Murdoch and Rogers to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
4 April 1860
We have to acknowledge your letter of 28th ultimo, enclosing a Despatch from the Governor of Vancouvers Island, in which he requests instructions for his guidance in respect to the disposal of the Revenue arising from the sale of Crown Lands.
We gather from the papers transmitted to us that up to the commencement of last year Governor Douglas was in the habit of drawingManuscript imagedrawing on the Hudsons Bay Co for such funds as were necessary to carry on the Government of Vancouvers Island, but that when a certain progress had been made towards the repurchase of that Island by the Crown the Company declined to make any further advances—that Governor Douglas having under these circumstances applied for instructions was informed that he must provide for the expenses of the Colony out of local resources—that the local resources at his command consist of the proceeds Manuscript imageof Land Sales spirit licenses and Fines and amounted in 1858 to £11,694.1.3, exceeding the expenditure by £3,211.15.6, but that the Revenue of 1859 was expected to be less productive than that of 1858, and would probably be insufficient, even with the balance in hand, to defray the expenditure. We further learn that an Act has lately been passed to increase the number of Members in the House of Assembly of Vancouvers Island from 7 to 13—and that Governor Douglas was about, in obedience to his instructions, to propose to the Legislature to impose taxes to defray Manuscript imagethe ordinary expenditure of the Colony. But anticipating that in reply to that proposition the Legislature will demand the control over & disposal of the Revenue arising from Sales of Land and other sources, he requests to be furnished with instructions for his guidance on that point.
The question thus raised being one of policy we should not venture under ordinary circumstances to offer any opinion upon it. But as we understand it to be the desire of the Duke of Newcastle Manuscript imagethat we should do so, we proceed to submit such observations as occur to us. We must premise, however, that our information as to what has occurred of late years in other Colonies on the same subject is very incomplete—and we cannot, therefore, illustrate our views regarding it by the experience acquired elsewhere.
It appears then from what has been stated that it would not be impossible, if it were desired, to defray the whole present expenditure of Vancouvers Island from existing Manuscript imagesources of Revenue, without having recourse to the Legislature, and consequently that it would be possible at present to resist any demand which the Legislature might make for a control over the Crown Revenue, without the risk of being exposed to financial embarrassment. This state of things can, however, only be temporary. It makes no allowance for the natural expansion of the Colony or for those public works and establishments which are indispensable to its progress. Unless the Colony is to be stunted in its Manuscript imagegrowth, and its natural resources to remain undeveloped the time must very shortly arrive at which the Revenues now at the disposal of the Crown will be insufficient for the public service.
Whenever that time comes it will be necessary to apply to the Local Legislature for additional Funds to supplement the Crown Revenues and the Legislature, as soon as it is called upon to provide any considerable balance of the public expenditure, will acquire in fact the power of controlling the whole. For although the most essential expenses of Manuscript imageGovernment may continue to be defrayed from the Crown Revenue, and be, therefore, nominally removed from the control of the Legislature, yet the Legislature by attaching conditions to the supplies which it is required to vote, or refusing them altogether, can practically coerce the Government in regard to the services defrayed from the Crown Revenues. It was, we believe, in this manner that the House of Assembly of Lower Canada, during the protracted contest with its Government on the question of supplies, gradually drove the Government from each Manuscript imagesuccessive position until the Colony was brought to a state of rebellion. In the other North American Colonies the Government warned by what had occurred in Lower Canada abstained, we believe, from entering on any contest in the matter, and in the Australian Colonies the control of the Crown Land Revenue was surrendered before the question had been raised. We are not aware what has occurred on the subject in other Colonies.
But if it is certain that the question will be raised, and if Manuscript imagethe issue admits, as we believe, of little doubt, the only remaining question is whether anything is to be gained by a temporary resistance to the demand of the Local Legislature. Upon this point it seems to us scarcely possible to entertain a hesitation. If the control over these Revenues is given up to the Legislature frankly and at once, there can be no doubt that the Legislature will in exchange grant such a Civil List as will place on a permanent footing those services which it is undesirable to submit Manuscript imageto an annual vote. If it is not given up a contest will be begun which must eventually result in the defeat of the Government and the triumph of the Legislature. But in that case the disposition to make liberal provision for the Government with which they have been in dispute will no longer be felt in the Legislature. Meanwhile the contest will have excited an irritation on both sides which will have extended to other questions and be felt long after the matter in dispute has been given up—and during its existence the Manuscript imagebest interests of the Colony will be overlooked in the heat of a party struggle. We cannot believe that any momentary convenience arising from the retention of the control over the Crown Revenues—if such exists—would be worth the inconvenience which would follow from such a contest.
Upon the whole we have no hesitation in stating our opinion that if the Legislature of Vancouvers Island is called on to vote supplies, and in reply demands a control over the revenues arising from Manuscript imageLand and other casual sources, it would be a wise policy to concede that demand, in return for such a Civil List as the circumstances of the Colony may render desirable.
It will of course be the duty of the Government in administering these Lands to take care that the control over the Revenue which is thus given to the Legislature of a small community is not made a pretext for enabling the members of that community to acquire an undue amount Manuscript imageof property in Land to the injury of future immigrants.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
See in addition to this report, Mr Merivale's minute on 2761.
With the exception of the Canadian instance the exchange of a Civil List for the Crown revenues has been accomplished easily and without disturbance in the B.N. American Colonies—favorable opportunities having been taken for effecting the arrangement. With these examples before us, and with a great future in prospect in VanCouver Island, as at least we may hope, my own opinion leads me strongly in favor of consenting to the application—whenever it shall be made—of the V.C. Island Manuscript imageLegislature for the control of the Crown revenues the Govt receiving in return an adequate and permanent sum for a Civil List.
ABd 10 Apl
There will probably be no difference of opinion that the Land revenue should be surrendered to the Legislature in case they offer for it a reasonable Civil List; but it would not be wise to announce too broadly beforehand that they are certainly to have the land revenue, as this might prejudice any negotiation with them on the terms of the Civil List.
I see another despatch from the Governor circulated to-day (No 4 of 25 Jany) that he intends to take an early opportunity of applying to the Legislature for a Civil List and coupling with it the question of the land revenue, and that he will report the result.
I think therefore that the present report & the despatch on which it is made (No 5 of 26 Jany) may be put by.
TFE 19 April
CF 21
Put by till further despatch arrives, but I have no doubt that the Land Revenue must be given up to the Legislature and that we must endeavour to secure such terms as those suggested by Mr M. in 2761.
N 22
[Sender not known.] to Merivale, Herman 4 April 1860, CO 305:15, no. 3485, 308. 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/V605LN05.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)