Begbie to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
4, Mansion House Place,
27th Jany 1860 The Right Honorable H. Merivale Esqre C.B. Under Secretary of State for the Colonies &c &c &c

I am advised by private sources of the pressing necessities that exist in British Columbia for the rapid opening up of roads to the Mines. The length of road completed during the Year 1859 is 7 Miles.
The Upper Country contains at present very few miners—they fly from high prices; they are ready to pay $2 a lb: for flour, they fly from starvation—there are no roads. The trails are scarce passable in Winter by any powers of endurance.
Provisions which cost last summer 4s/- to 8s/- pr lb. at Alexandria cost last Winter the same sum at Cayoosh & the Fountains 200 miles on the coast side of Alexandria. That 200 Miles would not merely add, in Winter, a dollar or two to the price per lb: which is all the effect it produces in summer. In Winter it prevents all access.
Without roads there can be no population: no fixed population at all, and little even of a migratory sort & that of the least revenue paying character; without population there can be no Revenue.
I am willing to undertake the opening up of a Road on a line to be fixed by the Government from a Terminus at Douglas to a Terminus at Cayoosh to be constructed at my own expense, to be equal at least to the 7 Miles made last Year by Capn Grant & to be all finished in 1861 provided that 1stly It remains the only route to the Mines. 2ndly I have the right to take toll for 5 Years from completion of Road to the satisfaction of the Government according to Captn Grants sample.
These Manuscript image These tolls & other conditions I am quite prepared to state at once on learning that such proposals meet with your approbation and if agreed to I am prepared immediately to proceed with operations. The Roads could only be finished in 1861 supposing an arrangement be made without delay as the mileage cannot be completed in One Year. The position & means of the Contractors in this country interested with me in this matter will afford ample guarantee for the satisfactory completion of the Contract proposed if Captial & experience can ensure success.
I have the honor to be Sir,
Your most Obedt humble Servt
Thos Stirling Begbie
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
The urgent demand for roads is undeniable. All accounts public & private agree that the progress of the Colony is retarded by the want of them. Roads were to have been the first care of the Engineers, and they have made from 5 to 7 miles up the Country: & would doubtless have made more if they had had time. But I conclude that the Engineers have had interruptions. Are then the Roads to be delayed until the Engineers have leisure to make them, and is nobody else to make roads but the Military force. Why should not the writer—who is a Merchant in the City, & able to perform all he promises—or any other person who may be fixed upon undertake this very pressing and important Service? The fact, I think, is that it has been an expensive error sending out R. Engineers to B. Columbia. It is difficult to combine Military & Civil duties in one person. If part of a Regt of the Line had been stationed in B.C. or V.C. Isld it wd have afforded adequate military protection—have been much less costly, and roads, bridges surveys &c wd have fallen into the hands of private enterprize, by whom, under Govt supervision those duties wd have been performed promptly & well enough. We are now placed in the embarrassing position of having to maintain the Manuscript image Engineers for the nominal though not exclusive purpose of making roads, and the B.C. public must be taxed to defray the expense incurred by any person, or association of persons, who may be willing to undertake the real service.
I scarcely suppose that Mr Begbie's first condition can be entertained, unless with modification. And at any time the Governor must be consulted on this subject.
ABd 30 Jany
Father, or brother, of the Ch Justice?
HM Jan 30
ABd 30/Jany
I asked this because I think it is a little Manuscript image inconvenient that we should receive Ch. Justice Bebgie's impressions in this way through his brother in England, which I take to be the meaning of the letter. The Judge is however a man of active habits & a very good observer. But the roads must make themselves, as far as I can see. We cannot afford to force on this community?
HM Jan 31
The first condition seems quite out of the question. But send to Govr?
CF Feb 1
The Govr must however be cautioned against supposing that in sending him this letter I sanction the condition of a close monopoly of a road—a monstrous proposal in such a Country!
N 3
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to Begbie, 14 February 1860, advising that the question had been referred to the governor for report. [This letter has been crossed out.]
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 8, 7 February 1860, forwarding Begbie's proposal to Douglas. Newcastle is careful to make clear that he does not support the idea.