No. 6
26 October 1858
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Despatch No. 8, [Vancouver Island,] of the 14th of August last, 1 and it is with feelings of indescribable satisfaction that I observe that my administrative acts in this Country continue to meet the approval of Her Majesty'sGovernmentManuscript image Government.
2. I have no reason to regret the several appointments, which were before reported, of Revenue Officers and Justices of the Peace in Fraser's River, as those persons have continued in the faithful discharge of their duties, greatly to my satisfaction.
3. I am truly glad to learn, that it is your intention to send at the earliest moment, an Officer authorized to act as Judge, and as you are pleased to say that you await my intimations as totheManuscript image the wants and means of the Colony, in this sudden rise of social institutions, in a Country hitherto so wild, in order to select such law advisers, as the conditions and progress of immigration may more immediately require. And as it is your wish that all legal authorities connected with the Government should be sent from home, and thus freed from every suspicion of local partialities, prejudices, and interests, I have requested Mr Pearkes, a native of Canada, whom I lately appointed CrownSolicitorManuscript image Solicitor for Vancouver Island to draw up a scheme for establishing a Judiciary in Fraser's River, and I now submit the same for your consideration and approval.
4. The plan is I conceive well adapted for the Country. The number of Judges and inferior Officers to be employed will be required as settlement and population increase, but a modified number will answer for the present time. The Judicial buildings for holding the several courts, and a common Jail in each District are urgently and pressingly wanted,particularlyManuscript image particularly the latter, as we are now for want of Jails in British Columbia, under the necessity of sending criminals to Vancouver's Island. Seals of Office, the Imperial statutes and law Books
He has sent a separate requisition for Law Books & Statutes. C
are wanted for reference, in the several law courts of the Colony, and for the guidance of Justices of the Peace, I would beg you to send at least 20 sets of that useful work, "Burns Justice." 2
5. I shall not fail to give full effect to the philanthropic views entertained by Her Majesty's Government, for the well-being of the native Indian Tribes. My late despatches will inform you oftheManuscript image the measures adopted for their immediate protection, and I will hereafter, when time permits, endeavour to arrange some plan by which their interests will be permanently guarded, and the race rescued from destruction.
6. The Customs duty of 10 per cent ad valorem, now levied on all goods imported into British Columbia; and the levying of License fees, has also I observe met with your approval, and you further leave it discretionary with me to change the latter mode of taxation for an export duty. You will have observed by my despatches, that no distinction is made between British and foreign subjects who are placed on a perfectequalityManuscript image equality as to the amount per head of the License fee required, and that my Proclamation of the 28th December 1857, 3 asserts the principle that it is raised simply in virtue of the prerogative of the Crown to raise such revenue as it thinks proper, in return for the permission to work minerals on Crown Lands.
7. I observe your remarks as to the limit and extent of the rights devised by the Crown to the Hudson's Bay Company, and I have to advise Her Majesty's Government, that the Hudson's Bay Company no longer enjoys any exclusive rights of trade whatsoever, 4 and is placed in all respects, in the samepositionManuscript image position as other British subjects on this coast.
8. I will take the liberty, which I feel satisfied, you will under the circumstances excuse, of correcting an erroneous impression which appears to pervade the public mind in England. I allude to the often-asserted statement that the Hudson's Bay Company have made an unjust and oppressive use of their power in this Country, a statement which I can assure Her Majesty's Government is altogether unfounded. On the contrary, it would be an easy matter to prove that they have been of signal service to their Country, and that the BritishTerritoryManuscript image Territory on the North West Coast is an acquisition won for the Crown entirely by the enterprise and energy of the Hudson's Bay Company, for on commencing business operations in this quarter, the whole coast was held by foreigners, and it is only since the year 1846, that the Hudson's Bay Company have derived any real protection from the Licence of trade, as until that epoch, the trade was open to all citizens of the United States in common with the Hudson's Bay Company. Perhaps you will excuse my saying so much, as a sense of justice leads me to exert the little influence I possess, in protecting from injustice, men who have served their Country sofaithfullyManuscript image faithfully and so well. At this moment I am making use of the Hudson's Bay Company's establishments for every public office, and to their servants, for want of other means, I commit, in perfect confidence, the custody of the public money.
9. An Abstract showing the amount of public revenue collected up to this date, for British Columbia, at the Custom House of Victoria, and the Revenue vessel anchored at the mouth of Fraser's River, under the several heads of Mining Licences, Customs, Head money &c, is now herewith forwarded for the information of Her Majesty's Government. The sum 44,717 Dollars is small, but it will serve to cover a part of the necessary expenditureincurredManuscript image incurred in opening the communications of the Country.
10. I have not received Mr Commissioner Hicks' accounts, but his present collection will not add materially to the sum in hand, until the certificates of the whole sum prepaid for mining fees, as per Abstract No. 2 has been withdrawn by the issue of mining Licenses.
11. I cannot yet furnish an account of expenditure, but that will be supplied in due time.
12. The road into the interior of Fraser's River by the Harrison valley, so indispensably necessary, for the transport of food and supplies, for the numerous bodies of miners, who have pushed, reckless of consequences, and badlyprovidedManuscript image provided with food and clothing, into the Interior, is an expensive undertaking, and will absorb a great part of the present revenue.
13. I am exceedingly anxious to establish that communication thoroughly before the winter sets in, to remove all cause of complaint against the Government, and to save British Columbia from becoming a bye word and a reproach.
14. The Government will have to grapple vigorously with the arduous and expensive operation of opening a great system of roads, and providing access to the remote settlements of British Columbia, before its mineral resources can be developed, and become a fruitful source of revenue.
15. The whole seacoastManuscript image coast of British Columbia from the American Boundary on the 49th parallel of Latitude up to the Russian Possessions, exhibits continued chains of mountains, broken and penetrated only by the valley of Fraser's River, which drains the great central plateau that stretches eastward from the coast range to the Rocky Mountains.
16. The other rivers debouching directly into the sea on the coast of British Columbia, take their rise in the coast range, so that Fraser's River is the only great artery of the Country, and the only River, which traversing the whole extent of the Colony, affords the least difficult access to the remoter valleys of the interior.
17. To accomplishthatManuscript image that great object of opening up a very inaccessible Country for settlement, by the formation of roads and bridges, immediately and pressingly wanted; to provide public buildings for the residence of the Officers of the Crown; for the use of the Judiciary, for offices of Record; and in short, to create a great social organization, with all its civil judicial, and military establishments in a wilderness of forest and mountain, is a Herculean task, even with all the appliances of wealth and skill, and it must necessarily involve in the first place, a large expenditure, much beyond the means of the Country to defray.
18. I will however, do everything in my power to make the Colonial revenue, meetasManuscript image as large a portion of the public expenditure as is consistent with its means and early development, but more than that, I am sure it is not the wish of Her Majesty's Government to require.
19. My own opinion of the matter is that Parliament should at once grant the sum of £200,000, either as a free gift, or a loan to be repaid hereafter, in order to give the new Colony a fair start, in a manner becoming the great nation, of whose empire it forms a part. The acquisition is worth the sacrifice which will soon be largely repaid by the power and influence and wealth to be derived from the new possession.
InManuscript image
20. In the meantime, until the Colony is in a position to afford a sufficient revenue to defray the expenses of its government, I have to beg your instructions as to the payment of the salaries of the public officers, and of the cost of public buildings; I presume the necessary funds will be provided, and that I am authorized to draw on the Colonial Department for such sums as may be wanted for the public service.
21. I have not yet taken advantage of the authority granted in your letter,
Qy. [C]
to appoint a treasurer, nor have I established a gold escort, nor commenced giving Government receipts in lieu of deposits of gold, and for the reason that I have not been abletoManuscript image to secure the services of Officers to whom I could entrust the execution of those important duties.
22. In proposing to establish a gold escort, I had no other object in view than to confer a substantial benefit on the Miner, by providing a secure means of transport from the mines to Victoria, where the gold would have been deposited in the public treasury, until called for by the owner; and the whole expense of transport was to be defrayed by a charge on the deposits; I also felt that the proper influence of a Government is confirmed and extended by such useful services. I was afraid however, to undertake the measure without the aidofManuscript image of efficient Officers, as it was adding to the labour and responsibilities under which I have been so often almost ready to sink, having for the last six months discharged, unaided, the whole functions of two distinct Governments.
23. We have arranged a postal system on a small scale, 5 which provides for the present wants of the Country, and the receipts of Postage pay the whole expense of the Department.
24. I shall not fail to attend to your instructions in respect to the employment of the public Surveyors who will begin to operate on the soil of BritishColumbiaManuscript image Columbia, with as little delay as possible.
25. I shall also give careful attention to your instructions on the important subject of future government, and will reserve its consideration for a future and separate despatch, after receiving the additional directions which it is added in your Despatch, are to be forwarded with my Commission.
26. I lost no time in attending to your instructions and have now the honor of transmitting herewith, a report on the Harbours of Vancouver's Island, prepared by Captain Richards, Commanding H.M. Surveying Ship "Plumper,"whichManuscript image which contains a great deal of useful information on the subject treated. I will procure and forward further information by every opportunity.
27. I will moreover, as you have considerately suggested, not enter upon any act of general legislation until I am fully authorized thereto.
Having thus replied to the several points in your despatch,
I have etc.
James Douglas
Governor British Columbia
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
I presume this Despatch should be printed? In Par 20 the Govr asks for instructions as to the payment of Salaries & defraying the cost of Public Works.
VJ 14 Decr
Mr Merivale
I think you must have overlooked this important desp. wh I therefore return to you before passing it on to Sir E. Lytton. It is very satisfactory in many respects as showing the energy and capacity with wh Govr Douglas is creating a completely new system in the Colony and he deserves I think for it the highest praise.
There are one or two points wh I wd ask you to pay attention to.
1. The judiciary system proposed.
Some answer must be given on this head and you will be able to give an opinion on it better than I can.
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2. The Revenue abstracts enclosed.
Should these be referred to the Emig. Com. for a report on them. It is a matter wh to a great extent falls within the province of the Land Bd, and I have not time to go through them accurately.
3. Captain Richard's Report on the Harbours & Coasts. This apparently contains valuable information on several points. Forward it to the Admiralty and request any observations wh may seem important to them on it. Parts of the report might perhaps be transmitted with advantage to the Bd of Trade.
4. The proposition of a loan or gift to the Colony of £200,000.Manuscript image
This is evidence of the probable cost of the Colony wh we may expect. I have always believed that the charge next year will not fall much short of £100,000. The amount of pecuniary assistance to be given next Session to the Colony is a serious question. Where everything from the jail to the Govr's house has to be created and wages exceed 13 shillings a day the expenses must & will be very heavy.
5. The tribute wh Govr Douglas pays to the H.B.C. is I think, though coming from a person connected with their interests in years past, fair and just. Their policy to the Indian tribes has been vindicated by recent events, and the establishment of the new Colony wd have been very different from what it was and is had we not had the service and supportManuscript image of the organization wh they had previously created. This I think may and ought to be borne in mind when we are dealing with the Company on other matters.
C Dec 15
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Sir E. Lytton
1. The proposed judicial system seems to me reasonable and simple, but as Mr Begbie will no doubt have taken this in hand on his arrival, I think nothing is required beyond a general approval, with a reference to the fact of that gentleman's subsequent assumption of judicial duty.
2. Revenue abstract to Land Bd as proposed?
3. Capt. Richards' report to Admy & Bd of Trade as proposed.
4. The financial question is for your consideration; see Lord Carnarvon's remarks.
HM D 15
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These despatches which I have not before seen are the most confident we have yet had. The Naval report to the Admiralty. Before I go into the whole subject contained herein, it will be necessary to give the most anxious consideration to the question raised of expenditure by the Mother Country. What proposition will Parlt least unwillingly receive. Parlt which is prepared, as the Public is, to suppose the Coly at once self-supporting—I would request Mr Elliot to give this matter his most thoughtful attention, in reference to Estimates. The idea of a gift to any amount seems to me impossible. What occurs to me as best is a loan (Ty to whole amount) rather than a guarantee, to be repaid by the Colony from Crown Lands & other revenues & then to reduceManuscript image the account estimates to the lowest. The question of a judiciary &c to be considered by Emigration Board, & it will then be decided who shall be sent from this Country, who appointed there. These despatches I return now—but shall see them again later when Mr Elliot has considered the finance matter, the Treasury must be privately consulted.
EBL D 15
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Lord Carnarvon
I have endeavoured to express what I conceive to be Sir E. Lytton's views about the financial position of B. Columbia in this despatch.
I have thought that, with so able a man there, it is better simply to tell him that he must pinch than to indicate where he is to pinch.
But I own I see very little prospect from his financial returns of his being at all able to meet his expenses. TheManuscript image winter has arrived, when receipts will be next to nothing, and, a host of pioneers & employés thrown on his hands.
As to the general question, to which Sir E. Lytton adverts, about self supporting colonies, I am afraid it is one of the many on which facts broadly contradict popular opinion.
No successful colony, founded by Englishmen in modern times, has been self supporting; or with one exception only. Upper Canada, Nova Scotia, N.S. Wales, South Australia,Manuscript image New Zealand, all cost this country very large sums at the outset in one form or another, & all those with, and upon, a large English expenditure. The smaller colonies of Nth America had no such aid, or little; and their progress was very slow.
The only exception is Victoria, 6 and this scarcely a complete one; for the original "Port Phillip" was an offshoot of the very costly colony of New South Wales.
In truth we are driven back for instances to the old Nth Am. Colonies, now States. They cost this country nothing; but their progress was very slow indeed, according to our impatient ideas.
As to California to which Sir E. Lytton refers, I neverManuscript image could get at the real history of its early progress, though there are books professing to account for it. But California was a conquered country: which had cost the U.S. very considerably in military and naval expenditure: and when conquered, it had several thousand white inhabitants, a much larger number of useful Indians, and a considerable extent of land in cultivation.
I think Sir E. Lytton suggested a confidential despatch to Col. Moody; but is it not dangerous to address him as a power independent of the Governor? If written to, I think it should be by letter?
HM D 21
C Dec 21
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Mr Merivale
I have ventured slightly to alter & some what more than slightly, extend your very able dft of a Despatch to Govr Douglas. Please to get it fairly copied, do not scruple to correct it where you think proper, & let me see the fair copy before it is sent. The other Despatch that accompanies it, I returned, I think some days since. The interesting account of the Colony & harbours &c should go to the Admiralty, & an extract about Major Hawkins R.E. to the W.O. with acknowledgement of the aid given by that office.
EBL D 28
Fair copy.
Mr Jadis
I have sent the fair copy, with the rough draft, to Knebworth. Keep these former papers ready in case they are wanted.
HM D 30
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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George Pearkes, Crown Solicitor and Attorney, to Douglas, 27 October 1858, presenting a plan for the organization of the judiciary.
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Four separate returns showing the revenue of British Columbia, 12 June to 30 September 1858, including a recapitulation of the revenue abstracts, all dated 24 October 1858.
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Douglas to Captain George H. Richards, 14 October 1858, forwarding request from the Colonial Office for information about the harbours of Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
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Richards to Douglas, 23 October 1858, forwarding the report as requested above.
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Richards, report on harbours of both colonies, no date (eight pages).
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
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1. Pearkes to Douglas
October 27 1858 His Excellency James Douglas Governor &c &c &c

In compliance with your Excellencys request I have the honor to submit to your Excellency the following plan for the Organization of a Civil and Criminal Judiciary in British Columbia.
A Supreme Court composed of a Chief Justice and two Puisne Judges to have jurisdiction in all Civil Pleas and cases whatsoever in Law and Equity, where the amount involved shall be Fifty Pounds or more. This Court to hold four Terms in each year—Court Hilary, Easter, Trinity and Michaelmas, the Sittings of these Terms to be in Banc 7 for the hearing and final determination of all matters brought in AppealandManuscript image and the Correction of Error.
A Registrar or Clerk with a Seal.
The Justices of the Supreme Court shall appoint the time and place for the holding of Nisi Prius and Assize in the several Districts. Four Terms of such Court shall be held in each District every year, and they shall assign among themselves the Terms each shall respectively hold in such Districts.
They shall have jurisdiction for the Trial of all matters both Civil and Criminal in Law and Equity, subject to appeal to the Supreme Court by Writ of Error or Bill of Exceptions taken at the Trial in all cases where the amount invested shall exceed Fifty Pounds or Offence charges involving punishment of higher grade than Imprisonment for One Year or fine, exceeding One hundred Pounds.
There should be in each District a Judge having jurisdiction in all matters Ecclesiastical, involving the Estates of Deceased Persons, Custody of the Persons and Estates of Infants Lunatics and Persons of weak or unsound mind; and in all civil cases where the amount claimed does not exceed Fifty Pounds. They shall also preside at the Court of Quarter Session held in their respective Districts fortheManuscript image the Trial of petty Crimes and misdemeanors. They shall hold a Term once every month.
There should be two or more Justices of the Peace in each District with jurisdiction to take Information in all Criminal Cases, and when proper, to issue warrant of Arrest, and to examine the Case, if the Information be for a petty offence, to summarily hear try and determine the same; if for Felony or Misdemeanor to hold to Bail, or Commit to Jail to be tried by Court of Sessions or Court of Assize.
The Justices to report monthly to the Governor the number of Arrests, what for, Trials, acquittals, Convictions, Committments, amount of Fines collected, &c &c.
There should be appointed a High Sheriff for each District whose Duty it shall be to attend the sittings of the Supreme Court when held in their District, the Court of Nisi Prius and Assize Terms and the Court of Quarter Session, to enforce the Law, and execute all the process of the several Courts enumerated.
An Efficient Constabulary Force to preserve Order, and carry into effect the process, Orders, Judgement and Sentences of the Justices of the Peace &c &c and Court of Sessions and when necessary to aid the Sheriff in the execution of every process and when required by the Sheriff to aid himinManuscript image in the execution of any process.
Justices of the Peace may from time to time in their discretion appoint under Oath special Constables to enforce the Law and carry into effect their Orders and Sentences.
There should be in each District a suitable Building for the holding of the several Courts and a Common Jail. In the District where the Supreme Court sit in Banc, a more Commodious Building will be required, with proper Court Room, Judges Chambers, Offices for the Registrar or Clerk and Sheriff.
I beg leave to suggest to Your Excellency the paramount necessity of proper Legal Books and Statutes for the use of Various Courts and Public Officers, without these indispensible adjuncts, the Law will be imperfectly understood, and badly administered. It matters not however brilliant a Presiding Judge may be, he will find a constant recurrence to Legal Books and the Statutes absolutely necessary to the just Administration of Law. A Public expenditure for this purpose will be found most wise and salutary. The want of these necessary Aids has greatly embarrassed the discharge of duties pertaining to the Office Your Excellency has been pleased to assign me.
I have the honour to be your
Excellency most Obt Servt
George Pearkes
Crown Solicitor & Attorney

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2. Report by Richards

(Enclosure in Richards to Douglas, 23 October 1858)

The Strait of Fuca is the great thoroughfare through which ships must pass to reach the ports and harbours on the Southern and Eastern coasts of Vancouver Island, as well as those of British Columbia adjacent to it on the continent, and thro' the centre of this Strait runs the boundary line which separates the British possessions from those of the U.S. of North America.
Its entrance lies between the parallels of 48ç 23' and 48© 35' North latitude, and in the meridian of 124© 45' West Longitude. Point Bonilla on Vancouver Island being its Northern point and Cape Flattery (or Classet) of Vancouver [Island] its Southern; its direction is nearly East & West for about 70 miles or to its junction with the Channels which lead by a Northerly course to the Gulf or more properly speaking the Strait of Georgia, which separates Vancouver Island from the Continent of America.
The Strait of Fuca maintains an average width of about 11 miles and is free from hidden dangers.
The approach is safe for all description of vessels, being subject to no other dangers than these incident to gales and fogs, the former are not frequent during summer, and the prevailing winds at that season are from S.W. or N.W., during the winter months, or from October until March. S.E. gales are not unfrequent, but generally with considerable intervals of tranquil weather; fogs often lasting for several days together, prevail in October, November and December and present the greatest difficulty with which the seamen has to contend; his soundings however are a good guide and in moderate weather he will generally find anchorage within a mile of either shore.
The facility of entering and navigating this Strait has lately been much increased by the erection of Light houses on the Southern shore by the Government of the United States.
That of Cape Flattery is an admirable light, and may be seen at the distance of 20 miles in Clear weather; it is erected on the small Island of Tatouche, a mile from the pitch of the Cape, and is 162 feet above the sea level. The light of New Dungeness is also of the greatest assistance to the Navigator, it is built on the spit of that name 67 miles Eastward of Cape Flattery, and is 100 feet above the sea level, a fog bell is attached to the light house.
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Within the last few days a light has also been shewn on Smith or Blunt Island which lies almost in the centre of the Strait, at its Eastern termination. In order to render the Strait perfectly safe and accessable to Vessels at all times I should recommend that the British or Vancouver shore, should be lighted in a similar manner. Thus, a light should be placed on Bonilla point opposite to Cape Flattery and distant 13 miles from it, and another on the Race Islands, a dangerous cluster of rocks at the S.E. point of Vancouver Island, and only 9 miles from the Harbour of Esquimalt, this latter is essentially and immediately necessary, as all vessels bound for either Esquimalt or Victoria, round these rocks at no great distance and strong and uncertain tides and races exist among them.
It would also be very desirable that a harbour light should be placed at the entrance of Esquimalt which would enable vessels to enter at night or pick up an anchorage in Royal roads, outside.
There are of course many other points on which it would be necessary to place lights in order to render the Haro and Rosario Straits, as well as the Gulf of Georgia navigable at night, and as commerce increases they will doubtless be considered, but those I have already mentioned are all that are requisite to the safe navigation of the Strait of Fuca, and to enable the seamen to reach by night or day the harbour of Esquimalt, and Victoria on Vancouver Island, and the numerous ports of the United States on the continent between new Dungeness and Admiralty Inlet.
Before quitting the Straits of Fuca it seems desirable to offer a few remarks on the anchorages on both its shores tho' there are none which strictly speaking can be considered as good harbours, available to a ship in distress.
On the Vancouver shore are 1stly Port San Juan, 13 miles Eastward of Bonilla point and an equal distance from Cape Flattery, this is a spacious bay with a very convenient depth of water well sheltered from all but S.W. winds, which would send a swell into it. I imagine however that ships with good ground tackle would ride out in safety almost any gale, and vessels of moderate size might even find shelter from these winds.
Between Port San Juan and Sooke Inlet a distance of 32 miles there is no sheltered anchorage. The Basin of Sooke tho' a magnificent anchorageManuscript image capable of holding a fleet and perfectly land locked is entered by a narrow and somewhat intricate channel scarcely adapted for sailing vessels. There is anchorage off its entrance, and a Stranger with the Chart could run sufficiently far in, to gain shelter from any wind. To a steamer there is no difficulty. Becher Bay is 4 miles Eastward of Sooke Inlet and if a vessel should be caught in a gale from the S.E. and not able to weather the Race Rocks she could gain good shelter by running into it and anchoring inside Frazer Island.
Having once rounded the Race Rocks however the harbour of Esquimalt only 9 miles distant can always be reached with any wind that would bring bad weather.
Parry Bay 4 miles Northward of the Race Rocks offers good anchorage to vessels bound out of the Straits and meeting with a strong Westerly wind.
On the South side of the Strait are several stopping places, Neah Bay 5 miles Eastward of Cape Flattery Light house offers good shelter with Westerly winds or with those from East or S.E.
Callum Bay 16 miles from the Eastward is also used as a stopping place for vessels wind-bound.
Port Angelos 14 miles from New Dungeness is sheltered from all winds, while new Dungeness itself offers secure, tho' rather deep anchorage to a vessel seeking shelter.
I will now offer a few observations on the harbour of Esquimalt, which from its position and capabilities would appear destined to become the emporium not only of Vancouver Island, but also in a great measure of the new Colony which has just been called into existence under the name of British Columbia. Though not a first class harbour in point of size it has ample room for 12 ships of the line, besides many smaller vessels, it affords good shelter, and the holding ground is good, it is easy of ingress and egress, the shores of its numerous bays and Creeks are well adapted for wharfage, with sufficient depth of water for merchant ships to lie alongside; there are good sites for docks, altho' from the small amount of rise and fall of tide, 10 to 11 feet, some excavation would be necessary, to which the nature of the bottom appears to offer no difficulty. Limestone is obtainable, and in common with all the harbours of Vancouver Island its shores are thickly timbered. It is not however [free] from the defect which is common to the Island generally, viz, the scarcity of natural springs of water in summer, but water can be always obtained by sinking wells to a sufficient depth, and there is an inexhaustible lake within a short distance of the Western side of the harbour, whose waters could be conducted to the sea side at a very trifling expense.
There is yet another cause which must add to the importance of Esquimalt, in a maratime point of view, which is, that it is at the extremity, as it were, of sailing navigation; altho' the Gulf of Georgia and the Channels leading into it, have been navigated by sailing vessels, yet the disadvantages are obvious and very great, and the loss of time incalculable; the general absence of steady winds among these Channels, the great strength and uncertainty of the tides, and the existence of many hidden dangers, could not fail to be productive of constant accidents, and in a commercial point of view such a class of vessels could never answer; the time I apprehend is passed also when Ships of war without steam power, would be likely to visit these waters.
Esquimalt is therefore well adapted as a port of entry, for sailing ships making the long sea voyage from England, or other distant Countries, and is equally well suited as the Depo[unknown_accent]t and starting point of a line of Steamers for the Frazer River, or other ports in British Columbia.
The harbour of Victoria 3 miles from Esquimalt, tho' it can never cope with the latter as a Naval Depôt, or as a Haven for large merchant ships, on account of its intricate and shallow entrance, is nevertheless far from being unimportant. Vessels of considerable draught can enter by attending to the tides, and when within there is ample space and depth for a large number of Ships; near the head of Victoria it is only separated from Esquimalt by a narrow neck of land thro' which it seems probable, at no distant time a canal will connect the two harbours.
Ten miles Eastward of Esquimalt, the Coast of Vancouver Island turns abruptly to the N.N.W. and here commences an Archipelago which extends Eastward to the Continent for 30 miles, and Northward for about the same distance; through this Archipelago there are three distinct ship Channels leading into the Gulf or Strait of Georgia. The question, through which of these Channels the boundary line is to be continued from the Gulf of Georgia to the Strait of Fuca, is at present pending between the British Government, and that of the United States of America.
The three channels in question are the Haro Strait, the Middle Channel and the Rosario Strait.
The Haro Strait lies between Vancouver Island and the principal Islands composing the Archipelago.
The Rosario Strait between the Continent and the same group.
And the Middle Channel, as its name imports, divides the group, taking an almost central direction through the whole.
I have already observed that these channels are essentially adapted to steam navigation, and I will add that so soon as the survey now in progress is completed and published (probably in the course of the next year,) they will be perfectly safe navigable channels for the largest class of ships, with adequate steam power.
The Rosario and Haro Straits, are probably on a par, as regards their capabilities and if lighted would be safely navigated by night. The Middle Channel is narrower and has a somewhat encumbered Southern entrance it would therefore probably not be chosen at night, tho' by day it is equally safe as the others and possesses some advantages from being more sheltered.
There are safe and good anchorages in each of these Straits; to describe them individually here would I presume be unnecessary, as they will all be minutely shewn on the Chart which is in course of completion, and which will doubtless be published so soonManuscript image as received at the Hydrographic Office.
I may however mention generally the capabilities of the principal of them.
In the Haro Strait, Cordova Bay on the Western or Vancouver shore, offers good anchorage.
On Stewart Island which helps to form, the Eastern side of the Strait there are snug and land locked harbours, easily accessible to Steamers, and among the Saturna group, the western boundary of the Strait where it enters the Gulf of Georgia, there is good shelter for a fleet, accessible either to Sailing vessels or Steamers.
In the Middle channel the principal anchorage is in Griffin Bay, San Juan Island, one mile within the Southern entrance, this is in all respects an eligible harbour, and I may add that the Island of San Juan is the only one of any considerable size which is valuable in an agricultural point of view, among the whole Archipelago.
There is another good harbour tho' somewhat small in the Middle Channel it is also on the Eastern side of San Juan, 4 miles Northward of Griffin Bay.
On Waldron Island there are two good anchorages.
In the Rosario Channel there are also several good anchorages, on the Eastern side almost at its entrance between Barrows and Fidalgo Islands, and on the Western side equally near the entrance, the Eastern shore of Lopez Island offers good shelter, further North, in the channels between Fidalgo and [Guemes Island Guemes?] Islands, in the prosecution of our survey we found convenient anchorage; and Strawberry Bay of Vancouver, on the West side of Cypress Island is an eligible place of Shelter.
The Island of Orcas the largest of the whole group, possesses two extensive sounds which may be entered by the largest Steamers with great facility both from Rosario and the Middle Channels, and either of them are capable of holding the largest fleets.
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Bellingham Bay on the Eastern shore of Rosario Channel is an extensive sheet of water, affording good anchorage, and where, the Americans, have more than one Town or City. Coal has been found and partially worked here.
On leaving the Archipelago by either of the Channels just mentioned, we enter the Gulf of Georgia which is here formed by the Continent of America on the East, and by a narrower Chain of Islands lying immediately off Vancouver Island on the West, and is about 12 miles in width.
On its Eastern shore 12 miles to the Northward is Semiahmoo or Boundary Bay, on the sea coast of which, the 49th parallel first, enters the waters of the Gulf and continuing West passes thro' the tongue of land known as the Point Roberts, of Vancouver,leaving something more than a mile and a half of this point, by the Oregon Treaty of 1846, in the possession of the United States. In that portion of Semiahmoo Bay which lies South of the parallel there is a small but good anchorage, known as Drayton harbour. In that portion which lies North of the parallel, and consequently belongs to Great Britain there is no harbour, but there is nevertheless good anchorage unless with strong southerly gales, and this anchorage is little over half a mile from Drayton harbour.
At Point Roberts in like manner both on its Eastern and Western faces, there is very fair anchorage on the American side of the parallel, while on the British side, there is no anchorage to the Eastward, and a very indifferent one to the Westward.
Seven miles Northward of Point Roberts is the entrance of Frazer river, the general direction of which is N.Ely. and Northerly and lying wholly in British Territory; it is navigable for large ships for more than 20 miles, or as high as the position of Fort Langley, from thence small flat steamers have been as high as Fort Hope, a further distance of about 50 miles.
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There seems no doubt from the natural capabilities of this river, that it is the most favourable spot that could be chosen as the future capital of British Columbia; my personal experience and knowledge of the country extends at present no farther than the entrance, which has been this year examined and surveyed by the Officers of the "Plumper," but from the concurrent testimony of those who are qualified to judge, and among these I would mention Dr Lyall the Naturalist & Surgeon of this Ship (at present engaged in the interior) the Country a few miles within the entrance is in all respects suitable as the site of a new Colony.
As regards the probability of superior Coal to that found on Vancouver Island being discovered on the Continent, I have not had an opportunity of judging, but doubtless Mr Bowerman [Bauerman] the Geologist of Major Hawkin'sexpedition could afford valuable information on that, and on many other points.
The facilities for entering the river however appear to me to bear more particularly on maratime and Commercial interests, and to come more immediately within my province to describe; on this point I am able to offer an opinion with some confidence.
An extensive bank or series of banks extend Westward from the mouth of the river for a distance of 5 miles, and then trends S. Eastwd until it nearly joins the Western side of Point Roberts, and Northward towards Point Grey which is the Southern entrance point of Burrard Inlet; thro' this bank the river by the strength of its own Stream has forced an almost straight passage in the Gulf of Georgia in a direction nearly S.S.W. In the shoalest part of this Channel there is 12 feet at low water, and from 18 to 20 feet at high, this shoal part extends but little over a mile and both inside and outside the depth of water is considerably greater. At the outer sand heads of the entrance the width of the passage is [blank] but this width contracts considerably within, and at the shortest part is not over [blank].
The South Sand Head uncovers at low water, the North does not,Manuscript image but with a fresh wind the sea breaks on it; when within the Sand heads there is good anchorage in 4 to 5 fathoms.
The greatest difficulty attendant on the navigation of Fraser river is to hit upon the entrance, which only shews itself at low water or when in consequence of gales the sea breaks on it.
It is true, there are natural leading marks which will point it out approximately in Clear weather, but these marks are so distant and so frequently obscured that they can rarely be depended upon, and even in clear weather would not always be recognized by a Stranger.
The measures I would propose to be adopted to render the navigation safe and easy, in the event of the river rising in Commercial importance are as follows.
A small vessel prepared for the purpose to carry a Signal by day and a light by night, should be moored with suitable anchors and chains near the South Sand head; on board her should be stationed a Pilot provided with a whale boat, and whose especial duty it should be, to keep the buoys in their positions and replace them if carried away by tide or floating timber.
I would not recommend any expensive system of buoying; a few buoys, perhaps 4 or 6 made from the trunks of trees, painted, and moored in the chain and ballast would answer all the purpose. The pilots services would not then be required to conduct vessels thro' the shoals unless by any accident the buoys were removed. There should also be one or more river pilots according to the demand for their services to conduct vessels after they have entered the river, as far as Fort Langley.
I should observe that after clearing the shoals there is sufficient water for vessels of any draught as high as Langley, 5, 7, and in some places 10 fathoms, and all that would be required would be a knowledge of the Channel, which never alters.
If the light vessel should be considered objectionable, then a suitable beacon should be erected on the South Sand Head to point outManuscript image its position, tho' I much doubt from the nature of the sand, whether such a beacon would remain for any length of time. A buoy would also be objectionable as a vessel must frequently be employed to examine the moorings, and it is liable to be carried away by floating trees.
Moreover one of the principal uses of the vessel would be as a dwelling for the Pilot who at the entrance of the river proper, would be 5 miles from his station, besides the land at the entrance is very low and swampy, for some considerable distance, and subject to be entirely overflowed at one season of the year.
In conclusion the Frazer has this great advantage over the generality of large rivers; instead of emptying itself into an exposed ocean as the Columbia does, where even a moderate breeze frequently raises a sea on the bar such as to cause Shipwreck, and great loss of life it debouches into a sheltered Strait, the neighbouring Coast of Vancouver distant only 12 miles forming a breakwater to all but N.W. winds, with which ships could run into Semiahmoo Bay and find secure anchorage. Altho' vessels have frequently grounded on the shoals of Frazer river, I believe that no case of Shipwreck or loss of life or property has resulted therefrom.
Immediately N. Westd of Frazer river commences that series of deep and remarkable Inlets, concerning which almost the only information we possess is derived from the hurried and partial exploration of VanCouver in the last century. It does not seem probable that any great extent of agricultural land is to be found among them, tho' doubtless, their mineral treasures only require developement.
It now remains to consider what may be termed the inner waters of Vancouver, which both to the Commercial and Agricultural Colonist will assuredly be second in importance to no other portion of the Island.
The eastern side of the Island then, from its S.E. point to the harbour of Nanaimo, a distance of about 70 miles, is enclosedManuscript image by a compact barrier of smaller Islands, completely shutting it in from the Gulf of Georgia except by two narrow channels to the Eastward, and one very narrow one leading into Nanaimo harbour; the only wide entrance into these waters being from the Southward, a divergence from the Haro Strait.
Within this space lie the fertile valleys of Saanitch and Cowitchin which as well as many of the smaller Islands appear well adapted for cultivation.
The Channels are admirably suited to steam navigation, or to sailing coasting vessels, for the tides except in the narrow passes which communicate with the Gulf of Georgia & Nanaimo are by no means strong.
The depth of water as a general rule is inconveniently great, but the result of the survey, so far as it has been carried out, proves that there are numerous good and convenient anchorages; doubtless many others will be found as the work progresses.
The harbour of Cowitchin and the Saanitch Inlet are among the most important of these inner waters, the former affords excellent anchorage, and a river of considerable extent runs into its head, which is navigable for boats, and may be adapted to mill power.
Saanitch Inlet runs in a Southerly direction for nearly 15 miles, its head reaching within 5 miles of the harbour of Esquimalt, neither of these localities have yet been thoroughly surveyed by us but, doubtless the Officers of the Hudson Bay Company are well acquainted with their capabilities.
Of Nanaimo which on account of its Coal mines, is already one of the most important harbours on the Island it seems necessary to offer a few remarks.
It is a well sheltered port, having a good entrance from the Gulf of Georgia, and another from the South by the inner waters before described; this latter is very narrow tho' with a good depth of water, and a very rapid tide runs thro' it, it is generally usedManuscript image by small steamers, and there is no reason why it may not be taken advantage of by vessels of any size, having sufficient steam power; when surveyed.
The saving of the distance from Esquimalt to Nanaimo by the Inner Channels is 20 miles, the whole distance being about 66 miles. By the Haro Strait and Gulf of Georgia it is about 86 miles. The harbour of Nanaimo tho' a good one, has some banks which should be buoyed to render it safe for a stranger to enter, (some temporary beams are already erected by the Hudson Bay Company). A good pier has lately been built, alongside of which vessels may lie and coal with great facility, as much as 150 tons has been taken by one vessel in a day, and several vessels together might take in the same quantity, several thousand tons are ready for shipping, and the miners easily keep that quantity on hand. As regards the quality of the coal, it more resembles the Newcastle than any other; and is but little inferior to the average of that description; it answers very well for steam purposes, but produces a dense smoke, and the tubes of the boilers require sweeping more frequently, than with any other Coal I am acquainted with. There are some good streams at and near Nanaimo well adapted to mill power, and there are other good harbours in the vicinity, close to coal beds, but which have not yet been surveyed.
Of the several inlets and sounds which indent the Western Coast of the Island, but little is yet known; since the time of Vancouver, they have been rarely visited except by sealers and small vessels who trade with the natives for oil and fish.
The knowledge which these men have gained I have rarely found them willing to communicate, they possibly make a good harvest, and are unwilling that their preserves should be more frequently disturbed.
Many years since, I visited Nootka Sound which probably may be taken as a type of the others; their general characteristic, deep and narrow channels, studded with Islands thickly timbered.Manuscript image Spars of large size procurable and probably those of a superior kind will be found at the head of these arms which in some instances reach midway to the Eastern Coast of the Island. It is more than probable that when the tide of emigration shall set in the direction of Vancouver Island these Inlets will become of great importance, particularly that of Nitinat or Barclay Sound on the S.W. Coast close to the entrance of Fuca Strait, and the head of whose waters have been reached in little more than a days Journey on foot, from the Coast a few miles North of Nanaimo harbour on the East Coast. Mr Horn a gentleman of the Hudson Bay Company who made this Journey, informs me that he crossed a very extensive lake, in the centre of the Island, and that much good and open land exists in its neighbourhood, entirely free from the dense forests which fringe the whole sea Coast of the Island.
It is also certain that valuable fisheries might be established in these deep sounds, and great quantities of good oil exported, and it is more than probable, nay almost certain that seams of Coal will be discovered.
Geo Henry Richards
Captain HMS Plumper
Vancouver Id Survey
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Lytton to Douglas, No. 61, 30 December 1858.
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Rough draft, Lytton to Douglas, No. 61, 30 December 1858.
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Merivale to Secretary to the Admiralty, 22 January 1859, forwarding copy of report from Captain Richards.
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Merivale to T.H. Farrer, Board of Trade, 22 January 1859, forwarding copy of report from Captain Richards.
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Carnarvon to Emigration Commissioners, 14 January 1859, forwarding extract of the despatch and revenue returns.
  1. Lytton to Douglas, No. 8, 14 August 1858, PABC. CO 410/1, p. 160.
  2. Richard Burn, Burn's Justice: An Abridgment of Burn's Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer. To Which is Added, an Appendix (Boston: printed by Joseph Greenleaf, 1773). Edition??
  3. = Proclamation 28 Dec 57 See footnote in 5180, Douglas to Labouchere, CO 305/9, p. 61; 2084, Douglas to Labouchere, No. 35, 29 December 1857, CO 305/8, p. 271.
  4. = HBC, revocation of license. The Hudson's Bay Company's exclusive rights to trade with Indigenous peoples were not legally terminated until 3 November, when Douglas first proclaimed the revokation of its license. Douglas must mean here that the company's exclusive trading rights had been terminated, in reality and practice, by the influx of miners to the mainland. A draft warrant for revoking the license (7814, CO 6 2?) was returned by the Law Advisors to the Colonial Office on 7 August 1858 and was duly signed by Queen Victoria on 2 September as the "Revocation of License of 30th May, 1838, to Hudson's Bay Company, for exclusive Trading with Indigenous peoples, in so far as the same embraces the Territories comprised in British Columbia." Douglas proclaimed the revocation on 3 November 1858 and again at Fort Langley on 19 November (see Douglas to Lytton 1050, CO 60/1) The revocation was published in the Victoria Gazette, 23 November 1858. Similarly on Vancouver Island, the company's exclusive rights were not effected by the charter of grant, 13 January 1849, by which the company became propietors of the island in return for undertaking to establish there a colony of British subjects. After a few sporadic attempts to assert its monopoly position, the H.B.C. in fact allowed private traders complete access to the natives of Vancouver Island.
  5. = mail. What form this initial postal service took is unknown. Prior to the establishment of a duly constituted government on the mainland, such postal services as existed there were conducted as part of its normal business operations by the Hudson's Bay Company. With the onset of the gold rush in 1858, American mail steamers began conveying the mail from San Francisco to Victoria gratuitously, after usually stopping first at Portland, Oregon, and at settlements on Pugets Sound. Outgoing letters were conveyed to San Francisco by the same steamers, providing they carried United States' postage stamps. The express companies that sprang up in Victoria then began relaying letters to miners and residents of the gold fields, charging as much as $2 US per letter. When Douglas made his first inspection tour of the in the spring of 1858, he was petitioned by miners to initiate a mail service. (See Douglas to Stanley 7832, CO 305/9, par. 15.) In reply to Douglas's request for instructions on these matters, Lytton (14 August) authorized him "to take such measures as you can for the transmission of letters and levying of postage." FIND ?? For further information, see Douglas to Lytton, 5 November 1858, 535, CO 60/1, p. 360; and A. Stanley Deaville, The Colonial Postal Systems of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, 1849-1871 (Victoria: Charles F. Banfield, 1928).
  6. = Australia. I.e., Victoria, Australia. The first major discovery of gold occurred in the Wellington district of New South Wales in May 1851. The colony of Victoria began as a result of subsequent discoveries in the vicinity of Port Phillip in 18??
  7. I.e., a full court or bench. A court sitting "en banc" is a court in which all judges sit as one.
People in this document

Bauerman, Hilary

Begbie, Matthew Baillie

Carnarvon, Earl

Douglas, James

Elliot, Thomas Frederick

Farrer, Thomas Henry

Hawkins, John Summerfield

Hicks, Richard


Jadis, Vane

Lyall, Doctor

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Merivale, Herman

Moody, Richard Clement

Pearkes, George

Richards, George Henry

Vancouver, George

Victoria, Alexandrina

Organizations in this document

Board of Trade

Colonial Office

Emigration Office

Hudson's Bay Company

Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty


War Office

Vessels in this document

HMS Plumper, 1848-1865

Places in this document

Admiralty Inlet

Barkley Sound

Becher Bay

Bellingham Bay

Bonilla Point

Boundary Bay

British Columbia

Burrard Inlet

Burrows Island

Cape Flattery

Clallam Bay

Columbia River

Cordova Bay

Cowichan Region

Cypress Island

Drayton Harbour

Dungeness Inlet


Esquimalt Harbour

Fidalgo Island

Fraser River

Frazer Island

Griffin Bay

Guemes Island

Haro Strait

Harrison River


Juan de Fuca Strait


Lopez Island


Nanaimo Harbour

Neah Bay

New South Wales


Nootka Sound

Nova Scotia

Orcas Island

Oregon Territory, or Columbia District

Parry Bay

Point Grey

Point Roberts

Port Angeles

Port San Juan


Puget Sound

Race Rocks

Rosario Strait

Russian Territory

Saanich Inlet

Saanich Peninsula

San Francisco

San Juan Island

Sand Heads

Saturna Island


Smith Island

Sooke Basin

Strait of Georgia

Strawberry Bay

Stuart Island

Tatoosh Island

The Rocky Mountains

Vancouver Island


Victoria, Australia

Waldron Island