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It is with extreme concern that we are compelled to record these sentiments—the admissions deliberately made, and put forth under the sanction, not merely of the individual who has vouchsafed the information, but of a large proportion of the American public, with whose opinion the sentiments put forward by his honour the Mayor on this occasion are in direct unison.
There are many no doubt who arrive in the United States, under the unfortunate delusion which this public functionary so justly depicts, expecting to find in this land of promise a solace for every ill, or at least some reasonable encouragement for their industry and individual efforts; who leave their homes in the belief of an immediate change of circumstances; and though not of surpassing riches on arrival in the country, take with them willing hearts, ready and anxious to work out their future subsistence; and reluctant, as we have frequently known them, either to draw upon the benevolent kindness of their transatlantic friends, to become burdens on public charity, or applicants for state or municipal favour. If from any casual or unforeseen difficulties they are compelled to seek public aid for awhile, or before that they can individually overcome the dislike of the American citizen to give them employment, they have well provided from amongst themselves, and from their own scanty and prescribed means, for the liquidation of whatever of misnamed charitable assistance is at any time extended to them; besides contributing a considerable surplus fund to the corporate
TAX ON EMIGRANTS. 51
revenues of this city, in the tax levied upon each emigrant upon his first landing. It is then imprudent, and the while ungenerous—'tis even worse than this—it is unjust to the individual, as it is injurious to themselves, by an unkindly treatment—by means of a petty and discreditable warfare, still carried on against the emigrant, to scare and drive away from their shores a confiding, generous, and hard-working people, that, under a more enlightened and just policy, and freed from the inconvenience of all unreasonable interference, might be constituted an acquisition to their national wealth and resources. Tis impolitic in the extreme, apart from other considerations, by means of any narrow or selfish course, to excite and inflame the passions, and sow the germ of early discontent in the minds and breasts of men, who, though of foreign growth, are one day to class as of their fellow-citizens; and who, from their first landing in the country, are singled out and kept apart, from the mere circumstance of their birth, as a distinct and inferior caste—denounced in the degrading vocabulary of every native American, as unworthy of a more intimate fellowship with him, and in no wise fitted for the enjoyment of that rational freedom and independence, which at another time he claims as of man's inheritance—the inborn right of every human being.
The laws of the State of New York require, "that the captain of every ship or vessel, conveying passengers to the port or city of New York, from any foreign country, or from another State, shall report the name, last legal settlement, place of birth, age and occupation of such passenger, to the mayor of the city, within twenty-four hours after arrival, under a penalty of seventy-five dollars for each passenger so neglected to be reported. And that every person, not being a citizen of the United States, arriving in this city with intent to reside, shall report himself to the Mayor, under a penalty of one hundred dollars for neglect in doing so."
By a further statutory regulation of this State, all shipowners are compelled to give bonds to the corporation, that every passenger brought by them from foreign countries, shall be provided for by them for two years from the time of their first landing, or the captain or owners may compound with the almshouse commissioners by agreement; this last arrangement is called " Commutation," and is the prevailing practice of late years.
This sum is not regulated by any fixed rule, but varies indefinitely, according to the caprice, or will of the corporation. It has been ascertained by easy calculation, and the experience of past years, that the positive amount of risk in no year exceeded thirty-three per cent, and then the commutation money did not exceed one dollar per head; at which sum it continued up to the year 1837, when various exactions, varying from one dollar to six dollars per head, have been unscrupulously exacted from each passenger.
Besides this tax, there is also another, and equally onerous one, of one dollar per head, that each emi
HOSPITAL MONEY. 53
grant is required to pay under the pretext or demand of "hospital money." This charge, which is levied on steerage passengers, is doubled in the case of cabin passengers. By reference to the official returns, noticed in a preceding part of this chapter, the reader will perceive that 56,578 emigrants landed in the year to which it refers, at the port of New York, contributing a sum little short of one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, at the minimum amount charged, for the support and maintenance, hospital charges, &c. of every chance applicant from amongst them for relief. This sum, which may be considered far under the average of other years, is paid in the above proportion, and in this instance by the emigrant as a part of his passage money, and exacted from him before that he is permitted to go on board.
Assuming the ascertained risk at thirty-three per cent, or a sum of about forty-one thousand dollars, there will remain under this modified calculation a surplus sum or revenue of eighty-four thousand dollars that annually finds its way into the city coffers—contributed by these "pauper emigrants," as they are called, and it is probable, appropriated to pay the salaries of many of the public corporate officers and retainers of this body, who very possibly owe their situations to the virulence of their opposition, and the unsparing, and uncalled-for abuse with which they assail the emigrant, especially of the old country, on every occasion that is presented to them.
Doubts have frequently arisen as to the constitutionality of enforcing these exactions, apart, from every other consideration:—the positive right of any individual State of the republic to enact and enforce laws, delegating a discretionary power of this kind, so liable to be abused, and that in its practice might be made to operate as a direct and positive interdict of all communication between the seaboard, and other inland portions of the United States, and the free subjects of other nations, in peace and amity with its government. It certainly appears to our thinking, an arrogant assumption of legislative power, on the part of any segment or separate portion of the confederacy—a right that we contend belongs only, and under its responsibility, to the nation at large—a direct and hostile interference with the interests and acknowledged privileges of other States, of which it thus assumes to be the arbiter; whilst we conceive it to be opposed in its first principles to the spirit, if not the precise letter of the American constitution, such as we have read it, requiring only to be properly and legally tested before the federal tribunals of the country, to be denounced in terms of unqualified condemnation.
We will not blend with this question the right that every State has to frame laws for its own internal, or municipal government. These are beyond even the claim or just right of remonstrance; and belong to the people to whom the maintenance and protection of their own rights, so 4 long as they do not infringe on the established rights of others, is in every way conceded. But the