23 May 1860
My Lord Duke,
I have the honor to inform your Grace that I left Victoria on the 15th Instant on a visit to British Columbia. I arrived at this place on the evening of the same day, and I have since been engaged with business of great public importance.
I Manuscript image 2. I was glad to observe that this City had greatly improved in appearance since my last visit, and that many new buildings have been erected, and the surface in many parts cleared of the gigantic stumps and fallen trees that obstructed the thoroughfares and encumbered the ground. The erection of a Court House and Buildings for the Assay Office has also greatly added to the appearance of the place and increased the bustle and activity which pervades the Town. Trade is also on the increase. Two Steamers of Manuscript image of from Two to Three Hundred Tons burthen are plying with goods and Passengers between Fort Victoria and New Westminster, where their Cargoes are discharged, and the inland transport is carried on from thence to Douglas and Yale by four Stern wheel river Steam Boats varying in burthen from 50 to 200 Tons, which now make two trips a week to those places.
3. The Custom House Receipts, having for the last two weeks somewhat exceeded the sum of One Thousand pounds of Manuscript image of Weekly return, corroborate the opinion I have expressed with respect to the state of trade, and indicate the spirited manner in which supplies are being sent into the mining Districts, and the confidence entertained by business men in the auriferous resources of the Country.
4. The effect of the pre-emption law is already observable in the forest clearings made by Settlers in the densely wooded land on the banks of Fraser River. The cost of clearing such land by means of hired labor ranges from £15 to £30 an Manuscript image an acre, and it will consequently never prove an attractive investment for capital; such land cannot be cleared to advantage otherwise than by the actual Settler investing his own labour in the formation of a permanent home and property for himself and family.
5. I have given much anxious thought to the subject of settling British Columbia, and the conclusion is more than ever forced upon me that it cannot be successfully accomplished without adopting a very liberal land system. I am strongly induced to Manuscript image to view the public land simply as a source of revenue, and provided an income of equal or greater value can be realized by other means, it does not appear wise or expedient to lock up the public land under a system which practically places it beyond the reach of purchase by ordinary settlers. It is evident that without population a revenue for the support of Government is unattainable, and unproductive land is next to valueless both to the Country and to the Crown. The sale of land affords a temporary Revenue, but Manuscript image but the Settler indirectly by the payment of duty on the foreign articles he consumes and by means of a small direct tax which could be levied on the land he occupies, will become a permanent contributor to the revenue, and therefore although the land may have been acquired for nothing, and brought no revenue in the first instance, yet, in such case, the Crown in the end would become the gainer by his presence. If the public land could be sold at a high upset price, and the Country at the same time filled Manuscript image filled with people, there would be an advantage in continuing the present sale price of land, but if one or other of those objects must be sacrificed, it is evidently preferable to have the population, and to grant the land without purchase, or at a much lower price than the present.
6. These observations are thrown out merely for the purpose of acquainting your Grace with the impressions made upon me by the present circumstances of this Country, and I propose to bring the subject under the consideration of Manuscript image of Her Majesty's Government, in a more formal manner, when I have arrived at a clearer and better supported conclusion.
7. The inhabitants of New Westminster having expressed a great desire for the incorporation of their Town, and the appointment of municipal Officers to manage its revenues, I consulted their select Committee as to their views, and as to the best means of carrying out their wishes. Their propositions are extremely moderate, embracing chiefly two points, viz. the right of taxing themselves Manuscript image themselves, and of applying the proceeds of such taxes to grading the Streets, and to the general improvement of the Town. After several interviews, and obtaining the sense of the people at a public meeting with respect to the amount of taxes they wished to raise, and as to whether such taxes should be levied on an arbitrary valuation or an actual assessment of property, the draft of an act was made containing the following provisions:
1st That all persons subject to the payment of rates according to the act, shall be entitled to vote at Elections for members of the Manuscript image the Town Council.
2nd That the Town Council shall consist of Seven Members, who are to hold Office without remuneration and for one year only.
3rd That none but British Subjects, or Foreigners who have become naturalized British Subjects, shall be eligible for Councillors; and in addition they must be possessed of property valued at not less than Fifty Pounds Sterling, and shall have resided at least 6 months in New Westminster.
4th That the Town shall be divided into 4 wards, each returning a certain number of Councillors.
that Manuscript image 5th That the Council shall be empowered to levy rates on property within the Town, as may be determined and authorized by the majority of rate payers; and to cause the proceeds of such rates to be expended under the direction of the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works.
6th That the Council shall be authorized to levy a tax not exceeding 2 per Cent on the assessed value of all Town Lots, and Property within the Town for the years 1860 and 1861, and to enforce payment thereof.
7th That the said Council shall be empowered to levy a further Manuscript image further rate over and above the said two per Cent for the said two years, provided the majority of the rate payers deem it necessary and require them to do so.
8th That the said Council shall be further authorized to compel Town Lot Holders to cut down all the Trees on their respective Town Lots, except such as may be reserved for ornament, and in default to cause the Trees to be cut down and the cost thereof not exceeding Seven pounds Sterling on each town Manuscript image Town Lot to be levied on the property.
Such is the substance of the proposed Act, which will be immediately put into the hands of the Attorney General for proper drafting.
8. Your Grace will observe that the powers of the Council are so limited by the supervision of the Commissioner of Lands and Works on the one hand, and by the rate payers on the other, as almost to remove the danger of abuse, and I am of opinion that the City will be greatly benefitted by its exertions and by the expenditures on substantial and much needed improvements.
Trusting Manuscript image Trusting that this measure may meet with Your Grace's approval.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Sir F. Rogers
The Governor says he shall write a further desph on the system of disposing of the public lands to the best advantage. Such a despatch we have been expecting in consequence of a reference made to him of certain suggestions of Capn Clarke. He will probably combine all he has to say on the subject in one communication.
With respect to the plan proposed for the establishment of municipal institutions the Govr will, no doubt, when it is complete, issue a Proclamation giving the measure a legal character. In that shape the Law will come under our examination.
For the above reasons I think it will be sufficient if this despatch is ackd with the observn that the S. of S. is pleased to receive this account of the progress of New Westminster, & that he hopes shortly to be put in possession of the Governor's matured opinions respecting the disposal of the Crown Lands.
This despatch shd be laid before Parlt as soon as may be. But the long promised IIId series of B. Columbia papers is not out yet.
ABd 14 July
I have nothing to add except that the Municipal Law seems to me very promising.
FR 16/7
& a very rare thing in young Colonies.
CF 16
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 42, 19 July 1860.