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The market for emigration

Where there is a demand for emigration, there is also an offer of emigration, the latter helping to fuel the former. This offer first manifested itself in the immigration countries through the activity of agents entrusted by national or provincial governments either with directly spreading propaganda abroad, or with contacting European agencies in order to organize the importation of labour.
Where there is a demand for emigration, there is also an offer of emigration, the latter helping to fuel the former. This offer first manifested itself in the immigration countries through the activity of agents entrusted by national or provincial governments either with directly spreading propaganda abroad, or with contacting European agencies in order to organize the importation of labour.

The market was soon regulated by the governments of the European countries for the sake of preventing fraud and deceit, and to offer minimal conditions for the departure, trip and settlement overseas. For example, in 1885 the Swiss Federal authorities granted patents to eleven general agencies for emigration, as well as to 357 subagents distributed throughout the Swiss territory. Five among them exercised their activities in the Valais, most of them notaries.

In the same way that the foreign service had its recruiters, the subagents were responsible for recruiting in their respective areas the people who wanted to leave for emigration. That being done, they had to assemble the candidates that they had committed themselves to supplying to the general agencies, which were themselves bound by contract to immigration agents and the maritime companies.

The Valaisan press participated in this market in its own way, either to feed or hinder it. Whether of conservative or radical leanings, it was the mouthpiece for sustained propaganda against the overseas departures, which did not keep the papers from regularly—sometimes even daily—printing advertisements of the agencies for emigrants.  This contradiction can be explained in part by the divergence of interests between the editors and the printers.

Although to differing degrees, each of the intermediaries profited from the emigration. In addition to this market, there were the transactions made between the future emigrants and local notaries to whom they often sold their belongings or with whom they incurred debts in order to finance their departure. It should be noted that, during the period between the fraudulent bankruptcy of the Cantonal Bank in 1871 and the creation of the Caisse d'Épargne in 1895, i.e. at the peak of the emigration wave, the only possibility of borrowing money was through local personalities who charged very high interest rates.

Bibliography:

Alexandre CARRON & Christophe CARRON, Nos cousins d’Amérique. Histoire de l’émigration valaisanne en Amérique du Sud au XIXe siècle (2 vols.). Sierre, 1989 and 1990.

Gérald ARLETTAZ, "L’évolution du Valais (1815-1839). Aspects politiques, démographiques et économiques", in Le Valais. De la tradition à la modernité. Formation continue des journalistes de Suisse romande, Lausanne, 1989, pp. 3-18.

Gérald ARLETTAZ, "L’émigration, un enjeu politique cantonal et national (1848-1888)", in Vallesia, 46 (1991), pp. 67-81.

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