August-December 1842

The Collected Letters, Volume 15


TC TO MARGARET WELSH ; 15 November 1842; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18421115-TC-MW-01; CL 15: 181-182


Chelsea, 15 Novr, 1842—

Dear Mrs Welsh,

Finding there was no chance in New Zealand for the present, I bethought me of applying to Mr Elliot, chief the Government Emigration Commission, whom I have known with great esteem for many years now. Unfortunately he also is not able to do very much for us; but he points out at least what the possibilities of the thing are; and as it is all under his superintendence there is no use in applying elsewhere on that quest. I send you his Letter, which will be well worth reading; for he is a most punctual, accurate and one of the clearest-sighted men, and undertakes (I have always found) as nearly as possible just what he means to practice. He is one of the Lord Minto Elliots;1 a man in the very best estimation here.

As to the Falkland Islands,2 tho' very unwilling to risk an advice, I think I may venture to say that there is clearly nothing whatever to be done there. The proposed salary for a surveyor appears but to be £300 a year. The Islands are a mere mass of peat-bog with everlasting tempests, and the population at present is some twenty-two miscellaneous vagabonds dwelling in seven turf huts! The use of the Colony is to be for ships returning from New South Wales, which have no port at present in those seas; the main industry is expected to be fishing of seals; the first immigrants are to be Shetlanders or West Highlanders.

With regard to New Zealand I myself know little; except that it is said to be hitherto a flourishing place; that several persons known to me are interested in it, and sanguine about it. I hear, however, that the interior surface is full of barren old-volcanic Hills; that it can never be a first-rate country. New Colonies too are of course apt to be in a rougher state than old ones; to abound more in uncertainties, irregularities of all kinds. On the other hand, they are perhaps opener for adventure, offer a freer field. If your Son thought of trying New Zealand, he can be introduced (as I have learned) “to the best people there” in a sufficiently emphatic manner.3

With regard to New South Wales, again, which you yourselves can better judge of, I will say only that Mr Elliot's Letter to the Governor is not likely to [be] less significant than it pretends to be. But what the Governor has in his power, or what the wants of the Colony are in the surveying line, I have no precise knowledge.

On the whole it seems to me, however all this may be, your son should first practically learn to be a real Surveyor and Engineer: it seems that even with this there is no Government appointment to be had at present in the Colonies; but without it there is no right chance anywhere. I think it would be decidedly reasonable to lay out a portion of the £500 of outfit first of all on this. I suppose there are good Surveyors and Engineers in Edinburgh. A man can learn nothing till he has worked at it. My judgement of our young Cousin is, that if he once felt himself fairly qualified to shew face as an Engineer and Surveyor, he might be very safely trusted in N. South Wales, or any other reasonable place. He will break far off kind, if he be not of a quick, correct judgement; of a clear, truthful, honourable and steadfast character: these are the elements of success for a man. It will be no evil, but a great good, as he may find one day, that he begins poor; actually so.

Adieu, dear Mrs Welsh. / Yours most truly,

T. Carlyle