The Founders of Canterbury
Reigate, 3rd August, 1850
My Dear FitzGerald,
—Felix gave me your letter, which is alarming. I have no doubt that Wilcox would get the number of emigrants; but assuredly, considering the pressure of time, they would be the sweeping of his Emigration Agency for Devon and Cornwall.
The paying of Emigration Agents is murder as respects the quality of the emigrants. It is just what the Park Street fine gentlemen do to save themselves the trouble of a real selection. It always succeeds as respects numbers—always breaks down as respects quality. On talking the matter over with page 305Felix, I am pretty well satisfied that he can use with effect for this purpose the agency for land-selling which he has established in numerous places, and without paying any body for emigrants. I have questioned him closely, and he all but undertakes to find the requisite number and of the right quality in time. But the time is very short. If you choose to let him go to work, decide promptly, and give him the requisite authority and papers, with a clear account of exactly what you want in point of numbers, sex, calling, &c., &c. He says that he must be paid expenses out of pocket, rendering you an exact account of the same. You may trust him for proceeding frugally.
But his hands are already quite full of business, and he can only spend odd hours and a day now and then. It is therefore indispensable that not an hour should be lost, if the people chosen are to stand the scrutiny to which all will be subject when they get their roast beef and plum pudding. I therefore recommend him to see you the first thing on Monday morning. It will be sharp and difficult work at best.
I know all about Wilcox, who is a good and useful man in his way, but too much accustomed to the selection of inferior emigrants to serve your turn, more especially in the short time.
I do not think that sending a colonist about at the public expense would answer, except for his amusement. With the peasantry a stranger has no weight, or rather is deemed a mere kidnapper. There is no way that I can think of but letting Felix immediately use the instruments that are ready to his hand. It would be a terrible thing if the ships were detained for emigrants; and you, at all events, as Head Emigration Officer, would have to stay for the last ship. If all the ships were not full, there would be a loss and an outcry. The hasty picking up of rubbish would be worse than all. I am very anxious about it.
P.S.—Since the above was written, I have seen Bowler who page 306is greatly alarmed by your letter or rather the state of things He speaks as if nothing was finally settled with regard even to the Seymour and Charlotte Jane; and says that he feels altogether behind hand with respect to the Association's emigrants. The other emigration—that which the Association does not pay for—is going on as well as he expected, and seems to be growing in importance.