Letter re Emigrants in Peterborough - 1831

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It appears that at present considerable distress prevails amongst the Emigrants at Peterborough’ for want of provisions. – Now it is well known that in the townships adjacent to that town, there are and have been provisions in abundance; it is equally well known that during the summer season there was a great demand for labour, and it is notorious, that during that period, hundreds of able men and women, boys and girls, were constantly walking about Peterborough’ in complete idleness and amusing themselves in about the river.

Now, why was that? Because they got, I may say, board and lodging without costing them any thing, and there is a proneness in mankind in general not to work if they can avoid it. A few of them that made any show to obtain work demanded as high wages, and sometimes more, than men who have been in the country for years, and all this was because they could have provisions for the taking away, and even now when suffering privations, many of them are still holding out for unreasonable wages, and prefer begging and almost starvation rather than work.

– It is this that should be handed up to the government and the public as the real course of the misery, or at least a vast proportion of the misery, which no doubt exists to a fearful extent. Now, if in future government should arrange any plan of emigration, not one pound of provisions should be issued to emigrants before they were actually on their own location, and then only for a limited time, say six months at the utmost; for by the emigrants being supplied before that, it cuts up by the roots energy, industry, and perseverance among them – in fact, that system of supplying the emigrants with rations, &c. has been the rock that all emigrations where the government has been concerned has split upon. It has always exceeded the estimate set out upon by three or four times the amount.

There is a plan that I would humbly submit, which I think would supply plenty of emigrants, and perhaps of a better description, viz: - First, let one or more townships be properly surveyed, (for I understand there are great complaints on that head,) and a good road made from the nearest place of rendezvous, right through the said townships; then let places of location be numbered and a shanty built on each.

This I consider a most necessary step at the beginning, to be all ready before the arrival of a single emigrant at Quebec.

When the emigrants in Great Britain apply to government at home, to furnish the head of each family with a printed ticket, describing the man’s profession, with the names and ages of himself, his wife and children, but this not to be given till they are actually on board; and at the same time let it be strongly impressed on their minds, that they are not to expect any assistance whatever from government, either here or at home, but merely their passage to Quebec; and that from thence up the river till where they chose to land, and until they place themselves on their location, must be entirely at their own charge – and to make the thing more regular, they should be instructed to present their rickets to the agent on their landing, who should keep it as his voucher and issue another, which should be delivered to the next agent and so on till the last, where they should be desired to put their hand into a certain box and pull out a ticket, which should have a number on it corresponding to one of the numbered locations in the township, which should be his place of residence, and to which he should be directed to proceed without delay, and at his own charge.

Then and not till then, if being certified to the satisfaction of the agent that he was actually a resident, let him be supplied with six months rations, to be served out to him half a month, or a whole one at a time, at the discretion of the agent. I have no doubt but a better plan than the above may be proposed, as there are many more capable of doing it than


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