The Colonial System and Emigration

  • Barry Gordon


Although economists and Tory liberals found much common ground on the question of Corn Law reform, their counsels were divided on a range of issues relating to the role and status of colonies. Through the early 1820s, the Ricardians, both in and out of parliament, were highly critical of traditional arrangements with respect to those territories. James Mill, for example, characterised the British Empire as ‘a vast system of outdoor relief for the upper classes’, and McCulloch urged independence for colonies such as Canada while complaining of the financial burden entailed in England’s retaining overseas possessions.1 These were significant themes in the latter’s Ricardo Memorial Lectures, and the emphasis was maintained in the pages of the Westminster Review. As Bernard Semmel has observed in his important study: ‘It was with the cry of “economy” that the Radicals hoped to strike at the vast system of patronage embodied in the old colonial system’. Further, ‘relying upon the strength of an informal trading community [they] saw no need for “formal” colonies’ .2


Public Capital Select Committee Public Expense Definite Plan Mother Country 
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  1. 2.
    B. Semmel, The Rise of Free Trade Imperialism: Classical Political Economy the Empire of Free Trade and Imperialism,1750–1850 (Cambridge: The University Press, 1970 ) 102, 205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    R. J. Wilmot-Horton, Causes and Remedies of Pauperism, 4th series (London: Lloyd, 1830 ) 3.Google Scholar
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    O. MacDonagh, A Pattern of Government Growth, 1800–60: the Passenger Acts and their Enforcement ( London: MacGibbon and Kee, 1961 ) 59.Google Scholar
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    J. R. McCulloch, Treatise on the Succession to Property Vacant by Death (1848) 156.Google Scholar
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    Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (E. Cannan (ed.), New York: Random House, 1937 ) 435.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Barry Gordon 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barry Gordon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of NewcastleAustralia

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