Hamilton to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Treasury Chambers
1 February 1862
In reply to Mr Elliot's letter of the 24th, I am directed by the Lords Commissoners of Her Majesty's Treasury to acquaint you, for the information of the Duke of Newcastle, that My Lords are of opinion that, to meet the pressing emergency described in the Despatch from the Governor of British Columbia, it will be expedient to authorise him to adopt the provisional measure which he recommends of fabricatingPiecesManuscript image Pieces of the intrinsic value, in Gold, of the United States 10 and 20 Dollar Pieces, to pass current as money, and to be received in payment of Government Dues.
Experience has shown that the recognition of Coins or Tokens by accepting them in Government Contracts is, generally, sufficient to give currency to them without declaring them to be Legal Tender, and My Lords think that it would be desirable, if possible, to avoid that step in the case of a provisional Token issued without the controlling authority of the MasterofManuscript image of Her Majesty's Mint. They would not, however, object to a discretionary authority being given to the Governor to declare the proposed pieces to be Legal Tender for a limited period—say one year—with power to extend the same by Proclamation for further limited periods, in case it should be found that the Tokens do not obtain currency without such sanction.
My Lords suggest that the proposed pieces should bear a distinctive Assay Mark denoting their gross weight and intrinsic value in current money and They consider that the GovernorisManuscript image is quite correct in his opinion that such value should be determined by the quantity of Fine Gold contained in each Piece without regard to the Silver found in the Native Gold.
It is true that the admixture of Silver would give to the Coins additional value in the General Bullion Market, but it is the invariable practice to regard Silver contained in Gold coins as alloy, not affecting their value in current exchange. Such is the case with the British Sovereign commonly called the "Dragon" (from the device ofofManuscript image St George and the Dragon on the reverse) which contains a considerable portion of silver introduced intentionally as Alloy, and with the Gold Coins of Australia, the native gold of which contains a considerable portion of Silver.
It will, probably, be desirable to protect the circulation of the proposed Pieces by enacting Penalties for the fabrication of the Assay Mark—and for attempting to pass them after they have been chipped or otherwise wilfully deteriorated.WhateverManuscript image Whatever may be the device adopted, the Pieces should not bear the effigy of Her Majesty the Queen—which is proper to Coins issued from Her Majesty's Mint.
My Lords have confined Their approval to the measure recommended by the Governor of British Columbia, but it may be a question whether Pieces of lower value than 10 Gold Dollars may not be desirable, and They would not object to his being allowed a discretion to issue them of the value of 5 Dollars, which would be equivalent to £1.0.6 in BritishManuscript image money.
I am Sir
Your obedient Servant Geo. A. Hamilton
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
Communicate this decision, &c to the Governor.
ABd 3 Feb
In answer to the Governor's despatch, send him this for his information and guidance. Perhaps it may be as well to add that if he should require any dies to be prepared in this Country or any apparatus supplied for striking the coins, he should make early application for the purpose to this Department. The Engraver to the Mint could probably give the benefit of his services, if wished, in finishing some suitable device.
The Queen's image, it will be seen is forbidden. As mining is the characteristic of the Country a miner with a pick & shovel might perhaps serve in the absence of any other emblem to indicate the nature of the place where the coins are to be struck but this question does not at present arise.
TFE 8 Feby
CF 11
N 12
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 102, 14 February 1862, informing Douglas of the Treasury's approval and enclosing a copy of its decision.