On the Description of Persons to Whom Emigration Would Be Most Beneficial Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

I HAVE not labourers in view, so much as persons in trade, and farmers, and manufacturers, who have some little money which they would rather not have taken from them by the tax-gatherer. Nevertheless, there are a great many labourers; a great many journeymen tradesmen, and a great many operative manufacturers; that is to say, working manufacturers; for I detest the other nasty word, the offspring of false pride, which but too generally accompanies a slavish disposition. A workman is a workman, and a master is a master; there is nothing insolent in the assumption of, the latter, and nothing mean in the recognition of the former.

As far as relates to labourers in husbandry, to mechanics, and the like, who have to work for their bread, and “who must expect to work for it every where, none but the able ought to go abroad. The aged, the infirm, the helpless, from no matter what cause, might be better off indeed, if they were now in America; but, there is the going thither; there is the pulling up and transplanting, and the taking root again; and there are toil and sufferings of some sort or other attending these movements; and therefore they are not to be undertaken, unless the party see before him pretty nearly a certainty of bettering his lot. Above all things, no man should remove to another country for fear of being compelled to load a parish in this country. Let no man afflict his mind with fears of that sort; for he, a thousand to one, has already done more for the rich, than they will ever do for him. I do not wish by any means, to inculcate ingratitude; and I hold it to be perfectly proper, that people in the lower walks of life should carry themselves respectfully towards those, whom birth, or superior talent, or industry, has placed above themselves; but, generally speaking, the poorer part of the people of England have, of late years, been so cruelly treated, even by the laws themselves, that there is seldom to be found a man of any of the labouring classes from whom gratitude is due to any persons in the higher classes. Therefore, if the party has no other motive for removing, except that of sparing the purses of the rich, I advise him to remain. I have just heard, that, in Wiltshire, a young man has been sent to prison for a month, for no other offence than that of not going to shut a gate, when the Bailiff of the owner bid him do it. Two young men had passed through the gateway of a field, and left the gate open.

The Bailiff ordered one of them to go and shut it; the young man, who was not in the service of the Bailiff’s master, did not do it. The Bailiff summoned him before a Magistrate, who, for that offence alone, which he described as a bad Crime sent him to prison for a month, the county having to maintain him in prison and to pay the constable about 12s. for taking him thither. In that same parish, from which this young man is sent, the county rates are nearly seven times as great as they were thirty years ago. The Morning Herald newspaper, of the 29th June of this year, says: “Last week a poor man, named Abraham Gentry, was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment; in Chelmsford jail, for stealing three cabbages, the property of Mr. Wm. Moore, of Great Burstead.” . . .

Provided a man be of the right stamp; provided he be ready to encounter some little inconvenience in the removal; provided he be a man of sense, and prepared to overcome the little troubles which the removal must necessarily give rise to; and, especially, provided that he be of that character which will make him happy without seeing wretched creatures crawling to him, his age is of little consequence; and the age and number of his children are of little consequence also. I have known men of sixty years of age go to America, take a family with them, settle that family well, and, after living many years surrounded by them, leaving them with a certainty that they would never know want. There are thousands of tradesmen and farmers at this moment in England, that know not what to do; know not which way to turn themselves; know not whether to keep on business or to leave off, fearing, do what they will, that they shall lose the earnings of their lives. They look wildly about them, in anxious search of hope, and every where they behold the grounds of despair. They think of emigration: they hesitate: there are the fears of their wives: there are their own fears and doubts; and, while they are hesitating, doubting, and fearing, their money goes away; and, at last, they must land in America as mere labourers or journeymen, or they must remain to pine away their lives in penury, and, perhaps to die with the moral certainty that their bodies will be consigned to those who will mangle them to pieces for the improvement of science.

Why, if such people were, even after they had spent their money, to land in America with nothing but their clothes on their backs, their emigration would be an improvement of their condition: they would, with one half of the industry which they have been accustomed to practise here, possess more of money and of estate than they ever possessed here; and this, bold as the assertion may appear, I pledge myself to prove in the next letter. But these things are demanded in order to ensure success: first, health of body with tolerable strength; second, a willingness to labour, and a character sufficient to enforce obedience in the family; third, an absence of that base pride which will not suffer a man to be happy without having somebody under him.

There is one other quality, without the possession of which all the rest are of no use; namely, that quality which enables a man to overcome the scruples, the remonstrances, and the wailings, of his wife. Women, and especially English women, transplant very badly, which is indeed a fact greatly in their praise. It is amiable in all persons to love their homes, their parents, their brethren, their friends, and their neighbours; and, in proportion as they have this love in their hearts, they will be reluctant to quit their home, and especially to quit their country. English women have an extraordinary portion of this affection; and, therefore, they are to be treated with all possible indulgence in the case here contemplated, provided that indulgence do not extend so far as to produce injury to their families and themselves. Some of them, by no means destitute of these amiable feelings, have the resolution voluntarily to tear themselves from ruin and slavery for the sake of their children. Others have not this sort of resolution; and there are some who are obstinately perverse. It is a misfortune when this happens to be the case; but it is a poor creature of a man who will suffer this obstinacy to make him and his children beggars for the remainder of their lives. Nothing harsh ought to be done or attempted in the overcoming this difficulty; but, harshness and firmness are very different things: this is one of the great concerns of a family, with regard to which the decision must be left to the head of that family; and, if a man should have the misfortune to make part of a family of which there is neither head nor tail, but which consists of a sort of partnership, without articles or bonds, it signifies very little in what country the family is; or whether it be living in a good house, or quartered under a hedge like gipsies. A family without a head, a real efficient practical head, is like a ship without a rudder. It would be a great deal better, that the wife should be the head than that there should be no head at all. In France, man and wife are a sort of partners. The wife calls every thing mine, and the man sits and holds his tongue while she is gabbling about the concern.

There is one thing which every English wife ought to be told, when a husband is proposing to emigrate; and that is, that the American husbands are the most indulgent in the world; but, at the same time, she ought to be told, that the American wives are the least presuming, the most docile, the least meddling in their husbands’ affairs, and the most attentive to their own affairs, of all the women upon the face of the earth. America is a country full of writers and talkers upon politics; full of political quarrels and of angry political discussions; and I do not recollect that I ever heard a wife in America open her lips upon any such subject. They appear to have no pretensions to any right to meddle with their husbands’ concerns; and the husbands, on their part, are certainly the most gentle and the most indulgent in the world, but not more so than is merited by such wives. I never did know an American that was married to a French woman; though I have known several American women married to Frenchmen. This last does very well; but the other would produce strange work: Jonathan would certainly decamp or hang himself before the end of a month. At any rate, however, if this difficulty cannot be overcome by the English emigrant; if he meet with perverseness, and cannot completely subdue it, and root it out on this side of the water, he will do well to remain; for it is the very devil to be baited and worried on the other side of the water; to be reminded every time the flies settle upon the preserved peaches, that they do not do this in old England; and to have to show your wit, by observing, that it would be difficult for them to do it in England; and to add the question, whether it were not as well to be annoyed by flies in the eating of preserved peaches, as not to have any peaches to eat? To live in a state of petty civil warfare like this, and that too several hours in every day, in clear addition to the ordinary inconveniences of life, is too great a deduction even from the advantages attending a residence in America; and, therefore, unless a man be man enough to eradicate the perverseness on this side of the water, let him remain here and resign himself with the reflection, that he is one of those mortals that were predestinated to be the slaves of Borough-mongers. . . .

Every effort should be made to convince her, that her apprehensions are much more imaginary than real; that, as to separation from relations and friends, the separation caused between Canterbury and London, or between Sussex and Warwickshire, is just as effectual as a separation caused by a removal to America. That the far greater part of persons separated by the distance between Sussex and Warwickshire are able to communicate only by letter; and that, in this respect, the wide separation differs but very little from the narrow, the parties still hearing from one another, in the former case as well as in the latter. That, as to neighbours and friends, and language and manners, and habits and morals, they are pretty much the same on both tides of the water, with the exception (as I shall amply prove in the next letter) that the people in America are better neighbours, more friendly, more disposed to assist strangers than the people of England are; and this for the best reason in the world, because in America they live in a state of ease and abundance, and that in England they do not and cannot. That, with regard to the dangers of the seas, they are of very rare occurrence, and are magnified, as the dangers of riding in stage-coaches are, by the circumstance of omitting, when accidents are recorded, to state the vast number of journeys performed with no accident at all: the broken ribs and bruised hips are faithfully put upon record, but the innumerable safe and pleasant journeys are never mentioned at the same time. That thus it is, with regard to sea voyages: the wrecks, the strokes of lightning, the founderings, are all faithfully detailed; but the safe passages are too common, too uninteresting, even to form the subject of a newspaper. Few wives are so timid as to be afraid to take a journey in a stage-coach from London to Exeter and back again; and yet that journey is more perilous, and far more perilous, than a voyage across the Atlantic in American ships commanded by an American captain. A sea voyage is disagreeable; it is a prison, with more inconveniences than a prison presents; but these inconveniences do not kill, and they are the contrary of being injurious to health; and, after all, these inconveniences have an average continuance of not more than five or six weeks.

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