States 1906 report on immigration

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On 9 February 1905 the States appointed a special committee ‘to examine the whole question of the immigration of foreigners to this island’. On 31 January of the following year the committee produced an interim report, which was presented to the States and ordered to be printed on 29 March 1906, because it felt that the question of free education, which had been newly introduced in the States, impacted on its deliberations.

Concern for civilised countries

The question of foreign immigration is one which seriously concerns a certain number of the civilised countries of the world, above all those which have reached the most advanced stage of civilisation and welfare.

The United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and France attract immigrants from all quarters in search of work. The United Kingdom and France, although they attract immigrants, themselves supply a large number of emigrants who go in search of work or seek to better their conditions beyond the frontiers in overseas countries.

Jersey, too, is in both these cases, since it makes a large contribution to the flow of emigrants to England and the Colonies, which take from it a large part of its most capable and most enterprising young people. On the other hand it receives a flow of foreign immigrants, numerically proportional, but relatively less advanced, who threaten to overflow it if measures are not taken to regulate and assimilate these immigrants and turn them, as far as possible in the circumstances, to Jersey's profit and advantage; for as we shall see below, there is no hope of halting the emigration of our young people, and thus curbing the flow of foreign immigrants.

Since English and Jersey emigrants are generally driven by the same motives to emigrate overseas, it is obvious that there is no reason to hope for a movement of emigrants from England to Jersey, since the obligation to serve in the Militia on its own is enough to deter the English workman.

The statistics that we present, on the other hand, indicate only too clearly the tendency towards an exodus from Jersey of those who bear English or Jersey names. There are therefore no grounds to hope for a reversal, and in the circumstances we have to regard foreign immigration as a necessity for our country, without which it would be impossible for us to get the labour we need for our agriculture and to a certain extent to let our farms.

As long as French immigrants find better working conditions here than in France, we must expect to see them continue to come, and we must also pay serious attention to the consequences and the influence they will have on the future of our island, all the more so since foreigners and their children now form a very significant part of the whole population. In short, we need them, but at the same time we have to keep a close watch on the political consequences of their presence here and that of their children.

To form a clear idea of the importance of the question, we need to survey the most salient points that emerge from the various censuses of our population and the statistics of the birth rate in Jersey supplied by the register of births.

The population of Jersey is estimated as follows at various dates given below, the last nine of which are those of the decennial census:

Year Population
1806 22,855
1815 22,763
1821 28,600
1831 36,582
1841 47,544
1851 57,020
1861 55,615
1871 56,627
1881 52,445
1891 54,518
1904 52,576

It will immediately be obvious that the population grew enormously between the peace of 1815 and the year 1851, when it reached its peak. Immigration at that time must have been almost exclusively from England, since the figures that we give below prove that inhabitants of British origin made up a large part of our population in 1843 and since that date.

It is only since 1851 that the population of the island has been subdivided in the censuses between the rural parishes and the urban parish of St Helier. It is true, however, that the parish of St Helier also includes a rural population, but on the other hand, certain neighbouring parishes also have an urban population, which largely balances the rural population figure for St Helier.

Year St Helier population Rural population Total
1851 29,741 27,279 57,020
1861 29,528 26,085 55,613
1871 30,756 25,871 56,627
1881 27,990 24,455 52,445
1891 29,133 25,385 54,518
1901 27,866 24,710 52,576

In 1901 the census gives us for the first time the population of the island according to the nationality of each person. Out of the population of 52,576 (or 51,540 omitting the garrison and their families) we find the following subdivisions:

Natives of the island of Jersey,English and foreign origin >16 years old 13,677
16-30 9,163
<30 years 15,349
British subjects not natives of the island >16 years old 1,072
16-30 1,546
<30 years 4,447
Foreigners French 6,011
Others 275
Total 51,540

The foreign population of the island, almost entirely French, thus numbered 6,286, not counting their children born here, who are classed in the native population, and it exceeds 12 per cent of the total population of the island. The censuses in question were generally taken on 1 April.

During the potato season numerous French labourers, said to be more than 3,000, arrive to work in the harvest. In the month of June, therefore, we have in the island a purely foreign population of nearly 10,000, not counting their children born here.

It is also more or less certain that a very large proportion of these 6,286 foreign inhabitants of the island are adults, partly because their children born on the island are classed as natives, and also because the immigrants are largely unmarried workers, or married people who have no families or only small ones born before they arrived here.

Here is a table which will indicate how this purely foreign population is divided between the parishes according to the census:

Parish Total population Foreign population Percentage
St Helier 27,145 2,538 9%
St Brelade 2,231 233 10%
St Ouen 2,246 258 11½%
St Martin 2,691 402 15%
St Clement 1,503 221 15%
Grouville 2,513 387 15½%
St Peter 2,360 362 15½%
St Saviour 4,053 688 17%
St Lawrence 2 ,292 386 17%
St John 1,614 274 17%
St Mary 931 163 17½%
Trinity 1,969 374 19%

According to researches in the register of births, marriages and deaths for the following four years, which represent four periods of roughly twenty years, 1843, 1864, 1881 and 1901, births in this island, divided between the parish of St Helier and the rural parishes, were as follows:

Year St Helier Rural parishes Total births
1843 910 669 1,579
1861 875 683 1,558
1881 764 587 1,351
1901 599 538 1,137

We shall subdivide the totals into three categories according to the origin of the names of the fathers of the children, i.e.

  • Births of Jersey origin
  • Births of British origin
  • Births of foreign origin

The names of foreign origin only include those foreign names recently introduced into the island. No Jerseyman of the old stock could be mistaken in making this analysis; and the author of these tables has devoted the greatest care to them and believes that these figures for births of foreign origin are rather below the true figure than above it.

Moreover the figures for the four years in question, having been compiled on the same principles and in the same way, offer a precise and exact comparison and provide a firm basis for our conclusions.

Births of Jersey origin are numbered as follows for the whole island, subdivided into the parish of St Helier on the one hand and the rural parishes on the other:


Year St Helier Rural parishes Total
1843 265 496 761
1861 256 435 691
1881 274 342 616
1901 197 229 426

The point to notice here is the enormous reduction in births of Jersey origin, especially in the rural parishes. At St Helier the reduction is less, no doubt because many of the rural families have come to live in town, but the movement in the town is very marked since 1881, and in the country since 1864.

Births of British origin for the four years in question are as follows, subdivided into the town of St Helier and the rural parishes:


Year St Helier Rural parishes Total
1843 575 126 701
1861 541 162 703
1881 407 130 537
1901 279 81 360

The population of British origin has never been very numerous in the countryside, and has established itself largely in the town; it is in town that we find the enormous reduction in births since 1861, a fall of nearly 50 per cent.

It will also be noticed that the number of births of English origin was higher in 1861 than that of births of Jersey origin, a proof of the extent of English immigration since 1815; before that date, everything indicates that the population of Jersey was made up almost entirely of people with Jersey names and origins.

We now come to the births of foreign origin, which since 1881 have developed very considerably. However, this increase in births of foreign origin, although considerable, in no way compensates for the fall in Jersey and English births, and the result is a fall in the total number of births on the island since 1861 of more than 400 a year.

The four years selected for our examination give us the following results for the foreign birth rate, subdivided between urban and rural parishes:


Year St Helier Rural parishes Total
1843 70 47 117
1861 78 86 164
1881 83 115 198
1901 123 228 351

That is, in the rural parishes the foreign births have quintupled since 1843, and in the whole island they have tripled in the same period.

The following tables summarise the tables above.


Year Jersey English Foreign Total
1843 761 701 117 1,579
1861 691 703 164 1,558
1881 616 537 198 1,351
1901 426 360 351 1,137

Subdividing these figures between the parish of St Helier and the rural parishes we find the following results:

1843 1861 1881 1901
Jer Eng For Jer Eng For Jer Eng For Jer Eng For
St Saviour 30 17 6 44 30 14 31 33 23 27 17 32
St Clement 30 12 1 27 8 4 24 7 5 7 9 13
Grouville 48 18 2 31 33 18 33 14 11 16 11 25
St Martin 57 20 11 71 31 13 52 16 19 26 10 20
Trinity 54 5 4 36 3 3 37 3 13 26 4 28
St John 55 6 2 33 4 9 30 5 8 16 3 16
St Mary 21 2 2 14 2 2 19 3 4 11 1 9
St Ouen 74 4 3 62 4 1 43 7 5 30 3 13
St Peter 39 11 5 39 14 6 31 18 17 37 6 25
St Brelade 36 20 5 39 25 6 17 12 2 15 8 17
St Lawrence 43 211 6 39 8 10 25 12 18 18 9 30
Sub-total 406 126 47 435 162 86 342 130 125 229 81 228
St Helier 265 575 70 256 541 78 274 407 83 197 279 123
Total 761 701 117 691 703 164 616 537 208 426 360 351

We observe:

  • That the births of foreign origin for the whole island, which in 1881 were little more than a

third of the births of English origin, almost equalled them in 1901;

  • That the births of foreign origin in the countryside, which in 1881 were fewer than those

of English origin, were almost three times as many in 1901; and

  • That the births of foreign origin in the countryside, which in 1881 were a third of those of

Jersey origin, equalled them in 1901.

The births on the island since 1843 are summarised below, according to the origin of the children's fathers.


Year Jersey English Foreign Total
1843 48.2% 44.3% 7.5% 1,579
1861 44.3% 45.1% 10.6% 1,558
1881 45.6% 39.8% 14.6% 1,351
1901 37.4% 31.7% 30.9% 1,137

Trends will continue

Everything indicates that these trends will continue, and experience over the twenty years since 1881 shows us the extent of the changes that will have taken place by 1921, and forces us to reflect seriously on a situation that threatens such a marked reduction of the purely Jersey and British elements in the island. We estimate that by 1921 births of foreign origin will almost equal those of Jersey and English origin put together.

In these circumstances we must have no hesitation in recognising foreign immigration as an inevitable element of our social and political existence. Our population will be more and more recruited from foreign immigrants and their descendants, and we will have to ensure that we absorb them, if possible, without altering the British character of our population.

We must point out that there is a growing tendency among us to become closer to our neighbours, to facilitate communications with France and to `bridge over' the arm of the sea that separates us. This can only increase the number of immigrants, for if visitors or trippers from France come over for pleasure in large numbers, we shall see a class of immigrants very different from the labourers and one it will not be so easy to assimilate.

It is in the nature of things that hotels, shops and the numerous trades that cater for the needs of foreign visitors will be supplied by French immigrants rather than by the British element. We shall the emergence of a numerous class of `outlanders' who are better educated than the peasant farm labourers and who by their peaceful penetration will create an `outlander question' which is important in a different way from that of the absorption of the labourer and his children.

Foreign descent

We do not have the exact data to establish the precise number of persons who form part of the island's population and who are children or descendants of foreigners, but if we take as a basis the figures for births of foreign origin since 1843 supplied by the registers and take the native population of the island in 1901 as 38,189, we can estimate that it must be made up as follows:

  • 17,013 of Jersey origin
  • 15,779 of English origin
  • 5,397 of foreign origin.

But since it is certain that emigration from Jersey since 1843 has removed proportionally more persons of Jersey and English origin than of foreign origin, it is also certain that a larger number of persons of foreign origin have remained in the island, and consequently it would be correct to estimate the population of foreign origin at about 6,000, or 12 per cent of the whole population.

We have seen from the census of 1901 that the purely foreign element of our population, that is the foreign born, is 12 per cent of the whole population, and when added to the native born population of foreign parentage they make up nearly 35 per cent of the population of the island who are neither Jersey nor English by origin.

We believe that in the countryside or at Trinity the purely foreign element rises to 19 per cent, and the native born of foreign origin can hardly be less numerous, nor can the population of foreign origin be less in our rural parishes.

Far be it from us to say that there are not some Jersey people of foreign origin who are just as good Jerseymen and women as those of the old stock and on the same level as them when it comes to their obligations to the country and to the British Empire.


Assimilation has been all the more effective for them because the number before 1881 was relatively low, and also because we have seen that births of foreign origin have increased so much since 1881 that 34 per cent of all births are now of foreign origin. Everything leads us to believe that the increase in the future will be in proportion.

The island is beginning to be swamped, and assimilation is becoming more and more difficult. Formerly immigrants for the most part married Jersey women, and their children had no difficulty in being absorbed into the purely Jersey population, but for the last 20 years the ever growing number of immigrants of both sexes and the larger number of married couples of the same foreign nationality have made them more independent, more inclined to be self-sufficient, and less obliged to mix with their purely Jersey neighbours; above all since the establishment of schools run by foreign priests, who maintain foreign traditions and make it more difficult if not impossible to assimilate the children of foreigners.

It is important not to lose sight of the figures we gave above, especially those that concern the rural parishes, for it is in these parishes that we see the French element making so much progress that it will end up by becoming dominant, and we shall see the administration of our rural parishes pass into the hands of persons whose education for the most part has been in foreign schools, and who will be largely under the influence of foreign ecclesiastics.

Foreign dominance

Once the municipal government of our rural parishes has passed under the domination of the foreign element, it must follow that the Jersey element will be completely overshadowed in the States. In these circumstances our very institutions, in which the principles of autonomy are so firmly established, will become a danger to the country. This danger is very real, and to fight it we will have to assimilate the foreign element, control its education and eliminate foreign influences.

As our statistics show, it is since 1881 in particular that the fall in births of Jersey and English origin and the rise in births of foreign origin have been accentuated. These trends were already beginning in 1861, but it was not until around 1881 that they took on the alarming forms that have raised the questions which now concern us.

It is not difficult to trace the causes that have led to these great changes. Here as elsewhere we find a tendency for the population to move to the large towns, to the colonies and abroad; but we also find a less pronounced taste for farm work, possibly caused by the development of elementary education and the ambitions that it tends to arouse; we have seen the disappearance of the great shipbuilding industry; we have witnessed the departure of the great Newfoundland trade and the replacement of sail by steam, the creation of rapid communications and so on.

Change in direction

All these have helped to change the direction of our work, and to remove the most enterprising part of our population; perhaps too the changes made to the law of inheritance and the more egalitarian tendency have also contributed, while the reduction of the rights of the amés may have induced them to give up the cultivation of their paternal acres, perhaps also the extension of the right to make a will, which must soon reach its peak, and the duty of service in the Militia, a heavy obligation on Jerseymen since 1881, but not imposed on the foreign immigrant.

Competition from foreign labour and the small foreign farmer, which has changed the conditions of existence and social life in the countryside, has also discouraged the native farm labourer and driven him towards the town, to England, and to the colonies.

The new potato industry has no doubt also had a big influence on immigration, but it is very noticeable that this new industry, which has brought so much money into the country and has led to a large rise in the value of land in Jersey, has not been able to keep more of our native farmers and landowners here. It is clear that the material profit has not been enough, and that the causes of the exodus of our young people are causes that cannot be removed as long as agriculture remains our only important industry.

The growing of early potatoes, which has not been able to keep young Jersey people here, has opened the gate even wider to the admission of foreigners, who replace them and who also tend, by their competition, to drive out the indigenous element, which is increasingly averse to farm work.

It may be claimed that there will soon be a halt, that the flow of immigration will one day be slowed down if not stopped, and that the assimilation of the foreign element will end by being complete, and that the dangers we point out will be averted; but it must not be forgotten that for this to happen we would also have to slow down or halt the flow of emigration of the flower of our native young people.

One large industry

It is difficult to imagine how that could be done, since we have only one large industry, farming, which is falling into the hands of foreign immigrants and their children, and so the flow of emigrants is removing not only the Jersey and English element but also the best assimilated of our young Jersey people, the children of foreigners, who follow the example of others and share their ambitions.

This leaves a gap in the island which will continue to be filled, as in the past, by immigration of the same class as that from which they originate. The situation is aggravated, from our point of view, by the privileges granted without formalities or dispute to the children of foreigners simply by virtue of being born on the island.

First of all any child of a foreigner, even of a foreign father and mother, born on the island is permitted to share all the privileges of a Jersey native without any formality or option, or oath of allegiance or any request on his part, in spite of the fact that he is claimed as a citizen or subject by the country of origin of his father.

He can become an elector or principal of a parish without any other formality than possession of the property required by law; he can take part in any election to public office by virtue of the law, or even become himself a municipal officer: constable, deputy, even a juréjusticier, and at the same time be the son of a foreign father and mother, brought up in a foreign school, and he and his family may be under the influence and direction of foreign ecclesiastics.

As long as the number of immigrants was moderate and births of children of foreign parentage were not numerous, their absorption into our indigenous population was easy; all the influences contributed to it: marriage, religion, material interest, social life and the preponderance of Jersey people etc. Nowadays these influences hardly have the same effect. In many cases the effects are quite the opposite, and absorption is more and more delayed.


There are nowadays a great many married couples who are both of foreign nationality, and there are relatively fewer marriages with Jersey people of the old stock.


The arrival here of so many foreigners, and the birth on our soil of their children have attracted a large number of foreign ecclesiastics, who are distributed throughout almost all the parishes of the island, and whose very obvious aim is to exercise and defend their exclusive influence on all this population of foreign origin. The establishment here of several foreign religious associations has only added to these foreign influences, which have already grown so powerful that the purely British religious organisations which once hastened the absorption of foreign immigrants now only have a comparatively weak influence as agents of assimilation.


Foreign schools are found everywhere, under the direction of foreign priests, who may perhaps conform to the letter of our law, but who, maybe without wishing it, contribute materially to delay or prevent the assimilation of the children of foreigners born on our soil.

Social life and preponderance of Jerseymen

As long as Jersey natives are preponderant in the countryside, and the well-off landowners still live in their parishes, social influences will be all in favour of the fairly rapid assimilation of the foreigner and his children, but when the population in the countryside becomes more and more impregnated with foreign blood, and well-off farmers and landowners are rarer and rarer there, the immigrants and their children will be self-sufficient, and the Jersey element will no longer be as dominant as it was in the past; the influences will in fact tend to come from the other direction, and instead of the assimilation of the French by the Jersey people, it is to be feared that the opposite will happen: that is, Jersey people will be assimilated by the French, as the old Jersey influences become less and less effective, and the flow of immigration continues to reinforce the foreign element.

The municipal government of each parish is still carried on under Jersey influences, the parish notables and above all the elders are still of the old Jersey stock, but each year sees their numbers diminish and the number of landowners of foreign origin increase. Once the municipal government of the parishes has changed hands, the representation of the parishes in the States will fall into the hands of a majority of foreign origin.

We believe that we have established above that emigration is carrying off a large part of the best of our young people from the island, whether they are of Jersey, English or foreign origin, and that the place of these emigrants is being taken here by foreign immigrants who come here above all for the needs of our farming.

We have also established that the number of foreigners is already very considerable and tending to grow; that their children and descendants are also very numerous and also increasing largely. In these circumstances it becomes urgent for us to consider the whole question, in order to regulate the conditions under which these immigrants establish themselves here, and to ensure that their children born on our soil, who are the Jersey citizens of the future, are brought up in such a way that there is no doubt of their loyalty to the British Empire and of the use that they will be able to make of the autonomy and selfgovernment which is the heritage of the people of Jersey.

The question of immigration pure and simple is twofold: the immigration of labourers who come to help in the harvest of potatoes and grains, and who return to their own country after the harvest; and the immigration of labourers who are looking for permanent work and who establish themselves here indefinitely.

Quality controls

We have the greatest interest in encouraging and even favouring both these forms of immigration, as long as they do not exceed the needs of our island. It must therefore be our duty to look for ways by which we can ensure:

  • That the persons who come here for the season or to establish themselves are respectable, sober, peaceable and hard working;
  • That worthless fugitives from justice are removed from the island by all means that will not have the effect of discouraging the temporary or permanent immigration of suitable

persons whom we need for our farms;

  • That the search for work is facilitated for all good workmen through an employment agency, a voluntary registration bureau or other practical means.

Here we wish to support especially the system of voluntary registration of good foreign workers. That would supply us with the most effective means of distinguishing between the desirable foreign element and the undesirables, since only those who could produce proof of good character would register voluntarily, and this in itself would throw suspicion on those who were not registered, or rather those who could not fulfil the requirements for registration.

The rolls of our correctional court bear witness each week to the considerable and growing number of offences committed by foreigners. The annoyance and difficulties often caused by foreign labourers in the countryside would appear to confirm what we learn from the court rolls: that there is now a larger number of undesirables in the island than even in the very recent past.

It is true that the Royal Court has the right, which it frequently exercises, to inflict the penalty of deportation on those who are brought before it and accused and convicted of a crime, but is to be feared that the infliction of this penalty if too often repeated could have disastrous consequences for the immigration of respectable workers. It is certain that to a great extent the fear of deportation has the effect of keeping desirable and undesirable immigrants on the path of good behaviour, but unfortunately this penalty is a two-edged sword: while it rids us of the ne'er-do-wells who are unlucky enough to be caught, it may sometimes deprive us of the worker whom an accident or a moment of aberration has brought before the Court.

However, if it is acknowledged to be possible to implement the idea of voluntary registration, and the Royal Court is willing to allow the registered worker a privilege similar to that granted by the First Offenders Act, it might be that the fear of deportation would be very much moderated.

We now turn to the question of the assimilation of foreigners' children. As we have shown above, formerly the assimilation of the children of immigrants was easier, because of the influences that surrounded them; everything helped towards it, but nowadays this is no longer the case. Family, school and church are now outside Jersey or English influence.

Immigrants' separate lives

Immigrants and their children can live separate lives. They have been allowed to set up foreign religious associations, churches and schools managed by foreign priests, largely maintained by subsidies from foreign countries, with an object which it is difficult to identify, because if all this had been due to religious propaganda it would not have been difficult to leave it under the control of British associations or ecclesiastics.

What is the remedy? It is hard to find one, but it would be useful to make sure that the elementary education of every child in Jersey of Jersey, English or foreign origin was received in an elementary school run by a person of British nationality.

We have confined ourselves up to now to informing you of the circumstances which in the past appear to us to have caused the emigration of our young people and facilitated the immigration of foreigners in their place. We have also judged that these causes continue to exist and that they are still producing the same results. It remains for us to point out to you another circumstance that may very soon aggravate the situation.

We refer to the new law on the Militia, which has not yet come into force. It is undeniable that the general terms of this law are much more rigorous than the old laws and customs, and we believe that it might perhaps be useful to appreciate how far this law may in future accelerate the exodus of those who are and will be subject to its requirements, and thereby increase the number of those who escape from it, that is immigrants and foreigners.

In the past Jerseymen have always defended their island against armed invasion and they are always ready to defend their rights and privileges, but they have never had to defend themselves against an attack or invasion as formidable, although peaceful, as that which threatens them today and which seems to have been largely favoured by the very measure that aims to defend the island against an enemy military invasion.

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