Nias to Stanley

To the Most Noble
The Earl of Derby, 3rd July, 1858.
My Lord:
I take the liberty of forwarding to you the enclosed Petition, and respectfully request you to present it to Her Majesty, for whom I entertain feelings of profound respect.
I am My Lord
Your most obedt Servant
G.E. Nias.
My Lord:
I should like briefly to state to your Lordship my reasons for presenting the enclosed petition, as I should wish to enlist your advocacy of a course, which founded on justice and right, would materially advance the best interests of a most important new settlement,—if neglected, will seriously retard its prosperity and early development.
My eight years residence in California has given me ample opportunity of judging of the bad effects provided by the absence of such a regulation, and in San Francisco it was for 5 or 6 years and is still to some Manuscript imageextent, one of the greatest evidences of American mis-rule; I allude to the selling "Town lots," in new settlements, without requiring the purchasers to substantially improve the same within a limited period, or forfeit their purchase money.
I believe the bad effects of the absence of this regulation have been felt in other colonies, and I am under the impression that there is some general law requiring town lots, on government land, to be improved. I will not occupy your Lordships time with arguments to prove the good policy and justice of such a law, you are doubtless fully acquainted with them. In the present instance its absence will be particularly injurious, as from its proximity to American settlements, numbers of American "Land Speculators" have gone down, with the sole purpose of buying all the land in and about the town of Victoria, they can lay their hands on, merely for the purpose of holding & reselling, at an enormous advance. The American "Land Grabber," seldom improves land in his own country, and only folly would suppose he would do so on British soil, for indeed only those who have lived some years among them can tell the jealousy and hatred the great bulk of Americans bear towards Britain and all pertaining to her.
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(Do not let the foregoing lead you to suppose that I am prejudiced against Americans;—it is only the result of experience. I have made it a point to cultivate the acquaintance of and associate mostly with Americans, and as to outward appearance and speech am an American. And could if your Lordship desired furnish you some very strong arguments against the Bal[l]ot and universal sufferage. I was a strong Radical when I left England. I am anything but a radical now, and shall return to see Victoria under the British flag at the earliest opportunity, with great pleasure.)
I see by the papers that His Excellency Governor Douglas has some doubts of the policy of allowing the law to be monopolized as it was—for he had closed the "Land Office" & given notice that no person could purchase more than six lots. But this is absurd as the lots might appear in the names of twenty persons, and yet belong wholly to one. "Substantial Improvements" in a limited time, is the only remedy.
I enclose some cuttings, in preference to sending you a whole paper to wade through and remain your Lordships
Very obedient Servant
GE Nias
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr. Merivale.
It would be desirable, I think, to send copies of these Letters to Governor Douglas, and Caution him on this subject. It is only reasonable that purchasers of Town lots should improve within a stipulated period.
I think copy of this should be forwarded to Gov. Douglas by next mail as a caution, though strictly speaking the land is the Company's, not the Crown's: & also to the HBC. What Mr Nias says is in the abstract perfectly right: land jobbing is the curse and canker of new colonies: no land should be sold, not only in town lots but in country lots, except to men bound to improve them. But where Mr Nias is wrong, in common with all inexperienced reasoners on this subject, is in his belief of the efficacy of "regulations" to check the evil. No one will believe—till they have seen it proved—that "regulations" to check land jobbing are not worth the paper they are written on. Only one speculative writer ever had a clear perception of this. E.G. Wakefield, who was eminently also a practical man. He, therefore, preached the doctrine that all land should be sold at so high a price (fixed upset) as will render it rarely worth the "land jobbers" while to buy: and the proceeds spent in helping the bona fide purchaser to labour. All favourers of cheap and easy schemes, meant to look well rather than to work, have abused him ever since. But the proof of his sound views is in the steady thriving of the only colony in which they were ever thoroughly adopted—South Australia. However, fortunately or unfortunately, we cannot try his scheme in North America, with the States, the land of cheap sales & land jobbing, close by.
Manuscript image So far, however, I should be inclined to differ from Mr Nias, that I do not see much mischief in the public from land jobbing in town lots, beyond the lots of revenue, which is of course provoking. But land jobbing in country land kills improvement.
HM Augt 12
Send this & see my Minute as to Land jobbing. I expect & fear that so strong a case next Session may be made out against Douglas as to cost him his Governorship. It would be kindness to give him every warning.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Petition of George E. Nias, San Francisco, 3 July 1858, praying measures be taken to require all purchasers of lots in Victoria to improve them within a reasonable time.
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Clipping, San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin, 23 June 1858, on land speculations in Victoria.