Murdoch and Rogers to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
28 April 1859
Sir,
We have to acknowledge your letter of 14th instant, enclosing a Despatch from the Governor of British Columbia with the copy of a Proclamation which he had issued on the subject of the disposal of the Crown Lands in that Colony.
2. On 7th February last Sir E. Bulwer Lytton having received from Governor Douglas a report on the disposal of Land in British Columbia, addressed to him a Despatch laying down certain principlesManuscript imageprinciples for his guidance. Sir E. Lytton expressed his approval of an upset price of £1 for Country Lands in the Fraser River District, and of a lower price elsewhere; he estimated his preference for Sales by Auction over Sales at a fixed price, he expressed a decided opinion in favor of prompt payment instead of payment by instalments, but he left to the Governor to decide the size of lots, the terms on which mineral lands should be let, and the mode in which a revenue should be obtained from the produce of the Gold Fields, as well as some minorManuscript imageminor points which had been adverted to by Governor Douglas.
3. Governor Douglas' present Despatch is dated 19th February last, 12 days later, and the Proclamation which it encloses is dated 14th February. The Proclamation announces that all Lands, other than Town or Mineral Lands or lands specially reserved, will be sold by Auction at an upset price of 10s/- an Acre, the price to be paid half in Cash at the time of Sale and the other half at the end of two years, that Lands unsold at Auction may be disposed of by private contract, at the upset price, and that allManuscript imageall Sales are to be subject to such private right of way as maybe declared at the time of Sale, and such public right of way as may be afterwards declared. The conveyance of the Land is to include all Trees and Mines and Minerals except Gold and Silver. The Proclamation further announces that it is intended to lay out the Capital of the colony on the right bank of Frasers River, that three fourths of the Lots will be put up to Auction in the Colony during the present Month of April, and one fourth reserved for Sale in theManuscript imagethe United Kingdom and British Colonies, but if not there sold will be disposed of in the same manner as the three fourths, that purchasers at Langley Fort may resign their purchases and be allowed the price in purchases in the Capital, that the Capital will be declared a Port of Entry, and that the River frontage will be let on leases of 7 years for the construction of Quays. No upset price is named for lots in the Capital nor is the size of the lots specified. In his despatch Governor Douglas states that it is intended for the present to reserve allManuscript imageall Lands known to contain Minerals and to make large reserves for Churches, Schools, and public purposes and for Towns and Villages, and as a general rule not to sell any Land till it has been surveyed. He adds that it was considered advisable to fix a low price for Country Lands in order to encourage Emigration from England, the want of the English element in the population being one of his greatest difficulties in legislating for the Government of the Country.
4. It will be seen from the preceding statement that the only essentialManuscript imageessential point in which Governor Douglas' regulations differ from Sir E. Bulwer Lytton's principles is in the admission of payment for Country Lands by Instalments. This is no doubt an important point, and it is, perhaps, to be regretted that Governor Douglas, after sending home his report of 27th October last, did not wait to ascertain the views of the Secretary of State before issuing any final regulations on the subject. Possibly, however, the circumstances of the Colony made delay unadvisable. Looking now to the inconvenience of frequent changes in the regulations, and also to the large proportion ofManuscript imageof the purchase money to be paid down at the time of purchase, we do not think it necessary to recommend that Governor Douglas should be directed to rescind this portion of his regulations. But whenever new regulations are issued it would be desirable that the mode of payment should be altered, in conformity with Sir E. Bulwer Lytton's instructions.
5. In respect to the sale of Country Lands Governor Douglas states that it is proposed to reserve the land bordering on the United States Frontier (which would include the Fraser River District) and to form on it a Military Reserve forManuscript imagefor the Royal Engineers and if possible for an exclusively English population. In regard to ordinary Country Lands we do not suppose that a higher price than 10s an Acre could be maintained, in the face of the lower price and greater facilities offered in the adjoining States of the Union. We should indeed have been disposed to doubt whether 10s/- was not too high, but Governor Douglas and his advisers must be the best judges on that point. We can readily understand the importance which he attaches to the introduction of English Settlers, but we fear that the length of the passage round CapeManuscript imageCape Horn and the expense of that across the Isthmus, will prevent any considerable Emigration of the Laboring Classes from this Country. It is probably from the British subjects settled in Australia and in the various Islands and Countries in the Pacific that Governor Douglas may most confidently hope to recruit his British population. It is by no means improbable that many of these may be attracted by the material advantages which the new Colony holds out, enhanced by the security and tranquillity to be obtained under British Rule.
6. In regard to the proposed SaleManuscript imageSale in the United Kingdom and the British Colonies of one fourth the lots in the proposed Capital we cannot but feel some doubt. If it is contemplated to attach any conditions of residence to such lots there seems no reason for selling them out of the Colony. The terms of Sale could be equally well published in the United Kingdom and British Colonies without any actual Sale of the Land. If it is not intended to attach conditions of residence, the lots will be bought by speculators who will hold them on the chance of a rise in value, with the usual result of obstructing the progress of theManuscript imagethe Town, interrupting its communications and creating a nuisance to the holders of aspiring lots. It may be difficult to prevent absentees speculating in Town Lots, but it is not necessary to invite them to do so. It would, we think, be wise to abandon this part of the scheme.
7. In conclusion we may point out a slight confusion in the Proclamation. The second paragraph states that the price of all Lands except Mineral and Town Lands "shall be 10s/- per Acre payable one half in Cash at the time of the Sale and the other halfManuscript imagehalf at the end of two years from such Sale" but the fourth paragraph states that with certain exceptions "all the land in British Columbia will be exposed in lots for Sale by public competition at the upset price above mentioned" &c. The meaning is, of course, as we have stated it, that all country Lands shall be put up to Auction at an upset price of 10s/-, an Acre, and that one moiety of the price for which the Land is sold should be paid at the time and the other moiety after two years. We do not suppose that any difficultyManuscript imagedifficulty will arise from this ambiguity, but whenever the regulations are reconsidered it would be as well to remove it.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
ABd 29 April
To save time I venture to submit in the form of a draft the course I would recommend be adopted.
Mr Blackwood suggests the early publication of the rules. I think that this will be sufficiently attained by the Colonization Circular and that it will be better not to make a special publication of the despatch, especially as the rules may very possibly be revised.
TFE 7 May
[Sender not known.] to Merivale, Herman 28 April 1859, CO 60:5, no. 4406, 514. 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/B595LN08.html.

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