Monday, 29 August 2016

FIRST WAVE: British Subjects

FIRST WAVE: Emigrant Ships to Port Phillip 1839-1845

Chapter Three: British Subjects

As he had done the previous year, the Chairman of the New South Wales Committee on Immigration signed his 1842 Report with an ecclesiastical flourish --"W.G. Australia". The Anglican Bishop of Australia's signature was not the only item of replication. The argument of his concluding paragraphs in the 1841 Report was also repeated in the latest document. It was, after all, a theme close to his sectarian heart.

William Grant Broughton was the leading Protestant clergyman in the Colony and he had strong views on Catholic immigration. He was confident in his convictions and forthright in stating them when presenting his second report to the Governor-in-Council. "He must say for himself", it was minuted, "he dreaded the genius, the policy, and the ascendancy of the Church of Rome". 

His Grace therefore had no difficulty in admitting that it was he who was the real author of the expressions that the Attorney-General had found objectionable in both reports. The exhortation to the emigration authorities in London that "a more desirable class than Irishmen might be found" (in the 1841 Report), and that continued Irish immigration "is likely to occasion future inconvenience and disadvantage to this colony" (in the 1842 Report), were statements he was reluctant to retract.(1)

The Bishop had a unique explanation for the perceived 'imbalance' of Irish to English and Scottish arrivals under the bounty scheme. He argued that it was the limited number of ports being selected by the British consignors to load their ships that produced this 'bias'. His solution to this unsatisfactory result was also deceptively simple.

Broughton had argued in the earlier report that, "the Bounty ships from England have been confined to London, Plymouth, and Liverpool; and from Scotland, to Leith [Edinburgh] and Greenock [Glasgow]; while one third of the Government ships have sailed from Irish ports [actually only one port, Cork]...With a view, therefore, to correct the existing inequality...Your Committee beg to suggest, that Portsmouth, Milford Haven, Lynn, and Hull included among the ports from which ships for the conveyance of Emigrants take their departure".(2)

He finished the 1842 Report in similar vein, essentially repeating his claim that "vessels with Emigrants sail from a very limited number of Ports". In his view, "while such as have ready access to these Ports enjoy an undue preference, the greater portion both of England and Scotland is almost precluded the opportunity". In future, he recommended, "the station of vessels should be so distributed among the ports of the United Kingdom, as to afford just facilities to the inhabitants of every quarter".(3) His Grace's 'reasoning', however, was seriously flawed.

British Ports

In the period 1839 to 1844, a total of 70 ships carried 13,092 bounty emigrants to Port Phillip. From four ports in England (London, Plymouth, Bristol and Liverpool) came 37 ships with 7,637 emigrants; From two ports in Scotland (Greenock and Leith) came 18 ships with 2,395 emigrants; and from one port in Ireland (Cork) came 15 ships with 3,060 emigrants. Map 1 demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of ships (55) and emigrants (10,032) departed from English and Scottish ports.

Map 1: BRITISH PORTS. Showing ports of embarkation for Bounty Emigrants to Port Phillip, 1839-1845. Note: These are last ports of call for emigrant ships. For example, 17 Plymouth and 14 Cork vessels originally departed from London.

There were three factors that Bishop Broughton overlooked in his argument. The first was pointed out to him by one of the civil servants on the Executive Council. "It was desirable", conceded the Commander of the Forces (himself an Irishman), "that there should be at least an equal proportion of English and Scotch introduced into this colony, but if they would not come, if they preferred remaining where they were, and the Irish alone, desirous of escaping from poverty and oppression in their native land, made this their country of adoption, surely the Irish were not to be stigmatised, to be reproached, to have it set on record against them, that their presence was an evil, a disadvantage, an inconvenience to the country..."(4)

Subtract the heat and the Commander makes an incontrovertible point -- the bounty scheme was established to encourage the emigration of free settlers. There was no element of compulsion in its regulations. Those who came ultimately chose to do so.

A second factor overlooked by the Bishop was that the experienced consignors had developed a system of commercial infrastructure in certain ports to facilitate the practical process of emigration. It was more efficient to favour one or two ports and then transport successful applicants from other regions into those centralised dispatching areas. To have such a system did not necessarily mean that shipowners were ignoring other districts for recruitment. For example, the colonial press reported, "The Forth ship...from Plymouth...with 232 immigrants...arrived at Port Phillip on the 20th inst. There were 800 persons in Marshall's Depot at Plymouth when the Forth sailed, and numbers were arriving daily by the Steamers from Ireland, awaiting passage to New South Wales".(5)

A third factor that the Bishop failed to take into account was the incidence of internal (as opposed to external) migration within Great Britain itself. According to the 1841 British Census, there were 419,256 Irish-born residents on the main island, of whom 284,128 lived in England and 126,321 in Scotland.(6) Cities with significant Irish-born populations included Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. These people had already uprooted themselves and migrated across the Irish Sea. The phenomenon of internal migration was also a feature of northern Scotland, with those evicted in the Highland Clearances choosing between external migration to North America, or moving south to Glasgow and England's growing industrial cities. The simple fact of residence did not always determine the ethnic origin of emigrants to Port Phillip. Neither did an emigrant ship's first or last port of call.

The arrival of so many Irish Catholics in New South Wales was not the consequence of the number or location of British ports of consignment. Nevertheless, Bishop Broughton was right in one respect -- when he relied on the local Immigration Boards' statistics to show a preponderance of Irish emigrants being shipped to the Colony. 

Of the 13,092 British emigrants who disembarked at Port Phillip, 3,484 were English (including 126 from Wales), 1,895 were Scottish, and 7,713 were Irish. In other words, the Irish made up nearly 60% of total emigrants received at Melbourne under the bounty scheme, the English a more modest 25%, and the Scots only 15%. The following three maps of emigrant origins are based on summing the data recorded under "Native Place" in the "List of Immigrants" from each ship.

Irish Origins

In this survey of bounty emigrants who offloaded at Port Phillip between 1839 and 1845, it is important to note that the Irish component was from a pre-Famine population. Although Ireland was then already over-populated, potato dependent, and very poor, her people had not yet suffered the appalling tragedy of the Great Hunger.

In Pre-Famine Ireland, periodic failures of the potato crop from "taint" (fungal rot) or "curl" (leaf virus) occurred regularly, causing hunger and distress at a local or regional level. Outbreaks of cholera and typhoid struck the malnourished poor, also at frequent intervals. But the appearance of a new potato disease called "blight" or "murrain" in September 1845 caused national starvation, pandemics of disease, and panicked migration, with the combined effect of reducing Ireland's population by 2.5 million in the next six years. The Great Hunger (Gaelic, an Gorta Mor) was an unprecedented disaster, a massive scale event, introducing a new order of suffering, a near-universal experience of death and devastation.

However, life in Pre-Famine Ireland was tough enough. In 1830-1831 the potato harvest failed in the west from Donegal to Galway. The Census of Ireland Commissioners in 1841 reported region-wide failures in 1832, 1833, 1834, 1835, 1836, 1837 and 1839 -- a series of smaller "hungers" in eight of the ten years leading up to the emigration of 7,713 Irish-born to Port Phillip.(7)

The pressure of rural poverty appears to have been particularly keen in the southern counties of Munster, where the most recent civil disturbances had broken out. The violent emergence of the Rockies in the 1820s (Limerick, Cork, Tipperary) and the Terries in the 1830s (Clare, Galway) demonstrate that the southwest of Ireland "was a crowded country-side -- a recurring motif was murder in broad daylight witnessed by many passers-by, who said nothing -- a violent province...a hungry land..."(8)  Map 2 indicates most of the emigrants to Port Phillip originated in this turbulent part of Ireland.

Map 2: IRISH ORIGINS. Showing the "Native Place" of Irish emigrants to Port Phillip according to their nominated, 'traditional', counties of birth. Note: The counties for 383 of the 7,713 Irish emigrants (4.9%) could not be identified from the ships' "List of Immigrants" and have not been included above.

This map of traditional Irish counties shows a 'hotspot' of emigration from the southwest. Tipperary (1,353), Cork (764), Galway (504), and Limerick (346), supplied nearly half of the total of Irish emigration to Port Phillip. However, there was also a sizeable contribution from Ulster in the north, with the counties of Tyrone, Antrim, and Armagh, supplying another 1,099 emigrants to the bounty scheme. In general, all counties sent someone, suggesting that to some extent the whole of Ireland was an effective recruiting ground. This was not the case across the Irish Sea in England.

English Origins

In providing only 25% of all bounty emigrants, England proved less responsive to recruitment than the colonists expected. The English reluctance to accept the offer of free passage was recognised by the Port Phillip Patriot in its issue of 27 July 1841. 
"It is quite clear we will have a very extensive Irish emigration continually pouring into the province; for it has been ascertained by the parties interested in emigration at home, that the cost of obtaining English emigrants is fully two pounds a-head more than in obtaining Irish emigrants. The Irish are also more ready to leave their home for want of employment, while the English labourer is now better paid than in former years, owing to the formation of railroads".(9)
There is evidence that  emigration agents based in England were genuine in their recruitment efforts, particularly in the southern rural shires, but with limited success.

Map 3: ENGLISH ORIGINS. "Native Place" of English emigrants according to their nominated 'traditional' shires. Note: 185 of the 3,484 emigrants from England and Wales, or 5.3%, were unattributable (generic "England", "born at sea", etc.) and are not included above.

The most prominent areas on Map 3 are Lancashire in the northwest, with 340 emigrants, and Middlesex in the southeast, with 312 emigrants. Lancashire includes the growing industrial cities of Liverpool and Manchester. Middlesex is dominated by the national capital and trading metropolis of London.

The next most prominent region is an arc of southern rural shires stretching from Buckingham in the central east to Cornwall in the far southwest. Here there were noticeable contributions of emigrants from Gloucestershire (238), Somerset (227), and Devon (265), in particular. This supports the interpretation that emigration agents' efforts were focused towards the express colonial preference for people from agricultural backgrounds.

However, disappointment in the low actual numbers of English emigrants was understandable from the colonists' point of view. It might have been reasonably supposed that the influence of economic forces on the working classes at 'home' would have yielded a better result. In the southern rural districts, consolidation of farm land and mechanisation of farming practices displaced many traditional residents at the most vulnerable end of society. 

For example, the squatter George Russell of Golf Hill reported his experience in 1836, when he formed his first out-station on the Moorabool River near Geelong.
"The two men I had with me...'Big Jack' and 'Little Jack'...[were] sent out to Tasmania as convicts about the year 1831 for machine-breaking...A number of agricultural labourers from the southern counties of England were transported to the penal colonies for the same offence, many of whom were good farming men".(10)
Squatters like Russell did not want bounty emigrants who were convicted of "hay-rick burning" and "machine-breaking", but they had rational grounds for thinking they might benefit from the rural unemployment that those offences pointed to.

In a parallel vein of thought, a greater number of emigrants might have been expected from the Black Country of Lancashire and Yorkshire, which was the heartland of the textile industry. The economic recession that hit the Port Phillip District in the early 1840s had its origin in the Great Panic of 1836. The directors of the Bank of England had become concerned at the extent of lending of pounds sterling to the United States. They decided to raise interest rates from 3% to 5% to reduce the outward flow of money from Britain. The resulting financial crisis in America had dire consequences for the cotton industry. Mill owners in England responded by shutting down looms and shedding labour.(11)

The price of raw cotton fell from 17.5 cents to 13.5 cents per pound. The price of the substitution fibre wool followed suit, dropping from 2s. 6d. per pound in 1836 to 1s. 6d. in 1837.(12) (Hence the squatters' urgent demand for bounty emigrants in sufficient numbers to reduce colonial wages). 

Unemployment in the midland textile towns, it was calculated, should slow the flow of internal English migration of displaced country-dwellers from neighbouring shires. By the same logic, those thwarted internal migrants should now be more amenable to the prospect of external migration to the Australian colonies. There was, therefore, some legitimate frustration in the Colony of New South Wales when this simply did not happen. The squatters' expectations, generated in part by liberal economic theory and the 'laws' of supply and demand, were not fulfilled.

In reality, workers in England believed they still had choices. There remained, in their minds at least, marginally more attractive options than undertaking a dangerous journey to the other side of the earth. (The Irish, on the other hand, presumably had no such illusions).

Scottish Origins

The smallest contributor to the first wave of bounty emigrants to Port Phillip was Scotland. Although 18 of the 70 ships to Melbourne were from Leith (Edinburgh) and Greenock (Glasgow), only 10 of those carried more than 50 emigrants. Rather than commit to a complete refit of their holds, many Scottish shipowners chose to 'top-up' their cargoes with bounty passengers. Nevertheless, this does not account for for the relatively low representation of 1,895 Scots in the overall 'export' of 13,092 emigrants from Britain.

Map 4: SCOTTISH ORIGINS. "Native Place" of Scottish bounty emigrants to Port Phillip according to their nominated 'traditional' shires of birth, Note that the shires for 232 of these 1,895 emigrants, or 12%, could not be identified from the ships' "List of Immigrants" and are not included above.

Map 4 indicates that the highest numbers of Scottish bounty emigrants to Port Phillip came from the central shires of Lanark (283) and Midlothian (307). These shires contained the major cities of Glasgow (223) and Edinburgh (282) respectively. In the next rank are Argyll (129) and Ayrshire (105) in the west, and Fife (111) and Perthshire (148) in the east.

What was unexpected about these figures was the low numbers drawn from areas directly effected by the Highland Clearances. Of the four large Highland and Island shires in the northwest of Scotland, Argyll supplied 129 emigrants (as above), Inverness 40, Ross & Cromarty only 3, and Sutherland none at all.

The Highland Clearances were a series of agrarian evictions carried out by Clan Chiefs, who could make more money by leasing out 'their' land to tenant sheep farmers. The traditional emigration route for expelled clans-people was to North America. For example, between 1765 and 1815, 32,161 Scots emigrated there (14,987 to British North America, or Canada), and these included 24,308 Highlanders.(13)

Australia was a more recent and consequently less well known destination, although it is estimated that approximately 5,200 Scots came to the Colony of New South Wales under the bounty scheme from 1837 to 1840.(14) (This figure includes those that disembarked in Sydney as well as Melbourne.) The often expressed assumption that most of these were distressed Highlanders must be questioned if the Port Phillip experience is a reliable guide.

The only vessel to arrive at Melbourne that can be classified as a 'Highland ship' was the Glen Huntly in April 1840. After loading emigrants from Inverness and Argyll at Oban, she underwent repairs to her keel at Greenock and then endured months of sickness at sea, before limping into Port Phillip Bay flying the yellow 'fever flag'. Out of the 169 emigrants who embarked from Scotland, at least five died in port at Greenock, ten died during the voyage, and a further three died in quarantine after arrival. 

The local Immigration Board concluded, "It is evident that the ship left Greenock with disease ['Smallpox', 'Typhoid', 'Scarlatina'] on board".(15) The implication was that the Highlanders loaded at Oban were already debilitated, carrying aboard the diseases of poverty. Perhaps this example of Highland health deterred other shipowners from contracting any more emigrants from the north. In any event, the results for Port Phillip between 1839 and 1845 indicate that most of the bounty emigrants fro Scotland during this period were Lowlanders.

In summary, this chapter has shown that the shipments of bounty emigrants to Port Phillip were certainly British subjects; people from the three kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. Disappointing for the colonial employers, however, was that they did not necessarily come from regions of the United Kingdom in the equal proportions they expected. Nearly two thirds were Irish and the majority of these were from the impoverished south and west of Ireland. Despite the efforts of emigration agents in the southern rural shires of England, relatively few applications for free passage eventuated. And in Scotland those few who chose to emigrate were hardly the romanticised image of 'hardy Highlanders' the squatters had envisaged.

Before going on to consider the large, and unpopular, Irish contingent in detail, it is probably useful to establish a more comprehensive picture of the total of emigrants who did land in Port Phillip. In the next chapter, we will therefore look at the attributes and capabilities of all 13,092 emigrants, to build a basis of comparison with the Irish. 

The List of Immigrants for each of the 70 ships record a number of qualifications and requirements that the new arrivals were required to certify. This information provides a range of interpretable data which, when collated cumulatively, can give a sort of statistical portrait of this significant part of the early settlement population -- an 'accurate' if limited glimpse of the 'character' of those who otherwise left little (e.g. letters, diaries etc.) about themselves.


(1) 'Legislative Council of New South Wales - Immigration Report', The Sydney Morning Herald, Friday 9 September 1842, p. 2
(2) 'Report from the Committee on Immigration', The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Tuesday 24 August 1841, p. 4
(3) 'Legislative Council - Immigration', The Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 3 September 1842, p. 2
(4) As above, Friday 9 September 1842, p. 2
(5) 'Reproduced from the Melbourne newspapers', The Sydney Monitor and Commercial Advertiser, Monday 27 September 1841
(6) T. Freeman, 1957, Pre-Famine Ireland, Manchester University Press, pp. 38, 53.
(7) C. Woodham-Smith, 1991, The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849, Penguin, p. 38
(8) P.E. Maume, 2010, 'An Irish Apocalypse...Sources of Agrarian Violence in Pre-Famine Ireland', H-Net Reviews in the Humanities and Social Sciences, p. 3
(9) Reproduced from the Melbourne newspapers, The Hobart Town Courier, Friday 13  August 1841
(10) P.L. Brown (ed.), 1935, The Narrative of George Russell of Golf Hill, London, Oxford University Press, p. 118
(11) Atkinson & Aveling (eds.), 1987, Australians 1838, Sydney, Fairfax Syme & Wheldon
(12) The Sydney Herald, Thursday 17 November 1836, p. 3, and The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, Thursday 11 July 1837, p. 2.
(13) J.M. Bumstead, 1982, The People's Clearance: Highland Emigration to British North America 1770-1815, Edinburgh University Press, pp. 228-229.
(14) Horsburgh, Edwards & Harper, 2007, 'Emigration', The Oxford Companion to Scottish History, Oxford University Press, part 3
(15) NSW State Records, NRS 5316, Item 4/4813, 'Glen Huntly', and Public Records Office Victoria, VPRS 19/P1, 1840/0479, 'Glen Huntly'.

Monday, 22 August 2016

FIRST WAVE: The Reputable Poor

FIRST WAVE: Emigrant Ships to Port Phillip 1839-1845

Chapter 2: The Reputable Poor

In the European summer of 1839, John Marshal of London published a "circular" to be distributed throughout the United Kingdom. Written in Marshall's capacity as an "Australian Emigration Agent", it was essentially a detailed recruiting pamphlet, advising that he had five ships to sail from Gravesend and Plymouth in the coming months.(1)

Marshall was an experienced consignor of assisted migrants to the Colony of New South Wales. He knew the standards of shipping required by the regulations of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commission. He was also aware, from his previous employment with the Commission's predecessor, of the moral dimension of Colonial Office policy. For example, in 1835 he had formally declined one expression of interest from a parish workhouse on no other grounds. His letter on that occasion stated, "The great object which the [Emigration] Committee are appointed to superintend is to appropriate the liberality of Government in favour of those females exclusively whose conduct has been virtuous, and whose habits promise future usefulness in the colonies, and thereby conducing to the elevation of morals there".(2)

Even within the stylized language of contemporary officialdom, Marshall's meaning was still clear. Only girls with a history of unblemished behaviour would be considered for a subsidised fare, as only this type of young woman could be expected to contribute to the uplifting of moral standards in the penal colonies of Australia. (Females who were so unfortunate as to find themselves in the poor house, it was assumed, lacked the necessary qualities to perform this role).

Moral Improvement of the Colony

Marshall's 1839 circular certainly advertised the seaworthiness of his ships, the quantity and quality of his shipboard provisions, and his program of diligent cleanliness and hygiene while at sea. But he placed most emphasis on the selection criteria for emigrants, particularly the absolute necessity of the applicant's 'good character' being attested to by reputable referees before free passage was contemplated. 

The pamphlet might have been prominently headed to attract the reader's interest -- "AUSTRALIAN PACKET SHIPS - EMIGRATION TO NEW SOUTH WALES - FREE PASSAGE" it literally shouted -- but its text soon turned to the key issue of eligibility. This applied to every category of emigrant.
Married mechanics...Agricultural Labourers...A limited number of such persons, provided they are of competent skill in their respective pursuits, of industrious and moral habits and not exceeding 35, or at the utmost 40 years of age, may, when approved, obtain a FREE PASSAGE by these conveyances...
Single males, from 18 to 30 years of age, well acquainted with agricultural work (especially shepherds) of good bodily health and power, and of really good character, will be allowed a passage on being approved... 
Single females, particularly those acquainted with dairy and farmhouse occupations, also good house all such a free passage will be granted, providing they are not under 15 nor above 30 years of age -- shall be proved, by unquestionable testimonials, to be of unexceptionable [sic] character, and that they go out under the protection of a family on board.
It will be indispensable, before parties desirous of proceeding in these ships can obtain a free passage...that certificates be transmitted to the undersigned, certifying in clear and distinct terms, to the moral character, industrious habits, healthy frame, and practical knowledge of his or her pursuit...(3)
The impression produced by Marshall's pamphlet is that the bounty emigration scheme was intended to attract Britain's 'reputable' or 'deserving' poor, rather than the destitute. The targeted demographic seems to have been the semi-skilled working class -- those who could not by themselves afford the 18 pound fare to Australia, but who had not yet become desperate enough to resort to criminal behaviour in order to survive. 

Those of Britain's poor who had so resorted, the 'disreputable' poor, made up an undesirable under-class. More than 120,000 had already been 'transported' to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. It was their allegedly 'malignant' moral influence that the importation of more desirable emigrants was designed to correct.

The institution of "certificates" was therefore an important selection filter in assessing applicants. These documents formed a condensed personal reference. They testified to an individual's identity, with details from parish records on place of birth and birth date, sex and marital status, and religious denomination. They also included level of education (literacy), relevant work skills, and any court appearances. Their legitimacy was derived from the number of signatures attached, with a minimum of two from "reputable householders" such as clergy, local magistrates, borough officials, previous employers, and a registered medical practitioner.

These certificates, duly completed and signed, were then submitted to the shipping agent before departure, to the Supervising Surgeon on board the ship, and then to the colonial Immigration Board officers before disembarking at their destination. At each of these three stages the responsible authority was to check the details of identity supplied in the certificates with their own observations at interview. The certificates were, in effect, the emigrant's 'licence' to travel. They were, as Marshall said, "indispensable".

There were frauds. In a letter dated July 1842, Port Phillip's Superintendent La Trobe complained to Governor Sir George Gipps that, "instances of fraud are not wanting...Once furnished with the requisite certificates, and passed by the officers appointed to the duty in England, it is impossible for the local Board to reject an individual presenting himself or herself here".(4)

Most irritating to the colonial authorities was the misrepresentation of employment experience and the obvious connivance in that deception by the emigration sub-agents in the home ports. In his testimony to an Immigration Committee inquiry in 1842, Sydney Board Agent Frances Merewether claimed, "A considerable proportion of the English, called 'agricultural labourers', and many of the Irish who have lately arrived, appear to have been discontented idlers, or men employed in or around sea port towns where the emigrants embarked. These men were doubtless shipped because they came ready to hand, and were obtained without expense".(5)

Merewether felt powerless to prevent the offences or punish the offenders. "For instance," he testified, "some of the grossest frauds lately bought under our notice have been practiced in the office of the [Liverpool] selecting agent of one of the most respectable mercantile houses in Sydney. His employers have, in the most honourable manner repudiated his acts, but the evil has not been the less for their abhorrence of it".(6)

Merewether's point in Sydney is the same made by La Trobe in Melbourne. In other words, once the emigrants landed in the Colony of New South Wales, it was too far and too costly to send them back.

However, these faults in the system should not be given undue weight. In Britain the regulations on bounty emigration were seen quite differently. It was felt by a number of commentators there that the qualification requirements for the scheme were too restrictive. The certificates of character and identity may have seemed an imperfect barrier to the colonists, but 'at home' the standards set seemed insurmountably high. The chief complaint from the British perspective was that bounty emigration did very little to solve the domestic social problems of land evictions, unemployment and poverty.

In the late 1830s, the "Agent for Emigration to New South Wales in Scotland" Dr. Boyter, came into conflict with the "Destitution of Highlanders Relief Committee" in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. John Bowie of the Edinburgh committee advised that, "many who are willing to go to Australia cannot comply with the regulations because they are too old, or wish to take aged relatives". Another view was that the bounty scheme would strip the Scottish Highlands of "the superior class of emigrants" like "intelligent shepherds". Campbell of Jura, a landowner on the Glasgow committee, was one of these. He argued that the scheme would "deplete" a population that already had limited employment skills.(7)

In 1839 a letter was published in the Scottish press from C.J. Munro, "an opulent banker and extensive sheep-farmer in Ross-shire". Munro declared, "If Boyter were ridding the country of its scum, we should be obliged to him, but he is depriving us of the very flower of the land. I don't know one bad man he has taken from this country".(8) A similar sentiment was expressed in Northern Ireland in the 1840s, where one clergyman wrote, "the young, the enterprising and the industrious leave us, while the old, the idle and indolent portions, the dregs, stay with us".(9)

These are bigoted opinion-pieces, but they are relevant because they balance the colonial views on the effectiveness of the certificates of character and identity. They represent an alternative 'reality' that was not acknowledged in Australia. The poor reputation of the reliability of the certificates at Port Phillip (and Port Jackson) should be tempered by these equally contemporary sources. 

In the British Isles, the Emigration Commissioners' requirements presented a real obstacle to the dispossessed and destitute. They created a conduit to the colonies for those not completely crushed by their economic circumstances. Under the system of certificates of character, it is reasonable to say, bounty emigrants were generally selected for social characteristics that were deemed beneficial at the time.

That they were English, Irish, or Scottish, did not alter the outcome by much. By the local Immigration Board member's own evidence in 1842, a better indicator of fraudulent misrepresentation was the actual port of departure. In the words of Magistrate Hutchinson Browne, "The best ships have come from London; the worst have principally come from Liverpool and Greenock [Glasgow], where no care seems to have been taken in the selection, the object being merely to fill up the ships".(10)

Economic Improvement of the Colony

Probably of most interest to the colonists was the question of labour. There were two principal issues at stake: the quality of labour (the problem of "bolters"), and the quantity of labour (the problem of "high wages"). It was hoped that the introduction of bounty emigrants from 1839 onward would address both these issues. And, in large part, it did. The squatters of Port Phillip admitted as much in their responses to Lonsdale and Patterson's 1842 inquiry into immigration. 
"The late large importations of labour into the district has had the most beneficial effects; it has brought labour, or rather wages, down from their former oppressive price to a more equitable rate; it has made servants of every class more obedient to their employers, and more careful and diligent in their respective callings; and it has placed the proprietors of the soil in a position to cultivate and improve the land purchased from the Crown, and has thereby directed their attention more to agricultural pursuits".(11)
It is doubtful that the squatters were genuinely interested in the last part of this paragraph. They were pastoralists, large scale graziers of sheep, and their sole business was the production of wool. For this they needed vast areas of grassland and a cheap and obedient workforce of shepherds and shearers. It is in the furtherance of that goal that they, quite genuinely, pronounced themselves much satisfied.

Neither the Colonial Office in London nor the self-interested pastoralists in the Port Phillip District were keen to conduct a truly radical social experiment in the colony. They had no intention of upsetting the existing order of colonial society by importing self-employed small-farmers for example. Rather, they were interested in fostering the emigration of a working class population, in increasing the supply of semi-skilled employees. Judging from the colonial census result from the decade 1836 to 1846, they were successful in this too.

In 1836 Lieutenant Lonsdale received specific instructions from the then Governor of New South Wales, Sir Richard Bourke. The governor directed that, "Immediately after landing in Port Phillip you are to take an accurate census of every person then residing in the District, specially noting those who have occupied any portion of land by erecting a hut or grazing cattle or sheep..."(12) Lonsdale's census revealed a grand total of 224 European residents (186 male and 38 female), including 44 "occupiers of land" who were grazing 41,332 sheep, 155 cattle and 75 horses (but cultivating only 97 acres of ground). These figures did not include the "Government Establishment" of clerks, soldiers or convicts, but Lonsdale had made an impressive start on calculating social distinction nonetheless.

By the 1841 Census, Lonsdale's original 44 "occupiers of land" had grown to an employer elite of 742 "Landed Proprietors, Merchants, Bankers, Professional Persons, Shopkeepers and other Retail Dealers". The corresponding figures for "Mechanics and Artificers, Shepherds...Stockmen, Domestic Servants, and All other Persons not included in the Foregoing Classes" had soared to 10,636. In 1841 then, and at the median point of the bounty emigrant scheme, the numbers of employers represented just 6.5% of the population, the 'masses' the other 93.5%.(13)

This phenomenon, of a relatively small class of Masters supervising an increasingly large class of Servants, showed signs of even further concentration in the subsequent Census which took place after the bounty scheme had ceased. The 1846 figures indicated 1,623 Masters compared to 31,256 Servants and their dependents, a ratio of 1 to 19 (or 4.9% to 95.1%).(14) There was clearly no challenge to the social status quo over the decade that included the program of subsidised emigration. Instead, the advantage enjoyed by the 'management class' had only intensified. Despite rapid population growth, real economic power resided in proportionally fewer hands, not more.

More workers chasing a finite number of jobs undoubtedly increased social 'discipline' from the squatters point of view, a state which they felt had not prevailed before. Note the language, the contrast between a 'reasonable' present and a 'disordered' past, in Patterson and Lonsdale's 1842 inquiry.
"The actual demand for labour at present seems not to be very urgent, but the universal opinion decidedly is, that should labour not continue to be regularly, and at short intervals supplied, to a certain amount, the price will most certainly, and that very soon, attain its former ruinous advance, with its usual attendants, insolence, disobedience, and reckless carelessness on the part of the employed towards the employers".(15)
When reading the letters, journals, and memoirs, of the squatters from the early settlement period, it is common to come across adverse comments about their pre-emigration workforce. Up until about 1840, such anecdotes were often expressed wryly, in tones of wearied resignation. The ex-convicts are portrayed as villains, the squatters as slightly irritated but ultimately powerless observers.

In letters home to their family in London in December 1839, Charles and Henry Burchett of The Gums attempt to make a dark joke of it all. Henry writes, "We are off tomorrow, as Charles says we, if the bullock driver is sober enough..." Charles adds to the letter, "My establishment consists of a Shepherd, a Hut-keeper, a Bullock driver (a precious villain, as almost all in that category are -- many of these 'old lags' may be described as a friend of mine says, not merely as 'cutthroat looking villains', but as men 'who look as though they couldn't possibly keep a knife out of your throat')..."(16)

Katherine Kirkland on Trawalla believed that the squatters were intimidated by their employees. She writes of arriving new to the colony and how, travelling up country from Geelong in February 1839, she came to this realisation: "I now began to be a little disgusted and astonished at the dirty and uncomfortable way in which the settlers lived. They seemed quite at the mercy of their hutkeepers, eating what was placed before them out of dirty tin plates, and using a knife and fork if one could be found...but the truth was, they were afraid to speak, in case the hutkeeper would be offended and run away...or, as they call it, bolt...the country was so ill provided with servants; they were the masters..."(17)

In a letter to a friend dated 2 March 1840, Charles Labilliere on Yallock Park relates, "The greatest annoyance we experienced is from our servants these fellows get 35-40 pounds per annum and rations consisting of as much meat,tea, sugar, bread &c., as they can consume, three times a day. The other day we had an entire good sized leg of mutton cooked for 5 of them...when they saw their supper they sent us word we were starving them. This impertinence did not arise from any deficiency in their meal but from rage that we had put any restriction on them...Another man we had could never be persuaded to get comfortable clothing, remarking that his wages of 40 pounds per annum, was quite little enough for the publicans".(18)

However, in the private accounts written after the 1841-1842 peak of bounty emigration, there seems to have been a change of attitude -- the emergence of an altogether more confident and assertive squatter class. A.C. Cameron was the Clyde Company's manager on Terinallum (57,600 acres). He reported by regular bullock dray delivered letters to the Company's senior manager, George Russell on Golf Hill  (72,200 acres). On 19 October 1846, Cameron wrote to Russell, "I am doubtful [sic] I will have to dismiss Marsleim, who is at Little Spring with the lambs: he is a careless, lazy old rogue. I am determined to stand no nonsense from any of them, especially as I have got more than I require at present".(19)

Only five days later, on 24 October, Cameron writes, "The old rascal Marsleim, or Masslan as he calls himself, bolted on Thursday morning and left his Flock in the Fold: he came in on Wednesday Evening and asked me if I would let him have a Pair of Boots, as he could not follow his sheep. Thinking that he might do better I let him have a Pair, with which he decamped next morning; he was 14 days here, during which time he had the weaners, so I think he has not got the better of me by much. I should like he would be made an example of; But on the other hand he is a good riddance". (The editor of Clyde Company Papers notes, "The ledger shows, in Cameron's hand, William Masslan as hired on 10 Oct. at 26 pounds a year, credited with 18s. 7d. for thirteen day's wages, and debited 16s. for the boots".) (20)

Another employer with an eye on the penalties available under the Masters and Servants Act was Charles Macknight on Dunmore Station. His entries are terse and business-like.
1845 Oct. 23: Peter bolted. W.C. [partner] went to Port...
                 25: ...W.C. returned having sent a Constable with a warrant for Peter's     apprehension...
1847 Aug. 7 : ...Dray started for P.F....gave Charlie and order for 2 pounds...
                 12: ...Gave Charles 1 pound in Port Fairy.
                 20: ...Charles Edwards bolted. C.H.M. [principal] started for Port to get a warrant.
                 21: Started the Black Police in search of Charles...
                 31: ...O'Brien came bringing a note from [Captain] Dana and started for Lloyd's after Charles.
1850 Nov. 24: Sunday. Stancliffe and Parkinson drunk.
                 25: C.H.M. to Port for Constable.
                 26: Sent down Parkinson in handcuffs.
                 28: Went to Port Fairy...
                 29: Had Parkinson tried and sentenced for two months.
        Dec. 31: ...Paid off Stancliffe. (21)

This sort of summary justice, and the determination to track down and punish any 'wrongdoer', seems to have moved a long way on from the resigned 'indulgence' of misbehaviour that was common in former years. The 1830s Henty Brothers' Journal is no less abrupt than Macknight's Dunmore Journal in the 1840s, but attitudes to similar infringements read quite differently in the earlier Portland Bay version.
1836 Dec. 25: ...Men all drunk & disorderly, particularly McLeod.
                 26: ...Beresford, Dent, Prichard & McLeod, all drunk & not able to work...
                 27: ...McLeod drunk & was absent in the afternoon...
                 28: ...Edward [brother and partner] would not allow McLeod into the hut in consequence of his misbehaviour.(22)
Sleeping under the stars for one night in summer, after 3 days drunkenness, does not equate with 2 months imprisonment for one day on the grog a decade later.

The other major economic issue for the Port Phillip District elite was the cost of wages. They hoped that by increasing the supply of labour, the resulting competition for employment would bid down its price. The effect of bounty emigration on wages was indeed downwards and swift. The strong belief of the squatters was that pre-emigration wage rates were "ruinous". But the parallel frustration examined above, that of worker "insolence", is never far away from their thoughts, as the following contemporary accounts demonstrate.

(This chapter's use of verbatim extracts from colonists' letters and diaries, rather than brief, paraphrasing summaries of their contents, is to avoid the 'loss' or dilution of this aspect of employer sentiment. These authentic voices from the past resonate with resentment at any displays of working class independence. The squatters do not just want a cheaper workforce. They want a respectful one. They want the threat of dismissal to mean real unemployment and hardship -- the restoration of a Master's 'instant' authority over his Servants.)

On 16 December 1839, at the peak of high wages, Dr. David Wilsone on Wirrobbie wrote to his brother in Glasgow. "Let me assure you my dear George what betwixt Natives and Dingoes & our Shepards we have a most anxious and active life. I am sorry to write that at the very commencement of our 2nd year with John and Donald, they have both agreed to leave as asking 45 pounds wages and rations equal to as much more. I do not yet know what Allan will do, but suspect it will be likewise [margin: 'yes, he leaves us also'], most ungrateful for all we have done for them (but that word has no meaning here)".

However, in a later letter dated 20 July 1841, Wilsone tells of a remarkable change in economic conditions: "yesterday we had nearly about 600 Emigrant arrive here in 2 London ships, which has most opportunely brought down the price of labour, & we can now catch one or two for 25 pounds per annum".(23)

In a similar account, Mrs Kirkland relates her move from Trawalla Station to live in Melbourne in 1841, and her observations of the same dramatically altering circumstances.
"I had great difficulty in getting a servant when we came to town; indeed I was without one for several weeks...[and then] an Irishwoman came to the the door...she had landed from an emigrant ship three days before...She turned out an honest well-behaved girl, but very slow and very dirty; her wages were twenty pounds a-year. Several ships arrived soon after this with emigrants, and servants began to find great difficulty in getting situations; they were to be seen going about the streets inquiring of every one if they wanted servants. Of course the wages came quickly down: men were now to be hired for twenty and twenty-five pounds a-year, and women from twelve to fifteen...The servants seemed astonished at the sudden change of things, for which they were not at all prepared...They had little money, and lodgings were very high in price. These girls had come out with the most magnificent notions, and were sadly disappointed when they found that situations were so difficult to be procured".(24)
To conclude this chapter on the squatters' expectations of the bounty emigrant scheme, it is apparent that, in very large part, the employer elite got what they asked for. The system of 'Certificates' of identity and character was sometimes abused, but it still operated as an effective filter, excluding the criminalised poor from assisted to the colonies. It is also evident from contemporary anecdotal sources that the power-relationship between employers and employees was radically altered in the former's favour, and that wages were significantly reduced, by the introduction of large numbers of bounty emigrants.

Nevertheless, the colonial beneficiaries of the first wave of working class immigration to the Port Phillip District continued to voice their dissatisfaction with the ethnic composition of the shipments. The next chapter will establish the facts behind their discontent, using the data from the Lists of Immigrants for each vessel to map the emigrants' origins according to their 'native place'.


(1) John Marshall, 1839, 'Australian Packet Ships - Emigration to New South Wales - Free Passage', in Twenty Years' Experience in Australia, London, Elder Smith & Co., pp. 60-62
(2) 'Report From The Select Committee on Transportation', 1836, British Parliamentary Papers, 1838, Appendix 1, No. 55, p.305
(3) John Marshall, 1839, as above
(4) British Parliamentary Papers, 1780-1849, 1843, Volume 34, Appendix M, p.75
(5) As above, p. 89
(6) As above, p. 88
(7) D.S. Macmillan, 1967, Scotland and Australia 1788-1850, Oxford, Clarendon Press
(8) As above
(9) K.A. Millar, 1985, Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America, Oxford University Press, p. 201
(10) British Parliamentary Papers, 1843, pp. 92,98
(11) As above, Appendix N, p. 77
(12) Michael Cannon & Ian Macfarlane (eds.), 1984, Historical Records of Victoria, Volume 3, Melbourne University Press, p. 419
(13) Australian Data Archive, < 4>
(14) As above, <.../NSW-1846-census-Page47>
(15) British Parliamentary Papers, 1843, Appendix M, p. 76
(16) Burchett Brothers Letters, State Library of Victoria, MS 13417, MSB 92/5, pp. 36,38
(17) Katherine Kirkland, 1844, Life in the Bush. By a Lady, Edinburgh, Chambers Miscellany, pp. 6,8
(18) Labilliere Letter, State Library of Victoria, MS 5586, MSB 42/1
(19) P.L. Brown (ed.), 1959, Clyde Company Papers, Volume IV, 1846-50, Oxford University Press, pp. 118
(20) As above, p. 128
(21) The Dunmore Journal, State Library of Victoria, MS 8999, MSB F1839/5
(22) Lynette Peel (ed.), 1996, The Henty Journals, Melbourne University Press, p. 185
(23) Dr. Wilsone Letters, State Library of Victoria, MS 9285, MSB 267/2 (a) & (c)
(24) Katherine Kirkland, 1844, pp. 31-32

Monday, 15 August 2016

FIRST WAVE: A Distant Mirror

FIRST WAVE: Emigrant ships to Port Phillip 1839-1845

Chapter One: Distant Mirror

During the years from 1839 to 1845, some 70 sailing ships transported a total of 13,092 'bounty emigrants' from Great Britain to the Port Phillip District of the Colony of New South Wales.(1) Port Phillip was to become the Colony of Victoria after 1851, but at the time the first shiploads of assisted immigrants were arriving in 1839, the settlement was barely established. In October 1838 the New South Wales governor Sir George Gipps reported to Lord Glenelg in London -- "The number of inhabitants of all descriptions is supposed now to exceed 3,000, of whom, however, a considerable number are convicts..."(2) The 'first wave' of subsidised migration in the following years therefore represented a significant addition to the European population, both in numerical and social terms.

The Port Phillip District has known several significant waves of migration since then. After 'Separation' of the Colony of Victoria from New South Wales, it was transformed by the effects of the Gold Rush. Settler numbers grew from 77,345 in 1851 to 540,322 in 1861, a seven-fold increase over ten years. A century later (and half a century after 'Federation' as the State of Victoria), it experienced a massive post-war influx of non-British subjects leaving a ravaged Europe. In recent decades too, with the devolution of the White Australia Policy, it has received large numbers of non-European migrants and refugees, increasing both population density and diversity.

These successive waves of 'mass migration' are particularly distinctive for their contribution to a 'mixed', society. Each wave represents significant movement away from a singularly British ideal. They form episodes in a progressive 'relaxation' of ethnic standards; from an exclusively English model of colonial 'civilisation' to one that includes other Britons, then other Europeans, and now, non-Europeans from Asia, the Middle East, Africa and South America. And the subsequent waves, like the first, have been accompanied by suspicion and unease, with public emotions aroused over the issues of religious and racial difference.

In the British Empire of the first half of the nineteenth century, the ogre of 'terror' spoke with an Irish accent. In other words, the concerns now felt about about the present wave of migration, of Islamic customs and religious extremism, were also prominent during the first wave, with fear of Catholicism ('the Church of Rome') and violent sedition. It became a colonial obsession to count up the numbers of Irish bounty emigrants relative to those from England and Scotland, and then agonise over the colony's capacity to safely absorb them without incurring a loss of cultural unity and social discipline.

From the very start of bounty ships sailing direct from Britain to Port Phillip, the arrival of emigrants was both welcome and contested. On the one hand, they were considered desirable additions to the population in an economic sense, for increasing the supply of labour and consequent lowering of wages. On the other hand, however, their 'native' characteristics generated alarm about the introduction of 'difference'.

In this context, it seems reasonable to borrow Barbara Tuchman's book title from the 1970s for the name of this chapter. Investigating the 'first wave' of immigration is like looking into A Distant Mirror -- of seeing an image where the present is reflected back through the past.(3)

The first population

The primary impact of the arrival of 13,092 British 'bounty emigrants' in the Port Phillip District was numerical. It was a proportional effect on the pre-existing populations of the early settlement period. The 'first population' were indigenous Australian Aborigines. Establishing precise numbers for the Aboriginal population at this time is notoriously difficult.

Jan Critchett's A Distant Field of Murder, published in 1990, is one well-documented account that analyses the available data for the Western District of Victoria.(4) The obvious limitation is that such research is restricted to the contemporary written records made by Europeans and their collection of information was by no means systematic. Critchett uses the observations of the Aboriginal Protector George Robinson to estimate a southwestern population of 3,299 in 1841. But she is quick to point out that this figure does not give "a pre-contact population density" for Aborigines in that region. In her sensible view, "there is no doubt" that Aboriginal numbers "had already declined since European settlement began" in 1835.(5) 

The importance of Critchett's work lies in her perspective of population relativities, and the possible contemporary conceptions of those relativities, on the Aboriginal/European frontier.
 A census of the European population taken in March1841 revealed a population of 1,260 [in the Western District], of whom 1,102 were males and 158 were females...Opposed to the European population of at least 1,260 was a population of approximately 3,500 Aborigines [including 1,011 women and 1,074 children]...There were approximately equal numbers of Aboriginal and European men in the District in 1841 -- 1,167 Aborigines and 1,102...Europeans.(6) 
The historian's connection here provides a critical insight into the nature of 'frontier-thinking'. For those who actually had their feet on the ground in 1841, the victory of European over Aboriginal interests was anything but a foregone conclusion. The situation, psychologically at least, remained uncertain. Reinforcing that feeling of an uneasy equivalence was the very present danger of sudden and violent death. 

Critchett's research of other documented sources reveals that, between 1835 and 1847, some 38 Europeans were killed by Aborigines and 257 Aborigines were killed by Europeans.(7) This is an uneven mortality count, to be sure, but there was clearly enough carnage being inflicted by both sides to ensure that martial supremacy was not automatically assumed by either. Tension remained high.

To acknowledge the essentially mental nature of 'frontier' is, in one sense, to avoid under-representing anything that might unsettle its taut balance. In the minds of Aboriginal defenders, for instance, the visible evidence of more and more sailing ships unloading more and more Europeans on the shores of their traditional lands would not have been encouraging. Perhaps things would never be the way they were before. But for the 'squatters' pressing further inland with their flocks and herds, the same events can only have been emboldening.

The second population

The statistics of population for 'white settlers' are more readily ascertained. A colonial government census was conducted in 1836, and this information was updated by 'administrative musters' in 1838 , and regular censuses in 1841 and 1846. In summary form, these official counts of the European population at Port Phillip portray a rapidly increasing trajectory. From a low base of 224 in 1836, numbers of settlers rose to 3,511 by January 1838 and 4,950 by December 1838. Following the introduction of bounty emigrants from Britain the census results for March 1841 reached 11,738 Europeans, rising to 32,879 by March 1846.(8)

An idea of the mental impact of the bounty emigrant scheme on the white settlers already in the colony can be sensed from the numbers of numbers 'new colonists' arriving each year. In 1839 four ships carrying 600 immigrants arrive in Hobson's Bay. These are greeted with universal acclamation. In 1840 a further nine ships arrive with 1,441 people. Their reception is more subdued and murmurings about disease and quarantine begin. In 1841, a peak year for the Australian traffic in human cargo, a further 41 ships bring in 7,892 immigrants. By this time Port Phillip is 'a-flood' with 'strangers', and resentments about the competition they bring for employment and accommodation, are openly expressed. This is followed by another ten ships in 1842 with 1,747 immigrants, before a pause in 1844 when the local recession in colonial land sales halts funding for the scheme. A final flurry of ships occurs in 1844, with six vessels carrying in a further 1,412 bounty emigrants. By this time, (apart from the 'squatters', for whom wages can never be too low), most colonists feel that 'enough is enough', at least for the next few years.

In a chapter fittingly titled "Victoria's Van Diemonian Foundation", the author of a recent history of Tasmania remarks on "the inconvenient truth that Victoria was first settled by ex-convicts from Van Diemen's Land".(9) James Boyce argues that "in the early colonial period...Bass Strait functioned like a highway to Port Phillip", and that up until the end of 1837 "virtually the whole population had come from across Bass Strait", ("even in 1839 there were twice as many arrivals from Van Diemen's Land as from New South Wales").(10) This second population, a few hundred 'men of capital' and their more numerous 'ticket of leave' workers from the southern penal colony, could not fail to notice the influx of emigrants gathering pace around them. Not only their relative numbers impressed. Their 'character' was also new. This third population was a very different demographic to themselves.

One consequence of importing most of Port Phillip's original labour-force from a prison-colony was a pronounced imbalance of the sexes. Males predominated and families were few among the European early settler population. At the 1836 Census of colonists, 186 males outnumbered 38 females, a ratio of 5 to 1. The difference in 1838 was even starker, with 3,080 males and just 431 females, a ratio of 7 to 1.(11)  By contrast, the 1846 Census, conducted after the first shiploads of emigrants had begun to arrive, identified 8,274 males and 3,464 females, a reduced imbalance of 2.5 to 1. And by the 1846 Census, taken after the first wave of new arrivals had ceased, there were 20, 184 males and 12, 695 females, a much improved ratio of 1.5 to 1.(12)

The sudden and lasting impact of women, and large numbers of accompanying children, on a male society made up of hardened ex-prisoners who had been deliberately deprived of female company for decades, should not be underestimated. The emigrants were, because of their female component, and the single-women component in particular, literally the foundation of the future. From them would come the families of 'colonials', from them the values and customs which all colonists would come to believe were uniquely theirs.

The third population

Despite the apparent grounds for celebration in the pre-migration community of Port Phillip, there was in fact a high degree of suspicion and mistrust at the colonial end of the human-export pipeline. This ill-feeling was widespread and publicly expressed. And it was all about the Irish element of the bounty emigrants arriving at the settlement.

In October 1839, merchant Andrew Browles Smith gave evidence before the Committee of Immigration. Smith was the principal of A.B. Smith & Co, "one of the most respected mercantile houses in Sydney", and later a major consignor of bounty emigrants to Port Phillip. In 1841 his firm introduced seven ships to Melbourne, all from Liverpool, with a total of 1,614 assisted immigrants. In 1839, however, Smith was already a man keenly attuned to the requirements of the labour market in the Colony of New South Wales.

Smith faced probing questions. He conceded that of his Sydney consignments to date, "two fifths are Irish". He acknowledged that the Irish portion "are less esteemed than English or Scotch, who always go off first". But, he assured his inquisitors, "We have instructed [our agents in Liverpool] not to send Irish if they can obtain English or Scotch; not only because of those difficulties in finding them employment, but because they are the chief promoters of quarrels on board during the voyage".(13) (Of Glaswegian origins, Smith was apparently canny enough to fall into the same populist habit of opprobrium as his enquirers).

Similarly, in 1842, the Port Phillip Superintendent commissioned two of his officers on the Melbourne Immigration Board to conduct an inquiry. Lt. William Lonsdale and Dr. John Patterson duly ascertained the opinions of "a considerable number of gentlemen, residents in the town and surrounding districts, who are most likely to be well informed upon the subject". They reported, "The prevailing opinion is that the selection of immigrants has not been conducted with becoming care of attention; and that in most cases they have not been procured from those parts of the United Kingdom most likely to afford really good and useful servants".(14)

When it came to mentioning specific cases, the restraints of official language and guarded implication were discarded: "A large proportion of single females, chiefly from the south and south-west of Ireland, have been imported into the colony in the last 18 months. These young women have been found so totally unqualified for the common wants of the colony, most of them never having been in [domestic] service at home, and being utterly unacquainted with the duties of housemaids, could not find employment but with great difficulty".

In his accompanying letter to Lonsdale and Patterson's report, Superintendent Charles La Trobe extended his category of "helpless peasants" and "useless hands" to include married Irish men with too many children: "The large importations we have received of so-called labourers, married men with very large families from the south and south-west of Ireland...have given us ample occasions of finding to our cost that the letter of the Regulations may be tolerably well followed, and yet the main object, to the effect which they are framed, completely defeated".(15)

Again, with the married men as with the single females, there were negative consequences for the public purse. The Port Phillip report noted, "The settlers would not engage this description of labour, on account of the children, who could not be any use to them [but who ate up the squatters' expensive rations nonetheless]. The consequence was that hundreds of married men could not find employment in either town or country, and were thrown on the bounty of the Government, who, to save them and their families from starvation, gave them employment in public works".(16)

A final example of the general disposition against the Irish coming into the colony (and a display of journalistic vitriol that defies any notion of conventional restraint), is contained in a report of the Port Phillip Patriot in May 1842. On the occasion of what was probably Melbourne's first moratorium march, the newspaper 'described',
"a number of the recently imported immigrants...principally, indeed almost entirely, from the South of Ireland, and as utterly useless for any supposable species of farm labour as can well be imagined. These men were consequently left on the hands of the government for so long as there was a practicability of obtaining a better description of labourers, even at a higher rate. Since the cessation of immigration, however, the demand for labour has been on the increase, and the settlers have been obliged to have recourse to the corps of bogtrotters in the employ of the government, to make up their complement of shepherds, watchmen, farm labourers &c. These gentry, however, were in receipt of a pound a week each from the government, and their work was as easy as they choose to make it; they all therefore refused higher wages, because coupled with the condition of hard work."(17)
The squatters complained to La Trobe, insisting the 'relief' wage was too high. The Superintendent then lowered the men's pay from 20 shillings per week to 18, presumably to prompt the workers departure for rural employment. 
"This resolution was communicated to the men on Tuesday morning on their assembling at the works, and about nine they struck...and paraded the town, cheering as they went, and carrying as their standard a loaf of bread stuck on a pole. Intelligence of the procession having reached the police office, Major St. John and his myrmidous [sic] proceeded to the spot, and speedily succeeded in dispersing the mob. The ringleaders are in custody, and will be brought up for examination this morning."(18)
The Patriot, relieved no doubt by the colonial administrations demonstration of authority, concluded the article with a number of assertions to support its its tone of moral outrage.
"At least three-fourths of these fellows would have considered themselves happy in their native country if in receipt of six shillings a week, and many of them scarcely ever saw a loaf of bread, or tasted butcher's meat, before they embarked for Melbourne; it would be serving the ungrateful rascals but right therefore to turn them everyone adrift, and let them shift for themselves...When the immigration season re-commences we trust care will be taken to send us no more of these fellows. It is a notorious fact, that while these men have hung on hand, some of them for many months, every English, Scotch, and North of Ireland immigrant has been engaged immediately on arrival...The importers of immigrants, who inundate us with this description of men, have much to answer for".(19)
With these denunciations still ringing in our ears, this chapter comes to a close. The introduction of all three populations has indicated the importance of perceptions in the migration story. Host populations tend to view migrants in terms of how their arrival will effect themselves, and wariness is not an unusual approach to take. However the level of anti-Irish feeling here is something else and it appears to issue most strongly from the employing elite. The next chapter will examine what it was that the colonists expected from the bounty scheme of emigration from Britain, and whether there were rational grounds for their trenchant criticism of its conduct.


(1) These figures, and the basis for all that follows,were compiled by the author from the 'Lists of Passengers' (sometimes called 'Lists of Disposals') written out by the Port Phillip District Immigration Board for each ship bringing Bounty Emigrants. The original lists are available online by the New South Wales Public Records Office <>
and in hard copy at the Victorian Public Records Office in Melbourne.
(2) 'Copy of a Despatch' reproduced in The Sydney Herald, Wednesday 1 July, 1840, Supplement p. 1
(3) Barbara Tuchman, 1978, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, New York, Alfred A Knof
(4) Jan Critchett, 1990, A Distant Field of Murder: Western District Frontiers 1834-1848, Carlton VIC, Melbourne University Press. Critchett's research is largely confirmed by Ian Clark, 1995, Scars in the Landscape: A Register of Massacre Sites in Western Victoria 1803-1859, Canberra, Aboriginal Studies Press.
(5) Critchett 1990, pp. 74,76,85.
(6) Critchett 1990, pp. 26,76,27.
(7) Critchett 1990, pp. 237-255 (Appendices 2 & 3).
(8) For 1836 and 1838: Historical Records of Victoria, Vol. 3, 1984, Melbourne, Victorian Government Printing Office, pp. 422,447-9. For 1841 and 1846: Australian Data Archive, < Page 4...NSW-1846-census Page 41>
(9) James Boyce, 2008, Van Diemen's Land, Collingwood VIC, Black Inc.
(10) Boyce 2008, pp. 244,246. Boyce references Marie Fel's article in Tasmanian Historical Studies (1991-92) 3, 2:73, and Alan Shaw's article in Tasmanian Historical Studies (1989-90) 2, 2:394.
(11) Historical Records of Victoria, Vol. 4, pp. 258-9.
(12) Historical Records of Victoria, Vol 3, pp. 422, 447-8, and Australian Data Archive, <hccda.../NSW-1841-census...NSW-1846-census>
(13) British Parliamentary Papers, Vol. XXXIV, 1843, 'Report of the Committee on Immigration with the Appendix and Minutes of Evidence', Appendix K, p. 51.
(14) British Parliamentary Papers 1843, Appendix N, p. 78.
(15) British Parliamentary Papers 1843, Appendix M, p. 75
(16) British Parliamentary Papers 1843, Appendix N, p. 77
(17) 'Immigration', Port Phillip Patriot, reproduced in The Sydney Herald, Friday 13 May, 1842, p. 2
(18) and (19), as above.