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1909

JOHN F. TROW, PRINTER,

50 Greene Street.

PREFACE.

PREVIOUSLY to the year 1847, the subject of the care and support of alien emigrants was left either to the general quarantine and poor

laws or to local laws and ordinances, varying sometimes as to the provisions, very often as to the practical administration. A general tax, under State authority, on all passengers arriving at the port of New York was applied to the support of the Marine Hospital at Quarantine ; and aliens (as well as others) arriving in that port, suffering under contagious or infectious disease, as yellow fever, ship fever, &c., were there received, but no further provision was made from that fund for their relief under other circumstances, or after their arrival. Local laws authorized the requiring of bonds by the city authorities from the owners of vessels bringing such emigrants, to indemnify the city and county in case of the emigrant becoming chargeable under the poor-laws. With the great and rapidly increasing emigration from 1840 to 1847, these provisions were found very inconvenient to the ship-owner, and wholly inadequate to the important end of necessary aid and relief to the emigrant falling into disease and destitution. The bonds remaining uncancelled for a long time, were onerous to the better class of ship-owners; whilst they sometimes, as to others, were found of no value when enforced. But a much more serious objection to the system was, that it did not efficiently provide for the care and relief of the emigrants who might most require aid.

No general aid or protection was provided for those who might need it from other causes than disease alone; whilst it led to the establishment, from motives of economy, of small private hospitals for the sick and infirm, who might otherwise be chargeable to the public institutions. The number of such diseased emigrants was increased beyond the proportion of the increase of emigration, from the overcrowding of the vessels and the wretched provision often made for the comfort, sustenance, and health of the passengers. In such crowded private hospitals, without any public supervision, with none of the provisions as to space, ventilation, and other comforts, now common in all good sanitary establishments, great suffering and much mortality were the necessary consequences.

This state of things was becoming more distressing as emigration grew larger, and it even threatened danger to the public health. A number of citizens, to whose notice these facts were specially and frequently brought—to some from their connection with commerce and navigation, to others from their personal sympathy with the children of the land of their own nativity, -met about the close of 1846, or the winter of 1847, and consulted on the means of remedying these evils.

vils. They prepared and agreed upon a plan of relief, which was presented to the Legislature of the State of New York, and was passed into a

law in the session of 1847. The system then recommended and / adopted was, that of a permanent Commission for the relief and

protection of alien emigrants arriving at the port of New York, to whose aid such emigrants should be entitled for five years after their arrival, the expenses of their establishments and other relief being defrayed by a small commutation payment from each emigrant.

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The whole government and property of the Quarantine Hospitals, created under this law, were also transferred to the Board. This original system has since been, at different periods, altered or modified in its details, as experience pointed out, or legal or practical difficulties occurred, but it continues substantially the same as created and organized in 1847 ; since which date its operations and beneficent results have swelled to a magnitude far beyond any thing contemplated when the system was first devised.

Its history will be found stated officially in the following reports, from year to year.

This volume contains a reprint (abridged merely as to some repetitions, which were necessary at the time) of all the annual and other reports of the Commissioners of Emigration, made to the Legislature of the State of New York, as provided by law, since the organization of the Commission in 1847. These are accompanied by the statistics, tables, reports of their medical and other officers, and other documents, which were appended to the several reports in their successive years.

The present Commissioners were induced to collect and reprint these reports and documents, from the conviction that they contained a great body of useful information of great value in many respects. They present, when taken consecutively, the annals of the most remarkable and important, as well as by far the most numerous, emigration to distant lands which is recorded in modern history. They show, in detail, how, from May, 1847, till the close of 1860, the remarkable aggregate of two millions six hundred and seventy-one thousand eight hundred and nineteen emigrants (see general tabular statement, page 288) landed at the port of New York, seeking on this side of the Atlantic,—what was certainly found by most of them,-relief from the wrongs or the misery which they experienced themselves, or dreaded for their children, in their native land. Here are shown the respective nationalities of these emigrants, fluctuating from year to year in numbers and proportion, from various causes connected with great events or circumstances which have now become of interest to every student of history or political economy.

The history of great changes in the character of our navigation and that of other commercial nations, may be here traced through every stage, especially that of the immense amelioration of the sanitary treatment and condition of passengers on shipboard, which has been effected within the last few years, and was caused by wise legislation here and in Europe, and, also, in no small degree by the honorable and humane efforts of the navigating interest itself. The prevention of the hardships, misery, disease, and deaths formerly so frequent among the humbler class of emigrants on their passage or immediately upon landing, is one of the most honorable and beneficent of the services to the cause of humanity which have distinguished our age.

The relative proportion of different native countries, and the manner in which this great element of our population has been diffused over our own land, are also shown in this volume, and will afford valuable matter to the historical or the political inquirer now and hereafter.

There are yet other subjects of still more immediate and more practical utility on which these reports throw much light, and the more so, because they were framed from the constant experience of each year without any view to theoretical opinions. They show the workings of a vast sanitary and charitable system for a number of years, which system has the rare and peculiar merit of being self-supporting, and that without any serious burden on these who contribute to its support. There are shown the formation and gradual expansion and improvement

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