No. 18
Downing Street
9 February 1859
I have received your despatch, No 44, of the 13th of October relative to the sale of Town lots at Victoria and Van Couver's Island and to the precautions requisite in order to prevent the appropriation of such lots by persons who have not the intention or the requisite means to make substantial improvements.
The explanation which you have afforded of past transactions on this subject is satisfactory. I see no reason to suppose that anything has yet taken place which is calculated to interfere with the prosperity or settlementManuscript image of Van Couver's Island.
You have, however, judged very rightly in believing it to be of paramount importance in a new Colony to guard against mere speculative purchases of land. So far as regard Town and Suburban Lots, one effectual security will be provided by only disposing of them, as is directed in another despatch from me by auction and at a substantial upset price.
The attempt to impose conditions of settlement on purchasers of land has failed in every Colony where it has been tried, both in Australia and in North America. The opportunities ofManuscript image evasion are too numerous to be counteracted, and the Government only finds itself engaged in a hopeless conflict with the entire body of occupants of land. But your own consideration of the subject has led you to think of one remedy which has been most efficient in those countries where it has been tried viz a tax upon lands. This tax you would apparently lay on unimproved lands only. This however, has been found open to the objections, first, that debates may arise as to the definition of unimproved land, and secondly, that a resident Legislature may possibly enforce the measure too stringently against absentees byManuscript image raising such a tax to an undue amount. Both objections are obviated by a general tax on all lands whatever, whether improved or not. It may be made so moderate as to be scarcely felt upon lands which are really occupied, whilst nevertheless it must fall very heavily on any extensive tracts held by speculators with no other motive than the hope of some future rise in the general value of land. The measure as I have thus described it, is one applicable to all lands whatever. In the case of town and Suburban allotments, a somewhat higher rate would be requisite inManuscript image order to get rid of mere speculative occupants, but then it may be supposed that in such situations higher rates would at all events be required and be appropriate, for the improvements of the town and neighbourhood. They would be under the management of local Municipalities when such should be created in the progress of time, and in the meanwhile they might be created, if it should be found expedient, under the authority of the Executive Government.
I have thrown out these general views, derived from the large experience which has been acquired in the course ofManuscript image the last 30 years in the formation of new Settlements, for your information, and in order that you may have an opportunity of using them as far as you may find them applicable to the wants of your Government; but I am wll aware how much must depend on the varying circumstances of different colonies, and it is not my wish in the remarks which I have made to dictate any precise measure or to fetter your discretion.
I have etc.
E.B. Lytton
People in this document

Douglas, James

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Places in this document

Vancouver Island