Part II – The Emigrant’s Guide

The Emigrant’s Guide to New South Wales, Van Dieman’s Land, Lower Canada, Upper Canada, and New Brunswick; Containing an Enumeration of the Advantages Which Each Colony Offers; With The Regulations Adopted by His Majesty’s Government, to Facilitate Male and Female Emigration; The Price of Passage, Certainty of Permanent Employment, and Rates of Wages; List of Tradesmen and Mechanics most Wanted, and the Amount of Pecuniary Assistance Offered to Married Men and Single Females, Towards Defraying the Expense of Their Passage…


FOR some years past arrangements have been in contemplation by His Majesty’s Government, for promoting the Emigration to the British Possessions abroad, of Agricultural Labourers, and of other persons to whom it may be considered desirable to afford assistance, in seeking in the Colonies the means of profitable employment, which they are unable to find at home.

In conformity with these arrangements. His Majesty was pleased, on the 24th of June 1831, to appoint a Commission, the objects of which will be found to be explained hereafter, in the copies of the official papers which have been issued for the information of the Public.

Should any Emigrants arrive in Van Diemen’s Land or New South Wales sooner than was expected, directions have been given for the appointment of a proper Officer of the Colonial Government, to superintend the disposal of all Emigrants of this description, on their reaching the Colony. The Officer thus selected by His Majesty’s Government, has been considered thoroughly acquainted with the wants of the Settlers in respect to labour, and consequently able to point out to the Emigrant the quarter to which he should apply, with a view to obtain employment.


The Commissioners for Emigration have collected the following information for the use of Persons desirous of emigrating to New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.


The Commissioners for Emigration have reason to expect, from the result of the enquiries which they have made on this Subject, that Passages can be provided for People of the Working Classes, including their maintenance during the Voyage, at a charge not exceeding £16 for Adults, and £8 for Children. More exact particulars, and the precise charge for which Passages can be provided, will be stated at the time of entering into the Agreements with such persons as may apply to the Commissioners for that purpose. 

The price of Sixteen Pounds is computed on the supposition of a whole Vessel’s being taken up for the conveyance of Passengers, but as the  Commissioners for Emigration do not at present contemplate engaging a Vessel in that manner, the best course for Persons possessed of the requisite funds is to engage their Passages by private agreement with the Owners of the Ships sailing to New South Wales or Van Dieman’s Land.  The price of steerage Passages thus engaged has usually ranged from Thirty to Forty Pounds; but Passages have lately been provided by some Ship-owners for people of the Working Classes at so low a charge as from Twenty to Eighteen Pounds for Adults, and Nine Pounds for Children. — 12th Dec. 1831.


The Commissioners have examined a considerable number of Letters upon these subjects from respectable Inhabitants of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land; and they find that all concur in representing the existence of a great demand for Labour. These representations are further confirmed by Official Reports received from those Colonies by the Secretary of State.

The following general statements, collected from a variety of sources, will afford a view of the average Rates of Wages in the Australian Colonies: —

Twenty-five or Thirty Pounds a Year, besides Board and Lodging, seem to be the Wages which are usually paid to Common Labourers:

Artizans of very ordinary qualifications are reported to find no difficulty in obtaining £50 a Year, besides Board and Lodging. The following Advertisement which appeared in the Sydney Gazette of the 12th August, 1830, contains a List of several descriptions of Workmen wanted at Sydney, as well as an account of the high Wages which some of them might obtain.

Those marked thus (*) are particularly wanted, and earn 10s. a day and and upwards, all the year round.  And Engineers and Millwrights earn 20s. a day.

All articles of provision an very cheap. Beef and Mutton 2d. per 1b. by the joint, and 1d. per 1b. by the quarter or carcass. Tea (green) 1s. 6d., Sugar 3d., Indian Com 1s. 6d. per bushel. &c. &c.

The Agent for New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, in a letter addressed to the Chairman of the Emigration Committee in the Year 1827, since which period the price of Labour is understood to have risen, stated the Rates of Wages as, follows : —

It is not necessary that Emigration to the Australian Colonies should be confined to any particular Season, and the Commissioners for Emigration will therefore be ready immediately to afford their assistance to persons desirous of going to New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land. In consequence, however, of the state of the Population in the Australian Colonies, the Commissioners do not propose to take charge of the conveyance of any but married men and their families, or of females.

The Commissioners for Emigration take this opportunity of announcing, that they are not prepared to undertake the conveyance of Emigrants to the Settlement on the Swan River.

We here append a List of Van Diemen’s Land and New South Wales Prices, (extracted from the “Colonial Times” of August 24, 1831.)

NOTE.— Clothing and Haberdashery in New South Wales about £25 per Cent. above fair English prices: by purchasing a piece of Cloth, a suit of good Clothes may be had at about 5 or £6. — Furniture. Cheaper than in England

Colonial Office, 8th November, 1831.

The Commissioners for Emigration have received numerous applications from persons desirous of emigrating to New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land; but the greater proportion of these applicants state their inability to defray the whole charge of their conveyance, and request to be allowed some aid for that purpose, on condition of repaying the same out of their earnings in the Colony in which they propose to settle. The Commissioners for Emigration therefore, have satisfaction in being able to announce that His Majesty’s Government has sanctioned the appropriation of a limited Sum out of the Colonial Revenues of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land, to aid the private funds of such Emigrants as shall appear likely to earn the means of repaying that aid and to become useful Settlers. The following are the Regulations under which this indulgence will be dispensed : —

No one Family will be allowed an advance exceeding £20; and therefore it will be useless for parties, who may not possess the remainder of the Sum requisite for engaging their passage, to apply to the Commissioners. 

No advance will be made except to persons who are competent workmen in some of the ordinary Mechanical Arts; as for instance, to Blacksmiths, Carpenters, &c. and the advance will be further confined to Men who are married and intend to take their wives with them.


Every person desirous of receiving the proposed advance must fill up, and send back to the Secretary to the Commissioners. the Return hereto annexed. If the information contained in this Return shall be considered satisfactory the applicant will receive notice to that effect. He may then proceed to make his agreement with the Owners or Masters of Ships proceeding to New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land, and as soon as any Ship-owner or Master shall notify to the Commissioners for Emigration (in a form which will be provided for the purpose) that the Emigrant has taken the other necessary steps for engaging his passage, an order will be granted for the payment, in the Colony, of £20 to the Agent or the Master of the Vessel in which this Emigrant may arrive. The Emigrant will of course be able to obtain a corresponding deduction from the amount to be paid by himself in this Country.

The Order for payment will be entrusted to the Master of the Vessel in which the Emigrant is to proceed, and will consist of a sealed dispatch to the Governor, containing the name and description of the party on whose account the Money is to be paid; but arrangements will be made by which the delivery of this Order to the Master will not take place until the Emigrant shall have signed the acknowledgment which will be required from him, of the debt he will contract with Government. For it is the intention of His Majesty’s Government, and cannot be too clearly understood by all persons who may accept this loan, that repayment of the debt (in such proportions, and at such intervals, as may not be unsuitable to the circumstances of each Emigrant) shall be strictly enforced, by means of ample powers which the Laws of the Colony reader available for that purpose.

Should the number of applications to the Commissioners be greater than the funds at their disposal will enable them to comply with, priority of date will form the rule of selection among applications in which there shall appear no other ground of distinction.

By order of the Commissioners,
(Signed) T. Fredrick Elliot,
Secretary to the Commissioners.

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