Right of Passage
Stephen De Vere's Report on an 1847 Voyage, The Elgin-Grey
Papers, 1846-1852, pages 1339-1347.
In spite of laws and regulations, thousands of immigrants, especially those from
Ireland, found themselves in what were often referred to as ï¿½coffin shipsï¿½ --
small, over-crowded vessels that were ill-equipped for the long ocean voyage.
In 1847, Stephen De Vere, an Irish MP, took passage in such a ship to see for
himself the horrid conditions that often went unreported and unresolved. His scathing
report reached the hands of Colonial Secretary Earl Grey, who immediately referred
it to Lord Elgin, Governor General of the Canadas, in the hope that these inhumane
conditions could be eliminated. The dream of starting a new life in a new land
was all too often a dreadful and deadly experience, as documented by De Vere.
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