Fisher to Newcastle
12th March 1862 To His Grace The Duke of Newcastle, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies

My Lord Duke,
Since I had the honour of appearing before you on behalf of the Colonists of British Columbia I have been in constant communication with Steam Boat proprietors; but find among them an unwillingness to enter into the Northern Pacific trade, to compete with the American Steamers which have been so long established between "Panama" and "San francisco," unless they can depend upon a liberal subsidy from the Imperial Government, as well as from the Colonies, for the conveyance of the Mails to and from British Columbia direct. The Pacific Royal Mail Steam Company appear to be the best prepared for this service; and with their establishments on the Bay of "Panama," and a connecting link with the West India Royal Mail packets at Colon (or Aspinwall) command all the requisites for performing extra work with greater facility than any other existing company: and have already sent in a Notice to The Treasury that they are prepared to tender so soon as it may please Your Grace to desire it. But, as they only propose to run twice a month between "San francisco" and the Colonies, the advantages for direct Mail communication will only be partially realized.
In noticing the reply of "The Right Honourable The Chancellor of the Exchequer" to Mr Caird's motion in the House of Commons on the 21st ultimo, I came to the conclusion that the Imperial Government had already sanctioned the appropriation of a certain portion of the Colonial revenue for the Ocean postal service: But as the arrangement alluded to by the "Post Master General" only appears to be a temporary one; and with an "American Company," it can never be depended upon. The irregularities and corrupt practices connected with the American "postage" system are so notorious, that neither this Government nor the Commercial interests of thecountryManuscript image country can place any confidence in it. As a large Emigration is likely to take place this season, and has already commenced, very great inconvenience and an alarming degree of suffering is sure to attend those who venture across the Isthmus, and are detained in Panama for want of Steamers to convey them further unless speedily guarded against. The American Boats which sail every ten days, in connection with those from "New York," (but with no regard to the West India Mail packets) are generally overcrowded; and are now conveying Troops of the Federal Government: so that all the horrors of the middle passage have to be endured by those who have no other alternative left.
Besides all this, the passengers from "New York" by American Boats, which run every ten days in connection with those on the Pacific, have a preference over those by the English Steamers; who may be left for weeks, and even months, exposed to the unhealthy climate of the Isthmus, unless immediate steps are teken to avert the danger. These American Steamers which run between Panama and San Francisco, have long been considered (by those who travel most) very inefficient: but even if they had proved adequate for the work of the past, they are not calculated for the increasing traffic with the British Colonies, and the rush to the Gold fields which may be anticipated "a rush" not only from "Europe" and the "Eastern States" of America, but from the Southern portions of the globe, equal to and perhaps surpassing that which called the present line of large Steamers into existence to supply the demands of California, at a time when Thousands of our Countrymen were left to die in Panama for want of accommodation.
The communication ought on no account to be less frequent than three times a month—say every ten days—between San francisco and British Columbia, by (or in immediate connection with) the Steamers from Panama; or the Mails and passengers may still be detained from five to fifteen daysinManuscript image in San Francisco. Families of limited means (and the means of nearly all Emigrants are very limited) allured by all the temptations of the place, and exposed to the designs of the heartless, will soon be deprived of the resources necessary to convey them to their destination; and left in a foreign country to deplore their inevitable ruin: whole commercial operations the success of which depends so much upon frequent and direct communication will continue to be confined to the Americans whose monopolizing spirit and exclusive aim has so pernicious a tendency.
In granting a subsidy, to foster a young Colony, permit me to suggest that some conditions might be introduced to secure the cheap conveyance of Third class passengers, on the same principle if not at the same rate as Parliamentary Railway trains which run at a penny a mile and althoug[h] at present there appears to be a great unwillingness on the part of British Steam Boat proprietors to interfere with the American Companies on the Northern Pacific, I feel confident that they could compete with success now: and not only open a new and profitable trade with distant markets, but secure political as well as commercial advantages: the value and importance of which it would be difficult to over estimate. The presence of a Mail Steamer under British colours, with qualified officers and a disciplined crew, in the Frazer river; would have as great a moral and political affect as a Ship of War: and cost very much less under the most liberal Mail subsidy.
I trust Your Grace will excuse me for presuming to address you so freely. The fear of trespassing too much upon your very valuable time alone prevents me entering upon the no less important question of internal communication, and the great and growing importance of a regular and more efficient "postal" system throughout the Colony. For although the recent experiment of a Military Gold escort from the Cariboo mines proved a failure, as waspredictedManuscript image predicted by the best informed persons on the route, there is no reason to doubt but that a more economical a more successful and (ultimately) a self supporting mode of transit can be established, to meet the exigencies of the time and circumstances of the place: and more in accordance with the wants and wishes of the people, who are most deeply interested. Recent exposures in the "Post office" department as well as in the "Land" and other financial departments in Vancouver's Island, must have attracted the attention of the Imperial Government before this; and proved the urgent necessity of a more vigilant control over the public revenue, when the sources and distribution (under one head) are so dissimilar: and when the less governs the greater.
And although there is heavy taxation without representation in British Columbia, very little has been done towards the necessary Surveys and the construction of leading highways or roads into the interior. I might say something about the disputed Island of "San Juan" the "Boundary Commission" and the Treasury which would prove worthy of grave consideration at the present junction: but, relying as I do upon the information which Your Grace may already possess, I cherish the hope that the Infant Colony for which I have the honor to plead will soon prove worthy of the highest consideration which Your Grace can bestow.
I have not considered it necessary to use any influence which I may be fortunate enough to possess outside the Cabinet to secure the object of my mission: because all the information which I am able to give, and any degree of intelligence or energy which I can devote, is reserved for Your Grace, whenever you may be pleased to command my humble services. And as I must soon prepare to leave this country, I shall feel happy if I may be honored with another interview before I return to British Columbia, to give an account of my Stewardship to my Brother Colonists.
And I have the honor to be,
My Lord Duke,
Your most obedient,
and faithful humble Servant
W. Fisher
Minutes by CO staff
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Sir F. Rogers
The Memorial has been received through the Govr and the question decided. The Treasury decline for the present to grant a postal subsidy. At the conclusion of his letter Mr Fisher requests an interview with the Duke.
VJ 17 March
Answer in the terms of the Treasury letter of 20 February (1950 B Columbia).
H.G. will say what should be added as to the interview.
FR 17/3
Duke of Newcastle
Mr Fisher alludes to "recent exposures" in Vancouver Id.
CF 18
I will see Mr Fisher again before he returns to the Colony.
N 19
Other documents included in the file
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Fortescue to Fisher, 25 March 1862, advising that the government was unable to grant a postal subsidy at the present time and conveying Newcastle's willingness for a further interview.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Memorial, Inhabitants of British Columbia to Newcastle, 14 October 1861, requesting a postal subsidy to encourage the establishment of regular steam communication between Panama and the colony.
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Resolution passed at a public meeting decreeing that the Municipal Council of New Westminster should forward the memorial as noted above to the secretary of state.