Matthew Begbie to Thomas Begbie

Extract of a letter from Judge Begbie to his Brother Thomas Stirling Begbie 4, Mansion House Place, City, dated Richfield 5th August 1867.

As to my coming home on leave next Winter, I have but a plain and simple answer, I can't afford it: whether owing in part or in whole to the policy pursued of endeavoring to kill Victoria, or not, things are now, I think, nearly as low as they can stand lower we shall not exist at all. It does not follow that even with a change of policy, the Colony would improve suddenly; but in fact I think any change of policy extremely doubtful. There are perhaps three tests of the actual situation of the Colony, value of property, public revenue, and population. As to the value of property, it is in general perhaps about worth 6d in the £ of what it was worth in 1863-4 when the new policy was inaugerated. I mean that property worth £100 then, would now perhaps fetch at Auction £2 or £3. I am speaking of Land, Flour & Staple articles of consumption of course bear still a fair price. In Victoria, prime lots being well held, have been rarely in the market, but there was one corner block with houses &c sold the other day for £640 by Auction, which in 1864 would have been worth from £11,000 to £12,000. I don't think therefore that the Colony can go much lower according to this test.
Now as to public revenue, the estimates I dare say are not exactly arranged according to my notions of what would be useful expenditure: but they are not extravagant in amount considering the territory to be administered is as large as France. The total estimated expenditure was in round numbers $700,000 = £140,000,howManuscript image how far this has been met by the receipts you may guess from the fact that I have only received 2 months pay for the 7 months now due. I think it is extremely doubtful indeed whether I shall receive anything like the whole £1,200, Salary by the end of the Year, perhaps another £200.
Lastly as to population—the population, mining and migratory, of the present combined colonies is smaller than the fixed inhabiting population of Victoria & Esquimalt was alone two or three years ago. Our mining and migratory population is smaller than it was then, and I am sorry to say nearly all the settled families have left. It was only in Victoria that any families could be said to be settled. I question if there ever have been a dozen on the mainland of B.C. (apart from the Officials and their families), and in 1865-6-7 every Steamer almost has taken away from one to half a dozen—none have replaced them. The Auctioneers have at last scarcely been able to give away the "household furniture of a family about to leave the Colony" advertisements of which have filled the papers.
Now there can be no disputing these 3 facts—depopulation, annihilation of the value of landed property, and disappointment in the revenue, to such an extent that even the judicial salary (which ought to be a pretty sure payment) is, as to the greater part, unpaid. I have heard of some resumption of payments lately, but quite unauthoritatively. I have applied to know whether I can draw, but have received no answer. It takes with our present mail service from 3 to 5 weeks to get an answer from below, e.g. some Criminals were sentenced here on 2nd July & an express left on 3rd July: we have as yet no reply as to the disposal of them—except that I understand by telegraph, that written orders are on their way up.
Besides, the Colony, though so low that, as I said before if it falls two steps lower itmustManuscript image must I should say, be abandoned, may rise. I still believe as fully as ever that it is the best Gold Mining Country in the world, to say nothing of Silver, Copper and Coal, the latter the best on the Pacific Coast, & both Silver and Copper known to exist. But how are they to be discovered except by the merest fluke, when our whole effective population is so small? Not more than 3,000 probably for mining purposes & these nearly wholly taken up with gold hunting. As to Silver indeed there is reported a vein equal to anything in Washoe. Three separate parcels of several CWT gave results $1,500, $1,300, $604 to the ton.
If the Box leaves by middle of November I ought to receive it in January, it will be hardly worse weather than down Country, than what we are having up here this Year. This morning it was snowing heavily for 2 or 3 hours, it did not lie except up the hills where all was white. It has snowed here two or three times the last month, in fact I have often said that I have spent about 14 or 15 Winters in this Colony—7 in Cariboo and 8 or 9 down below.
There is great croaking among the Farmers, who are not very numerous however, they are having a great deal of cold and wet, not snow of course, nobody can farm up here, about 4,500 feet high in the Air in this latitude, on the other hand the wet weather is good for the Miner, plenty of water. The out turn is about 2,000 oz per week, perhaps, which considering our scanty population, I don't believe there are much over 2,000 Miners, is pretty good.
[No signature]
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
This is a very interesting Extract of a letter from Judge Begbie to his brother & bears on the financial position of B. Columbia wh is now under your conson.
The most noticeable points are
1. that property worth £100 in 1863/4 wd now fetch from £2 to £3.
2. that the Salaries are five months in arrear.
3. the difficulty of communication with Victoria & N Westr.
4. the large "out turn" of Gold at the Mines.
WR 25 Oct 67
TFE 25/10
CBA 26/10
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An interesting letter. I do not understand the great difficulty of communicating with Victoria, what part of colony is Richfield in?
B&C 29/10
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Duke of Buckingham
Richfield is at Cariboo nearly 500 miles I believe from Victoria & N Westr.
WR 31/10
B&C 1/11