Murdoch to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
6 October 1859
I have to acknowledge your letter of the 16th ultimo enclosing a Despatch from the Governor of VanCouvers Island (20th July 1859—No 27) on the subject of the sale of Crown Land in that Colony.
2. Governor Douglas reports that the terms on which Crown Lands are sold in VanCouvers Island (£1 an acre payable in 4 equal instalments spreadManuscript imagespread over 4 years) has latterly been a subject of much complaint as retarding the settlement of the Colony—that public meetings had been held and petitions presented to him on the subject—that one of these petitions came from a body of immigrants who had arrived, principally, from Upper Canada, and whose funds, by reason of detentions on the road and delays since their arrival, had been nearly exhausted, and themselves rendered incapable of paying for Land—thatManuscript imagethat not considering himself authorized to make a sweeping change in the Land regulations without previous sanction, he had not felt at liberty to do more in this case than postpone the payment of the first instalment, requiring at the time of purchase a payment of only 1s/- an Acre with a like sum at the end of two months—and that this arrangement had proved satisfactory to the petitioners. He expresses a hope that as an exceptional arrangement it may, under the peculiar circumstancesManuscript imagecircumstances, meet with approval.
3. The obvious objection to the arrangement is that the circumstances were so little exceptional that they will be certain to be appealed to as a precedent in future similar cases. When it is known that Settlers who have exhausted their funds in reaching Van Couvers Island obtain a relaxation of the Land regulations in their favor, it may be safely predicted that large numbers of those who arrive will describeManuscript imagedescribe themselves as in that situation. If their description is true, the effect will be to hand over considerable quantities of Land to persons who have no capital to cultivate it with and to create a class of pauper debtors to the Crown. If false a fraud will be committed on the Land Revenue, even if all the instalments be eventually paid.
4. In Sir E. Bulwer Lytton's Despatches of 7th February & 7th May last the objections to the system of payment by instalments inManuscript imagein the case of British Columbia were pointed out, and Governor Douglas was authorized rather to reduce the upset price of Land than to accept payment in that way. The principles on which Sir E. Bulwer Lytton proceeded were of general application and it is, I think, to be regretted that Governor Douglas did not refer to them in dealing with this case, rather than adopt the opposite policy. Of course as far as the present case is concerned what has been done is Manuscript imageirrevocable, but as regards the future it would, I think, be desirable strongly to discourage any similar arrangements.
5. As the price of Land in the adjoining United States Territory is generally not more than 1 1/2 dollars an acre, and in British Columbia only 10s/- it may be assumed that a price of 20s/- in Van Couvers Island would place that Colony at an unfair disadvantage in the eyes of Settlers. I am not aware of any necessity for maintaining a price of 20s/- Manuscript imagein Van Couvers Island, and it appears to me that it would be better to assimilate the price in that Colony and in British Columbia. But in so doing the regulations for prompt payment of the purchase money which Governor Douglas has been instructed to introduce in British Columbia should be enforced in VanCouvers Island also—and the general system of the two Colonies should be carried out as nearly as possible in the same manner. TheManuscript imageThe judgment of Settlers would then be left unbiassed to select the situation most suitable for their settlement.
I have etc.
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
The instalment system is objectionable every where in the acquisition of Land, and as the Governor has been so told in regard to land sales in B. Columbia I should say that he ought to be desired to adopt an uniform plea in V. Couver Island. In my opinion the price of even 10s/ an acre instead of 20s/ is too high in both Colonies.
I conclude that there is nothing to be done except to submit to the arrangement reported by the Govr in the case of these Canadian Immigrants pointing out to him the objectionable nature of it.
ABd 8 Octr
I think that we might acknowledge the Despatch, acquaint the Governor that it is not difficult to understand the embarrassment which he felt in dealing with the body which he describes of Immigrants from Upper Canada, and that it was natural that he should try the remedies to which he had recourse. But point out at the same time the objections to them as they are stated by Mr Murdoch.
I think that there can be no objection to giving him discretionary power to reduce the price of Land in VanCouvers Island from £1 to 10s/ per acre so as to place it on an equality with the price of Land in British Columbia, taking notice of the topics mentioned in Mr Murdochs concluding pages.
TFE 4 Novr
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The arrangement reported in No 8944 must of course be confirmed in the particular case.
As regards the general question however I am not prepared to give the Govr definitive instructions. There are two questions on this subject put by me in former Minutes (one to be submitted to Captn Clarke) which have not yet been answered. I think not only £1 but 10/ too high a price for land either in V. Island or Columbia but both as to the price to be fixed and as to allowing Manuscript imagesettlement without survey I must reserve my decision until I receive the information I have asked for.
N 7