The Corn Laws

+2 votes
How did the Corn Laws in England effect emigration?
in WikiTree Help by Graham Crisford G2G3 (3.7k points)

3 Answers

+4 votes
That sounds like the topic for a doctoral dissertation, but I'm sure that the laws reduced disposable income and had the effect of widening the income gap between landowners and city-dwelling workers.
by Kathy Rabenstein G2G6 Pilot (257k points)
+4 votes
Corn laws were laws of protection for producers. From 1815 foreign corn was taxed to keep the price in line with home grown. Meanwhile the end of the war put thousands out of work and unable to feed themselves.
by C. Mackinnon G2G6 Pilot (262k points)
Thanks for the comments. Something like this was said at the time about the Corn Laws. "I be protected and I be starving."

My interest in the Corn Laws and emigration started when I found that my Crisford family and many neighbours where leaving Sandhurst, Kent, for NSW, Australia. Why this one area in Kent I wonder - maybe a real villain of a landlord, or a Bonus to go. I wonder which. Mark you, two of my ancestors preceded the settlers as criminals William Crisford-135 onboard General Hewett in 1813 and James Crisford-125 in 1814 on the Surrey.
made an answer
+1 vote

( for context started as comment after C Mackinnons reply but got too long!)

The repeal of the Corn Laws may  certainly have led to the  migration of tenant farmers and also labourers . There's an increase in some parishes in the 1860s onwards. Many smaller farmers found themselves in an increasingly dire predicament .Cheaper imports resulted in the decline in profitability for arable farming.

Here's a couple of papers discussing it.

Irish emigration and Corn law

Farmers and Emigration

However, Sandhurst emigrants to NSW were encouraged and paid for by the parish far earlier in the century  under the provisions of the New Poor Law, 1834 and this wasn't the earliest that poor people had been assisted to emigrate by this parish.

Unemployment after the Napoleonic wars as mentioned above, was high. ( a cause of the introduction of the corn laws. This certainly led to  increased bread costs  and in urban areas led to  bread riots and discontent  but England was still largely rural.Increased unemployment and in particular seasonal rural  unemployment  led to demands from the able-bodied for poor relief. The introduction of farm machinery further decreased the need for labourers.  A succession of  poor harvests added to the misery. At the same time family size also increased. 

 Under the Poor laws, the ratepayers of a  parish were responsible for providing  relief.  In some areas local magistrates enforced the payment of relief in the form of wage subsidies ( for example, for each child over the third,  scales dependent were used in some places). Costs to the rate payers increased and various methods were found to reduce costs. Mostly these involved make work schemes, able-bodied, unemployed men in need of relief were directed to  work on the parish roads, quarry stones for building or instructed to work for  each farmer in turn  (roundsman system

Payment for emigration expenses  from the parish rates, was  a possible method to reduce costs.It was an  attractive option to many of the poor themselves, faced with a lifetime of low wages, frequent unemployment and poverty. It was attractive to the parish in that It reduced the number of potential paupers. However, though it could save money in the long run, it would  add a hefty cost to a single years rates which were calculated on an annual basis. Magistrates  in some places would refuse to allow the cost to the poor rate for 'grey areas' like emigration costs. A single  rate payer  could also challenge the cost which could result  in the overseers of the poor having to reimburse the money. Nevertheless, some parishes did work out the means to pay emigrant's costs. In 'your parish of Sandhurst, a number of people, in the 1820s.  had their passages to the US paid for by the parish. The parish raised the funds from  loans provided by  wealthy parishioners.  

The increasing costs of poor relief in Southern England and the Swing riots (which of course started in Kent)  led ultimately to the reform of the poor laws. The New Poor law  meant that the able unemployed were to be relieved in workhouses, rather than out relief 'at home'.  If the concept of  emigration was attractive to many  before the act, it was more attractive after it. The poor law commission also  enabled parishes to the assist emigration of  able-bodied  workers.  Your parish, by then part of the Cranbrook Union but still responsible for it's share of the costs,   took advantage of this scheme, with £80 being paid for emigration by 1839.

6th Report Poor Law Commisioners, google books (unfortunately no numbers of emigrants, given.It's possible you might find these in later reports)

Given that wealthier ratepayers in Sandhurst seem to have provided the finance for  the 1822 emigrants to the US, it might well be that this wasn't just a  'shovelling out the poor' which is one way that pauper emigration is categorised but a stems from a more  'paternalistic tradition'  which suggests a more benign motivation.


by Helen Ford G2G6 Pilot (315k points)
edited by Helen Ford
Fantastic answer, thank you. I'll follow all the links and come back to you if I need any more help if that's OK?
Thanks for this informative answer. I recognise William Cobbett and his "Rural Rides" and that is the extent of my knowledge of the times. I have learnt so much from your email, the Swing Riots, the Poor Laws, Tithing to the clergy etc. Fascinating. Thank you.

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