No. 63
30 December 1858
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Despatch, marked Confidential, of the 14th of October last; 1 in which you have been pleased to favor me with the impressions derivedfromManuscript image from the perusal of the Regulations framed for the management of the Gold Fields in British Columbia, and it is not without reason that I now express the deepest sense of obligation for the searching investigation which you have given to that subject.
2. I was sensible from the outset, of the arduous nature of the task of framing regulations so perfectly adapted for a comparatively unknowncountryManuscript image country, as to be unobjectionable, especially for a country situated as is British Columbia, in the close vicinity of a powerful state whose inhabitants would for a time at least form the great bulk of the population.
3. It was to establish a legal control over the adventurers who were rushing, from all sides, into the country, to anticipate their ownattemptsManuscript image attempts at legislation and to accustom them to the restraints of lawful authority, that I prepared and issued the gold regulations. I am therefore not wedded to the established system, as I hardly ventured to hope, that it would be found in all respects so well adapted to the people and the country, as to form the permanent mining code of British Columbia.
4. No seriousobjectionManuscript image objection has been offered by the miners to that section of the Law, which regulates the size of mining claims, but there has been, and I fear always will exist a strong dislike to the payment of a monthly licence fee, and the enforcement of that system might ultimately lead as it did in Australia to fatal interruptions, of the public Peace.
5. There are several other objections to the monthly licence fee, considered as a source of revenue, such astheManuscript image the cost of collection, its equal pressure upon the prosperous and unsuccessful Miner, and its frequent evasion—objections which apply with peculiar force to the extensive and hardly accessible Gold Districts of British Columbia.
6. I shall not fail to consider with care your suggestions, and to revise the Law as it respects the extraction of Gold by means of machinery from Quartz rocks and other classes ofminingManuscript image mining requiring the large investment of capital.
7. My attention was in fact closely devoted to a revision of the Gold regulations, when your Despatch on the subject was received.
The expediency of abolishing the monthly licence Fee, in consequence of its obnoxious features, and of introducing the system which has been found to work with such happy effects in Victoria, was an ideanaturallyManuscript image naturally suggested by the consideration of the subject and we should not have hesitated in adopting that system with perhaps some modification in details, but for the difficulty of dealing with the export duty on gold, which has proved so prolific a source of revenue in Victoria as more than to compensate for the surrender of the monthly licence fees.
8. The imposition of a duty at present ontheManuscript image the export of Gold in British Columbia, would it is feared be comparatively unproductive of revenue, besides having the effect of diverting the course of trade, which it has been the hitherto successful object of all our legislation to retain within our own possessions, to Samiamoo 2 and other American frontier Towns. The miners returning with their gains to California,wouldManuscript image would naturally seek to evade the payment of the duty, cross over the frontier, and take the road to those places; instead of coming direct to Victoria which is now enriched by their visits.
9. We have as yet found no solution of this difficulty, but I am of opinion that it will nevertheless be advisable at once to abolish the monthly licence fees, and to replace them by an annualpaymentManuscript image payment—probably exceeding the payment annually levied on miners in the Colony of Victoria. 3
10. It may also be advisable to adopt the other features of the Victorian system—a subject which will have my early and anxious consideration, with the aid and advice of my executive Council, which will be composed of Lieutenant Governor Moody and the other officers who have lately arrived fromEnglandManuscript image England 4
11. It will be our study to frame such regulations as will give satisfaction to the people at large, and to create a public revenue, with the smallest possible amount of pressure on the trade and resources of the Country.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
Lord Carnarvon has given much of his attention to this subject. See the draft which he wrote on the 14 Oct. 5
ABd 28 Feby
Lord Carnarvon
I am afraid the subject presents only a choice of difficulties. I should have hoped thatManuscript image the export duty would have been comparatively easy of collection, owing to the very difficult character of the exits & entrances of the Colony except at Fort Langley. But the Governor must know best.
HM Mh 2
This desp. shows how easy it is to theorise in England & how difficult it is sometimes to give effect to those theories in a new Colony. I hardly understand how the Govr can make a yearly license fee a sufficient substitute for the monthly one, wh he admits to be generally objectionable; but I do not think that we are in a position to give instructions or even definite advice on the subject. The export duty may under present circumstances be useless or mischievous but whenever a bank is established at Victoria, a certain revenue might, I sd think, be obtained by undertaking theManuscript image conveyance & the escort of the gold to the Coast; and then perhaps some moderate export duty wd be practicable.
C Mh 3
I see no reason to alter my former opinions & believe the Export Duty will prove lucrative. Print for Parlt.
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Lytton to Douglas, No. 9, 28 January 1859.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
C. Brew, Chief Inspector of Police, to Douglas, 11 November 1858, concerning journey, salary and plans for police force.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
This copy of Mr Brew's letter has been enclosed—owing to the pressure of time—in a private letter from Govr Douglas. 6 It can now be registered & minuted.
C Jany 15
Mr Merivale
The request of Mr Brew to be relieved from the payment of a portion of the amount advanced to him has been so far anticipated that by a Despatch dated the 11 Novr 7 Govr Douglas was informed that the £100 advanced by the Nova Scotia Govt could be repaid by this Country. He likewise received an advance of £150 before his departure on account of salary.
VJ 17 Jan
HM Jan 17
  1. = Lytton to Douglas, 14 October 1858, CO 398/1, p. 107, Conf.
  2. = wrong reference?? Samiamoo (Semiahmoo) was located on Semiahmoo Bay, just south of the 49th parallel. Gazette, 13 August 1858.
  3. = abolish monthly licenses The initial license fee in Victoria, Australia, was £1 per month, which was replaced, first, by an annual fee of £1, plus a £10 per acre on alluvial soil, and third by an export tax of 2 shillings 6 pence per ounce of gold. See Lytton to Douglas, 14 October 1858, CO 398/1, p. 107.
  4. = Executive Council An Executive Council was not formally authorized until 1863. Douglas began shortly to meet with Moody and Begbie, encouraged to do so, no doubt, by Lytton's suggestion that he form such a "council of advice" to assist him in his duties. (Lytton to Douglas, 31 July 1858, CO 410/1, p. 147.) He provisionally appointed Moody and Begbie to the "Council" of British Columbia on 1 March 1859, but it is unlikely that this body ever formally met. For further information, see James E. Hendrickson, Introduction, Journals of the Colonial Legislatures of the Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, 1851-1871, 5 vols. (Victoria: Provincial Archives of British Columbia, 1980), pp. xl-xli.
  5. = Carnarvon draft; see footnote in Douglas to Lytton, 30 August 1858, 10344, CO 60/1, p. 134, Conf.
  6. = to CO Only Brew's enclosure was apparently registered, not Douglas's letter. FIND ??
  7. = £100 compensation for Brew. See Lytton to Douglas, 11 November 1858, CO 398/1, p. 143.
People in this document

Begbie, Matthew Baillie

Blackwood, Arthur Johnstone

Brew, Chartres

Carnarvon, Earl

Douglas, James

Jadis, Vane

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Merivale, Herman

Moody, Richard Clement

Places in this document

British Columbia


Nova Scotia


Vancouver Island


Victoria, Australia