Who Were Australia’s Government-Assisted Emigrants?

  • Robin F. Haines

Abstract

Did nineteenth-century emigration from the United Kingdom act as a safety valve for its expanding work force? Charlotte Erickson’s evidence for 1831 and 1841, based on an extensive analysis of America-bound shipping lists for those years, convinced her that ‘there are reasons for doubting that direct emigration to the USA acted as a safety valve for the rural or urban poor of the British Isles during the decades before the Irish famine’.1 In concert with historians of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century emigration from Britain to Australia, Erickson concluded that it was those who were fearful of encroaching poverty, or loss of status, who were motivated to emigrate, rather than the most poverty-stricken, who lacked even the means to reach the port of embarkation.2

Keywords

Clay Migration Corn Depression Shipping 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Charlotte Erickson, ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the U.S.A. in 1841, Part I’, Population Studies, 43 (1989) p. 349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. See also Erickson, Leaving England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994) where Erickson’s seminal essays have been revised and expanded,Google Scholar
  3. and William Van Vugt, ‘Prosperity and industrial emigration from Britain during the early 1850s’, Journal of Social History, 22:2 (1988) 339–354, who argues that ‘Britain’s expanding industry seems to have been absorbing potential emigrants by mid-century’ (p. 349).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 2.
    See, for example, F.K. Crowley, ‘British migration to Australia’, unpublished D. Phil thesis (Oxford: Oxford University, 1951) p. 210; idem, ‘The British contribution to the Australian Population: 1860–1919’, University Studies in History and Economics (July, 1954). Reg Appleyard found that post World War II assisted emigrants to Australia were not under privileged but were enterprising and energetic individuals who were ‘characteristically drawn from the suburban fringes of large cities and provincial towns’. See British Emigration To Australia (Canberra: Australian National University, 1964) pp. 211–212, 144–146, passim; idem (with Alison Ray and Allan Segal), The Ten pound Immigrants (London: Boxtree Press, 1988) pp. 17, 51–54, passim.Google Scholar
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    Charlotte Erickson, ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the U.S.A. in 1831’, Population Studies, 35 (1981), p. 196; idem, ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the U.S.A. in 1841, Part 1 (1989) pp. 349, 367; idem, ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the U.S.A. in 1841, Part II’, Population Studies, 44 (1990) p. 39–40;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Charlotte Erickson, ‘Who were the English and Scots emigrants to the United States in the late nineteenth century?’, in D.V. Glass and Roger Revelle (eds), Population and Social Change (London: Edward Arnold, 1972) p. 372.Google Scholar
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    Robert Mudie, The Emigrant’s Pocket Companion (London, 1832) p. 199.Google Scholar
  8. 6.
    David Fitzpatrick, ‘Over the foaming billows’: the organization of Irish emigration to Australia’, in Eric Richards (ed.) Poor Australian Immigrants in the Nineteenth Century: Visible Immigrants Two (Canberra: Highland Press, 1991) p. 145.Google Scholar
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    Ibid. See also the other three volumes in Eric Richards and David Fitzpatrick (eds), Visible Immigrants (Canberra: Highland Press, 1989, 1993, 1995) and references to Chapter 1, above.Google Scholar
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    See Rollo Arnold, The Farthest Promised Land: English Villagers, New Zealand Immigrants of the 1870s (Wellington: Victoria University Press, 1981) p. 41.Google Scholar
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    The cost of steerage passages to Australia declined rapidly from £18 in 1840, as shipping companies geared themselves towards the South Pacific emigrant trade. Between 1840 and 1860, the lowest average adult fare of £10.6 in 1851 rose to an average of £20.5 in 1854, during the Crimean War, a period in which some steerage passengers paid as much as £25.9. See J. McDonald and R. Shlomowitz, ‘Passenger fares on sailing vessels to Australia in the nineteenth century’, Explorations in Economic History, 28 (1991) 192–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    In February 1850, when farmers in Jacob’s district (Hodson) announced their intention to reduce wages from seven to six shillings for adult males, farm workers demonstrated by letting loose horses, sheep and cattle and persuading field labourers to down tools, and to threaten riots and disturbances. See ‘Threatened disturbance among labourers at West Lavington’, Wiltshire and Devizes Gazette, 21 February 1850. It was in response to this intention, which threatened imminent starvation, that Jacob made his impassioned speech. On wages, see also Table 4.3 and K.D.M. Snell, Annals of the Labouring Poor: social change and agrarian England 1660–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987) pp. 129–130, passim. On complex debates over the effects on farmers of the repeal of the corn laws, see William Van Vugt, ‘“Running from ruin”?’, who shows that Wiltshire farmers were among the least affected by repeal. See p. 422.Google Scholar
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  37. 57.
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  47. 73.
    In Queensland, in 1866, for example, a working-class Land and Emigration League was formed to agitate against government-assisted immigration. See T.A. Coghlan, Labour and Industry in Australia, vol. 2, part 4 (London, 1918) pp. 939–9. Similarly, in NSW economic depression led to a strong vote against further parliamentary funding; working men’s organizations also agitated against immigration. Ibid, p. 911.Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Robin F. Haines 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin F. Haines
    • 1
  1. 1.Flinders University of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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