Shepherd Lytton
Hudson's Bay House
June 24th 1858
Sir,
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of the Earl of Carnarvon's letter of the 22nd Instant stating your desire to be furnished with Extracts of the letters lately received by the Hudson's Bay Company from Governor Douglas on the subject of the Gold fields on Fraser's River, and I beg in accordance therewith to transmit the accompanying copy of a letter from Governor Douglas dated Victoria April 27th and Extracts of his letters of the 19th and 30th of the same month.
I have the honour to be Sir,
Your most obedient humble
Servant,
John Shepherd
Govr
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
These papers might be added, I think, to the gold correspondence which we are ready to send today to the printer, with the view of submitting the collection to Sir E. Lytton for approval before communicating them to Parlt.
ABd. 25 June.
Ld Carnarvon
Perhaps you Manuscript imagewill therefore pass this at once—it is highly important in various points of view.
HM June 25
Provide extracts.
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
Manuscript image
Enclosure 1 in No. 11.

Copy.2
Na6090/58

(On the affairs of Vancouvers Island Colony)
27th April 1858
[…]
William G. Smith Esqre
Sir,
I have to communicate for the information of the Governor & Committee that the steam vessel “Commodore” arrived in this Port on the 25th of Instant, direct from San Francisco with 450 passengers chiefly gold miners who have come here with the intention of working the gold mines of the Interior.
About 400 of those men were landed on the same day & with the exception of a few who left yesterday for Frasers River are now engaged in purchasing canoes and making arrangements for continuing their journey by Frasers River into the Couteau Country.
They all appear to be well provided with mining tools and there seems to be no want of Capital and intelligence among them. About 60 of the number are British subjects with about an equal number of Americans and the rest are Germans, Frenchmen and Italians.
Though our little town was crowded to excess with this sudden influx of people and there was a temporary scarcity of food and dearth of house accommodation, the
33
policeManuscript imagepolice force small and many temptations to excess, in the way of drink, yet they were remarkably quiet and orderly, and there has not been a single committal for rioting or drunkenness since their arrival here.
The Merchants and general dealers of Victoria are rejoicing in the increase of wealth and business produced by the arrival of so large a body of people in the Colony, and are strongly in favour of making this place a stopping point between San Francisco and the Gold mines, which, so far as respects the prosperity of the Colony, is evidently an object of the utmost importance, as both in going and returning, the Miners would make purchases and spend a great deal of money; the value of property would be vastly enhanced, while the sale of public land and the colonization of the Country would be greatly promoted.
The interests of the Empire, if I may use the term, may not however be improved to the same extent by the accession of a foreign population, whose sympathies are decidedly anti British and strongly biased in favor of their own country and institutions.
From that point of view the question assumes an alarming aspect and leads us to doubt the policy of permitting foreigners to enter the British Territory ad libitum, under any circumstances whatever,Manuscript imagewhatever, and especially without taking the oath of allegiance and otherwise giving security to the government of the Country.
It is in fact easy to forsee the dangerous consequences of the free emigration of foreigners into the interior. If the majority, as is almost inevitable, be Americans there will always be a hankering in their minds after annexation to the United States, and with the aid of their Countrymen in Oregon and California so near at hand they will never cordially submit to British Rule nor possess the loyal feelings of British subjects.
I have no means at my disposal of stopping or restraining this influx of people, neither do I feel at liberty to take any measures towards that end, until I hear from Her Majestys Ministers and receive their directions on the subject.
In the meantime little harm can be done as the people, who have gone into the interior, will meet with innumerable difficulties of route in their progress towards the mines, both from the nature of the country and the dangerous state of the Rivers.
The principal diggings on Frasers and Thompsons Rivers are also at present, and will continue, flooded for many months to come, there is moreover a great scarcity of food in the gold districts so that those united causes will, in all probability, compel may of the ill
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providedManuscript imageprovided adventurers to beat a retreat and for the time to relinquish the enterprise.
The license system has not been yet carried into effect and it will be difficult to bring it into a general operation. It has since occurred to me that by levying an import duty on goods the gold districts might be taxed to any desirable extent, without clamour or exciting discontent among the people an object which might be effected at a moderate expense by means of a customs station on Frasers River, and another at the point where the road from the Columbia strikes the Ford of the O’Kanagan River, those being the only two Commercial Avenues of the Couteau Country.
I shall soon address her Majestys Government on the subjects referred to in this Communication, and it is also my intention to represent how seriously the peace of the Country may be endangered by the presence of so many people wandering over the interior in a vagrant state, especially in the event of the diggings proving unremunerative and the miners being, as an inevitable consequence, reduced to poverty, and destitute of the common necessaries of life.
It would perhaps be impossible, so great is the excitement, to arrest the torrent of emigration at present, but by watching the course of events we may, I conceive, manage to limit and control the tide and to introduce something like order and systematic arrangement into the mining operationsManuscript imageoperations of the Country.
We have this moment been informed of the arrival of the Pacific Mail Steamer “Columbia” at Port Townsend with 80 passengers from San Francisco, who are also bound for the Couteau Gold District, and we observe by the latest San Francisco papers that several other vessels are advertised for the same destination.
The accompanying number of the San Francisco news letter will give you an idea of the state of feeling among the inhabitants of that City, in respect to Vancouvers Island and the Couteau Gold Mines. That excitement has been got up through the efforts of interested parties desirous of procuring freight and passengers for Vancouvers Island.
The colored population of San Francisco have been making enquiries about Vancouvers Island and whether or not they would be allowed to settle and purchase land in this Colony, as owing to some recent oppressive enactments of the legislature in California they wish to transfer their allegiance to this Country; I gave them a favorable reply and assured them of the protection of the laws if they settle in this Colony.
I have the honor to be
Sir
Your obedient Servant
(Signed)
55
Manuscript image
Enclosure 2 in No 11
Na6090/58

Extract of a Letter from James Douglas
[…]
Esqre to William G. Smith Esqre Secretary of the Hudson’s Bay Company dated Victoria, Vancouver’s Island 19th April 1858. ⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
Mr George Simpson was the bearer of despatches from Fort Langley of the 14th and from Chief Trader McLean, dated Forks (Thompson’s River) the 4th Instant, and arrived here by canoe on the 17th Instant.
The tidings from the Gold district are of the most flattering description but are not supported by a large return of gold dust. Mr Simpson reports that gold is found in more or less abundance, on every part of Fraser’s River from Fort Yale to the Forks, but I presume those diggings cannot be very productive, or there would have been a larger return of gold. Chief Trader Yale1 reports that parties are proceeding up Fraser’s River towards the gold diggings almost every day.
The arrival of so many
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strangersManuscript imagestrangers is unpleasant, but until Her Majesty’s Government authorizes me to prevent their Entrance into the Country, we are obliged to make a virtue of necessity and to turn them to advantage, especially as they do not interfere with the Fur Trade, and we wish to make Fraser’s River the avenue to the gold districts, and to secure if possible the whole of their trade, which will otherwise find an outlet by the Columbia.”
Manuscript image
Extract of a letter from James Douglas Esqre to W. G. Smith Esqre Secretary of the Hudson’s Bay Company, dated Victoria, Vancouver’s Island April 30th 1858. ⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯⎯
“We have received no official intelligence from the Gold Mining Districts since my letter of the 19th Instant.
Several parties of Americans and Canadians have however lately returned from thence disappointed and unsuccessful. They report that the waters of Fraser’s River had risen so much that the auriferous ‘Bars’ were flooded, and they could not consequently employ themselves to advantage. They however think that the Country is decidedly auriferous, and will yield large returns of gold.
About 150 white miners had already arrived at the Forks of Thompson’s River, when they left that place, and they met about as many more in the River travelling towards that point.”
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Footnotes
  1. Possibly J.M. Yale.
  2. "Copy." appears to be written over an unclear mark.
  3. Appears at bottom right corner of page, before catchword.
  4. Appears at bottom right corner of page, after catchword.
  5. Appears at bottom right corner of page, under signature.
  6. Appears at bottom right corner of page, under catchword.
  7. Appears at bottom right corner of page.
People in this document

Blackwood, Arthur Johnstone

Carnarvon, Earl

Douglas, James

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

McClean, Donald

Merivale, Herman

Shepherd, John

Simpson, George

Smith, William G.

Organizations in this document

Colonial Office

Hudson's Bay Company

Vessels in this document

Brother Jonathan, 1851-1865

Columbia, 1835

Places in this document

Columbia River

Fort Langley

Fraser River

Okanagan River

Oregon Territory, or Columbia District

Port Townsend

San Francisco

Thompson Region

Thompson River

Vancouver Island

Victoria

Yale

Shepherd, John to Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer 24 June 1858, CO 6:26, no. 6090, 436. 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/V585HB17.html.

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