Murdoch and Rogers to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
27 May 1859
We have to acknowledge Mr Elliots letter of 25th instant, enclosing an application from Mr Halliburton, on behalf of the "Canada Agency Association Limited," to be appointed Agents for the Sale of all Crown Lands in the Colonies of British Columbia and VanCouvers Island.
2. The Association propose that they should be appointed sole Agents for the Sale of Land inManuscript imagein British Columbia & Van Couvers Island at an upset price to be fixed by Government, that they should be furnished with all Maps, Surveys and Official information on the subject for the use of intending Emigrants, that they should appoint an Agent to conduct Sales for them in the Colony, and that, as their remuneration, they should receive a commission on all Sales effected by them. The advantages to the public of such an arrangement are not very clearly stated, but it is implied that it would "expedite &Manuscript image& facilitate the Sale of Land," and it is pointed out that it would relieve H.M. Government from the burden, responsibility and expense of supplying information and conducting subsequent negociations. Allusion is also made to the proposed establishment of communication between Canada and British Columbia, but it is not stated, and is not easy to see, in what way this bears on the subject.
3. In Mr Elliots letter it is pointed out that the plan of selling in this Country the public Lands of B. Columbia hasManuscript imagehas been disallowed. This decision is of course conclusive as to so much of the present application as relates to the Sale of Land by the Association itself. All that remains, therefore, to be considered is the proposal that the sale of Land in the Colony should be transferred from the Governor and his subordinate Officers to an Agent appointed by the Association. The mere statement of this proposal seems a sufficient answer to it. On what ground could H.M. Government transfer from their own responsible Officers to the Agent ofManuscript imageof an irresponsible and unknown trading Company one of the most important functions of Government? It could not be said that a Trading Company is better fitted for the discharge of such duties, or that they would act in a purer or more disinterested manner, or that their operations would conciliate more public confidence, or that they would be conducted with greater economy. In all these respects it may be safely asserted that the management of the Land Department by the Crown would be better and more satisfactory than by a Company, and even the saving of trouble andManuscript imageand responsibility to the Government, which is the only inducement put forward by the Company, is a delusion, for the Government could not divest itself of responsibility for the Acts of the body to whom it had entrusted its own duties, though it might have divested itself of the power to control them.
4. It is of course obvious that the Association would not have proposed such an arrangement unless they had expected to make money by it, and it must be borne in mind thatManuscript imagethat every shilling they received would be so much taken from the Colonial Revenue. It may also be assumed that the Association, keeping their commercial interests in view, would sell land not with reference to the requirements of the public or the interests of the Colony, but with reference to their own Commission & profits, that such a state of things would produce resentment, complaint and resistance is too natural to be doubted, and the Local Government, in addition to its necessary difficulties, would be called on to protect a monopoly whichManuscript imagewhich they could not approve and over whose proceedings they could exercise no authority. It is not easy to conceive a more embarrassing position in which to place it.
5. Upon the whole we cannot recommend a compliance with this proposal. We are unable to conjecture any public advantage, though we can foresee much public damage, which would result from it. We do not know who are the members of the Association nor do we think it necessary to enquireManuscript imageenquire, although if there were any chances of the proposal being entertained that is a point which would require consideration.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
There could be little doubt as to the result of the sifting of this proposal of Sir T.C. Haliburton, M.P. (Sam Slick). With him is associated, I have heard, in this undertaking, Sir A. Marnal, Sir Francis Head, Mr Kingscote etc.
ABd 30 May
This is a powerful report and effectually disposes of the plan of investing a private Company with the duty of selling the public Manuscript imageland in B. Columbia.
I think that the best practical course will be to state that Sir E.B. Lytton has had before him the proposal made by the Association, but to inform them that it is not the intention of H.M. Govt to transfer to any private Agency the function of disposing of the public lands in British Columbia.
TFE 31 May
I have drafted a reply.
C June 1