Fisher to Granville
Grosvenor Buildings
Tithebarn Street
September 10th 1869 To The Right Honorable The Earl of Granville Secretary of State for the Colonies &c &c &c

May it please Your Lordship
With reference to the interview I had the honour of having with your Lordship together with a deputation of certain Members of Parliament regarding the affairs of British Columbia, and more particularly the question of the removal of the seat of Government from New Westminster to Victoria Vancouvers Island, I have now much pleasure in placing before your Lordship, as requested, a full statement of our case feeling fully confident that the same will meet with every consideration at your hands and at the same time assist in enabling you to arrive at a just decision as to the merits of our Petition now before you.
In the first place I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of a letter from Mr Monsell dated 4th August, enclosing, according to your Lordships instructions copy of a dispatch datedManuscript image 16th February 1869 to our late Governor Frederick Seymour regarding the prayer of a certain Petition presented to your Lordship by the Municipal Council of New Westminster whom I have the honor to represent.
I would most respectfully draw your Lordships attention to the same in reconsidering our case and would mention the following facts.
That after the site of the capital had been selected by Lieut: Colonel Moody of the Royal Engineers, Lieut: Governor and Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works of the Colony of British Columbia, and the said selection endorsed by His Excellency Sir James Douglas the then Governor of the Colony and approved of by Her Majesty's in council, certain advertizements were inserted in the Government Gazette and elsewhere together with the Royal Proclamation declaring that New Westminster was the capital of the Colony and that Her Majesty had been pleased to bestow a name upon the then embrayo [sic] City.
These advertisements set forth that a public auction would take place upon a certain day by the Government of the lots in the said City & called attention to the fact of New Westminster havingbeenManuscript image been established by law and royal proclamation the Capital of the Colony, as an inducement to intending purchasers to invest at the said sale.
Trusting implicitly in these statements so publicly made by the authority of the Government of a Crown Colony a large number of Colonists attended the Sale, and as will be shewn the lots then purchased brought extraordinary high prices when compared with the then market value of Crown lands generally.
As we have previously set forth the whole of the purchase money some $90,000 was absorbed in the general revenue of the Colony. Now we are prepared to prove upon most reliable evidence and I would mention to your Lordship the name of General Moody RE now in England, that at the time of Sale, and before a single lot was sold, the question was publicly and directly put by several intending purchasers to the Government Agent who offered the said lots for sale "if New Westminster was established as the Capital of the Colony?" The Answer given was that such was the case, and attention moreover called by the said Agent to the Royal Proclamation establishing the fact.
I would further represent that the question was also asked "How the GovernmentintendedManuscript image intended to appropriate the proceeds of the Sale?" The answer to this important question which we are prepared to prove by most reliable evidence should a Commission of enquiry be granted, was that the Government would devote the whole proceeds to the making of roads and bridges and the improving of Streets within the town. I may mention that at that time the whole town site was a dense forrest and the said roads and streets merely existed upon the plan made by the Government and according to which the lots were sold.
Upon these assurances the sale proceeded and having full confidence in the representations made by the Government, the lots not only brought high prices but were mainly purchased not by Speculators but by those who looked forward to making for themselves and family a permanent home.
After the purchase money had been paid over to the Government the people naturally looked to them for the fulfillment of their pledge as regards roads, streets and bridges, but while the obligation was not denied on the part of the Government, the required work was not performed nor was any money devoted for the purpose.
Being anxious for colonial as also personal interests, to make the town worthy of the name of the Capital of British Columbia, the Colonists whopurchasedManuscript image purchased lots applied for, and obtained a Municipal Constitution establishing a Council and investing it with certain powers to levy taxes upon City property to perform the work which the Government had distinctly promised as a condition of Sale should be done out of the purchase money.
This Council during the eight years of its existence raised and expended the sum of Forty four thousand five hundred dollars, say $44,500, from taxes and borrowed Thirteen thousand three hundred and eighty six dollars ($13,386) making a total of say Fifty seven thousand eight hundred and eighty six dollars, say $57,886. The whole of this sum was expended in making streets, roads and bridges in the town site and entirely independent of private enterprise which would make the sum actually expended considerably over One Million dollars. The energy and enterprise of the inhabitants in clearing the forrest, erecting handsome buildings, many of which are of stone, and generally overcoming the wild obstructions of nature have been set forth in several dispatches by the late Governor Frederick Seymour to the Colonial Office, and I may mention that acting upon these substantial signs of progress and also the fact of New Westminster being established by the Government as the Capital, induced many Colonists to take up and purchase land in the immediate neighbourhood and establish themselves as farmers, investing large sumsandManuscript image and a great amount of labour and energy in developing the same.
At the time of New Westminster being proclaimed the Capital of the Colony, Vancouvers Island was part of the same Colony but a few years afterwards was for imperial and local reasons disunited and a Governor sent from Downing Street to each of the then distinct Colonies.
In 1865 an agitation set in on Vancouvers Island to unite again with British Columbia under one Government on the grounds of retrenchment in the public service. This agitation and proposed union was opposed by British Columbia, not only through its legislative Council, who passed repeatedly resolutions setting forth that they believed such union would be detrimental to the interests of the Colony, but also by Governor Seymour to whose despatches on the subject I would refer your Lordship.
Notwithstanding such Union was approved of by the Imperial Government on the ground of reducing the expenditure of the two Colonies as distinct Governments and your Lordship will notice by the resolution of the Vancouvers Island Legislature passed at the time, such Union was asked for and granted as an "unconditional union."
The Colonies were united under the title of British Columbia and the late FredkSeymourManuscript image Seymour entrusted with their Government.
Soon after this "unconditional union" certain parties interested in real estate at Victoria Vancouvers Island commenced an agitation for the removal of the Capital from New Westminster to their City and while the same was popular as far as the Island was concerned and amongst those located at Victoria and in its immediate neighbourhood it received no favor at the hands of the resident population of the Mainland (British Columbia proper).
I would merely ask your Lordship to refer to dispatches now in your office from the late Governor Frederick Seymour on the subject of this agitation and also his public statement contained in his speech from the vice royal throne in opening the Legislative Council wherein he states that in his opinion "public faith and honour are surely pledged in favour of New Westminster" and furthermore says that "Should the matter be pressed before his consideration he would advise Her Majesty's Government to command him and his Successors in Office to reside permanently at New Westminster."
After such Statements from the Governor of the Colony made as the representative of her Majesty, and in the most public manner and having full confidence in the good faith of the Government and justice of our cause, the residents of New Westminster and Colonists settled on the Mainland generally, deemed it unnecessary and inadvisable to create acounterManuscript image counter agitation on the subject as they rightly believed such agitation would be hurtful to the general interest and well being of the Colony.
In proof of this I would state that not even a petition, which in a Colony with a large mining and foreign floating population is an easy matter to procure, was presented to your Lordship's predecessor in Office against the removal of the Capital which I humbly consider was a sure sign of the confidence we had as a community, deeply interested in the honor and integrity of the Government, endorsed and upheld by their representative.
Failing in attaining their object or creating that amount of sympathy to further their ends in the Colony itself, means were adopted by the Agitators to bring forward certain Petitions from those interested in real estate at Victoria but resident in London, and in a despatch dated Downing Street, October 1/67 to Governor Seymour the said Petitions were forwarded by his Grace the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos with permission to quote the authority of the Home Government in support of the removal of the Capital to Victoria.
I refer your Lordship to these said petitions and also the answer of the late Governor dated New Westminster December 24/67, to the above mentioned despatchinManuscript image in which he speaks of "the easy but lengthy task of commenting on the statements contained in the printed Memorials" which comments or expression of opinion were not even asked for by his Grace the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.
These petitions from residents in London were set forth as the opinions and wishes of the whole Colony, and the result of the same, and also the before mentioned despatch, was that in opening the Legislative Council for the Session of 1868 His Excellency the late Governor Frederick Seymour stated that "Her Majesty's Government were of opinion that in my message of the 27th March 1867, I took an extreme view as to the extent to which public faith and honour are pledged to the Purchasers of land in New Westminster."
The result of this, and without an appeal to the Colonists at the polls, or the question being brought before the Country, the site of the Capital was removed from New Westminster to Victoria by a Legislative Council not having full representative powers and composed of Gentlemen nearly all interested in real Estate at Victoria.
I would state that the result of this removal has been ruin and disaster to many a home, the labour and persevering energy of the inhabitants of New Westminster and also the farmers in the immediate neighbourhood who look to that City for their market, has by this removal been rendered comparatively worthless at a time when they were beginning to look forwardtoManuscript image to reap the benefits likely to accrue for the location of the seat of Government.
Furthermore the Municipal Council of New Westminster did in the year 1862 with the consent and concurrence of the Government issue Debentures secured from the Municipal Revenues of the City, to the amount of Thirteen thousand three hundred and eighty six dollars ($13,386) which Debentures will shortly fall due. By taking away the seat of Government the city property has been deprived of that value which alone constituted the basis of investment and thereby removed those conditions which called for and imparted practical effect to the exercise of municipal functions.
Through the Government failing to perform their part of the Contract in improving and making streets and roads this money required had to be borrowed by the Municipal Council and the interest paid by general taxation on the City property.
Through the act of the Government that property purchased from them and the proceeds of which purchase they have received, has depreciated so much in value by the unexpected and unlooked for removal of the Capital, that real estate has become nearly worthless as taxation to pay even the interest upon this amount is rendered impossible and the Municipality unjustly deprivedofManuscript image of the means to fulfil its pledges to their fellow Colonists.
On behalf of the Municipal Council which is the only representative body on the mainland, I am prepared to prove should your Lordship be pleased favorably to consider the appointment of a Commission of enquiry into the matter:
THAT the removal of the Capital from New Westminster was against the wish of the majority of the Colonists of British Columbia.
THAT for imperial and Colonial reasons such removal from the centre of population and the producing part of the Colony to a town on an outlying Island was inadvisable.
THAT Victoria owing to its Geographical position is unsuited as the Capital of a future important Colony like British Columbia and ALSO that the pledges which I have before mentioned were most distinctly and publicly given.
Your Lordship in your despatch to his Excellency the late F. Seymour dated 16th February 1869 advised the Municipal Council to bring their case before the Legislative Council. I would state that before the removal of the Capital took place the Municipal Council of New Westminster placed a formal protest against such removal in the hands of Excellency F. Seymour, which protest bears date April 7th 1868 and it is therein stated that in the event of the removal of the seat of Government, they wouldlookManuscript image look to the Government for the redemption of the Debentures issued by them as before mentioned.
This protest was laid before the Legislative Council by the late Governor and will be found in the Sessional Papers of the Council for 1868.
As a Crown Colony, not having full representative powers and considering the removal an act of the Home Government we come to you for redress, feeling it to be a case entirely within the power of the Imperial Government to help, from the fact of our being a Crown Colony and not having those representative powers through our Legislative Council able to deal with such an important question.
We consider we have undoubted claims both in equity and law, and while being adverse to creating a hurtful agitation in the Colony or taking other steps which have been suggested, On behalf of the Colonists of the Mainland I would ask your Lordship to grant us a full enquiry into the matter.
I respectfully contend that we have a Claim for compensation from the Home or Colonial Government.
That Members of the Civil Service in the Colony proved the same confidence as regards the location of the Capital, that we as Colonists and purchasers of lots in New Westminster from the Government evince, in the fact that they incurred a large expenditureinManuscript image in erecting houses of a permanent character in our City, a Petition from them, as public Servants, regarding the subject I now address your Lordship upon, is I believe before you.
I would ask that our new Governor Mr Musgrave be called upon for a full report as to the question at issue and that your Lordship would take under your most favorable consideration the desirability of appointing an entirely disinterested Commission of enquiry to look into our case.
WE ask for the return of the Capital to our City and as such I am given to understand is inexpedient, I humbly crave for compensation to the New Westminster lot holders who purchased property from the Government of a Crown Colony upon representations which have not been carried out.
WE ask for the privilege of receiving back from the Government the amount paid at the original sale of the said lots and consider we have a claim for at least a proportion of the improvements made bona fide upon the same on the assurance that New Westminster was the established Capital of the Colony.
The conditions of Sale have not been carried out but the whole of the purchase money has been absorbed in the general revenue of the Government.
The money borrowed by the Municipal Council of New Westminster to which I have before referred will in a few months become due and under the circumstances of these DebentureshavingManuscript image having been issued upon the faith of the Government promises so plainly given, I would ask that provisions be made either in England or through the Governor of the Colony to guarantee the payment of interest upon the amount now outstanding. Moreover I would urge that payment of the said Debentures be undertaken by the Government they receiving a certain lien upon the Municipal taxation as security for the same.
I bring these matters before your Lordship feeling fully confident in the justice of our cause and am assured that by the kindly interest you were pleased to manifest in the case I laid before you during the interview I had the honor of having with your Lordship at the Colonial Office, you will give them all your serious consideration.
As the representative of the Municipal Council of New Westminster I shall await anxiously the decision of your Lordship on the subject. I will be only too glad to furnish full evidence to any commission of inquiry you may be pleased to appoint and have every confidence in leaving the matter entirely in your Lordship's hands.
I have done my best to place the whole facts before your Lordship, to do this I have specially journeyed at a great expense and loss of time from our far distant Colony. Those I represent have entrusted me withtheirManuscript image their confidence and upon their, and my own, part I respectfully lay our case before you; having no doubt, if you are pleased to inquire into the matter but that justice will be done. I have performed my duty and await the issue.
Trusting your Lordship will pardon the length of this despatch and feeling confident that you will grant the same your favorable consideration.
I have the honor to remain,
My Lord
Your Lordships most Obedient Servant,
Wm Fisher
Delegate to England from the Municipal Council,
of New Westminster, British Columbia
Minutes by CO staff
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Sir F. Rogers
I think nothing is wanted beyond your minute on the Govrs despatch 799—which despatch is answd by Lord Granville's despatch of 16 Feby—a copy of which was sent to Mr Fisher.
CC 13 Sept 69
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At once. Observing that Mr Fisher will have collected Lord G's views from the dph (No 14) of wh a copy has been already communicated to him.
FR 14/9
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Yes. If the despatch was sent to him after the deputation came to the C.O.
G 17/9
Other documents included in the file
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Monsell to Fisher, 21 September 1869, reaffirming the views of Granville as expressed in his previous despatch to the governor of 11 February already forwarded.
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Draft reply, Granville to Musgrave, No. 92, 20 September 1869.