Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Is 1828 really the start of Assisted Immigration to NSW?

If  were to ask you when Assisted Immigration to NSW began you'd probably answer 1828. And a couple of months ago, so would I. But now I'm starting to wonder whether that date is wrong.

True, the NSW State Archives and Records website includes digitised copies of what it describes as "Assisted Immigrants Shipping List 1828-1896" and also a link to the "Bounty Immigrants Index 1828-1842". I'll talk more about these later on.

These are the facts I have been able to gather:

The Secretary of State (Viscount Goderich) developed a scheme in 1831, which was put into place in 1832, to send unmarried women and skilled mechanics (by which is meant tradesmen) and their families to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land. The scheme was to be administered by the Commissioners of Emigration in London, Dublin and Cork. All people sent out were said to have been vetted and supplied testimonials. The initial suggestion was that the scheme be funded by a tax on assigned servants, though the colony rejected this and instead used funds from the sale of Crown Lands. The women would receive a bounty of £8 (about half the cost) towards their passage. They were expected to pay the difference themselves. Men did not receive a bounty, but were given a £20 advance towards the passage for them and their families.

The first two ships to arrive in 1832 were the Princess Royal, carrying single women from England, and the Red Rover, carrying Irish single women. A further fourteen ships arrived carrying single women. The selection of these women had been overseen by John Marshall, a shipowner who acted as an agent. As he received money for each emigrant on the ships, he had a vested interest in making sure the ships were full. The colonists claimed that many of these women were prostitutes, had no ability as domestic or farm servants, and that many of them had a disability or disease. The number of mechanics that came out was small.

In 1835 Governor Bourke suggested an alternate system. Two schemes would co-exist. Colonists who could fund the transport of immigrants of whose skills they were in need had the opportunity to use their own agent in the UK to find mechanics or agricultural labourers who would emigrate to the colony. The colonist would be given a bounty equal (or nearly) the expense of the person’s passage if and only if an Immigration Board in the colony deeded the immigrant suitable after examining them. This would eliminate those who were clearly of the wrong ages, or disabled, or unhealthy, and so on. They could bring out married couples under 30 (with their family), unmarried women 15-30 who come out with the consent of the settler or his agent under the protection of a married couple, as forming part of the family and destined to remain with it until such female be otherwise provided for, and unmarried male mechanics or farm servants aged 18-25, brought out by a settler, who at the same time brings an equal number of females, accompanying and attached to a family as before described. The government had no control with this scheme: the emigrants were selected by agents of the colonists and ships were engaged privately. The government role was limited to the Immigration Board who examined the new arrivals for suitability.

The other scheme which would run alongside the Bounty Scheme was the Government Scheme, which would account for a larger number of immigrants. Under this new scheme, Surgeon-Superintendents from convict ships who had knowledge of life in the colony and the needs of the colony, were sent from the colonies to select the immigrants. They would also accompany them back on the voyage. Payments which were close or equal to the cost of the voyage would be made for these immigrants.

Farewelling the Immigrant Ship St Vincent, 1844
(Illustrated London News, 13.4.1844)

These schemes were tweaked several times over the years to iron out problems that became apparent.

Before these schemes the government had brought out wives and children of convicts for free from 1817 onwards. This was a free passage, not assisted immigration. It also started well before 1828. The only other scheme that the colonial government was involved with before the schemes described above was the emigration of 50 girls from the Cork Foundling Hospital in 1831 on the convict ship Palembam in an attempt to redress the imbalance in numbers of male and female colonists. The Governors of the hospital provided the girls with their required outfits, and the colonial government paid all other costs.

The idea of using revenue from land sales was first proposed by Edward Gibbon Wakefield in 1829. Although South Australia was the only colony to adopt Wakefield's scheme in toto (which they did from ?), the idea of funding immigration through land sales was adopted by many states. But this was one year after the magical date of 1828.

The Australian Agricultural Company and the Van Diemen's Land Company brought out people to work for them from 1825, but these were indentured workers, not assisted immigrants.

John Dunmore Lang first brought out emigrants in 1831. They were allowed a free passage, but it was expected that they would repay the cost from their earnings in the colony.

So what about these State Archives collections "Assisted Immigrants Shipping List 1828-1896" and also a link to the "Bounty Immigrants Index 1828-1842"?  The former was compiled by Janet Reakes. The records, digital copies of which are on the Archives web site, are all written in the same hand and cover many ships, often having more than one ship on the same page. There is no indication where Janet got the information on these voyages from. I don't doubt for a minute that these people arrived on the ships that are nominated, but I can find no evidence that they were assisted in their immigration.

The second dataset is an index to the first, created by FamilySearch.

So, am I missing something? Did assisted immigration (or bounty immigration) start in 1828?  Or is 1831 or 1832 the earliest date we can claim?

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