Emigration From The South of Ireland to the Canadas

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Document ID 2006264
Date 02-04-1824
Document Type Official Documents
Archive Queen's University, Belfast
Citation Emigration From The South of Ireland to the Canadas;British Parliamentary Papers, 1825 XVIII, (131), pp.359-361: Report from PETER ROBINSON, Superintendent of Emigration from Ireland to Canada; CMSIED 2006264
                  TO THE CANADAS.
AN ESTIMATE of the Sum required for facilitating Emigration
from the South of Ireland to the Canadas; for the year 1825.

            Downing Street, 18 March 1825
    I AM directed by Lord Bathurst to
transmit to you the copy of a Report of
Mr. Peter Robinson, who was employed by
His Majesty's Government as the
Superintendent of Emigration from the
South of Ireland to Canada, in the year
1823; and I am to desire that you will
lay the same before the Lords
Commissioners of the Treasury,
acquainting their Lordships, that Lord
Bathurst strongly recommends that the
experiment should be continued during
the present year, and requests that
their Lordships will submit to
Parliament an Estimate for granting
the sum of thirty thousand pounds for
the service.

 I am, Sir, your most obedient servant.
(signed) R.W. Horton.

J.C. Herries, Esq.
&c. &c. &c.

                London, 2d April 1824
    I have the honour to report to you,
for the information of the Right
Honourable Lord Bathurst, that having
received directions from His Majesty's
Government to proceed to Ireland, for
the purpose of superintending a
limited emigration to the province of
Upper Canada, I left Liverpool on the
18th, and arrived at Fermoy, in the
county of Cork, on the 20th of May 1823.
 Being a stranger in Ireland, I was
ordered to act under the advice of Lord
Ennismore and the magistrates; and in
order to receive the full benefit of
their assistance, I made Fermoy my
principal place of residence. I was
happy to find that the very liberal
conditions proposed by His Majesty's
Government to such as were disposed to
emigrate, met the cordial approbation
of all the gentlemen to whom they were
communicated. Lords Ennismore, Kinston
and Doneraile, Mr. Becher, M.P. Mr.
Jephson, and the Rev. Dr. Woodward, were
most friendly to the scheme, anxious for
its success, and ready to give me every
assistance in their power.
 On the 2d of June my final instructions
arrived; and as the gentlemen I was
directed to consult were unanimously of
opinion that I should take as many
persons as possible from the disturbed
baronies in the county of Cork, which were
at that time in a very distracted state, I
caused several hundred copies of the
memorandum containing the terms of
emigration, to be distributed in the
towns of Fermoy, Mitchelstown, Doneraile,
Charleville, Newmarket, Kanturk, Mallow
and the villages within that circle. The
noblemen and the principal magistrates in
the different towns condescended in the
kindest manner to become the organs of
communication with the persons wishing to
emigrate, to take in their names, and the
number of their respective families; as it
was intended from these lists to make,
under their advice and direction, a final
 The whole business was conducted in the true
spirit of conciliation; for in every town
or village from which emigrants were
expected, I called upon the Roman Catholic
priest, as well as the more respectable
inhabitants, to afford them an opportunity
of asking any questions they chose to put,
or of giving them an account of the nature
of the benefit which Government offered,
through me, for the acceptance of the poor.
 Several priests entered into the matter
with much zeal, and one of them promised to
read the memorandum from the pulpit, and to
explain to his parishoners the great
advantage to themselves and families, which
must accrue from emigrating on such liberal
 Not satisfied with giving all the
information I could to the Magistrates, and
calling upon the principal inhabitants, I
made myself accessible to all the people,
and entered patiently into their views and
feelings, answering their inquiries, and
affording them as true a description of the
country as I was capable of giving. On
these occasions it was that I found the
benefit of being well acquainted with Upper
Canada, the place of their destination; I
was able to set before them the length of
the journey, the obstacles in their way,
and the means of removing them. I explained
the manner of clearing lands and cultivating
the virgin soil; I dissipated their
apprehensions concerning wild beasts
and the danger of being lost in the woods.
Many, after being satisfied in regard to the
excellence of the soil and climate of Upper
Canada, were anxious to know whether,
in case they liked the country,
there would be room for their friends, and
whether they would likewise be granted
lands, and enjoy the same benefits and
privileges which were now offered to them.
To these inquiries I made answer that I
could not give them any positive information
as to the future intentions of Government;
but this I knew, that there was room enough
in Canada for many more than would ever come
from Ireland, and that if they were
industrious and sober they would be able, in
a few years, to send for their friends and
relations themselves, if no public assistance
should at that time be given to emigrants.
 The care thus taken to give every information
produced the happiest affects; the people
received the proposals most readily, and
were exceedingly grateful for the kind
attention with which they were treated.
I had been frequently told that much
opposition might be expected from the
Roman Catholic priests, as the plan, if
successful, would lessen their
congregations and circumscribe their
influence. But so far was this from
being the case, that in most of the
parishes which I visited, I found them
on the best terms with the resident
protestant clergymen; and instead of
giving unfavourable impressions of the
plan, they most generally gave it their
 There was a difference of opinion among
many intelligent persons whom I found it
advantageous to consult, regarding the
description of persons that ought to be
received. It was contended, that a few
respectable persons should be taken by
way of encouraging others, and of proving
that there was no deception, but that
the measure was intended chiefly for
the relief and comfort of the poorer
classes. On the other hand it was
justly remarked, that to receive persons
in tolerable circumstances was not giving
the experiment a fair trial; for unless
the paupers themselves could be settled
comfortably, at a very moderate expense,
emigration, as a public measure, ought to
be abandoned: that there was no wisdom in
affording to persons having some property,
the means of emigrating, because they had
already the power, if so disposed, of
proceeding to Canada: that there might be
reason for not wishing that even small
capitalists should remove from such a
country as Ireland, and certainly strong
reason for not giving them direct
 After a little time the general opinion
accorded with the determination of His
Majesty's Government, to make such a fair
experiment of an emigration confined to
paupers as would not only settle its
expediency on the ground of expences, but
what was of still more consequence, show
how far it was calculated to
promote the permanent comfort and
happiness of the persons sent out.
 Acting, therefore, agreeably to this
determination, I confined myself strictly to
the selection of persons of no capital
whatever, and who might more properly be
called paupers; satisfied that if such
succeeded in Canada, persons disposed to
emigrate, having some property, would be
sufficiently encouraged, since they would
have the fullest evidence before them, that
industry and prudence, without their
advantages, would in time ensure success.
 In regard to the former conduct of those
who applied to emigrate, I made no particular
enquiry, being convinced that a change of
circumstances so great as that of becoming
proprietors of land themselves, and far
removed from the influence of the turbulent,
the selfish and designing, would
effectually cure the discontented. Moreover,
it was judged expedient by the gentlemen
under whose guidance I acted, to take them out
of a troubled district, that some of the more
firy [fiery?] spirits might be disposed of, and
consequently those left behind would find
more steady employment, and be induced to
live in greater tranquillity.
 On the 2d of June I began to advertise
for emigrants, and to distribute copies of
the terms on which the Government was
disposed to send them to Canada. Before
the end of the month I had distributed
600 tickets for embarkation, a greater
number than I could have taken; but I
acted on the presumption that some would
keep back from sickness, or imaginary fears
and apprehensions, or the advice of friends.
The event proved that I was right, for on
the 1st of July 460 only were  embarked, but
I was able next day to select 111 more,
making in all 571, which was as many as
could be accommodated. During the time that
I was collecting the people, two vessels,
of about 500 tons each, were engaged in the
Thames to convey them from Cork to Quebec:
these vessels were amply supplied with
provisions, and every comfort in case of
sickness that could be imagined; two medical
officers of experience, one for each ship,
were employed. The vessels and stores were
strictly inspected, and they were in every
respect as well found as if they had been
fitted out by a company of passengers for
their own convenience, safety and comfort.
 Thus, in rather less than a month from the
time of issuing the proposals, the emigrants
were on board, and the ships ready to sail;
such was the promptness of Government in
making its arrangements, and the active
exertions of the nobility and magistrates
in enabling me to select the requisite
number. For their kindness in thus
forwarding the object of my journey to
Ireland, as well as their attention to
myself, I feel exceedingly grateful.
 During the voyage nothing happened of
importance; the rations were abundant
and comfortable; the men were allowed
cocoa for breakfast, and nearly half a
pint of spirits, which was, perhaps,
not too much. The women and children were
allowed tea and sugar. The best proof of
the attention paid to them on the voyage,
arises from the good health which they
enjoyed, as only one woman and eight children
died on the passage, and these from the
small pox, which had unfortunately got
into both ships, and not from any causes
that could be attributed to their change
of circumstances or situation.
 It may be worth remarking, as it is so
characteristic of the fondness of the Irish
people for potatoes, that the men preferred
them to cocoa, which they refused for several
days to taste, till they saw the officers of
the ship repeatedly breakfasting upon it.
The children during sickness called constantly
for potatoes, refusing arrow or root or any
other ailments more congenial to their
situation; and nothing could prevail on man,
woman or child to eat plum pudding, which as
is usual on ship board was part of the
Sunday's dinner.
 Few of them would eat the best English cheese;
and when it was served out as part of their
ration, it was most commonly thrown overboard.
 We arrived at Quebec in the Stakesby, on the
2d of September, after a passage of eight weeks;
the Hebe had been in port two days. I shipped
the people from the transport on board the
steam boats without landing them, and proceeded
to Montreal on the 4th, having been detained
only two days. We were much facilitated in our
progress by the orders which His Excellency
Lord Dalhousie had given, before our arrival,
to the Quartermaster General, to find
provisions and transport as far as Prescott,
in Upper Canada, a distance of about three
hundred and twenty miles.
 We reached Montreal on the 6th; and finding
the means of transport ready, I forwarded
the emigrants by land immediately, without
stopping in Montreal, to La Chine, distant
ten miles. Here we remained two days, and
then set out in boats to Prescott, the crews
of each consisting chiefly of emigrants, with
two Canadians to guide and steer.
Notwithstanding the rapidity of the river and
unskilfulness of the men, few of whom had ever
been in a boat, we got to Prescott on the 15th.
A commissary had preceded us with one month's
provisions; but finding no commissariat
establishment at Prescott, and being unwilling
to incur what I considered an unnecessary
expense, I receipted the month's supply and
allowed the commissary to return to Montreal.
 Here I likewise parted with the two surgeons,
Mr. Hamilton and Mr. Dixon, whose indefatigable
attention to the emigrants, and kind and
benevolent treatment, cannot be sufficiently
praised; such was their zeal and anxiety for
the success of the emigration, that they
volunteered their services from Quebec to
Prescott, a distance of more than three
hundred miles, and were of great service in
preserving the health of the emigrants while
passing up the river in boats, which was the
most tedious and difficult part of the journey.
I could not see them depart without regret,
and tendering to them my grateful
acknowledgements, as the good conduct of the
people during the whole voyage and afterwards,
may, in a great measure, be attributed to their
steady and humane attention to their wants.
 On the 18th I left Prescott, and proceeded
across the country in waggons to the
Mississippi River, a distance of about sixty
miles, and arrived on the 22d. Here I found
that orders had already been given by His
Excellency V.P. Maitland to afford me every
possible facility in placing my people on
such lands as were vacant and grantable in
this neighbourhood. His Excellency also had
the goodness to place at my disposal many
articles useful to settlers, which remained
in the King's stores, and took a very warm
interest in the success of the undertaking.
 The township of Ramsay, which the
Mississippi intersects, appeared to be
exceedingly eligible; but I found that rather
more than one-half had been settled there three
years before by Scotchmen from the neighbourhood
of Glasgow.
 The adjacent townships, Huntley, Goulburn
and Pakenham, were also partiality settled
by disbanded soldiers and others. Being
anxious to settle my people as near each
other as possible, I determined to examine
carefully what lands remained in these
townships at the disposal of Government,
and fortunately I found a sufficient number
of vacant lots fit for settlement; I
therefore located in the township of Ramsay
82 heads of families, in Pakenham 29, in
Bathurst 1, in Lanark 2, in Beckwith 5, in
Goulburn 26, in Darling 3, and in Huntley 34;
making in all 182. As there were no barracks
or Government buildings in the neighbourhood,
and the whole party without shelter, my first
care was to provide log-houses for them, and
that on their respective lots: fortunately
the autumn was unusually dry and warm, and I
completed this object by the 1st of November.
 To do this, I was obliged to go to some
additional expense, as the settlers were not
sufficiently acquainted with the use of the
axe to put up log buildings themselves.
However, I feel well assured nothing tends
so much to fix the attention of the
emigrant to his newly-acquired property,
and to ensure his becoming a permanent
settler, as a little care and attention
in placing him on his land.
 I have much pleasure in being able to state,
that although the detailed account of the
expenditure cannot yet be made out, as there
is a cow and some little articles still to be
supplied, it will fall within that estimate,
so that this part of the experiment proves
satisfactory. The second part of the
experiment, "how far an emigration of the
poorer classes to Canada is calculated to
promote "their permanent comfort and happiness,"
will be best proved by a reference to the
letters of the persons sent out, some of them
so late as the 20th February, stating their
good health  and complete satisfaction with the
country and climate, and earnestly inviting their
friends to join them; and to the fact, that every
head of a family will have from three to four
acres of land cleared and ready to plant this
 I therefore feel warranted in stating, that the
emigration to the province of Upper Canada,
committed to my superintendence, has completely
      I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient
humble servant,
     (signed) P. Robinson.