Who Should Emigrate to Canada and the United States
Immigrants Landing at Castle Garden in 1880,
Public attention has been so generally turned towards America during the years of commercial depression in Canada, now happily passed, or nearly so, that such a question as the above has been asked over and over again, and received a variety of answers. America is not by any means an Eldorado for all.
There could be found in New York as much poverty as there is in London, and the overcrowding of dwelling-houses in the districts inhabited by the working classes would provide in many cases quite as appalling facts as could be found in St. Giles's or Whitechapel.
There are at the present time in the leading cities of the States quite as many unemployed as may be found in many English towns. There has been some exaggeration in the prospects held out to those who contemplate finding a new home, and there are some industries which are greatly overdone in America.
It is just as possible to do well in England as America; and success there is dependent on just the same qualities as are necessary here. Of unskilled labour there is enough and to spare in America. The old saying must again be used, that a man with a trade in his hands stands a hundred per cent. better chance there than one who has not.
American industries are progressing at a rapid rate, and there is room in them for men of skill and industry, with good remuneration for their work, and a social position higher than would be their corresponding status here. Whatever a man's trade is in the States is no barrier to his social progress. Labour is honoured highly, as all the world over it ought to be, if honestly followed.
My own view is that, comparing the two countries, there is a better and quicker return for the same amount of capital or labour in the States than is possible in the majority of cases here.
The feeling that there is scope in the States obtains possession of the mind of the man who goes out determined to make his way. Willingness to work and to take the work which presents itself ought to be dominant. Several cases come to my mind that I know personally.
A friend of mine had an excellent training as a mechanical engineer, crossed the Atlantic, and is doing favourably as a store keeper and small farmer, killing his pigs himself and taking all such work as part of the day's labour.
Another was unsuccessful in business on his own account, in one of the midland towns of England, and is now a manager of works in the trade in which he was engaged here, at an excellent salary, and bids fair to be a partner by-and-bye, without any large investment, his knowledge and skill in the business being accepted as the equivalent of capital.
For those who have good situations in Canada, to give them up for the sake of change, with the idea of doing better out there, is not by any means advisable. On the other hand, for unmarried young men, with plenty of energy, and who like work for its own sake, there is plenty of room; and such, with tact, push and principle, the great motto of Abraham Lincoln, would scarcely fail to get on.
Let me here give one practical suggestion to those who contemplate going out and who have a trade in their hands. Advertise for what employment you are seeking in the journal representing your particular trade. Class papers are prolific in America, and are largely read, and used for the purpose of bringing employer and employé together.
America is full of schoolmasters, tutors, professors of music, languages, and other arts. For clever and original designers there is a demand. In the engineering and hardware trade there is a good scope. The chemical industries are rapidly developing, and those who have a good and trustworthy knowledge of the making of chemicals for manufacturing purposes would find room for their labours.
I have already referred to the jewellery and silver trade. The shirt, collar, and clothing trades are overstocked, excepting, perhaps, as regards hats. Saddlery and harness makers find remunerative employment. Printers are in demand, but, before such could find good employ.ment, they would require to get well accustomed to the American ideas of display. In the Birmingham and Sheffield trades there .are openings for labour.
With whatever capital a person emigrates, and none should go without some, he should prefer to err in being over cautious rather than prematurely confident. There are all manner of methods for ridding a new comer of his stock of wealth if he be not wide awake.
A short time spent in reconnoitring after arrival would be advisable to most, but in few cases is it well to attempt settling down in New York. Other cities present far better opportunities than that one, which unfortunately receives a good deal of scum from every part of the world.
I know nothing of the value of land and the practical prospects of farming, but I do know that farming there is very different from what it is here. It may be rough and primitive there when compared with scientific farming here, but it is, at all events, more likely of success.
Untold millions of acres yet remain to be cultivated, and here I will quote a few figures. Of the 220,000,000 acres of land in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, about 90,000,000 are under cultivation, and 70,000,000 consists of forests and sandy plains, the other 60,000,000 being still available for colonisation.
There are in the States of Kansas, Nebraska, and Minnesota 160,000,000 acres, 12,000,000 of which are under cultivation, while 78,000,000 might be cultivated at a large profit and a very small preliminary outlay.
Texas has 200,000,000 acres, but the greater part has hitherto been used chiefly for grazing, yet there are at least 60,000,000 acres which might with advantage be planted with corn and cotton.
In the territories of Montana, Wyoming, and Dakota there are about 120,000,000 acres of very good land, nearly the whole of which is at present uncultivated and can be obtained on very easy terms.
In the purchasing of land every care and caution will require to be exercised. The literature of the various land companies must not always be accepted without question. They naturally speak graphically and enthusiastically about what they are desirous of selling.
In the towns living is very much dearer than in England. Money has not the same purchasing value there as here. Rents are notoriously high, and it may safely be said that an average rent in New York would swallow up of itself an average salary on this side.
The immense increase in the emigration returns for the last few years, from what can be gathered, has not perceptibly overstocked the market. Some writers in Germany have been making a great deal recently of the fact of some German emigrants returning to their native districts with disappointed hopes, but it is patent that official Germany does not relish this drain of the bone and sinew of the country, glad to find a home in the Far West where conscription cannot follow them.
The population of the United States at the last census was 50,155,783, and there is yet room for some five or six times the number, so far as the size of the country is concerned.
For her vast absorbing power Europe owes a debt of gratitude to her, and she is fulfilling her duty to Europe very faithfully, and to British people especially she holds out a very welcome hand.
Greenwood, Thomas, Chapter XXVII: "Who Should Emigrate," in A Tour in the States & Canada. Out and Home in Six Weeks, London: L. Upcott Gill, 1883.