No. 16
21th August 1855
My Lord
I have much satisfaction in communicating to your Lordship, information of the general welfare of the settlements on Vancouver's Island, and its Dependancies.
The Colony has been this year frequented by the northern Indians in greater numbers than ever; all parts of the mainland coast south of CapeSpencerManuscript image Spencer Spencer, in north latitude 59o, having furnished its quota of savages, and a large body of Queen Charlotte Islanders, the most warlike, ignorant and barbarous people on the coast, swelled the collective number to something over 2000 Souls.
Last year I tried the effect of a general order, which induced the most dangerous of the savages, to leave the settlements, and we thereby succeeded in banishing them for the time; but their numbers were so formidable this year, that without a sufficient force at my disposal to compel obedience in case of resistance, I thought it more prudent to tolerate the evil than to expose the weakness of the Executive, in a vain attempt to drive them from the settlements.
I however assembled the principal Chiefs, and spoke to them seriously on the subject of their relations with the whites, and their duties to the public, and after exacting a pledgeforManuscript image for the good behaviour of their respective Tribes, I gave them permission to hire themselves out as labourers to the white settlers, and for the public works in progress.
The plan has been so far successful that they have been guilty of no grave offences, and have submitted, in all cases to the decisions of the Magistrates and received the punishments inflicted without a murmur.
They begin in fact to have a clearer idea of the nature and utility of Laws, having for object the punishment of crimes, and the protection of life and property which may be considered as the first step in the progress of civilization.
The greater number of those people have lately departed with their summer earnings to their distant homes, and will not returntoManuscript image to Vancouver's Island, before the spring of 1856; those who still remain about the settlements will spend the winter here, their numbers not being so great as to make their presence dangerous, or to excite any alarm on account of the peace or safety of the Colony.
The presence of so many armed barbarians in a weak and defenceless Colony, was a subject of great and unceasing anxiety. I had no fears as to any combined or preconcerted attack on the settlements, for we had information of all their movements, and would have been prepared to meet any overt attempt at violence, but I dreaded the sudden ebul[l]itions of temper common to all savages, which any petty difficulty might have called forth and brought on a general affray, when we were unprepared to protect life and property from their fury.
Besides a general orderwarningManuscript image warning the settlers to be on their guard, against violence or treachery, I raised a small police force of our active men to detach on emergencies to the aid of any settlers who might apply for assistance, relying otherwise for defence on the co-operation of the population at large.
Your Lordship must however be aware that a force of peaceful citizens hastily mustered and imperfectly armed are ill adapted for bold measures, and I would strongly recommend, that a regular force of 20 or 30 men
Regular force [ABd]
should be raised and equipped for defence, particularly during the presence of the Northern Tribes of Indians, to serve as a nucleus for the civilian force, and to undertake the really dangerous service, which none but men of stirling courage are fit to encounter.
I doubt not that your Lordship will favor me with your instructions in regard to that proposal, and I trust it will meet with your approval.
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I have just completed a Census of Vancouver's Island, arranged under four distinct heads, for the information of Her Majesty's Government, which is now herewith forwarded.
Your Lordship will observe that
Table 1 Gives the population and ages
Table 2 The number of Schools and Pupils receiving education.
Table 3 Refers to Agricultural Stock and Farm Products
Table 4 Shows the number of dwelling and out houses.
I have taken a great deal of trouble in compiling those Tables, which are still in some respects incomplete, they nevertheless exhibit a pretty correct view of the statistics of the Colony.
The valuations of Farms and Implements given in Table No. 3, are taken from the estimates of the Proprietors themselves, but no Town property is included in those valuations.
Ext to F.O. Extract to Bd of Trade.
I have also the honor of transmitting herewith a statementshewingManuscript image shewing the number and tonnage of British and Foreign vessels which have entered and cleared at the Port of Victoria, between the 5th July 1854, and the 5th of July 1855, and also a statement shewing the number of vessels belonging to this Port. The value of the Imports and Exports is also shewn in another statement as taken from the Books of Her Majesty's Collector of the Customs.
End of ext for Bd of Trade.
Those Documents exhibit very little improvement in the general commerce or export trade of the Island, owing to the causes reported in my Despatch No 22, of the 13th May 1854.
Therein I took the liberty of pointing out to His Grace The Duke of Newcastle, the unfortunate circumstances which then operated, and still continue to operate, against the expansion of trade and enterprise in this Colony, debarred as it is by its remote position from Commercial intercourse with GreatBritainManuscript image Britain, and all other parts of Her Majesty's Dominions;
The Governor refers to the high duties on Imports in the Ports of the United States. This disadvantage to the trade of VanC. Island the British Govt is endeavouring to remove by a negotiation with the U. States for including this Dependency in the Reciprocity Treaty, but this Office has not yet been informed by the F.O. whether any satisfactory progress has been made in the negotiation.
ABd 29 Octr
as none of the staple productions of the Colony, consisting of sawn Timber, Masts and Spars, Fish and Coal, will defray the expense of transport to distant countries.
Our foreign Trade is therefore confined to the Sandwich Islands, and the Ports of California. An import duty of 5 per cent is levied upon all foreign Goods imported into the Sandwich Islands, a moderate charge which does not peculiarly affect the trade of Vancouver's Island, as it is levied on the productions of all countries indiscriminately. The Trade of the Sandwich Islands is however limited and does not afford a sufficient outlet for our productions.
The import duties levied in the Ports of California, ranging from 25 to 30 per cent, on the first cost, added to the shipping charges of all foreign Goods is, almost equivalent, to a prohibition of commercial intercourse.
Thus taking a ton of Coal for example, its dutiable value at San FranciscoManuscript image is equal to 1.10.0 Sterling, on which is levied a duty of 30 per cent forming a charge of nine shillings on the ton, or a sum nearly equivalent to the cost of production. Duties on the same onerous scale are also levied on the fish and timber of this Colony, when exported to California. Those duties tell with peculiar severity against the British exporter, who has to compete in that market with the fish, timber, and Coal of Oregon and Washington Territories, which are admitted into the Ports of California duty free, while the British exporter as before observed has to pay on produce exactly of the same description, an import duty of thirty per cent.
Your Lordship will thus perceive that the export trade of Vancouver's Island, can never expand under circumstances so decidedly unfavourable, and without some effort to unfetter enterprise, the Colony can never prosper.
TheManuscript image
The only remedy for the evils of our Commerical position, which occurs to me at this time, is to extend the Treaty of Commercial Reciprocity, with the United States to Vancouver's Island, as well as to the other British north American Colonies.
Would it be advisable to tell the Governor that steps are taken with that view. The negotiation may fail.
ABd 29 Octr
.par I think so.
We could offer in return the valuable right of fishing on the coasts of Vancouver's Island, which is much coveted by the Americans in this quarter. Public feeling in California, as well as in Oregon and Washington, would I think be found decidedly favorable to such an extension of the Reciprocity Treaty, and it would clearly prove of great advantage to both parties.
To Vancouver's Island it would throw open the extensive markets of Upper and Lower California, and on the other side that State, would receive a regular supply of Coal, Salt Fish masts and spars of equal or better quality and at less cost, than could elsewhere be procured.
F.O. end.
The white population oftheManuscript image the Island has not been much increased for the last twelve months, by spontaneous emigration, and the sales of public land comprise only about 1000 acres.
Twenty three Coal Miners with their families forming collectively about 109 persons sent out from England, by the Hudson's Bay Company, for their coal works at Nanaimo, is the largest accession of white inhabitants the Colony has received during that period.
The attention of this Government having been strongly called, by the wants of the inhabitants, to the improvement of the internal communications of the Colony, we have for some months past, been engaged in the arduous undertaking of connecting the settlements by means of roads carried through the forests, in the most direct line, from one hamlet to another, an expensive and laborious work. About 12 miles of road, involving theconstructionManuscript image construction of six Bridges, one of which is carried over an arm of the sea 536 feet broad, is the only part of that undertaking which we have had time to finish, and the work is progressing satisfactorily.
The Victoria District Church will be finished before the end of the present year. The Revd Edward Cridge a clergyman belonging to the Church of England, is the District Minister, and is highly esteemed and respected by all his hearers.
Three District Schools have been opened in the Colony, and have collectively 81 Pupils regularly in attendance.
I have before mentioned that the present exports of the Colony, consisted of Coal, Deals, masts and Spars, Salt Fish and oil.
Ext to Admiralty & Bd of Trade.
The Coal is procured at the Settlement of Nanaimo, where the Hudson's Bay Company have made a large purchase of Land, and commenced an extensive Coal work.
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Two valuable beds of Coal varying from 5 to 7 feet in thickness are found within 100 feet of the surface; the Coal is bituminous and is greatly prized for domestic consumption, and for Steaming purposes. The produce of those works may be increased, by increasing the number of hands, to any desirable extent.
Another source of wealth and enterprise may be found in the magnificent Ship Spars, produced on Vancouver's Island, which in point of size and comparative strength are probably the most valuable in the world, and may be procured in any number, even were the demand to include the supply of Spars for the whole British Navy. A Company was formed in this country, for the exportation of ships masts and spars, to England; but the parties finding that they had not a sufficient command of capital for the undertaking, discontinued the business, after preparing two cargoes of excellentmastsManuscript image masts ranging from 75 to 120 feet in length which still remain on hand.
Should masts be required for the Royal Navy, it would be an easy undertaking to procure them here, provided the dimensions did not exceed 120 feet in length with a proportionate girth.
The Spar Company got out those cargoes of ship spars, in consequence of an arrangement which the Lords of the Admiralty had concluded with a Captain Swinton, by which it was agreed that certain stated prices, mentioned in the deed of contract, would be paid to him for masts of given sizes. Should their Lordships still desire a supply of Spars, this Company would doubtless undertake to furnish any number on the same terms, as it was agreed to give Captain Swinton, and I would be most happy to lend my assistance in making such an arrangement.
The oil exported from this Colony is procured from thenativeManuscript image native Tribes inhabiting the west coast of Vancouver's Island,
Send this also to the Admiralty for the Oil will be useful to the Steamers on the Coast.
and is manufactured by them from the Whale and Dog Fish. It is of excellent quality, and has a high character in California where it brings from two to three dollars a gallon, in consequence of retaining its fluidness, and burning freely in the coldest weather.
It is estimated that a quantity equal to ten thousand Gallons was purchased from the natives of the west coast, last year, and considering the imperfect means they possess for taking the fish, and trying out the oil, it is not unreasonable to suppose that with the use of proper means, the returns of Oil would be very greatly increased. The Oil trade is carried on by a few enterprising individuals who live among the Indians, and collect the article as it is manufactured by the natives.
End of ext to Admy [and] B of Trade.
Extensive fishing Banks are found on the west coast of Vancouver's Island where an infinitenumberManuscript image number of halibut and other fish are caught by the natives. The Rivers of the coast abound with Salmon, which are taken in great abundance and large quantities may be cured for exportation whenever circumstances favor the enterprise of the Colonists.
I beg that your Lordship's influence may be exerted on behalf of this poor Colony which will become with proper encouragement, one of the valuable possessions of the British Crown.
I have not yet been able to make out a satisfactory census of the native Indian Tribes of Vancouver's Island; the number is probably about 22,000, of all ages, forming part of two distinct people, as is proved by the radical difference in their languages.
The deportment of the natives is friendly towards the whites, and every precaution is used on our part to conciliate their friendship by rigidly protecting their rights; teaching them at the same time, to respect the rights and property ofothers.Manuscript image others.
Having thus briefly touched upon the subjects most intimately connected with the present state and future progress of this Colony, I will not trespass further upon your Lordship's time, on this occasion.
I have the honor to be
Your Lordships most obedient humble Servant
James Douglas

The Right Honble Lord John Russel [Russell]
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
Thank the Governor for this useful report. Approve his prudent & determined conduct in regard to the natives who visited the Settlement in the Summer. Remind him that he must look to the Hudson's Bay Company to defray the expense of the desired and probably very necessary police force.
Tell him that the B. Govt is not unmindful of the interests of this distant Dependency & not without hopes that the Reciprocity Treaty may be extended to it. And send to the F.O. with reference to our Letter of August all that portion of the despatch which describes the disadvantage sustained by the Settlement from the high duties imposed on it's exports by the United States Laws.
I would further suggest that copies, or extracts rather of the appropriate parts of this despatch should be communicated to the Admiralty and the Board of Trade.
ABd 30 Octr
What the Governor asks is that he may have leave to levy a "regular force" of 20 or 30 men: I cannot clearly make out what this implies. Perhaps it is best to assume with MrManuscript image Blackwood that he only means a local police force. In this case I think the authority may be given. The Governor will fully understand that if raised it must be paid either from the Coal revenue or by the Hudson's Bay Co.
HM O 30
To be done.
P 1/11-55
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Palmerston to Douglas, No. 5, 12 November 1855, in support of a police force on Vancouver Island, as long as the cost for said force is paid from "Local Revenue" or by the HBC.
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Draft, Palmerston to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 14 November 1855, forwarding extract of the despatch dealing with export trade of Vancouver Island.
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Draft, Palmerston to Secretary to the Admiralty, 14 November 1855, forwarding extract of the despatch dealing with coal workings, supplies of spars, and manufacture of oil.
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Draft, Palmerston to James Booth, Board of Trade, 14 November 1855, forwarding extract of the despatch dealing with commercial and shipping activities.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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1855 census returns for Vancouver Island in four tables providing information regarding population, schools, agriculture and houses, as per despatch.
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Description of the number and tonnage of vessels entering and leaving the port of Victoria, and information on the number of vessels belonging to the port, for the year ended 5 July 1855.
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Account of the value of the imports and exports of the colony for the year ended July 1855. Dated 10 August 1855, signed by James Sangster, Collector.