to Mr. Evarts.
London, September 20, 1879. (Received October 2.)
Sir: I have the honor to ask your attention to a subject which seems to me of importance to the interests of the United States at the present time.
The general depression of trade and industry, and particularly the distress in the agricultural districts caused by a succession of short crops and the competition of foreign nations, have turned the attention of a class of people in this country who have not heretofore entertained such ideas to the advantage of emigrating to the United States. These persons are not day laborers, who desire to go to America chiefly for the reason that they can obtain better wages there than here. They are intelligent and well-informed persons of respectable position, and many of them in possession of a little money which they are willing to invest in the United States. All of them, however, are anxious to procure full and accurate information on the subject before taking the important step of abandoning their native country.
We have already received letters at this legation asking for such information, and particularly if we can furnish any pamphlets treating [Page 464] of stock-farming in Nebraska, Colorado, California, and Texas, and giving the cost of land, the nature of the soil and climate, and various other interesting details. We have been obliged to disappoint our correspondents by stating we had no such documents to communicate, and referring them to encyclopedias and other general sources of knowledge.
It is unnecessary to urge the importance of encouraging emigration of the character I have indicated, and for this purpose it seems to me desirable that the representatives of the United States in Europe should be furnished with the means to answer fully such questions as I have mentioned.
It is remarkable how ignorant even the educated classes in this country are of the geography, history, and the agricultural, industrial, and vital statistics of the United States, and how few books can be found here within the reach of persons intending to emigrate which will satisfy their reasonable curiosity in respect to the routes they should take after landing on the other side; the expense of traveling and house-building; the locality of unimproved lands; the cost and mode of purchase, and many other important points.
I am aware that this matter is already attracting attention in several States, and particularly in Texas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Florida, and Virginia, and that boards have been appointed and agencies established to promote emigration, and for that purpose to give information to parties intending to emigrate. But so far as I can ascertain, Texas is the only State thus represented in London, and I do not know how far that agency may be sanctioned by the State authorities.
It is possible also that several railway corporations are taking steps to bring their loans into market, and may have correspondents in Europe who may furnish such particulars as intending purchasers may desire to know.
But all such agencies, whether of States or corporations, and however honestly and efficiently conducted, will never command for their statements the same confidence which would be extended to the impartial and more comprehensive information which might be communicated under the authority of the general government.
It would be impossible here, in the absence of the necessary documents, to prepare such a description of the location and prices of lands, the character of the soil and productions, the laws of citizenship, descent, and taxation, the routes and cost of travel, and other particulars which would answer the purpose above set forth.
I venture therefore most respectfully to suggest that such a pamphlet should be prepared and printed under the authority of one of the departments of the general government, and numerous copies of it sent to our diplomatic and consular representatives abroad, for them to communicate the same to the public journals, and to parties desiring to emigrate to the United States. I am satisfied that such a publication would be welcomed by philanthropists here who are now occupied with the serious question of providing food for this vast population, a problem the difficulty of which will be diminished in proportion to the decrease of the number of mouths for which food is to be provided.
If I may be permitted to enumerate some of the points upon which, judging from the inquiries which have been made at this legation, such a pamphlet should touch, I should say that it ought to furnish, under the head of each State or Territory in which there are considerable bodies of unimproved lands, the following details:
- The amount of public lands, location of land offices, modes of purchase, nature of soil, and productions and cost.
- The lands belonging to the State and to railway corporations, with the same particulars as above.
- An outline of the laws of the particular State regulating citizenship and the rights of aliens, and the descent and distribution of property.
- An approximate statement of taxation.
- Religious and educational advantages, character of the climate, and sanitary statistics.
- The principal routes by which the lands may be reached and the markets found for the produce, an approximate statement of the prices which may be obtained, and also of the cost of provisions and labor, and the expense of traveling to such lands from the seaboard.
An inexpensive outline map should accompany each copy of this pamphlet showing in different colors the chief production of each region,, such as wheat, tobacco, cotton, and Indian corn, and giving also the leading lines of railway communication between the principal masses of the unimproved territory and the Atlantic ports.
Trusting that in the suggestions I have made above I may not be thought to have transcended my diplomatic duty,
I have, &c.,