Murdoch and Rogers to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
31 March 1860
Sir
We have to acknowledge your letter of 14th instant, enclosing a Despatch from the Governor of British Columbia with a Proclamation issued by him, to prescribe the conditions on which unsurveyed Agricultural Lands may be occupied in that Colony on a system of preemption.
2. In a Despatch dated 4th July last, and again in a Despatch of Manuscript image of 18th October, Governor Douglas explained the difficulty which he experienced in providing surveyed Country Lands for Agricultural Settlers, and proposed as a means of escape the establishment of a system of occupation of unsurveyed Land with a future right of preemption. The Duke of Newcastle having sanctioned that proposal the Proclamation now transmitted has been issued to carry it into effect.
3. The Proclamation announces that in future any British Manuscript image subject or alien who shall take the oath of allegiance may acquire unsurveyed Crown Land, not being a Town site, Indian reserve or Auriferous—by entering into possession and recording his claim to not more than 160 acres with the nearest Magistrate, paying a fee of 8s/- for such record, and giving the best description of the land in his power with a rough plan of it—the Land so claimed to be rectangular in form and not more than half as long again as it is wide, and posts to be placed at its corners—that no such Land shall be Manuscript image transferable by Sale unless the Vendor shall have obtained a certificate from the nearest Magistrate that he has made permanent improvements on it to the extent of 10s/- an Acre—that whenever the survey shall come up to Land so claimed the claimant or his heirs or (where an improvement certificate has been granted) his assigns, if they have been in continuous occupation, shall be entitled to purchase the Land and obtain a conveyance (with a reservation, however, of the precious Minerals) at the Manuscript image established rate of the day not exceeding 10s/- an Acre—that the first occupant who shall record his claim as above prescribed shall have priority of Title—that any person authorized to acquire preempted land may also purchase in addition any quantity of unoccupied Land, at a price not exceeding 10s/- an Acre to be fixed by the Government at the time of survey—5s/- to be paid down and the balance at the time of Survey—that whenever any person shall "permanently" cease to occupy preempted Land the nearest Manuscript image Magistrate may summarily cancel his claim but with appeal to the Supreme Court, and record the claim of another person in his place—that occupants of preempted or purchased Land may bring Actions of ejectment or trespass against intruders—that Government shall be entitled to take Land required for roads and public purposes—and that Miners shall have water privileges over such Lands for Mining purposes paying compensation for damage—and that disputes may, before an Manuscript image Action of ejectment or trespass is commenced, be summarily heard and determined by the nearest Magistrate.
4. Upon this Proclamation we have to submit the following observations.
5. In regard to preempted lots though their shape and size is fixed nothing is said about the direction of their boundaries. It would be necessary that these should run all in the same directions, otherwise they would be quite unmanageable in the future Survey. It would probably be best to require that Manuscript image the parallel sides should run in the direction of the Cardinal points of the compass. And as errors will occur in taking such points provision should be made for the rectification of the lines on survey. The Land to be purchased under the 7th clause should likewise be taken in rectangular parallelograms with the side lines running in the same directions as the lines of preempted land—and the posts to be placed at the Angles should if possible be in sight from each other.
6. No provision is made for Manuscript image the case of an occupant dying after a considerable expenditure on his Land, but without having obtained an improvement Certificate, and leaving no heirs in the colony—or only heirs not capable of occupying the Land—this might operate with hardship in the case of a Settler leaving only a Wife and young Children.
7. By Clause 9 the nearest Magistrate is authorized to cancel the claim of any person who shall "permanently" cease to occupy preempted land. Their term is very indefinite. It leaves the Magistrate a Manuscript image latitude which might be, and would certainly be said to be, used with partiality. The period which should operate as an abandonment of the Land should be fixed by Proclamation.
8. Except in these respects we conceive that the Proclamation may be approved.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
ABd 4/April
Adopt the Commissrs' advice?
TFE 4 April
CF 5
N 6
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 23, 7 May 1860.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
This is submitted for approval.
The E. Coms are wrong in saying (par 2) that the Governors scheme has been already approved. This is not the case and in the present despatch it is proposed to defer expressing this approval till the Governors report on Capt Clarkes scheme is received.
Mr Elliot
As the Duke Duke Manuscript image of Newcastle of Newcastle, in his Minute of 11 Decr/59 expressed himself as "leaning" to Captain Clarke's suggestions for the disposal of the Crown Lands in British Columbia in preference to the Governor's views as to preemption, and as we are expecting a report from the Governor on those suggestions, I think it will be prudent to defer any decisive step upon the Proclamation until we know what the Governor Manuscript image has to say upon Captain Clarke's plan.
[Sender not known.] to Merivale, Herman 31 March 1860, CO 60:9, no. 3402, 69. 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. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/B605LN03.html.

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