No. 234
16 November 1859
My Lord Duke,
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Despatch No 13 of August 1859 upon the subject of the Postal communication with the Colonies of British Columbia andManuscript imageand Vancouver's Island.
2. I regret to learn from this Despatch that Her Majesty's Government have decided that the advantages which would be derived by these Colonies in the establishment of a direct Mail Service between San Francisco and British Columbia would not prove equivalent to the large amount of subsidy required for carrying out the undertaking—and that the same reason has precluded the Government from entertaining the proposal for a direct route via Canada andManuscript imageand Hudson's Bay Company's Territory.
3. I observe that hereafter the correspondence for these Colonies will be transmitted in closed Mails to Her Majesty's Consul at San Francisco who is to forward them by the first opportunity to their destination, and further that your Grace instructs me to endeavour to secure the improvements in the existing Mail Service which I pointed out as desirable in my Despatch of 5th November 1858.
4. Those improvements pointed chieflyManuscript imagechiefly to the establishment of a direct line between this and San Francisco, and I understand your Grace's present instructions as requiring me to ascertain whether such improvements can be obtained under existing circumstances by combination with present arrangements.
5. Heretofore the United States Mail Steamers were under the obligation of conveying the letters for Vancouver's Island and British Columbia, if properly directed, to Puget Sound; and before those steamersManuscript imagebefore those steamers touched at Victoria, we received the Mail from Puget Sound by any chance opportunity that offered. Since however the gold discoveries in British Columbia the United States Mail Steamers have found it to their advantage to call regularly at Victoria, and, through the civility of the Post Office authorities in San Francisco, a separate Mail Bag for Victoria has always been made up and forwarded. The same will probably continue to be the case under the arrangement of sending the closed Bags to the Consul atManuscript imageat San Francisco, except that the conveyance of the Mail to these waters will then become a matter of favor; but I scarcely anticipate any delay, for both the Post Office Authorities, and the Officers of the Mail Steamers, are invariably most accommodating and attentive.
6. But under this system your Grace will at once perceive how entirely dependent we are upon United States resources, and subject to the courtesy of United States Officials for the receipt of our Mails, and that itManuscript imageit is in their power, at any moment, entirely to stop the communication. Another serious inconvenience also attaches to the present system, and that is the almost utter impracticability of replying to correspondence by the same Mail; for the steamer arrives at uncertain periods, and generally does not remain more than two hours, so that it frequently happens that the Mail is actually not delivered until after she has left the Port.
7. For some months past, until veryManuscript imagevery recently, a British Screw Steam Vessel, the "Forward," was put upon the line between Victoria and San Francisco, and her owners were very desirous of obtaining the Mail Contract—for with that prestige and certainty there would have been ample inducement for her continuance. Application was made to me on the subject, but I could only mention the arrangement Her Majesty's Government purposed making in England. The "Forward" has I regretManuscript imagehas I regret to say recently been withdrawn, not being able to compete with the monopoly of the Pacific Mail Steam Ship Company. I learn however she is still at San Francisco unemployed, and I am inclined to think that but a trifling inducement would bring her upon the line again, which is much to be desired for many reasons. I have therefore—carrying out what I believe to be the desire of your Grace—requested the Agents of the "Forward" to make me an offer of the rate at which theyManuscript imagethey would undertake to perform the Mail Service between this place and San Francisco, and so soon as a reply is received
This has not been received.
EBP 30-5/61
I will forward it for the consideration of your Grace.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
Copy to Treasury. I have not heard of any complaints of late on the score of postal communications with B. Columbia, & think that the existing arrangements may answer very well for some time to come. Besides a subsidy to any Packet Co or person is just now out of the Manuscript imagequestion.
ABd 30 Jany
I agree but probably we shall hear in another mail or two the result of the Governor's communications with the "Forward."
HM Jan 31
CF Feb 1
N 3
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft, Merivale to G.A. Hamilton, Treasury, 16 February 1860, forwarding copy of the despatch for consideration.
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 16 November 1859, CO 60:5, no. 879, 236. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/B59234.html.

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