18 May 1863
There is nothing of much importance beyond the anticipated and progressive improvement of the Colony with which I need trouble Your Grace at the present time. Winter has happily passedawayManuscript image away without any untoward event to mark its course; and the return of the genial season has awakened a lively interest in the Mining and general commercial pursuits of the Country.
2. The Revenue derived from Customs and Road Tolls has, I am glad to observe, fully kept pace with the growing interests of the Colony, the receipts having for the 4 months ending with the 30th ofAprilManuscript image April, yielded the sum of Twenty two thousand six hundred and eighty pounds (£22,680) against Twelve thousand three hundred and eighty six pounds (£12,386), for the same period of 1862, being an increase on these two branches of the public revenue of nearly 83 per cent, in favour of the present year.
3. For the last 10 weeks the emigration of Miners and other persons from Vancouver Island and the neighbouring Territories of the United StateshasManuscript image has been large and incessant. The reports of the Gold Commissioners represent that about 2000 persons have passed through Yale on their way to the Upper Country, and that an equal number have entered the Colony by the way of "Douglas" and "Shimilcomeen."
4. The mildness of the past winter was highly favorable to the Mining interests of the Colony, the cold having been on no occasionsoManuscript image so severe as to cause a suspension of work on the river claims for more than a few days at a time, and such interruptions from weather were not of frequent occurrence. The small body of hardy adventurers who, notwithstanding the exaggerated hardships of the Carribou winter, remained at that season on their claims, were rewarded with a degree of success which can hardly fail to operate favourablyforManuscript image for the substantial interests of the Colony; the experiment having clearly proved, what before was to them, a matter of doubt; that mining may be pursued with advantage and be made highly remunerative even at the most inclement period of the year. About one Million of Dollars are stated on good authority to have been realized by the Miners on Williams Creek during the winter months. The "Barker"claimManuscript image claim alone is said to have produced 137,000 Dollars since the month of September last, and the "Hard Curry" Claim has been even more prolific, that Company having, according to current report which I see no reason to question, accumulated no less than 900 lbs weight of Gold Dust within the six last months.
5. These astounding results, the reality of which is supported by occasionallargeManuscript image large arrivals of Gold from the Mines, have confirmed the general impression that Carribou and other Districts of British Columbia will surpass in the extent and richness of their auriferous deposits, every other Gold Country in the world, an impression which has caused an intense excitement throughout the Colony, and led to the almost general desertion of the Towns andCountryManuscript image Country on the lower Fraser. Regretting as I do the temporary depopulation, so caused, I am nevertheless far from thinking the event will prove ultimately detrimental, as the majority of the absentees will certainly return to their homes, and probably with large means which will be applied to the cultivation and improvement of their farms, and to other enterprises of no less importancetoManuscript image to the Colony.
6. On the other hand continual accessions are being made to the general population of the upper Country, the newly formed roads
I have recently been told by a person who has been on these roads that they will bear comparison with our best European roads, and that a traveller may perform the whole journey to Cariboo on wheels or horseback, as he prefers, & by good steam boats.
ABd 16 July
having given a prodigious impulse to settlement, by opening up valuable farming Districts which before were virtually closed to men of moderate means by difficulties of access, and the enormous cost of transport, and impenetrable at anycostManuscript image cost for all kinds of Machinery except such as could be taken asunder, and packed through the mountains on Mules.
Mr Commissioner O'Reilly writing from Williams Lake on the 29th April remarks that the Lillooet road was then completed to the North end of "Lac la Hache," a distance of 128 Miles, and that the works had sustained no injuriesfromManuscript image from the effects of weather, that were not repairable at a very trifling cost. He also observed on his way up from Lillooet large tracts of land that were fenced in, and at all the way side Houses great preparations for embarking largely in farming operations; and moreover in the District between Bridge Creek and Williams Lake he states that 500 acres of land wereactuallyManuscript image actually under crops of various kinds.
7. Food was still high in the mines, flour being generally sold at 1 1/4 dollars a lb and other things at a proportionably high rate, prices indicative of real or apprehended scarcity. A number of Beef Cattle and Sheep had however come in, and many more were expected by the way of Oregon, a supply which itwasManuscript image was supposed would greatly relieve the pressure on the food markets, and furnish a large stock of good and wholesome food.
8. Mr O'Reilly fully confirms the previous reports of successful winter mining at Carribou. To use his own words, he goes on to say The reports that have reached me from the Mines exceed anything that has been yet heard of in the Carribou Country. The "HardManuscript image'Hard Curry' claim on Williams Creek, in which there are three partners is said to have taken out, in eight hours, the almost fabulous quantity of 102 1/2 lbs weight of Gold, this I have heard from Mr Curry one of the lucky owners, and from others who were present when the Gold was weighed and I have no doubt of its correctness. Many of the other claims are likewise exceeding the most sanguine expectations of their holders. IshallManuscript image shall however on my arrival at Williams Creek transmit in detail more authentic information, and on the subject of labour he adds, "Labour is in great demand, at rates varying from 10 to 12 dollars per day."
9. The subject which now most closely engages my attention is the formation of an efficient Escort, for the safe conveyance of Treasure from the Mines. This was not contemplated when preparingtheManuscript image the estimates for the year 1863, because I conceived the country was not ripe for the measure; as the Miners treasure their Gold and, considering it perfectly safe in their own keeping will not, as a general thing part with it, except for value received; therefore I felt assured that until business Houses for the purchase and remittance of Gold were established in the Mines there really would be very little employment for an Escort.
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10. The time has however now arrived when the measure can be no longer with propriety, delayed. The Agent of the Chartered Bank of British Columbia has signified to me his intention of immediately establishing a Branch at Carribou especially for the purchase of Gold, and he has made a demand upon the Government backed by the signatures of the principal Mercantile Houses of this place for protection intheManuscript image the conveyance of Treasure to and from the Mines.
11. The protection of life and property is admittedly one of the highest duties of Government, and a well appointed Escort would, under ordinary circumstances, afford that protection to property on its transit from the Mines; and moreover would, in the peculiar circumstances of British Columbia be attended with many other advantages.ToManuscript image To illustrate these I would briefly explain, that the bulk of gold produced in Carribou, as business is now conducted, remains for months at the Mines, in the hands of the producers, and is brought down to the coast by the Miners themselves at the close of the mining season—a system involving a heavy loss of interest, and productive of the most serious inconvenience to the Mercantile Community, who are not generallywealthyManuscript image wealthy and are invariably pressed for capital to meet their business engagements.
12. The Escort would in the first place remedy that evil by facilitating the export of Gold from Mines and bringing it into circulation with regularity and despatch. It would also in a great measure put an end to the now indispensable system of long credits and relieve trade from the exhorbitant interestchargeManuscript image charge of 1 1/2 to 5 per cent a month, which eats up the Merchants profits, and checks his enterprise. This would all tend directly to the increase of Commerce; larger stocks of goods would be thrown into the Colony and the public revenue would be proportionately enhanced.
13. It may also fairly be assumed that one of the immediate results of the formation of an Escort would be the establishment of branch BanksandManuscript image and good Mercantile firms in the interior of the Colony—which would tend to produce a permanent trade and give, what does not at present exist, a reliable commercial community to the Colony.
14. The advantages of the Escort morally, in giving the utmost possible security against robbery and crime, are no less apparent than I have shewn them to be commercially.
15. The really serious objection is the heavy expenseofManuscript image of the Escort, added to the possible contingency that the miners might after all the outlay incurred, prefer keeping the Gold in their own possession to sending it by the Escort; now the establishment of the "Bank of British Columbia" in the Mines, is a security to a great extent against the latter contingency, and there being now a large quantity of Gold produced, the expense should be fully met byaManuscript image a sufficient transit charge on the Gold exported.
16. The sum of ten thousand pounds (£10000) would I believe cover the purchase of the equipment and the whole annual cost of an efficient Escort. The annual produce of Gold in the Carribou District is estimated at One Million sterling. Assuming that one half only was carried by the Escort it would yield at 3 per cent, the proposed rate of charge; areturnManuscript image return of £15,000 Sterling, being something considerably over the estimated cost of the Escort.
17. The Merchants of Victoria and a large body of working Miners have strongly urged this measure on the attention of the Government, and are prepared to support it with all their influence, and the Bank of British Columbia having as before stated decided on establishing a Branch in Carribou for the purchase andexportManuscript image export of Gold, there is a reasonable prospect of rendering the Escort at once self supporting. In these circumstances the Government would be wanting in its duty to the Public, and be justly made the subject of the severest animadversion were it to neglect the public interests so far as to hesitate in granting the fullest protection and security to the trade of the Country.
18. Prompted by these considerations I have decided on forming a Gold EscortwithoutManuscript image without delay, and I trust that the measure will meet with Your Grace's fullest approval.
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke
Your Graces most obedient
Humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
Mr Fortescue will like to see this despatch before the afternoon of Friday, when, I think, he brings in the B.C. Renewal and Boundary Bill.
This "Gold escort" is expensive, but unavoidable. The security to commerce which the measure will carry with it is a benefit to the Colony more than covered by a charge of £3 per cent. The Treasury must, as usual, be consulted.
ABd 16 July
TFE 16 July
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Very favourable & interesting.
CF 18
N 21
Other documents included in the file
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Elliot to G.A. Hamilton, Treasury, 29 July 1863, forwarding copy of the despatch for consideration, but conveying Newcastle's approval of an escort service.