Corry to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
3 March 1859
I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, to acknowledge the receipt of your Letter of the 22nd Jany last, forwarding the Copy of a Report from Captain Richards of HM's Surveying Ship "Plumper" on the Harbours of Vancouver's Island and the Coast of British Columbia, and to acquaint you, for the information of Secretary Sir E.B. Lytton, that this Report is very satisfactory, but it is limited in information to only a few Harbours on the S.E. Coast, and to request thatManuscript imagethat you will move Sir E.B. Lytton to consider the question of reserving Coal and Timber for Government purposes.
I am etc.
H. Corry
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
If you will refer to the 3d Par: of the Emigration Commrs report 159/59, & to the desp: written in consequence to the Govr you will observe that we have given up the reservation to the Crown of Timber & Minerals in B. Columbia.
If this is to be adhered to the Admy had better be Manuscript imagetold so at once in order that they may take steps for purchasing, if they think proper, some of the timber which is reputed to be so valuable for Naval purposes, & which, if precautions are not early taken to secure, depredations will be committed upon. The best Timber is said to be in V. Couver's Land; though there is also an immense quantity on Frazer's River in B. Columbia—the goodness of which has to be tested.
ABd 11/3
HM Mh 11
Certainly—& write so to Admy.
EBL M 27
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Mr Blackwood
It seems an unsatisfactory arrangement to require the Admiralty to purchase for prospective Naval purposes the Timber & Coal. Objections occur to such an arrangement whether the price be a high or a nominal one. Conceded. What is the precise proposal? To buy the right to dig for coal & to cut the timber with or without the surface land, wh of course is valueless to them? .'mar * Yes; if we can't reserve without purchase.
Would the purchase money be paid at once or wd it be paid in proportion to the coal raised or timber cut? If it be paid at once will not the price be a very heavy one?
I shd think not, at this time.
Will the sale be made in lots and if so of what size?
To be considered.
Because it is evident that they wd buy on a very different scale & with a different object from that of the ordinary settlers?
Our land regulations would hardly apply?
I think not.
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What wd be the objection to setting aside for Admiralty purposes certain reserves? I suppose one of the great objections wd be in the interference with colonization wh these blocks of land effect?
This is the only one I can perceive.
How have we dealt in former cases with this question?
We have never had such a case that I can find.
C Mch 12
Lord Carnarvon
You will observe that it is only an idea of my own that it should be suggested to the Admiralty that they should take precautionary measures, either by the employment of some competent Agent on the spot to investigate, or by at once purchasing some reserves, for providing themselves with Coal and Timber fit for nautical purposes. We must all feel that it is very likely that these new Settlements will form a great Naval Station Manuscript imageone of these days. We know that the Admiralty has been extremely negligent, notwithstanding that they had Naval Officers constantly to advise them on the value of Thetis Island, in allowing that Harbor to escape into the possession of a private person, from whom they will now have to purchase it in all probability. We know that the Admy have at this moment deputed a Commissioner to Canada to explore the Country for Timber suitable for our Navy. With these facts, & with the knowledge that Coal and Timber—such as is required for our ships—may now be obtained on reasonable terms, whilst hereafter it may be more difficult to purchase, except at an augmented price I threw out the notion that it might be prudent for the Admy to procure some reserves themselves. And I still think it is worth the consideration of that Board. Already the Hudson's Bay Co have bought 10 square miles, I think, of Land at Nanaimo—which produces the best coal in the Island, yet known: & other speculators will do the same. And if the Manuscript imageGovt are not equally active we shall be chargeable with want of foresight, indifference, &c. But I quite admit that the proposal is not altogether satisfactory. It is contrary to usual politics, economical views that we should not go into the ordinary market to buy what we want, & when we want. This may hold good as regards Coal; but not I think in the article of Timber. For every one knows that at this time suitable timber for Ship building for the Govt is an article of scarcity in Europe. Wherefore, as I said before, we are sending to Canada to find what we want, as we can't get it elsewhere. This wd be obviated by Naval Reserves. They can however only be purchased in the usual way, if you adhere to rules; though I do not myself at all see why as the Land is the Crowns it should not reserve what it likes for Naval purposes. We have not handed over the Lands of the Crown in these Colonies to any Legislature, and now is the time to secure what we want! Doubtless there are objections to reserves, whether in the Shape of monopolies to great Corporations or Companies, Manuscript imagefor they occasion envy & complaints on the part of the public, or whether the Government possesses them. And if the Government has Reserves there is every probability that in the Course of time they will be handed over to the Colony just as we have lately surrendered the Clergy Reserves & the Ordnance Lands in Canada, to be followed probably by the Naval Reserves in Nova Scotia, & New Brunswick. But nevertheless the question comes at last [to] what is it best to do for the public interest? Whether to incur the obloquy of reserves, with the prospect of having to surrender them in after ages, or to run the chance of having now to buy our coal and Timber in the usual way of trade? This question is for the Admiralty to solve. I have only raised it in the interests of the public, & do not wish more attention bestowed on it than it is really worth. It seems to me, however, on the whole, that it might be well if we were to ask the Land Manuscript imageBoard for their opinion on the subject, and whether they see any objection, present, or future, to reserving on behalf of the Crown Lands where there are Coal and Timber; to be made applicable to Governmental purposes.
ABd 23/3/59
Sir E. Lytton
I think that Mr Blackwoods proposal for a report from the Land Bd is a very good one. The subject requires careful consideration.
C Mch 23
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Lytton to Douglas, No. 59, 30 April 1859, informing him of the Admiralty's request for reserves of coal and timber and forwarding a report from the Emigration Commissioners.
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Draft, Colonial Office to Emigration Commissioners, 7 April 1859, forwarding copy of the letter for observations.
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Draft, Elliot to Secretary to the Admiralty, 10 May 1859, forwarding copy of the report from Land and Emigration Commissioners.