Passenger Vessels Act 1803
In 1803, the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed the Passenger Vessels Act. It was the first of many laws intended to regulate the transportation of immigrants and to protect emigrants on board ships from exploitation by transportation companies (such as exorbitant rates and consequent subjection to poor sanitary conditions). The Passenger Act required improved conditions relating to hygiene, food and comfort for passengers travelling to North America. However, this law was not always followed by transportation providers and the spread of infectious diseases such as typhus continued.
This act was established under humanitarian pretences, but the more practical and desired effect was to raise the cost of passage to prevent as many as possible from leaving. Landlords who feared the emigration of their tenants lobbied extensively for this piece of legislation, and where one could previously travel to Canada for £3–4, the price for the same passage was in some cases raised to £10 or more (equivalent to £840 in 2016). The ability to move abroad was subsequently limited to a small class of people until it was repealed in 1826.
Notes and references
- Approximately £200 in 2001 pounds, according to the price indices in House of Commons Research Paper 02/44, "Inflation: the value of the pound 1750–2001" (PDF)., 11 July 2002
- Moving Here, Staying Here: The Canadian Immigrant Experience at Library and Archives Canada
- Hunter, The Making of the Crofting Community, 25.
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