Front Page Titles (by Subject) 284.: THE SALE OF COLONIAL LAND TRUE SUN, 22 FEB., 1837, P. 3 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III
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284.: THE SALE OF COLONIAL LAND TRUE SUN, 22 FEB., 1837, P. 3 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIV - Newspaper Writings January 1835 - June 1847 Part III, 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 SALE OF COLONIAL LAND
A Select Committee on the Disposal of Colonial Lands, for which Henry Ward was responsible and which he chaired, had been appointed on 8 June, 1836. On 31 Jan., 1837, Ward gave notice in the Commons of his intention to bring forward on 21 Feb. a bill for the sale and distribution of waste lands in the British colonies to encourage and support emigration (not in PD; reported in The Times, 1 Feb., p. 3). He did not, however, present his motion on 21 Feb., nor on 2 May, as he had said on 9 Mar. that he would (again not in PD; see The Times, 10 Mar., p. 4). Mill’s article, his only contribution to the True Sun, appears to have been written to free W.J. Fox, its editor, to write for the London and Westminster (Mill had need himself for relief in these busy months). On 15 Mar., 1837, thanking W.J. Fox for his “Bulwer’s Tragedies,” which appeared in the April number of the London and Westminster, pp. 247-70, Mill says: “I would gladly, whenever possible, give a good many articles to T.S. for such another” (EL, CW, Vol. XII, p. 331). The unheaded leader is described in Mill’s bibliography as “A leading article in the True Sun of 22d February 1837, on Mr. Ward’s intended motion respecting the sale of land in the colonies”
(MacMinn, p. 48).
the examiner once speaking of the course which a Liberal Ministry and House of Commons should take with a Tory House of Lords, pithily and expressively described that course in these words: “Bombard it with good measures.”1 For the first time, the Radicals in Parliament are holding this same course towards the House of Commons itself and towards the Ministry; bombarding them with good measures. How often in every year since 1832, have the Radicals been consulted, urged, entreated to do this—and in vain; but they are bidding fair now to redeem all past errors, thanks to the spirit and energy which a few of their younger members, men who have grown up to political maturity during those years of inaction, at length seem to be infusing into the hitherto inert body of Parliamentary Radicalism.
Among the propositions about to be brought forward by Radical members, there is one, the importance of which may possibly escape notice, but which if carried would produce a more immediate and obvious benefit to the industrious classes generally, and to the labouring class above all, than even the great constitutional changes which we are contending for. We allude to Mr. Ward’s motion, for regulating the sale of public lands in the Colonies, or as it might appropriately be termed, for bridging over the Atlantic. It is, briefly, a most effectual and well conceived plan for making emigration pay its own expenses; by which, if practicable on a sufficient scale (and that it is so we have no manner of doubt) the whole labouring population of Great Britain and Ireland might, in spite of Corn Laws and the tax gatherer, very soon come into the enjoyment of American wages, as surely as they would if these two islands could actually hoist sail and cast anchor off the American coast.
The means are no other than those the efficacy of which has for years been so powerfully enforced in the various publications of the original and vigorous author of England and America.2 The Government of the United States sells all its waste lands, and by their sale raises a revenue exceeding the entire expense of the Federal Government. The waste lands in the transmarine possessions of this country have till lately been given, not sold; it is proposed that they should be sold, and the proceeds of the sale appropriated by act of Parliament, towards defraying the expense of carrying out labourers to cultivate them. In order that the money may go as far as possible towards the object, it is proposed to limit the emigration to young married couples, in order that the greatest power of future increase may be carried out at the smallest expense. It is unnecessary to say that no emigration is contemplated, but such as is, in the fullest sense of the word, voluntary: nothing so monstrous being thought of, as that any persons should be compelled to emigrate, either by direct means, or by the indirect method of making the relief of their necessities dependent upon that condition.
It is well known that labour, in a new country, when aided by the means and appliances3 of civilization, is very greatly more productive than it is in the old countries of Europe. Every party of emigrants, therefore, who go out, produce so much more by their labour in America or Australia, than they produce in England, that the surplus would probably in a single year more than repay the expenses of their passage; and thus perpetually renew the fund for carrying out other emigrants. The proposed plan, however, does not call upon emigrants to repay the expenses of their passage. It relies upon a different principle. Each set of emigrants so increases the resources and the wealth of the country in which they settle, that the means there exist of cultivating more land, and more land therefore (we may safely conclude) will be purchased. The purchase-money is to be applied to the very purpose which is most advantageous to the purchaser, namely, to providing him with the hired labour necessary for making his land yield the greatest net return. But while thus the colony will be not a loser but eminently a gainer by what it pays, these payments will form a perpetual, and for a long time a constantly increasing fund for defraying the expenses of emigration; since the greater the emigration the more land will be taken, and the more land is taken, the greater will be the means of further emigration.
For the calculations which have been made as to the probable amount of the emigration fund, and the immense effect which the subtraction of so many labourers, consisting exclusively of young married couples, would have upon the market for labour in this country, and especially in Ireland, the reader may refer to the various publications on the subject. But we can add our own testimony to that of Mr. Ward, when he affirms in his late pamphlet, that he has never known any sensible man who did not become a convert to these views when he could once be prevailed upon to apply his mind to the question.4 Some striking instances of this were afforded in the last session, when a committee of the House of Commons (Mr. Ward himself was the chairman) containing some of the most able and influential men of all parties, most of whom were new to the subject, entered into a full investigation of it, and ended by almost unanimously adopting the views on which Mr. Ward’s intended motion is founded.5
We understand that the motion will be opposed by Ministers, that is, by the Colonial Office, which like most other Governments and departments of Governments, does not like to divest itself of arbitrary power: but we believe that not only the bulk of the Radicals, but many of the most influential men of the Tories, will vote with Mr. Ward, and that the Ministry will have the almost undivided discredit of resisting, and vainly resisting, the most important proposition for the physical well-being of the working classes, which ever, perhaps, came before the British Legislature.
[1 ]Fonblanque, “The Government and the Peers,” Examiner, 15 June, 1834, p. 369.
[2 ]Edward Gibbon Wakefield.
[3 ]One of Mill’s favourite tags, from Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part II, III, i, 29; in The Riverside Shakespeare, p. 902.
[4 ]Ward, The First Step to a Poor Law for Ireland (London: Ridgway, 1837), p. 8.
[5 ]“Report from the Select Committee on the Disposal of Lands in the British Colonies” (1 Aug., 1836), PP, 1836, XI, 499-765 (q.v. for the Committee members).