No. 30
21st March 1865
Sir,
I have the honor to forward a printed paper of which I have become accidentally possessed, containing certain Resolutions passed, and Statements made by theChamberManuscript image Chamber of Commerce at Victoria.
2. You will observe that these Resolutions and Statements, which attribute somewhat unworthy motives to the Government of this Colony, were transmitted to you before I became aware of their existence.
These Resolutions will be found printed on page 13.
[ABd]
Now I feel that I should be neglecting my duty to Her Majesty's Government and to British Columbia were I to pass unnoticed StatementsemanatingManuscript image emanating from a respectable source and which have been published with something approaching to accuracy in the daily periodicals of the Neighbouring Colony. Of the Resolutions, had they been unsupported by the Statements I should not have had to complain. They are the expression of the opinion of a beaten party. You are aware that the Candidates on the Free Port side were rejected at the last Victoria Elections.TheManuscript image The beaten party have however the support of the people of Vancouver in so far as they advocate a Union with this Colony. With us, the Legislative Council has on more than one occasion unanimously protested against the proposed connexion.
3. I will pass over the earlier portions of the Statements, but must pause when I reach the assertion that Victoria—I have no word to say against Esquimalt—possesses "a CapaciousandManuscript image and convenient harbour, approachable at all times by night or day for sea going ships of every burthen." I must refer on this point to the highest authority I can procure, that of Captain Richards, R.N. the present Hydrographer to the Navy. In his Sailing Directions for Vancouver Island, page 20 I find, "The entrance to Victoria Harbour is shoal, narrow and intricate, and with S.W. or S.E. gales, a heavy rolling swell acts on the coast whichrendersManuscript image renders the anchorage outside unsafe, while vessels of burthen cannot run in for shelter unless at or near high water. Vessels drawing fourteen or fifteen feet may under ordinary circumstances enter at such times of tide, and ships drawing seventeen feet of water have entered through only at the top of Spring tides." Captain Richards proceeds to state that in the harbour "the space is so confined and tortuous that a long ship has great difficultyinManuscript image in making the necessary turn; a large percentage of vessels, entering the Port, small as well as large, constantly run aground from these causes." Further on, "it appears not a little remarkable that with the excellent harbour of Esquimalt within two miles, Victoria should have been continued as the Commercial Port of a rising Colony, whose interests cannot but suffer materially from the risks and delays which shipping must encounter inapproachingManuscript image approaching the commercial Capital." He concludes his notice of the harbour, while allowing that Victoria suited the former wants of the Hudson's Bay Company, "it has been a fatal mistake at a later date not to have adopted Esquimalt as the Commercial Capital."
4. I will add my own personal testimony, though entirely unnecessary, to that of Captain Richards. After threading in safety by the chartandManuscript image and compass on a dark night the narrow channels among the islands of the Gulf of Georgia, I have found myself scarcely able to determine which of the indentations of the Coast was the Harbour of Victoria. No light of any kind marks its entrance and in a small steamer drawing but three feet six inches, we have shared the fate of the "large percentage of vessels small as well as large," and run aground.
5. I wish to dispose oftheManuscript image the questions relating to natural features raised by the Chamber of Commerce before following their arguments into political matters. Having thus lauded the harbour of Victoria, they proceed to deal in a less generous manner with Fraser River. The Statements assert that the "intricate, narrow and uncertain channel through the Sand heads at the Mouth of the Fraser is available only for ships drawing sixteen feet of water, at the utmost, and then requiringtheManuscript image the assistance of Steam." They go on to speak of the "subsequent danger and delay attending river navigation to New Westminster, the currents during the summer's freshets being very rapid."
These rapid currents clear away the sand. There are no rocks or "snaggs" in the passage.
[ABd]
Either the Chamber of Commerce of Victoria or the Hydrographer of the Navy is very much mistaken. I beg leave to refer to page 97, of the book already quoted. "Fraser River in point of magnitude and present commercial importance is second only to the Columbia on theNorthManuscript image North West Coast of America. In its entire freedom from risk of life and shipwreck, it possesses infinite advantages over any other river on the coast, and the cause of this immunity from the dangers and inconveniencies to which all great rivers emptying themselves on an exposed Coast are subject, is sufficiently obvious." Captain Richards then alludes to the "fixed and unvarying character of the shoals through which this magnificent stream pursues its undevious courseintoManuscript image into the Gulf of Georgia; and there can be little doubt that it is destined at no distant period to fulfil to the utmost, as it is already partially fulfilling, the purposes for which nature meant it, the outlet for the products of a great country."
In descending the stream, on reaching Langley, 12 miles above New Westminster, Captain Richards finds that "the river becomes a broad, deep and placid stream, and exceptduringManuscript image during the three summer Months the influence of the flood stream is generally felt and vessels of any draught may conveniently anchor. The depth is ten fathoms; the current not above three knots. Vessels of from 18 to 20 feet draught may enter the Fraser and proceed as high as Langley or a few miles above it with ease, provided they have or are assisted by Steam power. The only difficulty is at the entrance and that is easily overcome by providingpilotsManuscript image pilots and the means of maintaining the buoys in their position." The Chamber of Commerce speaks of the "intricate narrow and uncertain" entrance. I have already quoted Captain Richards' expression of "undevious." He adds later, "that the stream has forced an almost straight though narrow passage." I may strengthen the refutation of the alleged "uncertainty" of the entrance; I had the Channel recently resurveyedbyManuscript image by Mr Pender R.N. charged with the Admiralty Survey of this Coast. He found that it had sustained scarcely any appreciable change since the passage was first marked out on the Settlement of the Colony.
6. The Statements made by the Chamber of Commerce on matters susceptible of proof are somewhat remarkable. I hardly assume in a body professing to represent the Commercial Capital and intelligence of thetwoManuscript image two Colonies, an ignorance of a book of sailing directions for their coasts "published" as the title page would show them, "by order of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty." If Captain Richards is in error and his sailing directions calculated to lead ships into danger, his statements ought, in the interest of Commerce, to have been boldly met. But he has been left aside unnoticed and assertions directly opposed to those madepublicManuscript image public by the Admiralty have been officially forwarded to you.
7. Although my own considerable yachting experience has led me to rely with the utmost confidence upon Captain Richards' directions, I feel that statements emanating from a Chamber of Commerce are at least entitled, where I allow myself to doubt their correctness, to the respect which requires care in refutation. I add therefore in support of the directions oftheManuscript image the Hydrographer of the Navy, the enclosed letters from Vice Admiral Kingcome, lately Commander in Chief of the Pacific Squadron, and Captain Lord Gilford, commanding H.M.S. "Tribune," authorities worthy surely of weight with the Victoria Chamber of Commerce. These letters were published in the Official Gazette of this Colony.
8. Admiral Kingcome notices that the Arrival of H.M.S. "Tribune," drawing nineteen feet sixinchesManuscript image inches, opposite this town, most "conclusively" proves "that direct communication with New Westminster can be carried on by Ocean Ships of large tonnage." He says further, "the approach to the entrance of Fraser River possesses many advantages over that of the Thames. In the first place, the water is much smoother, and it is not exposed to any sea such as that raised in the North Sea by Easterly Gales which, in many instances, has caused the loss of ships.SecondlyManuscript image Secondly, there are no outlying sands, and the Channel is not near so tortuous and marks can be placed on the land, which in the Thames is nearly impossible. Thirdly, the weather is much clearer and the position of a ship more easily fixed. Fourthly, the Anchorage in English Bay is far preferable to that in the Downs. In both rivers ships must wait for the tides, and with the same, or even half the precautions intheManuscript image the Fraser that are used in the Thames, a perfect stranger would have no difficulty in taking ships drawing nineteen or twenty feet to New Westminster."
9. In leaving the river the "Tribune" unfortunately grounded. Lord Gilford in showing that the accident was caused by the dull white colour of a pole which marks the Channel, reports to the Commander in Chief on the Station, "I deem it my duty to state that, notwithstanding HerMajesty'sManuscript image Majesty's Ship under my Command having taken the ground on her outward passage, I am of opinion that Vessels drawing from eighten to twenty feet could enter the Fraser in perfect safety, provided the Channel be properly buoyed with marks which can be seen at a reasonable distance." The Chamber of Commerce is aware that great improvements have, since Lord Gilford wrote, been made in marking the Channel, that Iron buoys have been orderedoutManuscript image out from England, and Tenders are invited, not only in our local papers, but in those of Victoria, for the construction of a light ship for the Mouth of the Fraser.
10. I admit that Esquimalt possesses all the Advantages ascribed to it jointly with Victoria, but the "fatal" mistake alluded to by Captain Richards now causes irritation and inconvenience in both Colonies. I can see no objection to Merchandise destined for us being transhipped inEsquimaltManuscript image Esquimalt, but I do object to the present system under which our traffic is artificially conducted up the narrow and tortuous harbour of Victoria, causing a great loss of time and increase of expense. I have no certain information as to the amount of delay, but I believe that a fortnight to three weeks elapses after the arrival of a ship in Esquimalt harbour before any portion of her cargo reaches New Westminster.
11. TheManuscript image
11. The 12th paragraph states that under a former rule the advancement of each Colony was regarded as the benefit of the other. Unquestionably, even now, the legitimate advancement of each Colony is regarded as the benefit of the other.
12. I am in ignorance of the motives which induced Her Majesty's Government to make two Colonies of the British Possessions to the Westward of the Rocky Mountains, to lay out the planofManuscript image of a city of vast dimensions near the mouth of the Fraser, and to sell the lots on the faith that on them would stand the future Capital of British Columbia. If the Mainland was to continue to be the dependency of an outlying Island, no second Capital was required and steps ought boldly to have been taken, regardless of the private interests of the Hudson's Bay traders and others, to erect a great commercial town on the fine harbour ofEsquimaltManuscript image Esquimalt. Unquestionably under the rule of my Predecessor Victoria became the principal English Port on this Coast and New Westminster commenced a retrograde course early in its history. It could hardly have been otherwise. The Governor and other Public Officers drew their full salaries from British Columbia and resided in Vancouver Island. Victoria escaped all indirect taxation while heavy duties were collected on all articles consumed on theMainManuscript image Main land. The Hudson's Bay Company ran their steam vessels to the Fraser to connect with the river Steamers and draw down to the seat of Government and of Commerce the Miners immediately on their arrival from the Gold fields. The San Francisco Steamers called at Esquimalt only, and thus passengers for California had no inducement of any kind to remain even a few hours voluntarily in this Colony.WhileManuscript image While waiting for the Steamers, the Miners spent their money in Victoria and thus billiard rooms and drinking Saloons arose, and the place acquired sufficient importance to depopulate New Westminster without attaining any solid foundation or considerable prosperity for itself. The Chamber of Commerce speaks of the trade with China, the Sandwich Islands, Russian America and other places. How, if this be important, is it, that the prospect of a portion of the traffic of British ColumbiatakingManuscript image taking the short and undevious route by the Fraser, shakes the whole of Victorian Society to its foundations, and causes a state of political ferment such as the Island had never seen? Victoria did not attain any solid prosperity while having her interests set above those of this Colony and of the whole of Vancouver Island not included in her Town lots. Let me state how British Columbia fared.
13. I had not seen evenManuscript image in the West Indies so melancholy a picture of disappointed hopes as New Westminster presented on my arrival. Here, however there was a display of energy wanting in the tropics, and thousands of trees of the largest dimensions had been felled to make way for the great city expected to rise on the magnificent site selected for it. But the blight had early come. Many of the best houses were untenanted. The largest hotel was to let,decayManuscript image decay appeared on all sides, and the stumps and logs of the fallen trees blocked up most of the streets. Westminster appeared, to use the Miner's expression, "played out."
14. But it would have been urged, before the late excitement in Victoria, that the two Colonies prospered and that therefore it mattered but slightly if those who bought land in New Westminster were losers by the speculation. ItisManuscript image is not for me to report on the condition of Vancouver Island, but I have to state that British Columbia did not prosper. You are aware of the passionate appeals for Separation which came from this Colony.
i.e. for separate Governors & establishts.
[ABd]
The revenue of 1864 fell short of the Estimate by fifteen thousand pounds (£15,000), and, but for the accidental discovery of Gold on the Kootenay, at the close of the year the receipts would have shown a deficiency of twenty one thousand pounds (£21,000) ontheManuscript image the Estimated Revenue. At the time of my taking over the Government there was a local debt of fifty three thousand eight hundred and fifty-eight pounds (£53,858), in addition to that incurred in England, composed chiefly of Road Bonds and an overdrawn Account at the Bank of British Columbia.
This is the first time the Govr has mentioned this fact—to whh the Treasury has lately called our attention.
[ABd]
The Miners were not prosperous, and the labourers in Cariboo had diminished in number. What class was then thriving? Merchants there are but few. The ChamberofManuscript image of Commerce states (para. 22) that there is not at this moment a single importing Mercantile Establishment throughout the Colony. Yet the Number of traders who have taken advantage of the Insolvent Debtors Act, was one third greater in 1864 than in 1863. Perhaps, however, the Country Gentlemen who had introduced large Capital and acquired land at a low price were the class who flourished while other interestsdroopedManuscript image drooped. Not so I regret to say. Prosperity had not yet favoured their meritorious labours. The Legislative Council expressed a wish that some unpaid Magistrates should be appointed. I offered a Commission to three of the principal Country Gentlemen. One accepted the Office. A second told me franklyheManuscript image he had sunk everything and was on the brink of Insolvency unless further remittances arrived from England. The third sent me in a statement of his circumstances, shewing that if pressed by his creditors he would be unable to meet his liabilities.
15. This is the state upon which British ColumbiaenteredManuscript image entered the London Market as an applicant for a further loan of one hundred thousand pounds (£100,000). What security had it to offer? The Merchants of Victoria were in no way liable. The Miners, owners of the most valuable claims, have no habitation in the Colony. The Statement respecting the ImportingMerchantsManuscript image Merchants is not wide of the truth. Our creditors have, therefore, but the hard pressed owners of the soil to depend on.
16. It willManuscript image
16. It will hardly be cause for surprise if a document which deals loosely with facts should exhibit carelessness when it comes to deal with motives. The Chamber of Commerce, without any communication with myself or the Legislature of this Colony, state that our recent Legislation has been "intentionally antagonistic to Victoria."
This has reference to the late Customs Act of B.C.
[ABd]
This view was adopted at a public meeting held in that town. I enclose a copy of the Petition which there originated, and of my own reply. TheLegislativeManuscript image Legislative Council attached so little weight to the signatures that the petition was not even taken up by the House. My answer will I trust dispose of the Statements in the 23rd paragraph. As to the dissatisfaction supposed in the 24th to exist, I may at once say, that Miners, like other men, are not partial to taxation, but that, although they have been worked upon in every way by the political agitators of Victoria, the only public manifestations of feeling which we have seen recently weretheManuscript image the receiving the Steamer (which, I believe, brought up the petition) in New Westminster, with three groans for the Hudson's Bay Company, whose Agents are prominent among the Agitators against recent Legislation. The last batch of Miners on landing here spontaneously gave three cheers for the Governor, whom, had they attended to the directions of the Victoria press, they would have opposed by all means, fair or unfair. Immediately after cheering the Governor, three cheerswereManuscript image were given for Mr O'Reilly, the Gold Commissioner of Cariboo, who had in the Council taken a prominent part in recent Legislation.
17. The 25th paragraph alludes to the circumstances, of vessels having to clear at New Westminster instead of Victoria for the North West trade. I would venture to call your attention to the Duke of Newcastle's despatch No. 33 of 15th June 1860, which states, what the Chamber of Commerce is well aware of, that the Collecting of duties atVictoriaManuscript image Victoria on vessels bound for this Colony cannot be enforced. If the Commerce of Vancouver Island is put to inconvenience by coming up the Fraser, I can only say it is by the Action of my predecessor. His proclamation of 2nd June 1859, declares New Westminster to be the only Port of Entry in the Colony. I have induced the Legislative Council to give me, by Ordinance, the power of creating additional Ports, and I shall avail myself of its provisions in relief of theNorthManuscript image North West Trade.
18. You will observe in the 26th paragraph a minute account of the inconvenience and loss to which a vessel was exposed by having no alternative but to clear at New Westminster when the doing so became physically impossible on account of the ice on the river. I send a Statement of the case, made by the Collector of Customs at this port, from which you will observe how widely inaccurate are the Statements of the ChamberofManuscript image of Commerce. Mr Hamley also disproves all the assertions respecting the closing of the river by ice for four months in the winter. Without further explanation let me simply say that during all official experience of upwards of twenty years I have not met with a series of Statements so carelessly made by so respectable a body.
19. But I take this carelessness or absence of candour as the most convincing proof of the earnestnessofManuscript image of the signers. There must be great feeling; respectable men must suffer much before they allow themselves to deviate however slightly from the strict paths of truth. Doubtless the old position of the Merchants of Victoria, engrossing the whole traffic of British Columbia without sharing in its burthens, was an enviable one, but the larger Colony languished and grew weaker under the operation, and threatened to deprive Victoria of its Commerce by simply relapsingintoManuscript image into wilderness. Let us hope that a time will ere long arrive, when sharing equally in the public burthens, the Merchants of Victoria may derive a solid prosperity from the increased vigour which a respite from the exactions of Absentee traders will give this Colony.
20. I enclose an article from the "North Pacific Times" of the seventeenth of March on the subject of the ResolutionsandManuscript image and statements of the Chamber of Commerce.
I have the honor to be,
Sir,
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Frederick Seymour
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
See 5153 V.C. 5188 B.C.
The Governors share, sympathetically, in the irritation prevailing in their respective Colonies. As there is nothing in these despes demanding an absolute decision of the Secy of State I think the interests of the public service wd be most promoted by answering them as briefly as can be done, consistent with a courteous consideration forManuscript image each of them. Govr Kennedy could do no less than send the resolution & report of the Ch. of Commerce at Victoria to Mr Cardwell.
ABd 4 July
CF July 5
I have read these since receipt of the rest of the despatches. As to style of Correspondence, I see no fault in any of Govr Kennedy's letters herein contained. I think that Govr Seymour's of 29 March is very objectionable indeed: so abrupt and arrogant.
As to substance, the real thing to be determined is the merit of the new tariff of Columbia, which question can be considered better in some of the other pending despatches.
TFE 17 July
It appears to me that Mr Kennedy ought to have forwarded to Mr S. the memorial of the Chamber of Commerce—or at least shd have drawn his attention to it. And I think Mr Seymour mt fairly have shown his sense of this. But I agree with Mr E. that theManuscript image dph of 29 May is too much in the civil tone of a dissatisfied superior.
As to the merits, it is of course true as Mr S. says that expensive public works, therefore a high rate of taxation are indispensable for the progress of the gold fields in B.C. and that this high rate shd be levied on the miners for whose benefit it is incurred, and not solely on the resident population & that this can hardly be done except by high import duties.
I am not learned in such matters but I should have thought that the value of imports should be estimated (if practicable) rather by their cost at the place of consumption than by the cost at their place of production or shipment. The person to be taxed is the consumer—but if two bottes of wine wh are sold at an equal price are unequally taxed the difference goes into or comes out of the pocket of the importer.
I suppose the ordce with all these papers shd be referred to Try & B. of T.
FR 20/9
EC 22
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
Seymour to Kennedy, Vancouver Island 18 March 1865, responding to the resolutions and report and advising that he regretted "to observe a considerable want of candour in the statements attributed by the local press to the Chamber of Commerce."
Manuscript image
Kennedy to Seymour, 24 March 1865, advising that the chamber of commerce had indeed drafted the resolutions and report and confirming that they had been forwarded to the secretary of state.
Manuscript image
Kennedy to Cardwell, Separate, 21 March 1865, forwarding resolutions and report of the chamber of commerce "on the subject of Union with British Columbia."
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Seymour to Kennedy, 29 March 1865, expressing a wish that the papers in question had been forwarded to him before transmission to the secretary of state.
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Newspaper clipping, Vancouver Times, 9 March 1865, providing a copy of the resolutions and report.
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Newspaper clipping, unnamed, no date, expressing opinions of Vice Admiral Kingcome and Captain Gilford describing in favourable terms the navigation of the Fraser River.
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Newspaper clipping, unnamed, no date, containing copy of petition praying for the amendment of the customs act of the present session, 321 signatures, together with the governor's reply thereon.
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Memorandum, W. Hamley, Collector of Customs, New Westminster, 30 March 1865, responding to allegations in the resolutions regarding difficulties incurred by shippers as a result of having to clear at New Westminster for trade on the northwest coast.
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Newspaper clipping, The North Pacific Times, 17 March 1865, commenting unfavourably on the resolutions of the Victoria chamber of commerce.
Seymour, Frederick to Cardwell, Edward 21 March 1865, CO 60:21, no. 6176, 199. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/B65030.html.

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