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Plans for the
Irish female immigration

Keith Tankard
Knowledge4Africa.com
Updated: 14 October 2009
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Even before the German military settlers left Britain, Sir George Grey was mooting the idea that German peasant families be sent out to accompany the military men but Henry Labouchere, Secretary of State for Colonies, was against the plan because of its financial implications.

Sir George attempted to persuade him to change his mind, arguing that the lack of females would be disastrous to the whole community.

It would, he said, cause "great immorality .... and great expense". The legionnaires, he stated, would "roam the country in search of females", would probably "be frequently murdered by the native populations" and would be "quite useless" as a defence for the colony.

The Secretary of State, however, was not prepared to be persuaded. He agreed that it was important "to procure in every country a due proportion of Female to Male Inhabitants" but he believed that money should rather be spent on sending out respectable single women and balance the population in that manner.

Labouchere further believed that there would be no difficulty in finding large numbers of "respectable young women" in Northern Ireland who could be willing to emigrate to the colonies.

Considerable parties of orphans and other single women had been obtained there at different periods, he wrote, and these had proved "to be strong and healthy and of respectable character". He would, he said, instruct the Emigration Commissioner "to take an early opportunity of sending out a party of such emigrants".

It was evident, he said, that "an Emigration of that kind" must have a far greater effect "on the proportion of females to the community" than a much larger one "composed of married couples and their children".

Labouchere went on to explain that he would charter a ship which would proceed directly to East London. It would not call at Cape Town, however, as this would increase the cost of the voyage. It might also "unsettle the minds of the Emigrants", presumably if they were to compare the uncivilized frontier where they were to find themselves with the beauty and civilization of Cape Town.

He concluded by instructing Sir George to make preparations for the women's reception. There should be some place, he wrote, in which they could be lodged and maintained on first landing. Steps should also be taken to aid them in finding employment until they were absorbed into the population.

Labouchere presumably had marriage in mind.

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