No. 9
23 March 1859
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your despatch of the 7th January 1859 No 4, transmitting to me copy of a letter, with its enclosure, from the Board of Trade, upon the subject of declaring VictoriaManuscript imageVictoria in Vancouver's Island a Free Port, and requesting me to give the subject my consideration and to furnish you with my opinion as to the feasibility and expediency of carrying out this suggestion.
2. In the course of my Official Correspondence with Her Majesty's Government, and especially from the Ordinance issued at Victoria on the 3rd of December last, Sec. 6, imposing Customs Duties on Goods imported into British Columbia, it will beManuscript imagebe seen that the Port of Victoria, including Esquimalt Harbour, has been always maintained on the footing of a FREE PORT, inasmuch as no Duties on Imports or Exports have been levied, as it is open to the Trade of all Nations, and Vessels are not subject to any charges except a small Entrance and Clearance Fee.
3. I may further add for your information that no duties on Imports have, up to the present time, been levied at any other Port of Vancouver's Island.
ThisManuscript image4. This was not fortuitous or the effect of accident, but a part of the policy by which it was sought to encourage and foster Trade, and to make Victoria an Entrepôt for the Coast of North west America.
5. That measure has manifestly an important bearing on British Trade, and is deserving the serious attention of Her Majesty's Government—especially as the discovery of Gold in British Columbia has given so decided a development and promises toManuscript imageto add so largely to the value of the trade of those Colonies.
6. Their present trade is, from circumstances, almost exclusively confined to the Ports of Oregon and California, to which the Produce of Vancouver's Island and the gold of British Columbia are alike exported, the Returns received being articles used for food, and manufactured goods. These goods are necessarily burthened with the Customs and Municipal duties levied in California, forming a charge of nearly 30 per cent on their first cost.
7. The practical effect isManuscript imageis that the consumers in these Colonies are thus made to pay a tax of nearly 30 per cent on all articles imported from places in the United States.
8. The Victoria Custom House Returns for the six months ending on the 31st day of December last, shew that the declared value of imports at Victoria, from Ports in the United States, but chiefly from California, during that period amounted to the sum of £309,679.17.6, so that the charge of 30 per cent, thereon, would come to £92,903, an amount which thus appears to have been paid by the consumers in Vancouvers Island andManuscript imageand British Columbia, thereby increasing to that extent, the revenue of a Foreign Power.
9. It is evident that a direct trade with the producing countries would save that outlay to the Colonies.
10. Our Legislative measures have therefore all been framed with the view of opening a trade with England especially, and also with the producing Countries of Europe and South America to induce vessels coming from thence, by the absence of restrictions and charges to bring their cargoes direct to this Port; without stopping to discharge at any intermediate place.
11. That object gained, goods mightManuscript imagemight be sold here at a price but little in advance of their first cost and freight.
12. That advance and freight would go to enrich the mother country, to the extent at least, that the import trade would be carried on in British Ships, and the consumers in Vancouver's Island and British Columbia would reap the advantage of a large consequent reduction, in the price of all the necessaries of life.
13. The whole export trade of Vancouver's Island and British Columbia, would naturally fall into the hands of British shipowner[s], and all shipments be madeManuscript imagemade directly to the Ports of Great Britain.
14. Our connection with California, as a source of supply, would then cease.
15. The large and growing trade of British Columbia would fall into the hands of British Merchants and Victoria from its favourable position, and freedom from charges and Commercial restrictions, would become a great store house of British Goods, and the centre of a prodigious trade with the neighbouring countries in the Pacific.
16. Those important advantages, are I conceive attainableManuscript imageattainable by declaring Victoria, including Esquimalt a Free Port, and the existing laws of the Colony are not repugnant to that measure, which is so manifestly calculated to promote the interests of British Commerce, and the material advancement of these Colonies, that I beg most earnestly to recommend it for adoption.
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
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Lord Carnarvon
Copy to Bd of Trade with reference to our Lr of Jany/59.
ABd 10/5
Put it by rather I think for the present.
C June 6
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I agree in the views here set forth by Govr Douglas. The only question would be whether the Colony could be self-supporting without Custom duties to be levied at Victoria. The Govr has, I believe, been emphatically warned by my Predecessor that England must not be expected to bear any part of the requisite expenditure,
His Grace's impression is quite correct.
& knowing this he recommends the freedom of the Port.
Write to B. of T. & send copy approving suggestion.
N 21 6
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Fortescue to J. Booth, Board of Trade, 28 June 1859, forwarding copy of the despatch for observations.
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 4, 22 July 1859, instructing Douglas to proclaim Victoria a free port.
Douglas, James to Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer 23 March 1859, CO 305:10, no. 4813, 70. 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/V59009.html.

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