21 January 1862
I had the honour of laying before Your Grace in my Despatch marked "Separate," of the 16th of September last, certainManuscript imagecertain statements relative to the recent discovery of Gold on the Stickeen River, and I have now further to communicate that those statements have been fully confirmed by Alexandre Choquette, an adventurous Miner, who lately arrived with specimens of Gold which he found in that quarter.
2. Choquette is an experienced Miner, having been engaged in that business for several years inManuscript imagein California, and for the last two years he has devoted the greater part of his time to the examination of the Rivers debouching from the Northern Coast of British Columbia.
3. His modest narrative, which will be found in the enclosed cutting from the "British Colonist" of the 10th of January, instant, proves the existence of productive surface diggings to the extreme point of StickeenManuscript imageStickeen River which he succeeded in reaching about 115 miles from the sea. The Gold is clear and bright, in minute particles, and cannot be economically saved without the aid of mercury; it however increased in size as he ascended the stream, leading him to the apparently well founded conclusion that like the great valley of Frasers River, the interior of the Stickeen containsManuscript imagecontains rich deposits of the precious metal.
4. Specimens of Gold have also been brought from the "Nass" or Simpson's River, the boundary of British Columbia to the North; and from these indications it is with equal probability assumed that extensive gold fields will ere long be discovered in the valleys of both the Nass and Stickeen Rivers.
5. Already parties of MinersManuscript imageMiners are preparing to start for those Gold-fields and hundreds will follow their example should their success prove at all satisfactory.
6. I herewith forward for Your Grace's inspection, specimens of Gold from the "Nass" and Stickeen Rivers.
7. I may also mention as a fact of great importance connected with Mr Choquette's discoveries, and illustrative of the physical character of the country, that coal is foundManuscript imagefound cropping out from the banks at two several points on the Stickeen River. At one of those places, about 80 miles distant from the sea, Mr Choquette found a 36 inch seam of good bituminous coal: the other out-crop is much nearer the coast, and was pointed out by the Indians who accompanied him on his journey, but not having actually inspected the seam, he can give no ideaManuscript imageidea of its quality as a fuel, or of its commercial value.
8. The probable increase of trade and population and the material changes which may soon take place in Her Majesty's Northern Possessions on this coast in consequence of these discoveries naturally lead to the consideration of the effect which such changes may have on our relations with Russia.
9. The Manuscript image
9. The British Possessions north of Latitude 56o are hemmed in and divided from the sea by the line of coast ceded to Russia, and are accessible to ships or vessels arriving from the ocean only, by passing through the Russian Territory.
10. The right of freely navigating the inland seas and Gulfs on the Coast, without trouble or molestation, as a means of access to Her Majesty's TerritoriesManuscript imageTerritories thus becomes a necessity, and appears to be implied in the 6th article of the convention between His Majesty and the Emperor of Russia of the 28th of February 1825, which provides as follows:
It is understood that the subjects of His Britannic Majesty, from whatever quarter they may arrive, either from the ocean, or from the interior of the continent, shall for ever enjoy the right of navigatingManuscript imagenavigating freely, and without any hindrance whatever all the rivers and streams which in their course to the Pacific Ocean, may cross the line of demarcation upon the line of Coast namely ten Marine leagues from the ocean ceded to Russia by the 4th article of the same Treaty.
11. I understand by this Article of the Convention that British Subjects are for ever secured in the free navigation of theManuscript imagethe Coast, and in the privilege of passing freely with their ships and property to and from the Stickeen and all other rivers and communications through which access may be had to the British Settlements and Territory bordering on the line of coast north of Latitude 56o held by Russia, and I beg to be corrected if my impressions as to those rights, are not in accordance with the perceived interpretation of the Treaty.
12. Much
Manuscript image
12. Much as I wish to avoid giving umbrage to Russia, either by violations of Her Territory, or interference with Her Trade, I clearly foresee how utterly impossible it will be to restrain the rush of people towards that quarter, should gold prove to be abundant on the Stickeen and other rivers of the Coast.
13. I trust indeed that the Emperor's Government, duly allowing for the difficulties of the situation, willManuscript imagewill be accommodating and considerate in their decisions, permitting British Vessels to anchor when necessary in the Bays and Harbours of the Coast, as well as at the mouths of Creeks and Rivers: and neither seeking to impose restrictions on British trade, nor to levy duties on goods in transit to the gold-fields of the interior, which would be less justifiable, as, the settlement of Sitka excepted, the coast is unoccupied by public or private establishments, and eitherManuscript imageeither wholly desert, or at best partially inhabited by bodies of wandering Savages.
14. As such questions are likely soon to be pressed by approaching events upon Your Grace's attention, I have thought it expedient to touch upon them at this time in order that I may have Your Grace's instructions, and trusting it may be convenient forManuscript imagefor Her Majesty's Government to revise the Convention of 1825, and to obtain from the Emperor an explicit recognition of those rights of navigation which have been secured to British Subjects.
15. I have also to request Your Grace's instructions with respect to the Government of that Territory, which is beyond the limits of BritishManuscript imageBritish Columbia, and for authority to impose taxes for defraying the expenses of Government.
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
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Sir F. Rogers
The usual course would be to acknowledge this Desp. & print it for Parliament, but there is an important question raised as to the Construction of the Treaty with Russia of 1825—upon which you will probably consider it necessary to consult the Foreign Office? The Govr also asks for instructions for the Govt of the Territory beyond the limits of the Colony.
VJ 17 M
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Mr Elliot
The dph should clearly be sent to the F.O. with a request to be informed whether the 6th Art. of the Treaty of Feby 28 1825 is to be held as precluding the Russians from imposing duties on goods imported into British across Russian territory by way of the streams or rivers described in that article. And whether in Lord Russell's opinion it wd be practicable to arrive at any understanding which wd secure such importation from obstruction or impost.
The question respecting the mode of governing the Territories beyond British Columbia is one with wh you may wish to deal.
The Act 23 & 24 Vict. C. 121 may possibly be found useful.
FR 17/3
Mr Fortescue
Sir F. Rogers has advised as to the question about relations with Russia. AsManuscript image As to the other point, I feel greatly at a loss what opinion to give, but I rather anticipate that you will be reluctant to form a new and distinct Government to the North of B. Columbia until the necessity shall be confirmed by some further and more substantial experience. The boundaries of British Columbia are fixed by act of Parliament. On the North they consist of Simpson's River and the Finlay branch. By a very rough estimate made by me on the map, I should reckon it at more than 400 miles from the mouth of the Fraser to the Finlay Branch, and at nearly 200 more to the River Stickeen. This is the situation of the place at which the question of forming a new Government is presented.
TFE 12 April
Duke of Newcastle
The F.O. should of course be consulted as to the Convention with Russia, which appears to meet the case, as far as free access is concerned.
TheManuscript image question put by the Govr, at the end of his desp., seems premature. I have got the Act of 1859 for the appointment of Magistrates in the Indian Territory, before me, & forget whether it extends W. of the Rocky Mts. If it does, it wd go far to meet the case.
CF 15
Whether or no the Act of 1859 extends to the region in question (& I think it does) it is quite premature to raise the question of a new & separate Govt. The first thing to be done, &, unless otherwise suggested by Ld Russell, I think the only thing at present is to send this to the F.O. & consult them as to the bearings of the Convention.
N 19
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Mr Fortescue
I am not quite sure how far the draft to Govr disposes of the case.
The D of N's minute decides agst any separate Govt as premature. But I am not sure how far H.G. decides that temporary arrangement for governing the country provisionally is equally premature.
I apprehend the Act of 1859 clearly applies to these Territories. But practically it would be inconvenient to make use of it—first because the Justices of the Peace who are to administer Justice must be appointed (as I understand) by Her Majesty i.e. (I rather infer) at home—whereas it wd be convenient that appointments shd be made promptly & pro re ratâ on the spot. Secondly because it gives no power of raising money to pay these Justices.Manuscript image Mr Douglas mt however be told that H.M.G. wd be ready to appoint any persons whom he mt indicate to be (unpaid) Justices of the Peace beyond the limits of B.C. with the powers conferred by 1 & 2 Geo 4 c. 66 and 22 & 23 Vict. c. 26.
Or Mr Douglas might receive a commission as Govr or Administrator of the Territories north of B.C. & not belonging to the H.B.C. with special power to Appt judges or justices & to deal with Crown Lands. This wd give him the power of issuing Gold Licences, but not (I shd think) of imposing penalties for breach of any regulation he mt make affecting Crown Lands or Gold.
Or an Order in Council might be made (under the Act to amend the Falkland I. Act) wh I conceive appliesManuscript image to these Territories declaring that the Govr of B.C. for the time being should be administrator of the abovementd Territories—with the above powers and also that of making regulations for the conduct of the Gold Fields, & the order mt impose a penalty not exceeding [blank]£ on breach of such regulations.
This Order in C. if made shd be first submitted to the Law Office.
I shd be disposed either to defer the question till there was some real appearance of a rush to these regions, or to proceed by the most effectual method—that by Order in Council.
FR 16/6
Duke of Newcastle
I am much disposed to agree with Sir F.R. in preferring the mode of proceeding by Order in Council under the Act of 1860Manuscript image and I should think the Order might be framed, submitted to the Law Officers, & sent out in drafts to the Govr for his opinion, in anticipation of the necessity for it, which is almost sure to arise from the rapid extension of the Gold Fields to the Northwards.
CF 19
Considering the length of time required for communication with B. Columbia and the rapidity with which events are marching in these territories I think it would not be prudent wholly to postpone the question of a temporary form of Government. I prefer the mode of proceeding by Order in Council under the Act, not I think of 1859 (as stated by Mr Fortescue) but of 1860, first submitting the Order to the Law Officers.
N 21
I meant to say 1860. i.e. 23 & 24 Vict. c. 121.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Newspaper clipping, British Colonist, "The Stickeen River Gold Discovery," 10 January 1862.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Elliot to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 2 May 1862, forwarding copy of the despatch for consideration.
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Draft, Elliot to Attorney General and Solicitor General, 3 July 1862, explaining in detail the situation in the northern territory and discussing the best mode of establishing British authority should the expected gold rush materialize.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Fortescue
What are the new districts to be called & note an Order on Council.
FR 27/6
"The Stikeen Territory?"
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 134, 26 July 1862, discussing legal and judicial matters related the "Stickeen Territories."