The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 44
New Zealand Emigration a Governmental Duty
New Zealand Emigration a Governmental Duty.
Sir,—As I have ever found in your columns a true sympathy with the claims and yearnings of our common humanity, I venture to solicit space for a few thoughts which have been suggested by what I have seen in New Zealand and heard from England. You appear to be passing through a season of deep social depression. Business is stagnant, and myriads of your breadwinners are at their wits' end to know how to keep the wolf from the door. It is idle to speculate as to the causes of the depression. I prefer suggesting a remedy. As I push my investigations here as to the general welfare of those who have immigrated during the last few years, I am repeatedly forced to inquire, "Why are not tens of thousands of those hungry toilers sent over here under wise management and at the public expense, to develop the hidden wealth, and to share the abundant food ?" In a Nelson paper of only yesterday's date I saw an advertisement of two hundred legs of mutton, averaging nine pounds each, for one shilling and threepence each. The remaining portions of the sheep would be melted down for tallow. In the same paper there were, only a few days ago, advertisements for pick-and-shovel men—that is to say, mere unskilled labourers—at nine shillings per day of eight hours. Now, sir, putting these two things together, and then looking at them in the light of the sad statements in your English journals, how is it possible to avoid the conclusion I have suggested by the heading of this communication? By building workhouses and establishing a Poor-law Board, Government recognises an obligation towards the people. Why should not that sense of obligation lead to an infinitely better mode of relief, such as page 41 the removal of people from one part of the realm where workers are in excess of the work, and eaters are in excess of the food, to another part, where the conditions are exactly reversed. And this is all that emigration to our colonies really means. It is in no sense a British loss, but rather a clear gain. The home starveling, without power of purchase beyond the barest necessaries of life, becomes out here not only a consumer of twice as much food, but a purchaser of three or four times as much furniture, clothing, tools, and all other home manufactures.
In the vessel by which I came out there were several New Zealanders who fifteen or twenty years ago were poverty-stricken Englishmen, utterly destitute of spending power, but what were they then ? Prosperous merchants and landowners returning from the old country laden with costly purchases. One successful fellow had bought machinery to the extent of some thousands of pounds. Another had actually engaged a lot of London house decorators to come out and finish off, in first class style, a fine mansion which he is building here. A third had ordered an expensive marble tombstone to go over his son's grave. And so on all through the ship. I should say the purchases of that one ship's passengers would be more than a hundred thousand pounds' value; and the probability is that a quarter of a century ago the same men would not have been able to buy a hundred thousand farthings' worth. It is easy, therefore, to calculate the probable returns which would flow from an outlay of, say, a million sterling on emigration. Ten thousand Englishmen might be taken from their poor famished English homes, where they are without the power to buy a shilling's worth of Birmingham manufactures from year's end to year's end, and removed to New Zealand homes, where with two or three pounds a week coming in, and only one going out for absolute necessaries, they could indulge in a set of tools and a score of other usefu, articles, which would be sure to come from Birmingham, Sheffield or Manchester.—I remain, &c.,
A. C.Nelson, N.Z.,
March 6th, 1879.