British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

15
THIRD REPORT FROM THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON EMIGRATION FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM, 29 June 18271

IV. Remarks on the application of a system emigration to the circustance of the countries.

. . . There are persons who are disposed to argue that a redundancy of labourers is calculated to promote the interests of the proprietors and capitalists; for the consequence of that redundancy will be a progressive diminution of the wages of labour, and, consequently, that although the labourer himself may be miserable, in consequence of such redundancy, lowness of wages will compensate the proprietor and capitalist for any other expense which a state of pauperism, under the proposition of such a condition of the population, must produce. But even if it were admitted that the capitalist, for the moment, was benefitted by the reduction of wages to the minimum of subsistence, your Committee are satisfied that the House will in no degree countenance the opinion, that such a state of things would be desirable in a national point of view, but that, on the contrary, the House will agree with your Committee, that the general prosperity of the country is incompatible with the degradation of any class of the community, much more so, with the degradation of that class (by far the most extensive) who have solely to depend upon the remuneration of their labour for their means of subsistence. . . .

It is sometimes laid down, that if any class of labourers be rejected as unnecessary in any particular employment, they will be absorbed in some other branch of industry. But the evidence before your Committee induces them to believe that there is generally such a glut of labour throughout the country, as to leave no hope of such absorption by transferance from one employment to another. Witnesses were asked, whether there was any chance of those redundant paupers in their respective districts finding employment elsewhere, and the uniform answer was, that if they did go out in search of labour, they were returned on the parishes and districts after an ineffectual effort. In this part of the subject it is necessary not to overlook the difficulty and inconvenience of taking men from one class of occupation, and expecting them immediately to adjust themselves to another.

In such case of admitted redundancy, your Committee are aware that the doctrine frequently employed is, that it must correct itself by the mortality which diminished food and comfort must produce in the classes of the population in which such redundancy exists. Your Committee would be most unwilling, in any degree, to encourage the

____________________
1
Parl. Papers, 1826-7 (550), vol. v, pp. 15-41passim.

-412-

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