to Mr. Lowell.
Washington, May 25, 1883.
Sir: I have to call your attention to the reported action of the Government of Her Majesty in assisting emigration of inhabitants of Ireland to the United States.
I inclose herewith for your information a copy of a dispatch from Mr. Fish, our minister at Brussels, transmitting the following extract from the Moniteur Beige, of the 6th of April last:
On Friday last the first Irish emigrants, whose journey was paid by the public treasury, and which is being conducted under the management of the British Government, sailed from Ireland.
A number of families, composing 360 persons, left the little town of Bemulet, situated in the most distressed district of Ireland, and embarked for Boston, thence to go into the varions states of the United States.
It seems doubtful whether the arrival of this sort of cargo will cause much pleasure to the Americans, for it is stated that among 47,149 persons arrested and convicted in New York in 1882, there was more than 50 per cent. foreign born, and that more than one-third of the delinquents were Irish.
Mr. Fish also forwarded a copy of the same paper to the collector of the port of Boston, who, as well as the governor of Massachusetts, [Page 423] wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury on the subject. A copy of each of the letters (which have been referred to this Department) is inclosed. I also inclose a copy of a report of our consul-general in London, giving the results of inquiries made under his direction, together with its annexes.
It may not be advisable at present, and in the absence of fuller and more specific information than is now possessed by this Government, to make such formal representations on the subject as might imply a complaint based on a conviction that the action of the British authorities amounts to an act of unfriendliness towards the United States. Still the system formally recognized and authorized by the Irish land law of August 22, 1881, and by the arrears of rent act of August 18, 1882 (Pub. Stats., chap. 49, sec. 32, and Pub. General Stats., chap. 47, sec. 18), and the occasional declarations in Parliamentary debates (Times, April 11, April 27, May 1, 2, and 5, 1883) evince a strong readiness in the Government to extend the practice which has already become very noticeable here. The circumstance that these assisted emigrants have quite recently, on reaching our shores, become a burden upon the community, is one which in the interest of neighborly good feeling should be brought to the attention of Her Majesty’s Government. It may, perhaps, be premature to pronounce a final judgment on the probable consequences to this country of a further development of the reported policy of Her Majesty’s Government, but the subject presents itself at the outset under an aspect which this Government cannot view without concern, and certain considerations may very properly be brought forthwith to your attention, and by you to Lord Granville’s notice.
The policy of encouraging immigration to the United States has been consistently followed by this Government, both as a political and economical measure, and there is how no desire to depart from it. The option of expatriation has been steadily urged as an inherent right, and, after many years’ discussion, has been tacitly recognized by most European powers, and formally admitted by some—among them Great Britain. While urging the recognition of this right, the United States threw open their doors to the inhabitants of all nations, but more particularly to the poorer thrifty classes, who were heartily welcomed to our shores, given on the easiest terms sufficient land for their support, and incorporated in our body politic. To those desirous to improve their condition in the world, those who honestly endeavor to avail themselves of the political privileges of our Republican Government, the ports of the United States have never been closed; but to the criminal and the pauper no such privileges are extended, and the statutes of the United States empower the Executive to prevent their landing. The laws prohibit the coming of those liable to become immediately a charge upon the community, but the difficulty in the present case is to apply the law to individual cases. Poverty is not in itself a valid objection to the reception of an immigrant, for many of our worthiest citizens landed without money, but, possessing industry, application, ambition, and habits of economy, they have, while improving their own condition, added to the wealth and strength of the nation. That the self-reliant poor may, through misfortune, become a charge upon the community where they seek a new home is true, but such a possibility does not furnish a valid reason for returning them to their native country immediately upon their arrival.
The policy of assisted emigration is likely to send to us many who, lacking the qualities to secure a passage to America for themselves, [Page 424] and depending upon Government aid for this, presumably do not possess the qualities to successfully cope with the adverse circumstances which must necessarily attend their first efforts in a strange country, and it is in this natural tendency of such a policy that we find a legitimate reason for objection to its enforcement by Great Britain. Honest, industrious and frugal immigrants will always be gladly received here, but this Government cannot look without deep concern upon any action by a foreign Government which tends to unloading its paupers, its “ne’er-do-wells,” its aged and infirm, its cripples and weak-minded upon us, that we may afford that support through taxation which their native country owes them.
It is quite evident how the assisted emigration of such thriftless and dependent classes may at once relieve the burdens of the home community and entail corresponding burdens on a foreign community to an extent to justify international remonstrance. It is equally clear that the expedient of assisting emigration by Government aid is one only to be resorted to under circumstances which shall produce the greatest good to all alike, analogous, for instance, to an enlightened scheme of colonization. The object in view should rationally be not mere deportation of unproductive elements, but to offer to those whose home productiveness is impeded the advantages of a fresh start in life under more auspicious surroundings, such as the Great West supplies, whether in Canada or the United States. To such emigration as comes to its shores, willing, and within proper limits, able to join in the general work of production and self-sustenance, neither a fruitful dependency of the home state nor a friendly foreign state can rightly object.
Besides bringing the matter to the attention of Lord Granville, it is desirable that you examine into the subject and communicate to this Department your views thereon, together with any information you may be able to obtain on the subject of assisted emigration and its practical workings.
I am, &c.,