Cumming to Lytton
Council Rooms,
Bell's Temperance Hotel,
68 Trongate, Glasgow
1 March 1859
Honorable Sir
The Council of United Trades in Glasgow have delayed to acknowledge your answer of date 9th November, to the Memorial adopted at the Public Meeting on Emigration, in the City Hall, on 16th September last, which answer was conveyed through Mr. Robert Dalglish, our respected Member.
This delay has arisen from several causes: one of which was the hope that Trade would revive, and that Employment or Work and Wages, would be plentiful, and that the necessity of applying for the intervention of Government on behalf of the Unemployed would be removed.
The Council are sorry to be obliged to state, that while, in the Weaving Department, and Branches dependent thereon, trade is better, there are still several thousands of working men in Glasgow and its neighbourhood out of employment, and who have been so six, seven, eight, and twelve months, even longer, and who, in consequence, along with their wives and children, are suffering severe privations and distress, bordering, indeed, on actual starvation.
This statement is no exaggeration. It unfortunately is too true. The Council believe you are sincere in the expression of your sympathy with the sufferings of the Unemployed. But something substantial, some relic of a practical kind adequate to the exigencies of the case, is required; and the Council would earnestly but respectfully entreat you, and the other Members of Her Majesty's Government, again to consider whether aid in the way of Emigrations and Colonisation may not be extended to them.
Grant, as you say, that the Management of the Crown Lands in the Colonies is entrusted to the several Colonial Governments, any one, or all of those Governments—Australia, New Zealand, the Cape, Canada, or other British North American Colonies—would, the Council believe, be glad to comply with any suggestion or recommendation of the Imperial Government to assist such of the Unemployed, as would be willing to avail themselves of their assistance, by emigrating, either for the purpose of working to others after arrival in the Colonies, or of settling on lands that might be granted to them, and cultivating those lands according to their several means and capabilities.
But there is the new Colony of British Columbia—purely a Crown Colony (also Vancouver's Island and the Red River territory, betwixt Lake Superior and the Rocky Mountains, at present in the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company; but possession of which may be resumed by the Crown in the course of the present Session of Parliament). Surely it cannot be said, the rights of any third party interpose with regard to those territories; or that Her Majesty's Government may not grant portions for the settlement of a body or bodies of the Unemployed who wish to emigrate, or may not assist them to go thither and settle thereon. If associations of private individuals, with comparatively limited means, have planted, within the last twenty years, the six settlements of New Zealand, the Colonies of South Australia, Victoria, and Port-Natal—all of which are prosperous communities—surely such a slur will never be cast on the British Government, as to say, that, with the prodigious power and resources it may command, it is impotent for like purposes; or, for making Emigration and Colonisation subservient to a great work of beneficence and practical Christianity—the raising an Unemployed, poverty-stricken, and desponding body of fellow-citizens to a condition of active industry and hopefulness, every stroke of their axes, and every spadeful of earth they turn, advancing them on the road to comfort and independence.
The Council cannot believe Her Majesty's Government hearken to those Capitalists and Employers who oppose Emigration, because it serves to make labour scarce, and who desire always a surplus or glut of hands in order to have a command of "cheap labour."
If there be no question, and there can be no question, as to the POWER of Government, is it the want of WILL? And why should there be a want of Will in such a case? Did not the cry proceed from four thousand men assembled in the City Hall? Is it a fictious or disloyal measure they propose? Or, is it not, on the other hand, thoroughly constitutional and consistent with enlightened policy? And has it not been approved of and supported by many of our most enlightened publicists and legislators? And also by the Press, with some exceptions. Or, is the MODE by which the Power of Government shall be exercised? If so, as the materials for successful Colonisation exist in abundance—land, labour, and capital, or LAND, MEN, and MONEY—and as Government has the land, while the men are here, the Council apprehend, if the land be granted, that there will be no difficulty in Government finding the money, wherewith to carry out an effective scheme for the deliverance of the Unemployed.
I have etc.
In name of the Council of United Trades
Andrew Cumming
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Blackwood
This Letter seems practically to resolve itself into a proposal for sending out the Glasgow operatives to British Columbia and Vancouver's Island.
GG 7 March
Mr Elliot
You will wish to deal with this. See C.O. Lr of 10 Novr to Home Office.
ABd 9/3
This is substantially a demand for two things, first a free grant of lands in B. Columbia to the unemployed operatives of Glasgow, & secondly a grant of public money to convey them to that Colony. The proper answers Manuscript imageto both are plain, but unfortunately they rest on considerations of public policy which it is not easy to condense into one or two sentences, or to convey in such a manner as shall be satisfactory to persons who only represent a partial interest and deal with a special emergency.
By the concurrent opinion of all authors who have inquired into the subject, of all statesmen who have investigated it through Parliamentary Committees, by extensive trial of the plan in every part of the World and by the general voice of Communities which have occupied new Countries, the course of making free grants of land has been condemned. They are found to be worthless to the individuals who receive them, and pernicious to the society in which they are made.
Next comes the question of giving a passage to the Colonies at the expense of the British revenue. This also has been again and again explored, debated, and submitted to the test of experiment, but the result has been to reject the plan. It might be very convenient to the operatives of Glasgow to get such passages when they are unemployed, or (as is often the case when demands of this kind are urged), when they are dissatisfied with current Manuscript imagewages and disposed to strike for more. But why should Glasgow have this benefit more than all the other Towns and Cities of the Kingdom? Or if it be supposed, for arguments sake, extended to all other Towns & Cities, why should operatives have the benefit more than all other classes? No doubt there are thousands whose fortunes would be made, so to speak, by deporting them to Gold Colonies, but the whole community is not to be taxed in order to make the fortunes of some of its members by gifts from the common stock. This would be a scheme of taking away from every body for the good of every body else.
The present are favorite and perhaps not unnatural demands of democratic societies, and the time may come when they will be strong enough to force them on the Legislature, but it will be a day when the weak are robbed for the sake of the strong, and when equal justice is no longer dispensed in England.
I think the only course will be very civilly and briefly, but with firmness, to intimate the impossibility of complying with the application.
TFE 15 March
Sir E. Lytton
I suppose that this must be the answer—though it sd be drawn up carefully & in civil terms?
C Mch 18
[EBL] 19
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Carnarvon to Cumming, 12 April 1859, advising that it was not possible to grant free land in British Columbia, or free passage to that colony.