Murdoch to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
5 January 1859
I have to acknowledge Mr Elliot's letter of 21st ultimo, enclosing a Despatch from Governor Douglas on the subject of the disposal of Crown Land in Van Couvers Island and British Columbia.
2. On the 14th August last Sir E. Bulwer Lytton directed Governor Douglas to report his views as to the future disposal of Land in British Columbia, authorizing him in the meantime to sell land for agricultural purposes atManuscript imageat the price which might appear to him reasonable but recommending that Town land should not be sold at too low a sum. Sir E. Bulwer Lytton also directed him to keep a separate account of the Revenue arising from sales of Land and to apply it for the present to purposes of survey and communication, to facilitate the naturalization of Foreigners, and especially to avoid any appearance of favoritism towards the servants of the Hudsons Bay Company.
3. Governor Douglas' despatch of 27th October No. 7 is the answer toManuscript imageto these instructions. It is accompanied by a Report from Mr Pemberton the colonial Surveyor of VanCouvers Island explaining the course which has been adopted in that Island and suggesting the arrangements to be made in British Columbia. Mr Pemberton states that in Vancouvers Island lands have been divided into
1. Country Lands
2. Mineral
3. Town
4. Suburban That Country Lands are sold at £1 per acre, formerly in lots of 20 acres and upwards but now not in lots of less than 100 acres, thatManuscript imagethat the purchase money is paid by instalments, that for unsurveyed Lands applicants are allowed to pay a deposit and obtain priority of choice according to the date of their deposits, that Lands containing Coal were sold without any deduction for unavailable land, and that reserves are made for main lines of Roads but for no other. For the disposal of Land in British Columbia Mr Pemberton proposes that the 49th parallel of latitude should be taken as the base of a series of sections of a square mileManuscript imagemile each, that each square Mile should be divided into 6 or 8 Lots (i.e. 80 or 107 acres,) that Mineral Lands should be reserved, that Town and Suburban lands should be sold unconditionally, that all lands should be sold at an upset price, and where competition exists by Auction, that Trigonometrical Surveys should not in the first instance be required, and that duly qualified Assistant Surveyors should be sent from England. Mr Pemberton further suggests that the system of payment by instalments which exists in VanCouvers Island shouldManuscript imageshould not be introduced into British Columbia, but from this Governor Douglas dissents. He also proposes that the Law Officers should be entrusted with the necessary means of making meteorological observations, and that steps should be taken for publishing Maps and general information for the use of intending Emigrants.
4. In respect to the sale of Land it appears to me that the regulations adopted in Vancouvers Island might, with some slight modifications, be introduced intoManuscript imageinto British Columbia. As regards the time of commencing a trigonometrical survey and the mode in which lots should be divided off, those questions may be safely left to be decided by Colonel Moody who since this Despatch was written has proceeded to the Colony as Surveyor General. As the commencement of the Trigonometrical Survey is only a question of time, it will be for him to decide whether the means at his command will allow of its being undertaken at once without inconveniently retarding the openingManuscript imageopening of Lands for Sale.
5. In respect to the mode of Sale I understand Mr Pemberton to state that in Van Couvers Island Country Lands have hitherto been sold at a fixed price (he does not mention Town or Suburban Lands) but to recommend that all Lands in British Columbia should be sold by Auction "if competition exists." The question of selling Land by auction or by fixed price has been much debated of late years and the preference has been differently accorded inManuscript imagein different Colonies. The advantage of Sale by Auction is that it takes the best precaution that can be taken against the sale of Land at an inadequate price and that it prevents all jobbing and the suspicion or imputation of it. The objections to it are that it discourages enterprize in the exploration of a new Country by exposing the discoverer of an eligible lot to be outbid at the sale, and that in the case of fresh Land, it involves a delay in putting the purchaser on his purchase.
It Manuscript image
6. It cannot be denied that these objections are entitled to much insight. But they do not apply, or in a very minor degree, to Town and Suburban allotments, the situation of which must be decided by the Government, not by an individual. I would, therefore, recommend that whatever decision we come to in regard to Country Lands, the sale of Town and Suburban Lands should be exclusively by Auction at an upset price. The size of Town Lots should not exceedManuscript imageexceed half an Acre, nor of Suburban Lots 50 acres. The size of Country Lots must depend on local circumstances, but probably the size of 100 Acres adopted in VanCouvers Island, or the 6th of a square Mile suggested by Mr Pemberton, will be well suited to British Columbia.
7. In respect to the mode of payment Mr Pemberton, as I have stated, recommends that payment by instalments should not be allowed, while Governor Douglas takes the opposite view. The Governor alleges that the system of paying by instalmentsManuscript imageinstalments has been a benefit and relief to poor settlers in VanCouvers Island, and he proposes, therefore, to introduce it in British Columbia for sales of Country Lands above 50 Acres. On the other hand it cannot be denied that the "benefit and relief" to which the Governor alludes has in fact the effect of converting into Landowners those who ought properly to be laborers, that it tempts persons of little capital to buy more land than they can cultivate, andManuscript imageand that it is next to impossible to recover the unpaid instalments from a dishonest or insolvent owner, and equally impossible to eject him from the Land. The difficulty of ejectment would be especially great in British Columbia where a large portion of the population would have been accustomed to the squatting rights of the United States and the encouragement they give to the irregular occupation of Land. I have no hesitation, therefore, in expressing my opinion that promptManuscript imageprompt payment is better in all cases, and especially in British Columbia, than payment by instalments. But it must be added that payment by instalments has never been reestablished in some Colonies, especially in Canada, by the Colonial Governments, and that the point cannot, therefore, be regarded as free from question. In Australia and New Zealand the system of prompt payment has as a general rule been maintained.
8. The reservation of Mineral Lands and the disposalManuscript imagedisposal of them on different terms from Agricultural lands is of course proper. In respect to Coal and the baser Metals the best arrangement would probably be to establish liberal regulations for encouraging explorations and for leasing to the discoverer lands under which minerals may be discovered for a certain period and at a certain small royalty. In several Colonies the terms for Mineral lands are a lease of 21 years at a Royalty of 1/15th. Whether those terms would be sufficiently favorable in BritishManuscript imageBritish Columbia, or whether it would be desirable to make them easier by postponing the payment or reducing the amount of the Royalty, Governor Douglas would be best able to decide. I mention them only as showing what has been considered fair to all parties in other of the British Colonies. But it is obvious that the revenue to be derived from such Lands is the least important element of the question and that it should not be allowed to interfere with whateverManuscript imagewhatever maybe necessary to stimulate the development of the natural resources of the colony. In case of more than one application for the same Mineral Land the lease should be put up to Auction, the bidding being, not on the amount of rent or royalty, but on a premium to be paid down for the lease.
9. Auriferous Lands are distinct from what are usually termed Mineral Lands and must be dealt with on different principles. In the case of Coal and the baser Metals the possessionManuscript imagepossession passes to the owner of the surface soil unless a special reservation is inserted in the Crown Grant. In the case of Gold and Silver the right remains in the Crown whether there is any reservation in the grant or not. I do not think that much assistance could be afforded to Governor Douglas in this matter by any suggestions from home. The question to be decided is not so much what is the best mode of dealing with auriferous Lands and securing aManuscript imagea revenue from Gold digging, but what is the most practicable and satisfactory plan having regard to the means at the Governor's disposal. Upon this point the Local Authorities alone can form a competent opinion. Up to the present time Governor Douglas appears to have found no difficulty in carrying out a system of Licenses, and as long as he can continue that system it offers great facilities for the collection of a Revenue. The experience of Victoria, however, suggests a doubt whether that systemManuscript imagesystem can be permanently established.
10. The publication of Maps and of other information concerning the lands open for settlement will be very useful, and Governor Douglas will no doubt furnish the Home Government with copies of all such documents. The establishment of a series of Meteorological observations will be much facilitated by the presence in the Colony of a body of educated Officers and men, to many of whom, probably, such observations are familiar. PerhapsManuscript imagePerhaps Sir E. Bulwer Lytton may think it right to communicate to the Admiralty Governor Douglas' intentions in this respect, in case the Lords Commissioners should wish to make any suggestions for his guidance in the matter.
I have etc.
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
HT Irving 6 Jany
Mr Merivale
I am not aware of any reason against adopting Mr Murdoch's suggestions.
TFE 8 Jany
HM Jan 10
Sir Edward Lytton
This is a clear report on the subject of land regulations and deserves to be carefully read but I can add nothing to it.
C Jan 10
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft, Merivale to Secretary to the Admiralty, 16 February 1859, requesting forms of tables or general instructions to aid Douglas in recording meteorological observations.