Murdoch and Rogers to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
24 November 1859
We have to acknowledge your letter of the 11th inst, accompanied by one from the Foreign Office, desiring us to report our opinion whether any and what measures could be adopted for promoting British Emigration to Vancouvers Island. We presume that the object in view is the introduction into Vancouvers Island and the neighbouring Island of a population firmly attached to the BritishManuscript imageBritish Crown, who might serve as a counterpoise to the influx of American Citizens into that part of the British Territory.
2. In considering this question the most obvious difficulty is, in the case of the laboring population, the length of the passage round Cape Horn, and the expense of that across the Isthmus of Panama. The latter difficulty could of course be overcome by a grant of assistance from public funds, if political objects rendered such a course expedient. The expense of a passage round Manuscript imageCape Horn would probably be about £25 per Statute Adult, and across the Isthmus of Panama about £45. These prices might be somewhat reduced if a considerable body of persons were sent together.
3. As there are no Colonial Funds applicable to such a service they could be provided only by a Parliamentary grant or by a Commercial Company. In the latter case privileges in the acquisition of Land must, we presume, be conceded as the price of the advance. But unless such privileges are very Manuscript imagestrictly limited and full provision is made for their forfeiture in case of failures, they are apt to become an obstacle, instead of an assistance, to settlement, and give rise to complaint and discontent among the Settlers. On the other hand if the conditions are made stringent, and it is felt that the Government will construe them strictly, it becomes difficult to induce Capitalists to undertake an enterprize which must necessarily be of a hazardous and speculative nature.
ForManuscript image4. For keeping in view the object to be attained it must be the condition of any scheme whether undertaken by the Government or by a Company that within a certain time a certain number of well affected and respectable Settlers should be located in the Island. But looking to the decrease of the General Emigration from the United Kingdom during the last few years, and to the superior attractions offered by other British Colonies and by the United States, it may be doubted whether the theManuscript imageonly class who would be really useful as Settlers would be disposed to Emigrate to Vancouvers Island under an obligation to remain there. It is clear that the Settlers to be sent ought to be married men of steady habits but to such men the present aspect of affairs at San Juan and the possibility of a collision with the Americans would be a great discouragement.
5. Assuming, however, that eligible Settlers could be found the next question is whether the object to be attained would be worth the expense. We take it Manuscript imagefor granted that it would not be attempted to send men of the laboring class across the Isthmus of Panama. But the cost of a passage round Cape Horn, which would occupy between 4 & 5 months, we have stated at £25 per Statute Adult and it may be reckoned that each adult man would on an average be accompanied by women and Children to the extent of 2 adults more. In other words each adult man would cost £75 before he arrived in the Colony. To place, therefore, 1000 Adult men, equal to a population of (say) 4000 Souls, in Vancouvers Island Manuscript imagewould cost £75,000. Means must also be found for employing them when there until they could raise food for themselves. We do not presume to say whether Parliament would grant such amounts for such a service—but we do not see how any Commercial Company could by [any] possibility recover such advances through any privileges in the disposal of Land which the Crown would be justified in conferring upon them.
6. Moreover considerable as the expense would be the number of Settlers thus procured would be altogetherManuscript imagealtogether insignificant in comparison with the numbers which might be poured in from California and the adjoining American Territory. And it seems to us hopeless to expect that any efforts which this Country can make at the distance of more than half the globe to fill up the Territory with British born subjects could counter balance the advantages which Americans possess from their immediate vicinity to it. If the Country holds out good prospects to Settlers Americans will flow in in numbers which it is vain to hope to equal. If it does not Manuscript imageBritish subjects will not stay, even if the British Government felt justified in sending them there.
7. Another difficulty to which we have not referred, but which will materially influence the result, is the attraction of the Gold Fields of British Columbia. Up to the present time the production of Gold in British Columbia appears to be more than sufficient to provide an ample remuneration for all employed in gold seeking, irrespective of the great prizes which from time to time are found. Manuscript imageSo long as that is the case there will be a natural gravitation of the Laboring population to the Gold Fields which it would be extremely difficult to counteract by conditions of Settlement. Indeed experience in Australia has shown that such conditions cannot be practically enforced there, and if they could be enforced in Vancouvers Island the only result would be to make the Settlers discontented and resentful, & so to defeat the object with which they were sent out. A large allowance must, therefore, be madeManuscript imagemade in calculating the expense of promoting the Settlement of Vancouvers Island for the desertion of a portion of the Settlers to British Columbia.
8. Upon the whole we regret to be obliged to state that we can suggest no scheme for promoting settlement in Vancouvers Island which appears to us feasible. We cannot see how such a scheme could be carried out without a large expenditure which could be drawn only from the public funds, and even after such an expenditure we see so many causes of failure that we cannotManuscript imagecannot think the experiment would be worth the cost.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
Send a copy of this Report to the Foreign Office in answer to their letter? Expressing the Duke of Newcastle's acquiescence in the conclusions of the Commrs?
HT Irving 25 Novr
This Report will serve to remind the Foreign office of the real difficulties of the case. I confess that I know of no answer to them; and Wishing will not alter Facts.
TFE 25 Novr
CF 26
I fear this is all too true—but I shall still keep my ears open to suggestions from any quarter for promoting this most desirable object.
To F.O. in reply to their letter.
N 27
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to Lord Wodehouse, Foreign Office, 4 December 1859, forwarding copy of the letter.