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Emigrants and Immigration

Very surprising it seems to assert that the Mother Country knows very little about the finest colony which she possesses—and that an enlightened people emigrate from sober, speculative England, sedate and calculating Scotland, and trusting, unreflective Ireland, absolutely and wholly ignorant of the total change of life to which they must necessarily submit in their adopted home.

I recollect an old story, that an old gunner, in an old-fashioned, three-cornered cocked hat, who was my favorite playfellow as a child, used to tell about the way in which recruits were obtained for the Royal Artillery.

The recruiting sergeant was in those days dressed much finer than any field-marshal of this degenerate, railway era; in fact, the Horse Guards always turned out to the sergeant-major of the Royal Military Academy of Woolwich, when that functionary went periodically to the Golden Cross, Charing Cross, to receive and escort the young gentlemen cadets from Marlow College, who were abandoning the red coat and drill of the foot-soldier to become neophytes in the art and mystery of great gunnery and sapping.

"The way they recruited was thus," said the bombardier. "The gallant sergeant, bedizened in copper lace from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, and with a swagger which no modern drum-major has ever presumed to attempt, addressed a crowd of country bumpkins.

"'Don't listen to those gentlemen in red; their service is one which no man who has brains will ever think of—footing it over the universal world; they have usually been called by us the flatfoots. They uses the musket only, and have hands like feet, and feet like fire shovels.

"'Mind me, gentlemen, the royal regiment of the Royal Artillery is a service which no gentleman need be ashamed of.

"'We fights with real powder and ball, the flatfoots fights with bird-shot. We knows the Perry ferry of the circumference of a round shot. Did you ever see a mortar? Did you ever see a shell? I will answer for it you never did, except the poticary's mortar, and the shell that mortar so often renders necessary.

"'Now, gentlemen, at the imperial city of Woolwich, in the Royal Arsenal, you may, if you join the Royal Artillery, you may see shells in earnest. Did you ever see a balloon? Yes! Then the shells there are bigger than balloons, and are the largest hollow shot ever made—the French has nothing like them.

"'And the way we uses them! We fires them out of the mortars into the enemy's towns, and stuffs them full of red sogers. Well, they bursts, and out comes the flatfoots, opens the gates, and lets the Royal Artillery in; and then every man fills his sack with silver, and gold, and precious stones, after a little scrimmaging.

"'Come along with me, my boys, and every one of you shall have a coat like mine, which was made out of the plunder; and you shall have a horse to ride, and a carriage behind it; and you shall see the glorious city of Woolwich, where the streets are paved with penny loaves, and drink is to be had for asking.'"

So it is with nine-tenths of the emigrants to Canada in these enlightened days; so it is with the emigrants from old England, and from troubled Ireland, to the free and astonishing Union of the States of America and Texas, that conjoint luminary of the new go-ahead world of the West.

Dissatisfied with home, with visionary ideas of El Dorados, or starving amidst plenty, the poorer classes obtain no correct information. Beset generally with agents of companies, with agents of private enterprise, with reckless adventurers, with ignorant priests, or missionaries of the lowest stamp, with political agitators, and with miserable traitors to the land of their birth and breeding, the poor emigrant starts from the interior, where his ideas have never expanded beyond the weaver's loom or factory labor, the plough or the spade, the hod, the plane, or the trowel, and hastens with his wife and children to the nearest sea-port.

There he finds no friend to receive and guide him, but rapacious agents ready to take every advantage of his ignorance, with an eye to his scanty purse. A host of captains, mates, and sailors, eager to make up so many heads for the voyage, pack them aboard like sheep, and cross the Atlantic, either to New York or to Quebec, just as they have been able to entice a cargo to either port. Then come the horrors of a long voyage and short provisions, and high prices for stale salt junk and biscuit; and, at the end, if illness has been on board, the quarantine, that most dreadful visitation of all—for hope deferred maketh the heart sick.

From the first discovery of America, there has been a tendency to exaggeration about the resources and capabilities of that country—a magniloquence on its natural productions, which can be best exemplified by referring the reader to the facsimile of the one in Sir Walter Raleigh's work on Guiana,1 now in the British Museum. Shakespeare had, no doubt, read Raleigh's fanciful description of "the men whose heads do grow beneath their shoulders," &c.; for he was thirty-four years of age when this print was published, only seventeen years before his death.

So expansive a mind as Raleigh's undoubtedly was, was not free from that universal credulity which still reigns in the breasts of all men respecting matters with which they are not personally acquainted; and the glowing descriptions of Columbus and his followers respecting the rich Cathay and the Spice Islands of the Indies have had so permanent a hold upon the imagination, that even the best educated amongst us have, in their youth, galloped over Pampas, in search of visionary Uspallatas. Nor is it yet quite clear that the golden city of El Dorado is wholly fabulous, the region in which it was said to exist not having yet been penetrated by Science; but it soon will be, for a steamboat is to ply up the Maranon, and Peru and Europe are to be brought in contact, although the voyage down that mighty flood has hitherto been a labor of several months.

The poor emigrant, for we must return to him, lands at New York. Sharks beset him in every direction, boarding-houses and grogshops open their doors, and he is frequently obliged, from the loss of all his hard-earned money, to work out his existence either in that exclusively mercantile emporium, or to labor on any canal or railroad to which his kind new friends may think proper, or most advantageous to themselves, to send him. If he escapes all these snares for the unwary, the chances are that, fancying himself now as great a man as the Duke of Leinster, O'Connell, the Lord Mayor of London, or the Provost of Edinburgh, free and unshackled, gloriously free, he becomes entangled with a host of land-jobbers, and walks off to the weary West, there to encounter a life of unremitting toil in the solitary forests, with an occasional visit from the ague, or the milk-fever, which so debilitates his frame, that, during the remainder of his wretched existence, he can expect but little enjoyment of the manorial rights appendant to a hundred acres of wild land.

Let no emigrant embark for the United States unless he has a kind friend to guide and receive him there, and to point out to him the good and the evil; for the native race look upon all foreigners with a jealous eye, and particularly upon the Irish.

The Germans make the best settlers in that country, perhaps because, not speaking English, they cannot be so easily imposed upon by the crimps, and also because they seldom emigrate before they have arranged with their friends in America respecting the lands which they are to occupy.

A society of British philanthropists has been established at New York to direct British emigrants in their ultimate views; but it may well be imagined that these gentlemen, who are chiefly engaged in trade, cannot descend to understand fully, or are constant witnesses of, the low tricks which are practiced to seduce the unwary ones.

The emigrant to Canada is somewhat differently situated.

The Irish come out in shiploads every season, and generally very indifferently provided and without any definite object; nay, to such an extent is this carried, that hundreds of young females venture out every year by themselves, to better their condition, which betterment usually ends in their reaching as far inland as Toronto, where, or at other ports on the lakes, they engage themselves as domestics.

When we consider that nearly 25,000 emigrants leave the Mother Country every year for Canada alone, how important is it that they should be informed of every particular likely to increase their comforts and to conduce to their well-being! This kind of service can be but partially rendered by the present publication, which, being intended for the general reader, cannot be given in a form likely to reach the class of emigrants who usually proceed to America otherwise than through the advice which the reader may, whenever it is in his power, kindly bestow upon them. But it will, I am persuaded, be extensively useful in that way, and also to the settler with a small capital who can afford to consult it.

Learned dissertations upon colonization are useful only to the politician, and so much venality has prevailed among those who have thrust themselves forward in the cause of Canadian settlement, that the public become a little alarmed when they hear of a work expressly designed for the emigrant.

The very best informed at home, and the haute noblesse, have been repeatedly taken in. Dinnerings and lionizing have been the order of the day for persons, who, in the colony, cut a very inferior figure. But this is natural, and in the end usually does no harm. It is natural that the colonist, who is a rara avis in England, should be considered a very extraordinary personage among men who seek for novelty in any shape; because those who lavish favors upon him at one time and eschew his presence afterwards are usually ignorant of the very history of which he is the type. It is like the standing joke of sending out water-casks for the men-of-war built on the fresh-water seas of Canada, for there are plenty of rich folks at home who want only to be filled.

The different sorts of people who emigrate from home to the United States or Canada, may be classed under several heads, like the travelers of Sterne.

First, the inquisitive and restless, who leave a goodly inheritance or occupation behind them, because they have heard that Tom Smith or Mister Mac Grogan, very ordinary folks anywhere, have made a rapid fortune, which is indeed sometimes the case in the United States, though rather rare there for old countrymen, and is still more rare and unlikely in Canada, where large fortunes may be said to be unknown quantities.

Settlers of this class usually fall to the ground very soon—if they settle in Canada, they become Radicals; if they return from the States, they become Tories.

The next class are your would-be aristocratic settlers, younger sons of younger sons, cousins of cousins, Union Barons, nephews' nephews of a Lord Mayor, or unprovided heirs in posse.

These fancy they confer a sort of honor by selecting the colony as their final resting-place, and that a governor and his ministers have nothing in the world to think about but how they can provide for such important units. Hence they frequently end by placing themselves in direct opposition to the powers that be, or take very unwillingly to the labors of a farmer's life. Many of them, when they find that pretension is laughed at, particularly if no talents accompany it, which is rarely or ever the case, for talent is modest and retiring in its essential nature, turn out violent Republicans or Radicals of the most furious caliber; but the more modest portion work heartily at their farms, and frequently succeed.

Another class is your private gentlemen's sons and decent young farmers from England, Ireland, or Scotland, who think before they leap, have connections already established in Canada, and small capitals to commence with. These are the really valuable settlers: they go to Canada for land and living; and eschew the land and liberty system of the neighboring nation. Wherever they settle, the country flourishes and becomes a second Britain in appearance, as may be observed in the London and western districts.

It does not require a very lengthened acquaintance with Canada to form observations upon the characters of the immigrants, as the Webster style of Dr. Johnson will have the word to be.

The English franklin and the English peasant who come here usually weigh their allegiance a little before they make up their minds; but, if they have been persuaded that Queen Victoria's reign is a "baneful domination," they either go to the United States at once, or to those portions of Canada where sympathy with the Stars and Stripes is the order of the day.2

If they be Scotch Radicals, the most uncompromising and the most bitter of all politicians, they seek Canada only with the ultimate hope of revolutionizing it.

But the latter are more than balanced by the respectable Scotch, who emigrate occasionally upon the same principles which actuate the respectable portion of the English emigrants, and by the hardy Highlanders already settled in various parts of the colony, whose proverbial loyalty is proof against the arts of the demagogue.

The great mass of emigrants may however be said to come from Ireland, and to consist of mechanics of the most inferior class, and of laborers. These are all impressed with the most absurd notions of the riches of America, and on landing at Quebec often refuse high wages with contempt, to seek the Cathay of their excited imaginations westward.

If they be Orangemen, they defy the Pope and the devil as heartily in Canada as in Londonderry, and are loyal to the backbone.

If they are Repealers, they come here sure of immediate wealth, to kick up a deuce of a row, for two shillings and sixpence currency is paid for a day's labor, which two shillings and sixpence was a hopeless week's fortune in Ireland; and yet the Catholic Irish who have been long settled in the country are by no means the worst subjects in this Trans-Atlantic realm, as I can personally testify, having had the command of large bodies of them during the border troubles of 1837-8. They are all loyal and true.

In the event of a war, the Catholic Irish, to a man—and what a formidable body it is in Canada and the United States!—will be on the side of England. O'Connell has prophesied rightly there, for it is not in human nature to forget the wrongs which the Catholics have suffered for the past ten years in a country professing universal freedom and toleration.

The Americans of the better classes with whom I have conversed admit this, but their dislike of the Irish is rooted and general among all the native race; and they fear as well as mistrust them, because, in many of the largest cities, New York for one, the Irish predominate.

The Americans say, and so do the Canadians, that, for some years back, since the repeal agitation at home, a few very ignorant and very turbulent priests, of the lowest grade, have found their way across the Atlantic. I have traveled all over Canada, and lived many years in the country, and have been thrown among all classes, from my having been connected with the militia. I never saw but one specimen of Irish hedge-priest, and therefore do not credit the assertion; this one came out last year, and a more furious bigot or a more republican ultra I never met with, at the same time that he was as ignorant as could be conceived.

Such has not hitherto been the case with the Catholic priesthood of the Canadas. The French Canadian clergy are a body of pious, exemplary men, not perhaps shining in the galaxy of science, but unobtrusive, gentlemanly, and an honor to the soutane and chasuble.

The priests from Ireland are not numerous, for the Irish chapels were, till very lately, generally presided over by Scotch missionaries; and I can safely say that, whether Irish or Scotch, the Catholic priesthood of Western Canada will not yield the palm to their Franco-Canadian brethren of the cross, and that loyalty is deeply inculcated by them. I have long and personally known and admired the late Bishop Mac Donell; a worthier or a better man never existed. The highest and the lowest alike loved him.

I saw him bending under the weight of years, passed in his ministry and in the defense of his adopted country, just before he left Canada, to lay his bones in his natal soil, preside over the ceremony of placing the first stone of the Catholic seminary, for which he had given the ground and funds to the utmost of his ability.

He was a large, venerable-looking man, unwieldy from the infirmities of age and a life of toil and trouble; and the affecting and touching portion of the scene before us was to see him supported on his right and left by the arms of a Presbyterian colonel and a colonel of the Church of England.

This is true Christianity, true charity—peace be to his soul!—

His successor was a Canadian, equally free from pretension and bigotry; and he was succeeded by an Irishman, whose mission is to heal the wounds of party and strife. He is living and in office; I cannot, therefore, speak of him; but, differing as an Englishman so widely as I do in religious tenets from his, I can freely assert that, if clergymen of every denomination pursued the same course of brotherly love that he does, we should hear no more of the fierce and undying contention about subjects which should be covered with the veil of benevolence and humility.

You cannot force a man to think as you do, to draw him into what you conceive to be the true path; mildness and conciliation are much more likely to effect your object than the Emperor of China's yellow stick. The days of the Inquisition, of Judge Jefferies, and of Claverhouse, are happily gone by; and the artillery of man's wrath now vents its harmless thunders much in the same way as the thunders of the Vatican, or the recent fulmination of the Archbishop of Paris against the author of the Wandering Jew; that is to say, with a great deal of noise, but without much damnifying any one, as the public soon formed a true judgment of M. Sue and of the tendency of his works.

On the other hand, how horrible it is, and what a fearful view of frail human nature is opened for a searching mind to observe that a man, who professes to have abandoned the pleasures of existence, to have broken through the very first law of nature, to have separated himself from his kind, and to have assumed perfection and infallibility, the attributes of his Creator, devoting the altar at which he serves to the wicked purposes of arraying man against man, and of embruing the hands held up before him at prayer in the blood of his fellow-mortals!

But such is the inevitable tendency of the system of "I am better than thou," whether it be practiced by a Catholic priest of the hedge-school, by a fanatic bawler about new light, or by a fierce and uncompromising churchman. Faith, hope, and charity, are alike misinterpreted and misunderstood. Faith with these consists in blind or hypocritical devotion to their peculiar opinions and dogmas; hope is limited to the narrowest circle of ideas; and charity, Divine charity, exists not; for even the very relics, the moldering bones of the defunct, are not allowed to rest side by side; and as to those differing in the slightest degree from them, to them charity extends not, however pious, however sincere, or however excellent they may be.

The people of England are very little aware how widely Roman Catholicism extends in the United States and in Canada. From accurate returns, it has been ascertained that in the United States there were last year 1,500,000, with 21 bishops, 675 churches, 592 mission stations, and 572 priests otherwise employed in teaching and traveling; 22 colleges or ecclesiastical establishments, 23 literary institutions, 53 female schools or convents for instruction, 84 charitable hospitals and institutions, and 220 young students, preparing for the ministry; whilst we learn, from the Annals of the Propaganda, that 1,130,000 francs were appropriated, in May 1845, to the missions of America, or about £47,000 annually, of which the share for the United States, including Texas, was 771,164 francs, or about £32,000 in round numbers.

Then again, the greater portion of the Indian tribes in the north-west and west, excepting near the Rocky Mountains or beyond them, are Roman Catholics; and their numbers are very great, and all in deep hatred, dislike, and enmity, to the Big Knives.

More than half a million of the Lower Canadians are also of the same persuasion, and their church in Upper Canada is large and increasing by every shipload from Ireland. Even in Oregon, a Catholic bishop has just been appointed.

It is more than probable, that in and around the United States three millions of Roman Catholic men are ever ready to advance the standard of their faith; whilst Mexico, weak as it is, offers another Catholic barrier to exclusive tenets of liberty, both of conscience and of person.

It is surprising how very easily the emigrants are misled, and how simply they fancy that, once on the shores of the New World, Fortune must smile upon them.

There is a British society, as I have already stated, for mutual protection, established at New York; and the government have agents of the first respectability at Quebec, at Montreal, and at Kingston. But the poorer classes, as well as those whose knowledge of life has been limited, are sadly defrauded and deluded.

At a recent meeting of the Welsh Society at New York, facts were stated, showing the depravity and audacity of the crimps at Liverpool and New York. The President of the Society said that, owing to the nefarious practices against emigrants, the Germans first, then the Irish, after that the Welsh, and lastly the English residents of the city had taken the matter in hand by the formation of Protective Societies.

The president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick observed that in Liverpool the poor emigrants were fleeced without mercy; and he gave as one instance a fact that, by the representations of a packet agent, a large number of emigrants were induced to embark on board a packet without the necessary supply of provisions, being assured that for their passage-money they would be supplied by the captain—an arrangement of which the captain was wholly ignorant.

The president of the Welsh Society exhibited sixty dollars of trash in bills of the Globe Bank, that had been palmed off upon an unsuspecting Welshman by some rascal in Liverpool, in exchange for his hoarded gold, and declared that this was only one of a series of like felonies constantly occurring.

The ex-president of the St. George's Society, Mr. Fowler, mentioned a curious circumstance connected with the history of New York. He said that he remembered the city when it contained only fifty thousand inhabitants, and not one paved side walk, excepting in Dock Street. Now it had a population of nearly 400,000, and had so changed, that he could no longer identify the localities of his youthful days.

Who, he asked, had done this? The emigrant! and it was protection they needed, not charity. He should have added, that the great mass of the emigrants who have made New York the mighty city it now is, were Irish, and that the native Americans have banded themselves in another form of protection against their increasing influence.

The republican notions which the greater portion of the lower classes emigrating from the old country have been drilled into, lead them to believe that in the United States all men are equal, and that thus they have a splendid vault to make from poverty to wealth, an easy spring from a state of dependency to one of vast importance and consideration. The simple axiom of republicanism, that a ploughman is as good as a president, or a quarryman as an emperor, is taken firm hold of in any other sense than the right one. What sensible man ever doubted that we were all created in the same mould, and after the same image; but is there a well educated sane mind in America, believing that a perfect equality in all things, in goods and chattels, in agrarian rights and in education, is, or ever will be, practicable in this naughty world?

Has nature formed all men with the same capacities, and can they be so exactly educated that all shall be equally fit to govern?

The converse is true. Nature makes genius, and not genius nature. How rarely she yields a Shakespeare!—There has been but one Homer, one Virgil, since the creation. There was never a second Moses, nor have Solomon's wisdom and glory ever again been attainable.


1 Brevis et admiranda descriptio REGNI GVIANÆ, AVRI abundantissimi, in AMERICA, sev novo orbe, sub linea Æquinoctilia siti: quod nuper admodum, Annis nimirum 1594, 1595, et 1596 per generosum Dominum Dr. GVALTHERVM RALEGH Equitem Anglum detectum est: paulo post jussa ejus duobus libellis comprehensa. Ex quibus JODOCVS HONDIVS TABVLAM Geographicam adornavit, addita explicatione Belgico sermone scripta: Nunc vero in Latinum sermonem translata, et ex variis authoribus hinc inde declarata. Noribergæ. Impensis LEVINI HULSII. M.D.XCIX

2 That is, to those portions of the London and western district where American settlers abound, who have so generously repaid the fostering care which Governor Simcoe originally extended to them. One of those rabid folks indebted to the British government, who kept an inn, padlocked his pumps lately when a regiment was marching through Woodstock in hot dusty weather, that the soldiers might not slake their thirst.


This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

Source: Canada and the Canadians, Volume I, 1849

 

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