15 April 1862
It is with an intense feeling of relief and satisfaction that I have to inform Your Grace of the disappearance of the last vestiges of the severest and most protracted winter that probably ever visited thisColonyManuscript image Colony. The Fraser burst its frozen barriers a few days ago sweeping before it the vast fields of ice which for nearly twelve weeks have rendered navigation impossible, and completely interrupted the communication by water with Yale and Douglas.
The river Steam boats are again at work; the wants of the country are being rapidly supplied; trade is active; and the populationgenerallyManuscript image generally full of hope and enterprise.
The accounts from Lytton and the Districts east of the coast mountains, are favourable beyond expectation; no disastrous floods have swept over the fair face of the country; the mountain roads are uninjured and the loss of cattle does not exceed the ordinary casualties of winter.
2. Emigration is alreadysettingManuscript image setting in from California. Three passenger Steamers have arrived at Victoria within the last two days and a sailing ship is reported with 400 passengers from the same place.
A great part of the California emigration will be diverted from this country to the United States Territory in Oregon by the reputed richness of the Salmon river Mines; but should theseminesManuscript image mines be unproductive there will no doubt be an immediate rush towards the Gold Fields of British Columbia, which will in that case be over run by a not very desirable population.
3. The severity of the weather has hitherto prevented me from carrying into effect the views relative to the extension of roads, and facilities of access to the Gold Fields of British ColumbiawhichManuscript image which I had the honor of laying before Your Grace in paragraph 10 of my Despatch (Separate) of the 24th October last. These important public works are however to be immediately commenced and vigorously prosecuted; the Chief Commissioner of Lands & Works having been authorised to give out contracts for two separate lines of carriage road, intersecting the best farming Districts in the Colony.
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4. One of these roads will connect at Lillooet with the carriage road from Douglas, of which it is to be a continuation, starting from Lillooet it will follow the valley of the Fraser to Pavillon, and from thence the table land or divide which separates the waters of the Buonaparte from the Streams flowing directly into Fraser's River, until it reaches WilliamsLake,Manuscript image Lake; beyond which it will re-enter and follow the valley of the Fraser to the termination of the road at Alexandria.
5. The other line will commence at Yale and follow the present Mule road by the passes of the Fraser to Lytton, thence bending South and keeping the banks of Thompson River it will enter the valley of theBuonaparteManuscript image Buonaparte, a few miles from its debouche, and follow the course of that Stream, and the table land beyond it to Axe Lake, and thence take a North West course to Williams Lake, where it will form a junction with the road from Lillooet and continue on the same line to Alexandria.
6. From Alexandria upwards, the country becomes more accessible for trade; thetheManuscript image Fraser no longer retaining its dangerous prestige becomes a smooth and navigable stream presenting few obstacles to the navigator.
But two rapids occur in the whole distance of 150 miles between Alexandria and Fort George, and for 350 miles further, following the South branch of the Fraser to "Tete Jaune Cache"; there exist no impediments to navigation, more seriousthanManuscript image than two rapids which are passable for canoes. Between "Tete Jaune Cache" and Fort George the river flows with a smooth and easy current more like a lake in fact than a river; it has in the shallowest part of the channel no where less than 6 feet of water, and in the narrowest part is not less than 500 yards wide, and I am satisfied that it may be safelynavigatedManuscript image navigated for the whole of that distance, by the small class of Stern wheel Steamers, now in general use between New Westminster and Hope.
7. The conviction has been forced upon my mind by that and other circumstances that the Fraser beyond Alexandria will exercise a very important influence in the development of the Gold Fields as well asofManuscript image of the Colony at large. Departing the general North by West course which it maintains from Hope upwards, one branch bends to the East at Fort George, and then stretching away South of East towards the Rocky Mountains, it encloses as a base, the greater part of the Carribou District, thus forming a means of communication which will lessen the cost of miningoperationsManuscript image operations, and greatly facilitate the progress of settlement.
8. It may also in another respect have a very important bearing on the future condition of the Colony, as part of an overland communication with Canada by a route possessing the peculiar advantages of being secure from Indian aggression, remote from the United States Frontier, and traversing a country exclusively British, and which fromitsManuscript image its position, character and large resources can hardly fail, in the ordinary course of events, to become the seat of a large population.
In point of actual distance the route will be longer than that by the Coutonais Pass explored by Palliser, but it is the course which trade and settlement are naturally taking; and I believe that a small amount of fostering, would confirmthatManuscript image that tendency, and soon lead to its being opened for travel the whole way to Red river Settlement.
9. By the proposed route the Traveller would start from Victoria, and proceed by the following stages:
To Yale or Douglas in 2 days by Steamer;
thence to Lillooet or Lytton in 2 days by Stage Coach;
thence to Alexandria in 4 days by Stage Coach;
thence to Fort George in 2 days by Steamer;
thence to Tête Jaune Cache in 5 days by Steamer.
A Stage road as far aslillooetManuscript image Lillooet is already completed; that to Alexandria is in progress, and the machinery of a Stern wheel Steam boat to ply on Fraser river beyond Alexandria is now on the way to that place; so that when these works are finished the entire passage from Victoria to Tête Jaune Cache maybeManuscript image be made in fifteen days, and with increased facilities the journey may be performed in two thirds of that time or ten days.
10. Tête Jaune Cache is remarkable as being the western terminus of one of the least elevated and most accessible passes in the Rocky Mountains. It is about one hundred and twenty miles distant from the opposite terminus at Jasper House on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, and the ascent on eithersideManuscript image side towards the summit level, is so easy as to be scarcely perceptible. This pass is chiefly frequented by Native Tribes who reside about Tête Jaune Cache, and procure their supplies from Jasper House travelling to and from that place on horse back over a very rude trail which may however be converted at little cost into an easy carriage road.
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11. The next stage from Jasper House to Edmonton on the Sascatchewan a distance by the present Indian trail of about two hundred miles of level wooded country may be travelled either wholly by land, or, by descending the Elk or Athabasca river, by water to Fort Assinniboin, and then taking the Assiniboin Portage, a distance of ninety miles,toManuscript image to Edmonton. In the same manner there is a navigable steam communication by the Sascatchewan river and Lake Winipeg from Edmonton the whole way to Red River involving perhaps a change of Boats at the Grand rapid near Lake Winipeg. There is also an overland communication, striking off from the Sascatchewan at Carlton from whencetheManuscript image the rich open prairie country is practicable for carts the whole way to Red river.
12. Thus to complete the thoroughfare as far as Red river nothing more is really necessary, than to improve the two sections of road situated as before described, between Tête Jaune Cache and Edmonton, which would not be a formidableundertakingManuscript image undertaking, and could, I feel assured, be accomplished at a total cost not exceeding fifty thousand pounds. The journey to Red river could then be easily made in 15 days from Tête Jaune Cache or in twenty five days from Victoria. When the scheme, to the extent thus suggested, has been executed, the work may be left to the public, as thereportedManuscript image reported discovery of gold in the Sascatchewan, will attract population, lead to the rapid settlement of the country, and to the placing of Steam boats, and other means of conveyance upon the route.
13. I will not hazard an opinion on the character of the route from Red river to Lake Superior; I may however observe that it presents,toManuscript image to the best of my recollection, no serious difficulties; nothing comparable, for example, to the obstacles successfully encountered in pushing roads through the mountains of British Columbia, and I may also observe that when that section is completed the overland route from Canada to British Columbia will be open to the world, and I believe the effort will cost solittleManuscript image little, and tend so much to the public advantage that, when the task is accomplished, it will be a matter of surprise that the attempt was not sooner made, and I sincerely trust that the glory of this great national achievement will be remembered as one of the trophies of Your Grace's administration.
14. I will make no apology for this digressionasManuscript image as the question of overland communication with Canada is so closely connected with the prospective interests of the Colony that I feel assured Your Grace will not regard it as out of place.
15. To return to the subject of the Yale and Lillooet roads, I have to inform Your Grace that the first cost and maintenance of these works is to beprovidedManuscript image provided for by means of tolls levied on all goods leaving the several termini at Douglas, Yale, Lytton, and Lillooet, a plan which was submitted for consideration; and, as Your Grace will observe by the accompanying petitions, met the urgent support of the people of those Towns who having abundant proofs in the roads already made of the reproductive characterofManuscript image of such improvements are now fully alive to their extreme value and importance.
To give an idea of their utility in British Columbia where the absence of navigable rivers almost every where involved the necessity of land carriage, I may cite as an example the present cost of conveying goods inland from New Westminster to Alexandria, which averages about 30centsManuscript image cents a pound weight (or 600 dollars a ton); a charge that would really amount to a prohibition of trade in any but a gold producing country.
The saving by the formation of the projected roads, will be equal to about two thirds of that charge, that is to say goods will be carried between the same points at an average cost not exceeding 200 dollars a ton, makingaManuscript image a positive reduction of 400 dollars in the single item of transport; thus allowing for the tolls which will come to about 40 dollars a ton; there will remain to the country a clear gain of 360 dollars a ton besides the saving of time and the countless other advantages arising from facilities of inter-communication.
16. These two linesformingManuscript image forming all together 325 miles have been given out in four contracts, the lines from Lillooet and Lytton to Alexandria, about 150 and 120 miles respectively, to two several companies largely interested in the trade, who have agreed to do the work entirely at their own expense, in consideration of having a charter for five years granting arightManuscript image right of toll, at the rate of one cent a pound weight on all goods carried over the roads. The third line from Chapman to Boston Bar has been given out on similar terms, saving that the rate of toll is to be only one half cent a pound weight, but the fourth and last line from Boston Bar to Lytton is to be made at the GovernmentchargeManuscript image charge and to be paid for in cash as the work progresses.
17. In accepting these terms it was however stipulated by the Contractors of three of the lines, that they should have the assistance of a Government loan equivalent in amount to one third of their outlay; the first payment to be made to them only aftertheManuscript image the completion of 10 miles of road, and afterwards progressively, at the close of every ten mile section.
The loan, with the current rate of interest thereon, is to form a first charge, and to be secured on the tolls, so that there is no risk of loss to the public.
18. Our liabilities for the year on account of these works will therefore not fall much short ofeightyManuscript image Eighty thousand pounds, and to meet them I rely, in a great measure, on the loan for which I applied to Your Grace in my despatch No. 70 of the 15th November 1861. I am consequently anxiously awaiting Your Grace's instructions, that I may be in a position to raise the sums of money which may be required in addition to the disposablerevenueManuscript image revenue of the current year.
19. It is most gratifying to notice the extraordinary degree of enterprise which has been elicited among the people of the Colony by the gold discoveries in Carribou, and their unlimited confidence in the resources of the country; this has, among other causes led to applications for charters to open roads into CarriboufromManuscript image from "Bute Inlet" and "North Bentinck Arm", the parties binding themselves to open roads, without government aid, and entirely at their own expense, on condition of being authorised to levy tolls on goods passing through.
I have accepted these offers, and granted a five years charter in both cases, the tolls being limited to two cents a pound weight on goods. I enclose herewiththeManuscript image the notices issued for the public by the contractors of the rival roads to give an idea of the spirit of enterprise that is afloat. If not followed by any more valuable results, these roads will, at least, lead to wider explorations, and hold monopoly in check, by opening other avenues into the Colony.
20. These roads are all to be completed according to the specifications, andtoManuscript image to the satisfaction of the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works.
21. In conclusion I will merely observe that these works are on a scale not more than commensurate with the most urgent wants of the Colony, but notwithstanding that consideration as the cost will exceed our present means of payment, IshouldManuscript image should have felt a degree of hesitation in undertaking their execution, had I not confidently relied on Your Grace's assistance in raising the necessary funds by loan in England.
22. I transmit herewith a sketch showing the position of the roads mentioned in this Despatch, and also of theproposedManuscript image proposed line of intercommunication with Red River and Canada.
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke
Your Grace's most obedient
Humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
It appears to me that the proceedings, actual and prospective, reported in this desph impose on this office the duty of pressing the Treasury for an answer, and that a favorable one, to our recommendation for a Loan to B. Columbia. Without such timely assistance I can see nothing but embarrassments of the most serious kind to the Colony, and the greater the delay in letting Gov. D. know what he has to depend on the greater will be the inconvenience to him, and to the operations of the miners. Roads must be constructed at almost any cost, and they will eventually lead to aManuscript image productive Revenue. Retard them, and the Colony must languish.
ABd 7 June
Mr Fortescue
The intimation given by the Governor in Par. 18 is very serious. The principle of a loan having been sanctioned long ago and no answer coming to his hands on the law which he proposed to make on the subject, he seems to have gone on to assume that he might reckon on that assistance. In so doing he no doubt goes beyond his authority. But on the other hand it must be borne in mind that owing to the peculiar state of affairs at the Treasury, he is in a very embarrassing position. This question has been a subject of correspondence now for nearly two years and although the principle of the measure was sanctioned at the outset, the Governor has never received any final decision. The reason is, as you are well aware, that the Treasury will neither assent to the views which we take at this Office nor yet offer any practical suggestion of their own, and that they have thus practically reduced the matter to a dead lock. Rather than that the Governor should hear nothing at all, the Duke of Newcastle authorized us to send out the despatch of the 13th of last month: this gave him some kind of instructions on other points, but on the matter of the loan it was inevitably made very inconclusive in the absence of a Treasury concurrence. I mention all this, not to weary you and the Duke by repeating what you so well know, butManuscript image in order to remind you, that independently of any error of the Governor's there is also a serious responsibility at home. We have been in a manner paralyzed here by our neighbours at the Treasury and the result has been an inaction (not our fault) which must in fairness make a distant functionary less amenable to censure than if he had been furnished with clear and timely instructions from HM's Govt.
TFE 7 June
I quite agree with Mr Elliot. In sending this to the Treasury, it should be used as a strong additional argument for promptly authorizing the loan.
CF 9 June
I cannot too strongly urge the Treasury to give immediate assent to this loan or too forcibly impress upon them the heavy responsibility of withholding those necessary means for the development of one of the greatest mines of wealth and prosperity on record.
N 11 June
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Newspaper clipping, unnamed, no date, petition from Yale promoting the immediate construction of a road from Yale to Cook and Kimballs Ferry, original containing 195 signatures.
Newspaper clipping, unnamed, no date, Petition from Lytton promoting the immediate construction of a road from Boston Bar to Lytton, original containing 99 signatures.
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Newspaper clipping, unnamed, no date, advertisement promoting the Douglas line, placed by G.B. Wright and Company.
Newspaper clipping, unnamed, no date, advertisement promoting the Yale line, placed by C. Oppenheimer and Company.
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Printed report, "Prospectus for the Establishment of a Trail from the Head of Bute Inlet to the Northern Mines," by Alfred Waddington, 30 March 1862.
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Printed report, "Prospectus of the Bentinck Arm and Fraser River Road Company Limited," by Ranald McDonald and John G. Barnston, Victoria 1862.
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Note on microfilm as follows: "Map of British Columbia, 1862, being fo. 183 of C.O. 60/13 has been removed to the Map Room. Map Room Reference M.P.G. 648(1), November 1950, D.B. Wardle."
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Elliot to Hamilton, Treasury, 30 June 1862, forwarding copy of the despatch for information.