Immigrants to Canada

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Extracts From the Immigration Report of 1847

Taken from Emigration. Papers Relative to Emigration to The British Provinces in North America, (In continuation of the Papers presented December 1847). presented to the both Houses of Parliament, by Command of Her Majesty, April, 1848.

The immigration reports of this year reflect the great distress of the Irish. The number of immigrants rose sharply as well as the number of deaths. The report of this year contained many letters written about the conditions of the emigrants, the ships that brought them, and the landowners who sent them. Because of this, I have reproduced many of the letters in full instead of taking extracts from them.

My Lord,

I have the honour to enclose herewith the copy of a letter which has been addressed to me by Mr. Cayley, the Inspector-General of Accounts, representing the condition of the finances of the province as affected by the expenditure occasioned by this year's immigration from Great Britain and Ireland, to which I beg most earnestly to call your Lordship's attention.

2. I had hoped to have had it in my power before this time to furnish your Lordship with detailed information respecting the outlay which has been incurred in this service, but the illness of the chief immigration agent, who has been at the point of death, from fever caught in the discharge of his duties, the continued arrival of the emigrant ships from Great Britain and Ireland, and the vast number of sick accumulated in the hospitals, have hitherto prevented me from accomplishing the object. I venture, however, to submit a few facts which may serve to indicate the nature of magnitude of the charges which have been so unexpectedly thrown upon the province.

3. Nearly 100,000 immigrants have been landed at Quebec during the course of the present season. Of these a large proportion were totally destitute, and must have perished had they not been forwarded at the cost of the public. Contagious fever has prevailed among them to an unexampled extent; the number confined in hospitals, where they have been maintained and treated at the expense of the provincial treasury, having occasionally approached 10,000. In proof of the malignant character of the disease under which they have laboured, I may mention that, although the mortality among children has been very great, nearly 1000 immigrant orphans have been left during the season at Montreal, and a proportionate number at Gross Isle, Quebec, Kingston, Toronto, and other towns.

4. Under these circumstances, I trust that your Lordship will bestow a favourable consideration on the enclosed application from the inspector-General of Accounts, for aid to enable him to make provision for the interest due in January, on the loan guaranteed by Great Britain. The funds in the treasury would have been amply sufficient to meet this and all other charges on the province had they not been diverted from their destination to mitigate the effects of the calamity which the afflictions of Ireland have entailed upon Canada.

I have, &c.

(Signed) Elgin and Kincardine

On the subject of the Emigration of the present year

The subject of emigration has this year obtruded itself most painfully upon the consideration of the Committee, attended as it has been by extreme destitution and distress, and by an amount of mortality unprecedented in former years. The Committee fully appreciate all the benefits which a well-conducted emigration is calculated to produce both to the mother-country and the colony, by affording to the former an outlet for her redundant population, and by securing to the latter an accession of useful labour, and the introduction of an increased amount of industrial capital. Considered, therefore, either as a mere question of general political importance, or as a practical Governmental measure, the subject is obviously one of extreme interest at any time, but more particularly at this period, when so large an expenditure of provincial funds has been incurred on that account, and at the approach of an inclement and rigorous season, when labour can meet with no employment, and destitution must be supported by eleemosynary relief.

Whatever advantages may be fairly anticipated to arise to the mother-country from an extensive emigration, conducted upon a settled plan of organized colonization by the systematic introduction of settling labourers, or from the voluntary action of emigrants themselves, it must be evident that commensurate advantages to this country can be derived only from the introduction into the province of two classes of emigrants, either intending settlers who bring with them adequate means for the cultivation of land and immediate settlement, or healthy and vigorous labourers whose physical powers would, to some extent, supply the want of moneyed capital, and whose active industry would not only augment the productive wealth of the colony, but be applied to open up alike its commercial and natural capabilities. An emigration of this nature could not fail to realize the expectations entertained by Lord Grey, as conveyed in his Lordship's Despatch No. 109, upon this subject, and would have the effect, as his Lordship has observed, "of extending the settlement of the province, increasing its wealth, and improving its resources;" whilst any other description of emigration wanting in these important requirements must obviously be attended with consequences directly the reverse, and tend, moreover, to demoralize the settled provincial population with whom, unfortunately, it might be brought into contact. Intending settlers possessed of weath[sic] or means are of course few in number, as compared with the great mass whom various causes compel at all times to leave their native country to establish themselves and their families in the colonies; these, composing the great body of the emigrants, arrive without resources of their own, and almost invariably consist of those who have been accustomed to earn their subsistence as labourers, and whose support here must continue to be derived from the same source. It cannot be denied that an active and increasing demand for labour co-exists with the acknowledged progressive increase of the colony in population and productive resources, and that a large amount has been, for several years, readily absorbed and adequately provided for by theat demand, with but little assistance from the Government or from private charity, by the inhabitants of the province. Amongst this latter class of emigrants, however, there always have been many who, from various causes, have found a difficulty in obtaining employment, and whom sickness and other common casualties have not failed in every year temporarily to disqualify from labour, or altogether to prevent from supporting themselves. For this class the funds at the disposal of the Government, or private contributions, have hitherto afforded sufficient relief, the chief expenditure incurred by the Government in former years having been appropriated to the conveyance of emigrants to places of intended settlement where employment could be easily obtained, and but a small expense having been drawn from private benevolence towards providing against the contingencies of destitution and disease.

In this year the numerical account of emigration has far exceeded the aggregate of any former year, and it has unhappily been characterized by the absence of almost every quality essential to constitute a sound and effective addition to the provincial population. Subjoined is a general statement made up by the emigrant agent of the numbers who embarked in Europe for this country:
From Steerage Infants Cabin Total
England 29,833 2,305 190 32,328
Scotland 3,462 174 116 3,752
Ireland 51,129 2,835 365 54,329
Germany 7,468 226 13 7,697
  91,882 5,540 684 98,106


Ship's Name No. Of Statute Adults the Ship could legally carry No. Of Statute Adults actually Embarked

No. Of Souls Embarked

Adults Children

1 to 14


under 1

Argo 474 450 213 161 73 79 40 24 590
Princess Royal 481 476.5 235 149 101 84 17 13 599
Sobraon 515 449 184 163 105 99 28 23 602
Goliah 463 463 204 174 86 84 30 22 600
Greenock 634 633 323 205 106 104 42 36 816
Agamemnon 490 490 230 173 89 85 36 33 646

New Brunswick

(No. 105.)
No. 21
Copy of a Despatch from Lieut-Governor Sir W.M.G. Colebrooke to Earl Grey.

Sint John, New Brunswick,
December 14, 1847.
My Lord,
With reference ...
Enclosure 3 in No. 23.
Shippegan, November 27, 1847.
Dear Sir,
Enclosed I beg leave to transmit to you

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© Marjorie P. Kohli, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 1997-2007
Last updated: February 17, 2007 and maintained by Marj Kohli