Murdoch to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
30th April 1868
Sir,
I have to acknowledge your letter of 16th inst, with a Despatch from the Governor of B. Columbia enclosing an Ordinance passed by the Legislature of that Colony "for regulating the acquisition of Crown Lands," together with reports on the Ordinance by the Attorney General and Surveyor General of the Colony.
2. This Ordinance is passed with the object of facilitating the acquisition of Land by preemptionManuscript image and extending the power of so acquiring it to aliens as well as subjects of the British Crown. Both the Attorney General & the Surveyor General disapprove many of its provisions—and they are supported by the Governor, who states that he withheld his assent to it—and that he cannot recommend it for the favorable consideration of the Duke of Buckingham & Chandos. The Attorney General points out in detail the particulars in which the Ordinance appears to him open to objection. As I presume that it would not be contemplated to sanction this Ordinance in opposition to the unanimous opinion of these authorities, it isManuscript image unnecessary for me to recapitulate the objections urged by them.
3. You desire us, however, to report the result of our experience as to the system of preemption of land in the Colonies. In reply I have to state that the system of preemption, as established in British Columbia and the U. States, does not exist in any other of the British Colonies. In Colonies where land is held under lease or licence for pastoral purposes it has been the practice to allow the Lessee or Licensee a preemptive right, for a limited period, over that portion of his land which he occupies as his homestead. This privilege, however, couldManuscript image only be exercised by immediate payment of the established upset price of ordinary Land in the Colony—not, as in B. Columbia, by mere registration until the general survey of the Colony reaches the preempted land. We are not aware of any detailed report from any of the Colonies as to the extent to which the rights of preemption in runs was taken advantage of, but they were always regarded with jealousy, as giving the Lessee the means of securing such a hold upon his run as to make it unavailable to any other person. It was I presume forManuscript image this reason that they have been discontinued in New South Wales, and not adopted in Queensland or in any Province of New Zealand except Canterbury. In Victoria the Governor may permit the occupier of a run to purchase 320 acres of the land on which his homestead is erected—but the occupier cannot, apparently, claim the permission as a right.
4. The system of preemption has been in operation in B. Columbia since 1860. When it was first proposed it appeared to me, I admit, a system pregnant with confusion and inconvenience in future years, and I thought it right, in a report dated 23rd Septr 1859, to point outManuscript image the objections which occurred to me. It would I think be interesting to know from the Governor how it has worked—to what extent Settlers have taken advantage of it—how far the survey of the Colony has taken in preempted land—and whether, where this has been the case, any difficulty has been experienced in obtaining payment for the land or in settling its boundaries. The system was originally adopted because it was expected that the influx of population into B. Columbia would be so rapid that it would be impossible to survey land fast enough to meet the requirements of the immigrants.Manuscript image This expectation has not been realized, and its disappointment will naturally have tended to reduce the risk of confusion from the preemption of unsurveyed lands. But it will at the same time have more than equally reduced the necessity for the system—and I would therefore submit whether it might not be advisable that measures should now be adopted for discontinuing the system, & for adopting in B. Columbia the rule which is universal in other British Colonies to make survey precede sale or occupation.
I have the honor to be
Sir
Your obedient
Humble Servant
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Sir F. Rogers
I send you the Report of 1859 referred to.
CC 1 May
Manuscript image
(A minute paper shd have been attached.)
FR 4/5
Manuscript image
It appears to me that whether preemption is the best or the worst system, it will be hopeless to maintain in B. Columbia a system of land selling less inviting to immigrants than that wh prevails in the U.S.
I should write out as follows, that HG had received No 145 sending the copy of an Act from which he had withheld his assent & wh he states himself to have reserved. That to prevent misapprehension it is as well to point out that the O. in C. from wh Mr S's powers are derived do not give him the power of reserving a Bill for the signifn of HM, nor give to HM the power of assenting to such a bill. That the present bill is sent home without Colonial Seal & his (Mr S's) Signature wh is prescribed by his Instructions as the mode of giving his assent; and therefore that as the Ordce does not contain a suspending clause it is for Mr S. to take the advice of his L.Os whether having reference to what has in fact passed (of wh HG is of course uninformed) the Ordce may not be in legal operation. Point out that much confusion and correspce wd be saved if Mr S. wd take care that the exercise of his powers as Govr are in conformity with the instruments from wh these powers are derived, with wh it isManuscript image advisable that he should make himself acquainted. That HG would be glad to receive returns from the proper office and a report from the Govr shewing clearly the working of the present system of land sale, that HG wd desire to know to what extent settlers had taken advantage of the preemption system,Manuscript image to what extent their lands had been surveyed and granted, to what extent the conditions of settlement by way of personal residence & improvement had been actually enforced and whether any difficulty had been found in obtaining payment for the land occupied & in defining its boundaries.
And I would point out that though the mode of allowing any immigrant to take what he likes and where he likes is doubtless that wh will impose least trouble on the Govt Officers for the time being & will have an appearance of satisfying immigts; yet thatManuscript image such a system is obviously calculated to furnish occasion for future disputes as settlement advances and has been in fact found to do so in other Colonies. That there are therefore strong reasons, if the thing can be done, for making Surveys precede instead of following settlement.
FR 4/5
Manuscript image
But similarity to U. States is most important in B.C.
CBA 6/5
Manuscript image
I agree with Sir F.R. I do not think actual similarity is essential.
B&C 6/5
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Buckingham to Seymour, Confidential, Cancelled.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Would it not be better to make this into 2 drafts—one as to amendments, errors &c to the bill—the other a Confid. or Sep. respecting the Govrs powers.
I do not clearly understand the position of this Act—or the Govrs powers in its present state, but I think anything like a censure or blame on the Govr shd be if possible kept in a Confidential form.
Other documents included in the file
*
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Buckingham to Seymour, Confidential, 12 May 1868 requesting reports on the land acquisition method of preemption and suggesting that surveys should precede any type of settlement in British Columbia.
Minutes by CO staff
This is broken into two dphes in conformity with HG's Minute.
Other documents included in the file
*
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Buckingham to Seymour, No. 26, 12 May 1868 discussing the extent of Seymour’s powers as governor and requesting Seymour to conform to “the Letters Patent and other Instruments” from which Seymour’s powers are derived.
Murdoch, Thomas William Clinton to Rogers, Frederic 30 April 1868, CO 60:34, no. 4448, 167. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/B685LN03.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)