Moritz Pinner's Letter to the Editors of the New York Times (Jan. 15, 1866)

Transcribed, and placed in Doron Zeilberger's website, June 9, 2000.

The following is taken from p.2, columns 1 and 2, of the New York Times of Jan. 15, 1866 (the cost of the issue was then four cents)

Notes From the People,


European Emigration.


A New Scheme for its Encouragement

To the Editor of the New York Times:

From every nook and corner of the land the cry for "more hands", "more help" is heard. States and districts, and all sorts of industrial enterprises, vie with each other in getting up organizations for the encouragement of emigration, and even the most casual observer cannot fail to see that the immense resources of this country and the numerous and gigantic enterprises which they beget, keep far ahead of the now so numerous labor-saving inventions, and call for that additional "physical" help which emigration alone can furnish. To this constantly increasing enterprise of the nation, more than to the loss of half a million "hands" by the war, this general want of "help" must be attributed, and as "one enterprise begets another," this lack of help and that want of additional labor-saving machines, will be felt more and more as time rolls on.

The necessity of a larger emigration seems obvious enough: the problems of how to secure and continue it has to be solved sooner or later, and the sooner it is solved the better it must necessarily be for the nation. As with every other problem, so with this; the results to be obtained depend upon the knowledge and shaping of the causes that precede them, and it seems not very difficult to ascertain why European emigration has been so limited as long as the causes that produce it remains unchanged. The chances this county offers to new-comers are certainly numerous enough, the costs of getting here are comparatively small, and if European emigration has nevertheless been as insignificant as it was, it can only have been for the fact that Europeans before they risked their journey to these shores, seldom knew much of those chances and those costs. Poverty, despair, disgust with political affairs, or love of friends who preceded them, generally were the only motives Europeans had for embarking for these States, and the knowledge of American affairs now extant in Europe, (so far as such knowledge concerns the emigrant,) is nearly all the product of the correspondence going on between friends on both sides of the ocean, and is necessarily very limited in extent. European literature and European schooling are not calculated to diffuse much knowledge of the chances the United States offer to emigrants, and what little knowledge on that subject they do spread, is in part again counteracted by public scribblers, who have lived here for a while, and who, incapable of comprehending the magnitude of affairs here, or disappointed in some foolish ambition, left this country in disgust. It seems, therefore, of the utmost importance to inaugurate a system of spreading reliable information concerning the United States-as far as such information can affect emigration; and as Europeans are so much used to government action, and authority, that information, to be effective, should emanate from the government of the United States. With this system of spreading reliable information should also be connected a system of granting protection and aid to emigrants, the whole to be organized and managed in such a way as not to prove offensive to European Governments, nor expensive to this government; nor should it lessen either the liberty or self-reliance of the emigrant. Wise congressional legislation would have to determine details, and in the following the undersigned may be allowed to suggest such points as, after a careful study of the subject, have occurred to him.

In the minds of those Europeans willing to work and struggling with want, as well as in the minds of others of an enterprising spirit who may be desirous to risk something to better their condition, the idea of emigrating to the United States should be generated, and after that idea shall once have taken possession of them, they should have a chance of introducing themselves all subjects of interest to them, until they should be able to see their road clear to success, and should enter upon it. The following synopsis of a plan for reorganizing the Bureau of Emigration may possibly lead to the desired result: That bureau should have branches, or auxiliaries, in those European and American ports where emigration is likely to touch, like Liverpool, Hamburg, Bremen, Queenstown, Antwerp, &c, as well as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Portland, New-Orleans, San Francisco, &c, and "Superintendents of Emigration for those European and American ports" should be appointed, with pay and clerks corresponding with the business expected at their stations. The superintendents and clerks should speak, beside the English language, also the one spoken at their respective ports, and permission to establish these superintendencies in European ports can probably be easily obtained from local governments or authorities, partly on account of the local traffic they would enhance, and partly also on account of the protection against imposition which they would secure to emigrants. Short, conspicuous advertisements could be inserted into European papers of large circulation, stating briefly that those desirous of emigrating to the United States would do well to address themselves by letter to either of the Superintendents of Emigration in European ports (naming them,) who would inform them of the steps the United States Government has taken to protect and assist them. In reply to such applications, emigrants should receive gratuitously a copy of "A Guide to Emigrants," published by the State Department, and printed in the English, German and French languages. Such "Guides to Emigrants" should contain, among others:

  1. Abstracts of laws relating to emigration and contracts with emigrants; the Homestead Bill; the acquirement and settlement of public lands; citizenship; military duty; liabilities of railroad and steamship companies; transportation agents and forwarders of passengers and baggage, etc.
  2. Rates of emigrant and other passage on railroads, ocean, lake and rivers steamers, sailing vessels and stages, as in existence or as established by special contract with the Commissioner of Emigration, for the especial benefit of emigrants, stating also where such special contract tickets may be had.
  3. Condensed maps of the United States, showing the States, Territories, principal cities, railroad, lake and river communications; districts containing public lands, particularly those nearest established and projected great thoroughfares, mining districts, &c.
  4. Condensed description of the adaptation to the various agricultural pursuits of the various regions of the United States.
  5. Condensed statistics of the population, wealth and price of land of the United States, showing also their gradual and steady increase.
  6. Hints as to the best mode of preparing for and for selecting, reaching and establishing a new home, singly or in colonies, and where in case of need the emigrant may find gratuitous advice and legal, as well as humane, assistance.
  7. Average wages paid in different industrial pursuits, and average prices of the necessities of life in the United States.

Laws should be established stipulating a minimum wages to be paid to those who, while still in Europe, contract to work in the United States. Such contracting laborers, ignorant of the value of their labor and of the cost of living in the United States, would otherwise easily be imposed upon and should they suffer much from their ignorance, the cause of emigration would soon suffer too. Such contracts should also require acknowledgements of the Superintendents of Emigration at that European port whence the contracting laborer would sail for the United States. Superintendents of Emigration in American ports should receive authority to prosecute all those who impose upon emigrants, either on the ocean or up to six months after their landing in the United States, and up to the end of those six months emigrants should also be entitled to purchase special contract passage tickets, that should not be transferable, but the value of which should be returned, should the purchaser be prevented from using them. Transportation tickets at special contract rates should only be sold at the offices of the Superintends of Emigration, and from the records of emigrants kept at those offices the would-be purchasers of such tickets would have to prove that they are entitled to the same.

Conspicuous posters should be displayed at the offices of the Superintendents of Emigration as well as on board of emigrant vessels, stating that at those offices and on shipboard a "guide to emigrants" in different languages could be gratuitously be obtained; that emigrants will do well to procure and read it, either before or during the voyage; and that, in addition, in addition to other wholesome advice, they would find therein directions as to obtaining assistance in case of need.

The manifest of emigrant vessels should pass through the offices of Superintendents of Emigration at the post of sailing as well as of destination. The duties of all Superintendents of Emigration should be clearly defined, and among others those superintendents should be required to keep a record of emigrants sailing from or arriving at their ports, showing in such records the number, age, profession, starting-point and destination of such emigrants, the kind of assistance called for by them or granted, the passage-tickets sold to them, the amounts recalled therefrom, the contracts with laborers examined and acknowledged, and the wages stipulated in such contracts. (These records or books could be uniformly arranged and furnished by the State Department.) These Superintendents of Emigration should also visit emigrant vessels before departing or after arriving, and should convince themselves that such vessels comply with all the requirements in regard to their outfit, &c., imposed upon them by law. They should also supply such vessels with the aforesaid "Guide and Posters," should countersign the manifests, should listen to complaints of passengers, and crew, should correct abuses, prosecute just claims, and make small cash advances on baggage.

Superintendents in European ports should by turns, in their different ports, meet once a year for consultation and exchange of views, and into their reports of such meetings to the Commissioner of Emigration at Washington, they should embody suggestions for further legislation on the subject of emigration based upon their combined experience. Those superintendents present at such meetings should receive a slight compensation for traveling expenses.
And in addition to the foregoing, it would also, probably prove advantageous to appoint an Inspector or Commissioner of Emigration for Europe, whose duties it should be make twice a year a tour of inspection to the Superintendents's offices in European ports and to be present at the annual meetings of those Superintendents. He should also attend to the insertion and payment of the advancements above alluded to -- should supply European Superintendents' offices as well as Volunteer Emigrant Aid Societies and prominent friends of the cause of emigration with the "guide to emigrants, posters and maps" for liberal distribution and exposition--should maintain some centrally located office, and may also engage some prominent literally talent to counteract the mischievous scribblings of enemies of the United States.

By the advertisements above alluded to, many men, desirous of a change in their conditions, would have their attention first attracted to the United States, and on procuring gratuitously a "guide to emigrants", they would become acquainted with the chances this country offers. Having thereupon once made up their minds to emigrate, they would know how to set about it economically and safely, and while depending entirely on their own exertions they would know how to make them understandingly. They would pass, as it were, from one Superintendent to another would know the nature of the assistance and protection continually furnished to them by this government, and by being more cheerful and self-reliant would also become more useful, because more productive emigrants. Superintendents in Europe as well as American ports may cause the clubbing together (for greater economy and protection) of emigrants bound for one locality; a crowding into any given locality of too many men of the same trade or profession may be prevented by their judicious advice, and currents of emigration may also thus be directed where most needed.

Pamphlets and books of information to emigrants, published by the States or corporations, may be distributed by those Superintendents of Emigration along with the Guide to Emigrants, and they should all be treated alike in the situation drawn to them in "posters" or otherwise.

Officers and their subordinates henceforth to be connected with the Bureau of Emigration should be capable men, and should be sufficiently well paid not to be forced by want to accept bribes from parties immediately interested in emigration. The acceptance of any kind of direct or indirect bribe, as well as any imposition practiced on emigrants, should be severely punished.

The whole machinery and organization, as contemplated by the foregoing, need not cost this government more than from one to three hundred thousand dollars per annum, (according to the extent of advertising in Europe,) and it needs no prophets to see that the taxable property produced by only five thousand additional emigrants per year would already be enough to compensate this government for the outlay. Heretofore, without any stimulant or organization whatever, emigrants numbered something like a hundred and sixty thousand annually, is it not reasonable to suppose that with the information, assistance, and protection, as above contemplated, their number could be increased to half a million or more annually? And who could calculate the benefits that might result therefrom? All that seems necessary is wise Congressional legislation on the subject.

                                          M. PINNER,
                                    No. 191 Broadway, New York.

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