No. 239
22 December 1859
My Lord Duke
I have the honor of transmitting herewith the Copy of a Proclamation providing for the establishment of Courts in British Columbia, to enable suitors to recover debts not exceeding in value the sum of Fifty Pounds Sterling (£50), by a cheapManuscript image cheap and speedy method.
The practice of the Supreme Court was found to be too slow and expensive to meet the exigencies of suitors in the recovery of small debts, which were not infrequently abandoned, in preference to incurring the expense of seeking redress at that Tribunal.
2. Many abuses had grown out of that state of things, together with a general want of confidence, and an almost entire stoppage of credit transactions, to the great injury of the mining population, who require advances to enable them to carry on their operations.
3. The evil was not felt under the form of Government established previously to the Proclamation declaring English Law in force in the Colony of BritishManuscript imageBritish Columbia, which issued on the 19th day of November 1858, as Justices of the Peace were before that event necessarily invested with very extensive powers, which they exercised to the satisfaction of the public, who overlooked occasional deviations from the strict letter of the law, in the security enjoyed, and the amount of public good achieved.
4. There is a general feeling in the Colony in favor of the reestablishment of that system, which would, however, be inconsistent with English Law, and the Attorney General has framed the Act, now herewith transmitted to accomplish the desired object of facilitating the recovery of small debts, by a process, rapid, and yet not expensive to suitors.
5. The Manuscript image
5. The additional expense in the Colony will be inconsiderable as the whole business of the new Courts is to be conducted by the present stipendiary Magistrates, with the single addition of Mr Elliot, an English barrister, whose salary of £200 a Year will be paid from fees.
6. The "Joint Stock Companies Act" has also in view the encouragement of mercantile enterprises, and the formation of Joint Stock Companies, by restricting the liability of shareholders to the amount of their investments in those concerns, and relieving them from further responsibility.
7. Those Acts are both much needed, and will be of great advantage to the Colony.
8. The Reports of the AttorneyManuscript imageAttorney General fully explaining the character of the Acts, are also herewith transmitted for your information.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
Register the Proclamation & refer it to Sir F. Rogers.
ABd 14/2
At once.
HM F 15
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to G.A. Hamilton, Treasury, 9 March 1860, forwarding copy of the despatch and enclosures for consideration.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Blackwood
Sir F. Rogers Report 1950 does not suggest this reference, but I suppose it shd be made? The Report appears to have escaped notice, tho' the one referred to (1950) is minuted.
Mr Merivale
It is the custom to refer Laws relating to revenue to the T-y, & I conclude we should follow it in this case.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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George Hunter Cary, Attorney General, to Douglas, 9 December 1859, forwarding copy of the proclamation relating to small debts court, with explanation.
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Cary to Douglas, 9 December 1859, forwarding copy of the proclamation relating to joint stock companies, with explanation.
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 22 December 1859, CO 60:5, no. 1559, 269. 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/B59239.html.

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