Rogers to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
31th August 1858
I have to acknowledge Lord Carnarvon's Letter of the 17th instant enclosing a memorandum from Mr Bridges actuary of the Mitre Life Assurance Office containing a project for colonizing Van Couvers Island.
2. Mr Bridges proposes that a Company should be formed with a capital of £100,000 towhichManuscript image which the Government should assign (without any immediate consideration) 1000,000 acres or about 1562 square miles of land in Vancouvers Island.
3. The Company are to advance money from their capital to be expended at once (that is I suppose as rapidly as may seem prudent and practicable) in the transmission of laborers to the settlement and their employment in surveys, roadmaking and other operations preliminary to the occupation of the land. These first Immigrants are to receive moderate allotments of land gratis.
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4. The Company's Land is to be sold at a fixed price namely Town lands at the rate of £10 for a section of an acre or less—suburban Lands at £100 for 25 acres—and Country lands at £1 an acre. Payment may be made by instalments spreading over "(say)" 10 years.
5. The receipts on account of Land are (if I understand the project aright) to be divided as follows—10 per cent is to be paid to the Crown to be applied to the expenses of the Local Government—40 per cent is to be applied to the preliminary expenditure alreadydescribedManuscript image described and of course in the first instance to repay the Companys Advances and the remaining 50 per cent is left unnoticed and is I presume to constitute the Companys profits.
6. Lastly the Crown is to engage not to sell any Land in the Island at less than £1 an acre and to employ 50 per cent of its receipts in "labour or adaptation".
7. I am unable to recommend that this plan should be entertained. In the first place I can scarcely imagine anything which wouldcreateManuscript image create a keener dissatisfaction among the multitudes who are now flocking to the neighbourhood of Vancouvers Island, than to be informed that 1562 square miles of land (selected I presume from the most attractive parts of the Island) had been set apart by Government in order that one half of the purchase money amounting (if the land were sold) to considerably more than half a million of money might serve to enrich, not the Settlers whose industry will give it value but a Company inLondonManuscript image London; while four fifths of the other half was to be irresponsibly expended by the same body. And these complaints will be much increased if the laborers imported by the Company make their way to the diggings and the operations undertaken by them (as is likely to be the case and almost certain to be alleged) are injudiciously chosen.
8. Those therefore who purchase land from the Company will complain that the purchase money is not expended (as it would bebyManuscript image by Government) for their benefit. Those who are disinclined to purchase will complain that a large proportion of the best Crown Land is virtually removed from the public Land sales. Both alike will complain that the Home Government has sacrificed the Colony.
9. The chance that the Company will be unable to recover from their grantees the money which they allow to be paid by instalments spread over ten years and after protracted disputes will be obliged to compromise on the most disadvantageous terms—thatManuscript image that they will sell Land in Europe which cannot be identified or is found to be misdescribed or has been already sold in America and thus confuse themselves and paralyse their Colonists—that they will be unable to retain the services of the laborers whom they import, to keep their land free from Squattors or to secure economy or sound judgment in surveying, draining, roadmaking, bridging or building operations carried on on the other side of America, and that they will break down like other Colonizing Companies under theseandManuscript image and other mischances is one with which, it may be said, the Government has no concern. But the failure of a Company which by that failure locks up and embarrasses the disposal of 1500 square miles of the best land in a rapidly increasing Colony is a public danger, for which the Government ought not without strong reasons to make itself in any degree responsible. And I must add that as the terms which have been accorded to one Company can hardly be refused to otherapplicantsManuscript image applicants, it will be almost impossible to prevent the Colony from being divided among rival enterprises some of which can hardly fail to run through the course which I have described.
10. On these grounds it seems to me that the contentment of the Colonists—the simplicity of the Land sales—and the proper expenditure of the money derived or to be derived from them would be far best secured by giving no privileges to any Company which is not open to every one of Her Majesty's subjects—by keeping the conduct of the Land Sales intheManuscript image the hands of responsible Government Officers and by leaving the conduct of the emigration (for the present) to the Emigrants themselves who appear likely to throng to the neighbourhood in fully sufficient numbers.
11. Thus far I have submitted objections to the principle of the scheme. Even if this were admitted various objections of detail would remain to be considered and omissions to be supplied.
(1) Is the Company to select its land in a single block or in separate blocks. If the latter—how selected—in what shape—and withinwhatManuscript image what time. These are points of detail but of great importance and some difficulty. For if restrictions are imposed on selection the Company will complain that it is deluded, if they are not it will be enabled to select scattered spots which will give it the command of the Colony.
(2) What is to be provided about Minerals?
(3) What about Land in the possession of Indians?
(4) What about land which though not actually purchased isveryManuscript image very valuable to existing Settlers as adjoining their property or otherwise.
(5) Is the proposed Government share of the proceeds of the Land Sale (1/10th) sufficient.
(6) Considering the price at which Land is selling in Van Couvers Island are the fixed prices especially that of £10 an acre for town Land high enough. If not they will induce a wild rage for buying on speculation which is always productive of mischief.
(7) Will not the system ofpaymentManuscript image payment by instalments encourage men to become at once possessors of land before they have acquired the small capital and skill which experience shews to be necessary to success.
(8) What need is there now of importing Immigrants into Van Couvers Island? What hope that they will remain in the employ of the Company?
(9) What security is there that the Company's almost irresponsible Agents will expend judiciously what is in fact public money.
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(10) The only consideration which the Company give for their possible gains of (say) £500,000 is the temporary advance of £100,000 for preliminary expenses. What security is to be taken for its being really advanced and properly expended.
(11) Is it desirable that free allotments should be granted during the first year to the labouring class. It is generally held I think that to place an inexperienced person at once on land is the way to ruin him.
(12) Can the Government possibly consent (for no greater considerationthanManuscript image than I have described) not only to part with 1560 square miles of land but to place itself under obligations to the Company in respect to the disposal of the rest of the Crown (that is the public) property.
(13) Does Mr Bridges represent capitalists ready to advance all or an adequate part of the proposed capital or is it the mere suggestion of aGentlemanManuscript image Gentleman who has still to find the means of carrying it into effect.
([14]) On the whole it is quite clear that no Company can be expected to take up any operation of this kind except with a view to profit. That profit must be derived from the labor of the Colonists and is therefore a tax on them. This is pro tanto an evil. But it is an evil which may be well borne if it is a necessary condition of peopling a Country which would otherwise not be peopled. Reasons might exist for allowing a privileged CompanytoManuscript image to colonize the Falkland Islands or the less attractive parts of Australia or (six months ago) the Western Coast of America. But it appears to me that a Company for the Colonization of Vancouvers Island would now be superfluous because the work will be done without it—and it would be mischievous because as I have attempted to shew a Company possessing great exceptional advantages (and very great advantages are needed to give it a chance of success) will cause certainly discontent and probably confusion and trouble. And I would again submit thattheManuscript image the selling of the Crown Lands like other branches of administration will be conducted with most ease to the Government and satisfaction to the community by an adequate body of efficient public officers on the spot—adapting their operations to the wants of the community—and by giving to no person or body of persons any privilege which is not obtainable by all.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obedient Humble Servant
Frederic Rogers
Herman Merivale Esq.
&c &c &c
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
I should suppose that this admirable exposition of the objections which may reasonably be raised to London land Companies will suffice for the rejection of Mr Brydge's [Bridges] scheme and for any similar one that may be submitted to the S. of State.
I now remember that Mr Brydges has frequently corresponded with this office on kindred topics, but that his views have always proved chimerical. In my opinion a brief ansr., stating that the proposal has been attentively considered, & cannot be entertained would be the most suitable for Mr Brydges, & the most prudent for us.
ABd 1 Sepr
HM S 1
I cordially agree in Sir F. Rogers's opinions, and I would recommend a brief, but decided, rejection of Mr Bridges' proposal.
TFE 2 Septr
I quite agree—annex draft as proposed.
C Sep 3
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to T. Carlyle, 11 September 1858, stating the proposal could not be entertained.