No. 87
13th July 1867
My Lord Duke,
Captain Verney has sent me a copy of a letter which he addressed to Your Grace on the 7th May commenting on a certain petition which had then been recently presentedtoManuscript image to you. I can obtain no information respecting this petition. There is, I am told, a copy or copies in Victoria but no Officer of the Government is allowed to become acquainted with its contents. I have therefore literally only Captain Verney's letter of the 7th May to depend on. I gather from it that the petition "indicates strong personal feeling" against me, and that it is sought to induce Your Grace to declareVictoriaManuscript image Victoria to be the Capital of the Colony without a reference to me.
2. Perhaps I have a right to feel aggrieved by this "strong personal feeling" being thus exhibited behind my back, and of my being kept uninformed of the statements of the petitioners. Under the peculiar circustances of the case I do not. (I wish the question of the seat of Government to be set at rest, and if Your Grace can see Your way to establish it at VictoriawithoutManuscript image without injustice to those who have purchased land at New Westminster on the faith of the proclamations I enclose, I shall offer not one word of remonstrance. Either town will suit me equally well as a place of residence and in the present financial condition of the Colony I shall be very glad to have but one house to keep up. Victoria has made the most progress, consequently perhaps, under existing depressionitManuscript image it would be well to concentrate our waning resources upon the spot where the greatest outlay has been made. I will not allow that Victoria possesses any natural advantages over New Westminster, but it is older and more developed as a town.)
3. As to the "strong personal feeling" against me, I must bear it. From the very moment that it became clear that I, as Governor of British Columbia proper, was determined to consult theinterestsManuscript image interests of the Colony alone, over which I ruled, I have met with the unscrupulous hostility of the Victoria politicians. It was not to be allowed that British Columbia would stand alone and be independent. A sham had been carried on under which the real capital of British Columbia was outside its limits. The inhabitants of the Island commercially levied a toll on everything consumed on the mainland and evaded allindirectManuscript image indirect taxation. British Columbia was practically a dependency of Victoria, its gold field, fishing and hunting ground. If the mines proved rich, Victoria prospered. It was well managed by the Hudson Bay Company and others that but little share of the Gold of Cariboo should deposit in New Westminster. The empty Capital could not boast the presence of a Government, and the absentee administrators enriched VictoriawithManuscript image with their Salaries paid from the taxes of the Mainland. The course adopted in the first instance by the Hudson's Bay Company and then by the Government was followed by the Bank of British Columbia, whose chief office was outside the Colony whose name it bore. The Bishop of British Columbia did not reside in the Colony of British Columbia. Funds received from England were invested in the Island. Her Majesty's ships seldomleftManuscript image left their moorings in Esquimalt for the mainland, and thus Victoria, by the assistance of the Government, Church, Navy, Banks and a great commercial Company was raised to a place of considerable importance. But its prosperity was artificial, to a certain extent, and had no solid foundation. Before the separation of the Colonies the people of England were beginning to see through the hoaxes which had been periodically practised upon them in thecolumnsManuscript image columns of a leading journal and the retrogression of Victoria had already begun. The rate became greatly accelerated within a few weeks of the Establishment of a separate Government at New Westminster. I presided over that Government, which seemed at the outset to deprive Victoria of all confidence in herself, and I have scarcely a right to complain if I have ever since my arrival been assailed with all the invective which ingenuitysharpenedManuscript image sharpened by adversity could supply to the people & press of Victoria. I was therefore fully prepared for the indication of "strong personal feeling" in the secret petition. Yet, "personal feeling" is not quite the right expression. It is more my policy than myself that Victoria detests. Were I sufficiently unscrupulous I know the way to win her favor tomorrow.
4. In a consideration of the question as to the seatofManuscript image of Government Your Grace will have on the one hand the expectations legitimately formed by the people of New Westminster. In my opinion the most respectable, manly and enterprising little community with which I have ever been acquainted. On the other, you will have probable expediency and will gratify for a time a restless, half alive population, ill at ease with itself. If Victoria be selected as the Capital you will havebutManuscript image but the expiring reproaches of New Westminster. If the latter city be chosen the systematic agitation to which Your Grace is accustomed will continue to prevail. The Hudson Bay Company, the Bank of British Columbia, that of British North America and possibly even the Church will be arrayed in more or less open opposition to the Government. Victoria will endure no lukewarm policy. No abstract justice to the Colony as a whole willsupportManuscript image support her artificial fabric. A man must be entirely for Victoria or else must be against her. I am impartial. Hence the strong feeling of opposition to which Captain Verney refers.
5. I enclose the Message I addressed to the Legislative Council on the Subject. The last paragraph simply means that I will not be controlled in my policy by meetings held in the Victoria Theatre.
I have the honor to be,
MyManuscript image My Lord Duke,
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Frederick Seymour
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
Captain Verney's letter of the 1st May to the Duke of Buckingham (see 4489) a copy of which Govr Seymour says he recd from Captain Verney himself, enclosed a copy of the Memorial which had been submitted to his Grace by Mr Anderson & others (see 4353) praying that Victoria & not New Westminster might be declared to be the Capital of B. Columbia. In this Memorial Captain V. expressed his concurrence with the exception of the 7th paragraph which rather reflected on Govr Seymour as not being an impartial judge in the matter. The signers of the Memorial, & various other writers of a similar remonstrance have been told that nothing could be done until an expected Report from Govr Seymour on the subject was recd.
The solution of this question was left I believe by Lord Carnarvon to Governor Seymour, & thisManuscript image despatch contains the 1st intimation of his view of it.
In his opening Speech of the 24th Jany last Govr Seymour intimated his intention of addressing the Council separately as to the Seat of Govt. And on the 27th March he fulfilled his promise.
After referring to various Petitions he had recd he goes on to say that "an influential Member of the Govt informed him a few days before his departure from England 'I do not think it necessary that the Secy of State should give you instructions as to the seat of Govt. It is understood that New Westminster should be the Capital, & that you should visit Victoria when you think it necessary. But if you wish for definite orders you will do but to ask for them in a formal letter to the Secy of State.'" He concludes by trusting that no immediate action will be urged upon him, & that if it was he should decide at once inManuscript image favor of New Westminster. The Council not concurring in this view passed Resolutions in favor of Victoria by 13 Votes to 8—6 of the former it is stated in one of the Memorials being those of Official Members.
In his Proroguing Speech on the 2d April Governor Seymour says "if in spite of your Resolution in favor of Victoria I still hesitate in removing my abode & the Seat of the Legislature from the spot established by Law you will understand that I consider the public faith & honor engaged on the one side, & possible expediency on the other. If as some persons expect the present uncertainty be found to be more detrimental to the public interests than any decision that may be arrived at, I shall come to that decision & make public the recommendation I may lay before the Secy of State."
As regards faith and honor being engagedManuscript image in favor of New Westminster he explains that he refers to two Proclamations of 1859 by one of which it was declared where the Capital was to be & the terms by which lands would be sold there—by the other that this Capital should be styled New Westminster. This honour was years before the Union of the two Colonies, & it appears to me would hardly affect the question which should be decided entirely on its own merits.
I think there can be no doubt that Governor Seymour's past and present feelings are entirely in favor of New Westminster, & that he has acted wisely and fairly in refusing to be hurried to a decision.
It appears to me that it would have been better if copies of all the appeals that had been made to the Secy of State had been sent as recdManuscript image to Govr Seymour for his information, & I would suggest that that course should be taken now.
This might be done in a despatch acknowledging the receipt of his present one, in which it might be said that the Duke of Buckingham had already in his despatch of the 12 Aug No 49 informed Govr S. that his Grace was waiting for his report on the question of the seat of Govt—that he had since recd Govr S. despatch of the 13th July No 87, & that whilst his Grace approved of his having declined to be forced into decision prematurely, he at the same time would have wished that Govr S. had forwarded to His Grace at the time a copy of his Message of the 27 March.
CC 5 Sept 67
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This resolution seems to me extremely important and to make it probable that it will be soon necessary to make Victoria the Capital of the Colony.
It also appears to me that Mr Seymour himself feels this & is preparing the way to yield with decorum.
I do not agree with him that the Proclamation constitutes a pledge that New Westmr shall not only be the capital of the then new Colony of B.C. but shall under any amount of possible change continue to be the Capital. And I think that the kind of argument against wh a Govt cannot too strenuously protest.
The policy of Govt is [ex necessitate?] changeable with the emergencies wh affect the public interest. EverybodyManuscript image knows or ought to know this and in every speculation founded on the announcement of a Govt policy one question for the speculator ought to be the question whether having regard to the circumstances of the case, the policy is likely to be permanent or not.
Of course this reasoning cannot be applied to cases where there is an express guarantee or where one points to acts from which such a guarantee cd fairly be inferred.
In the present case I conceive the speculators had no right to infer that the Govt intended such a guarantee. If it had been asked forManuscript image explicitly, it wd have been, no doubt explicitly refused, and that I have no doubt every man of sense among the land purchasers wd have admitted to himself if he had asked himself that question.
I wd ackne this—I wd say that the leaving this question unsettled appeared calculated to keep alive irritation & uncertainty. I wd forward all these memorials (as proposed by Mr Cox) and I wd witht expressing an opinion as to the substantial question I wd express dissent from Gov. Seymour's opinion that public faith is concerned.
Why is public faith more pledgedManuscript image to landholders in New Westmr than to landholders in Victoria?
FR 16/9
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P.S. A reperusal of this dph makes me doubtful whether it wd not be right and really useful to the Govr himself to express a positive opinion in favor of Victoria as the Capital.
The dph presents the picture of two rival towns, both for the present are depressed, one of wh has succeeded in attracting to itself the business of the two Colonies (as they were) and can retain a certain amount of importance though ceasing to be the seat of Govt. The other on the contrary if ceasing to be the capital will have nothing but "expiring" reproaches to emit. Evidently this—though otherwise manipulated by the Governor—is an argument in favour of the town that has most life about it.
FR 16/9
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I should leave the Governor the discretion & add that if he wishes, he may quote authority from home in favour of Victoria.
CBA 17/9
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I think so. So proceed with the draft.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Printed copy of Seymour's message to the Legislative Council on the question of a capital for the united colony.
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A.N. Birch to Seymour, 30 March 1867, forwarding resolution of the Legislative Council in favour of establishing the capital at Victoria.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Buckingham to Seymour, No. 67, 1 October 1867 discussing Seymour’s need to select Victoria or New Westminster as the seat of government in British Columbia and forwarding “various documents” on the subject of choosing one of the two cities, which may aid in Seymour making a decision.