No. 22
13th May 1854
My Lord Duke
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a Circular dated 24th June 1853, in which after stating that enquiries have been made of Her Majesty's Government by Foreign Governments, as to the practice in the British Colonies with regard to foreign vessels, driven into their Ports by stress of weather, your Grace requests that I would inform you whether in the Colony, under my Government, the cargo and the ship, driven into Port, under such circumstances would be exempted or not from all dues; and that I should state, what are the regulations in force in the Colony as regards the cargoes of ships, entering in distress and condemned as unseaworthy, in the event of reshipmentandManuscript image and exportation in other bottoms.
In reference to the first enquiry, I have to inform your Grace that no customs duties whatever are levied in the Ports of Vancouver's Island, either on British or Foreign Goods, and that consequently, though there be no express enactment to that effect; Foreign ships and their cargoes have, in every instance, when driven into the Ports of Vancouver's Island, by stress of weather, been exempted from all dues.
In reply to the second enquiry as to the regulations in force in the Colony respecting the cargoes of ships entering in distress and condemned as unseaworthy, the cargoes would also in that case be exempted from all dues whether sold in the Colony, or reshipped in other bottoms.
As your Grace further expresses a wish for any other information, which may be useful with a view to the application of a reciprocal treatment to British vessels in Foreign Ports, I will take the liberty of drawing your attention to the unfortunate position of trade in this Colony, which owing to its remoteness from the mother country, and from any British Possession, is in a manner debarredfromManuscript image from commercial intercourse with them, as none of the staple productions of the country, consisting of salt fish, sawn timber, Masts, and Coal, will defray the simple expense of transport to any British possession. The Colonists therefore send their Produce either to the Sandwich Islands or to the United States Territory of California. In both those countries, however, ad valorem duties are, to a greater or less extent, levied on all foreign productions. At the Sandwich Islands those duties, in no case, exceed 5 per centum on the Invoice valuation of the Goods imported, but the import duties charged in the American Ports of California; are much greater, ranging from 20 to 30 per centum on the market value, and shipping charges, in the country, from whence the Goods are exported. Thus for example, taking a ton of Vancouver's Island Coal, its dutiable value at the American Port of San Francisco is 7 1/2 dollars, equal to 1.10 Sterling money; on that sum is levied a duty of 30 per centum, which forms a charge of 9s/- a ton, or something nearly equal to the first cost of the Coal.
Duties, on the same onerous scale, are levied in California on thesaltManuscript image salt fish, and timber imported from this Colony, while the Timber and salt fish imported from the neighbouring American settlements in Oregon are admitted duty free. The British Colonist must therefore enter the field of enterprise under immense disadvantages as compared with the American Producer, and thus notwithstanding the absolute freedom of Trade granted to American vessels in the Ports of Vancouver's Island, the British exporter is invariably met by an exorbitant duty, whenever he enters an American Port.
The export trade of this Colony therefore languishes from the mere fact of its yielding, in the circumstances I have described, a precarious and at best a very small return for capital invested.
I would therefore most earnestly entreat your Grace, to take the commercial position of this Colony into consideration, that it may become a party to the advantages of any commercial regulations that may be established between the United States and the British North American Provinces, with the view of placing them on a satisfactory footing of reciprocity.
I trust it may be in yourGracesManuscript image Grace's power to confer a boon that will be so highly conducive to the general prosperity of Vancouver's Island, and lend so much to the growth of its foreign trade. The exports of Coal Salt Fish and Timber, would under less adverse circumstances, increase at a ratio exceeding belief, and with that increase the wealth and population of the Colony would progress with equal rapidity.
Vancouver's Island has many natural advantages, and is better situated for foreign trade, than any inhabited part of American Oregon; the Colonists though few in number are energetic, and with any thing like a parity of circumstances will compete successfully with any other people.
I have the honor to be
Your Grace's most obedient humble Servant
James Douglas

His Grace The Right Honble The Duke of Newcastle
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
This should be sent to the Board of Trade with reference to the Circular from that Office of the 15 June/53. It might be advisable to send a copy of this desph to the F.O. with a view to getting some remission of taxation in American Ports for VanCouvers Isld produce. I do not think Lord Elgin's proposed Treaty includes this Settlement in its provisions.
ABd 25/July
This should certainly be done—the matter is important to this
little settlement, & I am afraid none of us thought of Vancouvers' Island with reference to American reciprocity.
HM Jy 26
The American Govt proposed to include it in the Treaty: and we objected on the ground that the Rights of the H.B.C. stood in the way of our making concessions in respect of its fisheries &c. Under these circumstances it was settled betwn Lord Elgin and Mr Marcy that the Treaty shd not extend to the Pacific Side of America. It appears however from this Despatch that the Island wd have benefitted greatly by being included in the Treaty.
FP 26
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 8 August 1854, forwarding copy of the despatch and drawing attention to the importance of including Vancouver Island in any reciprocity agreements with the United States.
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Draft, Colonial Office to Sir Emerson Tennent, Board of Trade, 8 August 1854, forwarding copy of the despatch.