No. 5
Downing Street
28th February 1856
Sir,
By the Commission and Instructions which your Predecessor Governor Blanchard [Blanshard] received when the Colony of Vancouver's Island was first founded, he was directed to summon General Assemblies of freeholders qualified by the ownership of 20 acres of land, and with their advice and that of his Council to make Laws and Ordinances for the good-governmentManuscript imagegood-government of the Island.
2. I am aware that the same Commission contains another clause professing to empower the Governor to make such laws with the advice of his Council only. Perhaps this was introduced with the view of creating a legislature to meet the immediate wants of the Community, before Assemblies could be summoned. But I am convinced as well by the general tenor of the documents themselves as by the information which I have been able to obtain of the intention of Her Majesty's Government in framingManuscript imageframing them, that it was then contemplated that such Assemblies should be summoned as soon as it should be practicable to do so.
3. Causes over which the local Government had no control, and which are too well known to need recapitulation, have hitherto prevented the Settlement from acquiring that developement which its founders may have expected. Considering the small number of established Colonists, you thought it advisable to act on the power apparently given to yourself to conduct the affairs of the Island with the adviceofManuscript image of your Council only, and to pass certain laws which you considered most required by the exigencies of the time. In doing so you proceeded on a fair understanding of the authority conveyed to you, and Her Majesty's Government are fully satisfied with the course which you took.
4. Nevertheless it has been doubted by Authorities conversant in the principles of Colonial Law, whether The Crown can legally convey authority to make Laws in a Settlement founded by Englishmen, even for a temporary andManuscript imageand special purpose, to any Legislature not elected wholly, or in part, by the Settlers themselves. If this be the case, the clause in Your Commission on which you relied would appear to be unwarranted and invalid.
5. It appears to Her Majesty's Government therefore that steps should be taken at once for the establishment of the only Legislature authorized by the present constitution of the Island. I have accordingly to instruct you to call together an Assembly in the terms of your Commission and Instructions.
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6. For this purpose it will be within you power as provided by the ninth clause of your Instructions, to fix the number of Representatives, and if you should consider it essential, to divide the Colony into Districts and to establish separate polling places, although with so small a number of settlers you may find this inexpedient.
7. I leave it to your local knowledge and discretion, with the advice of your Council to suggest to the Assembly when thus summoned to pass such measures as you may yourselfdeemManuscript image deem most required, and in particular such as may be necessary in order to leave no doubt of the validity of proceedings already taken without the authority of an Assembly.
8. But it appears to me that in a Community containing so very limited a number of inhabitants the maintenance of a Constitution of the model of those of Considerable Colonies, with a House of Representatives and a Council, may be inexpedient: and that a smaller and more select body, will for the present, and probablyforManuscript image for some years to come, perform in a satisfactory manner the functions really required in the present stage of progress of the Island.
9. Such a body however can be constituted only by enactment of the Legislature authorized by the Commission, that is to say of the Assembly and Council together with Yourself.
It would be no unusual circumstance for a Legislature thus constituted to surrender its powers into the hands of a single Chamber. It has been successfully done in some oftheManuscript image the smaller West India Islands. [Marginal note: Virgin Islands Act, 1854.]
10. I leave it to yourself to consider, with the advice of the local authorities, the numbers and proper qualification of the members of such a single Council, but in the event of your determining to introduce the Elective principle into it, a certain proportion, not less than one third, should be nominated by the Crown. The power of assenting to, or negativing, or suspending for the assent of the Crown, the measures passed by such a Council, should be distinctly reserved to yourself. And it is very essential thataManuscript image a Constitutional Law of this description should contain a proviso, reserving the initiation of all money votes to the local Government.
11. An additional reason in favor of the course which I now prescribe (namely that of calling together the Assembly, and then, if the Legislature so created think proper, establishing a simpler form of Government) is to be found in the circumstances that the relations of the Hudson's Bay Company with the Crown must necessarily undergo revision before or in the year 1859.TheManuscript image The position and future Government of Vancouver's Island will then unavoidably pass under review; and if any difficulty should be experienced in carrying into execution any present Instructions, a convenient opportunity will be afforded for reconsidering them.
12. I am aware that Her Majesty's Government are imposing on you a task of some difficulty as well as responsibility in giving you these Instructions, especially as they have to be carried into execution with so small an amount of assistance as the present circumstances of your SettlementaffordManuscript image afford.
But I have every reason to rely on your abilities and public spirit: and you may on your part rely on the continuance of such assistance and support as Her Majesty's Government can render you, and on their making full allowance for the pecularities of your position.
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most Obedient humble Servant
H. Labouchere

Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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An Act to Amend the Constitution of the Virgin Islands, 9 August 1854.
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Draft Act to Amend the Constitution of Vancouver Island, no date.
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Standing Rules and Orders for Maintaining Order and Method in the Despatch of Business and in the Conduct of All Debates in the Council of the Turks and Caicos Islands, 25 October 1848.
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Merivale to Douglas [?], 1 March 1856, with instructions on procedures for calling an Assembly.
Labouchere, Henry to Douglas, James 28 February 1856, LAC RG7:G8C/1, 315. 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/V567005.html.

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