Category Archives: Robinson Emigrations

The Robinson assisted emigrations from the south of Ireland in 1823-1825.

News – 20140126

We have just submitted the third part of our discussion of Robinson’s Transports for publication in the forthcoming issue of The Heritage Gazette of the Trent Valley.  An overview of the series:

Part I – Identification of Robinson’s Transports in Lloyd’s Register c. 1825.

Part II – Origins and service in the merchant fleet.

Part III – Principle dimensions and hull construction.

Part IV – Rigging, sail plans and equipment.

Experiments in Irish Emigration – 1823-1825

Source: H. J. M. Johnston (1972), British Emigration Policy 1815-1830 “Shovelling out Paupers”, pp. 69-90.

{69} Horton was not familiar with any of the more acutely distressed areas of the British Isles. He approached the question of pauper emigration as a political economist, not as a philanthropist or a spokesman for a particular region or constituency. The problem was for him an abstract one. While he began with a plan for the parish poor in England, he responded enthusiastically when Robert Peel suggested emigration from Ireland. Peel, who was four years younger than Horton, had become Home Secretary in 1822 at the age of thirty-four and was already a powerful Cabinet figure. He was an unmistakable Tory, but on economic questions he paid attention to Ricardo and was attracted to the policies of Huskisson. To Peel, more than to anyone, Horton looked for eventual support in making an extensive system of emigration a reality. For his part, Peel withheld approval while managing to give encouragement. When he proposed a small emigration from Ireland, he did not endorse Horton’s views, but he did offer a means to test them.

Peel brought to the Home Office a greater knowledge of Ireland and Irish affairs than any of his predecessors in the period since the union.1 He was bound to follow events attentively and to direct Irish policy with a firm hand. Because his close friend, Henry Goulburn, was a new and inexperienced Irish Secretary, Peel guided him step by step. Goulburn did not object; the crisis that he faced in 1822-3 was the worst that Ireland had seen in twenty years.2 Incessant rain in 1821 had spoiled the potato crop. In the south of Ireland, where the whole population lived mainly on potatoes, thou­sands were reduced to, one meal of oatmeal a day. Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Clare, and Tipperary were all areas of acute distress. In the spring of 1822. half of the population of half of Ireland was destitute.

{70} Hunger was accompanied by violence. While the government hesitated to supply food, there was no doubt of its responsibility to uphold the law. In February 1822 Parliament passed the Insurrec­tion Act and the Irish Habeas Corpus Suspension Act. “The ignorant classes are in rebellion,” Castlereagh told the Commons.3 Yet there was no political purpose in the terrorism of the “Whiteboy” and “Ribbonmen”, the secret societies supported by the Irish tenantry. Land was the issue. Cattle-maiming, arson, and murder were the acts of those deprived of their leasehold. Church property and farms from which tenants had been evicted were the usual objects of attack. No reform-inspired uprising could have been as difficult to suppress as this anarchic rebellion.

For a while the suspension of normal legal processes seemed effec­tive in restoring order. After a turbulent spring the summer and early autumn of 1822 were comparatively quiet. The harvest was always a signal for trouble; tithe corn and hay went up in smoke; but the yield of potatoes was adequate. In January 1823 conditions were much better than they had been during the previous winter.4 Except for a few incidents in Clare and Tipperary, disturbances were con­fined to a few districts on the north-western boundary of County Cork. Lord Wellesley, the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, expected that the special provisions of the Insurrection Act would not be needed much longer.

March brought disappointment. In the first week the police magis­trate of Cork reported seventeen separate instances of terrorism.5 Scarcely a night passed in which some property was not put to fire. To a lesser extent, Limerick, Clare, Westmeath, Queens, and the other counties in Munster experienced an increase in violence. This was the time of year in which leases terminated. It was usually a period of unrest; in 1823 it witnessed a regeneration of all the brutality that had been manifested in 1822. Members of the propertied class were more alarmed than ever. A year earlier they had placed some faith in the Insurrection Act; now that measure had proved in­adequate.6

Not until he received a dispatch from Lord Wellesley in mid- April, was Robert Peel fully aware of the situation. One of his first {71} concerns was to seek a renewal of the Insurrection Act. At the same time he decided that this was a proper moment for the government to offer to remove surplus population. Within a week of drafting a reply to Lord Wellesley, Peel had arranged for Horton and Goulburn to discuss a plan of assisted emigration.7 Peel made two specifica­tions: first, the emigrants should be recruited in Southern Ireland; second, the measure should be financed entirely by the government with no expectation of reimbursement from local assessment. Frederick Robinson, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was consulted and he approved a small experiment. The plan was put before the Prime Minister, Lord Liverpool, and one week after Peel had sug­gested it, it was agreed upon.

County Cork was the centre of trouble; it was singled out as the place to start.8 Goulburn and Horton met three of the members of Parliament from Cork and several other Irish gentlemen to explain the government’s proposal. These men became Horton’s liaison with Ireland. Although Peel had expected that the Irish government would co-operate with the Colonial Office, Goulburn was actively involved only at the onset. He was happy to leave the matter in Horton’s eager hands. Nor did he bother to advise the Lord-Lieutenant of the British government’s intentions. Lord Wellesley remained in the dark until Peter Robinson, the government’s agent, arrived in Ireland and began to recruit settlers. Wellesley was understandably annoyed.9 How could penal measures work, he asked, if the punishment of the guilty became the reward of the innocent? How could he achieve anything by transporting convicts to Bermuda and Australia if Mr. Robinson tramped up and down the country advertising the advan­tages of emigration?

This protest was ignored; Wellesley’s government was bypassed. For advice and assistance Horton depended on the representatives from Cork, Lord Ennismore, W. W. Becher, and Sir Nicholas Colthurst, and landlords such as Lord Doneraile, Lord Mount Cashell, and Lord Kingston.10 These men were responsible for the decision {72} to take most of the settlers for Upper Canada from Mallow and Fermoy, the most disturbed baronies of Cork. They introduced Horton’s agent to local magistrates and officials; they helped to recruit; and they influenced the final selection of emigrants. Inevitably, charges of favouritism arose. There was little to prevent Ennismore, Becher, and the others from clearing tenants from their own estates first. It was a temptation they could not completely resist.

Fifteen thousand pounds were allocated for emigration from Cork. The money was spent on two separate projects.11 Two-thirds of it was used to send settlers to Upper Canada; the remainder to assist labourers to go to the Cape of Good Hope. Horton was more inter­ested in the Upper Canadian than the South African experiment, but in each case he had long-term objectives. At the Cape a shortage of labour kept wages at a high level. Capitalists might be encouraged to bring in indentured labour; an initial priming of the pump might set in motion a subsequent emigration at no further government expense. Canada was a different proposition. While this colony could absorb far more emigrants than the Cape, it could not take them as labourers for hire. In Canada paupers would have to be placed on land. The government offered free transportation, land, implements, and rations for 500 people to settle in Upper Canada. If the experiment suc­ceeded, it could be repeated on a more extensive scale in the follow­ing years.

The vision of a privately sponsored movement of labour to South Africa was founded on a shaky understanding of the situation there. It was true that capitalists in Cape Town and in the Zuurveld or Albany District were handicapped by the cost of manpower.12 Labourers receiving 3s. a day were much better paid than their counterparts in Great Britain. Mechanics and tradesmen, particularly tailors, shoemakers, saddlers, bricklayers, upholsterers, coopers, sawyers, carpenters, and blacksmiths, were able to demand as much as 6s. a day, and the immigration of 400 or 500 labourers annually would probably not have altered the prevailing rate of wages. But much of the work that was available was occasional ; employers could not afford to engage men continuously. Many of the gentlemen settlers who had been located in the Albany district could not manage with­out hired labour; nor could they manage with it. Those who kept {73} servants had been employing them at a loss for three years; the prices obtained for the District’s limited exports were too low to permit a profitable return on a large farming operation. These men wanted cheaper labour but could not afford to bring it out from Britain. Even if their capital had not been depleted, they would have been deterred by the high cost of transportation from Britain to the Cape. Only with a government subsidy did traffic in indentured servants become profitable.

In the mistaken belief that, once the way was shown, private capital would act alone, such a subsidy was granted to John Ingram, a one-time Cork merchant and a settler at the Cape of Good Hope. Under the great government scheme of 1820 Ingram had gone to the Cape at the head of a party of sixty-eight persons from Cork. Since then he had returned to Britain to bring out his own family and another fifty labourers and he had applied to the Colonial Office for assistance to take out a larger number. He came to Horton with the backing of Lord Ennismore and Sir Nicholas Colthurst.13 Ingram represented himself as a settler who needed agricultural servants for himself and who was willing to supervise the emigration of several hundred people for the public good. In fact, he was a speculator bent on making government money work for himself. Along with the other Irish settlers in 1820 Ingram had been placed on a hopeless grant of land in the District of Clanwilliam. He had no need for the servants that he brought out in 1820, but extricated himself from this position in fine style, leasing his grant and allowing his servants to buy back their contracts. They were anxious to do so because they could earn much better wages in Cape Town than from Ingram. On the basis of this experience Ingram realized that any man who held large number of cheaply paid servants under contract in South America could make money quickly.

The contract that Ingram made with the government required him to take fifty labourers at his own expense because that had been his expressed intention from the beginning. The government would allow him £14 per person, the cost of a passage, for another 350.14 All of the emigrants recruited by Ingram were indentured to him, {74} adults for three years and children for seven. He was bound to pay men at least is. a day and women 6d. and to provide lodging, medical treatment, and provisions on the same scale as were issued to H.M. troops. These wages were well below the standard rates in South Africa. Ingram did not advertise the fact that he was spending govern­ment money; he was afraid that, if the emigrants knew, they would try to evade their contracts after they reached the colony. For publicly assisted emigrants it was a poor bargain to be legally tied to a private speculator.

When Ingram arrived at Cape Town late in 1823 he landed only 347 persons, not one of whom he had assisted from his own pocket.15 With reports of the failure of the 1820 settlers circulating Ireland, it had not been easy to find a shipload of emigrants. In the end he had recruited most of his emigrants from the roughest element of the sea­port population of the city of Cork, but his passenger list was still short of the fifty he was supposed to take on his own account.

After disembarkation Ingram encouraged his people to find work with other masters. As a price for release Ingram demanded from each man, woman, and child £30, £20, and £15 respectively.16 With­in a few months most of the emigrants were transferred to other employers. Mechanics and tradesmen were able to earn from 6s. to 8s. a day, while common labourers got as much as 4s. None of the emigrants would admit to being better off than if he had been given employment in Ireland. Although the labourers’ rate of pay was high, their work was irregular and they were in competition with slave and free coloured labour which cost only £2 a month plus provision and lodging. Most of all they complained of the cost of obtaining quit­tance from Ingram. In this matter Ingram insisted on all of his legal rights.

Through the sale of indentures Ingram obtained at least £5,710, a handsome return when one remembers that he invested nothing but his time. This was not clear profit. A hard core of fifty alcoholics and misfits remained on his hands.17 If he had financed the venture himself, he would have been in the red. As it was he had made a small fortune. In 1825 the Commissioners of Inquiry, Major Macbean {75} George Colebrooke and Mr. John T. Bigge, produced a report on Ingram as they did on almost everything else during their intermin­able investigation of the affairs of Cape Colony. The Commissioners recommended a repetition of the experiment, but on terms more favourable to the emigrants. Ingram, they declared, would have been amply compensated for his efforts if he had received £1 per person, or £347 altogether.

As William Parker observed, Ingram could not be blamed for taking advantage of the “susceptibility to delusion” that he found in the Colonial Office.18 Horton had sanctioned a project, the operation of which he clearly did not understand. Yet no great harm was done. The emigrants found employment; Ingram banked some money; and there the matter ended. Critics of the Colonial Office missed this opportunity to raise embarrassing questions. Horton continued to advocate the emigration of labourers to the Cape of Good Hope; to support his point of view he published an extract of the Commis­sioners’ Report in an appendix to the Report of the Select Committee on Emigration in 1826.19 Yet he realized that the full story of the Ingram experiment cast little credit on himself and he made no attempt to bring Ingram as a witness before the Emigration Com­mittee of 1826 or its successor of 1827.

Horton did not allow the same omission with respect to Peter Robinson, the superintendent of the parallel emigration to Upper Canada. This experiment, Horton believed, was a success; he pre­sented its results in full detail, appearing himself as a witness before parliamentary committees in 1823 and in 1825, and sending Robin­son to testify before the House of Lords Committee on Disturbances in Ireland in 1824, and the Commons Committee on Emigration in 1827. It has been suggested that this last Committee was first appointed in 1826 to defend the government’s action in assisting Irish emigration to Canada. The ease with which Horton passed over the questions surrounding Ingram’s experiment suggests very strongly that he could have avoided any discussion of the money spent by Robinson if he had thought it desirable. But Horton was prepared to argue that the emigration to Canada had proved the correctness of his theories; for that reason, he wished to advertise the findings.

In 1822 Peter Robinson, an honorary member of the executive {76} council of Upper Canada and a member of the legislative assembly, had come to London with his brother John Beverley Robinson, Attorney-General of that province. The Robinsons were central figures in the Family Compact, the Upper Canadian ruling clique. They were the sons of an aristocratic Virginia family which had chosen the wrong side in 1776; they had been raised in the home of the first Anglican missionary in Upper Canada; and John Beverley had received his grammar-school education from Dr. John Strachan who was, in many respects, the architect of the Family Compact.20 This background was reflected in an attitude of conservative and unapologetic intolerance. Few English statesmen defended the Church of England so resolutely or looked upon democracy with such distaste. John Beverley, the younger but abler brother, was first appointed Attorney-General at the age of eighteen before he was called to the bar; eventually, in 1829, he became Chief Justice, a position which he held in addition to membership in the executive council and speakership of the legislative council. His influence in the government of Upper Canada was already considerable in 1822.

John Beverley Robinson had been sent to London to represent the interests of his province in a dispute with Lower Canada over the division of customs duties collected at Quebec. After his arrival he became involved in an abortive effort by Horton to legislate a union of the two Canadas; this business kept Robinson in London through the winter of 1822-3. He was available for consultation by Horton when the experiment in Irish emigration was launched. At first thought the idea was repugnant. He knew that the Irish gentry wanted to get rid of the young and unemployed who “hung loose upon society” and were “the ready actors in all disturbances”.21 Vio­lence and religious bigotry were native products of Ireland which Robinson did not wish to import to Upper Canada. Yet he was pre­pared to believe that the behaviour of the Irish was not ingrained and that, in the calmer atmosphere of a colony in which they were given equal footing with their neighbours, old quarrels could be forgotten. He decided that he would be happier to accept Catholics from the South of Ireland than Protestants from the North; Ulster­men might be more intelligent and less violent, but they were also more republican. Robinson preferred the “ignorant, poor and priest {77} ridden” to those “who think for themselves in matters of Government and religion, and too often think wrong”.22 The desirability of a scheme of government colonization for sparsely populated, land-rich Upper Canada was manifest and nothing could be more welcome to an Upper Canadian than the spending that such a programme would entail. Robinson favoured Irish immigration, but not at such a rate than they might become a majority in the province; “then they would have the law in their own hands” and there would be no stopping their shooting and burning.

On Tuesday 29 April Peel opened the question of Irish emigra­tion; on Saturday 10 May the Robinsons intended to embark for Canada. In that short period Peter Robinson was persuaded to stay behind to superintend the project. It was through John Beverley that Horton approached Peter; John Beverley could think of no one “more likely to do justice to such a trust than my brother”.23 More­over, Peter was there, in Britain, and available. Colonel Thomas Talbot, who knew Ireland as Robinson did not, and who possessed long experience in colonization, would have been an obvious and willing candidate; but Talbot was in Canada and Horton needed a man immediately.24 Peter Robinson was ready to take the job. He saw an opportunity to gain credit by carrying out a measure of importance both to Britain and the colony; but he was afraid that this credit would be tarnished unless the entire management on both sides of the Atlantic were placed in his hands. He insisted on an overall superintendence in which he would be held directly accountable only to the British government. This condition was acceptable to Horton; Robinson undertook a task single-handedly which would have been accomplished with greater efficiency if he had been assisted by the authorities in Canada.

At the end of May 1823 Peter Robinson found himself crossing the Irish Sea instead of returning to Upper Canada with his brother. During the first week of June he visited all of the principal towns in the northern part of Cork, appointing in each a person to make a list of those who wished to emigrate.25 These lists were subsequently {78} combed by magistrates who marked the names of suspected trouble­makers who were most eligible to go. The Irish peasants were understandably suspicious of an invitation that smacked so much of deportation. Like Lord Wellesley, they could not appreciate the subtle difference between transporting the convicted for their crimes and the unconvicted for their poverty.

In this respect, the appointment of a foreigner as a recruiting agent in Ireland was fortunate. While local magistrates were not trusted, Robinson himself was very successful in encouraging volun­teers.26 By the end of June he had distributed embarkation tickets to 600 persons. During the first two days of July 571 boarded two vessels provided by the Transport Office. A majority of the men were labourers; a few were unemployed and homeless; a small number were landless farmers. To the best of Robinson’s knowledge, which under the circumstances could not be perfect, all were penni­less. Robinson asked no questions of the past conduct of his pas­sengers. Although he allowed the magistrates to pick out their least wanted citizens, no man was sent against his will. The law-abiding went with the lawless. As an Upper Canadian Robinson might have been expected to give preference to those who had no criminal back­ground. His impartiality was based on a belief that if men were given the responsibility of owning land, they would become peaceful citi­zens. This belief was not held universally; the project was a social experiment and something of a gamble.

In the course of an eight-week crossing Robinson discovered that the Irish stomach tolerated a very restricted diet. The emigrants were issued with a minimum allowance of navy rations. Men received a pound of salt pork, a pound of ship’s biscuit, and almost half a pint of spirits daily; women were given half a pound of salt pork, a pound of biscuit, and tea and sugar. Cocoa was provided for breakfast and plum pudding for Sunday dinner. The Irish were used to eating potatoes and herring; they normally had meat once in a season. When faced with inferior pork and alien food they lost appetite.27 Meat was thrown overboard by the hundredweight, plum pudding refused by every man, woman, and child; only a few individuals would touch the cheese, and cocoa was turned aside until the ship’s officers proved {79}

Baronies in which the Irish Emigrants of 1823 were recruited. Johnston, p. 79.

{80} it could be taken safely. Robinson was amazed to hear sick children crying for potatoes when they were offered arrowroot as a medica­ment. Yet he learned nothing from his observations. The emigrants were kept on similar rations for fifteen months after they arrived in Canada. Rather than eat food that they found disgusting, they traded a large part of it for whiskey, potatoes, and cows. If he had been more imaginative, Robinson might have provided the head of each family with a small sum and allowed him to make his own purchases.

In spite of the diet and the relatively slow crossing, the health of the emigrants was generally good. One woman and eight children died of smallpox, but these losses could not be blamed on the condi­tions on board ship.28 The journey from Cork in Ireland to Prescott in Upper Canada was managed with admirable timing. At Quebec Robinson found steamboats waiting for him and was able to transfer his people to these vessels without landing. Conveyance was also ready for him at Montreal; with a minimum of delay he brought his party to Prescott on 15 September. Nearly 600 men, women, and children, travelling by steamboat, wagon, and bateaux, had been moved 320 miles in thirteen days.

The season was, nevertheless, advanced, and Robinson had not yet selected a tract of land. On 18 September he left the emigrants in Prescott while he surveyed half a dozen townships in or adjacent to the Rideau Military Settlement. After an absence of several days he returned to Prescott to move the Irish the last 60 miles to their destination. A majority were located in Ramsay Township behind concession lines occupied by some of the Glasgow weavers. The others were placed in adjacent townships which were partially oc­cupied by military men and Scottish assisted emigrants of 1815 and 1820-1. From the beginning the Irish found themselves on poor terms with their neighbours. They were disliked equally for their Catholicism and their reputed lawlessness. Inevitably, the Scottish weavers compared the liberal assistance that the Irish were receiving with the help that they themselves had been given.29 The weavers were required to repay £10 per head; but each Irish family received a log house, cow, blankets, farming implements, and provisions as outright gifts. Knowledge of this was a factor in the eventual failure of the Scots to return one farthing of their debt. In the meantime they and the other established settlers complained bitterly amongst {81} themselves that so much should be given to such inferior people.

The annual muster of the local militia regiment in the following April sparked a brawl which roused the Irish to commit a subsequent act of vandalism.30 A party led by the local deputy-sheriff, an Orangeman, marched out to the settlement to make arrests and fired on a building in which the men had gathered. One Irishman was killed and two were wounded. The exaggerated first reports of this incident alarmed authorities at York. John Beverley Robinson was ready to believe the worst; “I am something staggered in my opinion of Irish Emigration,” he told Horton.31 After reflection, and with more evidence before him, he took a saner view. It was evident that the Irish had received some provocation before their original out­burst; an investigating officer charged the deputy-sheriff’s party with a “wanton and outrageous attack upon the lives of the new settlers”.32 Any desire to seek blood for blood was checked by the restraint of the Irish in the ensuing months; this was the only occasion on which they were collectively on the wrong side of the law in Upper Canada.

Corrections were slow to catch up with first judgements. Long after J. B. Robinson had qualified his initial statement, he was quoted in the House of Commons in proof of a claim that attitudes in Upper Canada had hardened against further Irish immigration.33 Although Robinson assured Horton that the provincial legislative assembly would welcome 100,000 Irish paupers if the Imperial government chose to send them, the unfavourable stories were never completely silenced. Prominent among those giving publicity to these stories was the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Dalhousie. His principal source of information was Lieutenant-Colonel William Marshall, superintendent of the Lanark and Rideau Settlements, a man pre­judiced on the side of his own settlers and disgruntled by the creation of a new settlement under the supervision of a civilian. Dalhousie had predicted failure for Robinson’s emigrants from the moment they were placed on the land; the tone of his dispatch enclosing Marshall’s version of the disturbances in Ramsay Township was one {82} of satisfaction in having his doubts confirmed. The Irish would never be reconciled to their neighbours, he claimed, not even in small numbers. Most of them would abandon their land and become wandering beggars. Robinson’s scheme should be stopped, he told Bathurst; it was “a waste of Public monies and a most serious mis­chief done to the Canadas”.34

On this issue, Dalhousie and the Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada, Sir Peregrine Maitland, were diametrically opposed. Maitland applauded Peter Robinson’s efforts and took a personal interest in the success of his experiment. To a certain extent, Maitland and Dalhousie reflected the separate problems of their provinces. Voluntary emigrants continued to arrive at Quebec at a rate of 10,000 a year. The destitute among them were still creating serious difficulties for the government of the Lower Province. Under these circumstances, Dalhousie was apprehensive about the en­couragement of further pauper emigration. Quebec served as the principal port for both Canadian provinces, but the care of helpless, sick, and dying emigrants bound for Upper Canada and the United States became the responsibility of the government of Lower Canada alone. Upper Canadians did not entertain misgivings about pauper emigration because the worst of the human wreckage did not reach them.

An element of vanity influenced Dalhousie’s opposition to the emigration conducted by Peter Robinson. The Governor-General had not been consulted, but had simply been informed after all of the arrangements had been made. He objected not so much to the principle involved as to the actual system that had been adopted.35 First, he argued that the expense of transporting emigrants inland to Upper Canada was too great and that it would be impossible to pre­vent desertion from that province to the United States. Second, he did not think that Upper Canada required assisted emigration because considerable numbers went there at their own expense. Third, he thought that the Irish emigrants should be placed under strict control to make them work; he asserted that Peter Robinson and his subordinates were not competent to do this. As an alterna­tive, Dalhousie favoured a settlement in his province, in the Gaspe, under the rigid supervision of military personnel.

In November 1825 Dalhousie reported to Horton on Lieutenant- {83} Colonel Marshall’s authority that half of the settlers who had come out in 1823 had run away. Maitland replied that this estimate was far from the truth. “I cannot but regret,” he wrote to Horton, “that Lord Dalhousie … should not have thought it a safer and better course, to have consulted the Government of this Province, as to the real situation of the Emigrants before he transmitted to you such erroneous and discouraging information.”36 In May 1826 Maitland sent the results of an on-the-spot count. Of 182 heads of families brought out by Peter Robinson, eight had died; 121 were on their land; nine were known to have gone to the United States and one had returned to Ireland. Of the remaining forty-three, at least twenty-two were working in the immediate vicinity as farm labourers and tradesmen. Many of the others had found jobs in Kingston, Prescott, and Montreal, as rafters on the St. Lawrence, or as labourers On the Welland Canal. Some of them could be expected to return to their land after they had earned enough money to buy some stock. Predictions that a majority would slip over the American border at the first opportunity had proved to be without basis.

The emigration of 1823 was the first part of an experiment which was to be carried on for two or three years. Peel had advised Horton to think of an expenditure on the same scale or larger in the second year. The government, however, had been motivated by a siege of disorder in Ireland and its interest might lapse as soon as that siege were lifted. The country was fairly quiet during the winter of 1823-4; Horton held little expectation of a grant in that spring.37 Peter Robinson was informed in a letter written late in February 1824 that his services would probably not be needed that year. On this occasion Horton misread his colleagues’ intentions. Peel and Frederick Robinson conceded more than immediate value to the experiment. In April a formal request for a grant was submitted to Lord Liverpool and the Chancellor of the Exchequer; towards the end of May the government gave its consent. By that time the season in which the emigration should have been organized had passed. Horton’s hesitation before seeking a grant and the Treasury’s leisurely response had cost so many months that it became advisable {84} to postpone the project. Consequently, the Treasury and the Colonial Office agreed to take no action in 1824 but to ask Parliament for a double grant in the following year.

In August and September 1824 Peter Robinson spent six weeks in Ireland compiling a list of people who wanted to go to Canada. He encountered none of the suspicion and holding back on the part of the peasantry that had hindered him in 1823. Cheerful reports from Canada dispelled all doubts of the generosity of the government’s offer; the problem now was not recruiting emigrants, but selecting them. Fifty thousand people applied for 1,500 places.38 Most of the settlers were taken from the same part of Cork as in 1823 although half of the petitions came from other places in Ireland. Lord Kingston sent 400 tenants. A few nobles and gentlemen in Cork cleared their estates while nominations from other counties were passed over. Horton did not apologize for this favouritism. If the same number of emigrants had been collected in equable proportions from several counties, the expenses of the government would have been doubled. This measure, he maintained, although it might un­fairly benefit particular districts, should be considered only as an experiment.39.

Ruthless as he was in turning away applications, Peter Robinson was unable to keep his lists down to 1,500 names. In May 1825 six ships sailed from Cork carrying 2,024 persons. Robinson did not cross at the same time as the emigrants. On 24 May he left Cork for London where he settled some accounts with the Treasury and then left for Liverpool, whence he sailed on 19 June by the Panther [sic] bound for New York.40 All but one of the emigrant ships had made short passages of under thirty-one days, but the Panther was less fortunate; Robinson, who travelled inland through New York State, did not reach Niagara until 28 July.

In Robinson’s absence, the emigrants had been moved from Prescott to Kingston by bateaux and encamped in tents.41 In 1825 July was an exceptionally hot month. The camp was located on low, swampy ground so there was no relief from the Upper Canadian humidity. Temperatures rose to 100°F. in the shade and the {85} emigrants, already weakened by the crossing, fell ill with fever and dysentery. In one day, eleven were buried. When Robinson finally arrived in Kingston, he was received with jubilation by both the emigrants and the local officials. The first ship-load of emigrants had already spent a sweltering month in tents.

Robinson organized the movement of 500 emigrants from Kingston to Cobourg, but was obliged to take some time to repair a twelve-mile stretch of road.42 Another eight days were lost while a boat was built to carry the emigrants twenty-four miles up the Otonabee River. Then Robinson went up the Otonabee with twenty local axe-men and thirty of the healthiest of the emigrants to erect log shelters and to begin work on a depot. While all of these preparations were made, the bulk of the party remained in their tents by the lake. Although Robinson had known for twelve months that he would be bringing a large number of emigrants, his arrangements were hap­hazard and hurried. It was good fortune rather than good planning that allowed him to locate and shelter his people before winter.

When Wilmot Horton received from various sources reports that the emigrants were spending the summer under canvas, in a swamp, exposed to scorching sun, and were dying fast, his immediate fear was that this would put an end to all future experiments. He felt let down by the provincial government. He had not expected that the emigrants would be left in tents for five days, much less a month. Nothing, he said, that he had encountered since he entered the Colonial Office had annoyed him so much.43 It was apprehension of bad publicity more than compassion for the emigrants that aroused him. Horton had already decided that assisted emigration was both possible and necessary; he viewed the experiments not as tests but as demonstrations of the correctness of his views. In his Inquiry into the Causes and Remedies of Pauperism Horton argued that the death-rate among the emigrants of 1825 was not alarming.44 By means of dubious calculations he produced a ratio of one death in twenty-one; combining this ratio with one obtained for the emigrants in 1823 he arrived at a ratio of one in forty which, he observed triumphantly, was no worse than that for Carlisle, the healthiest place in England. Horton obtained the ratio of one in twenty-one by dividing the {86} number of deaths up to March 1826 into the total number of emigrants. The actual ratio over the full year was one in eleven, a most disturbing statistic. To Horton, the sum of 192 deaths was simply a number which could be subjected to mathematical manipula­tion. He did not comprehend the story it represented of an excep­tional Canadian summer, government mismanagement, and human misery.

The Irish themselves bore suffering without complaint. In their native country they had learned to treat officials and strangers warily. They appeared by force of habit to reply to questions with answers they thought were wanted rather than with answers they believed. It was difficult to discover their real feelings. When Captain Basil Hall interviewed a number of them during his tour of North America in 1827 none would admit having been destitute in Ireland; but, when asked if they appreciated what had been done for them, they spoke with animation of the change from their old life to “their present happy conditions”.45 Their replies perplexed more than they satisfied. Basil Hall thought it odd that he did not hear a murmur of dissatisfac­tion about the assistance provided by the government. Perhaps it did not occur to the emigrants to doubt the judiciousness of the arrange­ments that Peter Robinson had made on their behalf. They may have accepted their early trials as an unavoidable prelude to a better life. If they had any other feelings, they kept them to themselves.

In March 1826 Robinson took a census of his emigrants; 1,921 were found on their lots in the Newcastle and Bathurst Districts where they were receiving government rations.46 Two men had met friends in Quebec and stayed there; twenty-six individuals were living in Montreal and two more in Kingston. By this time 102 emigrants had died; this loss had been partially redressed by the birth of thirty-three children in Canada. One family of four had disappeared at Cobourg and was presumed to have gone to the United States. The discovery of a high percentage of emigrants on the land at this stage did not prove that the experiment was a success. Lord Dalhousie predicted that they would stay for their twelve months’ rations and then most of them would go away. Horton ordered another census after a two-year interval.47 {87}

Upper Canada, East of Toronto.

{88} Unfortunately, he left office before his instructions were carried out and he never obtained complete returns.

In reference to the grant for the emigration of 1823, a contributor to the Monthly Review expressed a conviction which was commonly held then and which has been frequently referred to by later writers.48 Most emigrants to the Canadas ended up in the United States where there was more commercial activity, more industry, and more profit­able employment. In effect, the government was spending money to convey British subjects to the American republic. After a second grant was approved, these words were echoed by William Lyon Mackenzie in the Colonial Advocate: “To how much more useful a purpose might £30,000 have been expended than in recruiting in Ireland for the United States.”49

This scepticism was not well founded. Each year thousands of un­assisted emigrants landed at Quebec and Montreal and crossed the American border, but the movement was not all in one direction. A much smaller but still significant number of emigrants were dis­embarking at New York and travelling directly to Niagara in Upper Canada. Furthermore, hundreds of native Americans, notably from the German settlements in Pennsylvania, were entering Upper Canada during the 1820s in spite of th province’s Alien Act.50 Any­one who worked the soil knew that the land of Upper Canada was endowed with as much potential as that of any neighbouring state. For a settler who had invested labour and energy in clearing a back­woods lot the temptation to go to the United States was resistible. On the other hand, recent emigrants who wished to work for hire were attracted to the republic by the opportunities there, especially while the Erie Canal was under construction. Those who criticized the Robinson experiments failed to realize that the procession of emigrants passing through Canada to the United States consisted of labourers rather than disappointed settlers.

The Glasgow weavers had been placed on worthless land, but had held on to it for more than a decade. Although some of the Irish had been located in the same townships as the weavers, as a group they received much better land. The success of their settlement might be judged by the results in Emily, the township in which the largest {89} number of Irish were concentrated in 1825. There were 142 lots occupied by these people in November 1826. Eight years later eighty-one of the Irish settlers in Emily were recommended for their patents. Most of these people still held title to their land in 1841.51 Between 1826 and 1834 43 per cent of the lots were abandoned. This figure does not include the desertions during the first year. It would probably be reasonable to say that 40 per cent of Robinson’s emigrants settled permanently on their original grants. It would be wrong to assume that the others crossed the border; there were alternatives: setting up as tradesmen, working for other farmers, seeking employment in the towns of Upper and Lower Canada, and squatting on land elsewhere in the province.

Several Upper Canadians argued that Robinson had achieved his results at unnecessary cost. Horton was himself pleased that the expenses had been close to the estimate he had given to the 1823 Committee on Ireland. Omitting Peter Robinson’s salary to make the figures come out the right way, Horton calculated the expendi­ture per person in 1823 at £22. 1s. 6d., and in 1825 at £21. 5s. 4d. Between £12 and £15 were spent after the emigrants’ transports landed at Quebec.52 According to Colonel Thomas Talbot, “the emigrants had received twice as much as they needed. As a result they had been slow to clear their land, but quick to trade rations for whiskey.”53 Charles Rubidge, who assisted Robinson in placing some of the Irish on their land in 1825, thought that the settlers should have been given a shanty, five barrels of flour and one of pork, two axes and two hoes for a family of five, and then left to fend for them­selves. They could have earned money in occasional employment to supplement their rations. As it was, the emigrants had been issued with about seven barrels of flour and four of meat over a period of twelve months. E. A. Talbot, maintained that a family could be shipped to Canada, located, and provided with two cows and a yoke of oxen for only £12 a head. In 1821 the Glasgow weavers had been settled at a cost to the government and the Glasgow Committee of about £16. 8s. 0d. It should be added that the weavers travelled {90} under more lenient passenger legislation at much less cost. Neverthe­less, all of the evidence together suggests that Robinson’s expenses were 20 to 30 per cent higher than necessary.


In his history of Irish emigration W. F. Adams concludes that the experiments under Peter Robinson, “viewed from almost any angle”, were failures.54 This judgement is much too harsh. Although the Irish settlers had been exposed to misadventure through government incompetence, most of them stayed for some time in the districts in which they had been located and sent home reports that created great interest in further emigration to Canada. The experiments were insignificant when measured against the Irish poverty they were intended to relieve, but they were important events in the early history of Upper Canada. Robinson did not manage his business well. Yet one must acknowledge his triumph in creating a set of responsible farmers from the rejects of Irish society.

Yet in some ways the efforts of 1823 and 1825 left the government no wiser than before. Although Wilmot Horton might not have admitted it, he had not discovered an effective means of administer­ing a scheme of emigration. Neither in the execution of the emigra­tion to South Africa nor in the supervision of those to Canada did the Under-Secretary deserve much credit. Great as his interest was in these projects, he had not given them enough thought. Further­more, the experiments did not answer two critical questions. First, how much money would landlords in Ireland be willing to con­tribute towards the resettlement of their emigrants? Second, how soon would the emigrants themselves be in a position to repay the Government for the assistance that had been given them? These were questions Horton sought to answer as chairman of the Select Committees on Emigration which met in 1826 and in 1827.

  1. Norman Gash, Mr. Secretary Peel, The Life of Sir Robert Peel to 1830 (London, 1961), p. 369.
  2. Hansard, 1824, xi, col. 452 and 1822, vi, col. 107; Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi (561), 3-4; Gash, pp. 375-6.
  3. Hansard, 1822, vi, col. 111.
  4. H.O. 100/208, Wellesley to Peel, 20 Jan. 1823.
  5. Ibid., 8 Apr. 1823.
  6. Hansard, 1823, ix, col. 1150.
  7.  Goulburn Papers, Peel to Goulburn, 30 Apr. 1823; W.H.P., Peel to Wilmot, 30 Apr. 1823; Add. MSS., F. Robinson to Liverpool, 6 May 1823. At this time the number of emigrants leaving Southern Ireland was not great. In 1817 only seven ships left Dublin for Quebec; in 1826 twenty-seven ships left with 2,555 people. Annual emigration from Sligo, Galway, and Limerick was about 1,000 in 1822 and 2,000 in 1826. Cork, Waterford, and New Ross sent out 1,500 or 1,900 emigrants annually. See Jones, “Transatlantic Emigrant Trade”, p. 74.
  8. Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi (561), 168-9.
  9. W.H.P., Forster to Inglis, 30 June 1823.
  10. Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi (561), 179.
  11. Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi(561), 180.
  12. Ibid. 1826, iv (404), 228, 877-902, and 1826-7, v (550), 145; C.O. 48/79, Report of Commissioners of Inquiry, 1 June 1825.
  13.  C.O. 48/79, Ennismore to Wilmot, 26 Mar. 1823, and Colthurst to Wilmot, 10 May 1823; C.O. 49/16, Horton to Commissioners of Inquiry, 11 Feb. 1824; Report of Commissioners of Inquiry, 1 June 1825; Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi (561), 180.
  14. C.O. 48/79, Terms of Ingram’s Indenture, and Ingram to Horton, 14,16, and 20 May 1823; C.O. 49/16, Bathurst to Somerset, 20 July 1823; C.O. 49/15, Horton to Ingram, 25 June 1823, and Horton to Treasury, May 1823.
  15. Report of Commissioners, 1 June 1825. On Ingram’s difficulties before embarka­tion: C.O. 48/79, Lewis to Horton, 4 Sept. 1823; C.O. 49/15, Horton to Treasury, 7 Sept. 1823; Horton to Lewis, 28 Aug. 1823, Horton to Ingram, 20 Sept. 1823; C.O. 384/ 17, Ingram to Horton, 5 Oct. 1827. See Corry, pp. 159-60.
  16. Report of Commissioners, 1 June 1825.
  17. C.O. 384/17, Ingram to Horton, 5 Oct. 1827.
  18. C.O. 48/87, p. 424: Paper drawn up by William Parker 11 Feb., 1824.
  19. Parliamentary Papers, 1826, iv (404), 283.
  20. C. W. Robinson, The Life of Sir John Beverley Robinson (Edinburgh, 1904), p. x.
  21. C.0.384/12, J. Robinson to Horton, 14 June 1825; Add. MSS. 38294, J. Robinson to Horton 5 May 1823.
  22. C.O. 384/12, J. Robinson to Horton, 19 Feb. 1824.
  23. J. Robinson to Horton, 5 May 1823.
  24. On 14 Feb. 1823, Talbot wrote to Horton: “I … hope that you have not abandoned your scheme for encouraging Emigration … should a Bill on your plan be carried into operation I offer my humble services … in undertaking any portion of the superintendence.” See W.H.P.
  25. C.O. 384/12, P. Robinson to Horton, 2 and 9 June 1823; Cowan, p. 70.
  26.  C.O. 384/12, P. Robinson to Horton, 9 June 1823, and 2 Apr. 1824, Becher to Horton, 1 July 1823; Parliamentary Papers, 1825, vii (200), 258.
  27. P. Robinson to Horton, 2 Apr. 1824; H. T. Pammett, “Assisted Emigration from Ireland to Upper Canada under Peter Robinson in 1825”, O.H.S.P.R., 1936, p. 179; Parliamentary Papers, 1826-7, v (550), 347.
  28. P. Robinson to Horton, 2 Apr. 1824; Cowan, p. 71.
  29. C.O. 42/373, FitzGibbon to Hillier, 10 June 1824.
  30. J. K. Johnson, “Colonel James FitzGibbon and the Suppression of Irish Riots in Upper Canada”, Ontario History, Sept. 1966, p. 142.
  31. C.O. 384/12, J. Robinson to Horton, 10 May 1824.
  32. C.O. 42/373, FitzGibbon to Hillier, 10 June 1824. See also C.O. 384/12, J. Robinson to Horton, 14 June 1825.
  33. C.O. 384/12, Horton to J. Robinson, 14 June 1825. See also W.H.P., J. Robinson to Horton, 6 July 1830.
  34. C.O. 43/200, Dalhousie to Bathurst, 18 May 1824.
  35. C.O. 42/204, Dalhousie to Horton, 12 Nov. 1825.
  36. W.H.P., Maitland to Horton, 9 Mar. 1826; C.O. 42/377, Maitland to Bathurst, 1 May 1826.
  37. W.H.P., Peel to Horton, 6 Aug. 1823; Add. MSS. 40356, Horton to Peel, 20 June 1823; Add. MSS. 40357, Horton to Peel, 2 Aug. 1823; C.O. 43/64; Horton to P. Robinson, 25 Feb., 21 May 1824, and Bathurst to Liverpool, 10 Apr. 1824; C.0.384/12, P. Robinson to Horton, 16 Dec. 1823; H.O. 79/8, Peel to Goulburn, 4 Aug. 1824.
  38. Parliamentary Papers, 1826-7, v (550) 344 and 1825, viii (129), 314; C. W. Robinson, Sir John Beverley Robinson, p. 168; Pammett, “Assisted Emigration from Ireland”, pp. 180-2.
  39. Parliamentary Papers, 1826-7, v (550), 444.
  40. C.O. 384/13, P. Robinson Memorandum, 15 Dec. 1824.
  41. Pammett, pp. 186-92; W.H.P., Maitland to Horton, 13 Feb. 1826; C.O. 342/95, Horton to J. Robinson, 18 Nov. 1825.
  42. Parliamentary Papers, 1826-7, v(550), 346.
  43. Horton to J. Robinson, 18 Nov. 1825.
  44. Third Series, pp. 79-84; C.O. 42/377, Maitland to Bathurst, 31 Mar. and 1 May 1826; Pammett, p. 210.
  45. Basil Hall, Travels in North America in the Years 1827 and 1828, (Edinburgh 1829), 285-6.
  46. Maitland to Bathurst, 31 Mar. 1826.
  47.  R. J. W. Horton, Ireland and Canada: Supported by Local Evidence (London, 1839), p. 68; W.H.P., P. Robinson to Horton, 1 Mar. 1829.
  48. July 1823, p. 307.
  49. 8 Dec. 1825.
  50. A. C. Casselman, “Pioneer Settlements”, Canada and Its Provinces, xvii (Toronto, 1914), p. 49; W.H.P., A. C. Buchanan, minute 1826.
  51. Lillian F. Gates, Land Policies of Upper Canada (Toronto, 1968), pp. 92-3.
  52.  C.O. 384/12, Horton to P. Robinson, 30 Dec. 1824; C.O. 324/97, Horton to Lewis, 13 Oct. 1827; Parliamentary Papers, 1826-7, v (550), 347, 349; A.O. 2/34 Account of Peter Robinson, 12 May 1823-31 Jan 1829, pp. 48-55.
  53.  Armytage, “Talbot and Wharncliffe”, p. 193. For Rubidge see Horton, Ireland and Canada, pp. 58-60, and Hall, Travels, i. 336. For E. A. Talbot see Five Years Residence in the Canadas, ii. 213.
  54. Ireland and Irish Emigration (New Haven, 1932), p. 283.

Wilmot Horton

Source: H. J. M. Johnston (1972), British Emigration Policy 1815-1830 “Shovelling out Paupers”, pp. 57-68.

{57} In 1815 Henry Goulburn defended the recruitment of settlers with the explanation that the government, did not intend to stimulate emigration but wished only to direct it into new channels. He believed that assisted emigration could not be justified except as a measure beneficial to the colonies; as a consequence, he did not want to encourage the emigration of people who had no resources of their own. While attitudes changed remarkably after 1815, Goulburn was not the kind of man who adjusted rapidly to new ideas. He supervised the arrangements for the settlers at the Cape and for the Glasgow weavers without committing himself to the principle of pauper emigration. He did not become a warm advocate of similar experi­ments for the future.

After ten years as Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Colonial Office, Goulburn was promoted to the post of Irish Secretary. In December 1821 he was replaced by Robert John Wilmot, a Derby­shire gentleman who had represented Newcastle under Lyme since 1818. This appointment opened. the way for a marked change in the organization and outlook of the Colonial Office. Wilmot came without any administrative experience and without any background in colonial affairs, but he brought an innovative spirit, a great deal of energy, and no small amount of ambition. He was as anxious to influence policy as he was to achieve high office. Rather mistakenly, as events proved for him, he thought that he could do both, that if he rose above the routine business of his department to play a con­spicuous role in larger affairs he could ensure his own advancement. Instead, through his publications on the Catholic question, he made himself unacceptable for the Irish secretaryship which he wanted badly.1

Wilmot was married to an exceptionally attractive woman with a modest inheritance. (Byron, his cousin, wrote the lines “She walks in {58} beauty, like the night . . ” after meeting her.) The price of Mrs. Wilmot’s inheritance was a change of name, and in 1823 Wilmot became Wilmot Horton in acceptance of the terms of his father-in-law’s will; it is most convenient to refer to him by that name.

Even with income from his wife’s properties Wilmot Horton was far from wealthy. A political life was barely within his means. The constituency he represented contained a large number of voters and was an expensive one in which to campaign.2 His inability to face the costs of repeated elections was a severe handicap. One of the attrac­tions of the position of Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies was that the office did not “vacate”; a new occupant was not required to resign his seat to seek immediate re-election. Lord Bathurst realized that this was an important consideration and he drew Horton’s attention to it when he offered him the appointment.3

Horton had earned an invitation to take office through his per­formance in the House of Commons. Although he protested that he was not a party man and that he did not belong to any faction or group, Horton had sought the quickest route to promotion by loyally supporting the government.4 During his first four years in the Commons he spoke effectively on the government side on several occasions. In April 1820 Castlereagh asked him to second the address on the Speech from the Throne and in the wake of the disturbances in the north of England and most recently in Glasgow Wilmot Horton took a strong stand against parliamentary reform. The Tories saw him as a reasonable and amiable young man; John Cam Hobhouse characterized him as “one of those who were in the habit of eulogizing things as they are.”[5. Hansard, 1821, v, col. 395. For a Tory opinion: Francis Bamford and the Seventh Duke of Wellington, eds., The Journal of Mrs. Arbuthnot, 1820-1832, i (London, 1950), 130.]

Long before he became a parliamentarian, Horton embarked on a strenuous course of reading in political economy in preparation for his later career. The respect that he entertained for this new science set {59} him apart from old-school Tories like Lord Bathurst. His advocacy of Catholic emancipation had the same effect. Horton’s views con­formed most closely to those of the Canningites, a loose grouping of liberal Tories led by George Canning, William Huskisson, and Frederick Robinson. Yet Horton denied that he was attached to Canning.5 If they travelled the same path, it was simply because their objectives were coincidental. When he looked for support for his greatest project, he could not find it with Canning or Huskisson, although Goderich was more sympathetic.

Even on the Catholic question Horton was less disposed to follow Canning than to pursue an independent course. As a young man he had been advised by Reginald Heber, later Bishop of Calcutta, to adopt the tone of a reformer but to maintain an aristocratic prejudice; to incline secretly to the Tory side, but to take an ostentatious posi­tion just to the other.6 Such tactics came naturally to Wilmot Horton and he pursued them to the confusion of allies and opponents alike. He was more likely to turn to an elaborate position than to a simple one. In part, this tendency was attributable to his restless nature; he wanted immediate answers and he sought them in complicated compromises. Always there was a desire to produce a solution which could be identified as his own. For a man who wanted to bring about compromise on the great issues of the day, he was remarkably in­capable of accommodating other opinions.

Horton was driven by financial considerations to try for early success; his natural impatience made him strive for a large reputation while he still held a junior office; his wilfulness and energy led him to push vigorously for measures of his own conception. When Horton entered the Colonial Office, he was ready to take up a cause; he found it in emigration. The subject had already attracted parliamentary attention and it had been discussed in the periodicals and in several pamphlets. Considerable interest existed in the possibilities of pauper emigration before Horton entered the picture. After he seized upon the idea, however, he monopolized it. Its advancement became his central purpose – “mania” was the word that he used – and he came to be known primarily as an emigration propagandist.

Before he took office, Horton did not devote much thought to the {60} subject that was subsequently to absorb so much of his time. He did refer to it in passing in July 1819, when he replied to Sir Francis Burdett’s motion for a reform of Parliament.7 Reform, Horton had said, would not reduce the suffering of the poor; it would instead act as a lever by which the force of the lower classes could be used to overthrow all that was stable and salutary in the state. If the nation wished to provide real relief, he had stated, there were two remedies. The first would be a radical alteration in the system of Poor Laws and the second a policy of encouraging, emigration. Eleven years later, when he re-read this speech, he was pleased to discover that he had supported emigration at such an early date. Yet he had not given it the same emphasis in 1819 as he was to after 1822. As a champion of the emigration remedy Horton reversed priorities: he put the establishment of a system of emigration ahead of an amendment of the Poor Laws.

According to Horton, his engrossment in the topic of emigration began with a concern for the development and defence of the North American colonies. He became aware of the weakness or these colonies soon after he assumed his place in the Colonial Office; he identified the problem as a shortage of population and decided that unless the colonies could gain population faster than the natural rate of increase would allow. they would continue to be backward.8 Like Bathurst and Goulburn, Horton regretted the loss of thousands of emigrants to the United States; while this movement might be advantageous to Great Britain in time of Peace, it contributed to the power of the United States in time of war. In 1822 Horton produced a plan by which redundant labour, “the curse of the mother country”, could become “the active labour and blessing of the colonies”. At this time, he offered little in the way of justification for such a measure, assuming that it was necessary and showing how it could be carried out. The arguments that he elaborated on labour, wage rates, and population were published subsequently when he saw that he would have to convince the government of the value of his project; In effect, he started with a remedy and went on to make a diagnosis.

The chain of reasoning that Horton eventually worked but rested on the principle that every able-bodied labourer for whom there was {61} no productive work was redundant and a tax upon the community.9 He believed that the redundant population of England, Ireland, and Scotland was less than two million. A country with extensive un­employment was over-populated, but this term was to be understood in a relative rather than in an absolute sense. The condition of the working class depended upon the ratio between their numbers and the demand for their labour. From this point followed two conclusions, each of which suggested that emigration could produce practical benefits. First, over-population could be seen as a temporary phenomenon; the country could conceivably support a much larger population when greater capital resources allowed an increased demand for labour; in the meantime, emigration could provide immediate relief. Second, a slight excess in numbers could depress the wages of the entire working class; consequently, the emigration of a few paupers would improve conditions for a great many more; it would not be necessary to transport every pauper in order to eliminate pauperism. Horton adopted Malthus’s statement that wartime spending had stimulated the birth-rate and that emigration offered the best means of adjusting the balance between labour and capital in the short run. Yet he rejected the fundamental Malthusian proposition that popula­tion must inevitably rise beyond the level of subsistence. He did not believe that an improved standard of living would necessarily encourage earlier marriages and larger families.10 This was an argument used against emigration; if a few families were removed from a locality and wages went up in response, the effect would be rapidly obliterated as people began to have more children. To this Horton replied that there were three states of society: in the first one found an indefinite extent of fertile land, a greater temptation to clear new land than to work for someone else, high wages, and a conviction among the lower classes that children were a source of wealth as well as enjoyment; in the second the supply of labour and capital were in balance and people with a comfortable way of life were likely to keep the families small; in the third there was a scarcity of good land, an excess of labour, and a feeling of hopelessness which led to reckless {62} marriages and a high-birth rate. It was evident to Horton that any improvement in the condition of the poor would serve to check rather than to stimulate further population growth.

Because Horton did not think that hunger discouraged sexual indulgence, he did not believe that poor relief encouraged paupers to have children. He was not an apologist for the existing Poor Law system. The parish practice of supplementing wages permitted farmers to hire labour cheaply and tended to depress the level of wages generally. Horton supported Poor Law reform that would eliminate this practice, but he did not accept the idea that parish assistance ought to be withheld entirely from the able-bodied poor. 11 The parish should provide the unemployed with work that was not competitive with that of other labourers. This was a consistent posi­tion for Horton to take; emigration was merely another form of poor relief and his plan presupposed the existence of a parish rate, which could be used to settle paupers in the colonies instead of maintaining them at home.

In the long run, Horton conceded, the benefits of an amendment of the Poor Laws might be great, but it would not answer the present problem. If the measure was to succeed, it would have to be introduced in conjunction with a large-scale system of emigration. This could be supplemented by a programme of public works; Poor Law reform, public works, and emigration constituted the complete Horton system.12 Horton denied that minimum wage legislation, tax reduction, or cheap corn could do any good. Current economic thought taught him that wages were paid out of a fixed fund; unless the capital supply were increased or the labour supply diminished, there could be no general improvement in wages. On the other hand, the same source of opinion endorsed the remission of taxes as well as free trade in corn. Ricardo and his disciples were convinced that the Com Laws and the tax burden drove capital out of the country and depleted the wage fund. Horton looked at these questions in another light.

When there were large numbers of unemployed, Horton reasoned, the advantage of cheap corn would not be passed on to the working {63} classes.13 Instead, master manufacturers in search of higher profits would lower wages in the knowledge that there were thousands of wretched people looking for employment. As long as there was an excess of labour, wages would not rise above the minimum required for food, clothing, and shelter; when that minimum fell, wages would fall also. Turning to tax reduction, Horton asked whether or not the money involved would be spent more productively by the individual or by the government.14 If the wealthy had more money, would they use it to employ the poor or to purchase luxuries from abroad? What would happen if the government suddenly stopped spending money at a time when the labour market was already glutted? Horton in­sisted that the most effective way to combat pauperism was through public expenditure; he did not flinch at the prospect of sending 1,000,000 paupers to the colonies at a cost of £12,000,000.

Horton considered himself a student of political economy. He held a high regard for the classical economists, Ricardo, James Mill, and J. R. McCulloch. Yet his Tory instincts led him to argue that ideal solutions were not always practical in a real world.15 The principles of political economy served as a guide, but allowance had to be made for friction and resistance. As a consequence, Horton could think of himself as a free trader while opposing a repeal of the Corn Laws. He insisted that his ideas were in keeping with ‘the roundest views of Political economy and that assisted emigration was justified by free-trade theory.16 Labour like any other commodity, should be allowed to go to the market where it was most valuable; workmen who were unemployed in Britain would be wel­comed as settlers in the colonies; it was a question of supply and demand.The argument was tenuous. Horton did not propose to remove restraints on emigration; he wished to subsidize it. Further­more, he intended to send emigrants to the colonies instead of to the country in which they could obtain the highest price for their labour.

Because Horton wrote at length under such titles as The Causes and Remedies of Pauperism, he exposed himself to the charge that he was primarily concerned with the internal problems of Great Britain {64} and that he was engaged in a process of “shovelling out paupers”. Yet Horton’s emigration projects were closely bound up with his belief in the value of colonial possessions.17 If peace were perpetual, colonies would be superfluous; Britain could bring down her tariff barriers and trade on an equal basis with all states. But peace was not perpetual; colonies contributed to British power and colonial trade deserved to be protected. Horton wished to build up the colonies, not to burden them with the failures of British society. He kept his purpose firmly in mind. It was not enough simply to invite paupers to leave; their movement should be regulated by legislation and supported by capi­tal. Nor did Horton feel that emigration was an equally appropriate remedy for all paupers. Artisans were not as likely to be successful as settlers; it was desirable that emigrants to the North American colonies should have some knowledge of agriculture.18

Horton drafted his original scheme with the rural poor of England in mind. In 1822 the agricultural population was suffering the effects of a fall in the price of wheat.19  Between June 1817 and December the price had dropped from 113s. to 49s. per quarter. Abundant harvests of low-quality wheat had brought the price below the expenses of high-cost producers. All levels of rural society were affected. The House of Commons received a flood of petitions from land­holders praying for a reduction of taxes; there were reports of labourers deliberately courting arrest in order to be lodged and fed in jail. In 1821 and again in 1822 the Commons appointed a Select Committee on Agricultural Distress. Horton first presented his plan to this committee.

For practical advice on the costs involved in transporting and settling emigrants Horton had turned to Colonel Thomas Talbot whom he interviewed several times in the spring of 1822. Talbot, an {65} Anglo-Irish aristocrat, ruled with lead pencil and eraser over 12,000 inhabitants of the north shore of Lake Erie.20 He had come to London to impress upon Horton and Lord Bathurst his claims for special financial concessions and he left in April with much of what he had demanded. Since 1800 Talbot had devoted all of his energy to the settlement of the western region of Upper Canada; he had succeeded remarkably in compelling those who received land in his townships to develop their lots and to open their road allowances. The names of his settlers were recorded in pencil in his register; an eraser always lay at hand to obliterate those who did not meet their obligations. Talbot was applauded for effectively populating his townships while the provincial government allowed vast tracts of alienated land to remain unoccupied. He was warmly interested in Horton’s plan and ready to volunteer his services to carry it out.

Talbot suggested that, in addition to transportation and land, each family should be given a cow, a temporary settler, implements, and twelve months of rations.21 Taking into consideration such expenses as clothing, bedding during the voyage, and agents to meet the emigrants at various points along the route, Talbot estimated the total cost at £88 per family of four or  £102 per family of five. In comparison, the Lanarkshire weavers had received be­tween £67 and £75 in assistance per family of five. Horton, however, relied on Talbot’s information rather than on the evidence of previous experience. Several years later Talbot rather curiously described Horton’s emigration experiments as extravagant although his own figures had not been exceeded. “All Govt. undertakings are made jobs of,” Talbot observed.22 He was perhaps disappointed that he had not been given a chance to make a job of assisted emigration himself.

In prescribing the method by which pauper emigration should be financed, Horton was influenced by the ideas of the economists who were opposed to a large outlay by the national government for a measure of this nature. The acceptable alternative which Horton advocated was to enable parishes to raise the money that would be required. This form of expenditure was less objectionable because it could be directly related to local needs and interests. The idea was {66} by no means novel.23 It had been advanced by Hayter in 1817 and discussed in an article in the Monthly Review in 1820. For several years a number of parishes in Cumberland had been shipping off their poor, although in a most callous manner; emigrants were given only £3 each so that they would not have enough money to get back home.

Horton appreciated the inhumanity and short-sightedness of any measure which dumped penniless emigrants at North American ports. His plan was conceived with the problems of the parish, the welfare of the emigrants, and the interests of the colonists in mind. The government should advance money to the parishes on the security of the poor rates. If the parishes repaid the money by a terminal annuity calculated at 4 per cent, they would be able to give each emigrant £35 and still reduce their yearly expenditure on poor relief. The calculation was mathematically correct but, none the less, im­precise.24 Horton did not know how many paupers there were in England or how much it cost to maintain them. If most paupers were on relief for only part of the year then the figures he presented were misleading. In addition, there was a danger that a parish might suffer a second wave of unemployment after going into debt to get rid of its paupers. If this happened, parish revenue might not answer the demand upon it.

During the winter of 1822-3, Horton obtained written opinions of his plan from at least thirty-five individuals of whom the most prominent were: Robert Peel, the Home Secretary; Frederick Robin­son, President of the Board of Trade; C. W. W. Wynn, President of the Board of Control; Henry Hobhouse, Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department; John Barrow, Second Secretary of the Admiralty; William Sturges Bourne, chairman of the Select Com­mittee on the Poor Laws in 1819; Thomas Chalmers, Scottish theo­logian and administrator of the pauper fund in his parish of St. John’s Glasgow; David Ricardo, the economist; T. P. Courtenay, a member of Parliament and author of A Treatise on the Poor Laws published in 1818; the Duke of Somerset, a progressive landlord; the Bishop of Limerick; John Beverley Robinson, the Attorney-General of Upper Canada ; Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate and author of a masterly {67} article on the poor in the Quarterly, and Sir Robert Inglis, formerly private secretary to Lord Sidmouth.25

Courtenay and three or four other gentlemen objected to the proposal in principle. Others criticized details: the amount of assist­ance that was suggested, the assumption, that paupers would be willing to emigrate, the involvement of the national government in the financial arrangements, the size of the grant of land, the lack of any provision to guarantee the good character of the emigrant, and the likelihood that parishes would refuse to pay a long-term annuity after getting rid of their paupers. Yet a majority of those whom Horton consulted agreed with his broad objectives. He was encouraged by the evidence of considerable support for some measure of assisted emigration.

Most important were the reactions of the ministers.26 Wynn’s criticisms were minor and his interest positive. Bathurst was tolerant although apprehensive lest parishes use Horton’s plan to get rid of their most incapable paupers. Robert Peel also thought that it would be unwise to leave the selection of the emigrants in the hands of the parishes. Peel, who had become Home Secretary shortly after Horton took office, had advocated assisted emigration more than once when he was Irish Secretary. He remained friendly to the idea but had reservations about the project that Horton outlined. Frederick Robin­son believed that the question deserved serious study; if the govern­ment decided not to do anything, it should be prepared to show why. He suggested to Horton that a House of Commons committee on emigration might be worth while.

When Robinson looked at the emigration plan, he was in the process of surrendering his duties at the Board of Trade to Huskisson and moving to replace Vansittart as Chancellor of the Exchequer. As a consequence, Horton could expect a fair hearing from three key figures: the Colonial Secretary, the Home Secretary, and the Chan­cellor of the Exchequer. The atmosphere was sufficiently favourable to give confidence to a man of Horton’s temperament. He knew that there were recent precedents for government involvement in pauper emigration. In 1819 Parliament had greeted such a step with warmth and most of the members whom Horton questioned in 1822 had given their approval. For Horton the odds that he could accomplish something were good enough; he took the bit in his teeth.

  1. See Wilmot’s biography, E. G. Jones, “Sir R. J. Wilmot Horton, Bart., Politician and Pamphleteer” (M.A. Thesis, Bristol, 1936), pp. 78-9; and Hatherton Correspon­dence, Horton to Littleton, 22 Nov. 1827 and 24 Sept. 1834.
  2. Jones, pp. 25-9; S. M. Hardy and R. G. Bailey, “The Downfall of the Gower Interest in the Staffordshire Burroughs, 1800-30”, Collections for a History of Stafford­shire (1954), pp. 267-77.
  3. On Horton’s appointment: Jones, p. 32; W.H.P., Bathurst to Horton, 29 Nov. 1821 and 9 Dec. 1821; B.M. Loan 57/13, Goulburn to Bathurst, 28 and 30 Nov. 1821; and Harrowby to Bathurst, 1 Dec. 1821.
  4. For his declaration of independence of party: Hansard, 1819, xxxix, col. 588. For his major speeches; Hansard, 1819, xl, col. 1478; 1820, i, col. 33; and 1821, v, cols. 391 and 758.
  5. W.H.P., Horton’s statement explaining his political conduct, 6 July 1829.
  6. W.H.P., Heber to Wilmot, 5 Nov. 1816. After Heber’s death Wilmot wrote that “he was one of the dearest friends I had in the world. He was also a clergyman with whom I had no political differences of opinion.” W.H.P., Horton to Blake, 22 June 1827.
  7. Hansard, 1819, xl, col. 1479.
  8.  W.H.P., Horton to Malthus (1827); R. J. W. Horton, An Inquiry into the Causes and Remedies of Pauperism. First Series. Containing Correspondence with C. Poulett Thomson (London, 1830), p. 34.
  9. Causes and Remedies of Pauperism. Second Series. Containing Correspondence with C. Poulett Thomson with a Preface, p. 28; R. J. W. Horton, Lecture X. Delivered at the London Mechanics’ Institution (London, 1831), p. 7; R. J. W. Horton, A Letter to Sir Francis Burdett (London, 1826), p. 23; Parliamentary Papers, 1826-7, v (550, 16; W.H.P., Horton to Place, Sept. 1830.
  10. Ibid., pp. 35-6; W.H.P., Horton’s answers to Lord Palmerston’s Question, 12 Dec. 1829, and Horton to Place, Sept. 1830.
  11. Horton, Lecture IX, p. 29; Causes and Remedies of Pauperism. Fourth Series. Con­taining Letters to Lord John Russell, pp. 13, 16, 19, 70; Speech of the Right Honorable Robert Wilmot Horton, M.P., in the House of Commons, 9th March, 1830, on Moving for a Committee to Consider the State of the Poor of the United Kingdom (London), pp. 11-17.
  12. W.H.P., Horton to Mahoney, 17 Jan. 1831.
  13. B.M. Loan 57/17, Horton to Bathurst, 21 Oct. 1826 ; R. J. W. Horton, A Letter to Dr. Birbeck, the president and members of the London Mechanics’ Institute on the Subject of the Corn Laws (Richmond, 1839), pp. 18-22.
  14. Lecture I, pp. 18-24.
  15.  See Hansard, 1820, i, col. 720.
  16.  Causes and Remedies of Pauperism. First Series, p. 33.
  17.  R. J. W. Horton, Letters Containing Observations on Colonial Policy (London, 1839), pp. 16-24; A Letter to Sir Francis Burdett, pp. 15-16; Parliamentary Papers, 1825, viii (129), 18.
  18. In 1822 Horton described his plan as “perfectly applicable” for redundant population from manufacturing districts, although he saw that this class of people would be “least suited for the experiment”. Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi (361), 172. He subsequently came to believe that, with the exception of weavers from the region of Glasgow or Manchester, artisans would not be successful. Causes and Remedies of Pauperism. Fourth Series. Explanations of Mr. Wilmot Horton’s Bill in a letter and Queries addressed to N. W. Senior, p. 83. See also Lecture VI, p. 9.
  19.  A. D. Gayer, W. W. Rostow, A. J. Swartz, The Growth and Fluctuations of the British Economy, 1790-1850 (Oxford, 1953), pp. 156-7; L. P. Adams, Agricultural Depression and Farm Relief in England, 1813-1852 (London, 1932), pp. 97-109; Hansard, 1822, vi, col. 454.
  20. F. C. Hamil, Lake Erie Baron (Toronto, 1955), p. 106.
  21. Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi (361), 171.
  22. W. H. G. Armytage, “Thomas Talbot and Lord Wharncliffe: Some New Letters Hitherto Unpublished”, Ontario History, Sept. 1953, p. 193.
  23. Monthly Review, Dec. 1820, p. 385. On the emigrants from Cumberland see: W.H.P., Southey to Wynn, 19 and 28 Apr. 1823.
  24. Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi (361), 171, and 1825, viii (129), 16-17; A Letter to Sir Francis Burdett, pp. 19, 23.
  25. Estimations of the plan were also given by E. J. Littleton, M.P. for Staffordshire and a close friend of Horton; Col. John Ready, a member of the executive council of Lower Canada; Lt.-General William Dyott, a Staffordshire magistrate; John Galt, the Scottish novelist who was also agent for the inhabitants of Upper Canada with military claims against the government; George Vernon, the son of Lord Vernon; Thomas Fisher, rector of Roche, Cornwall; Dr. Edward Copleston, Provost of Oriel College, Oxford; Stephen Peter Rigaud, Savilian Professor of Geometry, Oxford; J. Lowe, author of The Present State of England, published in 1822; George William Chad, Secretary of the British Embassy in Brussels and a property owner in Norfolk; John Davenport of Burslem, Stafford, later an M.P.; George Chetwynd, M.P. for Staffordshire and a supporter of the Poor Removal Bill; Michael Nolan, M.P. for Barnstaple and an opponent of the Poor Removal Bill; Richard Hart Davis, M.P. for Bristol; Thomas Babington, a former M.P. for Leicester; G. Tren. Goodenough, who had been Tax Office Com­missioner twenty years earlier; Charles Forster, the domestic chaplain to the Bishop of Limerick; T. G. Buchnall Estcourt, M.P. for Devizes and a nephew to Lord Sidmouth; Thomas Gisborne, curate of Barton-under-Needwood, an abolitionist and an intimate friend of Wilberforce; Kirkman Finlay, a former M.P. for Glasgow who organized the emigration of weavers in 1820-1; and W. S. Kinnersley, Horton’s fellow M.P. represent­ing Newcastle under Lyme. Dyott, Estcourt, Davenport, and Littleton expressed the most hostile criticism. See W.H.P., especially Horton’s precis of the letters and opinions he received.
  26. Parliamentary Papers, 1823, vi (361), 171, and 1825, viii (129), 16-17; A Letter to Sir Francis Burdett, pp. 19, 23.

Ireland and Irish Emigration to the New World

Source: W. F. Adams (1932), Ireland and Irish Emigration to the New World from 1815 to the Famine, pp. 240-296.

{240} The history of British government policy between 1815 and 1845 falls naturally into two periods. The first fifteen years present a picture of unbroken ascendancy by the Tory party and the aristocracy of land and ships, modi­fied slightly on the one hand by the prejudices of a gauche and preposterous court, and on the other by the “mobocracy” of Westminster. In its main outlines, British policy was consistent, whether under Liverpool and Castlereagh, Canning and Huskisson, or Peel and Wellington. It was a policy of strong government tempered with slow reform at home, and of aggressive insistence on national rights abroad. In matters of detail, however, and even on many {241} major issues, few cabinets have been less harmonious than these same Tory groups, or coalitions, cemented together from the fragments of personal influence which composed the unreformed House of Commons. The sec­ond period, beginning in 1830, is one of shifting political and personal allegiance, during which prominent men of every rank and opinion sought to adjust themselves to the new world of a reformed parliament, a revivified church, and a reforming crown; and when frequent changes weak­ened the hold of government upon national life. These moods and changes are reflected in the policy toward emi­gration, which for thirty years pursued an uncertain course between the indifference of ministers, the assaults of fanatics, and the machinations of interested groups.

To speak of an Irish emigration policy in the days when not one educated Englishman in a thousand had so much as thought of the subject would be absurd. A Peel, con­cerned for the maintenance of his beloved Protestant as­cendancy, or a Wilmot, staking his political future on the championship of emigrant schemes, might give it some attention; but the former soon passed on to greater inter­ests, and the latter was everywhere looked upon as a crank. Insofar as government concerned itself with the question in this early period, it did so through three dis­sociated and uncorrelated policies, or sets of policies. The origins and causes of emigration fell within the sphere of Irish policy under the Home Office, the Lord Lieutenant, and the Chief Secretary. The emigrant traffic and the destination of the emigrants as it was linked with the traffic, came within the province of the Board of Trade, whose recommendations colored the humanitarian passenger acts, as well as the commercial diplomacy of the Foreign Office. But the growing importance of the colonies, at first strategic and later economic, brought {242} emigration primarily under the consideration of the Secretary for War and the Colonies. …

{251} The first direct steps in aid of emigration came from the War and Colonial Office. The War of 1812 had aroused a demand for the settlement of soldiers in Canada as a protection against the United States; and the granting of land to soldiers on discharge, which had begun earlier, greatly increased during and after the war. The United States was looked upon for many years as “the natural enemy” in a future conflict, and the military staff gave careful consideration to the defense of Canada. Not con­tent with placing on the land ex-soldiers who had been discharged in Canada, the War Office also offered free transportation, land, and aid in settlement to others from the British Isles. The majority of those who took advan­tage of this offer were Scots, but there were also a number from Ireland, particularly from the Coal Island station near Dungannon in Tyrone.1 The movement was of suffi­cient volume to interest ship agents, who frequently ad­vertised “for Chelsea pensioners and others.” These military grants, while they took only a few at a time, con­tinued throughout our period, and were one of several government activities serving to acquaint the Irish people with the advantages of emigration.2

{252}Colonial office aid to civilian emigrants began in 1816 with the dual purpose of strengthening Canada and turn­ing emigration from the United States. The offer of aid was confined to Scotland, but attracted so much attention that in 1817 the office received numerous applications from Ireland asking for assistance. The first experiment had not been successful, however, and all that applicants could get were recommendations for grants of land and for implements. The next year even this help was with­drawn, except as usual from persons with some influence, and applications were regularly answered with the fol­lowing printed form:

Sir, In reply to your letter dated the _____, I am directed by Lord Bathurst to acquaint you that His Majesty’s government no longer give encouragement to persons proceeding as settlers to His Majesty’s possessions in North America. I am, etc.3

The government had in fact determined upon a new plan, and now offered lands and transportation to men with capital who would take at least ten settlers and deposit £10 for each one as security for his remaining. This system was in operation for one year only, and was uti­lized in Ireland by one group of settlers, Richard Talbot and his 172 tenants from Kings County. The party was almost ruined by a long stay in Cork due to misinforma­tion from the transport agent, and had more troubles in Canada, but was able eventually to join Sir Thomas Tal­bot’s colony near London, Ontario.13 Unassisted emigra­tion was already swamping the little town of Quebec, and in August of 1818 the Governor General, the Duke of Richmond, wrote to Bathurst: “Pray stop the emigration if possible, unless for those who can bring a little money. {253} I cannot see the unfortunate people starve.”4 Thereafter, assistance was only given to the wives and families of set­tlers already in Canada, who must be recommended by Sir Peregrine Maitland, Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada.5 Colonial and War office activities were valuable chiefly as advertising emigration, but they carried with them the danger of deterring voluntary emigration. News travelled slowly in Ireland, and applications for aid under government schemes continued to reach the Colonial Of­fice two and three years after they had been discontinued; and the fact that government had once offered assistance prompted requests long after any intention of giving aid had been abandoned.

The promotion of emigration, even for purposes of colonial defense, ran directly counter to the prejudices of the ruling class, and twice during 1815 ministers had to defend their conduct in the House of Commons. Vansittart and Goulburn, who were themselves hostile to the loss of citizens and had no great interest in Canada, speaking on behalf of Lord Bathurst, explained his measures of settlement as an attempt to turn emigrants away from the United States.6 One prejudice was thus invoked to defeat another. The War of 1812 had left behind it the usual dregs of rancor, intensified in this case by what ‘were believed to be fundamental differences of political philosophy. Ministers shared fully the popular bitterness toward the United States. Liverpool and Peel retained unhappy memories, of 1810-1812, when as Secretary and Under­secretary for War and the Colonies they were, harassed by the disputes leading up to the American War; and Liverpool pushed the peace negotiations at Ghent in 1814 {254} only in order to have a free hand at Vienna. Canning wrote to his friend Charles Bagot, when the latter was appointed first post-war Minister at Washington: “… the hardest lesson which a British Minister has to learn in America is not what to do, but what to bear”;7 and Bagot was soon Of the same opinion, witness his charac­terization of Henry Brougham as “American minded” –  “a gin-drinking, straddling, corduroy scoundrel.”8

In this temper the British government at the beginning of 1816 faced a question, namely, the destination of Brit­ish emigrants, which before the year was out excited the interest of four major departments; and the irascible American minister in London, John Quincy Adams, re­sponded in the same vein.  …

{259} Mr. Lushington introduced in the Commons on June 10,1816, a bill for passenger regulation, which passed both houses without discussion in the course of three weeks, and re­ceived the royal assent on July 1. The new act, which went into effect immediately, restricted British ships going to the United States to one passenger for every five tons, with other regulations similar to those previ­ously in force for American vessels, thus destroying the old discrimination in law. The Order of April 27th was now unnecessary and was promptly revoked. American ships were restored to their status under the act of 1803, while British ships going to British America (and under the Navigation Laws only British ships could go there from the British Isles) continued under the earlier act to carry one person for every two tons. The effect of this act and of the act of 1817 in turning the course of emigra­tion from Ireland to the United States by way of British America, has already been discussed. …

{262}… ministerial interest in the question now ap­peared in an unexpected quarter. On June 24, 1816, the day on which the American passenger bill was introduced in the House of Lords, Peel wrote to Lord Liverpool :

Irish Office,

June 24,1816.


Dear Lord Liverpool,


I think I should be chargeable with a great omission of duty if I did not, previously to my departure from this country to Ire­land, call your attention to the great and increasing extent of emigration from Ireland to the United States of America.


If emigration was confined to the south of Ireland where the population is so dense and disproportionate to the means of em­ploying it, I should consider it a benefit to the country. As tend­ing to increase the population of the United States, it might pos­sibly operate to the prejudice of British interests; but, so far as Ireland is concerned, I do not think she would suffer at all by an emigration from the south of ten times the extent of that which is taking place at the present time.

But, unfortunately, the northern inhabitants are the most dis­posed to emigrate. I had this day a letter from Lord Whitworth, which states that on the last Council day there were upwards of 700 applications from the north of Ireland for permission to leave it, in almost all cases for the United States. At the preceding Council there were, I believe, about 680, and a Council is gener­ally held in Ireland once a week. I think this diminution of the Protestant population of Ireland very unfortunate; but I think it still more unfortunate that not only this country should lose so many industrious and valuable inhabitants, valuable peculiarly as residents in Ireland, but that the United States should reap the advantage from their departure.


{263} It may be impossible to prevent emigration, but it seems to me to be not impossible to secure to one part of the empire the bene­fit which is resigned by another, and by holding out ample en­couragement to settle in the Canadas, or other parts of our North American possessions, to contribute to their future strength and resources.

How this encouragement can be best afforded I must leave to others to determine. I know it cannot be afforded without con­siderable expense; but I much doubt whether the saving of that expense at present (necessary as all savings now are) will prove true economy in the end.


Believe me, etc.9

As Peel neither before nor after this manifested much interest in emigration or in America, and as he and Liver­pool were at this time both in London and in almost daily consultation, this letter can only be regarded as an in­spired message; but whether, as it appears, to lend sup­port to the War and Colonial Office settlement plans, or to aid Liverpool, who as First Lord of the Treasury was responsible for the passenger bill in the Lords, is not clear. Apparently Lord Liverpool did not need it for either purpose, and there is no evidence that he made any use of it.

The government was not allowed to rest with legislative measures. An Ulsterman, James Buchanan, who had aided Castlereagh at the time of the Union and had been rewarded by the consulate in New York, brought forward an ingenious plan for turning emigration to His Majes­ty’s possessions. The origin of the scheme is best told in his explanation to Castlereagh:

I fear I am stepping out of my place when I drop an observa­tion on the subject of the Emigration from Great Britain and Ire­land, at this Port. A Crisis has arisen well calculated (if seized) {264} to turn the stream from the United States to his Majesty’s Colo­nies in North America, I took the liberty in July last of urging his Excellency, Mr. Bagot, to permit me to send back to Europe a few cargoes of disappointed emigrants that came out here; as great numbers applied to me. I could have done so at the rate of about Three Guineas each, and a few hundreds would have an­swered the purpose. This Crisis I fear has in a great measure gone by. Since the 19th July I have forwarded to Upper Canada from among the British subjects who arrived here this year, Three hundred and five persons, without expense to government, while I rejected great numbers who have resided here some years, and others of whose loyalty and principles I had some doubt, for tho I deem it an important object to forward to Canada those who had tried the United States and had been disappointed, yet looking forward as I do, that in Canada we may yet have to con­tend for our preeminence over the world, but particularly for the West Indies, a proper discrimination is important, and such seems to be the feeling of his Majesty’s Governors in these prov­inces. I humbly submit to your Lordship the importance of lead­ing the industrious and comparatively wealthy emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland at once to proceed to the Canadas in­stead of the United States, but under the present arrangement, tho’ expensive, this will not be effected, while did a different arrangement prevail, I am fully persuaded the stream of emigra­tion would tend rapidly to the Canadas and Nova Scotia.10

Buchanan began his activities without authorization. Refused funds by Bagot, he wrote on August 17th to Lieutenant Governor Gore of Upper Canada asking for aid in forwarding the poor and suffering. In another let­ter to Governor Sherbrooke he added the reasons given later to Castlereagh.11 Gore referred the question to the Colonial Office, to which Buchanan wrote direct on Octo­ber 3rd, with further arguments based on the importance {265} of stopping Irish Protestants from going to the United States.12 The rest of the story is a comedy in red tape. Castlereagh was at his home in Ireland, and during his absence Lord Bathurst was acting as Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as well as for War and Colonies. On November 21 Goulburn (for Bathurst) wrote to Hamilton (for Bathurst) requesting authorization for Mr. Bu­chanan to spend up to ten dollars apiece in forwarding emigrants to Canada. Foreign office authority was neces­sary for this, as Buchanan was their servant; and the request was granted and notice sent Buchanan in a letter from Hamilton on December 4th, 1816, the day before Castlereagh returned to London. The first draft of this letter curtailed expenditure to six or seven dollars a person, but this was struck out and ten dollars inserted – possibly by Bathurst himself.13

It is by no means certain that Castlereagh would have approved of activities by a quasi-diplomatic agent which approached perilously close to direct attacks upon the country in which he was stationed. Bagot certainly did not, for in 1818 he refused aid to Buchanan for a trip to Upper Canada to arrange about settlers, and warned the consul that this was no part of his public service.14 Proba­bly Castlereagh never saw Buchanan’s letter of Novem­ber 12th and he may have been unaware of the whole arrangement. Buchanan continued his operations until 1819, opening a special office with additional clerks, and making two trips to Canada for the purpose.15 His au­thority was withdrawn in that year, possibly for fear of excessive expenditure resulting from the panic of 1819 which affected many of the emigrants, and possibly also {266} because of his own over-zealousness. In February he in­formed Joseph Planta, the new Under Secretary for For­eign Affairs, that he had ready a volume on the United States calculated to turn emigrants, and particularly the Irish, away from that country, and proposed to dedicate it to Planta.16 Planta promptly refused the dedication and suggested to Buchanan “… the inexpediency of such a publication on your part as connected with your official situation in America.”17 The persistent Irishman made one more attempt in 1822 with a plan for a tract, ostensi­bly on penitentiaries, but really on pauper emigration. All he received for his pains was a reprimand for not attending to his official duties. The correspondence ends on a plaintive note after seven years’ fruitless attempt to collect £696 spent in forwarding 3,600 emigrants, mainly Irish, to Upper Canada, and an equally unsuccess­ful one to obtain a grant of land in Canada promised for the same services.18 Perhaps Mr. Buchanan was consoled by his interest in Buchanan and Robinson, the most suc­cessful emigrant traders between Londonderry and Que­bec, for whom two of his sons were agents, and whose cause he himself had done so much to serve. …

{269} Meanwhile, the same conditions which were arousing hostility toward emigration in the United States were undermining it in Great Britain, The lean years after 1815 worked a gradual change in governmental attitude. Density of population ceased to be a virtue, and Malthu­sian doctrines, which were generally accepted by the rul­ing classes, came to the fore. Peel, a convinced individual­ist, was converted by the Irish famines of 1817-1818, to the necessity of state relief – the first of a. long line of British statesmen brought unwillingly to paternalism by Irish troubles. The other ‘‘liberal” Tories, notably the Canningites and Robinson, who were held to the party largely by the name and tradition of Pitt, were ready enough for a change of policy. A parliamentary com­mittee on the state of the poor in Ireland which reported in 1819, offered no general remedy for an admitted re­dundancy of population, and contented itself with sug­gesting public aid for drainage and roads;19 but an {270} English committee of the same year recommended the removal of all obstacles to emigration, and the encourage­ment of the movement to British colonies.20 Even the High Tories were affected. Consuls Robertson at Phila­delphia and Manners at Boston reported in 1818 and 1819 several cases of badly overloaded vessels fraudu­lently cleared from Ireland for British America while destined for the United States, and Manners suggested measures to check this rapidly growing practice.21  His proposal was referred to Bathurst, who signified his dis­approval of any effort to prevent the trade.22 The fact that the offending vessels were necessarily British may have influenced his decision, but as its effect was to di­minish the legal emigration to Canada in which he was deeply interested, his decision displays a considerable change of attitude. In 1820, when emigration was advo­cated by the Quarterly Review, there was little opposition left in any quarter.23

{272} At first sight, the passenger acts of 1823 and 182524 appear to run counter to the tendency toward greater freedom. Both acts nominally restricted the legal number of transatlantic passengers to one for every five tons register, but by means of licenses regularly granted by the customs authorities this was extended in practice to one for every two tons. The effect was to cut the maxi­mum on ships to British America by one-sixth, but to double it on ships to the United States, which now found their limits set by the American act of 1819. More serious for Irish shippers were the clauses requiring fifteen square feet of clear space per passenger, and the pres­ence of a surgeon on all vessels carrying more than fifty people. These clauses arose out of genuine humanitarian sentiment, which had been shocked by the revelation of conditions on the passenger boats; but the new tonnage requirements reflect the changing commercial interests of the day. J. C. Herries, who as Financial Secretary to the Treasury piloted both bills through the House of Com­mons, had been in 1821 and 1822 an active member of the Irish Revenue Enquiry Commission, whose principal aim was the abolition of commercial barriers and the promo­tion of trade between Ireland and Great Britain. That {273} trade, since the introduction of the steamship, was rap­idly concentrating Irish transatlantic shipments in pas­sengers as well as in goods at the port of Liverpool. To the Irish merchant the timber-emigration trade was a principal source of livelihood; to the Liverpool merchant it was only one of many, and of less importance than the American cotton trade. The new acts, therefore, adhere to the practice of recognizing major commercial interests in revising the discriminatory policy of 1816 and in re­ducing the restrictions on passage to the United States. The Irish merchants received a concession necessary to their business in the exemption of passengers from the legal requirements for provisions, an exemption regu­larly practised under the act of 1823, though not specifi­cally authorized until 1825.25 This applied equally to ves­sels for British America and for the United States. Even the American passenger act, which still caused the poor to go to Canada, lost some of its effectiveness through the practice of remitting fines for overloading; and when Anthony Baker, British consul general at Washington, suggested in 1827 that measures be taken in the United Kingdom to limit vessels in accordance with the Ameri­can law, the Board of Customs negatived the proposal.26 In the main, the Liverpool and Canning ministries con­tinued friendly to unrestricted emigration to the end, and its limitation by the acts of 1823 and 1825 was no part of their purpose.

The victory of laissez-faire commercial ideals in the {274} hands of liberal Tories, who had the whole-hearted co­operation of the Whig opposition, makes it somewhat surprising to find in the same years the introduction of a policy of assisting emigration quite at variance with those ideals. Only an unusual combination of parties, in­dividuals, and Irish difficulties made possible the expedi­tions from north Cork to Canada under Peter Robinson in 1823 and 1825. The accession of George IV in 1820 and the subsequent trial of the Queen drove Canning out of the ministry, prevented Peel from entering it, and nearly wrecked the Liverpool government. Caroline’s death in the spring of 1821 eased the situation at home; and the gathering disturbances in Ireland, together with the manifest incompetence of the Talbot-Grant re­gime, opened the way for a change. The Marquis Welles­ley, a pro-Catholic and political associate of Canning, had already been indicated as Talbot’s successor. His nomination, according to accepted policy, required an anti-Catholic Chief Secretary, and at Peel’s suggestion, Henry Goulburn, formerly under-secretary for the Colo­nies, was appointed. Peel himself became Goulburn’s chief as Home Secretary, and the two, possibly with the help of Lord Harrowby, united in filling Goulburn’s old place with Robert Wilmot, Peel’s friend and neighbor in Staffordshire.27 This was the triumvirate which ini­tiated state-aided emigration in Ireland. The idea was Wilmot’s, but the pressure for action came from the harassed landlords of Munster.

The ministerial changes came at the end of 1821, and {275} for a year Ireland was comparatively quiet. Political agi­tators were inclined to see what the new Lord Lieutenant could do, especially as his views were strengthened by the advance of the Grenville faction in January, 1822, when C. W. Wynn, Lord Grenville’s nephew, took cabi­net office, and William Plunket became Irish Attorney General in place of the hated Orangeman, Saurin. With the succession of Canning to Castlereagh’s place as Leader of the House of Commons, Catholic hopes had never looked brighter, though opposition in the House of Lords was as strong as ever. Agrarian disturbances, too, had died down, but for different reasons. The fearful spread of famine and typhus throughout the southern counties in 1822 killed all attempts at agitation; and it was not until 1823 and the reappearance of a normal food supply that the activities of the Whiteboys and Rockites again awakened the apprehensions of the gentry. Reli­gious and agrarian issues were combined in an attack on the tithe system – an attack strengthened by some of the farmers for their own purposes. The religious champions of the peasants were as aristocratic as the High Tories and as determined to put down popular movement; and the usual measures of repression ensued. They proved quite inadequate, and for the first time since 1815 Irish troubles caught and held the attention of the ruling classes in parliament.

It was partly for financial reasons, and partly for stra­tegical ones, that the actual motions for aid to emigration came from the Colonial rather than the Irish Office. The measure had been advocated for Irish relief in 1821, and though supported by Peel and Goulburn, was passed over in favor of other reforms. The tremendous pressure of business tied Goulburn’s hands in 1823. Moreover, no Irish question could be brought forward without stirring up troubles which the government wished to avoid; and {276} in the existing state of ministerial intrigue and lack of communication no reliance could be placed on full cabinet support. It was deemed wiser to leave the matter to the Colonial Office, which had had the experience of conduct­ing military settlements, and was already in communica­tion with Irish landlords. It could also supply the neces­sary funds without raising undue opposition. The plan as finally adopted was to take out and establish some five hundred Irish in Canada. It was put into operation in May without parliamentary sanction, under the charge of Peter Robinson, brother of the Chief Justice of Upper Canada.28 Robinson’s original orders came from Horton, but the final selection of emigrants from among the thou­sands of applicants was made by leading landlords with the single purpose of removing fiery and insubordinate spirits. Great care was taken not to assist anyone with capital of his own (though a few such were admitted in order to calm peasant suspicions); for the general antagonism to state aid except where indispensable was not abated. It was as a measure of Irish relief that the scheme was defended a month later in the House of Com­mons by Horton and Peel: a measure designed to encour­age emigration in general, to show what government was prepared to do, and to pacify the most disturbed dis­tricts. On still broader grounds of Irish relief it received the support of Sir John Newport, and even of those twin bêtes noirs of Protestant Ascendancy – Thomas Spring Rice of Limerick and Christopher (Kit) Hely Hutchinson {277} of Cork. There was no opposition, and no consideration of the colonial aspects of the step.29

Horton and Peel hinted at larger schemes to follow if this experiment were successful, but their purpose was through government measures to encourage unassisted emigration, and not, as in the later colonization, to sup­plant private effort. A second committee on the employ­ment of the Irish poor in 1823 approved the government steps and called the attention of landlords to the value of emigration. Prominent members of both parties – all of them, except Horton, Irish landlords – concurred in the report.30 So long as agrarian agitation was rife, gov­ernment was only too glad to let the restless spirits emi­grate; and when an over-zealous magistrate detained some passengers at Cork on suspicion that they were rebels, he was promptly instructed to let them go –  Wellesley, Gregory, and the Solicitor-General agreeing in the decision.31

Lord Bathurst was anxious to go ahead with further emigration in 1824, but the Irish authorities would not agree.32 Peter Robinson reflected landlord attitude when he wrote that they needed more time in which to select the “most deserving” – i.e., the most unruly – emigrants. Horton, whose ideas on Ireland were derived from Peel and Goulburn, as theirs in turn came largely from Greg­ory, found Ireland “comparatively tranquil,” and relief therefore unnecessary. This was a perfect illustration of the normal ministerial attitude. Horton’s judgment was correct as far as it went; crops were better, and agrarian {278} discontent at a minimum. Honest and efficient adminis­tration, with the elimination of some of the worst officials, was beginning to win respect. A better magistracy, a new police, and a thorough overhauling of the Irish bench gave promise of more impartial justice. Subsidies to the fishing and linen industries from funds collected for re­lief of the famine of 1822 were giving temporary stimulus to prosperity. Above all, the Tithe Commutations Act of 1823, though merely permissive and limited in its opera­tion, soothed some of the bitterest discontent. There were those who grumbled about absentees and the lack of poor laws, but they were in a minority.

The cloud which soon overspread the Irish horizon came from another quarter. In 1823 O’Connell and Shiel formed the Catholic Association, uniting Irish Catholics from top to bottom for the single cause of Catholic Eman­cipation. It was an unnatural alliance, made possible by the temporary lull in class conflict, but it contributed in its turn to the quiescence of the country. To most Eng­lishmen and to all High Tories it was a horrid monster, capable of every evil – from rebellion in Ireland to stamping out the Protestant religion. To the Whigs, Canningites and Grenvillites it meant, what Lord Gren­ville had foreseen in 1822, the necessity of passing Catho­lic relief before it was forced from them by the democrats and the priests. The English and Irish governments were split asunder. Wellesley, living in oriental splendor and isolation in the Viceregal Lodge, consulted only with Plunket, and communicated with Goulburn and Gregory by letter. By the beginning of 1825 everyone agreed that the Association must be put down, but on nothing else; and the last great effort for Emancipation prior to its final victory in 1829, introduced in the House of Com­mons in February, raised excitement to fever pitch.

In the midst of this atmosphere of hysteria – a month {279} after the passage of the Act against the Catholic Asso­ciation and four days before the second reading of the Catholic Relief Bill, when Peel had already tendered his resignation and Liverpool was threatening his – Horton brought up the vote for a second and larger emigration to Canada. The hour was late and the House nearly empty, but in the desultory debate which followed there was much criticism. Incorrect reports had come from Canada that the emigrants of 1823 had all decamped to the United States; correct reports described the manage­ment as grossly extravagant. Hume, the watchdog of economy, attacked the estimate, and was seconded by James Grattan, son of the orator. The Whigs, Hutchin­son and Spring Rice, assailed the method and scale of assistance and alluded to better forms of relief. Horton’s only Irish support came from Vesey Fitzgerald, former Irish Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his namesake, the Knight of Kerry. The ultimate consent to the vote in question was a foregone conclusion; but the general de­sire for more information before proceeding further had one unexpected result. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Robinson, answering the request of two previous speak­ers, agreed that there should be a committee on emigra­tion – an announcement greeted with cheers.33 This was the pledge redeemed by Horton’s two committees of 1826 and 1827, which acquainted the whole British Isles with the subject.

Long before the committees met, the Irish situation had entered upon a new phase. The defeat of Catholic Emancipation by the Lords in May, 1825, and still more, the open opposition to it by the King and the Duke of York, exhausted the patience of all but the aristocracy, and pleas sent out by Buckingham and the leading Irish {280} pro-Catholic peers urging the people to be calm went unheeded. Canning refused to cooperate with them, and confined his efforts to thwarting an intrigue for early dis­solution of parliament designed to secure votes by capi­talizing the anti-Catholic mania in England. The Catholic Association, re-formed to comply with the Law of 1825, was drifting away from its aristocratic leaders both in the church and state. Power was apparently in the hands of the priests, and in 1826 landlords saw their tenants vote against them for the first time. The real power was Daniel O’Connell, and even he could not control the mass force he had evoked. He was landlord and aristocrat enough to agree to the disfranchisement of the forty shilling freeholders in 1825, and to aid Plunket in com­bating agrarian movements in 1826; but he had to dis­avow the former action, and the latter was quite ineffec­tual. Any chance of friendly concession which remained was blasted by the financial crash of December, 1825, Which erased Irish questions from the English mind for almost a year.

The moment was by no means unfavorable to Horton’s plans. The furtherance of emigration from Ireland had been throughout the work of the Protestant or reactionary party, while the advocates of reform looked on with, at the most, benevolent interest. Peel and Goulburn had ceased to concern themselves much with the subject; it was Horton’s hobby, on which he staked his political future.34 But the mounting distress throughout 1826, and the ease with which it could be demonstrated that Great Britain was suffering from effects of Irish misery, gave him a sympathetic audience in all but the most rigid “econo­mist” circles. Goulburn also contributed indirectly to the cause. In the spring of 1826 he carried through an act {281} long advocated by Sir John Newport and others legaliz­ing eviction of any tenant who sublet his holding without the landlord’s consent—a measure which soon proved unenforceable without some means of removing the ejected tenants and subtenants from the district. Five days after the introduction of the act, Horton moved for his emigration committee and secured it without opposi­tion. Hume, it is true, voted for it as a means of proving that assisted emigration was useless; but Hume’s hos­tility was generally a favorable augury.35

The committee met for the first time on March 20th, and in the two months before the dissolution of parlia­ment accomplished a prodigious amount of work. It included from among Horton’s friends, Goulburn and George Dawson, Peel’s brother-in-law and under secre­tary at the Home Office; from the “Catholic” Tories, Plunket, Vesey Fitzgerald, Lord Palmerston, Frankland Lewis and Sturgis Bourne; and from the Opposition, Lord John Russell and Lord Althorp. These members did not sit regularly, and the Committee was really Horton’s. As chairman, he did practically all the questioning of witnesses, and largely determined the findings.

When the committee began its sittings bad reports of Robinson’s management in 1825 were coming in. The first witnesses called were Canadian officials, whose evi­dence it was hoped would counteract these reports. The testimony was conflicting, and the support of Sir Pere­grine Maitland, the enthusiastic Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, was more than offset by the critical skep­ticism of Colonel Alexander Cockburn, a non-partisan engineer with experience of settlement, and a close friend of Peel.36

{282} Since the “experiments” of 1823 and 1825 were fre­quently cited in ensuing debates, it may be as well to pass judgment upon them at this point. Peel’s principal ob­ject, it will be remembered, was to stimulate voluntary emigration; If the removals under Horton’s scheme had done any good in Ireland, except to ease the difficulties of a few influential landlords, it might have been by removing the fear of government aid in emigration, which was in many eases looked upon as a genteel form of penal transportation. But as the state did not again until long after this period give direct aid to emigration to America, the change in public opinion proved rather harmful than otherwise by raising delusive hopes. Not only was voluntary emigration checked, but government, realizing that fact, was the less inclined to raise the ques­tion in connection with the improvement of Ireland. The direct reason for the failure to follow up these attempts was financial, however. The management merited the ob­servation of John Godley that “the whole thing was done as extravagantly as possible,”37 and justified Gibbon Wakefield’s later criticism:

Still less did Mr. Horton, notwithstanding his singular persever­ance, excite a general interest in his plans of mere pauper emi­gration. Then as now the “shoveling out of paupers,” as Charles Buller afterwards happily termed it, was a displeasing topic; and though Mr. Horton rode his hobby so as to induce parliament to try on a small scale a costly and deterring experiment of his well meant suggestions, he soon rode it to death.38

While the criticism is correct, Buller’s phrase is unfair, for it was precisely because Horton was not willing simply {283} “to shovel out paupers,” but insisted on expensive plans of settlement, that his scheme was inacceptable to parliament.

The combined cost of the two experiments was more than £52,000 for less than 2,600 emigrants, and Ireland needed to lose two millions. No government would have dared to face the cost of a general removal at this rate, and the advocates of emigration admitted that partial removal would not be effective. The government attitude expressed again and again in ensuing years is summed up in the statement of Thomas Elliot, the agent general for emigration, in 1837:

In point of fact, in the ease of a few settlements of people which have been made at the public charge by way of experiment, the result has been very gratifying as regarded the well being of the parties, but it has also demonstrated the great costliness of the operation. On the other hand, various examples in America and in Australia have shown at once the vexatiousness and the fu­tility of trying to obtain repayment of large amounts of money advanced in small sums to poor emigrants.39

A comparison with the expenses of voluntary emigration shows that these were not fair experiments. Later advo­cates of colonization pointed out the fact, but the cost of the two ventures remained a reason as well as an excuse for government inactivity. Mismanagement in 1825 also provided material for an attack by Michael Sadler on humanitarian grounds;40 and the emigrations under Peter Robinson, viewed from almost any angle, must be adjudged a failure.

It is clear that from the beginning Horton intended Ireland to be the chief beneficiary of his plans for {284} government aid.41 Following the testimony of the colonial witnesses, he called a few English employers to prove that the influx of Irish to Great Britain lowered wages and caused unemployment, so as to impress his col­leagues with the necessity of relieving Ireland for Eng­land’s sake as well as her own. The importance of this evidence is emphasized in the third report of the com­mittee in 1827, which says:

The question of emigration, as connected with Ireland, has al­ready been decided by the population itself; and that which re­mains for the legislature to decide is to what points the emigra­tion shall be directed, whether it shall be turned to the improve­ment of the North American colonies, or whether it shall be suf­fered and encouraged to take that which otherwise will be, and is, its inevitable course, to deluge Great Britain with poverty and wretchedness, and gradually but certainly to equalise the state of the English and Irish peasantry.42

Having made this point, Horton then devoted the bulk of the time to the examination of Irish landlords.

The Committee had before it not only plans for emigra­tion, but various other suggestions for the relief of Ire­land to which much testimony was devoted, particularly to the reclamation of waste land. This scheme was the chief competitor with emigration for the favor of the Irish members; but they disagreed heartily as to its prac­ticability. The majority thought that while it might give local relief, it could not be carried out on a large enough scale to be an effective remedy, and would moreover be unprofitable. Horton’s questions show that he was deter­mined to deny the value of any alternative remedy, but he contented himself in the final report with the state­ment that emigration would be a better investment than {285} reclamation.43 For the success of his plan, Horton had to obtain the support of three parties, the government, the colonists, and the Irish proprietors. The colonial wit­nesses were on the whole favorable to a proposal which promised to develop their country, especially as two of them, A. C. Buchanan and W. B. Felton, had a pecuniary interest in emigration. They were also influenced by the argument that colonization was necessary to keep emi­grants from going to the United States.44 Government opposition did not develop until the report of the Com­mittee was brought in, but its character may be judged from some of the points raised by Horton himself in the second committee of 1827. To combat, the opinion held by many statesmen that there was no real redundancy of population in Ireland, and that in any case government should not interfere, he called Malthus and McCulloch to testify that the removal of some of the people was an absolute necessity, a necessity so pressing as to be a proper exception to the general rule of laissez-faire,45  which was indeed already considerably modified so far as Ireland was concerned. The more difficult objection of expense was met by insisting that all government outlays should ultimately be repaid.46

The main difficulty in 1826 was with the landlords, who were to pay the initial expenses of the experiment. The {286} report of that year, which was a preliminary announcement intended to prove the necessity of emigration, stated that government aid could be applied at once to Scotland and Ireland “provided that money was raised there for the purpose by local assessment, or that a spe­cific tax was pledged for money lent for that purpose by the government.”47 The Irish members disagreed on the method of raising funds. Some of them wanted a tax on the ground that the poorer proprietors who most needed aid would be unable to act without financial assistance. Others said that the gentry in general would not stand for any tax, and the customary attitude toward govern­ment imposts gives weight to this testimony.48 On the other hand, almost all the witnesses were willing to con­tribute toward the emigration of their own tenants. It was decided therefore to leave the manner of contribu­tion unsettled.

Horton turned in the report of the first committee to an empty house at 1 a.m. on May 27, 1826, at the end of the last sitting before prorogation.49 For three months it lay buried under the dust of a general election, but as the summer wore on and the specter of famine once more menaced Ireland interest revived. The danger passed, but ministerial anxiety was not immediately allayed. Lord William Russell wrote to his brother John, then in Italy: “Ireland cannot remain as she is, the Ministers feel it, and would gladly listen to any man who would point out the way to relieve her.”50 Horton, with Peel, Goulburn and Bathurst behind him, might well have ap­peared the man. In October the Duke of Wellington read {287} the committee report and wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer approving its recommendations, although he did not accept the premises on which they were based.51 The learned reviews devoted considerable attention to the subject, and the Edinburgh, which had been friendly to emigration since 1823, discussed the report in several articles.52 The Quarterly did not comment specifically on Horton’s work until 1828, when it was favorable, but in 1826 it expressed its approval of emigration by landlord aid. It was, however, tom between a desire to build up the colonies against the United States, and a strong distaste for the necessary expense.53

The same division of opinion existed among political leaders. The Canningites and some of the Whigs wanted free emigration as they wanted free trade in other things, but they were touchy on matters of economy. They disa­greed also as to the extent to which emigration would relieve Ireland, and as to colonial policy, though the majority were for subordinating colonial to foreign trade interests. The old line Tories were equally divided. Wel­lington declared that emigration would relieve Ireland but be of practically no service to Canada;54 Peel thought exactly the opposite.55 Nevertheless, he and Bathurst, who were in close touch with Horton, sent out Colonel Cockburn in January, 1827 to survey lands preparatory to a large emigration scheme. A further proposal recom­mended by the committee was the suspension by Treas­ury Order of portions of the passenger acts, which were {288} totally repealed on May 28th.56 This was accepted by all parties, though with reluctance by Horton himself, who saw in it a threat to his own scheme. In the long debate which attended the nomination of a second committee on February 15, 1827, it was generally agreed that expense was the one valid objection to assisting the Irish,57 and if it could be shown – as it was later – that extensive relief would come from cheaper fares without government aid, only imperial considerations could justify the proposed settlement.

For the moment, colonial interests were receiving live­lier consideration in the discussion. They induced the support of Peel,58 and of Robert Torrens,59 later a leader of the colonization movement, and the friendly interest of Alexander Baring,60 who was, next to Horton, the most active member of the committee. It was beginning to be known that most voluntary emigration went eventually to the United States, just when fears of that country were, revived by the growth of an enmity which caused many whispers of war from 1824 to 1829. The intense nationalism of Canning and of John Quincy Adams, and a diplomacy on both sides dictated largely by commer­cial considerations, created a keen rivalry in Spanish America and raised to a new pitch the bitterness of the West Indian trade dispute, which was at its worst in 1827. Added to that was Canning’s personal inability to get on with any American except Clay; and a fresh aggravation of the Oregon dispute. So far as Canning and Huskisson were concerned, the jealousy was purely commercial, but it was seized upon as an argument by advocates of colonization.

One result was the construction of a number of military {289} canals and roads in Canada which gave employment to the flood of emigrants in 1827, and did much to prevent such suffering as occurred in the Maritime Provinces. A more important step from the point of view of emigra­tion policy was the contract entered into in May, 1826, after two years of negotiation, between the government and the Canada Company. In the end, because of its control of crown lands, the company proved a stumbling block to emigration, but at this time it gave it a stimulus by providing employment, opening up new lands, and interesting British capital in Canada. John Galt, its or­ganizer and manager, visited New York in the spring of 1827 to arrange for transporting emigrants to the com­pany lands, and appointed J. C. Buchanan, son of the consul, as his agent.61

These factors played their part in arousing interest in emigration, and when Horton asked for his second com­mittee there was no serious opposition. Peel, who replied to the insinuations of Baring that government was “… leaving the honorable gentleman who had opened the discussion in the lurch,”62 was frankly sceptical about the financial end of Horton’s schemes, but he was willing that the committee should try to surmount the obstacle. If his attitude was on the whole less friendly than in 1826, it should be remembered that the ministry was on its last legs, and quarreling heatedly over foreign policy and corn laws. Two days later it was crippled beyond repair by the collapse of Lord Liverpool.

The two months of ministerial crisis which followed were as fateful for Mr. Horton as for greater men. His new committee, strengthened by Sir James Graham and the Honorable E. G. Stanley, two young men from the Canning-Whig combination, went quietly about its work, {290} published the report of 1826, and put through the repeal of the passenger acts without trouble during the lull in more important business. But only, political fatuity could have prompted them on February 26th to make a special report reversing the recommendations of 1826 for local and private contributions in favor of a grandiose na­tional policy.63 Horton had pledged himself in January to render every assistance to Huskisson and Herries in cleaning up the Colonial Office, which was a hotbed of extravagance. In his office he wrote economy; but in par­liament he uttered prodigality, and Herries sent a savage letter on the subject in March.64 Horton’s choice of asso­ciates was unfortunate. Committed as he was to expen­sive governmental aid as against unassisted emigration, he had a better chance of over-coming the sluggishness of the “Pig-tail” Tories and the qualms of Peel than the indifference to colonial affairs and the devotion to public economy of his new friends, among whom only Huskis­son was helpful. The more brilliant Canningites scoffed at the seriousness and clumsiness of Horton,65 and so did young Mr. William Lamb, who succeeded Goulburn in the Irish secretaryship.66 The control of Ireland was fast passing into the hands of politicians of the romantic school, like O’Connell, to whom economics was a bore, and Horton could hope for no assistance there. Yet he did not resign in April with his old allies. On May 23rd he was sworn of the Privy Council, and cooperated with Canning in deprecating parliamentary discussions on emigration.67

{291} There were, it is true, some grounds for hope. The com­mittee secured some excellent evidence for its proposals. In June it was supposed to have the ear of government; and its final recommendations were for a series of gov­ernment loans to facilitate emigration, beginning in 1828-29 with a vote of £240,000. This money was to be used entirely for the settlement of emigrants in British America, and was to be fully repaid in the course of thirty years. On account of doubts of the effectiveness of repayments a vote was to be delayed until the results of some of the earlier Scottish settlements had proved their feasibility. The immediate costs of transportation to America were to be paid by local authorities—that is by the landlords in Ireland; and the first claim on govern­ment assistance was to be given to evicted Irish tenants or those about to be evicted.68

The report was a compromise, but it left Horton free to pursue his objects, and in July he went to Ireland. The ministerial changes of that month brought to the Home Office two Irish landlords, Lord Lansdowne and Thomas Spring Rice, the latter already won to his plans. Lord Palmerston, though not consulted, was himself promot­ing emigration from his Sligo estates. Even the death of Canning in August did not seem at first unfavorable. Huskisson succeeded the inactive Goderich at the Colo­nial Office, and for three months he and Horton were in frequent consultation. Horton, it is true, was officially supplanted by E. G. Stanley, and had gone to the Board of Trade as Vice President; but as Stanley was ill and the Board closely connected with colonial administration, it made no difference in his activities. These months were in fact critical for the whole policy. The daily press for the first time took an active – though usually ill-informed –  interest in the committee reports, and the inevitable {292} letters from country gentlemen began to appear.69 Huskisson, though never won to a large outlay, was convinced of the advantage of systematic over unregulated emigra­tion, and conceded that Horton’s scheme might even be economic.70 Everything was propitious for a vote in 1828, when the Battle of Navarino put an end to all Huskisson’s plans for colonial reform. Within another month the Huskisson-Herries-Lansdowne dispute had the best of Lord Goderich, and the ministry was practically dis­solved.

The re-entry of Peel and Wellington into power was fatal to Horton’s prospects. He had cut himself adrift from their faction without having gained any strong friends among his late colleagues, and in January, 1828, he found himself out in the cold.71 He was superseded by Frankland Lewis at the Board of Trade, and his old place, now resigned by Stanley, was given to Lord Fran­cis Leveson Gower, son of the Marquis of Stafford. Gov­ernment was not against him, but neither was it for him; and it was in his capacity as chairman of the former emi­gration committees that he brought forward his motions to revive the passenger acts, to assist English pauper emigration, and to pledge the government to take up Irish emigration early in 1829.72 The last was still his pet project, brought to the attention of the House almost every time that he rose to speak, and given in this one {293} session some genuine consideration. During March, and April thirty-four members spoke for or against his ideas. The English country gentlemen were hostile, the Irish wholly friendly, with the exception of James Grattan, who had come forward as the champion of the new rival scheme of introducing poor laws into Ireland.73 Cobbett, who had paid a flying visit to Ireland, raved against him;74 Michael Sadler scribbled furiously for seven weeks to turn out his book on Ireland berating Horton,75  and Nassau Senior lectured in his defense at Oxford.76 The Catholic Association petitioned against his plans,77 and newspaper controversy waxed hot. With any kind of ministerial support Horton’s chances of some further ex­periment, at least, would have been excellent; but minis­ters were meeting only to quarrel and part without a policy, and no help came from them. Huskisson remained friendly but non-committal;78 in Peel secured him as large a hearing as possible, but showed openly his preference for capitalist emigration;79 Lamb scoffed at “schemes of great and wild attempt.”80

Before Horton’s final full-dress motion came on in June, the Canningites were gone from the ministry, and he had himself refused the thankless job of Irish Secre­tary, which he would have welcomed six months before.81 {294} But he was now listed as a reliable “liberal”82 – a new name given to the Canningites and moderate Whigs – and had nothing to hope from his former associates. Peel gave him every courtesy and some support, but he re­fused to promise anything.83

From this time forward, Horton spoke and wrote mainly for effect outside Parliament, which now refused to give him serious attention. His speeches in 1829 were in the nature of duels with Sadler, in which he spoke more and more of great ultimate aims.84 He was elected to the Political Economy Club, where he had the support of Malthus, Senior, McCulloch, Torrens, and John Abel Smith against the scepticism of Henry Warburton and young Poulett Thomson and the positive hostility of Henry Parnell.85 The distress of 1830 gave him a better hearing for the moment, but ministers had a new and un­answerable objection to his schemes; namely, that emigra­tion as heavy as the colonies could assimilate was already going on without any government aid.86 His last speech on July 13, 1830 was a farewell to Parliament, in which he hoped that emigration would find a new champion.87 He had already determined not to fight again in New­castle-under-Lyme, which had cost him two expensive contests, and was subjected to the cross-fire of the power­ful Stafford and Peel interests. His appointment by Goderich to the Governorship of Ceylon in 1831 removed {295} from the English scene a gentleman of singular zeal and pertinacity, hut with little political acumen or influence.88

The direct results of pauper emigration agitation were slight, for at a time when every grant was under fire min­isters naturally balked at plans involving tremendous expense with no real hope of reimbursement. The con­ception of expenditure as an imperial investment which would more than repay itself in the progress of Brit­ish America was held by very few. Most educated opin­ion considered that Canada was destined to independ­ence, which would be hastened by a rapid increase of population. But even had they been convinced of the soundness of the investment, statesmen then were much less ready than they are today to incur debts and mort­gage the earnings of the future in order to meet an imme­diate need.

Control of the colonization movement, like that of other reforms, passed from the hands of a single agitator into an organized society, which owed to Horton far more than it was willing to acknowledge. Its work, however, had little effect on the Irish movement to America. The great value of Horton’s committees lay in the fact that they stirred up greater interest in emigration, particu­larly in Ireland. Three hundred and sixty-four Irish peti­tions from 5393 persons representing every county were received during the committee sessions.89 The hopes raised by Horton’s motion for aid in 1826 acted as a slight check on voluntary emigration in that year,90 but {296} this was more than offset by the friendly attitude of the gentry, whose attention had been directed to emigration by the committee. The effect may be seen from a compari­son of two editorials in the Belfast News Letter. In Sep­tember 1827 it had quoted with approval MacDougal’s very hostile judgment:

The power and riches of a nation depend upon the number and industry of its people. Its prosperity cannot by any means be so essentially augmented as by the increase of an active and useful population, on which these effects chiefly depend; and a greater evil cannot arise than the loss of it, or its being obliged by emi­gration to swell the power of other states.91

A few weeks later in discussing the last report of the Committee, the paper, while still critical of government schemes, had swung round to a full admission of the value of emigration as a remedy for Irish distress.92 In­deed, the foes of government aid were as a rule friendly to unrestricted emigration. Hume and Grattan strongly supported the voluntary system which Horton opposed ; and Huskisson during his tenure at the Colonial Office in 1828 gave his assent to A. C. Buchanan’s tract in favor of free emigration,93 which cited the last report of the Com­mittee as evidence of its value.94 All this publicity was good for the voluntary movement, and may account in part for the increased amount of aid from Irish landlords noted after 1826.

  1. Applications for aid from Dungannon in C. O. 384/4.
  2. For a detailed study of the emigration policy of the Colonial Office, see Cowan, British emigration to British North America, 1783-1837. I have in several places summarized events described at length by Miss Cowan, my aim being to concentrate attention on the Irish aspects of policy and to bring the whole into better perspective with British political history than can be done in a longer account.
  3. C. O. 384/3.
  4. Bathurst Mss. (Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commission, No. 76), p. 451.
  5. From C. O. 384/1-7; and see Cowan, pp. 68-95.
  6. 1 Hansard XXX, 53; XXI, 917; March 8 and June 21, 1815.
  7. Bagot, George Canning and his friends, II, 5.
  8. Bagot to Lord Binning, June 1, 1816; ibid., p. 19.
  9. Quoted in Yonge, Liverpool, II, 279-280; and Parker, Peel, I, 233-234.
  10. Buchanan to Castlereigh, November 12, 1816; F. O. 5/116.
  11. Buchanan to Gore, July 8, 1816; C. O. 42/357; Buchanan to Hamilton, March 15, 1817; F. O. 5/125 (explaining his letter to Sherbrooke).
  12. Enclosure in Goulburn’s letter, infra; in F. O. 5/119.
  13. F. O. 5/116.
  14. Bagot to Planta, September 2, 1818; F. O. 5/133.
  15. Buchanan to Planta, November 5, 1817; F. O. 5/125; and see Cowan, p. 125.
  16. February 1, 1819; F. O. 5/144.
  17. March 9, 1819; F. O. 5/144.
  18. Buchanan to Planta, January 21, 1822; September 2, 1822; Planta to Buchanan, July 6, 1822; F. O. 5/172. Buchanan to Bidwell, January 20, 1829; F. O. 5/250.
  19. Parliamentary Papers, 1819, No. 409, p. 96.
  20. Parliamentary Papers, 1819, No. 529, p. 257.
  21. Enclosures in Bagot to Castlereagh, June 2, December 22, 1818; Manners to Castlereagh, November 7, 1818, February 14, 1819; Robertson to Planta, July 29, 1819; in F. O. 5/132-144.
  22. Goulburn to Planta, January 5, 1819; F. O. 5/147.
  23. Vol. XXIII, pp. 373-400.
  24. 4 Geo. IV, c. 84 and 6 Geo. IV, c. 116.
  25. Miss Cowan says (p. 163) that the Irish were exempted from the Act of 1825; that exemption extended only to the provisioning clause. In the Letter book of the Collector of Limerick, Vol. II (1827), is an answer to a circular letter from the Board of Customs, April 21, 1826, inquiring how the exemptions had worked. The licenses at Limerick and Newry were all for passenger lists within the legal limit.
  26. Baker to Bidwell, June 23, 1827; F. O. 5/227; Frankland Lewis to J. Backhouse, October 3, 1827, F. O. 5/234.
  27. Wilmot, who in 1823 added the name of Horton, sat in Parliament for Newcastle-under-Lyme, a borough long controlled by the Marquis of Stafford, but at this time apparently shared by a number of the county gentry. The Peel influence was strong here. On the new appointment see Croker Papers, I, 173-174 {Croker to Peel, 26 November 1821: “Lord Liverpool is gone down to Brighton to submit to-day to the King his arrangements, and yet I do not find that the arrangements are supposed to be finally made. … My belief is, as before, that he will offer you the Home Department, all the formerly existing reasons for which are increased by the alarming state of affairs in Ireland. Grant is certainly to be recalled, and I believe Lord Liverpool will again apply to Goulburn (or has already) to succeed him. Some think that Charles Wynn would be still better, and others think Fremantle would be better than Wynn. You and I will not be of these opinions. …}; and also Harrowby to Bathurst, November 26, 1821, in Bathurst Mss., p. 523. Harrowby was a neighbour of Wilmot.
  28. For Peel’s share in the initiation of this policy, see Cowan, p. 151. His indifference as to whether the emigrants went to Canada or to South America is less a sign of colonial neglect than of the strong feeling at that time in favor of securing a hold in the Latin countries to offset the advance of the United States. Carrothers’ statement (Emigration from the British Isles, p. 55) that but for the greater cheapness of the Canadian voyage paupers might equally well have been sent to the United States is true for the thirties, but not for the twenties.
  29. London Morning Herald, June 24, 1823. This debate does not appear in Hansard.
  30. Parliamentary Papers, 1823; No. 56, pp. 10-11.
  31. Henry Joy to Plunket, March 22, 1823; Life, letters and speeches of Lord Plunket, II, 136-137.
  32. Cowan, p. 107.
  33. 2 Hansard XII, 1358-1360; April 15, 1825; and a better account in the London Morning Herald, April 16, 1825.
  34. See Goulburn’s letter to Peel, November 19, 1825, in Yonge, Life of Lord Liverpool, III, 351-354.
  35. 2 Hansard XIV, 1364; March 14, 1826.
  36. Parliamentary Papers, 1826, No. 404, pp. 148-155. Horton later got Cockburn to withdraw some of his objections; 2 Hansard XVI, 512. For Cockburn’s intimacy with Peel, see the curious story in Croker Papers, I, 371.
  37. Parliamentary Papers, 1845, No. 657, p. 923.
  38. A view of the art of colonisation, p. 39.
  39. Parliamentary Papers, 1837-1838, No. 338, p. 3.
  40. In his Ireland: its evils and their remedies (1828), and also in the House of Commons.
  41. Parliamentary Papers, 1826, No. 404: Report from the Select Committee on Emigration from the United Kingdom; and see Cowan, pp. 145-174.
  42. Parliamentary Papers, 1826-1827, No. 550, p. 7.
  43. Parliamentary Papers, 1826-27, No. 550, p. 41. Bog reclamation has been the favor­ite panacea of those who believe Ireland is capable of supporting unlimited population. There are dozens of tracts in its favor, and almost as many to prove its ineffectiveness. Most of the attempts during this period were un­profitable, and barely sustained a few people. The sanest discussion of the value of the bogs is in T. W. Grimshaw, Notes on the statistics of waste lands in Ireland, in Journal of the Statistical and Social Inquiry Society of Ireland, VIII, 522. Grimshaw was registrar-general of Irish lands.
  44. Parliamentary Papers, 1826, No. 404, p. 164. Evidence of Strachan.
  45. Parliamentary Papers, 1826-1827, No. 550, pp. 312-326.
  46. Ibid., p. 20.
  47. Parliamentary Papers, 1826, No. 404, p. 5.
  48. Parliamentary Papers, 1826, No. 404, Evidence of Wm. Gabbett and Lord Limerick; 1826-1827, No. 550, Evidence of Spring Rice and Wilson.
  49.   Morning Herald, May 29, 1826.
  50.  Early correspondence of Lord John Russell, I, 252-253.
  51. Despatches, correspondence, etc. of Wellington (last series), III, 432-437.
  52. In Vols. XLIII (State of Ireland), XLV, XLVII (Horton’s Report), and XLVIIII (a caustic attack on Sadler’s Ireland), 1826-1829.
  53. Vols. XXXIII, XXXVII, XXXVIII. The last is a strong puff for Sadler.
  54. Wellington despatches, III, 433.
  55. Hansard XIX, 1515-18; June 24, 1828.
  56.  7 and 8 Geo. IV, c. 19.
  57. 2 Hansard, XVI, 475-512.
  58. Ibid., p. 300; December 7, 1826.
  59. Ibid., p. 492.
  60. Ibid., pp. 501-505.
  61. R. K. Gordon, John Galt, pp. 43-82.
  62. 2 Hansard, XVI, 506.
  63. 2 Hansard, XVI, 653.
  64. E. Herries, Memoir of the public life of the Rt. Hon. J. C. Herries, I, 145-147.
  65. Bagot, George Canning and his friends, II, 22.
  66. Torrens, Melbourne, II, 376.
  67. In reply to petitions for aid, April 11, 12, May 21, 30, 1827; Morning Herald.
  68. Parliamentary Papers, 1826-1827, No. 550, pp. 18-34.
  69. Times and Morning Herald. The latter gives full details of official movements, ministerial consultations, etc.
  70. 2 Hansard XVIII, 1553-1555; April 17, 1828.
  71. Morning Herald, though on January 10 he was talked of for a cabinet post. The Dictionary of National Biography erroneously dates his retirement from the preceding year.
  72. 2 Hansard, XVIII, 989, 1547; XIX, 1501; March 4, Apr. 17, June 24, 1828. It was on this English plan that Hansard reported him as speaking “in the teeth of His Majesty’s Government’’ (XVIII, 1549; quoted by Miss Cowan, p. 170), but the fuller report in the Morning Herald shows that he was denying that charge, made by his opponents.
  73. 2 Hansard XVIII, 953-964, 1208-1219, 1350-1355, 1417-1422, 1552-1556.
  74. In his Register, freely quoted in various journals.
  75. Sadler’s statement in Parliament, May 7, 1829; 2 Hansard XXI, 1137-1138.
  76.  Senior, Two lectures on population (delivered in Easter Term, 1828, published 1829); especially pp. 80-89.
  77. Cited by Horton in debate, 2 Hansard XIX, 1507.
  78. in 2 Hansard XVIII, 961, 1553; March 4, April 17, 1828.
  79. Ibid., 1556, April 17. Horton postponed his motion at Peel’s suggestion, to get a better audience. Morning Herald, March 28.
  80. Morning Herald, April 2.
  81. Palmerston’s Journal, December, 1828; Bulwer, Palmerston, I, 285-286.
  82.  In Palmerston’s Journal, June 7, 1828; Bulwer, Palmerston, I, 278.
  83. 2 Hansard XIX, 1515-1518; June 24, 1828.
  84.  2 Hansard XXI, 1131-39; 1720-29; May 7, June 4, 1829.
  85. Political Economy Club, List of Members and subjects for discussion. The latter are preserved only after 1832, but the opinions of all these men were either uttered or quoted in parliament.
  86. 2 Hansard XXIII, 49; Speech of Sir George Murray, Secretary for the Colonies, March 9, 1830. Miss Ramsay (Peel, p. 127) cites letters between Peel and Horton to show the former was still interested as late as November, 1830. By that time his help would have been worthless.
  87.  Ibid., 1168-1169.
  88. Charles Greville noted as early as February, 1829, that “Wilmot is at a discount”; and Palmerston smiled at his zeal in December, when he found him in Paris … indefatigably hammering at emigration, and writing his shorthand scribe down to a skeleton” – Greville Memoirs, 1,164; Bulwer, Palmerston, I, 355.
  89.  Summary of petitions in Parliamentary Papers, 1826-1827, No. 550, pp. 484-499.
  90.  Horton feared this result; see his letter to an Irish Merchant, Belfast News Letter, April 11, 1828.
  91. September 14, 1827.
  92. September 21, October 5, 1827.
  93. Buchanan to Aylmer, May 7, 1831; C. O. 42/223.
  94.   Emigration practically considered, p. 2.

Thought and Policy on Irish Emigration 1817-1830

Source: R. D. Collison Black (1960), Economic Thought and the Irish Question 1817-1870, pp. 203-215.

The various proposals made and policies adopted to aid Irish economic development through a growth of private or public investment have now been examined. It remains to consider the theoretical and practical aspects of the opposite approach – that of producing a more favourable relationship of capital to population by means of reducing population or checking its growth, through emigration primarily.

Many contemporary authorities regarded this approach as the most direct, and the most likely to be productive of improvement in the short run. To many, indeed, it appeared not so much as an alternative to other development policies as a condition precedent for their success.1  Yet although belief in the desirability of emigration as a remedy for Ireland came to be very widespread, it did not find much favour with political economists in the early years of the nineteenth century. Thus, as has already been noticed,2  Ricardo was decidedly of the opinion that reduction of population would not assist Ireland because “productions would diminish in as great, or even in a greater, proportion”.3  He agreed with Weyland’s view that “in the early stages of society when the population presses against food, no remedy would be afforded by lessening the number of the people, because the evil they then experience proceeds from the indolence and vice of the people and not in their inability to procure necessaries” but declared Weyland to be “singularly inconsistent in denying the truth of this principle when applied to Ireland”.4

The more normal ground for scepticism about the value of emigration was the Malthusian idea that any “vacuum” so created must inevitably be speedily Med by a fresh growth of population – McCulloch’s statement of this position in 1822 is typical.5  Malthus himself made no specific reference to emigration as a solution for Irish problems in the various editions of his Essay on the Principle of Population; apparently he saw no reason to make Ireland an exception when he stated his general view that emigration “might appear, on a first view of the subject, an adequate remedy … but when we advert to experience and the actual state of the uncivilised parts of the globe, instead of anything like an adequate remedy, it will appear but a slight palliative”.6 Nor was Malthus evidently much impressed with the need for emigration after his tour in Ireland in 1817;7 but it is significant that when he was producing a new edition of his Essay in that same year he felt it necessary to add the passage which runs:

If, for instance, from a combination of external and internal causes, a very great stimulus should be given to the population of a country for ten or twelve years together, and it should then comparatively cease, it is clear that labour will continue flowing into the market with almost undiminished rapidity, while the means of employing and paying it have been essentially contracted. It is precisely under these circumstances that emigration is most useful as a temporary relief; and it is in these circumstances that Great Britain finds herself at present.8

By 1817 the distress resulting from the long and painful readjustment after the Napoleonic wars was becoming very conspicuous in Ireland as well as in Britain, and in the search for remedies emigration began to be looked on with more favour. Amongst its earliest advocates was Torrens, who in 1817 produced his Paper on the Means of Reducing the Poor Rates.9 Torrens argued that “when all the good and well-situated lands of a country have already been appropriated and occupied, it is found impossible to increase capital and subsistence as rapidly as the powers of procreation may multiply the people; and there is no possibility of obviating poverty and misery except by regulating population”.10 Population might be kept within the limits of subsistence either by the prudential check or by “a well regulated system of colonisation”. Whilst improved education and such institutions as savings banks might greatly strengthen the prudential check, their effect must necessarily be remote; the growth of pauperism compelled immediate action and, therefore, resort to colonisation. The benefits of such a policy would be political as well as economic, for colonisation “acts as a safety-valve to the political machine, and allows the expanding vapour to escape, before it is heated to explosion”.11

While Torrens rested his case primarily on conditions in Britain, he used the evidence of rapid population growth in Ireland to strengthen it, and posed “a momentous question … When increasing capital and skill enable the business of agriculture in Ireland to be performed by a smaller number of hands, how are those who must be thrown out of their customary employment to be provided for?” For a time at least, emigration must be the only possible answer, but in 1817 Torrens was prepared to admit that the question had not yet arisen; his arguments had “confessedly, a reference to a period somewhat remote”.12

A distinctly less enthusiastic view of emigration was taken by James Mill when he wrote his well-known article “Colony” for the Supplement to the Encyclopaedia Britannica in 1818. For any population transfer to be advantageous, Mill contended, the land in the region to be colonised must be capable of yielding a greater return to labour than the land in the home country, and the expense of removing the population must not be too great – otherwise the loss of capital from the home country might exceed any gain resulting from lowering population.13

These views, expressed by Mill in volume III of the Supplement, rather contrasted with those enunciated by David Buchanan in volume IV, under the head of “Emigration”. Buchanan declared without hesitation that “it is obvious, that, if there is too little either of subsistence or of employment, the emigration of those who require both to be employed and to be fed, will leave a greater supply for those who remain behind. Wherever there is a greater number of labourers than can be employed – where wages are consequently low, and general distress prevails, emigration is precisely the most effectual remedy for the evil.”14

A favourable opinion about the effects of emigration on the home country was also expressed by Whately, who specifically countered Mill’s arguments about the possibility of loss of capital.15  Emigration, he held, might sometimes “be suggested by the wisest economy, even when the immediate support of the individuals in question might cost less at home: if, at a somewhat heavier expense, we have a fan prospect of getting rid of a permanent, and perhaps (as in the case of an increasing family) a growing burden …”.

As for the apprehensions of impoverishment to this country by the transfer of her capital to the other side of the Atlantic, we are convinced that they are altogether visionary. In the first place, we may be sure that whatever inducements we may hold out, few after all, will be found willing to carry their capita! to Canada, who have a reasonable assurance of deriving from it the means of living in independence and prosperity at home; and those who have not such a prospect, are probably consulting the interest of their country, as well as their own, by emigrating.16

Thus at the beginning of the eighteen-twenties there was some growth of feeling amongst economists in favour of emigration as a means of social improvement, but it could not be said to be either strong or universal. On the other hand some politicians were at this time beginning to take up the idea, and State-sponsored emigrations from Ireland, were actually carried out in 1823 and 1825. Here policy moved rather apart from, or perhaps ahead of, current theory. The general trend of economic thought was moving in favour of commercial freedom and hence the removal of restrictions on emigration,17  but there was as yet no strong body of economic opinion in favour of organised population transfers. The actions of those politicians who took up the idea were not primarily based on economic grounds, but they served to draw public attention to the possibilities of emigration and to stimulate economic thought on the subject.

In Ireland at this time the evidences of increasing population and increasing distress could no longer be ignored. The year 1822 was marked by a partial failure of the potato crop, leading to famine conditions in some districts; in the ensuing season there were bitter agrarian disturbances in the south, with the agitation mainly directed against tithes, though in many instances it was clear that the landlords were also.the objects of resentment. The scarcity was met by private subscriptions and public works, while the Government sought to counter agitation by renewing the Insurrection Act, and subsequently by a measure of tithe reform.18 But the landlords in the disturbed districts of the south were anxious for further measures, and in the spring of 1823 an opportunity of meeting their wishes to some extent presented itself to the ministry.

A certain Mr. Ingram, who had emigrated to the Cape of Good Hope in 1819, returned to Britain at the end of 1822 with the object of organising a party of fifty people to be taken to the Cape at his expense to act as indentured servants. He approached the Government with a view to obtaining assistance to take out a larger number – an additional three hundred was suggested. Very soon after this a suggestion for an experiment in Government-sponsored emigration from the south of Ireland to Canada came from Sir John Beverley Robinson, Chief Justice of Upper Canada, and his brother Peter. Robert Wilmot Horton, then the Undersecretary for the Colonies, was favourably disposed towards these schemes, which fitted in with his own general enthusiasm for emigration and colonial development; Peel and Goulburn, the Irish Chief Secretary, took up the proposals because they saw in them a means of meeting the Irish landlords’ anxiety for action through the removal of some of the most turbulent elements in the population of Munster.

For this purpose the main reliance was placed on the Robinson scheme tor emigration to Canada, which was regarded as an experiment that might be repeated if successful and at the same time serve as an example to stimulate privately organised emigration. Under it, Peter Robinson was to go to Ireland to select 500 would-be emigrants: those chosen were to be conveyed from Cork to Quebec, and thence to Upper Canada, at the public expense: every adult male was to be given an order for 70 acres of land there and each individual supplied with provisions for one year.19 Horton gave the details of the plan to a group of Irish peers and landlords at Goulburn’s house, where “it distinctly met with the approval and assent of the gentlemen to whom it was read”.20

So in May 1823 Peter Robinson went to Fermoy, in Co. Cork, to select the emigrants with the help of Lord Ennismore and other local proprietors.21 Horton did not seek parliamentary approval for the scheme until 23 June, when he asked the Commons to agree to a vote of £15,000 towards the expenses of Robinson’s undertaking. There was no real opposition to the request, but the attitude taken by Ricardo is note¬worthy. In one of his last speeches in the Commons, he repeated his conviction that if security of property could be guaranteed in Ireland, abundant investment would soon follow: “he should not, however, object to the present grant by way of experiment, and to show the people of Ireland that Parliament was anxious to afford them whatever assistance was possible”.22
There were some complaints of the inadequacy of the scheme to meet the evils existing in Ireland, to which Peel replied that “the grant was not intended to do more than render emigration popular, by facilitating the removal of persons to the Colonies, and insuring the success of the enterprise. He thought it better to commence on a small scale, and thus form a basis for encouraging colonisation, which if found expedient, might afterwards be extended.”23

The experiment proceeded, and in July, Robinson brought out a total of 568 Irish settlers to Canada at a cost of £22 per head. Both he and Horton declared the emigration to be a complete success, but reports of disturbances created by the settlers, and of numbers absconding from their holdings, provided ample material for critics of the scheme and sowed doubts among those less committed to it than Robinson and Horton.24

In the following year conditions in Ireland were somewhat improved, and Horton and his colleagues did not see fit to go ahead with any new scheme of emigration.25 But in the evidence which he gave before the Select Committee on the State of Ireland in February 1825 Horton showed that he was still a strong believer in the value of emigration as a remedy for Ireland and declared that he saw “no reason in principle why the emigration, which has been successfully carried into operation in the year may not be carried into effect with reference to any conceivable number of persons disposed to emigrate”.26

A second experiment, on a somewhat larger scale, was then being planned for the summer of 1825. In piloting his scheme through Parliament on this occasion Horton encountered decided opposition, based on reports of the bad behaviour of the emigrants of 1823 and the high cost of their removal and settlement. The funds which Horton sought were voted, but the temper of the House was against any further expenditure without investigation, and the Government thought it well to accede to requests for a committee on emigration.27

The emigration of 1825 followed the same lines as that of 1823; in April, Peter Robinson again went to the south of Ireland, this time to Mitchelstown. He found the people much more anxious to take advantage of the Government offer than in 1823; there were more than fifty thousand applicants for passages. Out of these he selected some two thousand, who were conveyed to Upper Canada at a slightly reduced cost – £21 per head.28

The experiments of 1823 and 1825 did not have the effects which Horton and Peel had hoped to see. On the one hand, they did stimulate the desire to emigrate in Ireland, but led the people to look for a continuance of Government aid rather than to rely on voluntary efforts.29  On the other, their heavy cost deterred Parliament and the Colonial Office from continuing the scheme and acted as an obstacle to future attempts to use emigration as a positive policy for Irish improvement.

But if the “Canadian experiments” failed to set off a fresh tide of emigration, voluntary or otherwise, they certainly helped to set off a tide of discussion which flowed on for more than twenty years. In Parliament, in Horton’s two Select Committees of 1826 and 1827, in pamphlets, newspapers and periodicals, the arguments for and against emigration were thrashed out at length, and most of the leading economists of the day were drawn into the controversy.

Emigration was not, either at this stage or later, a purely Irish question; it was one aspect of the whole “condition-of-England question”. Nevertheless, most of the participants in the debate took it for granted that Ireland was the key factor in the problem. By the mid-eighteen-twenties Irish landlords were convinced that their only hope of salvation lay in removing the cottiers from the land and consolidating their holdings into large farms, and most economists were prepared to concede that this was the best, If not indeed the only possible Line for economic advance in Ireland, With the passing of the Sub-letting Act in 1826, the policy received the formal endorsement of the legislature. It was clear that if it were to be carried into effect with any semblance of vigour, it must result in the eviction of large numbers of under-tenants, who could have but little prospect of finding alternative means of subsistence in Ireland.

The obvious, and almost the only, resource for such people was to migrate to Great Britain, and at this time that course had suddenly been made much easier for them by the opening of regular steam packet services between England and Ireland.30  The prospect of a large-scale displacement of the Irish agricultural population, which had seemed “somewhat remote” to Torrens in 1817 appeared uncomfortably imminent to many English writers in and after 1824. “Is any one sanguine enough”, asked Henry Booth, a philanthropic Liverpool merchant, “to imagine that the independent character of the English labourer (too much an ideal picture at the present moment) can be sustained amidst the debasing competition, resulting from the eternal influx of poverty and degradation in the never-ceasing importations of Irish peasantry?”31  In 1826, William Ellis used the Ricardian wages and profits analysis to show that while a displacement of labour by machinery might ultimately benefit labourers as well as capitalists, the displacement of one grade of labour by a lower grade, such as he conceived the Irish to be, must be always injurious to the labourer, though it might increase the profits of the capitalist.32 between English and Irish labourers. … The general tendency of wages, therefore, would be to an equalisation between English and Irish.” {Wm. Ellis}, “Employment and Machinery”, Westminster Review, vol. V (January 1826), p. 121.]

Fears of the degradation of the English labourer to the Irish level, with the attendant dangers of increasing population and poor-rates, led, as has already been shown,33  to some suggestions for the control of Irish migration but to more for the introduction of a Poor Law into Ireland. The former alternative was virtually a political impossibility if the Union was to be maintained,34  and the latter was, to say the least, unpopular with Irish landlords. There remained a third possibility – to induce the Irish to emigrate to Canada or elsewhere instead of migrating to Britain. The advocates of emigration did not lose the opportunity of pointing out how a policy of colonisation could enable the Irish proprietors to achieve the desired clearance of their estates without imposing an intolerable burden of poor-rates either on their English neighbours or themselves.

One of the earliest and most optimistic advocates of the policy of speeding farm consolidation through emigration was Wheatley, who thought that “by offering the labouring poor of Ireland more advantages to emigrate to Canada for good, than they could obtain by their temporary emigrations to England during harvest, the poor of England set free from the competition Of the Irish, would be able to earn sufficient wages during summer to support themselves in winter without parish relief”; by a judicious extension of the emigration offer, then, to the English labourers the position might easily be reached where “the poor rates would become extinct of themselves”.35

Others were not always prepared to claim as much as this, but there were many who saw that if emigration and consolidation were put together each could strengthen the case for the other. The chief objection to consolidation was the probable burden of supporting the displaced tenants, but emigration could remove this: a strong objection to emigration was that the “vacuum” would quickly be filled by a new growth of population, but this could be prevented by consolidation.

By the mid-twenties both McCulIoch and Malthus had come to endorse this argument. Asked to suggest means of checking the excessive growth of population in Ireland, McCulIoch replied: “I should think that the abolition … of the practice of sub-letting without the consent of the landlord would, by lessening the facilities for obtaining small patches of land, have a tendency to diminish the ratio of the progress of population … and if you were to make a system of emigration carried on by government come in aid of those measures, it would also operate beneficially.”36

Malthus, when examined before the Emigration Committee, as to the desirability of the practice of consolidation, replied: “I think it most particularly desirable, and that if Government ever makes a sacrifice in order to relieve a redundant population, it is at such a period that it is most called upon to do it; because the change cannot take place without depriving a number of persons of their means of living, and consequently if they are not removed by emigration, it cannot be done without producing most extreme distress.37

Horton did not fail to make good use of these arguments in the reports of his two committees. In the first report, it was pointed out that the Sub-letting Act had “met with the entire concurrence of both Houses of Parliament. … But the House will not fail to remark, that all the advantages that may be derived from this Act will be diminished, if not rendered absolutely nugatory, unless a well-organised system of Emigration should be established, concurrently with the measure itself.”38 And in the third report the ragged spectre of the “potato-fed Irishman”, which was still to haunt Carlyle a generation later,39 was allowed to loom large:

The question of emigration, as connected with Ireland, has already been decided by the population itself; and that which remains for the legislature to decide is to what points the emigration shall be directed, whether it shall be turned to the improvement of the North American colonies, or whether it shall be suffered and encouraged to take that which otherwise will be, and is, its inevitable course, to deluge Great Britain with poverty and wretchedness, and gradually but certainly to equalise the state of the English and Irish peasantry. …The question, whether an extensive plan of Emigration shall or shall not be adopted, appears to your Committee to resolve itself into the simple point, whether the wheat-fed population of Great Britain shall or shall not be supplanted by the potato-fed population of Ireland?40

It was natural that the advocates of State-aided emigration should thus attempt to prove that it was in the best interests of the English and Irish proprietors, who, after all, would have the deciding say in the passage of any measure through the legislature; but in so doing they laid themselves open to the charge of favouring the propertied classes whilst disregarding the feelings of the poor.41  Although some statements of the case for emigration would certainly lend support to this opinion, most of its advocates took care to point out that colonisation, properly organised, would be of real benefit not only to those who emigrated but also to those of the poorer classes who remained behind. Whilst the emigrants might be translated from a state of destitution or near-destitution to one of comfortable independence, the more favourable ratio of capital to population at home, which their removal would produce, would have the effect of raising wages and improving conditions for those remaining.42

On the other hand some critics argued that this very rise of wages might be detrimental to the long-term interests of Ireland. “For if it were true that great things are to be expected from the introduction of foreign capital, to all such anticipations the answer is: the depreciation of wages is almost the exclusive inducement for its introduction    In proportion then, as wages rise, the motive for its introduction diminishes.”43 However, since the advocates of increased investment in Ireland did not rest their case on the persistence of lower wage-rates there, this was not a particularly important argument for the sponsors of emigration to meet. What was important for them to prove was that their plans would not deplete capital as much as population, since colonisation as Horton envisaged it did involve a cost, and a considerable one, to the mother country. The first answer to this was to say that all the sums advanced to aid emigration could be recouped from the emigrants once they had established themselves;44 but it was evident that no very certain method of doing this could easily be evolved. It was therefore necessary to prove that if some cost were incurred, it would be outweighed by the advantages of emigration. An answer must be given to such assertions as Hume’s, that “it never could answer for them to incur the expense of £100 for sending a poor man and his family from Ireland to the Canadas. Give the poor man the £100, and he would establish himself as comfortably in Ireland as anywhere else.”45

The first stage in the answer was really the point previously made by Whately in 1820 – that the cost of emigration would be worth while if it ridded the country of a permanent and perhaps growing burden.46 But for a complete answer it was necessary also to show that the funds used for emigration could not be invested to better advantage in schemes which would give employment at home. Here the main alternative was some scheme of public works, such as reclamation of waste lands.

Horton and his supporters were able to produce a number of arguments for the comparative ineffectiveness of such projects. First they contended that it was obviously preferable to employ capital in opening up the fertile lands of the colonies rather than in attempting to cultivate the poorest lands at home.47 Not very consistently, Horton himself later argued that the production from reclaimed lands in Ireland coming on the English market must damage English landowners and farmers.48 Secondly, it was argued that reclamation and other public works could only produce a temporary improvement in the condition of the labouring classes, which would ultimately stimulate a further increase in population.49 This objection, however, could be overcome, “if the poor who were selected for such employment were to be abstracted by colonisation when the public works were finished”.50

Such were the main arguments used in the debate which centred in and around the hearings of the Emigration Committees of 1826 and 1827. On the whole, its outcome was decidedly in favour of the introduction of some large-scale plan of emigration, primarily with reference to Ireland. The leading economists of the day had publicly given their endorsement to such a plan, and so had some of the principal Irish landlords. The main objection to it was the probable cost, but many of those who opposed State-aided emigration on this ground, such as Hume, did not object to emigration in principle, preferring only to see it carried on by private agencies. The most determined and constant opposition came from Sadler and Cobbett,51  who vigorously championed the poor and their right to live and work at home rather than be thrust abroad. But their emotions did them greater credit than their use of reasoning, and their intemperate attacks were not likely to carry much weight with the groups whom Horton needed to influence in order to get his policy carried into effect. Yet just when circumstances seemed propitious for Horton’s success, his influence in policy and theory alike suffered a serious reverse.

Horton had derived most support for his emigration schemes of 1823 and 1825 from Peel and Goulburn, but when Canning became Prime Minister in April 1827, Horton did not follow their example in resigning but remained a supporter of the ministry and was sworn of the Privy Council in May. At the end of June he brought forward the third report of his Emigration Committee “distinctly recommending a pecuniary advance, in the nature of a loan, for the purpose of facilitating Emigration”. The proposal was for a loan of £1,140,000 to finance the removal of 95,000 people in three years; it was suggested that the process should begin with an advance of £240,000 in 1828-9.52

In the summer of 1827 Horton’s prospects of securing a vote for his scheme in the next session appeared good. The fact that Huskisson had become Colonial Secretary when Goderich formed his short-lived ministry was in Horton’s favour, for Huskisson was also a believer in systematic emigration. But when the Goderich ministry collapsed and Wellington and Peel came back to power in January 1828, Horton found himself out of office. He had identified himself with the Canningites, and while Wellington felt that the Canningite Huskisson was important enough to be retained, Horton was not.53

Huskisson remained friendly to Horton’s ideas, but it was obvious that he could not commit the new ministry to adopt them.54 In the event, Horton did not bring forward a motion on Irish emigration until 24 June, when he attempted to get the House to agree to adopt a measure early in 1829, without specifying the details of it. By this time, Huskisson had left the Government and Peel did not give Horton any encouragement. Instead he pointed out what many considered the crucial objection to Horton’s plan – that by a very large outlay it would remove only a very small fraction of the distressed population.55 Peel’s statement that “he could not consent to the policy of laying out large sums of public money to encourage emigration”, whilst stressing the desirability of aiding “volunteer emigration”, foreshadowed the form of many later official statements on the subject.

Horton continued to raise the question of emigration in the House in 1829 and 1830, but without ministerial support he was powerless to achieve anything.  He attempted to stimulate a wider interest in the subject by lecturing and writing, but in this field he was now faced with the competition of a better idea, more skilfully propagated. Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s “Letters from Sydney” had begun to appear in the Morning Chronicle in 1829, and already his schemes of “systematic colonisation” were gaining a remarkable amount of attention and support.

  1. See, for example, the various works of Wheatley, Torrens and Wilmot Horton, to which specific references are made below; Monteagle to Clarendon, 21 October 1848 (Monteagle Papers, National Library of Ireland).
  2. Above, ch. IV, p. 86; ch. V, p. 134.
  3. Principles, p. 100.
  4. Ricardo to Trower, 15 July 1816. Works and Correspondence, vol. VII, p. 48. The reference is to John Weyland’s Principles of Population and Production (London, 1816).
  5. Referred to above, ch. V, p. 134.
  6. Essay on Population (1826 ed.), vol. II, p. 49.
  7. Unless the “large manufacturing and commercial Towns” into which he thought “a great part of this population should be swept from the soil” were to be towns outside Ireland – but this is not at all evident. Cf. above, ch. V, p. 136.
  8. Essay on Population (1826 ed.), vol. II, p. 62.
  9. The Pampleteer, no. XX (September 1817), pp. 510-528. Torrens later claimed that in this paper “the principle of self-supporting colonisation was for the first time propounded” – Torrens to Glenelg, 19 August 1836 (C.O. 384/39). The wording of the paper does not really bear out this claim.
  10. The Pamphleteer, loc. cit., p. 518.
  11. Ibid., p. 524.
  12. Ibid., p. 527. The line of reasoning here is essentially the same as that used in Substance of a Speech delivered by Colonel Torrens … 15 February 1827. Cf. above, Ch. V, p. 138.
  13. Encyclopedia Britannica: Supplement to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Editions, vol. III, p. 262 (this volume appeared in February 1818).
  14. Encyclopedia Britannica Supplement, vol. IV, p. 108 (published in December 1819).
  15. {Whately}, “Emigration to Canada”, Quarterly Review, vol. XXIII (July 1820), pp. 373-400.
  16. Ibid., p. 388.
  17. See McCulloch’s article “Combination Laws – Restraints on Emigration”, Edinburgh Review, vol. XXXIX (January 1824), pp. 315-345.
  18. Annual Register (1822), pp. (22) and (48).
  19. Evidence of R. Wilmot Horton before the Select Committee on Employment of the Poor in Ireland: Minutes of Evidence (1823 (561), vol. VI), pp. 169-170. For a full account of the emigrations organised by Robinson in 1823 and 1825, see H. I. Cowan, British Emigration to British North America, 1783-1837 (Toronto, 1928), ch. V and W. F. Adams, Ireland and Irish Emigration to the New World (New Haven, 1932), ch. VI.
  20. Evidence of Horton, loc. cit., p. 170. See Goulburn to Wellesley, 21 May 1823 (British Museum, Wellesley Papers, Add. MSS. 37301).
  21. Evidence of Peter Robinson before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Disturbances in Ireland, 1824: Minutes of Evidence (1825 (200), vol. VII), pp. 249-251. While Robinson here stated that “the measure was intended chiefly for the relief and comfort of the poorer classes”, the private correspondence between Robinson, Ennismore and Horton, preserved in C. O. 384/12, shows clearly that the primary object was to get rid of “troublesome characters”.
  22. Morning Chronicle, 24 June 1823. The report in the Belfast News-Letter, 1 July 1823, quotes Ricardo as having added that “he could not consent to any large grants for the purpose hereafter”. There is no report of this debate in Hansard, nor is Ricardo’s speech included by Mr. Sraffa in vol. V of his edition of Ricardo’s Works.
  23. Morning Chronicle, 24 June 1823.
  24. See Evidence of Robinson before the Lords Committee on Disturbances in Ireland, 1824, loc. cit., pp. 249-261; evidence of Horton before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on the State of Ireland, 1825 – reprinted as Appendix II to First Report of the Emigration Committee (1826 (404), vol. IV), p. 317. For some account of the disturbances amongst the settlers of 1823, see J. B. Robinson to Horton 10 and 20 May 1824, C. O. 384/12; in the first of these letters, the Chief Justice of Upper Canada confessed to being “something staggered in my opinion of Irish emigration”. Historical judgments of the 1823 emigration have generally been unfavourable: see, for example, N. MacDonald, Canada, 1763-1841 – Immigration and Settlement (London, 1939), pp. 256-257; Adams, Ireland and Irish Emigration to the New World, pp. 281-283.
  25. See Cowan, British Emigration, p. 107.
  26. Evidence of Horton, 23 February 1825, loc. cit., p. 322.
  27. Hansard, 2nd series, vol. XII, cols. 1358-1360 (15 April 1825); Morning Chronicle, 14 June 1825. The appointment of the Select Committee was deferred until the following session, as it was thought to be too late for it to complete any useful investigation in the session of 1825.
  28. Robinson to Horton, 31 May 1825 (C. O. 384/13). Evidence of Robinson before the Select Committee on Emigration, 10 May 1827: Minutes of Evidence (1827 (550), vol. V), p. 344.
  29. The Colonial Office continued to receive applications for assistance to emigrate to North America from Ireland years after the schemes had been terminated. See, for example, applications filed in C. O. 384/16 (1827).
  30. The City of Dublin Steam Packet Company was founded in 1824 and was soon carrying deck passengers to Liverpool for 6d. per head. “The Irish Channel became the centre of a competition so fierce that in 1825 … the rival steamships between Belfast and Glasgow were carrying first-class passengers for 2s. a head and deck passengers for nothing at all” – Thornton, British Shipping, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 1959), p. 12.
  31. Booth, Condition of the Poor in Large Towns, p. 45.
  32. “There is a rate of wages below which not even an Irish labourer can be maintained. Laying aside all objections to the introduction of a poorer class of labourers on the ground of contamination, an influx of Irish labourers until that lowest rate was reached, might be a means of increasing the quantity of employment for the English, provided that employment were above the abilities of an Irish labourer. The introduction of horses and of Irish labourers would, if that were the case, be analogous, as to their effects upon the English labourers. But there is no such marked distinctions [sic
  33. Above, ch. IV, p. 103.
  34. That the Union must be maintained was invariably taken as axiomatic by the British politicians of the day, but not always by the economists. See {James Mill}, “State of the Nation”, Westminster Review, vol. VI (October 1826), p. 278; Ricardo to Maria Edgeworth, 26 May 1823: Works and Correspondence, vol. IX, p. 296.
  35. J. Wheatley, A Letter to the Duke of Devonshire on the state of Ireland and the General Effects of Colonization (Calcutta, 1824), p. 5).
  36. Evidence of McCulloch before the Select Committee on the State of Ireland, 8 June 1825: Minutes of Evidence; (1825 (129)), vol. VIII, p. 817. And see his article “Emigration” in the Edinburgh Review, vol. XLV (December 1826), especially pp. 52 and 72 – quote above, p. 134.
  37. Evidence of Malthus before the Select Committee on Emigration, 5 May 1827: Minutes of Evidence (1826-1827 (55), vol. V), p. 312. Adams states erroneously that Horton also called McCulloch before the Emigration Committee: Irish Emigration, p. 285.
  38. Report from the Select Committee on Emigration from the United Kingdom (1826 (404), vol. IV), p. 9.
  39. “Not a wandering Irish lackall that comes over to us, to parade his rags and hunger, and sin and misery, but comes in all senses as an irrepressible missionary of the like to our people” – Carlyle, “Ireland and the British Chief Governor”, Spectator, 13 May 1848.
  40. Third Report (1826-1827 (550), vol. V), p. 7
  41. For a strong statement of this view, see No Emigration. The Testimony of Experience, before a Committee of Agriculturists and Manufacturers, on the Report of the Emigration Committee of the House of Commons: Sir John English in the Chair (London, 1828).
  42. See Buchanan, Encyclopedia Britannica Supplement, quoted above, p. 205.
  43. Eclectic Review, n. s., vol. XXVIII (1827), p. 240. The same point was later made, with more sophistication, by H. Merivale in his Lectures on Colonisation and Colonies (London, 1841), p. 152. Merivale there pointed out that emigration from Ireland would raise the rate of wages, but not immediately the productivity of labour.
  44. See Third Report from Select Committee on Emigration, p. 20
  45. Hansard, 2nd series, vol. XIV, col. 1364 (14 March 1826).
  46. See above, p. 205; also Senior, Remarks on Emigration, pp. 9-12.
  47. Third Report from Select Committee on Emigration, p. 40.
  48. Sir R. W. Horton, Causes and Remedies of Pauperism, series I (London, 1830), p. 53. For a statement of the obvious retort that cheap food from Canada would damage both the English and the Irish agricultural interests, see Commentaries on National Policy, and Ireland (1831), p. 234.
  49. “… Although the tenants that were at first employed might be tolerably well off, yet their children would greatly aggravate the evil intended to be remedied, and after a short time there would be a much greater redundancy of population than before.” – Evidence of Malthus before the Emigration Committee (1826-1827 (550), vol. V), p. 321.
  50. Horton, Causes and Remedies of Pauperism, series IV (London, 1830), p. 65. The passage quoted formed part of a query addressed to Senior, who, in reply, concurred with Horton’s view.
  51. Sadler, Ireland, its Evils and their Remedies; Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register, 26 April 1828, and vol. VXV passim.
  52. Third Report, p. 18.
  53. Adams, Ireland and Irish Emigration, p. 292; E. G. Jones, Sir R. J. Wilmot Horton, Bart., Politician and Pamphleteer (Unpublished thesis, University of Bristol, 1936), pp. 85-90.
  54. See his speech on Horton’s motion for a Bill to enable English parishes to mortgage the poor-rates in aid of emigration – Hansard, 2nd series, vol. XVIII, col. 1553 (17 April 1828).
  55. Hansard, 2nd series, vol. XIX, col. 1515 (24 June 1828); Horton always met this criticism by saying that the removal of a fraction of the distressed population would allow the remainder to escape from distress.

CO 384 (pre-1860) – Lower Level Descriptions – LAC

CO 384. Emigration, Original Correspondence

57. Emigration Commission; Offices; Individuals (Extract) 1857, August-December. File. MG11-CO384.

58. Emigration Commission (Extracts) 1857, January-July. File. MG11-CO384.

59. Offices; Individuals (Extracts) 1856. File. MG11-CO384.

60. Emigration Commission (Extracts) 1855. File. MG11-CO384.

61. Offices; Individuals (Extracts) 1855. File. MG11-CO384.

62. Land Board (Extracts) 1855. File. MG11-CO384.

63. Offices; Individuals 1854. File. MG11-CO384.

64. Land Board 1854. File. MG11-CO384.

65. Offices; Individuals 1853. File. MG11-CO384.

66. Land Board (Extracts) 1853. File. MG11-CO384.

67. General Miscellaneous 1852. File. MG11-CO384.

68. General Miscellaneous 1850-1851. File. MG11-CO384.

69. Circulars, etc 1817-1851. File. MG11-CO384.

70. General Miscellaneous 1851. File. MG11-CO384.

71. General Miscellaneous 1850. File. MG11-CO384.

72. General Miscellaneous 1849. File. MG11-CO384.

73. General Miscellaneous 1849. File. MG11-CO384.

74. General Miscellaneous 1848. File. MG11-CO384.

75.General Miscellaneous 1848. File. MG11-CO384.

76. General Miscellaneous 1847. File. MG11-CO384.

77. General Miscellaneous 1847. File. MG11-CO384.

78. General Miscellaneous 1845-1846. File. MG11-CO384.

79. General Miscellaneous 1845-1846. File. MG11-CO384.

80. General Miscellaneous 1843-1844. File. MG11-CO384.

81. General Miscellaneous 1844. File. MG11-CO384.

82. General Miscellaneous 1843. File. MG11-CO384.

83. General Miscellaneous 1842. File. MG11-CO384.

84. General Miscellaneous 1842. File. MG11-CO384.

85. General Miscellaneous 1841. File. MG11-CO384.

86. Commissioners; Public Offices A-Z 1841. File. MG11-CO384.

88. Commissioners; Public Offices 1840. File. MG11-CO384.

90. 3136718 1837-1838. File. MG11-CO384.

93. North America and Australia, Agent-General Elliot (Extracts) 1838, September-December. File. MG11-CO384.

94. North America and Australia, Agent-General T.F. Elliot 1838, January-May. File. MG11-CO384.

95. Offices; Individuals 1837. File. MG11-CO384.

96. North America and Australia, Individuals 1837. File. MG11-CO384.

100. Offices; Individuals 1836. File. MG11-CO384.

103. Offices; Individuals 1835. File. MG11-CO384.

106. Offices; Individuals 1834. File. MG11-CO384.

109. Offices; Individuals 1833. File. MG11-CO384.

111. Offices; Individuals 1832. File. MG11-CO384.

112. North America and Australia, Individuals 1830-1831. File. MG11-CO384.

114. Mr. Richard’s Mission 1830-1831. File. MG11-CO384.

115. Offices; Individuals H-Z 1831. File. MG11-CO384.

116. Offices; Individuals A-G 1831. File. MG11-CO384.

119. Commander-in-Chief; Settlers 1829. File. MG11-CO384.

121. 3136687 1828. File. MG11-CO384.

124. Irish applicants 1827. File. MG11-CO384.

126. Offices; Settlers 1826. File. MG11-CO384.

127. Second emigration to Canada 1824-1825. File. MG11-CO384.

128. First emigration to Canada 1823-1825. File. MG11-CO384.

129. Offices; Settlers 1825. File. MG11-CO384.

130. Offices; Settlers 1824. File. MG11-CO384.

131. 3136677 1823. File. MG11-CO384.

132. Offices; Settlers 1822. File. MG11-CO384.

133. Offices; Settlers 1821. File. MG11-CO384.

134. Offices; Settlers 1820. File. MG11-CO384.

135. Settlers M-Z; Offices 1819. File. MG11-CO384.

136. Settlers A-L 1819. File. MG11-CO384.

137. Offices; Settlers 1818. File. MG11-CO384.

138. Offices 1817. File. MG11-CO384.

139. 3136669 1817. File. MG11-CO384.

Peter Robinson Papers – Archives of Ontario – MS-12

Archives of Ontario
Collection Volume Reel
F?? – Peter Robinson Papers 01 – General Correspondence MS 12 – 1
02 – Applications from Prospective Emigrants, 1823-1825 MS 12 – 1
03 – Emigrants Embarked on the “Hebe” and “Stakesby” MS 12 – 1
04 – Location Tickets Issued to Settlers, 1823 MS 12 – 1
05 – Emigrants Located in Twps. of Ramsay, Pakenham and Huntley, 1823 MS 12 – 1
06 – Schedule of Location of 1823 Emigrants, 1823 MS 12 – 1
07 – Embarkation Certificates MS 12 – 1
08 – Emigrants Embarked at Cove, 1825 MS 12 – 1
09 – Return of Emigrants Embarked at Cove, 1825 MS 12 – 1
10 – Emigrants Embarked at Cove, 1825 MS 12 – 1
11 – Reports by Ships’ Surgeons MS 12 – 1
12 – Reports by Ships’ Surgeons MS 12 – 1
13 – General Material Concerning Robinson’s Emigrants, 1825 MS 12 – 1
14 – Printed Notice “Emigration to Canada” MS 12 – 1
15 – Robinson’s Emigrants Listed by Township, 1825 MS 12 – 1
16 – Robinson’s Emigrants Listed by Township, 1825 MS 12 – 1
17 – Account Book, 1825 MS 12 – 1
18 – Register of Goods Issued to Settlers, 1825 MS 12 – 1
19 – Printed Circulars, 1828 MS 12 – 1
20 – Assessment Roll of the Township of Smith, 1828 MS 12 – 1
21 – Account Book, 1844 MS 12 – 1
22 – Schedule of Purchasers of Lots in Peterborough Co., 1844 MS 12 – 1
23 – Miscellaneous Documents MS 12 – 3

The Donation of Peter Robinson’s Papers

1.  From the Peter Robinson Papers. MS-12, vol. 10:

Letterhead: E. B. Edwards, Barristers etc, Peterborough, Ont., Canada

Annotation: To be returned to T. A. S. Hay.

Date: February 21st, 1899

T. A. Hay Esq., Secretary, Peterborough Historical Society

Dear Sir:-

It gives me great pleasure to inform you that I have to-day received from Mr. Christopher Robinson Q. C. a letter from which the following is an extract, “I have your letter and am very glad indeed that the books have been so much appreciated and found so interesting. Upon reflection I do not think that I cab di better than leave them with your society as you suggest – it seems to me that Peterborough is their proper resting place as there, much more than elsewhere, people may be found having a personal interest in their contents, and I shall be glad therefore to let them remain.”

The books referred to are the original records containing the names of all the persons who came out in the emigration of 1825, the names and ages of the members of each family being given, the name of the ship in which they came out, and the township in which they were settled. The allowance of provisions to each person is also shown. It is safe to say that there is no such accurate record in existence with regard to any other early body of immigrants [hand-written insertion: in this neighbourhood]. The Townships in which they were settled are Douro, Ennismore, Smith, Otonabee and Emily.

In looking over these books may be seen the names of many whose descendents have occupied honored positions in [next page] the community. To the descendents of these pioneers and to every student of the early history of our county, these records cannot fail to be of the greatest interest and importance.

Yours truly,

E. B. Edwards

Annotation: The books are now in the hands of the Secretary of the Historical Society who will be glad to allow anyone interested a perusal of them.

2. From The Valley of the Trent, E. C. Guillet (ed.), 1957, p. 84:

Among the most remarkable documentary records to be preserved outside of our great archival collections is that of the Peter Robinson emigration from the south of Ireland to Peterborough County in 1825. The material is so complete that hardly an angle or episode in the state-conducted emigration – from petitions to be included, to reaction to settlement, and even to the state of the settlement many years later – is without documentary commentary. 1 The late Thomas A. S. Hay, for many years City Engineer of Peterborough, kept as a sort of personal treasure a tin box full of the documents, and upon his death they found their way to the museum in the Peterborough Public Library, probably through the interest of the late F. R. Yokome, editor of the Examiner and co-worker with Mr. Hay. F. H. Dobbin, writing in Our Old Home Town (Toronto, 1943, p. 47), says that the box remained unopened “until a short time ago.” The editor of this volume worked upon the material in 1953-54 and reported upon its value, and as a result the Archives of Ontario made a photostatic copy of all of it. The selections which follow give a well-rounded picture of a notable experiment in large-scale emigration.

3. From Our Old Home Town, F. H. Dobbin, 1943, p. 47:

Some time after the death of the late Thomas A. S. Hay, so long the City Engineer of Peterborough, a box of papers that he had treasured most highly found its way to the care of the Public Library. That is what Public Libraries are for, among other functions, to take and keep all sorts of things that otherwise would be buried in attics, cellars, and in vaults. And the local librarian is careful to keep with great fidelity and concern, contributions that were at one time of public interest and may in after years prove to be valuable for purposes of reference. Much of the interest attached to the local Museum is due to the interest taken by Mr. Hay and his fellow-worker, the late F. R. Yokome, so long editor of the Examiner.

This box of papers remained unopened until a short time ago, and when looked into, disclosed the intimate records of the Peter Robinson Emigration of 1825, to Scott’s Plains, in the Newcastle District, Upper Canada. The same being now the location of the City of Peterborough, and of the immigration that preceded the movement, by the coming in of a number of families who were settled in the District of Bathurst (now part of the County of Lanark) in the year 1823. The immigration to Scott’s plains took place in 1825, the district having been previously subdivided and the County of Peterborough and adjoining counties being of the Newcastle District.

4.From the Peterborough Law Association – we learn the Christopher Robinson donated other family records to Peterborough bodies in 1899:

The library has a number of books from the Library of Sir John Beverley Robinson, the first Chief Justice of Ontario. He was the brother of Peter Robinson who arranged for the Irish immigrant settlement of Peterborough and whom the city is named. In 1899 Christopher Robinson, Q.C. gave the Peterborough Law Association a number of his father’s reports and textbooks, including complete sets of early Ontario law reports, and statutes of Upper Canada from 1792.

  1. Original footnote: The collection includes as well ship lists and other materials relative to the earlier Irish emigration of 1823 to the Lanark region in the old District of Bathurst. This emigration was also under the superintendence of the Honourable Peter Robinson.

Peter Robinson 1785-1838 – Archives of Ontario – Personal Name Authority

Peter Robinson (1785-1838) was a politician and was involved in the movement of Irish emigrants to Upper Canada, for which the town of Peterborough was named after him.

He was born in New Brunswick and moved to Upper Canada with his family in 1792. He commanded a rifle company at the capture of Detroit in the War of 1812, and in 1817 was elected a member of the Legislative Assembly of Upper Canada for the east riding of York.

In the early 1820s, extreme poverty in Ireland led Robert Wilmot Horton to devise a plan of state-assisted emigration from various areas in Ireland. The task of supervising this plan was given to Peter Robinson. In 1823, approximately six hundred emigrants were given free transportation and supplies, and were settled in the townships of Ramsay, Huntley, Pakenham, and Goulbourn in the Bathurst district of Upper Canada. In 1825, Robinson helped organize a second emigration, and in May of that year, nine ships sailed from Cork, Ireland, carrying 2024 emigrants, 710 of whom were adults, and 1314 were children. The emigrants were landed at Quebec and taken by ship from there to Montreal and then on to Prescott and Kingston by bateaux. By September, most of the emigrants were in Cobourg, and Robinson proceeded to improve the trail to Rice Lake and to construct a large scow which carried the settlers and their effects up the Otonabee to Scott’s Plains (later named Peterborough in honour of Peter Robinson). Five buildings, the largest known as Government House, were constructed, while temporary shelters of various types housed the emigrants. Most of the settlers were located by lots by the end of 1825 and a total of 1878 people were settled around Scott’s Plains, which included the townships of Emily, Douro, Ennismore, Otonabee, Asphodel, Smith, Ops, and Marmora. One hundred acres of land were granted to each family, and Robinson had simple log cabins built on these lots. The emigrants were also given rations which were continued until November of 1826. The settlement proved costly for the government and it was not repeated

In 1827, Robinson was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands and Surveyor of Woods and Forests, positions he held until 1836. He also held a seat in the Executive Council of Upper Canada from 1827 to 1836, and in the Legislative Council of Upper Canada from 1829 to 1838.

Archives of Ontario Records Linked to Peter Robinson as Creator

Reference Code Series Title
F 61 Peter Robinson fonds

Source: Archives of Ontario website, accessed 2012-09-30.

Peter Robinson Fonds – Archives of Ontario – F 61

Peter Robinson Fonds F 61

Matter Data
Title Peter Robinson fonds.
Dates of Creation 1826-1836.
Physical Description 5 centimetres of textual records.
Scope and Content Fonds consists of a personal journal of Peter Robinson, as well as correspondence received by Robinson from government officials, settlers, and other individuals. Correspondence relates to: local events, events in England, the purchase of cattle by Robinson, settlers supplies, the occupation and ownership of various lots, and the surveying and settlement of Puslinch Township. Letters also contain recommendations for individuals as settlers, and letters of recommendation for various positions. Also included are requests for assistance from various individuals, such as requests for money and credit, and requests for letters of recommendation and introduction. Records are arranged chronologically.
Administrative History or Biographical Sketch Peter Robinson (1785-1838) was a politician and was involved in the movement of Irish emigrants to Upper Canada, for which the town of Peterborough was named after him. Also see Personal Name Authority for Peter Robinson.
Physical Description 5 centimetres of textual records.
Restrictions on Access No restrictions on access.
Terms For Use and Reproduction Copyright held by creator. These materials cannot be published without permission from the copyright holder.
Immediate Source of Acquisition No acquisition information is available for this fonds.
Associated Material The Peterborough Centennial Museum has additional Peter Robinson records. These have been microfilmed and are available at the Archives of Ontario. See inventory F 61 for a description of this material. To view this microfilm, consult MS 12, reels 1 to 3.
Related Material Additional records related to the Peter Robinson settlers is found in Department of Crown Land records: Series RG 1-162 Fiats for land grants – Peter Robinson settlers; Series RG 1-163 Records relating to the Peter Robinson settlers; and Series RG 1-84 Returns of settlers in the Newcastle District.
Availability of Other Formats Records are available on self-serve microfilm MS 524.
Notes Title based on content of fonds.
Former Codes Accession Number: 1600.MU 2436 – MU 2437.
Finding Aid An item listing is available for this fonds.
Notes Title based on content of fonds.

Source: Archives of Ontario website, accessed 2012-09-30.