H.M. Commisioners for Emigration Report

In this section

by Jon Malings

Colonial Office, Feb 9, 1832. 

The object of the present notice is to afford such information as is likely to be useful to persons who desire either to emigrate or to assist others to emigrate to the British possessions in North America.

In the first place, it seems desirable to define the nature of the assistance to be expected from Government by persons proceeding to these colonies.

No pecuniary aid will be allowed by Government to emigrants to the North American colonies ; nor after their arrival will they receive grants of land or gifts of tools or a supply of provisions. Hopes of all these things have been sometimes held out to emigrants by speculators in this country, desirous of making a profit by their conveyance to North America, and willing for that purpose to delude them with unfounded expectations, regardless of their subsequent disappointment. But the wish of Government is to furnish those who emigrate with a real knowledge of the circumstances they will find in the countries to which they are going.

No assistance of the extraordinary extent above described is allowed, because, in colonies where those who desire to work cannot fail to do well for themselves, none such is needed. Land, indeed, used formerly to be granted gratuitously ;  but when it was taken by poor people, they found that they had not the means of living during the interval necessary to raise their crops, and further, that they knew not enough of the manner of farming in the colonies to make any progress. After all, therefore, they were obliged to work for wages until they could make a few savings, and could learn a little of the way of farming in Canada. But now, land is not disposed of except by sale.  The produce of the sa1es, although the price is very moderate, is likely to become a considerable fund which can be turned to the benefit of the colonies, and therefore of the emigrants ; while yet no hardship is inflicted on the poor emigrant, who will work for wages just as he did before, and may after a while acquire land, if land be his object, by the savings which the high wages in these colonies enable him speedily to make.

These are the reasons why Government does not think it necessary to give away land a country where, by the lowness of its price, the plentifulness of work, and the high rates of wages, an industrious man can earn enough in a few seasons to become a freeholder by means of his own acquisitions.  

The land which is for sale will be open to public competition, and of course, therefore, its price must depend upon the offers that may be made ; but it will generally not be sold for less than from 4s. to 5s per acre : and in situations where roads have been made, or the ground has been partially cleared, the common prices lately have been 7s. 6d., 10s. and 15s. Further particulars will be best learned upon the spot, where every endeavour wil1 be made to meet the different circumstances and views of different purchasers.

Although Government will not make any gifts at the public expense to emigrants to North America, agents will be maintained at the principal colonial ports, whose duty it will be, without fee or reward from private individuals to protect emigrants against imposition upon their first landing, to acquaint them with the demand for labour in different districts, to point out the most advantageous routes, and to furnish them generally with all useful advice upon the objects which they have had in view in emigrating. And when a private engagement cannot be immediately obtained, employment will be afforded on some of the public works in progress in the colonies. Persons newly arrived should not omit to consult the Government agent for emigrants, and as much as  possible should avoid detention in the ports, where they are exposed to all kinds of impositions and of pretexts for keeping them at taverns till any money they may possess has been expended. For the same purpose of guarding against the frauds practised on new comers, and of preventing an improvident expenditure at the first moment of arrival, it seems very desirable that individuals who may wish to furnish emigrants with money for their use in the colony should have the means of making the money payable there, instead of giving it into the hands of the emigrants in this country. The commissioners for emigration are engaged in effecting general arrangements for this purpose, and due notice will be given to the public when they shall be completed. Agents for emigration have been appointed at St. John’s, St. Andrew’s, and Miramichi, in New Brunswick ; and at Quebec and York, in Canada. The agent at Quebec is A. C. Buchanan, Esq. ; at St. John’s, A. Wedderburn, Esq. ; at St. Andrew’s, G. N. Smith, Esq. ; at Miramichi J. Cunard, Esq. : the name of the agent at York has not yet been reported to the Colonial Department. On this whole subject of the manner of proceeding upon landing, it may be observed, in conclusion, that no effort will be spared to exempt emigrants from any necessity for delay at the place of disembarkation, and from uncertainty as to the opportunities of at once turning their labour to account.

After this explanation of the extent of the aid to be expected from Government the following statements are subjoined of the ordinary charges for passage to the North American Colonies, as well as of the usual rates of wages and usual prices in them, in order that every individual may have the means of judging for himself of the inducements to emigrate to these parts of the British dominions. 


Passages to Quebec or New Brunswick may either be engaged inclusive of provisions, or exclusive of provisions, in which case the ship owner finds nothing but water, fuel and bed places, without bedding. Children under 14 years of age are charged one-half, and under 7 years of age one-third, of the full price ; and for children under 12 months of age no charge is made.

Upon these conditions the price of passage from London, or from places on the east coast of Great Britain has generally been £6 with provisions, or £3 without. From Liverpool, Greenock, and the principal ports of Ireland, as the chances of delay are fewer, the charge is somewhat lower ; this year it will probably be from £2 to £2 10s. without provisions, or from £4 to £5 including provisions. It is possible that in March and April passages may be obtained from Dublin for 35s. or even 30s. ; but the prices always grow higher as the season advances. In ships sailing from Scotland or Ireland, it has mostly been the custom for passengers to find their own provisions ; but this practice has not been so general in London, and some ship owners, sensible of the dangerous mistakes which may be made in this matter, through ignorance, are very averse to receive passengers who will not agree to be victualled by the ship. Those who do resolve to supply their own provisions should at least be careful not to lay in an insufficient stock ; 50 days is the shortest period for which it is safe to provide and from London the passage is sometimes prolonged to 75 days. 

The best months for leaving England are certainly March and April.; the later emigrants do not find employment so abundant, and have less time in the colony before the commencement of winter.  The names of vessels proceeding to the North American colonies and the addresses of their brokers, may be learnt at all ports of the United Kingdom, including the port of London, by personal application at the Custom House of each port. The officers of Customs, however, will not be able to answer written inquiries on the subject ; and persons residing inland who may require information of this nature must depute the inquiry to some one at the port where they wish to embark. Many ships are advertised in the public newspapers.

Various frauds are attempted upon emigrants, which can only be effectually defeated by the good sense of the parties against whom they are contrived.  Sometimes agents take payment from the emigrant for his passage, and then recommend him to some tavern, where he is detained from day to day, under false pretences for delay, until, before the departure, of the ship, the whole of his money is extracted from him. This, of course, cannot happen with agents connected with respectable houses ; but the best security is to name in the bargain for passage a particular day, after which, whether or not the ship sails, the passenger is to be received on board and victualled by the owners. In this manner the emigrant cannot be intentionally brought to the place of embarkation too soon, and be compelled to spend his money at public-houses, by false accounts of the time of sailing ; for from the very day of his arrival at the port, being the day previously agreed upon, the ship becomes his home.

The conveyance of passengers to the British possessions in North America is regulated by an Act of Parliament (9th Geo. IV. c. 21), of which the following are the principal provisions : Ships are not allowed to carry passengers to these colonies unless they be of the height of five feet and a half between decks, and they must not carry more than three passengers for every four tons of the registered burden ; there must be on board at least 50 gallons of pure water, and 50 pounds of bread, biscuit, oatmeal, or bread stuff, for each passenger.  When the ship carries the full number of passengers allowed by law, no part of the cargo, and no stores or provisions, may be carried between decks ; but if there be less than the complete number of passengers, goods may be stowed between decks in a proportion not exceeding cubical feet for each passenger wanting of the highest number. Masters of vessels who land passengers, unless with their own consent, at a place different from that originally agreed upon, are subject to a penalty of £20 recoverable by summary process before two Justices of the Peace in any of the North American colonies.  

The enforcement of this law rests chiefly with the officers of his Majesty’s Customs, and persons having complaints to make of its infraction should address themselves to the nearest Custom House.

Besides the sea voyage from England, persons proceeding to Canada should be provided with the means of paying for the journey which they may have to make after their arrival at Quebec. The cost of this journey must, of course, depend upon the situation of the place where the individual may find employment, or where he may have previously formed a wish to settle; but to all it will probably be useful to possess the following report of the prices of conveyance, during the last from season, on the route from Quebec to York, the capital of Upper Canada.  From Quebec to Montreal (180 miles), by steam-boat, the charge of an adult was 6s. 6d. ; from Montreal to Prescot (120 rniles) by boats or barges, 7s. ; from Prescot to York (250 miles) by steam-boat, 7s. The journey, performed in this manner, usually occupies 10 or 12 days ; adding, therefore, 11s. for provisions, the total cost from Quebec to York (a distance of 550 miles) may be stated, according to the charges of last year, at £1 11s. 6d. Persons who are possessed of sufficient means prefer to travel by land that part of the route where the river St. Lawrence is not navigable by steam-boats, and the journey is then usually performed in six days, at a cost of £6. It must be observed that the prices of conveyance are necessarily fluctuating, and that the foregoing account is only presented as sufficiently accurate for purposes of information in this country ; leaving it to the Government agent at Quebec to supply emigrants with more exact particulars, according to the circumstances of the time at which they may arrive.


The colonies of North America to which emigrants can with advantage proceed are Lower Canada, Upper Canada, and New Brunswick.  From the reports received from the other British colonies in North America, namely Prinve Edward’s Island, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, it appears that they do not contain the means either of affording employment at wages to a considerable number of emigrants or of settling on the land.

From a comparison of all the documents before the Commissioners for emigration, it appears that the yearly wages of labourers in Upper Canada, hired by the year, are from £27 to £30 ; that their monthly wages, in different situations and at different seasons, range from £1 10s. to £3 10s. per month ; and that daily wages range from 2s. to 3s. 9d.  In all these rates of wages board and lodgings are found by the employer.  Without board, daily wages vary from 3s. 6d. out of harvest to 5s. during harvest ; 6s. 3d. besides provisions is sometimes given to harvest men.  The wages of mechanics may be stated universally at from 5s. to 7s. 6d. per day.

 £  s. d.
 £  s. d.
Wheat per bushel 0 5 6  to 0 10 0*
0 4 6
0 5 0
0 1 6
0 2 6
0 4 0
0 4 6
Potatoes per cwt  0 0 3
0 3 6
Butter (fresh) per lb. 0 0 9
0 1 0
Ditto (salt)
0 0 8
0 0 10
0 0 4
0 0 7
Eggs per dozen 0 0
0 1 0
Ducks per pair 0 2 0
0 3 6
0 1 6
0 2 6
0 3 0
0 5 0
0 7 6
0 10 0
Hay per ton 1 10 0
2 10 0
1 0 0
1 5 0
Bread per 4lb. loaf 0 0 10
0 1 0
Beef per stone 0 3 3
0 4 0
0 2 4
0 4 0
0 2
0 4 0
0 2 4
0 4 8
Flour per 100 lbs. 0 16 0
0 17 6
Salt Pork per barrel 4 15 0
5 5 0
Ditto Beef
3 0 0
3 10 0
Malt per bushel 0 6 2
0 6 4
Rye Flour per barrel 1 2 6

Indian ditto
1 2 6

Oatmeal per cwt. 0 16 0
0 18 0
Salt Cod per 112 lbs. 0 10 0
0 12 0
Ditto Mackerel per barrel 0 17 0
1 0 0
Ditto Alewives
0 10 0
0 12 0

* Although some wheat fetched this price in the course of 1831, the price very rarely rises higher than 7s. 6d.

Coals are sold at 30s. per chaldron.  House rent at Saint John’s is from £5 to £6 per annum, for families occupying one room ; and for families occupying two rooms, from £6 to £10. Common labourers receive from 3s. to 4s. a day, finding their own subsidence ; but when employed at the ports in loading vessels their subsistence is found for them. Mechanics receive from 5s. to 7s. 6d. per day, and superior workmen from 7s. 6d. to 10s.    

Upon the foregoing statements it must be observed, that emigrants, especially such of them as are agricultural labourers, should not expect the highest wages named, until they have become accustomed to the work of the colony. The mechanics most in demand are those connected with the business of house building. Shoemakers, tailors and shipbuilders, also find abundant employment.