Protection of emigrants and the "Land Sharks"

Cornelia 1850

Liverpool Mercury Dec 20th 1850

Heartless fraud upon emigrants

A “Land Shark” caught

A man named Edward MORRIS one of a gang known as the “Land Sharks” who prowl about our docks preying upon the poor emigrants arriving here from Ireland, was charged with obtaining£3-15s from John CAMPBELL, a poor Irishman, under pretence of procuring him a “superior” berth on board the ship Cornelia bound for New York.

The complainant said he paid the money to the prisoner in a public house in the presence of the mate of the ship, to whom it was handed over.

Mr CLOUGH stated there was a number of other emigrants whom the prisoner, in connexion with the mate, had swindled out of their money, under the pretext of getting them passages to New York.

The magistrate then ordered a warrant to be immediately taken out against the mate, Thomas PICKERING, and detective BATES along with two police officers, accompanied by the captain of the Cornelia, proceeded to arrest him. The vessel lay in the Sloyne, ready for sea and PICKERING was apprehended on board.

Both prisoners were placed in the dock together, Seven poor emigrants then related their pitiable tales, how they had paid their hard-earned money over to the prisoners, under the idea of being secured good berths. One poor man named NIXON, had paid them some money in a public house in Union Street for the passage of his three daughters. The prisoners had heartlessly received £21from these poor people.

Mr RUSHTON had inquired of the captain whether he had chartered the vessel to anyone. The captain replied he had not, that Messers GRIMSHAW and Co had the sole control of both passengers and freight.

PICKERING denied having received any money from the emigrants, but the complainants swore positively to paying their money to him and MORRIS.

The magistrate then said it was fortunate for the prisoners through a defect in the law, he could not deal with them as he would wish, and, consequently, they would have to be summoned for acting as passenger brokers without a license. The summonses were then duly made out and served to the prisoners, who, on the usual question being put to them pleaded “Not guilty.” Evidence against the prisoners was then gone into, after which Mr JAMIESON, magistrate’s clerk, read the clause in the act of Parliament regulating the shipment of passengers, wherein it stated that any person acting as passenger broker, without a license, was subject to a penalty of £50.

Mr RUSHTON, addressing the prisoners:- “Are you ready to pay £50?”

PICKERING “Not until I see some friends.”


The magistrate then ordered MORRIS to be imprisoned for 3 months with hard labour. It was, he said, one of the most cold-hearted robberies he ever knew, and he regretted the law would not allow him to deal with the prisoners in another way.

In the event of PICKERING paying the fine he would appropriate the larger moiety which the law allowed for the poor people whom he had robbed. MORRIS, it was stated, had been previously fined £10 for acting as passenger broker without a license.


Liverpool Mercury May 12th, 1850

Protection of Emigrants

A large influential meeting of clergymen, merchants and others was held at the Clarence rooms, Liverpool on Monday to take into consideration a proposition for providing an emigrant home in Liverpool.

The Venerable Archdeacon BROOKS occupied the chair, and several addresses were delivered showing the necessity as the one proposed. Lieut HODDER, the Government emigration agent, stated that when the Irish emigrants landed at the Clarence Dock of the port they were beset by a body of men banded together who are known as the “forty thieves” the most unscrupulous set of scoundrels that could possibly be conceived. These men act as porters, and hand the poor emigrants over to, “land sharks” who obtain a percentage from the passenger brokers for each customer they obtain. The lodging-house keepers and provision dealers also gave a further commission to these unprincipled agents and the emigrants are plundered from all sides to the greatest extent.

He characterised the emigration system as one vast combination fraud with the most extensive ramifications. M. BURCHARDT the Prussian consul, said that his countrymen felt it their duty to discourage emigration through this country whilst such extensive frauds were practised, and he referred to instances in which parties had taken passage in Hamburgh to sail by ships from Liverpool and when they arrived here they found there was no such vessel as the name given to them.

The Rev H. Mc NIELE, moved a resolution to the following effect :- 2 That this meeting, feeling the great influence that emigration has on this country, as well as on the colonies, deem it of the utmost importance that measures must be taken for the protection of the emigrants and for the improvement of their temporal and moral condition, especially in this great port of Liverpool”

This motion was unanimously agreed to and a committee was appointed to devise a plan, it being the opinion that one large building should be fitted up for the reception of the emigrants, and that such an institution would not only self-supporting when once established, but would afford the emigrants greater comforts and much greater advantages, at much smaller cost, than those they at present derive from the doubtful sources which are open to them.

Liverpool Mercury Feb 4th, 1851

Protection of Emigrants

We have from time to time drawn attention to the grievous wrongs inflicted upon emigrants, the difficulties they have to encounter, and the impositions to which they are subjected on leaving the place of their birth to seek a more advantageous field for their industry in foreign lands. The manner in which they are plundered by land sharks, crimps and other dishonest characters, is truly frightful, and unfortunately, no effectual means have been hitherto adopted for their protection. The evils of the present system are admitted on all hands, but the difficulties in the way of amendment have been very great. Some efforts have been made but they have been insufficient to produce any permanent benefit.

It is, however gratifying to find that the matter is now being taken up in an energetic manner by several of the most influential gentlemen of this town, and we have little doubt a plan will be devised which will give the required protection to the poor emigrant, and prevent him from becoming a prey to a set of fellows whose only object is to plunder him.

A meeting was held at the Clarendon-rooms, presided over by William BROWN, Esq, M.P., at which it was decided to establish a society, to be called, “The British Emigrants Friendly Society.”

Such is the nature of this organised system of plunder carried on against the poor emigrant, that, if he is fortunate enough to escape being fleeced in this country, the chances are that he is ruined on arriving at the country of his adoption. The question is one that has of late attracted much attention on the other side of the Atlantic and a number of philanthropic gentlemen in New York have formed an association for the protection of emigrants upon their arrival at that port. A correspondence has taken place between the friends of the emigrant in this country and America, and it has been shown that no plan of protection can be effectual but by the co-operation and unity of action on both sides of the Atlantic, in those places which are usually the resort of emigrants.

The New York society has been connected with similar societies in Philadelphia, Boston and Baltimore, and it is intended that all these institutions shall co-operate with the society about to be established at this port. It is, in fact, proposed that these societies shall be worked conjointly, with a view of carrying out a well-defined and comprehensive plan of emigrant protection.

At the meeting to which allusion has been made, some discussion took place as to whether the society should be self-supporting or otherwise, a difference of opinion existed on these points, but the leading principle was admitted by all, namely, that an emigrant institution was indispensible, to protect the emigrant against the systematic and outrageous frauds to which he is habitually exposed. It appears that three gentlemen who have taken an active part in the formation of the American societies are on their way to this country to communicate with the promoters of the proposed society in this town. As they have had some experience in the practical operations of the American societies they will be prepared to give valuable information on the subject. The whole question of emigration will be fully discussed on their arrival at a meeting held by the Mayor. Arrangements will be adopted to secure the efficient working and permanent success of the new institution. Any such plan will, no doubt, receive the sanction and support of the Government of the local authorities, and will, commend itself to all classes of the community

The United States Land and Emigration Society have issued a small tract, which contain valuable information in reference to emigration generally, and directions for avoiding the evils to which emigrants are exposed. Instructions are given for the guidance of the emigrant at almost every step of his progress, with the charges for shipping, mode of purchasing stores etc. The society has offices in New York where the emigrant is furnished gratuitously with every information relative to his route, travelling expenses, and other matters of importance, and those seeking employment are directed to the place they are most likely to obtain it.

The Lieut HODDER, Govt emigration agent and some other gentlemen acquainted with the workings of the emigration system at this port, are prepared to give their assistance in the formation of the propose society.


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