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Extracts from a plan produced in 1883 for a government scheme to help emigration from Ireland
(Catalogue ref: CO 885/5/9)
  • These extracts come from a report sent to the Earl of Derby in 1883. The Earl was the minister in charge of the colonies. The writer, Mr Wakefield, was an Irish landlord who was concerned about the situation in Ireland.
  • There were many men like Wakefield in Ireland. They were genuinely concerned about the living conditions of small farmers. They were also worried that bad conditions cause trouble, and this might eventually end up in the overthrow of British rule in Ireland. Wakefield believed that this would be bad for Ireland as well as Britain.
  • At this time a new political force was rising in Ireland. Under Charles Stewart Parnell, small farmers were putting pressure on the government and landlords for better conditions. They used a combination of political measures (voting for the Irish Home Rule Party) and tactics of intimidation.
  • They were campaigning for better treatment of small farmers (eg fair rents) and also for Home Rule (Ireland to get its own Parliament just like Canada).
  • Wakefield believed that the Irish people were attracted to the Home Rule movement because of their poor conditions. He thought this was caused by over-population. This is why he was keen to set up a scheme to help Irish people emigrate.
  • Wakefield was especially keen that the emigrants should go to Australia rather than the USA. Irish emigrants mostly went to the USA. Many Irish people took up British government schemes to settle them in Canada and then went straight to the USA from there. This meant the British empire lost potential workers and numbers were added to an Irish community in the USA that was extremely hostile to the British.
  • Emigration continued on a massive scale in Ireland from the famine years of the 1840s until well into the 20th century. In fact, it is only since the 1990s that emigration has slowed down and Ireland's population has started to rise.
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