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Patterns of Prejudice
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'Shovelling out your paupers': The British State and Irish Famine Migration 1846-50
P. Gray Available online: 07 Dec 2010

To cite this article: P. Gray (1999): 'Shovelling out your paupers': The British State and Irish Famine Migration 1846-50, Patterns of Prejudice, 33:4, 47-65 To link to this article:

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Shovelling out your paupers: The British State and Irish Famine Migration 1846-50
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Gray considers the determinants of British policy towards emigration (and particularly towards state-assisted colonization) from Ireland during the Great Famine of 1845-50. He surveys the idea of colonization as advocated by Charles Buller in 1843, and its varying appeal (changing over time) in Ireland, Britain and the settlement colonies of the British empire. He also considers the issue in the light of pro- and anti-Malthusian interpretations of Irish population pressure, and the emergence of the alternative idea of internal colonization. Gray argues that the failure of the state to adopt an emigration policy in 1846-50 as part of its response to the Famine was the consequence of a combination of anti-Irish prejudice in Britain and the colonies (which was sharpened by the arrival of large numbers of economic refugees in 1847 and the political conspiracies of 1848), and the prevalence of an economic doctrine that prioritized the need for Irish self-help and moral transformation over state assistance. He traces the debate over colonization within the Whig government headed by Lord John Russell, and concludes that some form of assisted emigration was a feasible policy measure, and that its rejection had adverse consequences in terms of additional famine mortality.

Australia, Britain, Canada, colonization, emigration, famine, Grey, immigration, Ireland, Irish, Russell

n April 1843 the leading British liberal Charles Buller spoke in Parliament in favour of systematic colonization as a remedy for both shortterm distress and the longer-term structural inadequacies of British and Irish society. Colonization would produce, he declared, an extension of civilized society, in contrast to that mere emigration which aimed at little more than shovelling out your paupers to where they might die, without shocking their betters with the sight or sound of their last agony.1 Bullers speech, which was widely reported and circulated in pamphlet form, was a high point in the intellectual and political movement for systematic colonization. It was received with enthusiasm by much of the liberal press and parliamentary opinion as embodying a policy programme which
1 Quoted in Colonisationthe only cure for national distressMr Charles Bullers speech, Frasers Magazine, vol. 27, July 1843, 749. PATTERNS OF PREJUDICE, vol. 33, no. 4, 1999/0031-322X/47-65/011064
SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, New Delhi)

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combined the amelioration of social conditions at home with the consolidation of a liberal British empire of settlement overseas. Following the theorists Edward Gibbon Wakefield and Robert Torrens, Buller argued that, if properly regulated by the state, mass colonization of British overseas territories could be achieved at no net cost to the treasury. The added value given to colonial land by the application of surplus British capital and labour would soon repay the loans necessary to tranship the settlers. The 1830s experiments in South Australia had demonstrated, he claimed, what could be done; if applied on a large scale to the other territories suitable for settlement in Australia and New Zealand, British North America and southern Africa, the benefits to those assisted, to those remaining at home and to the empire at large would be incalculable. Leaving emigration to private enterprise or sporadic landlord assistance would, in contrast, do little for those who left, and at best would only strengthen the potentially hostile American republicthe recipient of most of the voluntary emigration of the 1840s. The application of the idea of systematic colonization to Ireland was not newRobert Torrens had long been a consistent advocate of a colonization plan to create a New Erin on the settlement frontier of the empire2 but Bullers speech brought the idea to the forefront of parliamentary debate. Not all agreed with Bullers proposals; the Conservative prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, while sympathetic, remained instinctively hostile to state intervention, while the colonial secretary, Lord Stanley, was wholly indifferent. However, Buller had been a junior minister in the closing days of the last Whig government in 1841 and had already won the public support of Lord Howick, who had spoken out on colonial reform in the 1830s and, having inherited the title Earl Grey from his father in 1845, looked set to be a major force in any new Whig government. The partys leader, Lord John Russell, also declared himself in favour of some measure of emigration to address the condition of England question.3 As Peels Conservative government began to disintegrate amidst rightwing revolts over the prime ministers Irish reform policy and his decision to repeal the Corn Laws, it was increasingly clear that a Whig-liberal government with some commitment to a policy of colonization would come to power. Indeed, when Russell became prime minister in July 1846, both Buller and Grey entered the government, the latter in the all-important post of colonial secretary with full responsibility for emigration policy. All eyes now turned to the new government to see if its opposition pledges would be realized. Thus, on the eve of the Great Irish Famine, colonization as a social policy had entered the political domain, had been thoroughly theorized, debated, experimented upon and publicly endorsed by senior ministers as a programme.

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2 Robert Torrens, Systematic Colonization: Ireland Saved, without Cost to the Imperial Treasury, 2nd edn (London: Trelawney Saunders 1849). 3 Russell to Palmerston, 24 December 1844: University of Southampton, Palmerston (Broadlands) Papers, GC/RU/86/1.

The failures of the Irish potato crop, and especially the up to nine-tenths loss that coincided with the advent of the Russell government in July 1846, appeared to bring to a head the much-rehearsed arguments over Irish social malaise, and to render urgent any policy that might reduce that countrys population while avoiding mass famine mortality. The colonization debate of 1846-50 was thus primarily an Irish one; while a trade slump brought deteriorating English and Scottish working-class conditions in 1847-9, it was by no means as severe as the crisis of 1839-43, and emigration from Britain in the later 1840s was relatively light. Colonization remained high on the agendas of the settlement colonies themselves, but with increasing contention over the origin and characteristics of immigrants. Some explanation then is required for the governments failure during the Famine to transform its members previous approval of the principle of colonization into a tangible relief policy for Ireland, either by the effective regulation of the private emigration traffic, or the implementation of policies that would have helped more than a nominal number of state emigrants or provided employment and facilities for those arriving at their destination. Instead of such an orderly colonization, these years witnessed horrors infinitely worse than anything Buller had envisaged arising from mere emigration. The arguments here build on the outstanding work on emigration policy published by Oliver MacDonagh some forty years ago.4 Of the two aspects of state activity with which MacDonagh deals, onethe regulation of emigrant traffic by means of the Passenger Acts and the corps of emigration officers needs little addition. His account of an emerging regulatory bureaucracy swamped by the scale of the unforeseen disaster of 1847, hampered by inadequate resources and responding to the humanitarian outcry by adopting restrictions which were unenforceable, has been developed at length in his works and endorsed by subsequent research.5 Of more interest here is an issue which MacDonaghs thesis of a pragmatic pattern of government growth does not account for: the debate over assisted emigration within the British and Irish political elite and public opinion. It is necessary to go beyond MacDonaghs analysis (which relies too heavily on arguments about weak personalities and too loose a usage of laissez-faire as an explanation of government inaction) to uncover something of the ideological constructions and political constraints that contributed considerably to the Irish disaster of 1846-50.

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4 Oliver MacDonagh, Irish emigration to the United States of America and the British colonies during the Famine, in R. D. Edwards and T. D. Williams (eds), The Great Famine: Studies in Irish History 1845-52 (Dublin: Browne and Nolan 1956), 319-90. 5 Oliver MacDonagh, The regulation of the emigrant traffic from the United Kingdom 184255, Irish Historical Studies, vol. 9, 1954, 162-89; MacDonagh, Emigration and the state, 183355: an essay in administrative history, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., vol. 5, 1955, 133-59; MacDonagh, A Pattern of Government Growth 1800-60: The Passenger Acts and Their Enforcement (London: Macgibbon and Kee 1961), 166-221; Frank Neal, Liverpool, the Irish steamship companies and the Famine Irish, Immigrants and Minorities, vol. 5, 1986, 28-61.

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The debate over emigration and colonization Essentially this debate had three focal points. The first, in the famine period at least, was Ireland, where food shortage and social collapse rendered some policy response imperative on the part of the imperial government. This was accepted, at least rhetorically, by Russell, who on taking office publicly committed all the resources of the Treasury to relieving the famine-stricken Irish, and promised to consider colonization as one such measure.6 While assisted emigration as a relief mechanism faced many practical obstacles in the form of raising finance, procuring shipping, ensuring employment in the colonies and controlling ship-borne diseases, recent research has suggested that, if it had been adopted on even a modest scale, it could well have had a marked impact on famine mortality.7 Second, the Irish problem was also a British one, in so far as it provoked mass migration across the Irish Sea, with all the associated problems of fever outbreaks, pressure on the poor rates and a disruption of the British labour markets that most alarmed British public opinion, especially in the ports of entry and their hinterlands. The logic of the Act of Unionembodied in the implementation of full free trade between the islands by the 1820srendered illegitimate the creation of formal obstacles to Irish immigration. Before the Famine, government rhetoric about common citizenship had combined both with British commercial interest in the free flow of cheap (and frequently seasonal) Irish labour and with rapidly falling fares on the highly competitive Irish Sea steamship lines to promote such population movements. But the influx from late 1846 of vast numbers of economic refugees (classified in an arbitrary fashion as paupers) provoked a political campaign, particularly in Liverpool and Glasgow, for deterrent quarantine restrictions and higher fares. This campaign failed to sway a London government obsessed with the sanctity of free labour markets, but alterations to the law of settlement in 1847 did permit boards of guardians to repatriate Irish paupers applying for outdoor relief under the Poor Law with much less difficulty and expense. Some 63,000 were returned from Liverpool in 1846-53 (most being summarily dumped on the Dublin quays to fend for themselves), along with much smaller numbers from other cities. This number represented around 10 per cent of all Irish paupers disembarking in Liverpool in these years; most evaded repatriation by steering clear of the official mechanisms of parish relief or by tramping inland, but only at an increased risk in terms of mortality.8 There is little doubt

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6 Hansards Parliamentary Debates, 3rd ser., vol. 88, 777-8 (17 August 1846). 7 Cormac Grda, Black 47 and Beyond: The Great Irish Famine in History, Economy and Memory (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1999), 120-1. See also Cormac Grda and Kevin ORourke, Mass migration as disaster relief: lessons from the Great Irish Famine, European Review of Economic History, vol. 1, 1997, 3-27. 8 Copy of a Letter Addressed to HM Secretary of State for the Home Department, by Edward Rushton, Esquire, Stipendiary Magistrate for Liverpool, 21 April 1849, Parliamentary Papers (P.P.) 1849 (266), vol. 47, 53. For a full account, see Frank Neal, Black 47: Britain and the Famine Irish (Basingstoke: Macmillan 1998), 217-38.

that the xenophobia aroused by the mass Irish pauper immigration of 1847 led the state to be more cautious in its attitude towards colonization and relief expenditure in general. The third point of focus was the colonies themselves. The Colonial Office in London and the local executive officers and colonial assemblies generally agreed on the desirability of stimulating migration from the United Kingdom which would be sufficient to develop local resources and consolidate the colony against threats either of encroachment from other states (as in the Canadian fear of American annexation) or of native hostility (brought to the forefront by the Maori revolt in New Zealand in 1845). Indeed, the secretary of the New Zealand Societya convinced Wakefieldianpronounced that the convulsions in New Zealand and Ireland arose equally from a failed, because insufficiently systematic, colonization of both countries.9 In early 1847 the governor of New South Wales wrote in support of a petition from the landowners and employers of the colony, urging the immediate despatch of large numbers of agricultural workers to meet an acute shortage of labour. The credit from the sale of land debenturesunderpinned by the expectation that increased agricultural labour would raise the value of colonial lands was offered to meet the cost of transhipment.10 The Australian representatives were enthusiastic: No amount of emigration, they declared, can equal the amount of animal food the colony can produce, and there is a boundless extent of fertile land capable of grain cultivation.11 Whereas the debate in the United Kingdom over emigration from Ireland was primarily negative and focused on the perceived evils of Irish society, the colonial perspective (and that shared by the Wakefieldian advocates of colonization) was generally optimistic. Colonization promised to be a self-supporting mechanism whereby British civilization would be extended to the world. Providence seemingly intended that Britains imperial destiny be fulfilled in the nineteenth century, and had provided the means to realize this end. In the words of the AngloIrish landowner Aubrey De Vere: It is not for nothing that to England has been committed the sway of an empire on which the sun never sets, at that precise period at which scientific discoveries have won their latest triumphs over space and time.12 Liberal Protestant Irish landlords such as De Vere and Lord Monteagle sincerely believed that the interests of the colonies and Ireland were complementary and mutually realizable through systematic colonization.
9 W. Bridges, New Zealand and Ireland. Colonial Economy: Embracing a New Mode of Combining Land, Labour and Capital, in the Development of Our Colonial Resources (London: D. M. Aird [1845]). For Wakefields influence, see [Edward Gibbon Wakefield], The British Colonization of New Zealand; Being an Account of the Principles, Objects and Plans of the New Zealand Association (London: J. W. Parker 1837). 10 Despatch of Governor FitzRoy to Earl Grey, 30 January 1847, Papers Relative to Emigration to the Australian Colonies, P.P. 1847-8 (50-II), vol. 47, 211-13. 11 New South Wales Legislative Council, Address to Governor FitzRoy, 22 September 1847, Papers Relative to Emigration to the Australian Colonies, P.P. 1847-8 (986), vol. 47, 487-9. 12 [Aubrey De Vere], Colonization, Edinburgh Review, vol. 91, January 1850, 61.

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This consensus on the desirability of colonization did not rule out points of disagreement between its supporters. The irritation felt by Wakefield and his allies over the states reluctance to comply with the minutiae of their finelytuned schemes led to some sharp exchanges.13 More importantly, the interests of the colonial administrations could conflict sharply with the policy favoured in London or Ireland. Colonies were concerned primarily with the attraction of the best possible immigrants (preferably the young, fit and single) and the minimization of the social costs associated with the aged, infirm or totally impoverished. There was also a growing concern about the political loyalty and social desirability of Irish Catholic immigrants, especially once the mass flight from the island began in late 1846, and nativist hostility was further reinforced on both sides of the Atlantic in reaction to the widely-publicized Irish revolutionary conspiracies of 1848.14 Colonial variations could be marked. Canada and New Brunswick, the cheapest and nearest colonial destinations for mass voluntary emigration from the British Isles, rapidly reconsidered their attitudes towards Irish settlement in the course of 1847, eventually appealing to the Colonial Office to stem the tide of paupers unused to labour, mendicants with large families, averse from every industrious pursuit, whole cargoes of human beings in a state of destitution and in every stage of disease.15 The Australian colonies, on the other hand, too far away and expensive to be within the reach of the voluntary emigrant, could afford to maintain a more tolerant attitude towards the Irish.16 Indeed, the colonial assembly of New South Wales, which had encountered difficulty in attracting sufficient immigrants, welcomed the potato blight as an opportunity. So great was the labour shortage, it declared, that it may be acknowledged to be an object of not less solicitude with us to receive, than it is with our fellow subjects to get rid of, that part of their redundant population, for whom nothing remains in their native land but the prospect of misery and hopeless starvation.17 If the Australians hoped that by playing on the Irish situation they could extract British treasury funds for additional assisted emigration, they were to be disappointed. Passage money continued to be restricted to what was available from the colonial land fund, and the numbers

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13 See for example the petulant attack on Grey in Edward Gibbon Wakefield, A View of the Art of Colonization [1849] (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1914), 24-36. 14 See John Belchem, Nationalism, republicanism and exile: Irish emigrants and the revolutions of 1848, Past and Present, vol. 146, 1995, 103-35. 15 Petition of the mayor, aldermen and citizens of Montreal, 23 June 1847, Papers Relative to Emigration to the British Provinces of North America, P.P. 1847-8 (50), vol. 47, 14. The Montreal petitioners complained that they lacked the powers given to Liverpool to repatriate such Irish paupers. 16 At an average cost of between 10 and 11 per head, emigration to Australia was about three times the cost of passage to Canada; Return from Each of the British Colonies of the Amount of the Land Revenue and the Particulars of Its Application towards the Introduction of Emigrants, P.P. 1847-8 (345), vol. 47, 679. 17 Report from the Select Committee on Immigration (New South Wales), 11 September 1847, Papers Relative to Emigration to the Australian Colonies, P.P. 1847-8 (986), vol. 47, 489-94.

of Irish bound for Australia peaked in 1849 at only 6,783 (32.7 per cent of that years total). The emigration commissioners, who selected the fittest emigrants to be sent to the Antipodes, insisted on balancing the Irish with a higher proportion of English and Welsh settlers. The numbers of Irish assisted in 1848 was under 10 per cent of the total shipped out from the commissions depots, at a time when Ireland comprised one-third of the United Kingdoms population.18 Malthusian doctrine and the Irish Famine The redundancy of Irish population asserted by the Australian assembly was not universally accepted in Britain and Ireland: it was bitterly contested during the famine years whether the island was over-populated. Behind this debate lay conflicting conceptions of the nature and origins of Irish poverty and of the means necessary to eliminate it. Few English observers before or during the Famine questioned that the islands population was pressing heavily (and indeed from 1846 overwhelmingly) on its current ability to feed and employ its people. The point at issue was whether reducing the population or rendering more productive the resources of the country should be given priority in policymaking. Before the 1840s the former opinion commanded greatest authority. Growing awareness after 1815 of the problems of economic stagnation and poverty in Ireland encouraged the application of orthodox Malthusian conceptions of the interconnection of population growth, poverty and positive checks.19 The third generation of classical economistsMcCulloch, Torrens and Nassau Seniorwere more hopeful about Irish economic improvement, but only in the context of a massive restructuring of Irish rural society that included some programme of emigration.20 Every major official investigation into Irish poverty from 1826 pointed to the same conclusion, and the Poor Inquiry Commission report of 1836 pronounced an emigration scheme halffunded by the state to be essential for the commencement of Irish amelioration.21 Senior, the leading economist of his day and a close associate of the reports author, Archbishop Richard Whately of Dublin, was in no doubt

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18 Returns Exhibiting the Emigration from the United Kingdom between the Years 1846 and 1850 Inclusive, P.P. 1851 (680), vol. 40, 443. 19 Popular Malthusianism needs to be distinguished from Malthus himself, who wrote relatively little on Ireland; he did not envisage any catastrophe on the scale of the Famine but, although generally pessimistic about Irish prospects, thought emigration merely a temporary palliative. Cormac Grda, Malthus and the pre-Famine economy, in Antoin E. Murphy (ed.), Economists and the Irish Economy (Blackrock: Irish Academic Press 1984), 75-95. 20 See Peter Gray, Famine, Land and Politics: British Government and Irish Society 1843-1850 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press 1999), 8-12. 21 Third Report of the Commission for Inquiring into the Condition of the Poorer Classes in Ireland, P.P. 1836 (35), vol. 30, 17, 26. The Devon Commission report of 1845 repeated this call for assisted emigration as part of a wider comprehensive plan; Report from HM Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of the Law and Practice in Respect to the Occupation of Land in Ireland, P.P. 1845 (605), vol. 19, 28-9.

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that much of the Irish population was redundant and in need of removal before agriculture could be modernized (that is, reconstructed along the ideal English model of a tripartite division of labour between solvent landowners, capitalist large farmers and proletarianized landless labourers).22 If Senior later became more sceptical about the efficacy of state action, the potato blight further convinced him that Irish over-population was tending to abolish the very idea of property, and that the removal of the surplus of two million people was vital.23 The potato failure persuaded even some of those previously sceptical of the over-population thesis of its validity. William Blacker, an Armagh land agent and outspoken advocate for the efficiency of small farms, felt obliged to admit that the necessary shift from a potato-based to a more land-extensive cereal subsistence rendered emigration inevitable.24 The doctrine of surplus Irish population was not unchallenged before or during the Famine. The Ulster radical William Sharman Crawford regularly condemned the idea and with it the necessity for emigration. In reply to Bullers speech of 1843 he denounced colonization as the transportation of the people and a drain on the life-blood of the country. Land reform and free trade, he argued, would provide the means necessary to give employment and supply food to all in need.25 Unlike Blacker, Crawford remained implacably opposed to what he denounced as the detestable doctrine of the Malthusian economists and the extermination it entailed.26 Most Irish nationalists and radicals shared Crawfords sentiments: the Young Irelander Thomas Davis had denounced a previous proposal for Australian colonization from Ireland drawn up by Torrens in 1839 as a huge exterminating engine for sending away our masses.27 This hostile opinion remained the nationalist orthodoxy thereafter. Perhaps more surprising, but of central importance, was the growing critique of Malthusianism among many British liberals. As early as 1837 Lord Howick rejected as erroneous the Senior-Whately orthodoxy that emigration was essential for Irish development, and proposed instead a poor law and public works.28 This was indeed the policy adopted by the majority of the

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22 Senior to Lansdowne, 10 May 1837: National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Nassau Senior Papers (NSP), C188. 23 Senior to Lansdowne, 2 December 1848: NSP, C218; [Nassau Senior], The relief of Irish distress, Edinburgh Review, vol. 89, January 1849, 221-68. 24 Colonization from Ireland: Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Colonization from Ireland, P.P. 1847 (737), vol. 6, 238-9. 25 Annual Register, vol. 85, 1843, 66. 26 William Sharman Crawford, Depopulation Not Necessary: An Appeal to the British Members of the Imperial Parliament against the Extermination of the Irish People, 2nd edn (London: C. Gilpin 1850), 9. 27 [Thomas Davis], Emigrationno remedy, The Citizen, vol. 1, December 1839, 73-83. Davis in turn drew on the arguments for Irish under-population and for the vibrancy of small farms in William Sharman Crawford, A Defence of the Small Farmers of Ireland (Dublin: Joshua Porter 1839). 28 Howick to Senior, 14 March, 18 May 1837: NSP, C118, C120.

then Whig cabinet, although the plan for public works on railway projects failed to make it through Parliament. The argument that Ireland was less overpopulated than its resources were under-utilized came increasingly into vogue in the 1840s, and mirrored the rise of the Anti-Corn Law League with its anti-protectionist and anti-landlord rhetoric. This was a point on which the aristocratic leadership of the Whig party was increasingly divided. While all were committed to upholding the just rights of property, the leadership divided increasingly into those moderate liberals who were sceptical of extreme free trade doctrine and concerned at its social implications (a group which not surprisingly included the Irish landlords Palmerston, Lansdowne and Clanricarde), and those more advanced Whigs who sought to put themselves at the head of (and thus to channel) the seemingly irresistible rise of middle-class opinion. Gentry politicians who had political bases in industrial or commercial regionssuch as Charles Wood in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Grey himself in the North-east,29 and to some extent Russell in the City of Londonincreasingly felt obliged to respond to their constituents expectations. In the case of Grey and Wood, this was seconded by an ideological commitment to the archetypal Victorian middle-class attitudes of personal piety, a moralist tendency to hold individuals responsible for their social condition and an optimistic belief that progress was inevitable so long as people adhered to the virtues of industry, thrift and respectability.30 Central to this moralist ideological worldview was that the Irish peasant was inferior, not inherently because of his race, but because of his (remediable) moral and behavioural inadequacies. The Irish landlord class (mostly of English and Scots origin) was deemed to be equally or, given their more elevated social position and responsibilities, more delinquent. All classes could be reformed by a combination of the imposition of rigidly moral administrative mechanisms (such as the new English Poor Law) and subjecting Irish society to the full force of natural laws. As British opinion hardened against Irish landlords in the wake of the Devon Commission report into Irish landholding in 1845, the mismanagement and improvidence of the landed class rather than over-population came to be regarded as the true cause of the plight of the Irish poor. To the Whigradical Morning Chronicle of 22 February 1845 Irish landlords were guilty of wholesale, unmitigated murderwe can designate the system by no other termwhich has converted Ireland into a lazar-house of disease and destitution, and a charnel-house of death. Thomas Campbell Foster, the Times Commissioner whose forthright opinions were reprinted in sundry other journals, was equally damning of landlord practice and effusive on the potential Irish wealth that was latent in the soil. Extensive emigration, he declared

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29 As Lord Howick he was MP for Sunderland 1841-5. 30 For Woods character and ideas, see John Anthony Jowett, Sir Charles Wood (1800-85): A Case Study in the Formation of Liberalism in Mid-Victorian England, M.Phil. 1981, University of Leeds.

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in October 1845, was the very last measure that should be advised or resorted to.31 Such Manchester School optimism was premised on a labour theory of value that regarded capital as merely accumulated labour and which denied that there was a fixed wages-fund limiting the number that could be profitably employed at any one time. What Ireland needed, Foster and his (numerous) allies claimed, was vigorous entrepreneurship and disciplined exertion. To many the blight appeared providentially intended to sweep away the obstacles of protectionism, landlord exploitation and peasant indolence, all of which were held to be grounded on the unnatural dependence of the Irish poor on the potato system.32 For these critics, Irish backwardness was grounded in moral and behavioural deviance from British norms: the Irish people (each class in its respective sphere) needed to be dragged into Britishness through enforced self-reliance. Some economically heterodox liberals such as John Stuart Mill and William Thornton proposed the internal colonization of Ireland by putting the poor to work on reclaiming their own plots from wasteland, although moralist liberals regarded this degree of intervention in property rights as illegitimate. Thorntons Over-Population and Its Remedy, published in early 1846, was a landmark in this literature. Thornton argued that it was possible to prevent the operation of the Malthusian population-trap by reforming the social structure in the interest of the peasant. The least objectionable and most practicable way of introducing land reform was through an extensive state programme of Irish wasteland reclamation, settling some 200,000 families as freeholders or peasant proprietors on small but viable plots. This body of yeomanry would be given an incentive to exert themselves and restrain their numbers by the prospect of property-owning, while the remainder of the peasantry would be relieved by the diminution of competition for land and employment.33 Radical reviewers criticized Thornton for refusing to abandon Malthusian theory in its entirety, but most responded enthusiastically to his denial of general over-population, and his proposed remedies for Ireland. Thorntons scheme of wasteland reclamation became the most popular radical response to the Irish crisis in the late 1840s, and was taken up by economists like Mill and Poulett Scrope as well as by numerous British and Irish pamphleteers. For the anti-Malthusian Scrope, such a scheme combined with a generous poor law would create the preconditions for prosperity, for it was notorious that Ireland possesses the means within herself of maintaining and employing twice or four times the number of her existing population.34

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31 The Times, 17 October 1845. 32 See, for example, The Nonconformist, 19 August 1846. 33 William Thornton, Over-Population and Its Remedy, or, an Inquiry into the Extent and Causes of Distress Prevailing amongst the Labouring Classes of the British Islands and into the Means of Remedying It (London: Longman 1846). 34 Poulett Scrope to Russell, 23 June 1846: Public Record Office, London (PRO), Russell Papers, PRO 30/22/5A, ff. 267-74; G. Poulett Scrope, Extracts of Evidence . . . on the Subject of Waste Lands Reclamation (London: Ridgway 1847).

Here, then, was a policy proposal that offered an alternative mode of preparing the ground for the reconstruction of Irish society: an internal colonization to rival the overseas colonization advocated by the Malthusians and Irish landowners. External or internal colonization? Faced with this choice of external or internal colonization, the government chose to adopt neither. State inaction could be read as the consequence of either indifference or adherence to laissez-faire, or of preference for other modes of social reconstruction. Given the considerable attention devoted to the problem of Ireland in the press and Parliamentand the widespread consensus that social reconstruction and moral reformation were vital if Ireland was not to be constantly liable to the recurrence of faminecomplete inaction seemed unacceptable to public opinion and most ministers. Relief measures to limit mass starvationpublic works, soup kitchens or the augmented Poor Lawwere all intertwined with and subordinated to a reconstructive agenda. Except in the area of the food trade, laissez-faire is of limited use in explaining the policy adopted during the Irish crisis. Lord Greynow Whig colonial secretaryheld a complex mix of many of the opinions outlined above; in 1843, for example, he had argued in the same speech that there was no real want of capital in Ireland, that temporary public works were desirable, but that Bullers systematic colonization plans were applicable to Ireland.35 His period in government from 1846-52 would reveal which of these generalizations would, in practice, take precedence. From the Whigs resumption of power in the summer of 1846, stateassisted emigration from Ireland was constantly urged by Lord Monteagle, the former Whig chancellor of the exchequer and an Irish landowner, but no longer a member of the government. Monteagles standing with the government was almost immediately undermined by a row with the treasury (now dominated by Wood as chancellor and the rigidly moralist Charles Trevelyan as assistant secretary) over the completion of Irish relief works. Grey, as part of this political circle, dismissed Monteagles memo on emigration but, conscious of the need for a degree of personal consistency, added that he would consider the subject. His letter to Russell emphasized his primary concerns: Irish landowners would only be aided if they helped themselves, and the interests of the colonies must remain paramount.36 Thus far, Grey saw eye to eye with the prime minister, who was critical of what he regarded as Monteagles sole objectthe relief of Irish landlords from the pressure of their cottier tenantryand who agreed that we should . . . endeavour to improve the condition and moral habits of the Irish before we people our colonies with them.37
35 Hansards Parliamentary Debates, 3rd ser., vol. 70, 877-93 (10 July 1843). 36 Grey to Russell, 16 October 1846: PRO, Russell Papers, PRO 30/22/5D, ff. 216-17. 37 Russell to Grey, 15 October 1846: Durham University Library, Grey Papers.

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Russells views of the Irish poor were coloured by the prejudices of the imperial ruling caste, but in his case these were softened by a Foxite Whig political tradition which placed a high priority on Irish reform and which was antagonistic to what was perceived as a corrupt landed ascendancy. The prime minister was fundamentally anti-Malthusian, believing that Ireland was capable of producing sufficient better-quality food for its existing population and a considerable export surplus. The future is no doubt perilous, he told Wood in October 1846, but if there is capital in Ireland as I believe there is, the country will be made to produce food for eight millions of Irish, and four millions of English in a few years.38 Russell differed from Grey in believing that the improvement of physical conditions should run parallel to moral improvement, as reflected in the ameliorative plans drawn up with Lord Lieutenant Bessborough in the run-up to the 1847 parliamentary session. In denying that Ireland as a whole was over-populated, Russell argued that an extensive programme of wasteland reclamation was essential to assist social transition.39 He and Bessborough regarded emigration as a subsidiary matter, of significance only in relieving specific localities rather than ameliorating the national situation. The state might consider facilitating landowners to assist certain families to emigrate, but young and energetic men and women would be needed in Ireland to rebuild its agriculture.40 Bullers 1843 arguments had not, however, been forgotten; if emigration was to be of use, Russell believed, it would have to be systematic, as there was no use in sending them from starving at Skibbereen to be starving at Montreal.41 Some provision at least was desirable for the reception of those who did cross the Atlantic. Grey and Buller were allocated the task of preparing a policy of emigration, but it soon became clear that neither was enthusiastic, although for different reasons. Buller, influenced by his friend John Stuart Mill, was increasingly convinced that a major wasteland reclamation scheme, creating peasant proprietors, if combined with an efficient poor law, would be the best response. I dont believe, he wrote in early 1847, that Ireland has a much larger population than it might very soon want, and I dont see the wisdom of spending millions to send Irishmen away from the spot where they may be profitably employed.42 Bullers interventionism had found in the idea of internal colonization an attractive alternative for the exercise of his political

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38 Russell to Wood, 15 October 1846: Cambridge University Library, Hickleton Papers, A4/ 56/1 (microfilm). He remained of this opinion in January 1847, see Hansards Parliamentary Debates, 3rd ser., vol. 89, 449 (25 January 1847). 39 See Gray, 158-63. 40 Bessborough to Russell, 3 November 1846: PRO, Russell Papers, PRO 30/22/5E, ff. 19-20. 41 Russell to Bessborough, 29 December 1846, in G. P. Gooch (ed.), The Later Correspondence of Lord John Russell 1840-78, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green and Co. 1925), i.168-9. 42 Buller memo, Thoughts on the Irish measures of the government, n.d. [1847]: Durham University Library, Grey Papers. Buller thought Canada unsuitable for colonization, and expressed interest in Greys plan only in so far as it might prove a precedent for his Antipodean vision; Buller memo, n.d. [December 1846], in A. Doughty (ed.), The Elgin-Grey Papers 1846-52, 4 vols (Ottawa: Government of Canada 1937), iii.1100-6.

energies. It was Russells misfortune that Bullers ill-health and premature death in 1848, following Bessboroughs death in May 1847, deprived him of several key allies. Grey, meanwhile, was becoming ever more committed to the rigid moralist orthodoxy shared by his brother-in-law Charles Wood and by Charles Trevelyan, that if the state intervened, it should not be to create employment or to give more than what was regarded as the barest minimum of famine relief, but to construct mechanisms that would coerce the various classes in Ireland into meeting their moral responsibilities: the landed to realize the potential resources of the country, and the poor to adopt a disciplined attitude to waged work. For moralists, extending the Irish Poor Law to place the costs of relief solely on Irish land became the top priority in 1847. In their eyes the purpose of the Poor Law was not primarily to keep the destitute alive, but to penalize those who were falling short of their respective duties; any state assistance therefore threatened to impede the vital machine for transforming Irish behaviour. Greys feeling by late 1846 was that any emigration from Ireland should be voluntary: that is, undertaken at the emigrants own risk and responsibility or assisted by landlords seeking to consolidate their estates for the purposes of agricultural improvement. State interference should be restricted to making arrangements to protect colonial interests from the inevitable evils that might follow mass voluntary or landlord-assisted emigration. His basic policy was laid down in a November 1846 letter to the home secretary, Greys cousin and usual political ally, Sir George Grey: the government could not undertake to convey emigrants to Canada, or even pay part of the cost. The reason was less the expense to the treasury than the moral hazard this would entail: Nothing is so clear, he wrote
from what we know of the disposition of the people who emigrate as that if under regulations however strict the government were to undertake to provide conveyances for emigrants to British America, the shoals who now find their own way there would at once throw themselves upon the public, and endeavour to get sent out for nothing.

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What the state might do was to arrange for village settlements to be created for groups of landlord-assisted immigrants, in areas where public works or other employment was available. This would prevent the colonial labour markets and towns from being swamped by the Irish, and could be places for training in working discipline. Grey, who had long favoured the endowment of the Catholic Church in Ireland as a potential agency of social control, added he thought it wise that Catholic clergy be allocated to the village settlements as leaders.43 Greys senior administrator at the Colonial Office, T. F. Elliot,

43 Grey to Sir George Grey, 16 November 1846, and Grey memo Emigration, 15 December 1846, in Doughty (ed.), iii.1079-81, iii.1086-9.

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took a similar view, warning that state assistance risked rendering a natural emigration into one that was artificial.44 The village settlement scheme was ill-considered and ill-fated. Canadian response was negative, and the colonial land companies refused to cooperate with a plan they considered wholly impracticable.45 Irish landowners meanwhile declared the scheme irrelevant and demanded substantial state aid to meet the imperial crisis resulting from the potato failure.46 Landed opinion coalesced in 1847 around a scheme for the state-assisted emigration of two million from Ireland to Canada, proposed by the young Conservative J. R. Godley,47 and became increasingly shrill as the governments Poor Law amendment bill moved towards implementation. This reluctance to bear the responsibilities of property in turn hardened the hostility of British liberal opinion to such initiatives. The Times expressed relief that the villages scheme had been abandoned by the opening of the parliamentary session, and declared that any Irish assisted emigration to Canada would be a crime against its Saxon inhabitants.48 Such racialization of the Irish threat was more pronounced in that paper than most others from the outset of the Famine, but it became more widespread in the British and North American press in response to the influx of Irish famine refugees in 1847. Aware of such sentiment, Grey was content to let drop a policy to which he had little attachment.49 The scale of the prospective voluntary emigration across the Atlantic in 1847 was grossly underestimated by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, who were responsible under Grey for the regulation of the traffic. T. F. Elliot estimated at the start of the year that it was physically impossible for more than 50,000 to be conveyed to British North America, a number that could probably be absorbed in the colonial labour market (the actual number landed in 1846 had been some 25,000). In fact more than 106,000 were to embark in 1847many flying in panic from famine and feverof whom 17,445 (a wholly unprecedented 16 per cent) were officially recorded as dying en route or shortly after arrival.50 Unprepared for the catastrophe,

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44 T. F. Elliot to Lansdowne, 23 January 1847, in Doughty (ed.), iii.1096-7. 45 MacDonagh, Irish emigration, 344-5; T. F. Elliot, Memorandum on villages, 23 January 1847, in Doughty (ed.), iii.1110-13. 46 [Anon.], The Measures Which Alone Can Ameliorate Effectually the Condition of the Irish People (London: Hatchard 1847), 50-68; T. St Leger Alcock, Observations on the Poor Relief Bill for Ireland, and Its Bearing on the Important Subject of Emigration (London: Ridgway 1847). 47 John Robert Godley, An Answer to the Question What Is to Be Done with the Unemployed Labourers of the United Kingdom? (London: Stewart and Murray 1847); Colonization from Ireland: Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Colonization from Ireland, P.P. 1847 (737), vol. 6, 183-205; Copy of the memorial addressed by noblemen, gentlemen and landed proprietors to Lord John Russell, 23 March 1847, Colonization from Ireland: Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Colonization from Ireland, 776-91. 48 The Times, 26 January, 7 April 1847. 49 Grey to Elgin, 2 February 1847, in Doughty (ed.), i.10-12. 50 Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, Return of the tonnage of vessels which cleared out with passengers for North America etc., 23 January 1847, and T. F. Elliot, Memorandum

the authorities at the ports of departure and arrival were overwhelmed. Medical inspection of emigrants, and enforcement of the 1842 Passenger Acts restrictions regarding overcrowding and supplies of food and water, had only been erratically enforced before 1847, when both became a nullity. Similarly, the quarantine stations at the British North American portsGrosse le for Quebec and Partridge Island for St John, New Brunswickwere rapidly overwhelmed. By the end of May 1847 forty ships were queuing in the St Lawrence waiting to disembark, while Grosse le held over 1,100 patients suffering in terrible conditions. Ultimately up to 200,000 would be spent on the relief of immigrants in Canada in 1847, but this was still inadequate and tardy, especially as Grey insisted relief in North America be subject to the same test of less-eligibility as that permitted under the Irish Poor Law.51 The failure of policy Could the government have done more to reduce the sufferings of the migrants of 1847? This question cannot be separated from an evaluation of the famine relief measures adopted in Ireland itself. It was the epidemics of fever and dysentery resulting from a collapse of income, malnutrition and mass flight in search of relief or escape that led to so many deaths. More rigorous inspection, or the introduction of the commissioners suggestions for more stringent Passenger Acts, would have excluded many fever-carriers, but at the price of raising the cost of the crossing beyond the abilities of the poor, and worsening the conditions in Liverpool and the Irish ports.52 This was anyway ruled out by Grey as an impediment to natural movement.53 It was only after the humanitarian outcry that followed the publication of Stephen De Veres firsthand account of steerage conditions on the Canada crossing that the Passenger Acts were strengthened in 1848 and 1849, and even then the improvements were more marked on paper than in practice.54 What the government could not afford to ignore was the anger expressed by Canadian opinion at the conditions witnessed in 1847, and the fever epidemic that had accompanied the influx of the Irish poor and rapidly spread to the North American cities. Public bodies petitioned the imperial authorities not to permit the helpless, the starving, the sick and diseased, unequal and unfit as they are to face the hardships of a settlers life, to embark for these shores.55 From May of that year Lord Elgin, the governor, regularly reported

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51 52 53 54 55

on villages, 23 January 1847, in Doughty (ed.), iii.1110-13; Eighth General Report of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, P.P. 1847-8, (961), vol. 26, 15. Grey to Elgin, 19 July 1847, in Doughty (ed.), i.57. Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners to Hawes, 20 November 1847, in Doughty (ed.), iv.1324-39. MacDonagh, Irish emigration, 345-8. Grey to Elgin, 27 January 1848, Stephen De Vere to T. F. Elliot, 30 November 1847, in Doughty (ed.), iv.1339-47; MacDonagh, The regulation of the emigrant traffic, 167-76. Address of the Legislative Assembly of Canada, 25 June 1847, Papers Relative to Emigration: Part I: British Provinces in North America, P.P. 1847-8 (50), vol. 47, 13.

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to London on a widespread concern that the stronger restrictions imposed on immigrants by the US authorities were channelling the poorest and least able to Canada.56 Anger was also directed at the inhuman Irish landlords who were clearing their estates, particularly at Lord Palmerston, whose shiploads of assisted emigrants from Sligo arrived in New Brunswick and Quebec late in the season.57 Canadian outrage at such a high-profile case of landlord-assisted emigration did not bode well for any state project. The Toronto Examiner declared on 20 November: Is this province to be turned into one vast lazarhouseour country swamped, our energies blastedour prospects ruined in order to relieve the great landgluttons of Europe from the just consequences of their own misdoings and crimes?58 Conscious of the dangers to political stability in Canada, where FrenchCanadian separatism and pro-US radicalism continued to threaten British hegemony, Grey reluctantly accepted the case for Canadian compensation for immigration expenditure, and agreed to allow the provincial assemblies to legislate to protect themselves from any repeat of the 1847 influx by increasing the immigration taxes and bonds charged on shipping agents. The tax was doubled to 10s. per capita for ships placed in quarantine, and a graduated scale of extra charges was placed on ships arriving after 1 September.59 This raised fares to Canada above those to New York, and had the desired effect: Irish migration to Canada in 1848 fell by three-quarters to around 25,000, and there were few complaints of destitution in that year.60 Grey pointed to the scale of voluntary emigration of 1847 as a vindication of state inaction, but the emigration debate was kept alive by the worsening distress in Ireland, and the repeated claims by advocates of assistance that the chaotic exodus had not extended to the very poorest who were most in need of help. Evidence given by Godley, Father Mathew and Aubrey De Vere to the House of Lords select committee on colonization from Ireland in the summer of 1847 gave hope to landlord opinion, but also provoked the sarcastic outrage of The Times, which demanded an exclusively British colonization instead.61 Grey, Wood and Trevelyan were convinced that the new Poor Law must now operate without hindrance, but other ministers felt that some remedial auxiliaries were essential. From the middle of 1847 Russell himself began to advocate much more strongly state assistance to emigration as part of a wider series of comprehensive measures. Whig-liberal landlords with western properties, such as Palmerston and Redington, had supported this

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56 Elgin to Grey, 7 May 1847, in Doughty (ed.), i.34-7. 57 Elgin to Grey, 13 July, 12 November 1847, in Doughty (ed.), i.58-9, 79-80. 58 Cited in Donald MacKay, Flight from Famine: The Coming of the Irish to Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart 1990), 290. 59 Grey to Elgin, 18 November 1847, in Doughty (ed.), i.78-9; Eighth General Report of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners, P.P. 1847-8 (961), vol. 26, 14-17. 60 Elgin to Grey, 28 June 1848, in Doughty (ed.), iv.1372-5. 61 [John Anster], Colonization from Ireland, North British Review, vol. 8, February 1848, 42164; The Times, 14 October 1847.

consistently,62 but Russell had until then been suspicious of assisted emigration proposals as a manoeuvre by landlords to avoid meeting their personal responsibilities. It was only when wastelands reclamation was abandoned as a leading remedial measure due to parliamentary and cabinet obstruction that Russell turned to emigration in earnest, in the hope that the expressions of parliamentary sympathy for the principle from leading Conservatives would render it politically practicable.63 In July 1847 Grey was urged to prepare a plan to facilitate emigration through the provision of employment on the HalifaxQuebec railway project as the first step.64 The railway was regarded as a work of imperial interest vital if the British North American colonies were to be further integrated and put into a position to compete with the United States. Grey also believed it important but, true to his moralist preoccupations, insisted that as the colonies would be the chief beneficiaries the bulk of the cost must be met from Canadian resources.65 His reservations and the fiscal difficulties which followed the British financial crisis of October 1847 and the onset of recession in the Canadian timber trade ensured that little progress was made. The Canadian administration continued to plead poverty throughout the following years.66 Reluctant to abandon the railway, Grey toyed again with the idea of concentrations of cheap immigrant labourin this case to be under strict military disciplinebut this idea was a spin-off from a policy designed to stabilize the situation in New Zealand, and was not popular in Canada.67 Grey admitted that his primary interest in the military labourers scheme arose from the attraction of using cheap labour for Canadian works and by strict discipline civilizing what he termed the semibarbarian immigrants from the Irish West.68 The government generally had responded to the good harvest, falling food prices and absence of potato blight in autumn 1847 with complacency. However, Trevelyans claim that the Famine was over was soon exploded.
62 Palmerston to Grey, 20 December 1846: Durham University Library, Grey Papers; Redington to Labouchere, 20 January 1847: West Sussex Record Office, Chichester, Bessborough Papers, F. 337. For Palmerstons efforts to reduce the population on his Sligo estates through assisted emigration, see Report of the Select Committee of the House of Lords on Colonization from Ireland; Together with Minutes of Evidence, P.P. 1847 (737), vol. 6, 159-68. 63 Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 3rd ser., vol. 92, 899 (1 June 1847). State-assisted emigration was regarded by Irish landed opinion as a vital precondition for Irish improvement; Lord Rosse, Letters on the State of Ireland, 2nd edn (London: J. Hatchard 1847), 24-5; [Isaac Butt], The famine in the land. What has been done, and what is to be done, Dublin University Magazine, vol. 29, April 1847, 529-35. 64 Russell memo, State of Ireland, July 1847: PRO, Russell Papers, PRO 30/22/6D, ff. 84-7; Clarendon to Russell, 12 July 1847: Bodleian Library, Oxford, Clarendon Deposit Irish (CDI), letterbook I; Russell to Grey, 2 August 1847: Durham University Library, Grey Papers. 65 Grey to Elgin, 19 April, 16 June 1847, in Doughty (ed.), i.24-5, 47-8. 66 F. Hincks, Memo on the projected Halifax and Quebec rail road, 18 December 1848, in Doughty (ed.), iv.1425-7. 67 Grey to Elgin, 22 March 1848, in Doughty (ed.), i.126-7; Lord Grey, and his plans of colonisation, Frasers Magazine, vol. 35, June 1847, 738-49. 68 Grey to Elgin, 27 July 1848, in Doughty (ed.), i.206-8.

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While the winter of 1847-8, which witnessed the collapse of the Poor Law in much of the West, convinced Wood and Grey of the imperative of adhering strictly to moralist dogma, it impelled the prime minister and Lord Clarendon (the new lord lieutenant) to look desperately for measures of amelioration. Amidst this increasing polarization, a developing rapprochement between Monteagle and some members of the government resulted in greater consideration being given to a comprehensive scheme, including some measure of emigration, in 1848.69 Two great obstacles remained: finding the requisite funds and obtaining cabinet agreement to a coherent plan. Grey remained hostile on the grounds of the expense to Britain, the indignation of the colonies and the continuing need for Ireland to be compelled to save herself through moral exertion.70 By the end of 1847 the parameters of relief and emigration policy were established; the following two years were marked by the failure of the prime ministers half-hearted proposals and the collapse of any relief expenditure in Ireland above purely nominal levels. Neither the majority of Irish landlords nor the British taxpayers were prepared to find the resources to keep the starving of Ireland alive or assist them to leave their stricken country to find employment elsewhere. Russell continued to be undermined within his own cabinet by moralistic ideologues such as Grey, who in turn conspired with the editor of The Times in late 1848 to stir up a populist campaign against colonization from Ireland.71 Russells threat of resignation if the cabinet rejected his final assisted-emigration proposal in early 1849 was ignored; the prime ministerone of the weakest of the nineteenth centurywas no match for a combination of anti-Irish prejudice and hard-line Manchester School dogma. Greys line now became punitive: assisted emigration would do nothing but let the Irish off the moral hook by removing the vital incentives for self-improvement.72 A social experiment? Ultimately state-assisted emigration from Ireland accounted for a numerically insignificant fraction of the over one million who left between 1846 and 1851. Only several thousands were assisted to emigrate from a number of Irish unions under the revised Poor Law regulations of 1849. A few hundred more evictees were directly aided by the Board of Woods and Forests to leave the Crown estates of Ballykilcline and Kingwilliamstown for North America. An additional modest experiment in assisting some 2,000 Irish orphan girls to emigrate to Australia, at colonial expense, was terminated in 1850 after com69 Russell to Clarendon, 2 October 1847: CDI, Box 43, and Clarendon to Grey, 29 November 1847: CDI, letterbook I. 70 Grey to Clarendon, 4 December 1847: Durham University Library, Grey Papers. 71 Russell to Clarendon, 20 December 1848: CDI, Box 43, and Clarendon to Russell, 6 January 1849: CDI, letterbook III; The Times, 26 December 1848, 3 January 1849. 72 Grey memo, Remarks on emigration, poor law and Ireland, 18 December 1848: Durham University Library, Grey Papers.

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plaints about their unsuitability for domestic service.73 Landlord-assisted emigrants added a few thousands more, but despite the high-profile activities of Palmerston, Lansdowne and a handful of others, the vast majority of those who left did so with no more assistance than the remittances provided by the relatives and friends who had preceded them.74 Arguably the failure to adopt an emigration policy for Ireland in 184650 paralleled precisely the failure to implement an effective relief policy and a realistic (i.e. state-assisted) reconstruction programme. This failure was recognized by many contemporaries, including (however belatedly and incoherently) the prime minister. Ireland was ultimately the victim of an ideologically-driven social experiment, which was underpinned by a range of popular attitudes from colonialist racism through a providentialist theodicy which predicted ultimate good from the transitory evil of crop failure, to a middle-class hostility towards landlords in general, and Irish ones in particular. The moralism shared by Grey, Wood and Trevelyan triumphed due to its coherent vision, its entrenched position in the treasury, the vibrant support it received from British public opinion and the uncertainties and divisions of its opponents. The horrors of the famine era gave ideologues like Grey no reason to question their assumptions. Looking back on his period in office in 1852, he expressed self-satisfaction with the policy adopted. The governments refusal to assist emigration to Canada or to provide employment on arrival had been justified, he argued, by results. Irish emigration had become a spontaneous self-regulating flow, with private remittances substituting for a Wakefieldian land fund as its driving force, and thus obviating any need for unnatural interference by the state.75 The introduction of free trade in 1846, introducing the wholesome operation of the natural laws of society, had also removed the necessity of supporting any mass assisted emigration to Australia by unleashing the dynamism of the British economy and stimulating the demand for labour.76 This complacency should not be confused with indifference; the failure of an emigration policy reflected, as in so much else of the British response to the Irish Famine, the triumph of a vacuous and callous dogma.
PETER GRAY is a lecturer in history at the University of Southampton. He is the author of The Irish Famine (1995) and Famine, Land and Politics: British Government and Irish Society, 1843-1850 (1999).
73 Christine Kinealy, This Great Calamity: The Irish Famine 1845-52 (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan 1994), 309-27. For the Ballykilcline case, see Robert J. Scally, The End of Hidden Ireland: Rebellion, Famine and Emigration (New York: Oxford University Press 1995). 74 David Fitzpatrick estimates that up to 8 per cent of immigrants arriving at Qubec in 1846-50 had received some assistance from landlords, the state or charities. American ports of entry would have seen far fewer. David Fitzpatrick, Emigration, 1801-70, in W. E. Vaughan (ed.), A New History of Ireland, Vol. 5: Ireland under the Union, I: 1801-70 (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1989), 592. 75 Earl Grey, The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russells Administration, 2nd edn, 2 vols (London: R. Bentley 1853), i.239-45. 76 Ibid., i.329-35.

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