No. 16
28 March 1860
I have the honor of transmitting to Your Grace a Petition from the House of Assembly of Vancouver's Island to the Queen, praying that Her Majesty will be pleased to direct that the price of CrownManuscript imageCrown Lands in this Colony may be reduced, and that Four Shillings and two pence per Statute acre be the maximum price at which such lands shall be sold.
2. It does not appear necessary that I should enter into an examination of the merits of the several systems regulating the disposal of public land in Her Majesty's Colonial possessions, as the subject has been so fully examined, as hardly to admit of further useful investigation. I could therefore, with a limited knowledgeManuscript imageknowledge of the practical workings of those systems, scarcely hope to throw light upon so wide and admittedly difficult a subject.
3. I may nevertheless be pardoned for remarking that there are circumstances arising out of the contiguity of the United States Territories which forcibly suggest the necessity for legislation of a peculiarly liberal character in disposing of the public land of this Colony, with a view of rendering it attractive toManuscript imageto emigrants; and of counteracting the allurements held out by the Donation Act, and the General Pre-emption Law of the United States; the former securing to the actual settler in Oregon and Washington Territory, a free grant of public land, varying in Extent from 320 to 640 Acres; and the latter allowing to every American Citizen the privilege of occupying and preserving free of competition for a limited time, a section of public land, varying in extent from 160 acres for single, and 320 acres for married persons, with the right of purchase at theManuscript imagethe minimum Government price of one and a quarter dollars per acre.
4. The Donation Act being intended to encourage emigration in the early stages of those Territories, was to continue in force for a limited time, but the Pre-emption law is, I am informed, of perpetual application.
5. Neither the soil nor the climate of Vancouver's Island have any superiority over that of the United States Territory, and the contrast will, at least for the present, appear unfavourable, if the Comparison be Extended to theManuscript imagethe relative commercial advantages of the two countries.
6. In those respects, it must be admitted that Vancouvers Island has no advantage over the Territories of the United States; and thus I am led to Entertain a doubt whether any scheme of colonization can be successfully worked out here, unless the public land be greatly reduced in price, or in fact lowered to the same Standard as in Washington Territory.
7. It being evident that Population is the great want of this Colony—if it is believed the want can be supplied through theManuscript imagethe reduction proposed by the House of Assembly, I should strongly advocate the prayer of their petition; for in that case the loss of revenue necessarily caused by the depreciation in the price of land, would be repaid by the acquisiton of a population producing a permanent revenue for the Colony.
8. In carrying out the view of the House of Assembly with respect to the proposed reduction in the sale price of the Crown Lands, it is on the other hand to be feared unless conditions of settlement are imposed, that large tracts mayManuscript imagemay be purchased, not with a view of improving the land, but on speculation of profitable resale, when they have been rendered valuable by the labors of others in the same locality; and it is evident that if scope be allowed for such operations they will prove obstructive to settlement, and highly detrimental to the Colony.
9. Under the new plan of disposing of the Crown Lands in Canada, speculation is said to be unknown and impossible, though the maximum price fixed by law is only 75 cents in Cash, or $1 dollar per acre on credit, payableManuscript imagepayable, one fifth at the time of purchase, and the remaining four-fifths in four equal annual instalments; in either case, the land being also subject to settlement duties.
10. Public feeling in this Colony is strongly in favor of the prayer contained in the Assembly's Petition, to which, provided the House of Assembly supply from other sources a revenue for defraying the regular expenses of Government, I see no other serious objection than the one I have here stated, and that may be obviated withoutManuscript imagewithout impeding the useful and legitimate operations of Capital.
11. I would therefore Earnestly recommend the petition to Your Grace's favourable Consideration.
I have etc.
[P.S.] I have also the honour of submitting, with this Despatch, for your Grace's information, a Minute giving the opinion of the Legislative Council, on the expediency of reducing the price of the Crown lands in this Colony. James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
Refer to the Land Board.
I would wish to observe, although perhaps I expose myself to the charge of too frequently making the same remark, that this office must take care that British Columbia enjoys an equal measure of liberality, in respect to affording facilities in the acquisition of Land, & in all other ways As Van Couver Isld. The governing classes in V.C.I. have strong motives for promoting the interests of that Colony over B. Columbia—which, from its state of infancy, requires more specially the fostering hand of the Government. Any Measures, therefore, which encourage settlement in V.C.I., unless B. Columbia shares in the same, have a corresponding effect in depressing B. Columbia. But it is to be hoped that the result of the correspondence, with Govr Douglas, respecting the disposal of the public lands in this latter Colony—which correspondence is not concluded—will be to give B. Columbia whatever encouragement she is really entitled to.
ABd 17/5
So far as regards Vancouvers Island, any positive instructions are suspended until the Hudsons Bay Company shall have received it'sManuscript imageit's money, and have given the requisite authority to the Government to sell.
With respect to Mr Blackwoods recommendation of equal treatment of the two Colonies, I had an impression that this was adverted to in some recent instruction, but the point can be looked to when the Comrs report. Refer to Land Board?
(N.B. I may take this opportunity of mentioning that I have requested Mr Jadis to ascertain how Governor Douglas can most readily be supplied with stationery of the usual size. I find that Mr Blackwood has already written him a private note on the matter. These colossal despatches are very inconvenient to handle.)
TFE 17 May
CF 17
Whatever price is fixed for land in V.C. Island must equally prevail in B. Columbia. No difference should be allowed to the prejudice of the latter.
N 18
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
Petition from the House of Assembly to the Queen, asking that the price of crown land in the colony be reduced, no date, signed by John S. Helmcken, Speaker.
Manuscript image
Minutes of Council, 26 March 1860, giving unanimous approval to the reduced price for land, providing provision be made to hinder land speculators, and promoting enactment of a pre-emption law.
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Lewis to Douglas, No. 27, 16 July 1860.
Minutes by CO staff
The recent transfer of the Hudson Bay Co's rights to the Government, together with the promise of instructions contained in No 26 of the 28 ulto has rendered it necessary to propose the present despatch.
Other documents included in the file
*
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Lewis to Douglas, No. 41 (British Columbia), 16 July 1860.
Minutes by CO staff
As it has become necessary to settle the price of land in Vancouver's Id, the object of the present draft is to authorize the Governor to adopt the same price in British Columbia.
The subject of rights of preemption is in some confusion. I have dealt with it as best I could under the minutes. My own opinion on the question was submitted in an elaborate minute several months ago, but was overruled.
TFE 12/7
Vide 26/5164/61 B. Columbia.
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 28 March 1860, CO 305:14, no. 4819, 130. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/V60016.html.

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