No. 50
18th March 1867
My Lord,
I would beg leave to refer Your Lordship to my despatch No. 20 of 11th January. I therein acknowledged the receipt from Your Lordship of a letter from Sir James DouglascommentingManuscript image commenting unfavorably upon the British Columbia Customs Ordinance 1865. I expressed my opinion that though I believed the writer would wish the matter to drop, still it was better that my report should be placed on record.
2. I sent a note, copy of which is enclosed, to Sir James Douglas. I forward his reply. As I anticipated he does not wish to proceed in the matter. Our relations havealwaysManuscript image always been of a very friendly nature and I have not informed him that I am in possession of a Copy of his letter. Your Lordship will observe a statement hardly to be expected in a letter from Sir James Douglas, he says— You know as well as I can point out that this is not one of Nature's favored Countries. It has few natural attractions and will not thrive otherwise than by nursingandManuscript image and careful management. On whose reports other than Sir James Douglas's did the Duke of Newcastle inform me that he appointed me to the Governorship of British Columbia without waiting for my acceptance, as he could not give any man a more interesting duty than that of developing the "marvellous resources of the Colony?"
3. I will not deny the statement contained in the second paragraph of the lateGovernor'sManuscript image Governor's letter, that the Colony is now labouring under considerable depression. Anyone who sets his foot in Victoria will see that the town is going through a period of considerable adversity, but on reaching New Westminster he will be much less struck by signs of decadence. The Police Magistrate informs me in a letter which I enclose that there is but one dwelling house untenanted in the town, and infurtherManuscript image further support of my assertion I add a portion of an address presented to me by the Municipality of New Westminster on my return from England— While we cannot point to any very great progress made by this City during Your absence, it is a satisfaction to know that some substantial advancement has marked that period, and that the commercial crisis which has overtaken these ColonieshasManuscript image has fallen with less severity upon this Community.
4. Proceeding Northward we find that in Yale there is not a house to let and at Cariboo, still our principal Gold field, a larger population is wintering than has ever yet passed the shorter days of the year in its severe climate. Undoubtedly a good many road side houses on the main line of road have been closed, many for the not unsatisfactorycauseManuscript image cause that the improvement in the roads has so facilitated travelling, that places of halt are less frequently required than formerly. The little town of Quesnelmouth has been almost abandoned in consequence of the road having been completed into the heart of Cariboo East and many habitations have been abandoned on the Douglas-Lillooet route, as public favour has almost unquestionably given thepreferenceManuscript image preference to the rival line by Yale and Lytton. Here may I mention incidentally that I am not the person to blame for the construction of competing roads, at a cost upwards of a hundred thousand pounds to the young Colony, leading to a single gold mine. The mere keeping in repair of which is one of the heaviest charges on the revenue.
5. I admit that depression of a very serious degree nowpressesManuscript image presses upon the Colony. But I see that comparatively an equal amount of gloom hangs over the neighbouring territory of Washington and State of Oregon. The conclusion of the American war has caused a change in the current of emigration; it sets now from the Pacific to the Atlantic Coast.
6. To turn towards the reasons assigned by Sir James Douglas for thepresentManuscript image present despondency. He attributes the depression to arise, first; from the temporary imposition of a tax on the export of Gold. On this point I have only to say that the tax was recommended to the Legislative Council after consultation with the Mining Board of Cariboo, elected by the Miners themselves, and that it passed through the Council without one adverse vote. The principal oppositiontoManuscript image to its operation arose in Victoria, where public agitation has been matured into a science, and, had the mining population been left to itself it is probable that either the tax would have been endured without remonstrance or met with such temperate opposition as would have led to its repeal without attracting the notice of the whole Pacific Coast to our local jealousies—a notice which unquestionablyinflictedManuscript image inflicted temporary injury. But as to the Gold Export Tax having "driven hundreds of Miners in disgust from the Country," I must entirely dissent from the Statement of Sir James Douglas.
7. The tax on Gold has however been repealed and it forms but the introduction to the grievance of the Customs Ordinance of 1865. The portion of the ordinance to which Your Lordship objected is about to be repealed
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Probably then by one of the 40 Acts coming.
andthereforeManuscript image therefore I would refer principally to the reports from all the Acting Magistrates of the mainland upon the manner in which the Ordinance has worked. Mr Brew, of New Westminster considers that the Act was, "as it intended to be a positive benefit to this Colony." Mr O'Reilly, of the Columbia district says that, "the Ordinance referred to has not affected the traders of the Columbia district." Mr Ball of Cariboo West cannot see "thattheManuscript image the Customs Ordinance of 1865 in any manner brought about this reverse." Mr Sanders of Yale and Lytton reports, I am happy to be able to state that the description in question (that by Sir James Douglas) has in no way a general application to the District in my charge for not one house is uninhabited and not more than two shops closed—that commercial matters for some time past have been extremely depressed, business exceedingly dull—in fact almoststagnantManuscript image stagnant—cannot be denied, but to ascribe the consequent embarrassments to the effects of the Customs Ordinance is most absurd. Mr Cox from Cariboo East reports, "I beg to state that the Ordinance referred to in no way contributed to the wretched condition of the Country." Mr Elliot of Lillooet says, "Whatever effect the Customs Ordinance may have had in other parts of the Colony, I am fully persuaded that intheManuscript image the Districts of Douglas and Lillooet it has not produced the evil."
8. I referred additionally to the Collector of Customs. He writes, that there is a change and a depression in the circumstances of the Victoria speculators it would be idle to pretend to deny—it is just as preposterous for them to pretend that their losses are attributable to the Customs Law here and later in his letter, The people of New WestminsterareManuscript image are not losing ground. There is no sort of political excitement among them. No people can be more contented and satisfied with their Government and notwithstanding the crisis through which we are all passing there is nothing to discourage prudent men from looking forward hopefully to the future.
9. I wish to leave the magistrates principally to speak respecting the operation of the Customs Act on the mainland, but I must make a remark upon the eleventhparagraphManuscript image paragraph of Sir James Douglas's letter. He writes, the first measure of relief which I would suggest to Your Lordship and it will be hailed with joy by both Colonies is the immediate disallowance of the British Columbia Customs Amendment Ordinance 1865. It so happens that at this very time a Bill is before the Council repealing the clause to which Sir James Douglas so particularly objects. Every Member from Vancouver Island (now united with BritishColumbiaManuscript image Columbia) opposes the reversal of the general principal of the Measure. Had I not in deference to Your Lordship's commands made a Government question of the withdrawal of the provision, which, in the opinion of the Lords of the Treasury imposed differential duties, I should be outvoted by a large majority.
10. Sir James Douglas further writes, There is no cause for rivalry; no act caneverManuscript image ever make New Westminster what Victoria now is, a resort for ocean ships. Were Victoria destroyed, New Westminster would not profit by the loss, on the contrary, it would be to her greatest possible calamity. This is not candid. Since Union has taken place one of Her Majesty's Ships, much larger than any merchant ship that has ever visited the Colony, has passed repeatedly between Esquimalt and New Westminster. A vesselthatManuscript image that could not by any possibility enter Victoria. Even when proceeding to Victoria in Her Majesty's Despatch boat "Sparrowhawk" I have to drive five miles to Government House Victoria, whereas I embarked, on the Fraser within a few yards of this house. There cannot be the slightest doubt that New Westminster is admirably situated for a place of large trade.
11. There are still local jealousies, though mitigated alittleManuscript image little by Union. There are difficulties but not of my creating. It was not I who expended enormous sums of borrowed money in making competing roads to a single gold mine. Nor did I start two sea port Towns. Two Capitals close together. Sir James Douglas's policy was clever, and may have been able, in the furtherance of certain interests but it was in my opinion deficient in the characteristic proverbiallyassertedManuscript image asserted to be the best policy.
12. It may not be alien to the subject to enclose a return of the average prices of the principal articles of consumption according to the values reported by the Magistrates resident in Cariboo during the years 1863, 1864, 1865 and 1866. The steady reduction of prices is remarkable and shows that the Miner has no cause of complaint against the CustomsOrdinanceManuscript image Ordinance of 1865.
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
As Sir J. Douglas is content to let the matter drop this may be put by.
The Customs Act of 1865 is to be disallowed if an amending Act is not recd before the 29th June. Some 40 Acts have recently been passed but not yet come to hand—probably the amending Act amongst them.
CC 30 May
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Some of the contents of this despatch supply useful general information on the state and prospects of the Colony.
No action is called for. Put by?
TFE 31 May
CBA 3/6
B&C 6/6
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Ordinance No. 5 of 1865—disallowed by desp. to Govr No. 40 21 June/67—See Treasy/6015/66.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Seymour to Sir James Douglas, 13 January 1867, forwarding copy of despatch from Carnarvon and requesting copy of Douglas's letter of 14 September 1866.
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Douglas to Seymour, 22 January 1867, declining to forward the requested letter in light of the union of the colonies.
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C. Brew, Police Magistrate, New Westminster, to Colonial Secretary, 21 January 1867, defending the customs ordinance 1865.
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P. O'Reilly, Magistrate, Columbia District, 21 January 1867, report defending the customs ordinance.
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H.M. Ball, Magistrate, Cariboo West District, 18 January 1867, report defending the customs ordinance.
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E.H. Sanders, Magistrate, Yale-Lytton District, 19 January 1867, report defending the customs ordinance.
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W.G. Cox, Magistrate, Cariboo East District, 29 January 1867, report defending the customs ordinance.
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A.C. Elliot, Magistrate, Lillooet District, 1 February 1867, report defending the customs ordinance.
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W. Hamley, Collector of Customs, 21 January 1867, minute defending the customs ordinance.
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Newspaper clipping, unnamed, no date, quoting the average prices of the principal articles of consumption at Cariboo as reported by the magistrates during the years 1863 through 1866.