No. 150
8 May 1859
1. The latest advices from British Columbia, report satisfactorily as to the peace and good order which reigns in the colony; the confidence of the people in its auriferous wealth, notwithstanding occasional fits of panic is unbounded; but there is a general outcry for better roads into the interior, the difficulty of access still forming the great impediment to the development of its mineral resourcesManuscript imageresources.
2. The cost of transport enhances the price of food, and of all other necessaries of life, from Lytton upwards; to an extent which absorbs nearly the whole of the miners earnings, large as they occasionally are. The production of food by the cultivation of the soil in the mining districts and the improvement of the Harrison river route into a waggon road, and otherwise opening the great commercial thoroughfares of the country, are measures of relief to which I have urgently directed the attention of the commissioner of Lands and Works.
3. The extensive plains on the "Pitt," "Sumas," and "Chilwhayook" Rivers, are to be hurriedly surveyed, and thrown into 80 acre sections for immediate occupation for the purpose of raising food andManuscript imageand retaining a permanent population in the country.
4. Sales of town land are soon to take place at Queensborough, Forts Yale, Hope and Port Douglas, which I trust will bring in a considerable amount of Revenue.
5. The Customs House Receipts for the last fortnight, amount to something over £773, Sterling, and will rapidly increase with the growth and expansion of the country.
6. The Mining Districts yield hardly Revenue enough to pay their own police expenses, in consequence of the difficulty of collecting the License Fee on Miners, who will pay no tax except through the force of compulsion.
7. We must, I think, adopt someManuscript imagesome other system of taxation pressing less directly upon the individual miner. The Miners right, and the export duty on gold; features of the Australian system, recommend themselves from the ease and simplicity of their collection, and having already the machinery and staff required for that purpose. The state of the country is however hardly ripe as yet, for the imposition of an export duty on gold, but the day is probably not far distant when the gold will be exchanged in the Country and exported in large quantities by Banking and Commercial Houses, when the difficulty of collecting the duty will cease.
8. Many reasons induce me to try another plan which under firm management would IManuscript imageI think work well. By remodelling the whole system of mining regulations in British Columbia and instead of levying mining fees which would, in that case, be abolished, I would propose to treat the gold fields simply as crown land, and letting it out in large or small allotments, on leases, at a fixed rent, to any persons disposed to work the soil. The revenue would thus be derived from a land rent, and not be levied under the name of an obnoxious tax, and tenants would be ejected at will on their failure to pay the stipulated rent.
I will have more I hope to communicate on those subjects by the next mail.
9. Captain Richards is now engagedManuscript imageengaged in Her Majesty's Surveying Ship "Plumper", in making a survey of the lower part of Fraser's River, and Lieut Mayne has been detached to make a reconnaisance of the river to the Fountain, with instructions to return by Harrison River for the same purpose, I anticipate much valuable information from the report of that officer, which I will forward to you when received.
The numbers of the Victoria Gazette mentioned in the margin
7 Numbers, April 26 to 10th May.
are herewith forwarded.
I have etc.
James Douglas
P.S. The largest nugget of Gold yet found in British Columbia arrivedManuscript imagearrived at Victoria a few days since. It weighs 7 oz., 13 pwt., 7 gr, and was found near the Head waters of Thompson's River, and as it is a fine specimen, I forward it herewith for the inspection of Her Majesty's Government. James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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[Minutes have all been crossed out:]
Mr Merivale
Though he does not confess it, I shd judge from this Despatch that the Govr finds himself at fault for the last mode of raising revenue. You remember that this Office has supplied him with every information as to the steps taken in the Australian gold Colonies for obtaining a revenue, and that it has been left entirely to his discretion to decide as to the course whh he prefers adopting in B. Columbia. I do not know that we can improve on that plan. We shall shortly hear from the T-y their further opinion as to a Mint & an Assay Office. If the T-y is favorable thereto we may find a way of taxing the gold, which shall be profitable to the Colony, & not objected to by the inhabitants. This wd be a vast addition to the Governor's resources. Under these circes, I think we can afford to wait the Governor's further views on his project (I fear a questionable one) of getting rent out of the Crown Lands.
If the preceding ideas are concurred in this despatch might be "put by" for a short time.
ABd 27 June
It might perhaps be sent to the Treasury as furnishing additional argument in favour of the "assay" experiment.
CF 27
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to G.A. Hamilton, Treasury, 9 July 1859, forwarding copy of the despatch for consideration.