The Control of Immigration into Canterbury for the Period 1850-1853.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
The manner in which the Canterbury settlement was founded has stimulated many historical enquiries and the zenith of this interest was reached in our centennial year. Much of the ground has been covered time and time again, because the story is one of a whole plan unfolding. Every aspect of Canterbury's early history takes the purpose of the founders as its reference point and this is particularly so in the question of immigration control. To reach my conclusions I have had to follow where many more able have led, before branching out on my specific enquiry. The scope for original research in this topic is narrow and I have not been able to bring forward very much new evidence. At the outset I planned to review immigration control for the period 1850-1875, but when I discovered that extant shipping lists covered most of the immigrant ships from England for the years 1850-1853, and little more, I decided to concentrate on the period of Association control. In the first two chapters I had to use many secondary sources of information and this I found rather tedious and unsatisfying. I could not lay my hands on really vital information concerning the land purchasers, especially those who entered Canterbury from the neighbouring settlements. My figures for the land purchasers are estimated from limited information as are my inferences concerning the economic status of the shagroons in Canterbury. I enjoyed writing Chapters III and IV. The real evidence was readily at hand - all written in the ornate script of the period - and in each bundle of papers there was something new and interesting. My case would have been enormously strengthened had the application forms of steerage passengers been available. From these forms I could have discovered the areas from which the steerage immigrants were drawn, exactly how many of the were nominated and on what references, (if any) the Association based its selections. It seems merely a happy chance that there is extant a list which gives the 'home' addresses of some of the land purchasers. Although this thesis gives us a statistical survey of Association immigration, I was always more interested in the personalities whom I cam to know as I delved into old correspondence. The impressions that I gained lent an atmosphere of reality to the work of research. I formed views on topics that had little relation to my specific enquiry, an example being the Godley-Thomas dispute. It was in this question that I discovered the importance of personal bias in the writing of history. Before I read the evidence (and after) I warmly supported Thomas. At this point I feel bound to make a confession. As a descendant of a family who landed in Canterbury in 1850 I have prejudices concerning some of the values that have been handed down from those early days. When I started this thesis my bias caused me to be very sceptical of the Association and all its works. I pounced gleefully on its shortcomings and, even now, I think that my praise for its good points was rather grudging. I have tried in this work, to trace all the forces that controlled immigration into Canterbury before and during the period in which the Canterbury Association had the destiny of the settlement in its grasp. I have outlined the Association's hopes for the settlement and have commented on their desirability in a New Zealand context. The Association wished to make Canterbury a cut above the rest of New Zealand and I have narrated its course of action and analysed the results. My main questions were directed at the aims and achievements of the colonising body. The habits that characterise a mature society are hard to acquire and are easily lost. It is my opinion that, despite its many failings, the Association was successful in transplanting a culture of quality; a culture strong enough to transcend the impact upon it of a typical colonial environment.