Murdoch and Rogers to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
7 February 1860
We have to acknowledge your letter of 20th ultimo enclosing a Despatch from Mr Douglas, the Governor of British Columbia, in which he reports the results of a tour he has recently made through the Colony, and the arrangements which he has adopted for facilitating the settlement of some persons desirous of purchasing Land.
Governor Manuscript image 2. Governor Douglas' tour extended up the Frazers River to Spuzzum about 150 Miles from its mouth. He reports that the Land on the banks of the Frazer which rises in successive terraces, evidently the former bed of the river, is everywhere highly auriferous—that 71 ozs of gold dust had been taken out of a claim at Boston Bar near Fort Yale, by three men, in 24 hours, that on Quesnel River, a tributary of the Frazer apparently about 400 Miles from its mouth, alluvial diggings of extraordinary value have been discovered on which as much as Manuscript image £40 a day is said to have been made "to the hand"—that Gold has been discovered on the Frazer as far as it has been prospected viz 150 Miles beyond Fort George which appears to be 80 or 90 Miles beyond the junction of the Quesnel River, making, therefore, a distance of about 620 or 640 miles from its mouth, and that there are clear indications of Gold on the Western slopes of the Rocky Mountains and all along the course of the River from its source in those Slopes, and probably in almost every part of the Colony. He states that the Manuscript image "Gold Fields Act" which came into operation in August last had given general satisfaction, but that the claims prescribed by it were found too small and that in this respect it would require amendment.
This is a complaint made also in California.
The inconvenience will admit of remedy as soon as the "Mining Boards," constituted under the Act with power to make Bye Laws, have been elected, and in the meantime the assistant Gold Commissioners have been authorized to give relief in cases of hardship, and to allow Miners in Manuscript image in special cases to hold more than one Mining Claim.
3. The Gold searching is principally carried on by Sluicing, which is effected by means of ditches constructed with great skill and sometimes of great length, one of them being 5 miles long through a very difficult Country. The Miners between Forts Hope & Yale are said to be 600, between Yale & the Fountain 800 and about Alexandria and Quesnel River 1000, making in all 2400. We do not, however, understand whether this is the whole number engaged in gold searching Manuscript image as no account is given of any who may be employed between the Fountain and Alexandria. The export is estimated at £14000 a month or £168.000 a year exclusive of that in the hands of the Miners. The White population of the Colony amounts to 5000 Men, with scarcely any Women or Children. The people, however, in the Towns are well conducted. Divine service is regularly performed by resident Clergymen, and there is an almost entire absence of crime.
4. The great drawback to the Manuscript image Colony is the entire absence of an Agricultural class. At a late Sale of Country Land at New Westminster only four lots were sold and those at the upset price. Applications were, however, made to the Governor at Douglas and Hope by persons who were disposed to settle, for permission to occupy Land with a right of preemption at a future time at the upset price of 10s/- an acre. As there was no surveyed Land in these districts, and as the Governor was extremely anxious to encourage Settlement, he acceded to these applications, and addressed Manuscript image a Circular to the Assistant Commissioner of Crown Lands at Hope, Yale, Douglas, Lytton and Cayoosh, directing them to permit British subjects and persons who have recorded their intention of becoming British subjects, to occupy tracts of unsurveyed Crown Lands, not being Town sites or Indian Villages, and not exceeding 160 acres, with a promise that they shall be conveyed to the occupant at 10s/- an Acre as soon as surveyed.
5. In this measure Governor Douglas has carried out the intention which he expressed in his Manuscript image his despatch of 4th July last, to establish a temporary system of occupation with preemptive rights. In the report from this Board of 23rd Septr last the objections to such a system were stated, and it was suggested that it would be better to take off a portion of the Surveyors from the survey of New Westminster and employ them on Country Lands, than to enter on a system which cannot do otherwise than lay the seeds for future disputes, litigation and waste. We continue to adhere to the opinions there stated, and we, therefore, think it matter for regret that Governor Douglas should have have Manuscript image adopted the course he now reports. Without denying that under the peculiar circumstances of British Columbia, it may be more important not to discourage persons disposed to settle on the Land, than to maintain strictly the rule which forbids the sale or grant of unsurveyed Crown Land, we think that the relaxation of that rule should have been restricted to the absolute necessity of the case, and should not have been made general with a view to invite Settlers. Probably the Manuscript image effect will not be sufficiently extensive to create any very serious difficulty, but we would suggest that Governor Douglas should be recommended to withdraw the general Instructions which he has issued and should not sanction the grant of unsurveyed Land on preemptive right except on special application.
6. If the above arrangement should fail to attract Settlers Governor Douglas proposes to adopt the Canadian system of free grants on condition of improvements, we have no information as to Manuscript image the success of the recent Settlements attempted in Canada on this system. But as the experience of that Colony would be very valuable and instructive for other Colonies we would suggest that the Governor General should be requested to send home any information at his command on the subject.
7. Governor Douglas states that great exertions are being made to open up roads, and that it was expected that by this time a pack road along the left bank of the Frazer would be open to Lytton, from Manuscript image from which there is a natural pack road by the Coutounais pass to the Red River settlement, so that if the Canadian Government would open a road from Lake Superior to the Red River, the communication between Canada and British Columbia would be completed, that a Settler might then leave the Red River in the spring and reach B. Columbia in the Autumn, that this had been repeatedly done by parties of Red River people and that he had been assured by one of those persons that except the Coutounais pass Manuscript image the whole distance might be traversed with Carts. It may perhaps be right to communicate this information to the Governor of Canada, but with reference to the nature of the Country lying between the Western limits of Canada & the Rocky Mountains, and especially between Lake Superior & the Red River Settlement, the evidence given before the Committee of the House of Commons on the Hudsons Bay Company in 1857 is not encouraging.
8. In conclusion Governor Douglas Manuscript image states that the value of imports in the quarter ending 30th Sepr was 207.848 dollars, that the Customs receipts were £5.202 being an increase of £960 over the preceding quarter and that large sums had been received from sales of Land & other sources of revenue of which he would send accurate returns on a future occasion.
9. Upon the whole this account of the Colony may be considered as very satisfactory.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
This matter & the previous papers, I fancy, are in yr hands.
ABd 8/2
None of the Governor's despatches remain in my hands.
From pars. 4 & 5 of this report it appears that he has permitted occupation of land with a right of preemption. This the Comrs regret, but their views on the subject in their former report were not adopted at this Office, and therefore this regret cannot be expressed to the Governor. It was intended, if I understand aright, to leave him a wider discretion to meet the pressure for lands in the best way he could, and I presume that under that view of the case his proceeding will be tacitly acquiesced in by way of experiment.
With reference to par: 6 of this report, address the proposed inquiry to the Governor General of Canada?
The rest of the report merely contains the Governor's narrative and does not appear to raise any practical questions.
TFE 9 Feby
Duke of Newcastle
It wd. be very well that we sh. obtain from Canada full information as to their free grant system, if it is not given in any Canadian Parliamentary Papers, wh. we may have in the Office. The Engineers appear to have done very little useful work in B. Columbia, and to have devoted themselves mainly to military duties, & laying out capital cities. Might it not be well to address the Govr on this subject, if the Engineers are continued? I am much inclined however to think that they wd. be better away, as a military body—only a sufficient number being retained to direct the labour of others in roadmaking & surveying. The scarcity of labourers may indeed be a reason for keeping them. But a report from the Govr on the whole question wd, I think, be very useful.
CF 10
Mr F
Such a report would be useful, but I have no doubt the Engineers are most expensive Labourers if they could be dispensed with, as Soldiers. I think we have in the office the necessary information as to Canadas Land System.
N 2-11
Manuscript image
With reference to the practical question treated of in the minutes, vizt whether we yet possessed an account of the system of grants in Canada or whether we should write for such an account, I add this memo: to state that I find that a despatch was sent to Sir E. Head last month asking for the information. Therefore put this by?
TFE 7 March
CF 8
N 8