No. 283.
General Schenck to Mr. Fish.

No. 472.]

Sir: The deportation of convicts and paupers from Great Britain to the United States is a matter which has demanded my attention from time to time, and it has been for me already the subject of some correspondence with the Department.

The practice of sending to our shores, under any direct or official sanction of the British government, such disreputable or helpless additions to our population, does not now, I believe, exist. Still it is necessary to be watchful against any movement in that direction. It is a great temptation to people on this side of the Atlantic, in view of the [Page 477] free asylum and welcome we give so generally to emigrants, to resort to that easy method of relieving themselves of a portion of their public burdens. They find it a simple and comparatively inexpensive expedient for ridding European countries of criminals, who are to be either supported, if in prison, or guarded against, if at large, as well as of the miserably destitute who can only subsist as objects of charity. But while Her Majesty’s government may not be disposed to forget in this particular what is due to our country by the comity of nations, some of the local authorities in England and Ireland are not disinclined, if an opportunity occurs, to make of the United States a cheap place of banishment and settlement for the inmates of their jails and poor-houses.

In my No. 94, December, 1871, I first wrote to you on this subject, giving you full report of a protest I had made against a scheme entered into by a parish vestry at Liverpool for sending off certain pauper children to the United States; and I communicated at the same time some correspondence I had with Lord Granville about it. The result of that interference on my part, and of informal communications which it led to, was an abandonment, by the local authorities implicated, of that offensive undertaking.

Next in order came your dispatches, Nos. 111 and 117, in relation to the cases of four persons who it was alleged had arrived at New York, released, before the expiration of their terms of sentence, from certain English prisons on condition of their going to the United States. In my No. 160, in reply, I gave you a copy of my note to Lord Granville in regard to those cases, and a copy of his answer on the 16th of February, 1872, informing me that he had referred my communication to the secretary of state for the home department.

Afterward, on the 15th of March, 1872, I received another note from his lordship, communicating the report from the home department as to those particular convicts. It was explained that while it appeared that discharged prisoners desirous of emigrating to America were assisted in that object by certain prisoners’ aid societies, yet no action was taken by Her Majesty’s government, who have no power to prevent such persons from going wherever they please; and Her Majesty’s government had no means of knowing whether the passage-money of those persons was supplied by their relatives in America, or by some charitable society. I inclose now herewith a copy of that last-mentioned note of Lord Granville. It was not satisfactory to me. I thought it did not sufficiently appear by the explanation given that those prisoners were not discharged before their terms of imprisonment expired, or that their emigration was not made a condition of their release. However, I concluded not to pursue the correspondence further at that time, but to reserve these objections for the future. I expected other occasions to occur.

In February last, with your No. 332, you sent me for investigation the case of one Bryan Fitzgerald. This man was reported, through the consul-general at London, to have been released from jail at Dublin when he had yet two years and three months of his term of imprisonment to serve, on condition of his going to the United States, and it was averred that having returned within that limit of time, he had been arrested and re-imprisoned for the remainder of his term of sentence. The statement was obtained from the man Fitzgerald himself. I took same pains to inquire after this man, to discover if his story could be verified, and had some correspondence with persons in Ireland in reference to him. As far as I could ascertain from unofficial sources his statement was substantially true.

[Page 478]

But in the mean time my attention was attracted to another instance by a minute of the proceedings of the “North Dublin Union,” published in a newspaper of that city on the 22d of May last. The publication was official. It appeared that a meeting was held on the 21st of May, attended and conducted by the guardians of the union, and presided over by a public magistrate; and that it was voted to appropriate from a public fund the sum of £12, subject to the approval of the local government board, to provide an outfit and passage-ticket for a girl named Courtenay, “an inmate of the union work-house,” to enable her to accompany her mother who was at the time a convict at Mountjoy prison,” and was “about to leave for America.” I immediately addressed a communication to Lord Granville, in terms of strong remonstrance against any such procedure. I repeated the expression of my views in reference to the deportation of criminals and paupers from any part of Her Majesty’s dominions to the United States; and I requested especially that a prompt investigation might be made of the circumstances attending the case of Fitzgerald, and this new action of the local authorities at Dublin, with a view to some decided measures being taken to prevent the recurrence of such wrong, or the continuation of a practice so hurtful and disturbing to the friendly relations between our two countries. I was fortunate in being able to enforce my views by a citation of language used recently by Lord Granville himself, when making a similar complaint against the government of France.

But I must ask you to refer to and read this note to his lordship, a copy of which I transmit herewith.

To this communication I received from Lord Granville a reply, dated the 2d of June last, informing me that he had lost no time in referring the matter to Her Majesty’s secretary of state for the home department. And afterward, on the 31st of July, he wrote to me again, communicating a copy of a letter from the Irish government, with accompanying reports from the Irish convict-prisons and local government-board departments, which he had received from the home department in relation to these cases.

I send you copies of all these papers, and also of Lord Granville’s two notes.

These notes and these documents from Ireland I must request you to read and consider in connection with my respectful protest and my request for investigation.

I do not think they are a sufficient and satisfactory answer. We are entitled to some fuller assurance of the decided discountenance by Her Majesty’s government of the acts and practice of which I have complained.

It is my present purpose, after a time, to return to the subject again by a further communication to Lord Granville, making some comments on the want of fullness in his answer and the explanations attempted to be given.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in No. 472.]

Lord Granville to General Schenck.

Sir: With reference to my note of the 16th ultimo, I have the honor to acquaint you that the secretary of state for the home department has stated to me that he has caused inquiry to be made into the subject of your note of the 31st of January, calling [Page 479] attention to information which your Government had received that certain discharged prisoners had been furnished with means by public authorities or prison aid societies in this country in order that they might emigrate to New York. And I now beg to inform you that it appears that the persons in question, being discharged prisoners, were desirous of emigrating to America and were assisted in their object by certain prisoners’ aid societies.

No action, however, was taken in the matter by Her Majesty’s government, who have no power by law to prevent such persons from going wherever they please. Nor has Her Majesty’s government the means of knowing whether the passage-money of these persons was supplied by their relatives in America or by some charitable society.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in No. 472.]

General Schenck to Lord Granville.

My Lord: In the early part of last year I had the honor of some conversation and correspondence with your lordship in relation to the deportation to the United States of certain persons who had been released in England from unexpired terms of imprisonment for criminal offenses. To recall what then passed between us I refer to my note to you of the 31st of January, 1872, and to yours in reply of the 16th of February and 15th of March of that year. Your note last referred to closed our correspondence as to that particular occasion of complaint. You met my inquiries and my earnest and serious protest in the most friendly and courteous spirit, such as I trust is ever to characterize the intercourse between our two Governments when either of them may have cause to appeal to the sense of justice and comity of the other.

I confess to not having been quite satisfied with the explanation then given by the secretary of state for the home department, or rather with the limit of the investigation made in the cases of the four prisoners discharged from Brixton, Portland prison, and Kirkdale jail. It seemed to me that although Her Majesty’s government had certainly no power, as was stated, to prevent persons thus set free and desiring to emigrate, from going wherever they pleased, nor any means of knowing whether their passage-money was supplied by their relatives in America or by some charitable association, yet there was room left to suppose that the discharge from imprisonment in some or an of those cases might have been made by the local authorities with a purpose and understanding that the men should be taken up and provided for and sent off to the United States by the contributions or charity of individuals or societies. It was at least not clear that such emigration, though voluntary, was not the condition upon which the prison-doors were opened.

I accepted, however, the explanation given to you by the home secretary and communicated to me, in the cases then in question, without further pressing my inquiry; and I only refer to that correspondence again in order to bring your attention to the tenor of it in connection with other cases which have come to my knowledge, and which I have now to state to your lordship, with a like request that you will cause investigation to be made into the facts alleged, with a view to some decided measure being taken by Her Majesty’s government to prevent the recurrence of a wrong, or the continuance of a practice most hurtful and disturbing to the friendly relations between Great Britain and the United States.

Information confidentially communicated to this legation and to the Government at Washington, not only leads again to the conclusion that a number of convicts have arrived at different times in New York, and perhaps other American ports, who have been discharged from British prisons on condition of their going to the United States, but a specific instance has been mentioned.

It is reported that a man, not a citizen of the United States, calling himself Bryan Fitzgerald, in prison in Dublin for some criminal offense, and having yet two years and three months of his term of sentence remaining, was on the 28th of July, 1870, released on condition that he should go to the United States, as he did. It is further alleged that he was sent or found his way to the State of Michigan, and that after some time he returned to Ireland, where he was arrested on the 5th of February, 1872, was recommitted as a returned ticket-of-leave man to serve the remainder of his term; that he was credited, however, with that portion of the two years and three months during which he remained in America, but an additional three months was added to his sentence for coming back within the term, and that he was finally discharged about the 1st of February last.

This is the statement furnished from an apparently authentic and reliable source. It is one which is capable of verification, or perhaps disproval, by reference to the records of the Irish court and prisons. To these only the authorities under Her [Page 480] Majesty’s government have access, and I invoke a proper search, that the result may be compared with this statement which has been produced.

But another and an official publication which has just been brought to my notice furnishes proof of an actual instance, if not of a system, on the part of the local authorities in this country, by which it is proposed to make of the United States a place of banishment or settlement for the convicts and paupers of Her Majesty’s kingdoms.

I inclose herewith an extract made from the report of a meeting of the North Dublin Union, as published in the Dublin Evening Mail, of last Thursday, May 22. This meeting appears to have been held on the 21st instant, and to have been fully attended, and conducted by the guardians of the union, and presided over by Dr. Brady, a justice of the peace. In the minutes of their proceedings on that occasion is a statement that “a letter was read from the female superintendent of Mountjoy convict department, bringing before the guardians the case of a girl named Courtenay, whose mother is a convict at Mountjoy prison, and is about to leave for America, and requesting that they would vote a sum of money sufficient to provide her daughter, who is at present an inmate of the union work-house, with an outfit and a passage-ticket to accompany her mother to New York.”

“On the motion of Mr. Aikins, the sum of £12 was voted for the purpose, subject to the approval of the local government board.”

It appears fair to infer from this minute that not only was money appropriated by the guardians to fit out and convey to New York “an inmate of the union work-house,” but that “a convict of Mountjoy prison” was, notwithstanding her close incarceration, encouraged under some official arrangement to make up her mind that she was “about to leave for America.” It may be that this movement on her part is to be dependent upon the expiration of her term of imprisonment; or it may be that it is another case in which the discharge from imprisonment is to be conditional on the engagement of the prisoner to go. It will be in the power of Her Majesty’s government, by investigation of the case, to ascertain for what crime or offense the woman was committed, and whether her term of imprisonment is ended. But however that may be, I must repeat my former protests against the sending out of either convicts or paupers from any part of Her Majesty’s dominions into the territory of the United States; and express again my confidence that I have only to call your lordship’s attention to any such procedure in order to insure a prompt investigation, and the adoption of measures for its prevention.

In this connection I beg leave to refer also to my note to your lordship on the 4th of October, 1871, in relation to the case of some pauper children who were about to be sent to the United States from Liverpool, and to the views then expressed. In that instance, through the intervention of the home department, or the president of the poor-law board, it was understood that the shipment of the class of persons then in question was abandoned.

I am sure that I shall need to use no argument to enforce the view taken by the Government of the United States in respect of such a mode of disposing of persons who are undergoing the penalty of their crimes, or who are unable to maintain themselves, and are liable to become a public charge. A very satisfactory and explicit statement of right in such cases is to be found in your lordship’s note of the 1st of June last, addressed to Lord Lyons, in reference to the banishment of communists from a neighboring country. I find that your lordship then emphatically, and certainly with great justice, declared that” Her Majesty’s government cannot consent that England should be made a penal settlement for France;” and “cannot assent to the deportation to this counry of the class of persons in question, whether they are provided or not with means of subsistence.”

As between free nations the rule and the reason should certainly be stronger when applied, not to political offenders, but to persons convicted of crimes against municipal law, not to those accidentally impoverished, while, perhaps, not at all bereft of the ability to gain a livelihood by their labor, but to such as have before been, and are, the actual helpless inmates of work-houses, and objects of charity at home.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 3 in No. 472.]

Lord Granville to General Schenck.

Sir: I have had the honor to receive your note of the 27th ultimo, relating to the alleged deportation of released convicts from this country to the United States, and I have lost no time in referring the matter to Her Majesty’s secretary of state for the home department.

I have, &c.,

[Page 481]
[Inclosure 4 in No. 472,]

Lord Granville to General Schenck.

Sir: With reference to my note of the 2d ultimo as to the deportation of released convicts and paupers from this country to the United States, I have the honor to transmit to you herewith, for your information, a copy of a letter from the Irish government, with the accompanying reports from the Irish convict-prisons and local government board departments, upon this subject, which I have received from Her Majesty’s secretary of state for the home department.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 1 in 4 in No. 472.]

Mr. Hartington to Mr. Liddell.

Sir: Referring to your letter of the 6th ultimo, I am directed by the lord lieutenant to transmit to you, for the information of Mr. Secretary Bruce, copies of reports which have been received from the convict-prisons and local government board departments upon the alleged deportation of released convicts and of their families from Ireland to America, and to state that his excellency trusts that these explanations will be considered satisfactory. I am to add that Bryan Fitzgerald was ordered to be released on license by the late Sir Mazierre Brady, when acting as one of the lords justices of Ireland during the temporary absence of the lord lieutenant in July, 1870.

His excellency desires me to assure you that he would emphatically condemn and do all in his power to discountenance, any system, upon the part of the local authorities in Ireland, by which it is proposed to make the United States a place of banishment or settlement for paupers of the United Kingdom, and he has himself constantly refused to commute the sentence of convicts when they have applied for commutation on the ground that they wished to go to America.

His excellency will be prepared, upon the application of the American minister, to put a stop, as far as lies in his power, to the practice of affording emigration assistance to actual paupers; but he trusts the American minister will readily recognize the difficulty of preventing convicts released on license from leaving the country, especially if they have earned a sufficient gratuity by their labor and conduct to enable them to do so, and are actuated to emigrate by the praiseworthy motive of avoiding their former haunts and associates and beginning an honest career in a new country.

I am, &c.,

[Inclosure 2 in 4 in No. 472.]

Mr. Barlow to Mr. Burke.

Sir: With reference to your memorandum of the 10th instant, on the letter of the Right Hon. Mr. Secretary Bruce, I beg to report as follows, with reference to extract from a dispatch from his excellency the United States minister forwarded therewith:

Bryan Fitzgerald was convicted in the county Kerry, in October, 1857, of burglary and larceny; he had been previously convicted, and was sentenced to fifteen years’ penal servitude. A portion of this sentence was served at Spike Island prison, and in October, 1867, he was removed to Mountjoy male prison. On the 4th December, 1869, he was removed to Dundrum criminal lunatic asylum; from the asylum he was sent back to Mountjoy prison in February, 1870, and in July, 1870, he was released on license, the late Mr. P. J. Murray having certified that his conduct had been good for over two years, and the prisoner having served nearly three years over the usual period for a prisoner of his sentence.

If the information to which his excellency the American minister refers came from Bryan Fitzgerald, it should be received with the utmost caution, as his conduct since his release has proved him to be a designing and dangerous character.

I attach a copy of the license handed to Fitzgerald, from which it will appear that no such condition as Fitzgerald’s leaving for America was made, nor could Fitzgerald have been forced to leave Ireland having such a document in his possession. I have [Page 482] served fifteen years in the convict-service, and have never seen a license issued with the condition that the holder should proceed to the United States or to any other country.

Fitzgerald, on his license being granted, stated that he desired to go to America to join his father, who had emigrated some years back. The only color Fitzgerald or others could have for stating he was forced to proceed to America was the fact of his being seen onboard the steamer. Every discharged prisoner embarking for a port of the United Kingdom or elsewhere is invariably seen on board by a prison officer.

When Fitzgerald returned to Ireland, and was, in February, 1872, recommitted, the magistrates dealt with him for not having reported himself on his return to Ireland; had Fitzgerald done so regularly, he could not have been arrested or interfered with in any way. As to the statement that he was credited with the portion of his sentence which he had passed in America, his excellency the American minister has been entirely misinformed, the law having been altered previous to Fitzgerald’s return, and that portion of it ordering a prisoner to serve the unexpired portion repealed.

The magistrate had only the option of ordering him to complete his sentence from the date of his arrest, and to order an additional imprisonment not exceeding twelve months. I trust this explanation may prove satisfactory to his excellency the American minister, Perhaps it may not be out of place to add that the total number of convicts released in Ireland in the year ended December 31, 1872, both male and female, was 250; and I am aware that by far the greater portion are in Ireland, many of the others in England and Scotland.

With reference to Eliza Courtney’s case, I beg to state that she was convicted of larceny in Dublin in 1867, and, having been generally well-conducted, she became eligible for release on license under the rules; and, according to the uniform practice of the Irish convict-service, she was not released on condition of going to America, and would have been released at the same time had she chosen to remain in the United Kingdom. Having been informed that the license was granted, she stated she would proceed to the United States, as she had means to do so, and requested to be allowed to write to the guardians of the North Dublin union to ask them if they would assist her to take with her her daughter, aged 17 years, an inmate of the union. I allowed her to do so, and it appears that the superintendent of the prison wrote herself for her. I beg to state distinctly that I have no power to pay for prisoners’ passages to America, or to grant their release if they elect to proceed there. I cannot add to or diminish the gratuities they earn in the convict-prisons, and on their discharge on license it is not within the power of the government to prevent their emigrating if they think lit to do so.

You are doubtless aware that the lower class in this country, if they compass sufficient means, very frequently leave for America. Many of the convicts have relatives in America, who write to them, sending passage-tickets to enable them to join them on release, and at present there are cases where convicts have passage-warrants, but their release will not be granted until the regular periods at which they are entitled to it. The fact of a convict being on license does not prevent his leaving the United Kingdom any more than his license in no instance forces him to do so. I may add that, although every facility is given to convicts to memorialize Her Majesty’s government for release, no memorials are considered by his excellency the lord lieutenant which appeal for remission of sentence on the ground that, petitioners will leave the United Kingdom.

It should also be borne in mind that all convicts released on license before the expiration of their sentences earn such a remission, by good conduct and industry, and are well able to earn their living honestly, and that the vast majority do so on release. None but really well-conducted convicts could earn a sufficient gratuity to enable them to leave the country, and so far from such persons being considered dangerous in this country, they readily obtain employment on their release.

I believe in the vast majority of cases they leave this country to avoid the evil companions and associations which in the first instance led them into crime, and that their doing so voluntarily is a very strong proof of their reformation.

It is not from any desire to withhold information that I have not referred to paupers leaving the country, but you are aware that I have no opportunities of knowing any thing about such matters.

I have, &c.,

[Inclosure 3 in 4 in No. 472.]

Mr. Banks to Mr. Burke.

Sir: The local government board for Ireland return to you herewith the file of papers referred to them on the 19th instant, for any observations in regard to the case of [Page 483] Eliza Courtney, referred to in a dispatch from the United States minister on the subject of the emigration of released convicts and paupers from this country to the United States, and also with reference to the protest of the United States minister against paupers being sent into the territory of the United States, and the board desire at the same time to submit, for the information of their excellencies the lords justices, the following observations: The circumstances connected with the emigration of Margaret Courtney (daughter of the convict Eliza Courtney) were these: The board of guardians of North Dublin union had before them, at their meeting on the 21st of May last, a communication from the superintendent of Mountjoy convict-prison, asking if the guardians would assist Margaret Courtney, an inmate of the work-house, to go to New York with her mother, and the guardians thereupon voted twelve pounds for the purpose, subject to the approval of the local government board; and the usual preliminary inquiries having been made as to health and other necessary particulars, and satisfactorily answered, the board gave their consent to the proposed expenditure.

The board are informed by Mr. Robinson, the inspector in charge of the union, that Margaret Courtney is about eighteen years of age, and has been in and out of the work-house for several years, and that the master of the work-house informed him that she had been generally well conducted, and had always borne a good moral character. She left the work-house for the purpose of emigrating with her mother on the 10th instant.

With reference to the objection expressed to paupers being sent into the territory of the United States, the board desire to observe that it very frequently occurs that persons who have emigrated to the United States send back passage-tickets or money to enable near relatives to join them; in some of these cases the relatives in question are inmates of work-houses in this country, in other cases they are not, but in each class of cases boards of guardians are in the habit of aiding in carrying out such arrangements, by either providing an outfit or paying for the passage of younger members of the family for whom funds had not been sent, and thus preventing the separation of families.

The amount expended out of the poor-rates during the year ended the 25th March last, under the sanction of the local government board and the late poor-law commissioners, in emigration, was £1,564 14s. 8d., being less than the amount expended in any year since 1862; and with this sum 581 persons were assisted to emigrate to the colonies and the United States.

A statement of the amount expended, and of the number of persons assisted to emigrate in each of the preceding twenty-two years, will be found at page 17 of the annual report of the poor-law commissioners for 1872.

The board were not previously aware that there was any objection to the emigration of well-conducted persons to the United States under circumstances such as those above described, and they have reason to believe that the judicious exercise of the power of the board of guardians to grant aid in such cases has often been of much advantage to poor persons. So far, however, as relates to actual paupers, the practice of affording assistance might cease without inconvenience or hardship. Assistance to persons not paupers to enable them to join relatives would probably not be objected to.

By order of the board.