Victoria Vancouver's Island
10 February 1859
I received last evening your private Despatch of the 16th December, 1858, in reply to mine of the 4th October, upon the subject of my accepting the office of Governor of British Columbia, under certain specified conditions.
The perusal of your Despatch has caused me much sincere pleasure from the kind and gratifying manner, in which you the Chief Minister of the Crown, for the Colonial Department, are pleased to express your opinion of my humble services in endeavouring to maintain, with slender means, the honor and dignity of Her Majesty's Government in this country; at the same time I will not conceal from you that it has given rise to deep and anxious thought because I fear being guilty of an injustice to my family if I abandon a certain competence for the slender salary, which you represent you will alone be able, at the present moment to accord to me.
Believe me sir that I deeply appreciate the frank and courteousManuscript imagecourteous manner in which you have done me the honor to address me, and I assure you most earnestly that in appealing to you upon the matter of salary I do so from no sordid motive, but solely in order that I may support the dignity of my office in a manner becoming the country which I represent, without despoiling my family by making inroads on my private means, to sustain the credit of my office, and of my government. Indeed I feel confident that such a course could neither be contemplated nor desired by Her Majesty's Government, for it would, in fact, be placing me in the position of holding office, under the sufferance of contributing a certain yearly sum to its due support.
I am induced by the kind manner in which you have now addressed me, to place the entire case of my circumstances and position before you, with the hope that you will bestow consideration upon it from my point of view as well as from that in which it presents itself to you.
It will be admitted that men filling high public stations are expected to maintain a style of living suitable to their rank and positionManuscript imageposition, and moreover that their influence as public men is increased and extended in all countries, by a decorous attention to external appearances. That observation applies with peculiar force to a country like this where gold is the pervading subject of every ones calculations and of every ones thoughts, and where money is so plentiful and prices so high, that no European standard can be applied with either force or reason.
Such being the case you will I am sure Sir admit that as Governor of a Colony which now claims so much attention and subject to all those influences, I cannot restrict my expenses as I may desire. I cannot retire into seclusion, I must as I do now strive to maintain the high position I am entrusted with in a creditable and befitting manner. To do this upon the salary offered to me I draw largely and frequently upon my private resources. I am willing to make any personal sacrifice; but when with this is involved the impoverishment of those dependant upon me for support, the question becomes so serious that it must be treated wholly by itself, and without reference to other considerationsManuscript imageconsiderations, and it therefore now much perplexes and distresses me. I must indeed frankly state that I have in consequence of that feeling assumed the position of Governor of British Columbia with reluctance upon the conditions required of me while the salary, proposed is so wholly inadequate to defray my probable nay certain expenses.
I observe the prospect you hold out of a large increase being accorded, provided the revenues of the Colony will justify it. I feel confident in my own mind that those revenues will justify it; but at present it is rendering me dependent upon a contingency, and not upon a certainty, and you will pardon me Sir, if I candidly express my opinion, that this is hardly just to me, after requiring that I should abandon a more lucrative income, and at the same time, relinquish a most desirable investment for my capital.
I now unreservedly place before you in as summary a manner as possible, an exact synopsis of my case.
On the one hand, my connection with the Hudson's Bay Company, as its principal Officer, in this part of the world affords me, including a free House, servants, tableManuscript imagetable expenses etc, the full equivalent of a salary of £2000 per annum, and an amount of interest for my invested capital which I can obtain no where else, with the same security.
I have toiled for many years; and now, continuing my interest in the Company, I am able if I wish, to retire into private life, and to pass the remainder of my days in peace upon an income in every way sufficent to my wants.
On the other hand I am required wholly to relinquish all these advantages, and I am offered in return the Governorship of a Colony just emerged into the world, requiring in this its earliest infancy the exertion of every faculty for the proper administration of its affairs, and consequently, entailing a life of unceasing toil and anxiety, and I am to struggle to maintain my own dignity, the credit of my office and the character of my country upon a salary which is scarce sufficient to enable me to continue to support myself and family in even the modest manner to which we have been accustomed.
I am sure Sir, you cannot fail to be forcibly struck with the glaring contrast of these two positions, and they cannot I must confidently submit be regarded as justManuscript imagejust to myself. I emphatically repeat I desire no accruing advantages. I simply desire to be secured from loss.
I deeply esteem the honor that has been done me, I deeply feel your own valuable personal estimation of my sevices, and I appreciate to the full the proud and high distinction of being selected to administer the Government of a Colony where more than usual prudence is required, and more than usual exertion demanded to successfully prosecute the conduct of affairs; and I am you may rest well assured, Sir, in no way ignorant that such distinction is far removed from any pecuniary valuation, and I trust you will not, for one moment, misunderstand the object of this appeal to you, but will believe that the weighty reasons I have given do alone induce me to make it.
I leave my case with confidence in your hands, I trust in all that I have said you will not find anything to lead you to imagine that I am attempting to make terms. Nothing can be further from my intentions. I have merely endeavoured to represent as clearly as possible how inadequate the salary offeredManuscript imageoffered me is to the position in which I am placed. That I must have the means of subsistence, and that the emoluments of my office ought to furnish them, cannot be controverted; and therefore if, after the representation I have made, you still regard yourself as not in position to ask from Parliament a larger salary, and pardon me if I venture the opinion that the consideration of what I relinquish, would most justly warrant such an application, I trust you will authorize some compensation, either as table allowance or otherwise, to be made until the prospective enlargement of the actual salary may be accomplished, and so that my private fortune may not be compelled to suffer for no advantage of my own.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Governor Douglas places his case very well and very strongly before this Office—which can scarcely expect him to undertake most grave duties and responsibilities for less remuneration than he received whilst in service of the H.B.Co. The records do not enable us to say why Sir Edwd Lytton fixed upon £1800 per ann: for the Governor's salary in a place where one man servant costs £200 per ann:, mutton 15d per lb, milk 8s/ a gallon—eggs 6s/ a doz:, whilst a brawny miner earns from 25s/ to £l0 a day for rocking a Cradle—literally a golden one. It has always been my opinion that it is an error of policy to underpay officials anywhere, and especially in B. Columbia; for, as the Americans only take office for the purpose of speculation, it will be difficult to persuade the American population in that Colony that our officers are not similarly corrupt, when publicity is given to the low salary (£800) of the Judge, for instance. Our officers should be above suspicion, and not retire from office, like every Californian Governor, a rich man. I fear, however, that if an increase be sanctioned in Douglas' salary, whether as Table allowance, or in any other shape we shall be inundated with applications from every public officer Manuscript imagewho has been sent to the Colony. Perhaps the ansr to them is that they need not have taken the situations if they were dissatisfied with the incomes attached to those places. But I doubt that ansr being quite a satisfactory one; inasmuch as we demand the most effective services from these men whilst we remunerate them disproportionately. Taking Governor Douglas' case, with that of other public Officers, I incline myself to the opinion that we should at present stand firm to the salaries assigned to him, & to the others; but that we should unhesitatingly avow that all their salaries are too low, and that they shall be Manuscript imageraised as soon as the Colonial revenue will admit of it—and that the Governor, & all the officials shall receive an addition to their income of 10 or 20 per cent—chargeable from the date of their arrival in the Colony (the Governor's commencing on apptment) whenever the means of the Colony will enable the Governor to make the payment. You may say that the Authorities will by this plan think of themselves in preference to other, and possibly, urgent wants. I don't deny the force of such a remark. But what then is to be Manuscript imagedone? A statement has, within the last fortnight, been laid before Parlt & published, of the scale of salaries for the Officers in B. Columbia. Can you so soon confess yr mistake that those Salaries were fixed too low, by now augmenting them? And would Sir Edward approve of any proposition to the Treasury, & ultimately to Parlt to that effect? My impression is that he would disapprove. But how then are you to do justice to men who are underpaid, & whose dissatisfaction, though at present confined to private Letters, will, before long, assume the shape of formal remonstrances? I see no other ansr to such an enquiry than by promises, as above suggested, that Manuscript imagethey shall have additions to their salaries of 10, 15, or 20 per cent, as may be thought proper, chargeable from their arrival in the Colony, as soon as the local resources will justify it. To enable the S. of State to determine when that time has come the Governor must send him half yearly accounts of the Revenue & Expenditure of the Colony. He has a Treasurer. Let us have some results as to figures.
ABd 16 April /59
I have considered very carefully this question & am much obliged to Mr Blackwood for his very full minute on it. I entirely agree with him both as to the difficulties of assenting to and of depriving Govr Douglas' request.
As a matter of fact the salary is far below what it should be; and unless Manuscript imagesome mode of augmenting it is possible it is certain that he (or any other Govr) will find means of indemnifying himself for the loss of income in a way which will prove far more prejudicial to Public interest than wd be the mere increase of payment.
On the other hand we must be consistent to the principle wh Sir E. Lytton has laid down that recourse is not to be had to Imperial funds for such objects.
The only course wh is therefore open is to write to the Govr, acknowledging that the Salary is too low, restating Sir E. Lytton's views as to the sources whence Colonial charges are to be defrayed; but adding that he will be willing to allow him to appropriate £1200 out of the Colonial Revenue of the current year, provided that that Revenue amounts in the Manuscript imageaggregate to not less than £50,000.
I have spoken to Mr Blackwood on this subject & perhaps he will be good enough to see to the drafting of this desp.
C Apl 22
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Carnarvon (in the absence of Lytton) to Douglas, No. 70, 23 May 1859.