No. 58
22 June 1860
My Lord Duke
I have the honor to enclose herewith a Memorial which has been handed to me for transmission to Your Grace.
2. The Memorial purports Manuscript image purports to be signed by the British Residents in the Colony of British Columbia. It has 433 names attached to it, and may be divided into two heads, vituperation of the Governor and Government, and an appeal for Representative Institutions.
3. This Memorial was placed in my hands at New Westminster just prior to my departure up the country, and I therefore took the trouble to make express enquiries into the grievances therein set forth; but I found the people generally Manuscript image generally with whom I conversed were well contented, and had no complaints to lay before me. I further found that many who acknowledged to signing the Memorial, had done so in utter ignorance of its contents, as a paid emissary had been employed to procure signatures to the Document, and had represented that the object in view was to obtain Representative Institutions.
4. I do not make these remarks in any defence of my own character which Manuscript image which is therein assailed, but merely for the information of Your Grace. My policy and the measures I have adopted, are all before Her Majesty's Government, and the gracious approval that has been accorded to them fully assures me that the many difficulties attaching to my position have been understood and appreciated.
5. I would further desire to remark with regard to Representative Institutions, that I should be very glad to be relieved by their establishment of some of Manuscript image of the burdens and responsibilities now weighing upon me, but I must distinctly state that I conceive the time has not yet arrived for the introduction of such a form of Government. I have established Municipal Bodies at New Westminster, Hope and Yale,
See despatches annexed
23 May/60/7130
4 Aug/60/9350
and with this the people are highly satisfied, as the addresses I received in my tour fully testify, but for a Representative Government the country is not yet sufficiently settled; and the British element in the population is still So Manuscript image so small, that it is only recently it was found necessary to pass a law for the constitution of Juries by the admission of Foreigners and the dispensation of any property qualification.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Sir F. Rogers
See 7299. The Governor furnishes a short ansr to the Petition. He refers to his general policy as his defence against the attacks on his measures—and disapproves of the establishment, yet a while, of Representative Institutions in B. Columbia. With respect to the former it would have been more satisfactory if he had himself analysed the grievances and answered them in their separate order; but I think we can undertake that task ourselves by the means of the correspondence in the Office.
Manuscript image As to the demand for a representative form of Govt, it is more difficult for us at home to decide whether the Applicants, or the Govr is right in their respective views. The Impl Govt is so situated that it must in a great measure rely on the judgment & impartiality of its Agent in the Colony, viz the Governor, whose opinions & reports the local public have no means of controverting except in the shape of Petitions to the Crown &c &c. What the Petitioners say about the comparative populations of B. Columbia, & Van C. Island, I believe to be correct enough. But when a Legislature was given to the latter there were some residents at Victoria, and several employés of the Hudson's Bay Co, who were people of respectability & education, & fitted for self Govt. It cannot be said that, with the exception of a very few Officers of the Engineers, & a sprinkling of other persons of the same standing in society, there is any settled respectable class of people in B.C. from whom you could create two creditable Houses of Parliament. And I think there is much Manuscript image force in the Governor's observation that he has established municipal Institutions in the Colony, for they will necessarily pave the way to a Legislative form of Govt.
During the absence of the Duke of Newcastle from England I presume no step, of a decisive nature, will be taken on this subject, but if you and Mr Fortescue approved of it, we might analyse this Petition, & send the desph, Petition and Analysis to the Duke, who, at any rate, will have a convenient oppy for perusing them whilst on the voyage home, if not before or They can be reserved for his return.
ABd 6 Augt
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Mr Fortescue
An analysis of the grievances with a statement of the facts bearing on each so far as they are known in the office wd no doubt be useful in the first instance. The constitutional question must plainly wait for the D of Newcastle. But may be prepared for his decision.
FR 6/8
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Mr Blackwood
Will you be good enough to examine the Petition, as you propose.
CF 7
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Mr Elliot
This Batch of papers relates to an application of certain Inhabitants of B. Columbia for a representative form of Government. I have had the petition copied, and I have made some observations in the margin which will be of assistance in considering the value of the grievances complained of.
The constitutional question I abstain from touching upon as, with these materials before him, and the acquaintance the Duke of Newcastle possesses as to the position of B. Columbia, and also of Manuscript image VanCouver Island it would be an act of superfluity on my part to submit to His Grace any notions of my own on the subject.
ABd 2 Novr/60
Mr Fortescue
These papers have been kept, as you will see, to be brought forward at a convenient opportunity after the Duke's return.
So far as regards alleged grievances, I have nothing to add to Mr Blackwood's notes. Perhaps it might be well to acknowledge the despatch or despatches on the Mule Tax, and to say that no decision had been signified on the subject, as it was understood that the tax had since been rescinded, and then to call on the Governor to report whether this be the fact.
The really important question is whether to grant a Constitution to British Columbia, and of what description. This is a matter more for personal consultation than for writing. The simplest expedient would perhaps be the adoption of the form of an Executive and Legislative Council which has been found so convenient in the infancy of Colonies.
TFE 7 Decr
There are several despatches remaining to be acklged—7722, I suppose 7721 (not here) 8322, with approval & satisfaction, 3624, 2316?
CF 15
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Duke of Newcastle
The Memorial does not appear to be a very important document, or to represent, to any great degree, the opinions of the inhabitants of B. Columbia generally. At least I derive this impression from the Memorial itself—from the Govr's report upon it—and, still more, from the former despatches, (annexed, & wh. arrived during your absence)—giving accounts of the Govr's progress through the country, the establishment of a Municipality at New Westminster, & quasi-municipal bodies at Hope & Yale &c. (You will find 8322 particularly interesting.)
Of the 4 heads of the Memorial the last 2 are easily dealt with. As to No. 3, the "Mule Tax" is withdrawn, & the Inland transit duty imposed apparently with the assent of the people; As to No. 4, the former Land Proclamation is referred to, and the last, & very liberal one, must be allowed to work, before it can be ascertained what, if any, amendments it may require. With respect to No. 2—the absenteeism of the B.C. officials—I think it will be necessary to inquire again from the Govr Manuscript image whether he has taken any steps to secure their residence in the Colony of wh. they are the servants, and to insist upon such residence within a limited time. If I remember right, you have at present only a vague assurance from the Govr on that head. But this question is connected with No. 1, the most important part of the Memorial, wh. asks for Representative Govt, and the removal of Govr Douglas from B. Columbia, on the ground of his being—an absentee—interested in the success of Victoria—and ignorant of "English institutions."
It seems to me quite too soon to introduce an elective House of Assembly or Council into B.C. The number of Whites in the Colony in July 1860, was estimated by Judge Begbie at 3000, of wh. probably not one half is a fixed population—with scarcely any women or children—and, doubtless, almost all of the class of labouring men, while but few are British subjects. On the other hand, the Governor cannot, I think, be much longer left to Govern B.C. single handed & despotically, issuing Laws in the shape of Proclamations. Two courses seem to be Manuscript image open—1. B.C. might be annexed to Vancouver's Id. & return a certain number of members to the Assembly at Victoria, wh. wd. become the capital of the united Colony. Mr Pemberton, the Surveyor General of V. Id. was very much in favour of this course, and probably represented the opinion of Victoria, but not that of B. Columbia, where it wd., one can hardly doubt, cause dissatisfaction—and there are many objections to it. (I forget what are the conditions of the B. Columbia Act.)
2. The Governor might be surrounded by a Legislative Council—as proposed by Mr Elliot—consisting of the principal officials, who wd. form the Executive Council, and of a few non-official members, chosen from among the most respectable & intelligent inhabitants—and I sh. think this would be the most convenient transition from the present state of things toward the introduction of representative institutions. I do not think however that the change is urgent—and, before it is decided upon, I should be strongly inclined to send out an able man as Govr of British Columbia, in whose judgment upon such a subject you might have more confidence than, I think, can be placed in that of Govr Douglas, in Manuscript image spite of the good sense & shrewdness of the latter, and the favourable impression which, in many respects, his despatches produce. I cannot say whether his connection, by property, with V. Id will be prejudicial to B.C., but I am sure that it will be believed to be so. Besides I cannot but think that the constant presence of a Governor in B.C., securing as a matter of course that of all the officials, would give vigour to the administration of affairs, an appearance of permanence to the Colony, and increased confidence to all who may be inclined to embark their fortunes in it. Supposing however that you sd. arrive eventually at this conclusion—and I admit that things appear to go on fairly in B.C. under Govr Douglas, you wd. not, I presume, seem to endorse the allegations of the Memorial—& wd. decline to accede to that request.
As to Representative Institutions—the Memorialists might be told that the whole subject wd. receive your anxious consideration &c—and reminded of the infancy of the Colony—and of the valuable degree of self Government already attained in the elective Mining Boards, and Municipal Bodies. I would call upon the Governor to report upon the question of the formation of a Legislative Council for B.C. and to obtain also the written opinions of Judge Begbie—perhaps of some other officials. Would it not indeed be worth while to call for such a report and opinions—upon the whole question of the Govt of B.C.—and of its union or non-union with Vancouver Id.
CF Dec 15
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
See Elmsley correspondence.
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 22 June 1860, CO 60:7, no. 7727, 327. 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.

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