No. 135, Financial
11 April 1859
In continuation of the remarks on the expediency of establishing an Assay Office in this Colony, which I was unable to continue in my Despatch No 127 of the 8th of Instant, in consequence of the reported arrival of the Mail Steamer from San Francisco, which remains hereManuscript imagehere, at each visit, only a few hours.
2. I have further to remark that we have attempted to induce the owners (not Americans) of private Assay Offices in San Francisco to establish branches of their Houses at Victoria, but without success. The objections made by them were to this effect.
That Her Majesty's Government would at no distant date, probably establish a Mint at Victoria, and their business would therefore then cease.
That being foreigners they could not expect the same privileges asManuscript imageas are granted to English Houses taking up the Assaying business.
Their chief reason however was this, that they had already the whole assaying business of British Columbia in their hands, as nearly all the gold produce of the Colony is now carried to San Francisco, and they had therefore nothing to gain by extending their business to Victoria, or to compensate for the certain outlay of capital which the process would involve.
3. I do not know what steps can be taken by Her Majesty's Government, to deliver theManuscript imagethe Colony from so great an evil as is the present drain of its resources towards San Francisco, and the loss and delay to which miners are exposed in selling gold here, but I clearly see the advantage of a direct trade between the Mother Country and British Columbia, and I am of opinion that the establishment of an Assay Office in Victoria would be an important step in advance.
4. Having an Assay Office here, the Miner would only have to take his gold there, have it assayed, and receive value for it, or if he preferred it, have it run into bars, at a very trifling expense, and then he could dispose of his Bars, which would bear theManuscript imagethe fineness and weight upon them by Mint marks, just as readily as he could of coin, or he could convert them into coin; in fact Bars would be currency.
5. An Assay Office must however be the property either of the Government, to give it the stamp of character unsuspected, or it must be owned by a private party possessed of capital, in high credit, good mercantile reputation for probity, and well known to the mining community. This last quality above all is requisite.
6. As no private person onManuscript imageon the Pacific coast, who could fulfil the chief conditions, which I consider indispensable to success—namely public confidence—is disposed to come here, the only prudent and efficient plan is to establish a Government Assay Office. It should be on a large scale for there will be abundance of work.
Which Capn Gossett might easily do.
7. The expense would be small, involving little more than the erection of a House, a fire brick Furnace, a few crucibles which could, no doubt, be made here, a good Assayer and a few assistants. TheManuscript imageThe processs is simple to a degree, and the whole expense of the plant of an assay Office would not exceed £600. Its operation, judging from the experience of the San Francisco private Assayers, who have all become wealthy, would leave a profit. I therefore believe that a well managed Government Assay Office would, at least, pay its own expenses.
8. Its advantages to the Colony would be incalculable. Keeping the gold circulating in the country—the status it would give the place—the confidence it would inspire abroad—the benefits to the Miners, the contentmentManuscript imagecontentment it would diffuse amongst them, by the certainty and fairness and celerity of its operations, and its security, are amongst the advantages of such an establishment.
9. A Mint would certainly be more efficient, but that is an expensive establishment, though if Her Majesty's Government were to set one up, I think the circumstances of the country would justify the outlay. It would also require time to complete and perfect its details; but the establishment of an Assay Office involves little delay, and a very moderate expense, therefore IManuscript imageI beg to recommend the plan to the favourable consideration of Her Majesty's Government.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
See minute on 5331/59.
ABd 1 June
HM June 1
This desp. sd go with the other on the same subject to the Treasury as proposed by Mr Blackwoood. At once.
C June 6