Murdoch and Rogers to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
6 January 1860
We have to acknowledge your letter of 29th ultimo enclosing one from the Foreign Office, in which it is suggested that Emigration to Vancouver Island might be successfully promoted by making free grants to British subjects of 25 Acres each.
2. A free grant to such an extent could of course offer no temptation to any person above the rank of a Laborer. It amounts to the gift of that whichManuscript imagewhich, at the present moment, might be purchased from the Hudsons Bay Company for £25 and from individuals probably for less, and which will be purchaseable from the Crown for £12.10 when hereafter the price in Vancouvers Island is assimilated (as it must be) to that in British Columbia. But to obtain this grant a Laboring man with a family proceeding from this Country would, as we pointed out in our report of 24th November last, have to undertake a voyage of 4 or 5 months duration at an expense of about £75. It is superfluous to observe that none of the laboring population of this Country are in a position to Manuscript imageincur such an expense out of their own means. And even if persons of a somewhat superior class such as Artizans and skilled Laborers could be tempted to Emigrate by the prospect of obtaining Land on easy terms we apprehend that the expense of the voyage to Vancouvers Island would be conclusive against their proceeding thither, since for a fourth of that sum they could pay the expense of their passages to and purchase an equal quantity of Crown Land free of all conditions in Canada, New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. In Canada moreover they might Manuscript imageobtain free grants of 100 acres each on certain lines of road opened up by the Provincial Government, on conditions of Settlement of no very onerous nature. For a statement of those conditions we would refer to page 43 of the enclosed Colonization Circular,
Not enclosed.
and we may add, as bearing on this subject, that we have reason to believe that even these Grants, advantageous as are their terms and situation, have not been extensively taken up.
3. But if the Laboring Class and Artizans are not to be temptedManuscript imagetempted to Vancouvers Island by small free grants still less likely is it that any effect would be produced on persons of larger Capital. In every system of free grants for the promotion of Settlement some restrictions must be imposed to prevent the immediate alienation of the land, otherwise it will fall into the hands of Land jobbers. But Capitalists will not submit to such restrictions except in return for some more considerable and obvious advantages than could be Manuscript imageexpected from small free grants. If, therefore, Capitalists will not spontaneously proceed to Vancouvers Island we do not think that the proposed Free Grants will attract them.
4. Nor do we think that an increase in the size of the grants would have any effect. The obstacles as regards the laboring population would remain the same. The drawback to the investment of Capital in the Island is the want of Labor, and that drawback would be increased instead of diminished by a scheme which would convert any Laborers who might reach the Island into Landowners. Except indeed under the peculiar conditions Manuscript imageof the Canadian grants all Colonial experience is against such a system. The effect of it is to produce a dispersion of the population, to discourage cooperative labor, and to preclude the social and moral advancement of the settlers.
5. Nor are these the only objections which occur to us. Although we are satisfied that such grants would not induce either capitalists or Laborers to proceed from this Country to Vancouvers Island, they might, if they had any effect at all, attract settlers from the neighbouring States of the Union. In that case it would be difficult to distinguish between the loyal subject of the Manuscript imageBritish Crown and the Native or naturalized Citizen of the United States. It is perhaps beyond our Province to suggest the question whether if Americans cannot be excluded from Vancouvers Island it is desirable to place them under any disabilities as compared with British subjects. But we may observe that the recent legislation of Canada, which has the best means of forming a judgment on the point, has proceeded apparently on the principle of leaving no ground for regret or discontent in any Foreigner who may settle within that Province.
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6. Upon the whole we feel bound to state that in our opinion the proposed Free Grants of 25 Acres each would have no effect in inducing Settlers from this Country to proceed to Vancouvers Island, and that they would not promote the object which the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs has in view.
Minutes by CO staff
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VJ 7 Jan
This is a report on the singular letter from the Foreign Office dated the 30th Decr. I think we ought hardly to leave on the Comrs the onus of meeting the successive essays of the Foreign Office to deal with Colonial affairs, and I therefore submit a draft in which the answer is given in the name of this Dt merely referring to the Comrs report for particulars.
TFE 13 Jany
N 14
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to Lord Wodehouse, Foreign Office, 19 January 1860, stating Newcastle's conviction that British emigration would not be successfully promoted by the scheme in question, and forwarding copy of the Land Board report.
[Sender not known.] to Merivale, Herman 6 January 1860, CO 305:15, no. 205, 277. 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/V605LN01.html.

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