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Living in the British empire - migration
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Extract from a letter written in 1823 to a Scottish landlord asking for help to emigrate
(Catalogue ref: HO 44/13)
  • This extract comes from a long letter written in October 1823 by Hugh Maclean. He was a tenant farmer in the Hebrides - islands to the west of Scotland.
  • Hugh Maclean was writing to his landlord, Earl Bathurst. The main aim of his letter was to try to get some help from the Earl, which would enable people on the islands to emigrate to Canada. In the course of his letter he describes the overcrowding in the Hebrides. He also mentions that other groups were getting this kind of help.
  • Conditions for people in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland were hard for people at this time. Farmers had done quite well in the later 1700s and early 1800s. Britain was at war with France for much of this time and this made it hard to import food. As a result, food prices went up and farmers made profits. However, when the wars ended in 1815 the demand for their food fell. At the same time, soldiers came back from war, so there was not enough work to go round.
  • Many Scots saw emigration as their best chance of a better life. Scots generally saw Canada as the place they wanted to go. There was a lot of land and the government was keen to have them in Canada. As a result, there are millions of Canadians today who are descended from Scottish emigrants.
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