No. 161
10th December 1867
My Lord Duke,
I have had the honor to receive Your Grace's despatch No. 49 of the 17th of August respecting certain resolutions passed by the Legislative Council in favor of theSeatManuscript image Seat of Government of the Colony being established at Victoria. The schedule of despatches received by your Grace, which came by the same mail shows me that my communication No. 87 of 13th July, on this subject is already before you.
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Recd on the 31st Aug.
2. The question is one really of very great difficulty in the present depressed condition of the Colony. Were either Victoria or NewWestminsterManuscript image Westminster prosperous it would matter but little where the Governor had his abode and where the Legislative Council met.
3. New Westminster was proclaimed the Capital of British Columbia. Vancouver Island prayed and agitated for admission on any terms into an union with the Mainland Colony. Hence it would seem but natural that New Westminster shouldbeManuscript image be the Capital of the United Colony. Victoria however, previous to the separation of the Colonies, was virtually the Capital of both and, as I have already stated in my despatch above referred to, had concentrated many powerful influences.
4. If I be permitted to set aside the consideration of Sir James Douglas's Proclamation and the apparent deviation from good faith towardstheManuscript image the purchasers of town lots in New Westminster I would state the case as follows:
5. Victoria has the largest population, the richest shopkeepers, the largest Church endowments, the greatest trade and is singularly favored by the Head Quarters of the Pacific Squadron being placed in the neighbouring harbour of Esquimalt. It is also unquestionably the mostconvenientManuscript image convenient place for communicating, if desirable, with the United States Authorities at San Francisco or Alaska. It has certain Public Offices of good appearance but I am informed by Major General Moody RE, of the most unsatisfactory construction. Victoria posseses additionally a Government House of some pretension, built at a cost of about £9,000 at the time when the Colony could notmeetManuscript image meet its indebtedness. This house is large and unfurnished but being situated amongst rocks so disposed as to keep off the Sun and not the cold breezes of the Straits, it is singularly unattractive. The walls have no paper to hide the cracks which the settlement of the older portions of the building have entailed upon them. There is no water on the grounds in summer, all for consumption has to be purchased.
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6. New Westminster has on the other hand the disadvantage of being more out of the way of Foreign Callers, and being less connected with Her Majesty's Navy. It is away from the Head Quarters of the Hudson's Bay Company's Establishments, and from the abodes of the principal merchants of the Colony. Its Public Offices are inferior and if there be, as seems to be supposed in Victoria, anecessaryManuscript image necessary connection between trade and Government, New Westminster must yield the palm to the older city. Here however the Government House is a cottage without pretension on the Banks of the Fraser. It is a modest English house nicely furnished, in a lovely situation, and abundantly supplied with water. I can hardly imagine a Governor of his own free will leaving it for the more ambitiousbuildingManuscript image building at Victoria which fails to supply one of the necessaries of comfort after an outlay of three times as much as the house from which I now write, has cost.
7. It is held in certain petitions which have been presented to Your Grace, and to which I shall refer in a separate despatch, that the seat of Government should be where the population is most concentrated. YetsuchManuscript image such is not the opinion in the neighbouring States. Washington has not the trade or bustle of New York. Sacramento is insignificant as a settlement compared with San Francisco. I might go the round of the States by name and shew that the deliberative and Executive Government are removed from the great bustling and excitable centres of population. Our, to us here, EasternColoniesManuscript image Colonies, seem to have followed the same principle. Ottawa has not the trade of Quebec or Montreal. Fredericton that of St Johns.
8. As regards the political question connected with the seat of Government for British Columbia I would observe that I never saw a community more politically excitable and tempest torn than that of Victoria. Your Grace'spredecessorsManuscript image predecessors will have had but too great knowledge of the mode in which matters were conducted under the late Legislative Constitution of Vancouver Island. Under that at present existing people are quieter but I do not think that the Council would be as much able to do their duty to the Community at large when sitting in the feverish political atmosphere ofVictoriaManuscript image Victoria as if deliberating in the less troubled town of New Westminster.
9. If however we consider the question merely as how to please immediately the greater number of persons the selection of Victoria as a capital would be the most advisable.
9. [sic] I had written thus far when I received Your Grace's despatch No. 67ofManuscript image of the 1st October. The matter to which it refers shall have my most careful consideration and I shall reply to it by the next opportunity.
I have the honor to be,
My Lord Duke,
Your most obedient
humble Servant.
Frederick Seymour
Minutes by CO staff
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Sir F. Rogers
See 2630. If the best Govt House was to decide the question there could be no doubt as to the Capital. Wait for promised report?
CC 11/3
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Yes—for a single mail. It is clear, I think, that he cannot mean No 165 to be the report promised in this dph. But if no further report arrived, I shd be disposed to assume that he did, & to settle the question here in favour of Victoria.
FR 19/3
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I think so.
CBA 23/3
B&C 24/3