No. 46, Financial
7 May 1860
My Lord Duke
With reference to my despatch No 216 of the 10th of September last, forwarding a letter from the Colonial Treasurer representing the difficulties resulting from the paucity of small coins in circulation in Manuscript image in these Colonies and requesting that a supply might be sent out from England, I have the honor now to enclose copy of a further letter I have received from the Treasurer upon the same subject.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
This financial question is with Mr Strachey.
ABd 26/6
Mr Strachey
Perhaps you will have the goodness to let me have this back with any other papers which you may be considering on the subject. Whatever other questions may arise, I apprehend that the simple remedy for what is here stated will be to send out by the earliest safe opportunity a supply of British small coin. We are constantly in the habit of doing so to the Falkland Islands.
TFE 29 June
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Mr Elliot
I annex for consideration a draft to the Treasury on this subject, in which I have not found it possible to separate the particular question, of sending out British silver & copper coins, from the general currency question, the Treasury having objected to the former application for such coins from the local Govt on the ground of the probable adoption by the Govt in B. Columbia, at no distant time, of the Dollar & Decimal system of the U States, which is already in common use among the Colonists, & with which, the Manuscript image Treasury thought, British silver & copper money could not be brought to harmonize. Indeed the Treasury, in private communications which followed their official letter suggested our deciding in favor of that system at once, and sending out a stock of the Canada silver & other decimal coins. Enquiries however, having been made as to the working of these Canada coins, which the Treasury assumed to be perfectly successful, it turned out that after a year or more's trial, the Canada Govt had not Manuscript image succeeded in getting many of either the 20 cent or 10 cent pieces into circulation—the Colonists it appears not finding them so convenient as quarters and eighths—25c & 12 1/2c—and continuing to use, as they have long done, British shillings & sixpences in those capacities. See the private letter from Mr Galt to myself annexed, and also the annexed report of the Decimal Coinage Commission, which leads to a similar conclusion.
With this ill news of the Canada coins before us, and with the imperfect information, as yet submitted, as to the Manuscript image existing currency practice in B. Columbia & Vancouvers Island, it is not easy to come to any definite conclusion, & the Governor himself appears to have come to none, as to the best future system for these two Colonies, (which must obviously go together in currency matters, though under different Governments).
In the meantime, I believe, with yourself, the best course will be to send out a moderate supply of British coin, as applied for, and I have endeavoured to frame such a draft to the Treasury, as Manuscript image will reconcile them to this, avoiding as far as possible controversial topics, which are better dropped, but pointing out, in a general—not in a dogmatic way—a mode in which following the example of Canada, it would be practicable for the Pacific Colonists, if they think fit, to use B. silver & copper, as small change for Dollars.
There appears to be no doubt that the general practice of both Colonies is to keep accounts in Dollars & cents, & pay them (as far as gold money is concerned, & chiefly) in gold Dollar pieces of the U. States. (I conclude, chiefly US Dollar Pieces Manuscript image struck at the San Francisco Mint.) The Governt however in both Colonies keeps accounts & expresses taxes & salaries in Sterling, using, it must be presumed, to some extent—but to what extent does not appear—our British money. And persons having dealings with Governt probably use British money in the same way. The Government rate of exchange between sterling & Dollars appears to be 4s/2d to the Dollar in both Colonies—and if the Dollar system is adopted by the Govt, Sterling taxes & salaries Manuscript image & obligations expressed in sterling generally would, I conclude, have to be converted at that rate into Dollars. But this must not be esteemed certain for every case.
The practice of these Colonies as to small change is obscure, & I have not met with any one from the spot, to give me information about it. By the U. States Mint Law (according to Brightley's Digest p. 634 in the office) the central & branch units are not open to the public for coinage of small silver pieces, under a Dollar, but these pieces can be bought by the public Manuscript image at the mints, on paying in gold at par; the Mint officers, however, or Secy of the U. States Treasury, regulating the supply of these small coins from time to time. Whether practically, under this Law, sufficient small coins are obtainable at San Francisco for the use of our Pacific Colonies, I have not ascertained. In these currency questions, unfortunately, there is a perpetual distinction between law & practice, which makes it difficult & unsafe to deal with them, without minute local knowledge.
I add a dft. to the Governor, to which I think Treasy will not object, leaving any additional instructions for considn after we receive their reply.
WS 18 Sept
Other documents included in the file
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Waterloo Hotel
24 Jany 1860
Dear Sir
In reply to your enquiry as to the result of our new Canadian Coinage I beg to state that we have not found the 20 Cent or even the 10 Cent Silver Coin acceptable to the Public—and we have still a large amount of these Coins on hand.
When Manuscript imageWhen we again procure Coinage I have no doubt we shall adopt the 25 Cent and 12 1/2 Cent as representing a quarter and eighth of a Dollar. These values are more available for the ordinary transactions of the public with us.
Yours &c
M. Galt
Minutes by CO staff
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On the 10th Septr 1859 Govr Douglas wrote to the Secretary of State enclosing a letter from the Treasurer of British Columbia, Capt Gosset, and requested that "a supply of coins might be sent out from England with as little delay as possible so as to avoid the inconvenience & loss which is now daily experienced in consequence of the absence of such coins."
This request was accompanied by certain proposals from Capt Gosset to base a decimal coinage in the Pacific on the English florin—and from the Governer to pay for the coins in gold dust.
The despatch being forwarded to the Treasury they replied on the Manuscript image 10th December stating that they would not object to direct a supply of British Silver & Copper to be forwarded to British Columbia, if the requisition had not been founded on false views of currency—entertained by Capt Gosset. They suggested a decimal coinage founded on the dollar, and expressed a doubt whether the introduction of British coin now, might not produce inconvenience hereafter.
The question was handed over by Mr Merivale to Mr Strachey on the 15 Decr and I conjecture that some interviews have taken place between Mr Strachey & some of the Treasury authorities. But it appears that practically the matter was then dropped & nothing further done about it.
On the 25th June a despatch Manuscript image was received, and on the 29th of June forwarded to Mr Strachey stating with reference to the previous despatch of September 1859 that the want of Coin was such that the Treasurer "has had for some time past to give and take I.O.U's for portions of account under 1/2 a Sovereign."
On the 18th Sept Mr Strachey submitted a letter to the Treasury and a draft despatch to the Governor with respect to this subject, which are annexed. The object is to propose that British Coin shall at once be sent out to British Columbia.
It seems to me (as in the cases of Hong Kong & New Brunswick) exceedingly unfortunate that this (which is the obvious course/vide Mr Elliot's minute of 29 July) was not proposed to the Manuscript image Treasury months ago.
I have no doubt it is the right course pending a settlement of the general question. But I would not encumber the immediate practical question with the general arguments which Mr Strachey raises.
On the general question, I cannot, I confess entertain any doubt that it will be found impossible to force upon any part of N America any other mode of computation than that by dollars & cents—that if the computation be by dollars & cents it is expedient that the coinage should follow the computation—and therefore that the proposal of the Treasury to coin parts of a dollar, is a more effectual course than Manuscript image sending out coins founded on the British Sovereign—which must either pass at a false value or at an inconvenient value (a florin e.g. must pass at 51 cents which is an inconvenient amount or at 50 cents which is a false one).
It is true that Mr Galt says that the 20 & 10 cent pieces have not (at least as yet) found favour in Canada. But he does not propose to introduce subdivisions of a Sovereign, but different subdivisions of a dollar. Viz 25 cents & 12 1/2 cents.
I do not therefore see the good of raising a question as to the mode of getting sovereigns & shillings into concurrent circulation in British Columbia. And would simply write Manuscript image to the Treasury transmitting the Governor's last despatch and stating that the Secretary of State does not wish at present to enter into the general questions discussed in the Treasury letter of 10 Decr 1859 which however will be forwarded as their Lordships desire to British Columbia but that perceiving that their Lordships do not absolutely object to forward a certain amount of British Coins to British Columbia in order to meet the present necessities of the Colony—he anticipates that the state of things described by Capt Gossets letter will be held by them to justify that course—and he would request that the amount applied for in Governor Douglas' despatch Manuscript image of the [blank] Sept may be forwarded without delay as he then desired.
It might be added that in case their Lordships should be of opinion that the peculiar views of Capt Gosset had led him to ask for an excessive number of florins it would be easy to reduce the number of that coin by sending out:
60,000 Shillings = 3000
and 30,000 florins = 3000
instead of
40,000 Shillings = 2000
40,000 florins = 4000
It would probably be time to write to the Governor when we receive the Treasury answer.
FR 15/10
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I agree.
CF 16 10
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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W.D. Gosset, Treasurer, to W.A.G. Young, Acting Colonial Secretary, 2 May 1860, discussing the difficulties encountered due to the lack of small coins in Vancouver Island and British Columbia.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, no date. Cancelled.
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Draft, Colonial Office to G.A. Hamilton, Treasury, September 1860. Cancelled.
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Draft, Rogers to Hamilton, 19 October 1860, forwarding copy of the despatch and recommending that the requested supply of small coin be forwarded to the colony, with explanation.
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 52, 19 October 1860.
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 7 May 1860, CO 60:7, no. 6340, 231. 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.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)