Mr. Fish to
Brussels, July 27, 1882. (Received August 10.)
Sir: In my dispatches from Berne I had occasion frequently to bring to your predecessor’s notice the abuses and dangers of assisted emigration. In one of those dispatches I cited a writer on political economy who advocated assisted emigration as the principal panacea for Ireland’s woes.
What was then the mere proposal of a voluntary contributor of the [Page 17] press is now in a fair way to be enacted on the statute book of Great Britain.
The London Times of 21st and 22d instant gives an account of the debate in the House of Commons committee of the whole on the second reading of the new government clause of the “arrears of rent (Ireland) bill,” empowering guardians of the poor to borrow money for the assistance of emigration. The sum which is to be allowed to each emigrant is £5, and although it was maintained by many of the speakers that such a sum was inadequate, and that the emigrant should be provided with something beyond the bare cost of transportation, the bill was passed to a third reading. The cable, the press, and the legation in London will advise you before I can of its ultimate fate.
You can judge better than I can what the effects of this measure will be upon the immigration we will receive by virtue of its workings. Mr. Trevelyan, the chief advocate of the emigration scheme, is reported as saying:
The object of it was to encourage emigration in overpopulated districts. To do more than make a grant in aid would be demoralizing. A sum of even less than £5 would encourage emigration. The guardians had ascertained that they could emigrate for £3 4s. ($16.06) a head.* * * He had shown on the previous evening that the expense of emigrating a person was not quite equal to that of maintaining him at the expense of the parish for a whole year.
On the very day that this appeared in the London Times the Philadelphia correspondent of that paper reports that the Russian refugee relief committee at Philadelphia shipped sixty back to Liverpool, being unable to provide for them.
On the 24th instant the Times’ Philadelphia correspondent cabled the text of a letter from the president of the relief society to the Mansion House committee, who had been instrumental in forwarding the emigrants alluded to. The letter states:
Fully alive to our responsibilities in the matter, and being earnestly desirous to do our share of work, we solemnly protest that a continuance of your present course will produce useless suffering and distress. To avoid this we send back a number of destitute immigrants, and to this policy we shall steadily conform. To do otherwise would be to multiply the starving wretches during the approaching winter, a consequence we will do our best to avoid.
Is it to be expected that the inmates of Irish poor-houses will be able to succeed if landed penniless on our shores? I make no distinction against the Irish; I have shown the misery that assisted emigration entailed upon the Swiss; the distress amongst the Russian emigrants assisted by the mistaken philanthropy of the Mansion House committee is attested by the letter above cited. In regard to the scheme proposed by Parliament to assist emigration from Ireland, I cannot do better than quote the remarks of Mr. T. O’Connor, himself an Irishman, who has studied the practical workings of emigration, upon the discussion of the bill in question:
The government had announced their willingness to take advantage of voluntary agencies; which meant that they would pay £5 to get the tenant out of the country, and leave the rest to Mr. Tuke. In so doing the government of course surrendered the most important part of the business into Mr. Tuke’s hands. No doubt that gentleman was inspired by the best motives, and had done good service to Ireland, but the government were pursuing a course that was radically wrong, and they would find that the question could not be settled satisfactorily by simply transferring Irish paupers into white slaves in America. Every country to which those emigrants were sent had a right to demand that they should be a source of wealth and not of poverty to the land of their adoption, and that they should not be handed over to any employer of labor who should take them on Mr. Tuke’s terms.
In the interest of these poor emigrants, as well as in that of the American tax-payer, it is to be hoped that Mr. O’Connor’s presentiments as to their future lot may not be realized. It is, however, incumbent on us, if we do not desire to assume the responsibility and expense of their support, to legislate to prevent them from being cast upon our charity.
I have, &c.,