No. 47
14 July 1861
With reference to former Correspondence upon the subject of postal communication with Vancouver Island and British Columbia, I have the honor to acquaint your Grace that the Steam Ship "Pacific" arrived this morning from San Francisco, and that by her we received theEnglishManuscript image English Mails of the first half of the Month of May, the same having been sent on by Her Majesty's Consul at San Francisco packed in a Box as Freight. Mr Booker writes however that this arrangement cannot be continued, that he is averse to being a party to it knowing that the Owners, if aware of it, would refuse to carry Mail matter in this manner. I concur with Mr Booker in these views, and to prevent our being entirely cut off from communication with the Mother Country, I have no option but to accede to the demand made by the Owners oftheManuscript image the Pacific, mentioned in my Despatch of the 25th Ultimo marked "Separate", viz to pay the sum of Two Hundred and Fifty Dollars ($250) for each trip, as compensation for the service of carrying our Mail Bags between San Francisco and Victoria.
2. This outlay, however, in no way either lessens or removes the disastrous results to these Colonies, from the absence of direct steam communications from the Mother Country, which are so forcibly depicted in the Memorial which accompanied my before mentioned Despatch. It merely provides thatwhenManuscript image when the Owners of the Pacific think fit to send her to Victoria she shall convey the letters which have accumulated at San Francisco for Vancouver's Island and British Columbia: and we cannot expect more, for the sum is too small to be viewed in the light of a subsidy under which conditions would be imposed. The Pacific will in all probability continue to visit us at intervals of about 3 weeks, but she will call at all the intermediate ports, and her passengers will be enticed away, and her freight incur quadrupled risks as heretofore.
3. I need not point out toYourManuscript image Your Grace that if the progress and settlement of these Colonies is most seriously checked and retarded by the want of direct Steam communication from Great Britain so also do British interests most materially suffer through the limited consumption of a class of goods for which an excellent market exists, but which in these days no Shipper will expose to the risks of the long voyage around Cape Horn, and which are consequently very sparingly drawn from the San Francisco Market (scarcelyManuscript image perhaps affecting the consumption in that market) at prices greatly enhanced by foreign duties and foreign transport charges.
4. Notwithstanding the comparative smallness of these Colonies, yet from the high cost of the actual necessaries of life, and other circumstances, the annual gross expenditure must be upwards of three quarters of a million pounds Sterling, or in other words that even in the present state of these Colonies that amount of money goes from them every year. Of this sumIManuscript image I can only find that about £70,000 is for British goods imported direct from the Mother Country. It consequently follows that these Colonies contribute annually, and with the least amount of advantage in return, a sum of not less than nearly £700,000 to the benefit of the commerce of the United States generally, and to the material prosperity of the State of California and City of San Francisco particularly.
5. The establishment of a direct route from the Mother Country would sensibly affect thisstateManuscript image state of things. It would encourage emigration from Great Britain, it would create a large demand for English goods, and the Shipper would have confidence in endeavouring to supply that demand, it would admit of the direct importation of every description of light and Costly goods which from Victoria being a Free Port could be supplied to the Countries on this Coast at such rates as have heretofore been unknown, and as would incite an ever increasing demand. It would carry our gold and bullion direct to England and prevent themswellingManuscript image swelling the Exports of a foreign gold producing Country, and lastly a direct Steam communication is the only means by which these Colonies can acquire any stable foundation or fixed population: the close contiguity of the United States Territory with its greater advantages and inducements being too much otherwise for these Colonies successfully to compete.
If so then [I] see no use trying [to] bolster them up.
6. As another reason in favour of direct communicationIManuscript image I would mention that I am informed more than one half of our postal matter never passes through the United States Post office at all. The letters subject to the latter arrangement prepay a postage of 1s/2d/2, and are sent viâ Liverpool and New York, and by the Overland Route across the Rocky Mountains to San Francisco, and can be carried for the same postage to any Post office in American Territory nearest to Vancouver Island; but letters notsoManuscript image so subject are forwarded by the West India Packets to Colon or Aspinwall; and thence to the Consul at Panama. The Postage charged is 2s/4d, while the postage on a letter to Panama carried Exactly the same distance by subsidized lines is only 1s/-; consequently it may be inferred that the additional 1s/4d is for the purpose of providing for its transit to Vancouver Island. But it is not so. The Mail Service ceases at Panama, and the ConsulasManuscript image as a matter of private favour obtains the conveyance of the Mail Bags to San Francisco by the United States Steam Vessels. Your Grace's Despatches invariably come to me by this means.
7. I trust that the considerations now advanced together with those previously submitted, may induce Your Grace to encourage and obtain the establishment of a direct Mail route from Panama to these Colonies. I am inclined tobelieveManuscript image believe that the subsidy required would not be Extravagant, and would in reality not exceed the actual value of the Service to the Mother Country. I do not think that large or costly vessels would be needed; an average speed of nine knots would I have no doubt be sufficient; and if the Vessels touch at San Francisco, as I presume they must call at some intermediate port for coal, I do not doubt they would have a largeShareManuscript image Share of the passenger traffic on the Coast; for it is proverbial that the American Steamers are, as a rule, overcrowded and uncomfortable, and the British Vessels would only be permitted by law to carry a limited number of passengers according to their tonnage.
8. I beg Your Grace to pardon my trespassing thus long upon your attention; and I trust you will permit the subject, as being one ofvitalManuscript image vital importance to these Colonies, to be my apology.
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke,
Your Grace's most obedient
and humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Sir F. Rogers
A despatch was received from the Govr on Friday last on this subject, which it was proposed to send to the Treasury. This despatch should be included in the reference.
EB Pennell 2-9/61
Mr Fortescue
To Treasy (without comment?). I confess I see no reason for pressing a subsidy. If Vancouvers Island cannot force its own way [to] prosperity & pay for the conveniences which it requires, it is the last Colony wh can urge claim [to] Imperial assistance. And the Empire does assist V.C.I. by sending the letters as far as Chagres.
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 14 July 1861, CO 305:17, no. 7946, 286. 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/V61047.html.

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