Romaine to Merivale
Admiralty, S.W.
30th. August 1858.
Sir
I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to send you herewith, for the information of Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies, a copy of a Letter from Captain Richards of H.M. Surveying Vessel Plumper, dated at Vancouver Island the 28th June, containing intelligence as to the state of affairs at that Island, and at the Gold Diggings in Frazer River.
I am, Sir,
Your most obedient Servant
H.G. Romaine
Herman Merivale Esq.
The Under Secretary of State for Colonial Affairs.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
This is the latest intelligence we have recd on the state of affairs at B. Columbia. I really do not know what additional precautions the Impl. Govt. can take for helping matters in this suddenly evoked Colony. The Freight ship will take Manuscript image3 months stores of provisions for the R. Engineers, and more if the Ship will hold them. Sir Edward has also fortunately sanctioned the officers taking out some small Iron houses—for themselves—for their reception on arrival in the winter.
ABd. 31 Augt.
HM Augt 31
Lord Carnarvon
Sir Edward has perused this.
ABd. 31 Augt
See sep. min.
C. Aug. 31
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[Separate Minute:]
Military force in British Columbia
Mr Blackwood
I am disposed to think after reading the last accounts that there are two provisional Measures wh might be adopted—or rather power might be given to the Govr to adopt them if he sd be convinced that circumstances require them.
1. Obtain instructions from War office and F.O to Major Hawkins commanding the Engineers engaged in the survey to place his men at the disposal of the Govr as a military force if he absolutely requires the support & to inform the Govr by the mail of the 2nd. Major Hawkins' men are probably not so useful now for the survey as they have been, inasmuch as it is unsafe to employ them in particular Manuscript imagelocalities and as the American Engineers have already deserted to the Gold Fields.
2. Confidential authority given to the Govr to add a colonial allowance to the pay of the men, if he considers that he cannot otherwise secure them against the gold temptations. He sd be told that it is an extreme measure confided to him & not to be used except in the last resort. A Colonial allowance has been granted to the marines.
Lastly I do not feel sure that some one ought not to be appointed as Gold Field Commissioner, though I am averse to Manuscript imagemaking more appointments than is strictly necessary.
C. Aug. 31.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Lytton to Douglas, Separate, 2 September 1858.
Minutes by CO staff
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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George Henry Richards to John Washington, Hydrographer, Admiralty, 28 June 1858, reporting conditions in the developing gold rush.
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
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Richards to Washington


H.M. Surveying Ship
"Plumper"
Vancouver Island
28th June 1858
Sir:
I have the honor to acquaint you that I arrived here on the 26th inst. having been employed since the 1st of June in examining the channels in the Gulf of Georgia; since that date the Rosario and Bellingham Channels have been surveyed, as well as an extensive group in Haro Channel knownManuscript imageknown (on the U.S. reconnaissance) as Saturna Island, amongst which several good Harbours have been found.
The material for the construction of the Boundary Chart is now pretty well collected. It remains to increase our number of deep soundings, & to seek for one or two sunken Rocks said to exist but which have hitherto escaped us. TheManuscript imageThe "Havannah" and the land party are daily looked for. I await their arrival here & in the mean time am employed in getting our work on paper & surveying this port.
The excitement caused by the discovery of Gold in Frazer River is daily increasing & has already arrived at a very high pitch, 14,000 people have been imported from SanManuscript imageSan Francisco up to this time & from 30 to 40,000 have taken tickets there & are coming up as fast as vessels can be got. A large Steamer is leaving that port daily, and the average number landing here now is 1,400 per week. They are not confined as hitherto to the lowest classes but many men of capital, & most of the first Merchants American as well as EnglishManuscript imageEnglish are here purchasing land and establishing houses. A little more than a month ago Victoria was a quiet village. I can only compare it now to Greenwich Fair. Whole streets of Canvas Houses have sprung up. Booths Restaurants & every description of public houses have been called into existence within a few days. Hundreds of people are entirely without ShelterManuscript imageShelter, and this is merely the commencement of the thing.
From California alone we shall have 50,000 people before the end of the year, and as soon as the confirmation of the intelligence reaches Europe, Australia & the Eastern States, there can be little doubt, but that we shall have a second California with tenfold difficulties in the way ofManuscript imageof feeding such a multitude; already there is almost a scarcity of food here, & the prices of all articles are enormous. The Governor tells me he has sent everywhere to order provisions but they come in very slowly and Frazer River is closed to all imports except through the Company.

The despt prohibiting such closing is dated the 16 July. It will have arrived about this time. 31 Augt. ABd.
It is to be hoped however thatManuscript imagethat things will improve in this respect for if they do not he must open the River to Free Trade, such a multitude will not starve while provisions are to be had anywhere.
The present arrangement is that two American Steamers of light draught have licences to carry passengers up the river with their mining toolsManuscript imagetools, & as much provisions as the miners can carry but of course these latter are soon exhausted. The Company's small Steamer "Otter" is intended to carry up sufficient to replenish the H.B. posts on the river which again supply the miners, but this method will soon prove entirely inadequate.
The great evil I anticipatedManuscript imageanticipated, viz; disputes between the whites & Indians has come to pass, & I fear will increase, many murders have taken place and a very bad feeling exists, at the same time, law & order among the miners is apparent, in a high degree and up to this time very few have evaded the license fee. They all express a willingness toManuscript imageto comply with our law and pay any thing that is demanded, but they will dig and they will have food.
I am still under much anxiety as to the efficiency of our ships; desertion among "Satellites" Crew has become very serious and Captain Prevost has withdrawn his pinnace & crew which he had placed at my disposal.
We Manuscript image
We have as yet lost no men since the great excitement broke out but the temptations are very great. It would be injudicious on my part, indeed it would be fatal to our work to adopt the restrictive or prison system on board this Ship. Such a plan may have the desired effect in a vessel casually visiting the Station but stationed asManuscript imageas we are here entirely on surveying duty, I feel that it would be totally ineffective, & I have determined to make no alteration in our system unless it becomes absolutely necessary, but rather trust to the good sense of the crew after having fully explained to them the consequences.
The Americans from the other side have secret Agents all over the settlement to entice ourManuscript imageour men away in order that they may supply the places of their own Labourers who have gone to the diggings. Promises of Enormous wages have doubtless deluded [those?] who have deserted from "Satellite" who are mostly young men without any ties & with little service. Our people have sense enough to know that itManuscript imageit is not at the diggings they will make their fortunes. The men who make money there are those who go with some capital, and are enabled to buy the gold found by the old experienced Californian Miners.
The man who has provisions to sell makes his fortune. Not one seaman out of a hundred but would come back worseManuscript imageworse than he went. It is to be hoped that government will take some decided steps at once. Gold Commissioners

These apptments must surely be left to the Govr [ABd].
with powers as magistrates should be immediately appointed, a police force organized

Chief Inspector will go out on the 2d—or certainly on the 4th [ABd].
and a good part of a Regiment sent overland without delay.

A few R. Engineers going immly [ABd].
If this is done in time an infinity of crime and misery will be avertedManuscript imageaverted if not the worst is to be apprehended. For the present I fancy the Governor intends urging that the Ships' Marines should form a small guard, and I hope he will take upon himself to employ Captain Hawkin’s Force at the Mines as police or Military appointing the Officers as Commissioners & Magistrates. As to their doing anything to furtherManuscript imagefurther the boundary question--at present I suspect it would be impossible. The American Officers are left to themselves. All their men have gone except the Military and desertions among them are rife.

We have heard this already [ABd].
I am happy to say that the Governor has acted on a suggestion brought to his notice by Captain Prevost & myself, viz to grant a Colonial allowance toManuscript imageto the two Ship's Companies Equivalent to the Government pay. This was done in Australia under similar circumstances & I hope it will have the effect of keeping the men firm; certainly it will have that effect on the majority of them. This measure of H.E. relieves me from much apprehension & should it be deemed desirable that the entrance to Frazer River should be surveyedManuscript imagesurveyed at once, I should feel justified in undertaking it without much fear as to the result. There can be no doubt but that it must form an important part of our work if not now at no great distance of time. I shall acquaint you with "Havannah" arrival & with this Ship's subsequent movements which I suspect must depend much on the events which transpire during the next few days. I trust that nothing will occur to divert her from the pursuit of her legitimate work
I have &c
(signed) Geo. Henry
Richards
Captain Jno. Washington R.N. F.R.S.
&c &c
Hydrographer Admiralty
Romaine, William Govett to Merivale, Herman 30 August 1858, CO 6:25, no. 8800, 46. 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/V585AD13.html.

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