No. 23
19 May 1858
My Lord
1. Since I had the honor of addressing you on the 8th of Instant, on the subject of the "Couteau Gold Mines" 1 it was currently reported that Boats and other small craft from the American Shore were continually entering Fraser's River, with passengers and goods, especially Spirits, Arms, Ammunition, and other prohibited and noxious Articles, and as those ActsareManuscript image are in direct violation of the Customs Laws, as extended to the British Possessions in America and infringe the rights of the Hudsons Bay Company, I took immediate steps to put a stop to those lawless practices by issuing a Proclamation, of which a copy is transmitted, warning all persons against the consequences of such offences, and I have since applied to Captain Prevost of Her Majesty's ship "Satellite" for an effective force to carry out the measures proposed and set forth in my Proclamation. 2
2. That force it is intended to Despatch tomorrow, under the direction of an officer of the Customs to be appointed specially for that purpose.
3. I also propose in a few days hence to make anexcursionManuscript image excursion to the Falls of Fraser's River for the purpose of enquiring into the state of the country, on which I will report to you on my return.
4. The American Steamer "Commodore" returned to this Port from San Francisco two days ago with 400 passengers for the gold mines, who are preparing to leave in Boats and Canoes for Fraser's River.
5. The excitement about the Couteau Gold Mines is on the increase, and people are pushing from all quarters in that direction.
6. In our last accounts from that quarter of the 8th of Instant, it is stated that 1500 white Miners, at the smallest computation, had reached the diggings, and that they were not finding much gold, in consequence of the Rivers beingswollenManuscript image swollen by the melting of the mountain snow. The river beds, which yield the largest quantities of gold, being all flooded, the Miners were in search of other diggings, and had found gold, in small quantities, probably from one to two dollars, a man, per day, in almost every part of the country, which they have examined, and they expect a large yield when the rivers fall to a lower level.
7. Those accounts are sufficiently promising to nourish the prevalent mania for gold; on all sides the Americans are striving to force a passage into the gold district, through their own Territories—attempts being at once made to open roads from BellinghamBayManuscript image Bay, from Nisqually and by the way of the Columbia River. 3
8. I am now convinced that it is utterly impossible, through any means within our power, to close the gold districts against the entrance of foreigners, as long as gold is found in abundance, in which case the country will soon be over-run, and occupied by a large white population, whether it be agreeable to our wishes or not; while on the contrary it is no less certain that the excitement on the subject will soon altogether cease, if the diggings prove un-remunerative, and the crowds now gathering on the banks of Fraser's River, will in that case soon abandon the country and return to their homes. TheevilManuscript image evil will thus work its own cure without interposition on our part.
9. In the mean time with the view of escaping the greater evil of compelling people to have recourse to expedients for entering the country, by unlawful means, I am striving to legalize the entrance of gold miners into Fraser's River, on certain conditions; which at once assert the rights of the Crown, protect the interest of the Hudson's Bay Company, and are intended to draw the whole trade of the Gold Districts through Fraser's River, to this Colony; which will procure its supplies directly from the mother country.
10. With those views I proposed an arrangement, on the following terms, to the Agent oftheManuscript image the United States' Pacific Mail Steam Ship Company, 4 who having steamers of every class, connected with their operations in California, and a staff of experienced officers, at their disposal, are perhaps better qualified than any other parties, for carrying such an arrangement immediately into effect. 1st That they should place Steamers on the navigable route between this place and the Falls of Fraser's River, 130 miles distant from its discharge into the Gulf of Georgia, for the transport of Goods and Passengers to that point. 2ndly That they should carry the Hudson's Bay Company's Goods into Fraser's River, and no other. 3rdly That they carry no passengers except such as have takenoutManuscript image out and paid for a Gold Mining Licence and Permit from the Government of Vancouver's Island. 4thly That they pay to the Hudson's Bay Company, as compensation to them,
For What?
at the rate of two dollars head money for each passenger carried into Fraser's River. 5thly That they should otherwise be allowed to enjoy the whole of the profits on the River transport. 6thly That arrangement to continue in force for one year from this date and no longer.
11. The Pacific Mail Steam Ship Company have promised to give a decided answer on or before the 24th of the present month.
12. If that arrangement be carried into effect, it will be of great advantage to the countryatManuscript image at large, and give the Government a decided control over the mining population of the interior.
13. I trust from its so thoroughly protecting every interest connected with the country, that it will meet with your approval.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
Ammunition, Arms, [Materials?] of War, except from the U. Kingdom, or from some British possession are prohibited by the 8 & 9 Vict. C. 93: 5 and so I apprehend are other articles, if intended to be used for trade with the Indians; the introduction of such goods, other than by the H.B.Co being opposed to their license. I annex the Act to wh, I conclude, reference is made.
ABd 14 July
See two drafts annexed for approval.
HM July 14
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Proclamation, 8 May 1858, establishing customs laws and the trading rights of the Hudson's Bay Company. Published in Papers, Pt. 1, p.12.
Minutes by CO staff
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Lord Carnarvon
The mail for tomorrow and not Saturday.
Blackwood reminds me we have said nothing about the Indians; perhaps the words I have inserted in red ink at p. 3 6 may be added without troubling Sir E Lytton further.
Sir E Lytton has made up his mind to the [private?] despatch. But it ought not to go without being seen byManuscript image Capt. Shepherd. If you have not taken any steps on this subject, I think he should be asked to call here & see either myself or you tomorrow & I send you a note to that effect, which, if approved, had better be sent him this evening.
HM July 15
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 15 July 1858, forwarding copy of the despatch for consideration.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
See Note on draft.
Date this draft the 15th: the draft of the proposed despatch having been privately Communicated to the For: Office that day.
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Draft reply, Lytton to Douglas, No. 4, 16 July 1858 (extensive revisions and notations).
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Copy in draft to F.O. 15 July/58. 7
Do Bd of Trade 20 July/58. 8
This should now be sent officially for concurrence to the For. office.
Mr Berens (Govr of HBC) has seen this draft, & undertakes that the instructions to be sent by this mail from the Company to Mr D. shall be in conformity with it.
HM July 16
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Lytton to Douglas, Confidential, 16 July 1858.
Manuscript image
Draft reply,9 Lytton to Douglas, Confidential, 31 July 1858.
Minutes by CO staff
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Founded upon the first part of Sir E. Lytton's Minute for a draft to the Govr of Van Couver's Island.
Sir Edward
I see that this is founded on a separate minute of your writing, and therefore you have probably consideredManuscript image the policy of this step. I cannot however but fear that Govr Douglas may misapprehend your intention and will Either accept it as his recall, or if in his uncertainty and under the critical circumstances of the Colony he retains office will feel great Embarrassment.
You will remember that your last confidential desp. stated to him the alternative of serving H.M. Govt or the H.B.C. quite as distinctly as this desp. does—the only new feature in this being an allusion to the Pugets Sound Company wh being a branch of the H.B.C. was [virtually?] comprehended in your former remarks on the H.B.C.
C July 31
  1. = Douglas to Labouchere, 8 May 1858, No. 19, 6113, CO 60/1, p. 10.
  2. = 8 May 58, HBC rights, disallowed. Douglas was mistaken that such actions violated the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company and his proclamation of 8 May 58 was disallowed. The minutes to this despatch give only a hint of Lytton's displeasure, which was compounded when the offending proclamation was published in London newspapers during debate in Parliament on the bill to provide for the government of BC. Douglas further elaborated on this issue in a conference between the Council and Assembly. Gazette, 7 July 1858; Hansard. TAKE IN FULL??
  3. = roads to the mines. For accounts of various road constructions, see the Daily Alta California, 6 May 1858, and Bellingham Bay News, Victoria Gazette, 8 September 1858. Robie L. Reid, The Whatcom Trails to the Fraser River Mines in 1858, Washington Historical Quarterly, 18 (?? 1927): 199-206, 271-76. Creech article.
  4. Following the expansion of the United States to the Pacific coast in 1846, the American Congress pressed the postmaster general to issue contracts for an ocean-going mail service to the Pacific ports, and in November 1847, awarded a contract to Arnold Harris, which he promptly sold to William Henry Aspinwall, a prominent New Yorker ?? with large maritime interests, to provide monthly steamer service from Panama to Oregon for a ten-year period, beginning on 1 October 1848, at a rate of $199,000 per year. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company (PMSC) was incorporated on 12 April 1848, with Aspinwall as president, and began construction of several steamers. Meanwhile Aspinwall also formed a syndicate with John L. Stephens and Henry Chauncey and began building a railway across Panama in May 1850, from a port named Aspinwall (Colon) on the Atlantic to Panama on the Pacific, to service the California gold rush. The PMSC expanded its fleet from three vessels in 1848 to eighteen in 1853 and twenty-three in 1869, seventeen of which the company had built itself. Although it lost its government mail contract to a competitor in September 1859, it continued to carry mail on a subcontract basis, and between 1865 and 1875 expanded its services to include Japan, China, New Zealand, and Australia. In 1875 the company introduced scheduled ?? service to Victoria. The importance of the company declined towards the end of the century, as road and rail travel increased across the United States. In 1900, the Southern Pacific Company took control of PMSC, selling the company to the American International Corporation and W.R. Grance and Company in December 1915. Trans-Pacific steamship service increased during World War I, and by 1920 the new owners had forty-six steamers under its flag. Five years later, however, there were no PMSC ships in operation, and the company, although still in existence, has been dormant since 1925. John Haskell Kemble, A Hundred Years of the Pacific Mail, Museum Publication No. 19 (Newport News, Virginia: The Mariners' Museum, 1950). Cf. Douglas to Lytton, 5 November 1858, No. 16, 535, CO 60/1, p. 360, and ??
  5. = prohibiting munitions. An Act to Regulate the Trade of British Possessions Abroad, 4 August 1845, 8 & 9 Victoria, c. 93.
  6. Check draft reply in Douglas to Lytton, 11 October 1858, No. 43, 12180, CO 60/1, p. 181. Lytton to Douglas, 31 July 1858, No. 6, CO 410/1, p. 147. Or possibly this Also: Conf 16 July ??
  7. I.e., this file. OMIT??
  8. FIND, CO-TA, 15 July 58.
  9. There is another draft reply of the same date (No. 6, 31 July 1858) that should appear here but is filed instead in Douglas to Lytton, 11 October 1858, No. 43, 12180, CO 60/1, p. 181.
People in this document

Berens, Henry Hulse

Blackwood, Arthur Johnstone

Carnarvon, Earl

Douglas, James

Hammond, Edmund

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Merivale, Herman

Prevost, James Charles


Stanley, Edward Henry

Organizations in this document

Colonial Office

Foreign Office

Hudson's Bay Company

Vessels in this document

Brother Jonathan, 1851-1865

HMS Satellite, 1855-1879

Places in this document

Columbia River


Fraser River


Nisqually, or Fort Nisqually

Oregon Territory, or Columbia District


San Francisco

Strait of Georgia

The Falls

Thompson Region

Vancouver Island