Front Page Titles (by Subject) 88.: THE EMIGRATION BILL EXAMINER, 27 FEB., 1831, PP. 130-1 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I
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88.: THE EMIGRATION BILL EXAMINER, 27 FEB., 1831, PP. 130-1 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII - Newspaper Writings December 1822 - July 1831 Part I, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE EMIGRATION BILL
Mill is commenting on “A Bill to Facilitate Voluntary Emigration to His Majesty’s Possessions Abroad,” 1 William IV (22 Feb., 1831), PP, 1830-31, I, 463-75, introduced on 22 Feb., 1831, by Henry George Grey (1802-94), Viscount Howick, later 3rd Earl Grey, an M.P. from 1826 until he succeeded to the peerage in 1845, who was Under-Secretary for the Colonies 1830-33. For his speech on the Bill, see PD, 3rd ser., Vol. 2, cols. 875-906. The Bill was well received by the Commons, but was lost when Parliament was dissolved in April 1831. The item, headed as title, appears in the “Political Examiner.” Described in Mill’s bibliography as “An article headed ‘The Emigration Bill’ in the Examiner of 27th February 1831” (MacMinn, p. 15), the item is listed as title and enclosed in square brackets in the Somerville College set.
the government has introduced a bill for facilitating voluntary Emigration, by creating a board of commissioners, authorised to contract with individuals or with parishes, on the security of their poor-rates, for conveying pauper labourers, with their own consent, to Canada or Australia.
In so far as this measure evinces a just conception of the great cause of low wages, excessive competition for employment; and in so far as the board which it will call into existence, may be considered as a commission for inquiring into the means of rendering the vast productive resources of our colonies available for the employment and comfortable subsistence of the unemployed poor of our own country; to that extent Lord Howick’s bill is an indication of laudable dispositions and an earnest of improvement. Our praise can go no farther.
We have no faith in the efficacy of any plan of emigration, which, for every labourer whom it removes, implies the permanent alienation of a portion of the national capital. Lord Howick states that the expense of the emigration of a labouring man, his wife, and two children, is sixty-six pounds, and that their maintenance as paupers costs twenty-five pounds annually; on which text he proceeds to dissert upon the benefits of his plan, saying that an annuity of twenty-five pounds may be redeemed, by the advance of a sum falling short of three years’ purchase.1 But this is not a fair statement of the question. It assumes that the whole expenditure of the country on account of poor-rates is pure uncompensated outgoing, without any return. Now this, we admit, is to a great degree the case at present, but it is so merely from mal-administration; and mainly from the established mode of managing the poor piecemeal, by each parish within itself. Undoubtedly every pauper should be chargeable solely to his own parish, but there is no reason in the world why he should be set to work within that parish exclusively, where perhaps there is no employment for him of a more productive character than drawing gravel. If we had duly-constituted municipal councils, or, in default of such institutions, an officer named by the Crown in each county, and bound to find employment for all the paupers of the county, on public works, in agriculture, in manufactures, in any manner in short in which their labour could be turned to greatest account; or what would be still better, if the poor of the county were farmed by open competition to private contractors, proper securities being taken that no pauper should be mulcted of his due allowance or otherwise oppressed; no one, we believe, who has considered the subject, will doubt, that the paupers of England might be made to reproduce annually the whole amount of their maintenance, in the same manner as other labourers reproduce theirs with considerable profit. In this way the annuity of twenty-five pounds a-year would be redeemed by the advance of that sum once only; and therefore the present measure, which requires an advance of sixty-six pounds for the same purpose, is unthrifty and unadvisable.
Objections of detail present themselves in great numbers against the proposed mode of facilitating emigration: but the consideration which we have just stated applies to the principle, and appears to us to be decisive.
Yet we are friends to emigration; and are persuaded that from it, in conjunction with other measures, material relief might be afforded to the labouring classes from the pressure of their own excessive competition for employment. But, to be entitled to this praise, the scheme must be such as to pay the expenses of a second body of emigrants from the produce of the labour of the first.
Every one admits that the labour of a man in England produces very little; that the labour of a man in Australia or Canada produces very much; and that every labouring man, who could be removed from England to either of these colonies, would, by his change of abode, occasion an increase of the produce of the world, which would suffice in two or three years to repay, with interest, the expense of his passage. Here then, by general admission, is on the one hand a value lost, namely what the pauper would have produced at home, together with the expenses of his passage; on the other hand, a value created in the colony, exceeding the value lost; and it is actually given up as an insoluble problem, to make a portion of the gain available to cover the loss! It is an insult to the human understanding to pretend that there are no means of making emigration pay for itself. If the emigration of a moderate number of labourers in the prime of life were defrayed by an advance from the treasury, and a portion of what was added to the produce of the colony by their labour, were exacted in the form of a tax, and appropriated to form a fund for further emigration, a perennial stream of emigrants might be kept up without further expense to the mother country, until Canada, South Africa, and Australia were fully peopled. Whether this drain could be rendered sufficiently large to prevent overflow—whether emigration on this principle could ever be sufficient to relieve over-population at home—can scarcely be known before trial; but the grounds of hope are amply sufficient to render a trial not only advisable, but imperative.
The best mode which we have seen proposed, of enabling emigration to pay its own expenses, is that to which Mr. Robert Gouger, and Mr. Tennant, the member for St. Alban’s, have so perseveringly called the public attention—that of fixing a price upon waste land, the highest which could be levied without so crowding the inhabitants as to lower wages below their highest rate.2 There is no difficulty or disadvantage in this measure. The government of the United States raises a considerable annual revenue from the sale of unappropriated land; to the great benefit of the inhabitants, which benefit would be still greater if the tax were higher, as it is almost certain that the population of the back settlements is even now far more widely dispersed than is consistent with the most productive employment of their labour. The same principle has been adopted in part by the present ministry, in the colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. All that is wanting is, that the minimum price of waste land should be higher; that the system should be established by act of parliament, not by a mere regulation, revocable at the pleasure of any colonial minister; and finally, that the produce of the sales of land should be wholly devoted to emigration, and to the emigration of young couples, in order that the greatest effect may be produced on the future growth of population, by the removal of the smallest number of individuals.
[1 ]Grey, speech of 22 Feb., col. 878.
[2 ]Robert Gouger (1802-46), proponent of Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s system of emigration, edited Wakefield’s anonymously published pamphlet, A Letter from Sydney, the Principal Town of Australasia. Together with an Outline of a System of Colonization (London: Cross, et al., 1829), where the specific recommendation is given on pp. 169-80, and in the Appendix, pp. iii-xxiv. Gouger was secretary in 1830 of the National Colonization Society, the moving force behind the establishment of the colony of South Australia. Charles Tennant (1796-1873), M.P. 1830-31, was author of several pamphlets on emigration that cover the issues Mill mentions; see, e.g., A Letter from Mr. Charles Tennant to Sir George Murray, on Systematic Colonization (London: Ridgway, 1830), and Letters Forming Part of a Correspondence with Nassau William Senior, Esq. Concerning Systematic Colonization, and the Bill Now before Parliament for Promoting Emigration (London: Ridgway, 1831).