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Emigration - Nassau William Senior, Poor Law Commissioners’ Report of 1834 
Poor Law Commissioners’ Report of 1834. Copy of the Report made in 1834 by the Commissioners for Inquiring into the Administration and Practical Operation of the Poor Laws. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of His Majesty (London: Printed for H.M. Stationery Off. by Darling and Son, 1905).
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We have still to consider a subject which, though not expressly mentioned in our Commission, appears to us within its spirit, and that is,—
Before we examine the expediency of resorting to measures for facilitating emigration, as principal or auxiliary remedies for the evils which we have described, it is necessary to consider the questions, whether there exists in any part of England a population which materially exceeds the actual demand for labour; and whether such an excess is likely to exist, after the measures which we have already recommended shall have been put in force.
After a system of administration, one of the most unquestionable effects of which is the encouragement and increase of improvident marriages among the labouring class, has prevailed in full vigour for nearly forty years, it is a remarkable proof of the advance of the wealth of this part of the kingdom, that a question should arise as to the existence of a Surplus Population; and a mere inspection of the comparative account of the numbers of the people, especially in the Agricultural Districts, at the times of the three last enumerations, would seem to remove any doubt which may have arisen on such a question. Not only has an increase of population, which would have been heretofore deemed extraordinary in a long-settled country, taken place in the Manufacturing Counties, but the increase has been nearly as rapid in those purely Agricultural Districts from which we have received general complaints of a decrease of the Capital of the Farmer. In the County of Bedford, for instance, the increase of Population has been, in the years ending 1821, 19 per cent; in the ten years ending 1831, 14 per cent.; in Buckinghamshire, 14 and 19 per cent.; in Northamptonshire, 15 per cent. and 10 per cent.; in Essex, after similar rates for the same periods; and in Cambridgeshire, 20 per cent., and 18 per cent103 . In the communication so often referred to, Mr. Day has given the following statement:—
"Our division of petty sessions comprehends the following eleven parishes, the population of which is almost exclusively agricultural, and the censuses of which I subjoin:"—
"Note.—The increase in the whole county (exclusive of the towns of Brighton, Chichester, Hastings and Lewes), in the last 20 years, is from 161,577 to 204,707, or 26 + per cent. This population I apprehend to be purely agricultural. It gives an average increase of about 158 souls in each parish, the average present population being 752."
"The accuracy of the census of 1801 has been generally disputed; assuming then the census of 1811 for the purpose of my argument, we find that there are now 133 labourers to do the same work that was then done by 100. I say the same work, but I should be justified in saying less; for as the profits of agriculture have declined, and the capital of the farmer deteriorated, so has the state of tillage and the general cultivation of the land. As I consider this point of the argument to be of vital importance to a just view of the subject, I beg to explain that I mean, that the same physical force which effectuated a certain state of cultivation in 1811, (without reference to what was left undone,) would effect the same in 1831; and if that is now done by the application of a greater number of labourers, it must be by assigning less work to the share of each."
In the Answers to the Questions addressed by us to individuals in agricultural districts of the Middle, Southern and Eastern Counties, we find frequent cases stated of a great excess of labourers above the means of employment in the respective parishes. And we find the statement confirmed by the fact of multitudes of able-bodied young men wasting their time on the roads and in gravel-pits at the expense of the rate-payers, who deem it cheaper to pay them for their idleness than for their labour. The excess in some districts of labourers beyond the actual demand must be taken to be established beyond dispute.
But in the case of labour, as of commodities, the extent of the demand, as compared with the supply, will depend in some degree on the quality of the article offered. The present state of the administration of the Poor-Laws does not allow us to ascertain, in the great majority of parishes we have referred to, what the demand for labour would be, if work were sought for with energy, and performed with diligence. It is to be observed, too, that although not employed, all the population in the parishes which complain of its excess, is at any rate clothed and fed, and that the income which maintains an able-bodied puaper in idleness would, if not so expended, be applied directly or indirectly to the employment of labour. It does not necessarily follow, indeed, that the demand for labour which would arise from the saving of the farmer through the diminution of rates would be felt within the same parish or district within which the poor-rates are now expended, and we have therefore looked with some anxiety to the effect on the demand for labour in those parishes where a reform in the administration of the Poor-Laws has been effected. We have already had to state, among the most gratifying results of this reform, that the dispauperized labourers have found employment to a greater extent than the most sanguine friend of the change could have anticipated in the parishes where they were previously relieved as paupers.
One of the parishes which we have mentioned among those in which an improved administration of the law has been introduced (Uley), was the seat of an apparently large surplus population, and of a declining manufacture. No circumstances could be conceived apparently less favourable to the absorption of surplus labour. Yet of 1000 persons who, before the introduction of the reform, were on the parish books, (out of a population of 2641,) and who are now chiefly maintained by their own exertions, few have left the parish; and this statement is supported by a list, showing the actual occupations and present means of support of all who received parish pay before the workhouse was opened104 . No evidence can be more satisfactory or complete.
These results lead us to a conviction, that even in the parishes where the greatest surplus above the actual demand exists, it would be rapidly reduced and ultimately disappear, if relief were no longer granted, except in return for actual labour, and subject to the restraints of a workhouse.
But no expedient by which the reduction of the surplus labour can be accelerated, and the suffering of the labourer during the progress of the change diminished, should be disregarded; and we are of opinion, that emigration, which has been one of the most innocent palliatives of the evils of the present system, could be advantageously made available to facilitate the application of the remedies which we have already suggested.
Numerous instances are stated in our evidence, of emigration at the expense of parishes, and the results have generally been satisfactory105 ; we believe they have been uniformly so wherever the experiment has been made on a considerable scale. In the case of Benenden, in Kent, where the effects of emigration, unconnected with other remedies, have been carefully detailed by Mr. Law Hodges, the result has been, that the annual parochial expenditure, exclusive of the emigration expenses, has been reduced in four years by one-third; that within the same time the debt incurred on account of emigration has been nearly liquidated; that the whole expense of the poor, including the sums applied to this liquidation, has been considerably reduced from the very year the emigration commenced, while the moral condition of the labourers has been decidedly improved. But emigration has hitherto been resorted to under many discouragements and difficulties. The same causes which make those who are dependent on the poor-rates listless in seeking employment at home, render them unwilling to undergo the temporary privations and inconvenience which must attend their settlement in another country. Those persons are generally most forward to emigrate who are least corrupted by the abuses of the system of relief. Those are most willing to remain a burthen to their parishes who are most thoroughly profligate and useless.
Mr. Stuart, speaking of the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, where emigration to a greater or less extent has taken place in many of the parishes, observes,—
"It is, however, vain to hope that emigration can be carried to an extent equal to effect any diminution on the expenditure on the poor, so long as the parish funds are open to all comers. It is a matter of complaint by the farmers, that emigration only carries off the industrious and well-behaved, and leaves them encumbered with the idle and profligate; and it cannot be otherwise while everyone is sure of a liberal maintenance whether they are idle or industrious. Mr. Turner has taken the trouble to extract from the overseer's books the parish allowances paid to those who removed from Kettleburgh, from which it will be seen that men with seven children were in receipt of 14s. a week, and others in proportion. It is surprising that any inducement could be discovered sufficiently strong to influence any person to forego the certainty of so liberal a pension, to encounter the violent change of feelings and habits which must accompany emigration under any circumstances. It is universally known that those who are in receipt of parish relief, leagued together, for the purpose of keeping it up and augmenting it for their own benefit, or extending it to others; and as they are less scrupulous in the means they resort to, they are better able to carry through their designs of encroachment than the rate-payers are their endeavours to resist them. The progressive increase of the expenditure on the poor would seem to prove this. In such a state of things, it cannot be expected that the expenditure on paupers can be diminished by lessening the numbers of the population, unless it be carried to a greater extent than seems to be possible, so long as compulsory relief exists; the chances being, that whatever diminution of expense might take place from that cause, would be no saving to the rate-payers, as fresh candidates for relief would immediately start up. Where the parochial fund is considered as a property on which all have a claim, there is little difficulty in contriving pretences to make the claim good; and as long as the fund exists for the purposes to which it is now directed, it is not by the diminution of the numbers of the population which could be effected by emigration, that it can be brought within reasonable bounds106 ."
"If chargeable paupers would go," says Mr. Maclean, speaking of Dorking, "the parish would be willing to raise a large sum; but this class of persons naturally prefer an idle but certain dependence on the parish at home, to an uncertain independence abroad, to be procured by industry and good conduct107 ."
The following extract from Mr. Majendie's Report shows the pecuniary saving which has been effected by emigration. It is valuable, also, as showing that emigration alone is an inadequate, and must be a transient remedy. We have seen in the cases of Cookham, Swallowfield, and other parishes, that the evils of the Poor Laws disappear under the influence of the system we have recommended, notwithstanding an apparent surplus of population. We see in the evidence we are about to quote, that although the supernumerary labourers be removed by emigration, yet, in the absence of other changes, the abuses of the allowance system may continue to abound, and that the charge for the poor may be 27s. per head on a population, where no pretence of a surplus continues to exist;
"In the year ending March, 1822, the total expenditure was 3371l. The reduction of rates in the parish of Ewhurst has been effected partly by adopting money payment, but principally by emigration. Since the year 1818, 100 persons have emigrated, so that there are now no supernumerary labourers. In a parish which has incurred the expense of emigration to such an extent as to leave no more labourers than are requisite for the cultivation of the soil, in which 400 acres of hops afford employment to women and children, winter and summer, and where the rate of weekly wages is 13s. 6d., the allowance for children must be considered as compulsory, and to that must it be ascribed that rates are still 27s. per head on the population, and 11s. in the pound on a two-thirds value.
"The rector, from benevolent motives, has offered small allotments to the labourers, at a low rent: he has been able to let three acres only, and his offer of nine acres more has been rejected108 ."
Even in Benenden, where emigration has been so well managed, the expenditure on the poor is still above 20s. per head on the whole population. The abolition of partial relief will remove the main discouragement to emigration, while it will ascertain the extent to which emigration may be useful; it will increase the disposition to emigrate on the part of those whose emigration is to be desired. We believe, therefore, that in proportion as our other remedies are applied, there will be an increased disposition on the part of parishes to supply the means to paupers desirous of emigrating, if they be enabled by law so to do. WE RECOMMEND, THEREFORE, THAT THE VESTRY OF EACH PARISH BE EMPOWERED TO ORDER THE PAYMENT OUT OF THE RATES RAISED FOR THE RELIEF OF THE POOR, OF THE EXPENSES OF THE EMIGRATION OF ANY PERSONS HAVING SETTLEMENTS WITHIN SUCH PARISH, WHO MAY BE WILLING TO EMIGRATE; PROVIDED, THAT THE EXPENSE OF EACH EMIGRATION BE RAISED AND PAID, WITHIN A PERIOD TO BE MENTIONED IN THE ACT. We think it also would be expedient to adopt the measures for facilitating and regulating emigration contained in the Bill introduced into the House of Commons in 1831, and to be found (as amended by a committee) in the Parliamentary Papers of that Session, (No. 358.)
It has occasionally happened that emigrants have returned to burthen the parishes at the expense of which they have been removed; and to remedy this evil, it has been proposed that every person who should, with his own consent, be removed to the Colonies at the expense of his parish, should lose his settlement. But we do not think it expedient that this proposal should be adopted. We do not believe the instances of the return of emigrants are now frequent enough to affect the profit to a parish of an emigration judiciously conducted, and we believe that the instances would be still more rare if it were known that the emigrant on his return would not be entitled to relief otherwise than in a well-managed workhouse. But the chief objection is, that to deprive the emigrant of his settlement,—while it might operate to prevent the pauper from emigrating by the threat of an imaginary forfeiture,—would only enable returned emigrants to be relieved as casual poor in any places, not excluding their own parishes, where they might be pleased to fix themselves.
We should propose rather, that the expenses which any parish shall have defrayed, or contracted to pay for the removal of any voluntary emigrant, shall, upon the return to England of the emigrant, become a debt due to the overseers for the time being, and shall be recovered by an attachment of any wages to which the debtor may become entitled, as we have before recommended in the case of other expenses incurred on account of a pauper or his family.
We forbear to enter upon a consideration of the modes in which emigration may be most beneficially conducted, because it has already formed the subject of minute inquiries by Parliamentary Committees, and because, if the Emigration Bill which we have referred to be passed into a law, the Commission to be appointed under its provisions must soon be able to avail itself of information much more ample and detailed than we have had access to. But there is one suggestion of which we feel the value, from all the evidence we have received as to the state of feeling of the pauper emigrants. Under the influence of the system, which at once confines the labourer to a narrow neighbourhood, and relieves him from the care of providing for his subsistence, he has acquired, or retained, with the moral helplessness, some of the other peculiarities of a child. He is often disgusted to a degree which other classes scarcely conceive possible, by slight differences in diet; and is annoyed by any thing which appears to him strange and new. We believe the novelty of food and manners in the Colonies, and the longing for old associates and old associations, have concurred, with a retrospect of the ease and security of pauperism, to bring back to their parishes some of the least energetic emigrants, who, to justify themselves, spread discouraging accounts of the Colonies from which they have returned. In Mr. Stuart's Report will be found a letter from an emigrant at Montreal, who, being able to save money enough from his wages to pay his passage back, declared his intention to return to the parish in which he had been a troublesome pauper; apparently moved to that determination, as much by the want of well-tasted beer in Canada and a longing for old associations, as by the fact that he was obliged punctually to pay rent for his lodgings, instead of being provided with a cottage at the parish expense. We suggest, that to diminish distaste to the Colonies on imaginary grounds, the emigrants from particular parishes and neighbourhoods in England should be directed, as far as possible, to the same townships or districts, in which the new comers would thus find old acquaintances, and manners with which they would be familiar. We believe that this precaution would commonly lessen their aversion to a new country, and that, if any returned, their misrepresentations would be more effectually checked by the accounts continually received from their colonial neighbours.
[103.] Some allowance must be made in this case for the rapid increase of the town of Cambridge.
[104.] Mr. Cowell's Rpep. Ap. (A.) Part I. p. 619 et seq.
[105.] Mr. Majendie's Rep. App. (A.) Part I. p. 170; Mr. Stuart (A.) Part I. p. 375; Capt. Pringle (A.) Part I. p. 320; Mr. Maclean (A.) Part I. p. 573, 8c.
[106.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 377.
[107.] App. (A.) Part I. p. 574.
[108.] Mr. Majendie's Rep., App. (A.) Part I. p. 203.