No. 36
29th April 1865
Sir,
You will have been made aware, through other channels, of the excitement which now prevails in Vancouver Island, and the earnest desire of the inhabitants for Union or incorporation with this Colony. In British ColumbiatheManuscript image the feeling is against any such connection and the Legislative Council has, unanimously, placed on record its wish that the present state of things may not be disturbed. In New Westminster the antipathy to union on any terms is extreme. The vast majority of the land owners in the country are opposed to it. The Miners are indifferent. Until within the last few weeks, if they had a wish on the subject, it was that the Separation of the two Colonies should continue.RecentlyManuscript image Recently some of them have been persuaded that the taxation would be diminished if there was but one Government, and possibly a slight leaning towards Union may now exist which it will be the main object of the people of Vancouver Island to increase before the next Session of the Legislature of this Colony.
2. It is of course, well known in both Colonies that I can, in case of need, command ten votes out of fifteen in theLegislativeManuscript image Legislative Council. It suits the Newspapers and professional politicians of Victoria to assume that having the power I must have the desire to exercise it. Seeing therefore the public officer opposed to Union, they consider me as their principal opponent and no means are left untried to carry the object of their wishes by abuse or intimidation. The Miners when in Victoria are told that every act of this Government is calculated to injure them and the most ordinary measuresofManuscript image of administration are held up by the press as wilfully directed to the injury of the most numerous body of our population.
3. I must say that the state of things existing on my arrival here was very different from that which I had anticipated, and had I known the exact position of affairs I should very respectfully have requested His Grace the Duke of Newcastle to transfer me to some less arduous and responsible a post.TheManuscript image The Colonies west of the Rocky Mountains were in England generally spoken of as British Columbia, yet I found British Columbia proper to be in most senses a mere dependency on Vancouver Island. There was a Bishop of British Columbia and a Bank of British Columbia, but on the Separation they were both cut off from the Colony which gave their title.
True, owing to Douglas & H.B.Co influence.
[ABd]
4. British Columbia, including both Colonies under the one name,comprisedManuscript image comprised in April 1864, when I took over a portion of it, but two centres of population. These were, Victoria, without any boundaries, free from all indirect taxation, and Cariboo, five hundred miles in the interior, deserted in the winter, and attracting year by year a less numerous population during the short summer. All the profits of trade were realised by merchants who shared in none of our responsibilities and burthens. No vessels but steamersownedManuscript image owned in Victoria entered the Fraser and their arrival and departure was arranged so as to prevent the miners being induced to stay more than a few hours in New Westminster. With their hoards of gold almost untouched they immediately left our shores.
5. Meanwhile the Revenue was failing, the Capital wore a depressing aspect of decay, a staff of Officers equal to the Government of a population of 50,000 had to be kept up, a loan had been contracted in England and spent,andManuscript image and about fifty thousand pounds were owed on the spot. It was universally assumed in Vancouver Island that I should find New Westminster almost intolerable as a place of residence and spend the greater part of my time in Victoria.
6. On my applying for a gun boat to take me to the seat of this Government, it was suggested to me by her Commander that my application ought to come through the Governor of Vancouver Island.
7. The belief in the dependenceofManuscript image of British Columbia on Vancouver Island was made painfully clear to me shortly after my arrival. On the ninth day after my assumption of the Government, a party of road makers engaged on a private Victorian Enterprise, calculated, if not intended, to injure this Colony, was massacred by the Indians in a remote district. You will remember how the Governor and people of Vancouver Island considered that this Colony would be unable to collect a sufficient force, without assistance from the Island, to meettheManuscript image the emergency. It so happened however that the small population of this town contained many hardy men who had been nerved by the struggle against the natural and political difficulties of their situation and who finding support in a number of excellent Volunteers, in the discharged soldiers of the Engineers, formed an efficient body. I therefore took upon myself the responsibility of declining extraneous assistance. I have already mentioned the obstacles which the naturaldifficultiesManuscript image difficulties of the country and the want of transport presented to the operations of our men, and though they finally effected what Victoria thought would require not less than five hundred, their efforts, the first symptoms of the possible independence of British Columbia, have never received one word of commendation from the press or people of the neighbouring Colony. During the many anxious weeks that elapsed without news from the interior deep sympathy with our VolunteersandManuscript image and painful surmises regarding their fate, was, I will own freely manifested.
8. Towards the end of the year it began to be perceived that British Columbia could, and was likely to do so, make herself self supporting. Many months of singular political tranquillity, I may indeed say contentment, had elapsed here. New Mines of considerable wealth were discovered. Seeing that large sums of money werelikelyManuscript image likely to be expended, great public works undertaken, their confined field of action became distasteful to the professional politicians of Victoria. Overtures were therefore in a somewhat high handed manner, made for a reunion with the Colony which had hitherto been carefully abused and depreciated. It is quite unnecessary that I should recall to your recollection the earlier proposals made. They were succeeded in rapid succession by others of a more conciliatory kind,andManuscript image and I will only now treat of the last Resolutions of the Legislative Assembly requesting you to unite the two Colonies, and offering to place unconditionally in your hands the Legislative Constitution of Vancouver Island and its system of taxation.
9. This last offer, the only one which presented any chance of acceptance here was not made till the opening of the Legislative Session of this Colony on the 12th of January. It thenbecameManuscript image became known, that an export duty on Gold was about to be imposed which would give the Government the power of making the mining districts accessible and inhabitable in the winter and thus induce the miners to remain somewhat longer with us. That a light ship and a proper system of buoys would soon mark the placid, deep and undevious entrance to the Fraser. That an old project for inducing direct importations would be revived. That the Telegraph would connect NewWestminsterManuscript image Westminster with the whole civilized globe, and direct Steam communication with California [and] allow the departing miners to remain at least a few days in the lower part of the Colony. That a small sum would be laid out in improving our blighted and desolate capital.
The Merchants at Victoria are setting up commercial establishments at N. Westmr & elsewhere in B.C. considering that the policy of Govr Seymour will depress Victoria and raise B.C.
[ABd]
At once an excitement arose in Victoria for union and a control of some kind over our Legislation accompanied by a commercial depression farmoreManuscript image more painful to witness than the exultant and aggressive prosperity of the last year.
10. As usual resort was had to intimidation, but the steps taken were not wise. The public meetings held by some wintering miners in Victoria showed that many of the best of the Cariboo people stood aloof from the movement by which it was intended to upset some of our measures of just but severe taxation. The petitioners however turned away from theVictorianManuscript image Victorian tumult on a full and respectful explanation being given by me. The Hudson's Bay Steamer ceased for a time to approach New Westminster and the supplies of beef and mutton failed. But the people here, miners and others, throw all the blame of the inconvenience they suffered upon the right shoulders, and instead of clamouring for union as was anticipated, received the steamer that at length brought them supplieswithManuscript image with three groans for her Commander and three for the Hudson's Bay Company.
11. This effort to make us feel our dependency brought under my notice the manner in which the interests of Westminster had been sacrificed to those of Victoria. The main road to the interior commences at Yale, 110 miles from this town. During the summer the communication is kept up by means of Steam Vessels and is in every way satisfactory. But when the ice sets in, thecommunicationManuscript image communication is carried on exclusively by canoes, and by them with extreme inconvenience and some danger. A Ton of Gold spent many weeks at Yale. Fat cattle in abundance were within a short distance of us when New Westminster was reduced to game and salt provisions, but no road existed by which to bring them to market. Can it be wondered at, under these circumstances, that the good living, the theatre, the fiddling, dancing and tipplingofManuscript image of Victoria attracted all the population which was not tied down to New Westminster by interest or duty. The Hudson's Bay Company has, on this my first winter, pointed out to me clearly one of the great weaknesses of the Colony, and I am about to open, in concert with the Collins Telegraph Company, a road to Yale.
11. The prosperity of Victoria was so artificially stimulated that unfortunately anything tending to the permanent settlementofManuscript image of the Mainland and to the possible transaction of large commercial operations in this Colony creates much alarm. Town lots in Victoria fell in value as those in New Westminster rose.
Quite [illegible] have heard this from other quarters.
[ABd]
Separated, it seems difficult for the one Colony to flourish without inflicting injury upon the other.
A potent argument for union.
[ABd]
The resources of British Columbia now expended upon her own development alone, seem likely, under a purely selfish Legislation to impair the importance of Victoria.
12. TheManuscript image
12. The late Secretary of State before my departure from England directed me to use my efforts to bring about an amicable union of the two Colonies. I see that Imperial interests would be promoted by the measure. I know that the present disunion is considered a sort of scandal in the neighbouring States, that the Bishop's arrangements for the division of the diocese are embarrassed by it, that the Hudson's Bay Company, the Bank of British Columbia, the Chamber of Commerce,theManuscript image the Legislature of Vancouver Island, the whole population of Victoria are strongly in favour of union. We see daily evidence that the press of the sister Colony, not without its influence in our Mining districts, will misrepresent every act and notice of the Government and spare no efforts to excite discontent among our Migratory population. A newspaper under Victorian influence is about to be established in Cariboo and one of the leading and the most able of the professional politicians willbeManuscript image be employed as a missionary for the propagation of dissatisfaction with the present state of things in the Mining districts. I know that I shall have to carry on my Government without a chance of a candid notice of my acts in the press read in the neighbouring Colony and our Mining districts. You will therefore see that if I hesitate to recommend the immediate Union of the two Colonies, it is from no motive of personal interest or comfort.
13. The people of vestedinterestsManuscript image interests in British Columbia say that the annexation of Vancouver Island will be virtually a return, in a great measure, to the old state of things. Victoria alone contains considerable capital and professional politicians, the former will, even under a constitution such as this Colony possesses, secure the return of the latter for every seat in the Council that may be offered for the nomination of the people.
Let the seat of Govt for for V.C.I. & B.C. be at New Westminster, whilst the commercial capital will be at Victoria or Esquimalt. This would equalize interests.
[ABd]
Jobs will again spring up. Victorian interests will be alone once more consultedandManuscript image and virtually the Government of the two Colonies will relapse, into the hands of the Merchants of the chief Commercial Port. It is urged that even if the Legislative Constitution of the Island be merged in ours an outcry will very shortly be raised for more liberal institutions to give the direct management of affairs into the hands of those who have taken up political life as a profession.
14. I am of opinion that it would be a mistake in the presentstateManuscript image state of things to alter the Legislative Constitution of this Colony. We have but few men of sufficient wealth and leisure to take over the management of affairs. Besides there is a considerable advantage in our present arrangements. If a House of Assembly be elected, the franchise, I presume will be reserved, for British subjects and persons who have become naturalized in the Colony to the exclusion of Aliens. This would in point of fact, throw the Government of the Colony into the hands of a verysmallManuscript image small class principally settled in the Towns. As things now are the Governor accepts the nominee of the Majority in each district and does not enquire whether the voter is a citizen of the United States or a subject of the Queen of England, the Emperor of the French or any other Potentate. To the American Miner as well as to the Cornish man the members for Cariboo will have, by this fortunate arrangement, to account this summer for the increase in taxation which the Session has decreed. In severalofManuscript image of the country towns the alien population is vastly in the majority. All however seem satisfied with the present condition of things and would, I think regret to see the Administration of the Government transferred to the irresponsible hands who now rule the affairs of Vancouver Island.
15. I do not go the length of the people of this Colony in their aversion to Union. I cannot without some regret see the despondency of Victoria. I feel the extreme inconvenience tomyselfManuscript image myself of the position of two Governors of equal authority close to each other yet far from home. Yet I cannot but see that British Columbia is now unquestionably progressing and I look in vain for the benefits which would accrue to her by Union with the powerful yet artificially created community on the other side of the Gulf of Georgia.
16. I need hardly say that I will earnestly and faithfully carry out any instructions I mayreceiveManuscript image receive from you in the matter. I do not myself see that, with a strong hand it would be impossible for one man as Governor to do justice to both Colonies and increase the strength of British Interests on the Pacific. But the one Governor, whoever he may be, must be prepared to act upon his own judgment. It will not do for him to throw for decision or even discussion into a Legislative Assembly however constituted matters which must inflict injury ononeManuscript image one party or the other.
17. Though I see no insuperable difficulty in the union of the two Colonies under one man of vigour, calmness and honesty, I think that British Columbia ought to be allowed to show Her Majesty's Government what great development her resources are capable of taking when left entirely to the control of those residing within her limits.
18. To sum up I say that this Colony profits largely byseparationManuscript image separation. That Vancouver Island suffers while the operation is going on of allowing the two Colonies to fall into their naturally relative positions.
I have the honor to be
Sir,
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Frederick Seymour
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
This despatch exposes very frankly and also fairly the pros and cons on the question of Union. The conclusion of Govr Seymour is, if I am right in so understanding his desph, that it wd be best to let B. Columbia have more time for self developement before consummating its union with V.C. Island. But though I entertained also that view at first I am now more disposed to prefer an early to a postponed Union. To exalt B.C. and depress V.C.I.d would be one sided statesmanship. Nor can I doubt that there are plenty of able men who in the capacity of Govr would be competent to reconcile the conflicting interests of the two places and, with such elements as they possess, obtain success. But the temper & jealousy these Colonies exhibit towards each other will increase the difficulty of effecting a Union. See 4618, 4619, 4620 and 4622 V.C.I.
ABd 4 July/65
Mr Cardwell
Here are the B. Columbia & V. Id Papers on the important question of Union or Separation, of wh. I spoke to you. There is evidently a strong feeling at New Westminster against Union, which, recollecting Govr Douglas's system, and on the principle of the "burnt child," is not to be wondered at. I am disposed to think however that Union is the true policy with power enough in the Governor to keep things fair between Island & Mainland.
CF July 4
Manuscript image
Mr Cardwell
These papers have been already to Mr Fortescue whose minute is on the previous page.
The Union of the two Colonies will hardly be doubted to be in itself the right thing. The drawback would be the popular Constitution of Vancouver Island, if it must be extended to the united Colony.
Nothing can be better for a British population, when it's numbers are adequate, than a Representative Legislature. But nothing can be worse, when from want of sufficient materials, the Assembly must be an inferior, selfish and irresponsible clique. In South Australia which has always seemed to me the model for a new Colony, their first ActofManuscript image of Parliament (4 & 5 Will. 4 cap. 95 SS 23) wisely postponed the creation of what it called "a local Govt" until there should be a population of at least 50,000 souls.
In B. Columbia the scattered population, and the Miners' habit of coming away for several months in the year, offer special obstacles to a representation of the different districts of the Colony.
For these reasons I believe that B. Columbia would be grievously injured in it's interests by being forced into the premature adoption of a popular Constitution. But it is true, as both Governors have remarked, that the Assembly of Vancouver have resolved in favor of Union "under such Constitution as H.M's Govt may be pleased to grant." If this resolution oranyManuscript image any future and more solemn Assent from them that may be asked for, will afford a sufficient warrant for placing both Colonies under a mixed Legislature instead of such an impracticable body as the present Vancouver Assembly, this alone would ever render the union an immense gain.
The Imperial reasons in it's favor are obvious. Governor Kennedy has stated very well in No 16 of 21 March the local reasons in support of the same conclusion.
TFE 17 July
Seymour, Frederick to Cardwell, Edward 29 April 1865, CO 60:21, no. 6182, 317. 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/B65036.html.

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