No. 39
7th March 1867
My Lord,
I have the honor to forward Copy of a letter which has been addressed by the present Senior Naval Officer on this Station to the Secretary for the Admiralty, pointingoutManuscript image out how totally we are dependent on the Americans for our communication with Europe.
2. Until recently a subsidy was given by the Government of Vancouver Island to the English Vessel "Labouchere" for carrying the mails from San Francisco to Victoria and the Authorities of British Columbia employed a Vessel under the American Flag for the same purpose. On the loss of the "Labouchere"aManuscript image a double Subsidy was given to the United States Vessel in order to induce her to call at Victoria on her way to New Westminster. The Conveyance of the Mails under this arrangement entailed an expense of six hundred pounds a trip: an amount beyond the ability of the now united Colony to pay. As soon as the contract expired, I declined to renew it. Not too soon—as the Government of VancouverIslandManuscript image Island is still in debt to the San Francisco Mail Company for ten Voyages, having only paid the subsidy for two. The Government of the Mainland had however paid all its obligations under this head punctually.
3. The Legislative Council has now placed at my disposal a sum of twelve hundred pounds a year for keeping up Communnication with San Francisco and securingtheManuscript image the receipt of the European Mails. I need hardly say that this amount is altogether insufficient to secure the object sought to be obtained. We may perhaps induce steamers to call once a month during the summer but we shall have to trust to accident for maintaining our Communication with the Mother Country during the winter.
4. Perhaps Your Lordship will forgive me for sayingthatManuscript image that some assistance should be given by the Imperial Treasury for keeping up the connection between England and this important Colony, containing as it does the head quarters of the Pacific Squadron. The steamers which ply between Panama and San Francisco are under no contract even with the United States Government for the conveyance of mails and may of course at any time refuse to carry ours. The Telegraph is in the handsofManuscript image of the Americans and in the event of a rupture with the United States the intelligence would not reach this Colony or Her Majesty's Ships until it might suit the convenience of the enemy.
5. I understand that the Royal Mail Steam Company is willing to establish steam communnication between Panama and British Columbia if 7 1/2 per cent per annum be paid on the sum of £250,000whichManuscript image which would be required to provide the vessels to keep up a fortnightly communication on the Pacific in connection with the steamers leaving Southhampton on the 2nd and 17th of each month.
6. My own belief is that the Revenue of the Colony will, after the present year, prove sufficient for us materially to assist in lightening the expense of any line of Steamers which may be establishedunderManuscript image under the direction of the Home Government.
I have the honor to be,
My Lord,
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Frederick Seymour
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
I do not see that any practical question for the decision of the Secy of State arises upon the contents of this despatch. The Govr reports that the late V.C.I. Govt has failed to pay its engagement for the conveyance of its despatches—he observes that the Legislature of the United Colonies has granted the (obviously) inadequate sum of £1200 a year for the postal service to San Francisco, & renews the oft repeated cry of aid for a mail subsidy from the Impl Govt. Perhaps some such arrangement as the Govr suggests may be come to with the Panama Cy but it is for the Governor not for this Office to open the negotiation as he best knows what the finances of the Colony can afford to pay. On the whole, therefore, I shd be in favor of informing the Governor that there is no prospect of an Imperial subsidy being granted to the B.C. mail service, and that this Office will be glad to learn if any satisfactory terms can be suggested by him with a view to an arrangement for the conveyance of the Colonial Mails by the Panama Co.
ABd 6 May
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The Home Govt contribute already towards this part by sending the letters as far as Colon.
FR 7/5
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I suppose this shd be sent to the Treasury with an expression of opinion.
That opinion I hope against any Impl subsidy.
? use of Naval Station there?
CBA 7/5
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Copy to Treasury & to Admiralty—asking for any remarks they may have to offer.
B&C 8/5
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Captain R.B. Oldfield to Secretary of the Admiralty, 5 March 1867, regarding postal service in the colony.
Other documents included in the file
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Rogers to Secretary to the Admiralty and G.A. Hamilton, Treasury, 16 May 1867, forwarding copy of the despatch for consideration.