The Farthest Promised Land — English Villagers, New Zealand Immigrants of the 1870s
4 The Flood Tide of 1874
4 The Flood Tide of 1874
AFTER A WEEK in quarantine, Christopher Holloway landed in Dunedin, and began his tour of New Zealand on behalf of the union. It was to take him most of the year to complete his thorough examination of the colony's resources and institutions, and of the prospects it held out to labouring immigrants. As he moved from end to end of the country, he sent home a series of encouraging reports to be published in the Labourers' Union Chronicle. Together with the increasing flow of optimistic letters from the growing number of newly arrived English rural labourers in New Zealand, they must have helped to persuade many a family to take up the colony's offer of free passages. As he travelled from place to place, Holloway not only met old friends who had preceded him to New Zealand, but also individuals and parties who had emigrated in the months after he sailed. We will therefore return to England, and follow the continuing fortunes of the New Zealand emigration drive to the end of 1874, before once again taking up Holloway's story and recounting his New Zealand journeys and his return to England.
No sooner were Holloway's party away than another officer of the Oxford District of the National Union came forward to recruit a party and accompany them to New Zealand. This was Joseph Leggett, a carpenter from Milton-under-Wychwood, the secretary of the Oxford District. Arrangements were negotiated by C. R. Carter, under instructions from Featherston, and Carter again gave some assistance with the recruitment.1 Before he returned to Oxfordshire, however, Carter had begun his 1874 travels with a visit to an area outside the National Union's domains. This page 64 was to Maidstone, the county town of Kent, where on 8 January 1874 the vigorous Kent and Sussex Labourers' Union was celebrating its entry into the field of New Zealand emigration with a resounding delayed Christmas party to farewell over 300 Kentish villagers leaving for New Zealand: As Kent appears to have sent more rural emigrants to New Zealand in 1874 than any other county involved in the Revolt, we will trace the county union's fortunes, and the early stages of its involvement in New Zealand emigration, before returning to the National Union.2
The rural labourers of Kent were among the first of this period to turn their attention to unionism. In 1866 the Agricultural Labourers' Protection Association was founded in the county. It was, however, short-lived. In the intervening years until the Revolt, the radical Kent Messenger and Maidstone Telegraph, published in Maidstone, spoke out repeatedly on behalf of the agricultural labourer, and must have helped prepare for the resurgence of rural unionism. Unionism was strong among Maidstone's urban workers, and the town had its own Trades Council. The Maidstone labourers seem to have had close links with their fellows in the surrounding rural parishes, and a number of the town's industries had strong agricultural associations, including malting, brewing, tanning, and hopag and sacking manufacturing. When the Revolt began in Warwickshire, the Kent Messenger quickly expressed its support,3 and the founding of the Kent Union was clearly a direct result of Arch's movement. When some rural labourers at Shoreham, in West Kent, emboldened by the news from Warwickshire, called a meeting on 17 April 1872 to initiate a county union, it is not surprising to find that they turned to Maidstone for help. They invited a member of the Maidstone Trades Council, and Alfred Simmons, editor of the Kent Messenger, to come and address them.4 It was thus that Alfred Simmons, later to be dubbed ‘the Joseph Arch of the Kent and Sussex labourers’5 came to address a group of agricultural labourers for the first time. From then on he committed himself wholeheartedly in their cause, and quickly came to be regarded as the Kent Union's founder and main leader. The publicity which he was able to give the movement over the ensuing weeks in the pages of the Kent Messenger was a great aid to its growth.
Information on Simmons's background is difficult to find, but fortunately in January 1879, at a farewell meeting as he was leaving for New ealand with a party of locked-out labourers, the emotions of the occasion led him into a quite uncharacteristic moment of self-revelation.6 Having first posed the question as to why he, who was not a labourer, should have devoted years of his life to the cause, he proceeded to tell the story of a poor woman, the mother of five or six children, who twenty-five years before had been left an almost penniless widow at the age of 33. She had applied to her husband's creditors, but they had proceeded to strip her house bare, leaving her and her children to live or die as the case might be. She then applied to the guardians of the poor for out-door relief, but was refused. She declared that before she would go into the workhouse, she would fight page 65 her way through the world with her children, and after ten years of slaving on, she succeeded in getting her children out into the world, where four of them had done very well. Thus, far from becoming a workhouse inmate, she and her children had been driven to liberty. The meeting broke out into tremendous cheering when Simmons revealed that he was one of the poor woman's children.
This disclosure makes evident the origins of Simmons's radicalism, and of his deep sympathy for the poor. He must have drawn on the emotions aroused by his childhood, in developing the considerable powers of oratory which he displayed in the village labourers' cause. One infers that he was probably about 30 when he emerged as the main leader of the Revolt in Kent. He was married, as some reports of union occasions mention his wife. Whatever his education and early career had been, they had enabled him to develop organising abilities and qualities of leadership which proved invaluable assets to the Kent Union. Under his guidance the union developed policies and tactics which differed in significant ways from those of the other unions of the Revolt, and the Kent Union's emergence as markedly the most successful of the whole movement must be largely credited to his wisdom. Unlike Arch, Simmons was not suspicious of ‘outsiders’ and ‘professional Trades Union men’, but rather drew on the experience of the urban unions. Simmons probably had a major part in the forming of an interim committee of Maidstone urban trade unionists to foster the spread of rural unionism, until it had had time to find and organise its own leadership.7 It was certainly he who early in May 1872 approached George Roots to become the union's first chairman.8 Roots is recorded in the 1871 census as a 40-year-old General Agent living in Maidstone with his wife and four daughters. When he first appeared on the union platform in Maidstone on 4 May 1872, he stated that he was the son of an agricultural labourer, and knew the oppressions that had been put upon that class. He paid tribute to his parents for their industry and sacrifice in providing him with what they had not had themselves — education9. In its early years Roots gave good service to the union as a spokesman, but does not seem to have contributed much to union policy or administration.
Following the example of the urban unions, Simmons guided the Kent Union in such policies as a conservative attitude towards strikes; a preference for conciliation and arbitration; a prudent building up of finances, so that if a fight was forced, it should be undertaken from a position of strength; and, in due course, the fostering of union benefit schemes.10 To succeed, this more conservative approach required a large membership firmly under the control of a strong central executive. By the end of 1872 the Kent Union had achieved just this, with neary 6,000 paying members in about eighty branches,11 and a firmly established constitution, of which the central feature was a strong executive in Maidstone. A rule that the central executive was to take charge of all disputes with employers was effectively enforced. Delegate meetings of representatives from all page 66 branches decided union policy. There was some resistance to the centralising of union funds in Maidstone, but this was accepted by January 873.12 In March 1873, after repeated requests from across the border, the Kent Union moved into Sussex. Fifteen branches were quickly established just across the Kent border, but thereafter progress was slow. The union was renamed the Kent and Sussex Labourers' Union, but its main strength remained in Kent throughout the 1870s. By the end of its first year the union claimed 130 branches with over 8,000 members, and a credit balance of £950.13
Nevertheless the Kent Union's story had not been all success. In West Kent it had lost some ground to the National Union. Simmons told a delegate meeting on 22 June 1872 of his endeavours to establish relationships with Leamington. His letters had been ignored, yet the Leamington executive had corresponded with several Kent branches, inviting them to join the National.14 Thenceforward a deep rift developed between the two unions. The National executive's determination that control of the movement should be firmly in the hands of agricultural labourers probably accounts for the spurning of Simmons. For its part, the Kent Union was strong in local county loyalty, and therefore unwilling to forward the bulk of its fund to Leamington, as the National's constitution required. The National's high-handed poaching in West Kent further embittered relationships. The National captured several strong branches and founded others, to form a West Kent District, whose greatest reported strength was 1,271 members in twenty-nine branches, in January 1874.15 From 1875 on it shared the National Union's decline, with a number of its members joining the Kent Union. This inter-union conflict was the more regrettable in that the Kent Union owed a debt to Arch and his movement, which extended far beyond the initial triggering of the Revolt in Kent. Simmons's more cautious conservative policy had one major defect. It did little to answer one of the major questions facing the leaders of the Revolt – how were the rural labourers to be aroused to a sustained repudiation of the servile ‘Hodge’ image, and the assertion of their human rights, and the dignity of their manhood. The Revolt had ‘freedom movement’ characteristics, and its deepest aims required the use of effective social protest strategies, both to change the labourers' self-image, and to impress their claims upon society at large. Arch's leadership in the Revolt was an effective embodiment of this note of social protest, both in word and in deed. Through his own personality he showed the village labourer how to be something other than ‘Hodge’, and in this respect his influence went beyond the bounds of the National Union. He also developed effective protest tactics which appear to have deeply influenced Simmons's leadership of the Kent Union.
In reviewing its first year, the Kent Union's executive discussed requests which had come from several districts for permission to ask for a wage increase. The executive's decision was that as ‘many of the employers were meeting the members of the Union in a very fair manner’ it would be best to page 67 wait a few months longer.16 Yet clearly some action was needed to maintain the union's morale and momentum of growth. Drawing on a variety of tactics, for some of which he was clearly indebted to Arch and the National Union, Simmons succeeded in projecting an image of his union as a successful and spirited movement, while delaying a direct wages approach for a further year. One tactic was the adaptation of a technique developed by the mining unions – the anniversary ‘Demonstration’. On 14 May 1873 unionists from all parts of Kent, with their wives and children, converged on Maidstone, to celebrate their union's first birthday. The union had negotiated cheap railway fares for the day, and a reported 7,000 men marched through Maidstone, to the music of six bands, to an open air annual meeting of 12,000 to 13,000 persons.17 This occasion doubtless strengthened the courage and purpose of the union, by making its members aware of their own collective strength. It also provoked immediate and widespread retaliation by the farmers, and over fifty men were dismissed, and many of these evicted, for their attendance. The union responded by paying all the men full wages, in some cases publicly, at well attended ‘indignation’ meetings, and several of the men were assisted to emigrate to Australia. A common result of this and other examples of victimisation by farmers was that a spirited response from the union led to further growth of the branches concerned. If farmers proved obdurate, the union resorted to boycott tactics, and by means of an excellent intelligence network found work for dismissed unionists elsewhere in the county. Testimony to the effectiveness of such boycotts is borne by an item appearing in 1876 in the National Union's English Labourer. It tells how a union delegate travelling by train from London to Peterborough got into conversation with a Kentish farmer. Concealing his own identity, the delegate drew the farmer out on the problems of running his 300 acre farm:
|Delegate –||I suppose you have some men by the day; what do you give them?|
|Farmer –||Only one man at this time, and he is horseman; four years ago I gave him 12s per week, house and firing; now I give him 17s., house and firing, and have to be very careful to keep him at that price.|
|Delegate –||That appears strange; how is it you can't keep them?|
|Farmer –||Oh, bless you, they are so united together, we dare not offend them; if we do, it's no use to go after them, they are gone right away.|
|Delegate –||I can't understand that; where do they go to?|
|Farmer –||I expect their society takes them away.18|
As time went on, however, it became clear that these tactics were not achieving any considerable advance in wages. The union's large membership and growing funds suggested that the time had come for more direct action. The strategy which the union now developed under Simmons's guidance consisted of a strong emigration drive over the winter of 1873–4, to improve the labourers' bargaining position, followed by a membership drive in the early spring of 1874, and a direct approach for higher wages in page 68 selected districts, made to coincide with the new season's rising labour demand. These tactics proved successful and the summer of 1874 saw the striking contrast of the defeat of Arch's union in the great eastern counties lock-out, and the success of the wages movement which Simmons directed in Kent. As we shall see, Vogel's dynamic entry into the New Zealand immigration portfolio contributed significantly to the Kent Union's success.
In its first eighteen months the Kent Union had not been able to make a strong feature of emigration. The best available proposition had been free passages to Queensland, but a charge of one pound per head for ship's furniture, and the expense of necessary clothing, was beyond many village labourers, even with the union's emigration allowance. The union despatched a party of nearly 100 at Christmas 1872, and several smaller parties during 1873, but nothing approaching an emigration drive could be mounted. This became possible when in quick succession more generous offers of free passages came from South Australia in September 1873, and from New Zealand in November. A flow of enthusiastic letters from the earlier emigrants to Queensland helped to prime recruitment. On 25 November 1873 a party of 232 emigrants leaving for South Australia were farewelled by the union at the Drill Hall attached to the Bell Hotel, Maidstone. The hall, decorated with flags and bunting, was packed with about 3000 persons. In his address Simmons pointed out, as ‘a sweet morsel of consolation to grasping employers’, that the evening saw nine empty cottages in one parish in Kent, and eleven in another. He warned the farmers of Kent that they would speedily have to meet their men more fairly, or the country would gradually be drained of its labour.19
Three evenings later, at a union meeting in the White Lion Inn, Canterbury, Simmons revealed that the South Australian offer had been withdrawn after the despatch of the one party; but he already had something just as good to take its place. The Agent-General for New Zealand had offered to provide a ship with free passages for a party of 350 to go out to Canterbury, New Zealand. Simmons explained that the union had no difficulty finding emigrants – he had that very morning received thirty-two letters applying for passages – the greatest difficulty was to get passages. The union meant, if they could, to get a dozen ships and fill them.20 During 1874 the union in fact achieved an emigration of about this magnitude, mainly through its association with the New Zealand recruitment drive. The first New Zealand party was a large one of over 400, and in keeping with his strategy of using emigration to raise Kentish wages, Simmons stage-managed their departure to gain the maximum publicity.
Apparently the party was originally scheduled to leave around Christmas 1873,21 but their departure was postponed, probably as a result of the upsurge in recruitment throughout Britain. Meanwhile the public of Kent had been invited by advertisement to send money and gifts for an ‘Emigrants' Giant Christmas Tree’ which was to be ‘abundantly stocked with Articles of Clothing, including Trousers, Jackets, Shawls, Scarfs, page 69 Crossovers etc., Books, Toys, Fruit and other Articles.’22 During Thursday, 8 January 1874, emigrants from all parts of Kent, and a few from Sussex, finally assembled in Maidstone. A farewell ‘soirée’, of which the Christmas tree was to be one feature, had been arranged for them in the Corn Exchange. At 5.30 p.m. the Corn Exchange doors were thrown open for the emigrants only, and sums of money varying from ten shillings to two pounds ten shillings were paid to them, to assist with the expense of their accommodation over the period that they had been delayed.23 When this was completed, 1200 members of the public were admitted by means of complimentary tickets – probably this method was adopted after the experience of the suffocating attendance at the farewell to the South Australia party a few weeks earlier. The Corn Exchange was suitably decorated for the occasion, a band had been engaged, and ‘several well-known singers, musicians, and other gentlemen’ took part in the amusements of the evening. C. R. Carter, along with Roots and Simmons, addressed the gathering. Carter told the emigrants to be of good cheer, for if English farmers were foolish enough to offend and underpay their labourers the farmers of New Zealand would be glad of their services, and would treat them as men and brethren. The gifts from the Christmas tree were then distributed by the wives of the union's leaders, according to cards drawn earlier from baskets by the emigrants. Dancing, singing and refreshments filled the evening until ‘Auld Lang Syne’ at 11 p.m. The union's newspaper proudly commented that the evening was ‘certainly the first of its kind that was ever held in Kent’.24
At nine o'clock the next morning the emigrants assembled at the Corn Exchange, and headed by a band and a large union flag, marched down High Street to the railway station, where they were farewelled by a large crowd. They travelled by train to Gravesend, but as their ship had not arrived there, they were taken by steamer to London. Most of the party were allotted to the William Davie, which was finally farewelled from Gravesend by Simmons and Roots on 14 January, bound for Bluff, Otago, with 287 emigrants.25 About eighty of the party were allotted to the Wennington, which sailed on 21 January with 294 emigrants for Wellington. Thus none of this Kentish party were sent to Canterbury, as originally advertised. Many of them had originally put in their applications for South Australia. The location of their new homes was clearly more a matter of chance than of choice. Both ships had successful and uneventful voyages. Deaths on the two ships totalled twelve, all children, and there were also fourteen births.
By the time the winter was over the Kent Union had despatched about a thousand emigrants to New Zealand. A party of about 125 sailed on the steamship Atrato on 10 February. They included sixteen families from the parish of Burham near Rochester. From the address which Simmons gave at a farewell meeting held in the Walnut Tree Inn, Burham, it appears that the Burham emigrants were largely brickmakers, and their families. The closing of Kent's widely-scattered brickfields each winter aggravated the page 70 seasonal slackness of work in the rural parishes, and brickmakers competed with agricultural labourers for such work as the digging of the hop gardens. It thus made good sense for the Kent Union to admit general labourers as well as farm labourers, and by the end of 1873 over a thousand general labourers had been enrolled.26 Following the Atrato party, two further parties totalling 170, mainly agricultural labourers sailed from London before the end of February in the J. N. Fleming and the Rooparell. The Kent Union's next large party was one of 200 which sailed from Plymouth in the Waikato on 24 March. They were in charge of John Venner, a 41-year-old engine driver, leaving the employ of the South-Eastern Railway after twenty-three years service. The party assembled in Maidstone on the morning of Monday, 16 March 1874, and travelled by special train to Plymouth, accompanied by Simmons. At Plymouth Simmons found the Atrato's party, their ship having suffered an engine breakdown when about 1,500 miles on her journey and returned for repairs. The Atrato had been built as a paddle steamer in 1853, but in 1870 was converted into a single-screw vessel, and fitted with new engines and boilers.27 Simmons found that her Kentish emigrants had exhausted ‘the little stock of extra necessaries for their wives and children’ so he paid out a further sovereign to each family and half a sovereign to each single man.28 Simmons used the recruitment commission from the New Zealand Government for payments such as these. At Plymouth the later party showed their appreciation of Simmons's work by presenting him with a pocket Bible. The emigrant who made the presentation was George Tapp, who had been secretary of the Lamberhurst branch, and a member of the union's executive committee. The party had a week in the Plymouth depot, before the Waikato, a new ship making her first voyage for the New Zealand Shipping Company, set sail with 365 emigrants. The Atrato sailed for the second time, crowded with 755 emigrants, on 6 April. She called at Cape Town for bunker coal, but could not get all she needed, and for much of the latter part of the voyage her engines were disconnected and she sailed under canvas. However, she made a fast voyage of sixty-two days. All the sailing ships taking these early parties from the Kent Union had good voyages. The Waikato had only four deaths, all children; the Rooparell had only one; and the J. N. Fleming had none.
We must now return to the National Union, following first the recruitment of Joseph Leggett's party. The campaign was given an enthusiastic launching by Henry Taylor, whose initial announcement in the Labourers' Union Chronicle began, ‘New Zealand! New Zealand!! New Zealand!! Off we go; now's your time, my boys.’ Leggett was described as ‘the valuable and zealous district secretary of Oxford’, and as ‘a sterling friend and brother, to whom we are so much indebted for the success of that district, and whose services we are sorry to lose.’29 The strong links developing between the union and the New Zealand emigration drive are well illustrated by the largest emigration advertisement appearing in the Labourers' Union Chronicle of 17 January 1874. In this page 71 the Agent-General for New Zealand gives notice of the impending departure of the Ballochmyle, and announces that ‘Mr Leggett, Secretary to the “Oxford District Agricultural Labourers' Union”, will accompany the party of Union Emigrants who embark by this vessel.’ The advertisement concludes by directing enquirers to write either to the National Union's General Secretary, or to Leggett, or to the Agent-General. On 27 January C. R. Carter travelled to Oxfordshire expressly to address a recruitment meeting arranged by Leggett in the village of Islip. In a report to Featherston dated 5 February 1874, Carter noted that the results of the meeting had been very satisfactory leading to ‘about fifty eligible emigrants of the rural class’ being procured. Since the date of the meeting, over a hundred more applicants had been approved – probably Carter had spent a day or two in Oxfordshire making the selection. Carter described Leggett as ‘a most intelligent country mechanic’. The agreement which Carter made with him stipulated that he was to have a free passage for himself and his family in an enclosed cabin in the steerage, and a free provision of ship's outfit, bedding, etc. He was also to receive £20 for the family's outfit expenses and railway fares to Plymouth, and was to be appointed the ship's schoolmaster.30 He appears on the Ballochmyle's passenger list as a 37-year-old carpenter, accompanied by his 38-year-old wife Ann, and seven children, aged ten months to 14 years.
The Ballochmyle sailed on 4 March 1874, and before the end of the month two further parties to be led by union men were being advertised in the Chronicle31. The recruiting for these various union parties helped to fill other ships, besides those they travelled on. The chartering and despatch of the emigrant ships to match the flow of recruitment was inevitably a rather improvised business, and there had to be a good deal of give and take in the arrangements. The personal circumstances of emigrants also came into play either to hasten or delay their departure. Thus Leggett had originally begun recruiting for a party to go on the Atrato,32 which was at first scheduled to leave late in January. Some of his recruits went by her, rather than wait for the main party.33 Others who at first planned to go with Leggett will have been delayed. This was probably the case with the Harris family of eight, and the Beckley family of seven, from Islip. They may well have given in their names at Carter's meeting there, but sailed by the Stonchouse, which left five weeks later than the Ballochmyle. It would, of course, be impossible to apportion credit for the recruitment of the emigrants between the various influences and agencies at work persuading them to come forward. The rural unions were undoubtedly a major force, but the Agent-General ran an extensive advertising campaign which must have brought in many rural recruits unconnected with the unions, as also must the free nomination scheme which Vogel launched in New Zealand in October 1873. Featherston's agents and sub-agents were doubtless greatly helped by the Revolt's stirring of the rural world, but the more enterprising of them also did some stirring on their own account.
One example of such enterprise is described in a letter written from page 72 London on 26 July 1874, and published anonymously by a Wellington newspaper. The writer is referred to as ‘a gentleman at home, who has taken a warm interest in promoting emigration to this Colony’, and he tells how he and his son assisted a shipping agent and broker who took a sub-agency for four counties from the Agent-General, when the free passages were introduced. The gentleman himself attended meetings on Saturday evenings, and others during the week if he could reach the towns concerned after office hours, and get back to London in time next morning. By 30 June 1874 his son had arranged fifty meetings, and was well on the way with a further fifty when the agency was closed, the Agent-General no longer requiring ‘an extra aid’. The method used was to work up the meetings well with posters, hand bills, ‘sandwich men’, newspaper advertisements, town criers, and a New Zealand banner outside the place of meeting for a few days before. The result was large audiences, sometimes up to 2000 people, which filled county town Corn Exchanges and Town Halls to overflowing. An ‘electrical effect’ was produced on these crowds by the unrolling of immense sheets, on which the son, who was an excellent sketcher, had produced water colour illustrations for the lectures:
One was an agricultural labourer at home in England with his smock frock and heavy boots (10 or 12 lbs weight); another was navvies in New Zealand at work in a cutting – those were the fellows we wanted, and what we wanted them to work at; another was a pay table and big piles of money ready for the men; another was a fellow ‘pocketing’ his £8 11s … with his face beaming with delight; another was the smoking meal of joints of mutton waiting for the New Zealand workman, enough to make him dance after a hard day's work; another showed his progress as a small sub-contractor, giving his directions to his gang of men; another his new home, built after 10 years of steady industry and perseverance – a nice comfortable looking homestead; another shows him riding on a handsome steed to the House as M.H.R. or M.L.C.34
Applications were not taken in the excitement following a meeting, but on a further visit to the towns, after which the recruits were examined, and were ‘finally approved by Mr Carter’. Because those interested were not immediately rushed into signing up, some were ‘picked up by the National Agricultural Labourers' Union, or applied direct to the Agent-General.’ There had been farmers' opposition to contend with, and New Zealand had been held up as ‘a land of cannibals, earthquakes, murders, poverty, wretchedness, disaffection, etc.’ Despite this, the methods used were so effective that the writer had been told at the Agent-General's office that they could always tell where meetings had been held by the flood of letters of enquiry.
Canterbury's agent, Andrew Duncan, had decided to make Glasgow his headquarters for his first five months, concentrating on recruitment from Scotland and Northern Ireland, and then move to England for the remainder of his twelve months' term of appointment. However, he proposed while based on Glasgow to make short forays into England as opportunities presented themselves.35 The first such journey resulted from page 73 a correspondence he opened, immediately on his arrival in Britain, with James Jenkins, the Gloucester friend of New Zealand emigration. This led to a five day visit to Gloucester at the turn of the year, during which Duncan spoke at meetings which Jenkins had arranged in the towns of Gloucester, Tewkesbury, Cheltenham and Cirencester, and the village of Staunton.36 Duncan had to contend with the caution created by the sufferings of the hundreds who had emigrated from the county to Brazil in 1872 and early 1873. At his first meeting, in Gloucester on 29 December 1873, he was clearly very much on trial both with the audience, and with the chairman, a local Quaker philanthropist. Jenkins describes how, by telling a plain unvarnished tale, Duncan made his own headway. The chairman had been very cautious in his opening remarks, but at the close he complimented Duncan highly and expressed his readiness to help him in any way he could. At least two of the other meetings were also chaired by prominent local nonconformists – one a Quaker, the other a Baptist minister. As a result of the meetings, a number of people gave their names in to Duncan, and others applied later to local sub-agents. From Tewkesbury, where there was no sub-agent, five or six young fellows walked the twelve miles to Gloucester, for their application papers. At Cirencester there was also no sub-agent, but ‘a Mr Gwillian, a person who has been district secretary to the Agricultural Labourers' Union’ came forward and offered to take the post. As the first fruits of these lectures, small parties left the county in February and March 1874, to join the Atrato and the Ballochmyle37
Although winter was the least favoured season for emigration, the diverse forces working in favour of emigration to New Zealand were so powerful that all records were broken in the January-March quarter of 1874. In February no less than 2,821 assisted emigrants left English ports for the colony, and the total for the quarter was 7,417, not far short of the total of 8,513 for the whole of the previous year. But spring was the most favoured emigration season, and right through the April-June quarter the village labourers of the eastern counties had also the great lock-out to hound them to the emigration agents. A staggering 9,758 assisted emigrants passed through London and Plymouth, the two English ports of despatch, during these three months – more than had been sent in the first eighteen months of Featherston's campaign. The peak month for nineteenth century emigration to New Zealand was May 1874, with a total of 4,720, of whom 3,935 passed through the two English ports. Fortunately Featherston's organisation had attained some maturity before the flood came. Thus negotiations for a London emigration depot came to a timely fruition with the opening of the Blackwall Depot on 1 May 1874. In New Zealand itself local resources were strained by the great influx during the southern winter of 1874, but by resorting to various improvisations the colony managed to cope.
The coincidence of the peak of English emigration to New Zealand with the great lock-out is noteworthy. The lock-out was made possible by the page 74 banding together of many of the farmers of East Anglia to form Defence Associations against the unions. The occasion of the lock-out was a strike by a union branch in the small Suffolk village of Exning, after workers had been refused a demand for a rise of one shilling in their weekly wages. This led the Cambridgeshire and Suffolk farmers who had formed the Newmarket Farmers' Defence Association to resolve on a lock-out of all union men, beginning on 21 March. Other Defence Associations quickly followed their lead, and soon thousands of union members were locked out in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Essex, Bedfordshire, Hampshire and Lincolnshire. While most of these were members of the National Union, the Peterborough District Union and the Lincolnshire Amalgamated Labour League were also involved. The latter two belonged to the Federal Union, and the cause of unionism was weakened by the bad feeling which existed between them and the National Union. For all, what was now at stake was not any detail of wages or conditions, but the very right of agricultural labourers to belong to unions. Joseph Arch realised that his union could only win the struggle if it could secure generous financial help from town workers and the general public. He therefore worked himself to the limit on a fund-raising campaign mainly in the industrial Midlands and the North, while other members of the executive did what they could to help in the areas of the lock-out. About a hundred of the locked-out Suffolk labourers, led by Henry Taylor, went on their own fund-raising ‘pilgrimage’ to the industrial cities. In all, the National was able to pay over £24,000 to its locked-out members between March and August. But it was not enough. By making a greater use of labour-saving machinery, and employing non-union men and Irish as blacklegs, the farmers managed to carry on without the union men. When it became clear that they were determined to tackle even the harvest without making any concessions, Arch and his colleagues knew that they were beaten. On 27 July it was decided that the men would have to go back on the farmers' terms, and all assistance to locked-out men was to cease on 10 August. Inevitably, confidence in Arch and the union was seriously undermined, and hopes for a better day for the labourer in the villages of England began to wane. The allurement of the promises flowing from New Zealand could only gain from the contrast they offered.
‘THE FARMER HIS OWN LABOURER’ GRAPHIC 16 May 1874 Every well-wisher to his country must hope for some settlement of this unhappy dispute before all the old links are broken, and before the men whose ancestors have tilled the soil for more than a thousand years, take flight to other fields of labour, either in England or far across the sea. Meanwhile the farmers are, in many cases, as dependent on their own physical exertions as if they were in the backwoods of Canada, and our picture represents an actual incident. The master is doing his own work, his wife is bringing him his dinner, and the man who once did his ploughing and reaping looks idly on, being bound for the Land of Promise
In a report home, dated 5 May 1874, Duncan mentioned a recent brief visit to north Lincolnshire, where he had given lectures at Ulceby and Brigg.40 This visit, and others by C. R. Carter at about the same time,41 marked the beginning of the development of close links between the Lincolnshire Labour League and the New Zealand immigration movement. The village labourers of Lincolnshire had begun to stir during the page 76 winter of 1871–2, even before Arch raised the standard at Wellesbourne. By the spring of 1872 many separate village trade unions with a variety of titles and varying rules, had come into existence. On 27 April a delegate meeting of these local unions met at the Spread Eagle, Grantham, to form a county union. The meeting was chaired by Auberon Herbert, M.P. for Nottingham, and it led to the forming of an amalgamated association, whose title in the course of time became the Lincolnshire and Neighbouring Counties Amalgamated Labour League. Its secretary was William Banks, a Boston journalist, who early in 1873 launched the League's official organ, the weekly Labour League Examiner. As in Kent, not all the Lincolnshire unionists joined the county union. Arch's National Union formed two Lincolnshire Districts, Market Rasen and South Lincolnshire, which by 1874 claimed about 3,100 members, while the League's membership in the county has been estimated at about 9,500 in 1873.42 The first evidence of the League's association with New Zealand emigration appears in the Stamford Mercury of 13 February 1874. The Agent-General had been running an advertisement in the paper for a time, but in this issue enquirers are for the first time directed not only to his London office, but also to ‘Mr Wm. Banks, Secretary Amalgamated Labour League, 5, Witham-street, Boston’. However, Banks also became an agent for the Canadian government, and the Boston area had strong traditional links with North America. The main parties to leave the county for New Zealand during the Revolt came from north Lincolnshire, following the visits to this area by Duncan and Carter in April and May 1874. At one of their meetings a young grocer and draper, John H. White, was unexpectedly called upon to take the chair.43 White lived in the village of Laceby, on the edge of the wolds, four miles inland from Grimsby. As a result of this experience White became deeply interested in New Zealand immigration, and, on Duncan's recommendation he had, by May 1874, been appointed a ub-agent working closely with the Labour League.44 Throughout the summer he campaigned to make New Zealand known in his area, and although at first only a few recruits came forward, he persisted, to become one of Featherston's most valuable local agents. The lock-out ended in the Labour League's districts on 23 May, as a result of an agreement between the farmers and the League, brought about by the conciliation efforts of influential friends of the labourers. This helps to account for the slow start to New Zealand emigration in north Lincoln-shire.
The emigrant flood of the April-June quarter of 1874, then, included the first trickle from the Lincolnshire Labour League, a great flow from the National Union's districts, a considerable part of it resulting from the lock-out, and further contributions from the Kent Union. Early in the quarter the National despatched two organised parties. The first, led by ‘Mr Smith, a Union delegate from North Essex’, sailed from London on the Peeress on 5 April. The Labourers' Union Chronicle of 4 April described this as ‘a large party of Union emigrants’ from Essex, Warwick- page 77 shire, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Hampshire, and one or two more counties. The other party, also described as ‘large’, was led by ‘Mr Streatfield of West Kent’, and sailed by the Adamant on 7 May.45 The Kent Union's recruits included a party of ninety by the Adamant sailing on 7 May. They left just as several farmers in East Kent endeavoured to spread the lock-out movement to their county. They ordered their men to hand over union cards to be destroyed, or face dismissal. Simmons warned that the union had 2,000 members in East Kent, and gave the locked-out men the usual strong support, with the result that the union enrolled many new members.46 Further dismissals followed the union's second annual demonstration on 20 May, but most of the farmers of Kent were not in the mood for a fight, and the union coped with the situation without difficulty. A donation of £20 for the ‘Kent Lock-out Fund’ from the Agent-General for New Zealand, acknowledged in the union's paper of 9 May, was welcomed, but obviously not really needed. In mid-April the union began its wages movement with direct approaches to farmers by four union branches in West Kent. By the end of June the approach was judged to have succeeded, and the procedure was then successfully repeated with ten further branches.47 The Kent Union throve on these successes, over the very months in which the National Union was beginning its decline following the lock-out defeat.
By June 1874 it was clear to Featherston that he would have no difficulty in meeting the year's quota of immigrants ordered by the colony, and some of the pressure was taken off the recruitment campaign. Applicants continued to come forward in large numbers. In the third quarter of the year, 6,479 were despatched from English ports, and in the last quarter 4,978. Parties sent by the Kent Union included nearly 100 by the Carnatic in September, 170 by the Berar and 180 by the Avalanche in October, and 100 by the Gareloch in November.48 The Lincolnshire Labour League's first large party, of about 200, left Grimsby railway station on 15 September to join the Geraldine Paget, sailing for Canterbury. They had been recruited by John White, selected by Andrew Duncan, and were led by Henry Tomlinson, who had been foundation secretary of the League's Laceby branch. When they arrived at Lyttelton on 27 December they were met by Duncan, recently returned from his mission in Britain.49 Smaller parties of League emigrants sailed in at least eight further ships before the year's end. The National Union also sent further parties, including 200 by the Crusader in September, led by George Allington, a Warwickshire delegate of the union, and 222 by the Lady Jocelyn in November, led by Thomas Osborne, another union leader from Warwickshire.50
Throughout the year the union papers had stimulated the emigration movement with optimistic letters from immigrants in New Zealand. By now they were able to place alongside the first flush of enthusiasm of recent arrivals, the solid reports of progress towards prosperity sent by those who had been in the colony for a year or two. But there was another side to the story, which may not have been altogether fairly presented by the union. page 78 The deaths of children at sea, for example, must have featured more prominently in the letters sent home than they did in the selection that were published. The first issue of the Chronicle for 1875 did something to redress the balance. Along with several favourable letters it printed one written on 11 August 1874 from Southland by John Charles Wood, a young man who was not finding New Zealand a paradise:
This country is not what the agents represented it to be; they are sending out thousands into a country where there is no work. Every step you take you sink up to the waist in mud or sand. There are no bridges, so you have to swim across the river. I went twenty miles to get work, and then they would not employ me unless I took a contract, so I undertook to dig a cutting for the railway, at 10 ½d per square yard. I shall never make my fortune at that if I were to work like a horse…. If you know anyone that is coming out here warn them of what they will have to go through….51
And to give would-be emigrants further cause for thought, the same issue carried the first report of the loss of the Cospatrick by fire in the south Atlantic. The report expressed the fear, which was to prove correct, that all of her 429 emigrants, bound for Auckland, had perished.