talent, and personal worth are more valued, more recognised, more heartily sympathised with there than in England; where many unfortunate people have experienced the bitter truth that to be a talented man but poor, or to be ingenious without friends to help, is a sad affliction. There are so many others ready to catch the crumbs; there are so many people unscrupulous enough to take advantage of a poor man, and to appropriate the work of his brain; or empty-headed people in high places, unwilling to admit, or too dull of brain to recognise, talent in a fustian jacket. Men have gone abroad who, if they had stayed at home, though possessing native ingenuity or shrewdness of business, would certainly not have been able to struggle beyond the pittance of an ordinary labourer or workman. They have prospered, have been “taken by the hand,” and succeeded in exercising in life, often returning to their native place to spend the eve of life among familiar scenes and in comparative affiance. And the idea, somehow or other, has got abroad that the United States is the place par excellence for this opportunity to expand, to develop, genius. “The land of the Free” has readily taken advantage of all the talent within reach of it, irrespective of fustian or broadcloth.

Whether this view still prevails, or whether it is because the cost of reaching the Western Continent is so much less than that of going, say, to Australia, seems a moot question. But this startling fact stares us in the face that the number of people leaving our shores for the United States is vastly in advance of those going to our own Colonies. It is somewhat starting to find that last month no fewer than 46,000 people, seeking new homes and new experiences, landed in New York. These were from all parts, it is true, but it is a sufficient indication of where the attraction for emigrants lies. A few figures will put the state of things still more clearly. In March, 83 vessels left Liverpool with 13,363 passengers; 12,167 of these went to the Untid States, while only 812 proceeded to British North America, 170 to South America, 28 to Australia, and the remainder to East and West Indies, China, and West Coast of Africa. Of course, that is from only one port, but as Liverpool is the one great out-port of the whole kingdom, the returns from that place may safely be depended upon as indicating the general state of things. People, who, however, make up their minds to go beyond the Equator to our Antipodean dependencies, start, as a rule, from London, and a great number from Plymouth, but the numbers are wonderfully out of proportion to those who go to America, and who, strange to say, do not go up North into Canada and other portions of our North-American Colony, or spead themselves very far south in the States, but cluster round the coast States, or make to those States on the opposite coast.

But we have another view of the case that may, perhaps, suggest some explanation of the preponderance of respect for the United States as a field for emigrants above that for our own Colonies. Two or three years ago ship after ship was despatched from our own port of Australia and New Zealand by the emigration agents here with a regularity and a rapidity that were simply surprising. Some of the splendidly-fitted ships of Messrs. Green, of Messrs. Davitt and Moore, Messrs. Anderson, Anderson, and Co., Messrs. Money Wigram and Co., and other well-known shipping and ship-owning firms, were constantly arriving in the Sound, and receiving emigrants from the depot at Commercial-wharf, which seldom had its rooms vacant. Time after time has it been recorded in our shipping columns that such vessels had been despatched with from 200 to 400 and more people on board. For the past twelve months, at least, this has, however, been anything but the case; the stream of emigration, the one thing that made the Barbican portion of the port busy, has been by no means so heavy, indeed, seems to have well-nigh stopped altogether.

But here comes some apparent reasons for this stoppage of the glow of emigration. It is well known that the cost of transporting all these people from England to Australia and New Zealand was borne by the various Colonial Governments, anxious to secure skilled and useful citizens among them to develop the resources of the country. By this means many an honest hard-working man, with perhaps a large family, thousands of unmarried young people, of both sexes, were offered a home and lucrative employment across the ocean – such homes and such employments as were beyond their reach here. But that could not go on for ever; even the exchequers of young and vigorous Colonial Governments suffer the same complaints as those of older countries. And so of late the number of vessels chartered by Colonial Governments has been far less, and consequently the number of people leaving our shores, via Plymouth, has been remarkably fewer than heretofore. For instance, for Sydney, New South Wales, but one ship a month is being now despatched by Messrs. W. T. Weekes and Co., not as a rule oftener than once in six weeks. And the people who leave in the ships for that Colony are those only who have been nominated by their friends in the Colony. People in some of our Antipodean dependencies have whom they may wish to have with them. This some of the Governments have largely encouraged for obvious reasons, and people thus nominated have invariably had the first chances of embarking here. But side-by-side with them there were hundreds leaving monthly who were simply chosen and certified for by the emigration agents here. This, as far as Sydney is concerned, has now ceased, only nominated cases are transhipped, and three ships up to the beginning of this month had been sufficient for that duty for this year. For more than twelve months not an emigrant has been despatched to Adelaide for the South Australian Colony, four ships only having sailed from Plymouth in the early part of last year. For Queensland ships have, during the past few months, been despatched at interval of about four or five weeks, but these will be stopped after July. The Queensland Government have always made their own selection of emigrants so as to secure as good a class of people as possible. Last year there were none sent out. The New Zealand ships have ceased sailing altogether for the present. Thus it will be seen that in consequence of the Colonial Governments not making the efforts they used to do to secure emigrants from the United Kingdom, the tide has not flowed in that direction with anything like the force it did while assisted passages were offered, and friends abroad were permitted to nominate friends at home.

But there is yet another peculiar feature about this movement of people to the Colonies. Never before in the history of passenger traffic to Australia have there been such facilities for speedy passages, or so many opportunities for safe and comfortable voyages. And scarcely ever, too – the gold diggings scare perhaps excepted – has there been such a number of persons – third-class passengers, we mean – who have taken and take by every steamer passage to – Australia. Long before the vessels of the Orient Line, for instance, are ready to start on their outward voyage; indeed sometimes before they have arrived home, every available third-class berth has been taken, while it has been just as difficult to obtain first and second class tickets. So that while really there are by no means as many people going out under the suspires of the Colonial Governments and at the latter’s expense, hundreds of people are every week by one line or another paying for their passages out. Still, the fact remains that of those emigrants who are going abroad, while many are going to our own Colonies, the vast majority are going to the United States, despite the fact that there are vast tracts of country yet to till in our own dependencies. The same may be said of the Germans who go abroad, as of Englishmen. One steamer from Bremen landed at Baltimore on the 25th of last month 1,914 persons! The idea is therefore abroad that some means should be adopted to induce our countrymen to direct their attention to the vast fields for their energies that our Colonies offer – fields where, under the forms of Government they have been accustomed to here, and, among their own countrymen and the children of a past generation of countrymen, they would have splendid opportunities for development, for present usefulness, and, what is more, for the securing of that which will “provide for a rainy day.”

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