22 April 1861
I have the honor to forward the accompanying Memorial to Your Grace, at the request of Mr J.A.R. Homer and seven other persons, professedly Delegates representingtheManuscript image the towns of Hope, Douglas, and New Westminster, at a series of political meetings lately held at the latter place.
2. This movement, so far as I have been able to gather, originated with a very few persons; and its chief object was stated to be the attainment of Representative Institutions; a topic necessarily popular, and which was used on this occasion to excite the public mind and induce the inhabitants of New Westminster, Douglas, and Hope, the three towns nearest to the Coast, to elect Delegates to serve in what was termed a Convention ostensibly for thepurposeManuscript image purpose of acting as a Council of Advice to the Governor, of correcting abuses, and of obtaining Representative Institutions.
3. When and how the elections were conducted at Hope and Douglas, has not been alluded to in the quarterly reports received from the Magistrates of those Towns; and must therefore, I presume, have attracted little or no attention; but the proceedings of the New Westminster election are described in the enclosed cuttings from the "New Westminster Times"—the Editor of that paper was one of theleadersManuscript image leaders of the movement, and a disappointed candidate for the honors of election; consequently his strictures may be embittered by defeat, and should be received with some allowance.
4. As the meeting was conducted with perfect order and good humour, no official notice was taken of the proceedings, other than would have been given to any public exhibition got up for the amusement of the people. The Memorial to Your Grace, now forwarded, is, I believe, the only result of the movement; the Delegates having since dispersed and returned to their homes.
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5. On the one single occasion when they sought a personal interview with me, I declined receiving them as representatives of the inhabitants of British Columbia; but I had no hesitation in meeting them, with all courtesy, as a deputation of Her Majesty's Subjects from Douglas, Hope, and New Westminster, assembled for the purpose of petitioning the Crown.
6. They did not favour me with their opinion on public affairs, but judging from the pointed reflections upon the whole system of import and inland duties levied on goods in British Columbia, which thememorialManuscript image memorial regards as oppressive to the people, the one favourite financial idea evolved, is, that there should be a general reduction of taxation. They do not pretend to proportion expenses to income, but propose to carry on the public works requisite for the development of the Colony, by means of public loans; their object being to obtain present exemption from taxation by throwing a part of the current expenditure upon the future inhabitants of the Colony—a measure which is not without a show of justice, and has therefore many zealous advocates, especially among the temporarypopulationManuscript image population of the Colony.
7. Having by these preliminary remarks given Your Grace some idea of the origin, and object, so far as in known, of this movement, I shall now proceed to a review of the Memorial.
8. The first prayer of the petitioners is for a resident Governor in British Columbia, entirely unconnected with Vancouver Island. Your Grace will perhaps pardon me for not hazarding any observation on a subject that so nearly concerns my own official position. I mayhoweverManuscript image however, at least remark that I have spared no exertion to promote the true interests of both Colonies; and am not conscious of having neglected any opportunity of adding to their prosperity. The Memorial then proceeds to the subject of Representative Institutions, asking for a form of Government similar to that existing in Australia, and the Eastern British North American Provinces. This application should perhaps be considered more with reference to the future well-being of the Colony, than to the views and wishes of the existing population. Without pretending to questiontheManuscript image the talent and experience of the petitioners, or their capacity for legislation and self-government, I am decidedly of opinion that there is not as yet a sufficient basis of population or property in the Colony to constitute a sound system of representative government. The British element is small; and there is absolutely neither a manufacturing nor farming class; there are no landed proprietors except holders of building-lots in towns; no producers except miners; and the general population is essentially migratory: the only fixed population, apart from NewWestminsterManuscript image Westminster, being the Traders, settled in several inland towns from which the Miners obtain their supplies. It would I conceive, be unwise to commit the work of legislation to persons so situated, having nothing at stake, and no real vested interest in the Colony. Such a course, it is hardly unfair to say, could scarcely be expected to promote either the happiness of the people, or the prosperity of the Colony; and it would unquestionably be setting up a power that might materially hinder and embarrass the Government in the great work of developing the resources of the Country: a power not representinglargeManuscript image large bodies of landed proprietors, nor of responsible settlers having their homes, their property, their sympathies and their dearest interests irrevocably identified with the Country, but—from the fact before stated of there being no fixed population except in the Towns—a power exclusively representing the population of those Towns. Judging from the ordinary motives which influence men, it may be assumed that local interests would weigh more with a legislature so formed, than the advancement of the great and permanent interests of the Country.
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9. I have reason to believe that the Memorial does not express the sentiments of the great body of the people of British Columbia: not that I would for a moment assume that Englishmen are, under any circumstances, unmindful of their political birth-right; but I believe that a majority of the reflective and working classes would, for many reasons, infinitely prefer the Government of the Queen, as now established, to the rule of a party; and would think it prudent to postpone the establishment of Representative Institutions until the permanent populationofManuscript image of the Colony is greatly increased, and capable by moral influence of maintaining the peace of the Country, and making Representative Institutions, a blessing and a reality, and not a by-word and a curse.
10. The total population of British origin, and from the Colonies in North America, in the three towns supposed to be represented by the Memorialists, is as follows:
New Westminster..........164 Male adults
Hope.....................108 Do
Douglas...................33 Do
In all...................305 which, supposing perfectB unaminity in their views respecting RepresentativeInstitutionsManuscript image Institutions, is a mere fraction of the population. Neither the people of Yale, Lytton, Cayoosh, Rock Creek, Alexandria, nor Shimilkomeen appear to have taken any interest in the proceeding, or to have joined the movement party.
11. From the satisfactory working of the New Westminster Town Council, established last summer with large powers for Municipal purposes, I entertained the idea of enlarging the sphere of their operations, and of constituting similar bodies at Hope, Yale,CayooshManuscript image Cayoosh, and all other towns in British Columbia, with the view, should it meet the approval of Her Majesty's Government, of ultimately developing the whole system into a House of Assembly. Part of that scheme has already been commenced at Yale and Hope. The Government may by that means call into exercise the sagacity and local knowledge of practical men, and acquire valuable information on all local matters; thus reaping one of the advantages of a legislative assembly, without the risks: and I still thinktheManuscript image the Colony may, for some time to come, be efficiently represented in that manner.
12. The existing causes of dissatisfaction as alleged in the Memorial may be classed under the following heads; 1st That the Governor, Colonial Secretary, and Attorney General, do not reside permanently in British Columbia. 2nd That the taxes on goods are excessive as compared with the population, and in part levied on Boatmen, who derive no benefit from them: and that there is no land-tax.3rd ThatManuscript image 3rd That the progress of Victoria is stimulated at the expense of British Columbia, and that no encouragement is given to Ship-building, or to the foreign trade of the Colony. 4th That money has been most injudiciously squandered on public works; and contracts for roads given without any public notice, which have been subsequently sub-let by the Contractors at much lower rates. 5th The faulty administration of public lands: and that lands have been declared public reserves, which have been afterwardsclaimedManuscript image claimed by parties connected with the Colonial Government. 6th The want of a Registry Office for the record of transfers and mortgages.
13. The first complaint—the Governor, Colonial Secretary, and Attorney General, not residing permanently in British Columbia, scarcely requires comment from me. Your Grace is aware that I have a divided duty to perform, and that if, under the present circumstances of the Colony, the Colonial Secretary, and Attorney General resided permanently in British Columbia,theirManuscript image their offices would be little less than a sinecure;
If this is really the case—and it is not improbable—the apptment of an Attorney Genl for B.C., which the Governor has recommended the Duke of Newcastle to make, may be deferred without any public injury, and with a small saving of expense.
the public service would be retarded, and a real and just ground for complaint would exist. Although the Treasury is now established at New Westminster, and the Treasurer resides permanently there, I have no hesitation in saying that it would be far more for the benefit of the public service if that Department were still at Victoria.
14. The complaint of over-taxation is not peculiartoManuscript image to British Columbia, but whether it is well founded or not, may perhaps be best inferred from the example of other countries. Judging by that estimate, the people of British Columbia have certainly no reason to complain of their public burthens—for the United States' tariff, which is rigourously enforced in the neighbouring Ports of Washington Territory, averages 25 per cent on all foreign goods, spirits and other articles of luxury, on which a much higher rate of duty is charged, excepted.TheManuscript image The citizen of Washington Territory has also to pay the Assessed, Road, and School Taxes, levied by the Territorial Legislature. In contrast with those taxes, the import duty levied in British Columbia is only 10 per cent, with a similar exception of spirits, and a few articles of luxury, which pay a higher duty: while all other taxes levied in the Colony are also proportionably as light, compared with those of Washington Territory. I might further state as apeculiarManuscript image peculiar advantage, that two-thirds of the taxes raised in British Columbia, have been expended in making roads, and other useful public works, which have produced a reduction of not less than 100 per cent on the cost of transport, and nearly as great a saving in the cost of all the necessaries of life; so that while the communications are being rapidly improved, the people are, at the same time, really reaping from those works, substantialbenefitsManuscript image benefits, more than compensating the outlay.
15. With respect to the complaint about the Boatmen, they had no claim whatever to be exempted from the operation of the law imposing a duty indiscriminately on all goods passing upwards from Yale, neither did the duty bear at all upon them, as they were merely carriers, and not the owners of the goods; the real question at issue was whether the inland duty should be charged on goods carried from Yale by water as wellasManuscript image as by land, and was nothing more than a scheme concerted by the owners of the goods to benefit themselves at the expense of the public revenue.
16. And here I would beg to correct an error in the Memorial with respect to the population of British Columbia, which is therein given at 7,000—exclusive of Indians—making an average annual rate of taxation of £7.10/ per Head. The actual population, Chinamen included, is about 10,000, besides a native Indian population exceeding 20,000,makingManuscript image making a total of 30,000, which reduces the taxation to about £2 per Head, instead of the rate given in the Memorial. It must be remembered that all the white population are adults, and tax-paying; there being no proportionate number of women or children, and it is a great mistake to suppose that the Native Indians pay no taxes. They have, especially in the Gold Districts, for the most part abandoned their former pursuits, and no longer provide their own stores offoodManuscript image food. All the money they make by their labour, either on hire, or by gold-digging, is expended in the country, so that the Indians have now become extensive consumers of foreign articles and contribute very largely to the Colonial Revenue, even more perhaps in proportion to numbers, than the class of Miners who annually emigrate from the Colony with their earnings.
17. I did not expect to find the Authors of the Memorial advocating a land tax, seeing that so smallaManuscript image a quantity of land has been alienated by the Crown, that the tax would really produce hardly an appreciable effect on the revenue, while it would operate as a check on the sale of land, and become oppressive to an interest which much requires the most careful fostering on the part of Government.
18. Nothing can be more unfounded than the next allegation, that the progress of Victoria has been stimulated at the expense of British Columbia &c—in fact it is difficult to see how the prosperity ofVictoriaManuscript image Victoria could injure British Columbia, their interests being inseparable and identical. The Ports of British Columbia are open to the ships and trade of all nations—equally with Victoria and the Ports of Vancouver Island; and the one has no advantage over the other, except such as Nature has conferred in placing Victoria in the most accessible and convenient situation for trade. Every attention has been paid to rendering Fraser's River safe and accessible, the channels have been carefullysurveyedManuscript image surveyed, and marked with conspicuous Buoys; and foreign vessels may go direct to New Westminster, without calling at Victoria, or any intermediate Port, and the Port Dues are the same whether vessels clear originally from Victoria, or come directly from foreign parts. It is impossible in fact, to imagine a more perfect equality of Legislative protection than is given to these two Ports.
19. I have had applications, under various pretexts, from almost every interest in theColonyManuscript image Colony, for remission of duties, and I have steadily resisted all such applications, on the ground that class legislation is vicious and in the main leads to injustice and discontent. It is moreover very doubtful if the proposed remission of duty on ship-building materials would advance that interest, as long as the timber business of New Westminster is a monopoly in the hands of a few persons who keep timber at an unreasonably high price.
20. With respect to the fourth and fifth Complaints,asManuscript image as I was not cognizant of any circumstances affording grounds for them, I addressed a letter to the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works, whose Department they more immediately affected, and I forward herewith a Copy of that Officer's Report, from which it will be seen that no just cause exists for the allegations made.
21. The want of a Registry Office, which also forms a subject of complaint, arises solely from our not having succeeded in maturing the details of a measure, whichisManuscript image is, I find, replete with difficulties of no ordinary kind; but Your Grace may rely that an Act providing for the Registration of Real Estate will be passed as soon as practicable.
22. Before concluding this Despatch, I will submit a few observations on the financial system of Vancouver Island in contrast with that of British Columbia; explanatory of their distinctive features, and their applicability to the Colonies respectively.
23. The Public Revenue ofVancouverManuscript image Vancouver Island is almost wholly derived from taxes levied directly on Persons, Professions, Trades, and Real Estate: on the other hand, it is by means of duties on Imports, and on goods carried inland, that the Public Revenue of British Columbia is chiefly raised. No other plan of finance has been suggested, by which a Public Revenue could be raised, that is so perfectly adapted to the circumstances of both Colonies, or that could be substituted, or applied interchangeably with advantagetoManuscript image to the Sister Colony. The reasons may be thus stated—the low-priced and bulky productions of Vancouver Island will not bear the cost of exportation to any British Possession, and are virtually excluded from the markets of the Mother Country by the distance, and expense of the voyage. A precisely similar result is produced through the almost prohibitory duties levied in the neighbouring Ports of Oregon and California; the former, moreover, abounding in all the natural productions common to Vancouver Island, except coal; and neither beinginferiorManuscript image inferior in point of soil, climate, or any physical advantage. Thus practically debarred from commercial intercourse, and denied a market for its produce, it became painfully evident that the Colony could not prosper, nor ever be a desirable residence for white settlers, until a remunerative outlet was found for the produce of their labour. It was that state of things which originated the idea of creating a home-market; and the advantageous position of Victoria for commerce, suggested Free Trade as the means, whichwhichManuscript image was from thenceforth adopted as a policy, with the object of making the Port a centre of trade and population, and ultimately the commercial entrepot of the North Pacific. That policy was initiated several years previous to the discovery of Gold in British Columbia, and has since been inflexibly maintained. Victoria has now grown into commercial importance, and its value and influence can hardly be overrated: financially it furnishes four-fifths of the Public Revenue: it absorbstheManuscript image the whole surplus produce of the Colony; and is a centre from whence settlements are gradually branching out into the interior of the Island. Thus Victoria has become the centre of population: the seat of trade: a productive source of revenue; and a general market for the country: the settlements are all compactly situated within a radius of 20 Miles, except those which are accessible by sea, there is therefore no pressing call for large expenditures in the improvement of internal communications. RoadsareManuscript image are opened when required, with due regard, and in proportion to the means of the Colony; its vital interests not being greatly affected by any unavoidable delay.
24. The circumstances of British Columbia are materially different from those just described. That Colony has large internal resources which only require development to render it powerful and wealthy. Its extensive Gold-fields furnish a highly remunerative export, and are rapidly attracting trade and population. MininghasManuscript image has become a valuable branch of industry, and essentially the vital interest of the Colony: it has therefore been my unceasing policy to encourage and develope that interest. The laws are framed in the most liberal spirit, studiously relieving Miners from every species of direct taxation, and vesting in the Mining Boards a general power to amend and adapt their provisions to the special circumstances of the Districts.
The Government has moreover charged itself with other more onerousdutiesManuscript image duties in furtherance of the same object, by opening roads through the most difficult mountains into all parts of the Country, to facilitate commerce and transport, and to enable the Miner to pursue his arduous labours with success. Three different lines of road have been successfully carried through the Coast Range of Mountains, and Mining Districts 500 Miles distant from the sea, have been rendered accessible by routes hitherto unknown.TheManuscript image The extension and improvement of works so pressingly required, and indispensable to the progress and development of the country, still claim the anxious care of Government. The greatest difficulty was experienced in providing funds to meet the necessary large expenditure on those works, and that object was accomplished by imposing an Import Duty on goods, as the only feasible means of providing a revenue adequate to the public exigencies; it was justly supposed thatanyManuscript image any tax levied directly on the mining population would lead to clamour and discontent, without being productive of revenue; whereas the indirect tax is not felt as a burden, and, I believe, makes no appreciable difference in the prices which Miners have to pay for their supplies.
25. I have entered into the foregoing review of the administrative systems adopted in British Columbia and Vancouver Island, in answer to the assertion oftheManuscript image the Memorialists that "every exertion is apparently made to stimulate the progress of Vancouver's Island at the expense of British Columbia" and to prove that my measures have been ever calculated to promote to the fullest extent the substantial interests of both Colonies.
26. I trust Your Grace will pardon the length to which this Despatch has reached; in forwarding the Memorial however,establishedManuscript image established rule required that I should accompany it by a report, and I could not well do so in fewer words.
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke,
Your Grace's most obedient
and humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
This excellent despatch will be of great service whenever the Duke of Newcastle finds himself able to go into the Memorials recd last year from certain persons in B.C. praying for a representative form of Govt &c &c.
Put with the previous papers.
ABd 11 June
Mr Fortescue
I should think there can be little doubt that the introduction of a representative Assembly in British Columbia wouldManuscript image be premature and that the establishment of party Government would be not only premature but pernicious. On the other hand the creation of elective Municipal Bodies, with suitable powers, seems an excellent preparation for a future general Assembly.
The complaints appear well met by the Governor. As regards the lands however, it is perhaps right to mention that Colonel Moody was only in a position to report on the surveyed lands, so that any of the complaints which touch unsurveyed lands remain for the present unanswered. I think that it would be satisfactory to have some explanation on the subject of the Memorialists' allegation that lands have been declared public reserves and afterwards claimed by parties connected with the Colonial Government.
The Governor's despatch appears to me very able, and calculated to inspire confidence in his judgment and in his intentions. The public has always seemed to me fortunate in obtaining at this remote and inaccessible settlement, so far out of the reach of much control from home, a Governor of so much self-reliance and practical ability.
TFE 11 June
Duke of Newcastle
This desp. affords strong grounds for declining to comply with the prayer of the Petitioners, and for deferring the introduction of Representative institutions into B. Columbia. I think the Memorialists may be told, that youManuscript image are satisfied that their complaints agst the Govt are, to a great degree, founded upon misapprehension, but that every exertion will be made by the Govr in order that every just cause of complaint may, as far as possible, be removed. And that, with respect to the remedy wh. they propose for all alleged grievances, viz. the introduction of the form of Govt wh. prevails in the Australian & B.N. American Colonies, your Grace is convinced that, under the present circes of B. Columbia, such a form of Govt wd. be unsuited to the early state of progress through wh. the Colony is passing, and wd. not promote the public interests. So young & still unformed a Community—while you believe that the Mining Boards and the Municipal Institutions wh. have been established in some of the towns, & will, doubtless before long be extended to others, will be found of the greatest value in enabling the inhabitants to manage their own local affairs, in providingManuscript image a form of communication between the people and the Govt on the more general affairs of the Colony, & in laying a safe & sound foundation for a future Representative superstructure.
I have only proposed to allude to what the Memorialists ask for—viz—the Australian & B.N. American forms of Govt. But it is obvious that there may be a far simpler & safer form of representative institutions, and it might be well to ask the Govr whether he sees his way towards the introduction before any long time, of some such simple form—a Council for instance elected by properly qualified voters—or consisting of Members elected by the Mining Boards & Municipalities from among their own bodies.
CF 14 June
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Memorial to Newcastle, as per despatch, signed in New Westminster, 20 February 1861, eight signatures.
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Newspaper clipping, New Westminster Times, 5 January 1860, "Convention Meeting."
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Newspaper clipping, New Westminster Times, 12 January 1861, "Convention Election."
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Newspaper clipping, New Westminster Times, 20 February 1861, "British Columbia Convention."
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R.C. Moody to Colonial Secretary, 1 April 1861, commenting on passages in the memorial relating to roads and the administration of land.