Tennent to Fortescue (Parliamentary Under-Secretary)
Office of Committee of Privy Council for Trade
12 July 1859
I am directed by the Lords of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 28th June transmitting with reference to previous correspondence for their consideration a copy of a despatch from the Governor of Vancouvers Island reporting on a proposal to declare the Port of Victoria a free Port.
It appears from this despatch thatManuscript imagethat the Port of Victoria including Esquimault Harbour has been always maintained on the footing of a free Port, inasmuch as no duties on Imports or Exports have been levied; it is open to the trade of all Nations, and vessels are not subject to any charges except a small entrance and clearance fee, on their arrival and departure from Port.
It further appears that no duties on Imports have up to the present time been levied at any other Port of Vancouver's Island and that this system of free imports into the Colony is theManuscript imagethe result of a policy having for its object to encourage trade and render Victoria an entrepot for the North West Coast of America.
My Lords are desirous to express their concurrence in this policy—but they think at the same time that it is important with a view to the attainment of the object aimed at that the Governor of Vancouvers Island should be advised to issue a Proclamation declaring Victoria a free Port of Entry and clearance for Ships and Goods.
I am directed however to request that you will call the attention of the DukeManuscript imageDuke of Newcastle to the possibility that at some future time it may become either expedient or necessary to impose Customs Duties for the purpose of Revenue in the Colony of Vancouvers Island and therefore that in issuing such a proclamation, it should be done in such a manner as not by implication to preclude the adoption of such duties hereafter should they be deemed necessary.
If however this necessity should hereafter arise I am to state that it appears to My Lords that the important object of commanding a re-exportManuscript imagere-export trade to neighbouring places may be secured by the establishment of a well regulated bonding system.
With reference to the remarks of Governor Douglas upon the commercial dependence of the British Possessions on the North West Coast of America upon the Californian Ports, I am to observe that it is assumed that all the Goods imported into those possessions from such Ports, are burdened with Customs Duties charged on articles imported for consumption in California by the general Tariff of the United States.
This assumption implies that theManuscript imagethe bonding system does not exist in the Californian Ports a fact (if this be so) of which My Lords were not aware, but with regard to which they think it very desirable that enquiry should be made through the Foreign Office from the British Consuls at the Ports in question.
I have etc.
J. Emerson Tennent
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
The mode in which Victoria came to be a Free Port is explained in a Letter which, as we could find nothing on the subject in our correspondence, Mr Berens has been so good as to write to me. I annex it, having shewn it privately, at the Bd of Trade.
You will not fail to notice that whilst Victoria is a free port Manuscript imageand will thereby draw to itself in time considerable trade from the States, S. America, Australia, China, Japan & the Islands in the Archipelago, New Westminster—the Capital of B. Columbia—is not a Free Port. Victoria may therefore become an entrepôt for the main land, as Hong Kong is for our trade with China; Singapore for other places in the East; and St Thomas, for the Danes in the W. Indies, and may end by having a great trade. I scarcely suppose that except for its harbors, & Coal it will otherwise have materials of internal wealth. B. Columbia on the other hand will derive it's wealth from it's gold, its rich lands, it's forests of valuable timber, & resources hitherto undeveloped. At present a free port in B. Columbia is not demanded, &, as we want A Custom's revenue there, would not be convenient to establish. But, if the two Colonies should be separated, in practice, it may then be a question whether a free port on the main land may not be demanded. This, however, is a matter of remoter consideration & I presume that for the present Manuscript imageall that is required to be done is to send a copy of this Letter to the Governor of VanC. Isd & to write to the For: Office for the information as to bonding in the Californian ports.
ABd 13 July
Mr Fortescue
It was no doubt a very longheaded proceeding to make Victoria a free port, particularly for those servants of the HBC & others who invested in "town lots" there—the chief practical inconvenience now would seem to be, that it may interpose obstacles in the way of the union of the two colonies, which is for some reasons much to be desired. Proceed as suggested?
HM July 14
CF 15
N 17
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 24 July 1859, asking that inquiries be made to ascertain whether the bonding system exists in California.
H.H. Berens, Governor, Hudson's Bay Company, to Blackwood, 8 July 1859, explaining how Victoria came to be a free port. [Note: This letter was misfiled and appears in CO 305/13, p. 110].