No. 31
26 July 1858
My Lord
1. I have the honor of transmitting herewith copies of correspondence with Captain Prevost of Her Majesty's Ship "Satellite" touching the enforcement of the Revenue Laws and License regulations applicable to Fraser's River.
2. Your Lordship will observe that he has onallManuscript image all occasions cordially responded to my demands, and given such aid and assistance in carrying out the views of this Government, in preventing the lawless intrusion of foreign ships, and people, into Fraser's River; as was consistent with the nature of his instructions from Her Majesty's Government and the demands upon his time, of the special service on which the "Satellite" was detached to this coast.
3. In consequence however of the frequent, and for the reasons before stated, necessary absence of the "Satellite" from Fraser's River, there have been many evasions of the law, by means of canoes and other small craft, which havestealthilyManuscript image stealthily entered and ascended Fraser's River, without a Customs Permit, or the pre-payment of a month's advance on the mining Licence of each miner as required by the existing regulations.
4. I therefore much regret that I have not a permanent force under my control for the protection of the Revenue Laws of the country; as they would, in that case, produce a return far exceeding the expense of maintaining such a force, besides upholding the moral influence of Her Majesty's Government.
5. The regulations we have established, and which we seek to enforce in the Fraser's River District, are only such ashaveManuscript image have reference to my instructions from Her Majesty's Government; and to the rights of the Crown with respect to minerals in their natural place of deposit.
6. I will for your Lordships information concisely enumerate the objects we wish to attain through those regulations. In the first place I have, distinctly, and to all applicants for land, refused the grant of any rights of occupation; in accordance with the instructions from Mr Secretary Labouchere, as detailed in his Despatch No 4 of the 1st of February 1858;1 and also with the view of preventing the confusion and numberless evils that have, in all cases, grown out of the practice of squatting on Crown Lands or the Lawless occupation of acountryManuscript image country.
If the Govr strictly adheres to this paragraph there will be no persons to turn out & dissatisfy when the R. Engineers or any Govt Surveyors begin surveying land for sale. The sooner that work is commenced the better. ABd.
2ndly I have endeavoured to protect the trading rights of the Hudson's Bay Company as by Law established.
3rdly I have established the system of issuing licences for digging Gold, the charge for each mining claim of 25 feet river frontage, or 20 square feet of river bar or dry diggings, being fixed at 21s/- or 5 dollars a month, the revenue derived from this source being held for the benefit of the Crown. There are also regulations respecting the draining of water ponds; and working quartz veins, which will I trust hereafter yield a large amount of revenue for the Crown.
7. To carry those objectsintoManuscript image into effect I have appointed the following officers.
The Govr has already reported the appointnt of [these Gentlemen?].
Assistant Commissioners of Crown Lands
O.T. Travaillot Thompson's River
Richard Hicks Fort Yale
Justices of the Peace
George Perrier District of Fort Yale
Revenue Officer
William Henry Bevis Fort Langley
and others will be appointed as soon as fit and trusty persons can be found to fill those offices, with credit and respectability.
8. I propose to pay those officers out of the Revenue raised in this country.
9. With the exception of the aid received from Her Majesty's ship "Satellite," operating on the sea coast, I have had no military force whatever to employ in the interior of Fraser's River, which isnowManuscript image now occupied by a population little short of 9000 white miners; and hundreds of other persons, are travelling towards the gold mines, and preparing to join them.
10. The country nevertheless continues quiet, and notwithstanding our want of physical force I have not scrupled, in all cases, to assert the rights of the Crown, and to enforce the Laws of the land, for the punishment of offences, and we have, thanks to the Almighty, encountered neither resistance, nor opposition in the discharge of those sacred duties.
11. To supply the mining population of Fraser's River with food, we have licensed two American Steam vessels to ply upon the waters of Fraser's River, and one of those vessels hassucceededManuscript image succeeded in reaching the "Falls" or Fort Yale, about one hundred and thirty miles from the discharge of the Fraser, into the Gulf of Georgia.
12. The Agents of the Hudson's Bay Company have laid in large quantities of Mining Tools and provisions for the use of the miners, which they supply at merely remunerative prices, greatly to the advantage and satisfaction of the mining population.
13. Notwithstanding the great number of people assembled in Fraser's River, it does not appear that there has been a large production of gold, as most of the River "Bars" are still inundated; nevertheless the miners have unwavering faithinManuscript image in the richness of the country, and are in great spirits, in anticipation of an early fall in the River.
14. I have accounts of 5000 ounces of gold dust, which have been actually exported from Fraser's River since the month of May last, and we have estimated that as much as half that quantity has been carried away in small quantities, by return miners; comprising as I believe the whole export of gold dust for that period.
15. We are therefore led to believe that the Miners are hoarding up their gold dust, either from not being in immediate want of supplies or more probably from not knowing how to remit, or where to place it in security, and for that reason, among many others, I am considering the ways and means of having their earnings conveyed to the seacoastManuscript image coast under government escort, and placing them in charge of a public Treasurer, until they are called for by the depositers; the conveyance, and other expenses to be defrayed by a charge on the deposits.
16. The advantages expected from that measure are manifold; we hope, for instance, to draw the gold by that means, to this Colony, from whence; instead of being exported to other countries, it will find its way to England, in return for our own home manufactures.
17. Another important object, I have in view, is the improvement of the internal communications of the country, which at present are, for all practical purposes, nearly inaccessible, beyond Fort Yale, in consequence of a range of mountains, running north and south, which there interpose an almost insurmountablebarrierManuscript image barrier to the progress of trade.
18. To the eastward of that range of mountains, the country is open and comparatively level, and the construction of good roads would be a matter of easy accomplishment, in fact it is even at present almost everywhere accessible for pack horses.
19. It is therefore evident that the construction of a good road through that mountain barrier, though passable in the first instance only for pack horses, would be of prodigious advantage to the country, and such a road might, I think, be carried through the valley of Harrison's River, at a moderate expense, to a point near the Great Falls of Fraser's River, to the eastward of the mountains in question,fromManuscript image from whence the country is easy of access; and should no instructions, militating with that design, be in the mean time received from Her Majesty's Government, I will probably make the attempt in course of the present summer.
20. I am, not without cause, looking forward most anxiously to receiving your instructions, respecting the plan of Government for Fraser's River. The torrent of immigration is setting in with impetuous force, and to Keep pace with the extraordinary circumstances of the times; and to maintain the authority of the Laws, I have been compelled to assume an unusual amount of responsibility. I trust however from the present hasty review of the reasons whichhaveManuscript image have influenced my public measures, that they will meet with the approval of Her Majesty's Government.
The Victoria Gazette2 of the 24th of Instant, which I herewith transmit will give much interesting information respecting the gold mines, and other public matters.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
The Governor's notions as to the exclusion of foreigners & foreign Ships from the River Fraser, and on the trade rights of the Hudson's Bay Company continue the same as usual. But they will be considerably altered on receipt of Sir E. Lytton's despatches on those points. Refer the Governor to those despes to which there is nothing to be added on this occasion.
2. With respect to the force which he regrets he does not possess, whereby he would be enabled to prevent the infraction of the Revenue Laws, remind him that any such force must be constituted in the Colony—that it must for all ordinary purposes be a civil force—& that he will remember that in this country the military are not resorted to for the infraction of Customs Laws.
He will find the vessels employed will give him the requisite moral support & if needed practical assistance.
3. Approve the Governor's decision as to the prevention of Squatting, (Par: 6.) & his refusal for the present to sanction the occupation, i.e. grants of Crown lands.
4. Approve the apptments reported in Par: 7 but only provisionally.
5. I think that, as regards the rest of [the] desph, the Govr's proceedings may be approved generally, with the reservation of Par: 12 which seems to imply that the H.B.Co have been given the monopoly of the sale of Mining tools & provisions—as has been repeatedly observedManuscript image objectionable, & has been disapproved.
6. Request the Govr to send home full, & frequent reports indeed to write by each mail, to add a Newspaper when it contains anything that he thinks will afford interesting information to H.M. Govt, and to communicate to Sir Edward the extent of the receipts & expre of this new Colony to the latest period. I should expect that we shall certainly receive such an account of the ways & means of B. Columbia by the end of Decr or early in Jany/59.
ABd 11 Sepr
I agree with Mr Blackwood, only with doubt as to one point. I do not think there is much use in telling Govr Douglas that the force to protect the customs revenue must be raised in the colony. The thing cannot at present be done. If the diggings succeed, useful men will not stay on the coast to look after the Customs. If they fail, which begins to look possible enough, such men will not be wanted, & their maintenance in the winter a burden. The best rough expedient for the moment seems to be the giving the Satellite & Plumper's marines an extra allowance. I wish there were more of them.
HM S 15
C Sep 15
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As regards appointments, State that the gentlemen he may have appointed provisionally such as Collector of Customs, a Treasurer &c who are about to be supplanted by persons from this Country, he will no doubt find some other means of securing to the public service. Call on him to state such places as he proposes to create & for which persons from England may be filled. State that it is of great importance to the general social welfare & dignity of the Coly that some gentlemen should be encouraged to come from England, not as mere adventurers, but professionally engaged—perhaps Stipendiary Magistrates or Gold Commrs. Observe that while it is quite natural that the Servants of the H.B. Compy should from their knowledge of business their abilities &c have a very fair claim to consideration and share in the patronage, yet that great caution should be shewn, in not giving any appearance of undue favour or clubiness to the Servants of that Company; & that [half line off microfilm] should be understood it is still more desirable that some appointments should be made from England.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Douglas to James C. Prevost, Captain HMS Satellite, 15 May 1858, advising his services would be required to uphold customs laws and the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Fraser River region.
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Prevost to Douglas, 18 May 1858, offering whatever assistance he could provide.
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Douglas to Prevost, Point Roberts, 21 May 1858, stating his intention to appoint a collector of customs in Fort Langley and asking that a detachment of soldiers be sent to the area to help him assert his authority.
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Prevost to Douglas, Point Roberts, 22 May 1858, informing of his proposed course of action in the Fraser River region.
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Prevost to Douglas, Esquimalt, 9 June 1858, advising his services would be available until the end of June.
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Douglas to Prevost, 14 June 1858, asking that he return to Fort Langley.
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Prevost to Douglas, 14 June 1858, asking for an explicit description of his duties, authority to act as instructed, and a detailed explanation of the revenue laws.
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Douglas to Prevost, 15 June 1858, providing information as detailed above.
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Douglas to Rear Admiral Baynes, Commander in Chief, 12 May 1858, forwarding copy of despatch and asking that he provide a force sufficient "to aid and assist in maintaining the Queens Authority until further instructions are received from England."
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Victoria Gazette, 24 July 1858, as per despatch.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Lytton to Douglas, No. 20, 16 September 1858 (6 pages).
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale
As Sir Edward Lytton has given me a blank signature for this draft of a despatch, whichManuscript image is to be despatched this Evening, I will thank you and Lord Carnarvon 1st to give it, in his absence, yr special attention.
  1. Labouchere to Douglas, 1 February 1858, No. 4, CO 410/1, p. 120.
  2. . The Victoria Gazette first appeared on 25 June 1858, edited by H.C. Williston and C. Bartlett and published by James W. Towne & Co. of San Francisco. From 25 June to 28 October, it appeared five days a week as the Daily Victoria Gazette. Abel Whitton purchased the paper from Towne on 1 September 1858, and from February to November 1859, he also published a weekly version. Although the editors sought to avoid taking sides on political issues, being generally content to support the administration of Douglas and the H.B.C, until the dispute over the San Juan Islands erupted in 1859 and they promptly took the American side. The paper was renamed on 5 December 1859 to the New Victoria Gazette and appeared three three times a week until 30 July 1860 when it again reverted to a weekly. Unable to retain subscribers, it published its final edition on 29 September 1860. See J. Forsyth, The Pioneer Press of British Columbia, BCHA, First Annual Report and Proceedings (1923): 22-28.
People in this document

Baynes, Robert Lambert

Bevis, William Henry

Blackwood, Arthur Johnstone

Carnarvon, Earl

Douglas, James

Hicks, Richard

Labouchere, Henry

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Merivale, Herman

Perrier, George

Prevost, James Charles

Stanley, Edward Henry

Victoria, Alexandrina

Organizations in this document

Hudson's Bay Company

Vessels in this document

HMS Plumper, 1848-1865

HMS Satellite, 1855-1879

Places in this document

British Columbia


Fraser River

Fraser River District

Great Falls

Harrison River


Point Roberts

San Francisco

San Juan Islands

Strait of Georgia

Thompson River

Vancouver Island