Colonial Emigration

Leela Gujadhur Sarup


Leela Gujadhur Sarup is a historical researcher and author on colonial emigration of indentured workers. Her works are based on hard to find documents as they originally appeared in the records of the British Empire. We reproduce with permission an extract from Page 1 of the above book

From:   Dr. J. G. G. Grant,
           Protector of Emigrants, Calcutta,

To:       The Officiating Under-Secretary
            to the Government of Bengal.

I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your memorandum No. 4414 of the 2nd instant, requesting that a statement be submitted showing the increase of work in Emigration Department, and that it be further shown in what form of assistance can be best rendered to this office; and in compliance therewith, to submit the accompanying statement, together with the following observations.

Colonial Emigration 19th-20th Century Proceedings 1875 - August 1876 Vol. 7

2. A glance at the correspondence column of the statement shows that there was a steady increase in the correspondence of the earliest two years; a marked increase in the following year; a heavy increase in the year before last; and an overwhelming increase in the last year; but a more careful comparison of the actual number of letters deals with in each of the five years under notice proves that, while the correspondence of the year before last (1872-73) exceeded that of all the three previous years taken collectively, that of the last year (1873-74) nearly doubled the correspondence of the year before last.

3. Then, looking to the number of emigrants examined and embarked for the several colonies during the same period, it is manifest that, while a fairly average number was maintained in the earliest three years, that number doubled and trebled in the year before last and last year respectively; or in other words, the average number of the earliest three years being about 16,000, the number embarked in 1872-73 almost doubled, while that of 1873-74 more than trebled that average number.

4. In regard to emigrant ships also, inspected by me in respect of their fitments and provisions for the accommodation and comfort of emigrants, a marked increase, corresponding to the very much large number of emigrants despatched latterly to the several colonies, is observable; the number of ships which last port in the year before last (1872-73) having nearly equalled that of the two previous years taken together, and that of the last year (1873-74) having exceeded the number of the year before last by nearly half as many more, aggregating by far the largest number of emigrant ships that has ever been despatched form this port in any previous year.

5. The results arrived at by the above comparisons in themselves indicate a very heavy increase of work; but I would remark that the statement in exhibiting such results only as are capable of being expressed in figures, does not give any adequate idea of the actual amount of labour that has devolved on both departments of this office; for instance, in regard to purely office work, independently of official correspondence, a deal is done by means of demi-official correspondence and personal interviews, forced upon me by the business calls of emigration agents, contractors and recruiters; emigrants and their relatives; agents for tea estates, steam companies, and emigrant ships; ship masters, surgeons, compounders, interpreters and carpenters; provision and clothing contractors; native doctors and others, who, though not immediately connected with emigration, come to the office seeking information, which they have reason to believe can be obtained from the Emigration Department.

Then in regard to out-door work, the increased number of emigrants and emigrant ships despatched necessarily entailed a corresponding increase in those duties, which cannot be delegated to others, in connection with the inspection and examination of depôts and their inmates, and the supervision and examination of the accommodation, fittings, provisions, and arrangements generally of emigrant vessels, to say nothing of in-coming ships with return emigrants from the several colonies, all of which also have to be inspected and reported on.

—To be continued

June 2011

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