Another New Field for Emi gration
The Falkland Islands have been nominally a British colony for some years; but, in consequence of representations made to Government by various persons interested in the trade to the South Seas, a plan has at least been drawn up for establishing a body of settlers in these islands. It was submitted to the late Ministers, who referred it to the Commissioners of Emigration and the Lords of the Admiralty, by both of whom it was approved. Rules were prepared by the Commissioners of Emigration ; a vote of t3750 was put into the estimates for the first year’s expense, and, we suppose, passed. If steps have not been taken already to send out emigrants, we presume they will be taken about the beginning of next winter, which is their summer.
These islands are about 300 miles from the south extremity of the American continent, in a latitude corresponding with that of London. Their climate, however, very closely resembles that of Shetland. They have cold summers and mild winters. Snow seldom lies in them; but owing to their humidity and want of sunshine, and the stormy winds which blow almost constantly, wheat of barley could not be raised in them, and even oats might turn out to be a precarious crop. It is doubted also if wood will grow, and at present there is not a single tree in the islands. Turnips and potatoes succeed well, and there is an abundance of good grass, upon which some thousands of black cattle, horses, and hogs, thrive in the wild state, and sheep have been introduced and found to do well. Extensive peatbogs exist, which will afford a sufficient supply of fuel. The present population consists of twentyfive persons, young and old–one-half of them British, the other Gauchos, South American Indians of a semi-civilised description. They are all stationed at Port-Louis, a fine natural harbour, where a British officer resides.
The islands are numerous, but all very small except two, whose area is estimated at 13,000 square miles, or nearly half the extent of Scotland. They are deeply perforated by arms of the sea, and probably afford a greater number of fine natural harbours than any country of equal extent in the world. Their shores afford excellent fish of many kinds, and seals are exceedingly numerous.
The great object in establishing a colony here is to provide a harbour of refuge and place of refitment for our ships frequenting the South Seas, which are yearly increasing in number. Every vessel going to the Pacific Ocean, or coming from it, passes within sight of these islands, or near them. At present 60 or 70 British ships pass these islands annually coming from Chili or Peru, and 20 more engaged in the whale fishery. The trade to New South Wales employs 236 vessels, most of which return to England by this route, which will also be preferred by vessels trading to New Zealand, Van Diemen’s Land, Port Philip, and probably South Australia. From Sydney or Hort Town the distance is nearly the same by Cape Horn or the Cape of Good Hope, but the prevalence of westerly winds in the parallel beyond the 30th, renders the latter route the more advantageous on the outward voyage, and the former on the return. The Falkland Islands are about half as distant from Britain as New South Wales.
The Emigration Board recommend that Government should send out two surveyors to select an eligible site for a town, and to lay out the land in blocks of half a square mile, which may be subdivided. It is proposed to sell the land to emigrants at 12s. per acre, and to expend part of the money in carrying out additional settlers, part in defraying the colonial outlay. There are 40,000 wild cattle in the largest island, the privilege of shooting which, or catching and taming them, might be sold to the settlers or a company. The climate is uninviting, but there is little doubt that persons accustomed to grazing or sheep farming, or to sealhunting, or deep-sea fishery, might drive a profitable trade here. A vast number of ships, making long voyages, American, French, Dutch, as well as British, pass the islands, and to these it would be a great accommodation to find supplies of provisions and the means of refitting here. Some of our starving population in the North of Scotland or the Islands, might better their circumstances by removing to the Falkland Islands.
Citation: Scotsman (Edinburgh, United Kingdom), 29 December 1841, available at the Scissors and Paste Database, http://www.scissorsandpaste.net/309.