Riddel to Under-Secretary of State
Toronto, C.W.
June 9, 1858 To the Under-Secretary for the Colonies,
London, Eng.
For some time past a number of British Subjects in this Section of Canada, have been desirous of leaving here, to form a Settlement in Vancouver's Island. Owing to that Island being in possession of the Hudson Bay Company, on lease, it was concluded that that Company either could or would not hold out any inducements to intending settlers, and that no legal title to land could be acquired by parties settling there. Secondly: It was assumed, that, as the Country was not, and would not for some time be, in the possession of the Crown, the Government couldnotManuscript image not make grants of land without coming into collision with that Company.
For these reasons, no formal application was made; and many of those who at first intended to have emigrated to Vancouver's Island, should any reasonable proposals be made them, have since left for the South-western States and the Seaboard of Oregon and Washington territories, in the United States, having arrived at the conclusion that Vancouver's Island would not be opened for settlement for some time to come.
At a meeting of several parties favorable to emigrating to Vancouver's Island, held in this City on the 7th instant, it was proposed that I should write to the Colonial Office, with the view of ascertaining whether any and what assistance the Home Government would give to partiesofManuscript image of British birth who would settle there. Whether Government would assist them to reach that Colony, and afterwards give them grants of land upon Condition of actual settlement.
The present was thought a favorable moment for the British Government taking some steps in the matter, for the following, among other, reasons:
1. Owing to the great commercial depression in Canada, thousands of the working classes are idle, and there is no prospect of an early improvement in their condition.
2. From the impossibility of their obtaining land capable of immediate cultivation in Canada, numbers are leaving continually for the western prairies, where they can settle without paying for the land for some years to come, and where no outlay is required in clearing.
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3. The parties who are thus being lost to Great Britain, it was thought, might be retained as faithful Subjects by her, and great numbers of those who now reside in the United States reclaimed, were she to hold out any liberal offer upon their emigrating to Vancouver's Island.
4. The lease of the Hudson Bay Co having nearly expired, it was thought that no opposition would be offered by them to the introduction of Settlers by the Crown.
5. The recent discovery of gold in the neighborhood of Fraser River, in British Oregon, the Contiguity of Vancouver's Island to the gold fields, its commanding geographical position for general commercial and maritime purposes, make the possession of that Island a matter of great importance: So much so, that already some of the American papers advocate its being at once settled by American Citizens, so as ultimatelytoManuscript image to be admitted as a State into the Federal Union.
6. That, as the permanent possession of that Island is of immense importance to Great Britain both in a commerical and naval point of view, it behoves the British Government to take such steps as will secure that possession to the British nation.
It was thought the best and simplest mode of so permanently securing the Island to Britain, would be, for the Government to aid individuals desirous of settling there to reach their destination, and upon their arrival in the Colony making them grants of land such as formerly made by the States to induce parties to settle in Oregon, upon condition of their clearing a small portion annually and residing continuously in the Colony for a certaintermManuscript image term—say five years; at the end of which time their deeds to be given [to] them.
By adopting some such plan as that laid down in the foregoing paragraph, it was urged that the British Government would place on the Pacific boundary of this Continent a people who would owe their homes to the generosity of the Native Country; and thus would built up a patriotic and loyal race, who would be ever ready to Guard the interests and vindicate the honor of Great Britain. In the possession of such a people, with the most liberal institutions guaranteed to them, Vancouver's Island would ere long become a Safeguard to British interests in that quarter of the Globe.
It is unnecessary to enlarge upon these matters. The reasonablenessandManuscript image and truthfulness of what has been said will no doubt at once be perceived by you.
Should Her Majesty's Government look favorably on these propositions herein made, I have not the slightest doubt but that a large company could be got up here in a short time to proceed thither by way of Panama and San Francisco—the journey requiring only about six weeks. But, as it is not likely there would be food and the necessary accommodation at the Island for a large and sudden immigration, I would be willing to go there and make the necessary arrangements, and return here and accompany the emigrants, as Physician and agent, upon Condition that my travel expenses be defrayed by the Government. And, should it be thought advisable, I would,onManuscript image on the same terms, go over a great portion of the Island, and then visit Great Britain and lecture on its advantages, importance &c, previously to my final leaving with the emigrants.
Any reliable information, as to climate, productions, &c, of Vancouver's Island, that you can furnish, will be gratefully acknowledged.
I make the above propositions in good faith, and shall be happy to satisfy the Government of my ability to perform what I have proposed, should they deem my services worthy of acceptance.
Should any present reference be required, my brother, Mr Jas Riddel, who has held a situation in the House of Commons for some years, will probably answer.
I am, Sir, Yours Most Obtly
A.A. Riddel,
Physician & Surgeon
[P.S.] Should any further correspondence follow, is it necessary for me to pay postage?
Minutes by CO staff
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28 June.
TFE 28 June
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Draft, reply, Lytton to Sir Edmund Head, Canada, No. 22, 12 July 1858.
Minutes by CO staff
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Lord Carnarvon
Dr Riddell's [Riddel's] proposal simply is that Government should pay his Expenses to Vancr Id where he is willing to go as [a] pioneer to lay the foundation of a colony of Canadians. I suppose that the answer may be, that the Secy of State cannot now undertake to say on which terms land shall be offered in that island when the Grant to the HB Co shall be resumed: and that he has no fund at his disposal from which emigrants can be assisted to go there? I am afraid we must add, that the writer is requested to continue to pay postage if he continues his correspondence.
HM June 29
Annex draft.
C July 6
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Printed extracts from Parliamentary Papers, no date, "Correspondence relative to the Discovery of Gold in the Fraser's River District in British North America," including Douglas to Labouchere, Nos. 1 and 15, 1858, and a proclamation by Douglas (two pages).