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PETITION FROM THE PAISLEY WEAVERS., Lyttelton Times, Volume XIX, Issue 1092, 29 April 1863
PETITION FROM THE PAISLEY WEAVERS.
At a numerously attended meeting of unemployed weavers and others, held in the Unitarian Chapel, George street, Paisley, to take into consideration the propriety of applying to the public for assistance to emigrate, the following petition was unanimously adopted, viz. : — Unto our countrymen in England and Scotland, the Colonial Emigration Society, and the Colonial Governments of Canada, Nova Scotia,Newßrunswick, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, New Zealand, Cape of Good Hope, and Natal. The petition of the undersigned Weavers, Dyers, and others resident in the town and neighbourhood, humbly sheweth, — That owing to the present depressed state of trade, whatever may be the cause, several hundred weavers in Paisley and its neighbourhood have been unemployed for months past; and your petitioners see no prospect of any permanent improvement, or of work being obtained, unless of a transient and inferior kind, and at greatly reduced wages. Your petitioners do not wish to sink into pauperism, or become dependent on the charity of their fellow-men. They desire to live by their labour; and, therefore, seeing not merely the present depression of trade, but that hand-loom weaving has been declining more and more for years past, and looks as if it would ere long be altogether superseded by steam power, Jacquard machines, and other inventions, they contemplate emigration ; and are willing to go to Canada, British Columbia, Australia, New Zealand, or other British Colony suitable in point of climate,
&t\, to which they may be assisted, or it may be most expedient and desirable for them to go to. Many of your petititioners have applied to the Emigration Commissioners and selecting agents appointed by the different colonies, for passages, but they have been uniformly told that only female domestic servants, married ploughmen and agricultural labourers are " eligible" for any of our Australasian colonies, viz., New South Wales, South Australia, Victoria, Queensland, and New Zealand; and the commissioners expressly state in their printed regulations that it is no part of their duty to give passages, defrayed from colonial funds, in order to relieve persons in distrrss, or who cannot find employment in this country. And us to the British North American colonies — Canada, &c. —the system of free passages, defrayed from the Colonial Land Funds has never yet been adopted nor in force. Your petitioners have memorialised the Govern- I ment of her Majesty for aid from the national funds, but owing to the House of Commons not having authorised any special grant of the public funds for affording passages to emigrants, and being advised that it is very unlikely that any grant will be made by the Imperial Parliament for such a purpose, they have no other recourse left open to them but to appeal to your society, the people of England and Scotland, and the Colonial Governments, to aid them in their earnest efforts to depart to colonies where the services of honest and industrious men are wanted and appreciated. Your petitioners not having themselves the means to emigrate, therefore naturally look to your excellent society and to their countrymen at home and in our colonies, and to the Colonial Governments for assis-
tance. They believe that, in the present circumstances, they have a st rong moral claim to encouragement and support; and that it would be not merely humane, but wise and enlightened policy, in their countrymen and the Colonial Governments to assist all persons in the same situation as themselves, who are willing to go and reclaim and cultivate by their own labor our waste or unoccupied colonial lands, and make them yield food convenient for man, as the Great Creator intended when he gave the command to subdue the earth and replenish it, instead of these lands remaining barren and useless, as at present.
In former instances public aid and Government grants have assisted unemployed working men to emigrate. After the war, in 1817, and in '19 and '24, large bodies of weavers in Lanarkshire and Renfrewshire were enabled to go to Canada, where they founded the townships of Bathurst, Lanark, and Renfrew, which soon became thriving settlements i In 1527, a grant of £50,000 was made, by which 4,000 or 5,000 unemployed and destitute English and Scottish weavers and others went to South Africa and founded Albany, which, whatever disasters may have retarded its progress at first, subsequently became a flourishing colony. In 1829, another grant of £50,000 was made, and GlenLynden, also in South Africa, was settled. Those grants were in pursuance of the report of a committee of the House of Commons, who recommended them not merely because they would afford immediate relief, but would ultimately lead to the independence of the emigrants; benefit those who remained by the abstraction of redundant labor; convert producers into consumers ; and thereby create a new market for British goods ; views or predictions which have been fully verified by the results, not only there but in all other cases of emigration and colonisation which have since taken place—especially during the last twenty-five years. In 1842, a body of unemployed Paisley weavers obtained passages to Auckland, New Zealand ; and, in 1852, another body to Sydney, New Soutli Wales; both being periods of manufacturing distress; and in both instances through the intervention of Government. And the result in all these cases has fully established that weavers are not necessarily unfit, as has been alleged, for colonial work, but, on the contrary, make ingenious, industrious, persevering and successful settlers, whether in the bush of Australia, or in the forests of Canada or New Zealand.
Again, in 1862, after the lapse of other ten years, Paisley is visited with manufacturing distress; and your petitioners, in common with many others, are out of work, and they and their wives and families suffering privation and distress. They look to emigration as a means of relief; and they wish to go forth as a body of colonists, under proper guidance and supervision, to plant, in co-operation with capitalists, and all others who will join them, a new colony or township in Australia, Canada, British Columbia, or New Zealand, Avhere they may live by their labor, and enjoy the protection of British law as loyal subjects of her Majesty—just as their countrymen did in the cases referred to—and as the body of Nonconformists who lately sailed to found the settlement of Albertland, in New Zealand, have done. But without assistance your petitioners can do nothing. They therefore appeal to your society to lend them a helping hand ; and, if the public at home and the Colonial Governments have only the will to help there can be no want of ability or power to command the necessary aid. If, by public aid, new counties and townships have been planted by weavers in times when steamers railways, telegraphs—those powerful instruments in colonization as well as in war—were unknown, how infinitely more easy can the same thing be done now when these and other modern appliances and combinations may be brought into use, and the emigration and system of location of settlers are under improved regulations—all serving to facilitate the work, and ensure success to those who engage in it.
Your petitioners, accordingly, humbly pray that your society will take sucli steps as may be necessary for invoking the aid of our countrymen at home and in the colonies, and obtaining the support and assistance of the Colonial Governments to enable them to realise the prayer of their petition in providing them with the means and facilities for emigrating to the British colonies aforesaid. And your petitioners will ever pray.
PETITION FROM THE PAISLEY WEAVERS., Lyttelton Times, Volume XIX, Issue 1092, 29 April 1863
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