McClure to Newcastle
Market Square
February 11, 1863
My Lord Duke,
I have the honour of forwarding for your perusal, according to request, the following statistics in connection with the political condition of Vancouver Island:

Name of Area No. No.
Electoral Locality in sq. miles of Voters of Members

Victoria Town 3 32 2
" District 12 97 3
Esquimalt Town 1 65 1
" District 21 61 2
Nanaimo 80 32 1
Lake District 25 57 1
Saanich 37 29 1
Sooke 25 15 1
Salt Spring 95 45 1
___ __
833 13

It will thus be seen that Victoria has a larger number of voters than all the other districts combined, yet it has not even the maximum of the district representation.
As a means of placing the representation on a more correct basis, I think population should be taken as the foundation, making of course an allowance for the several interests. In Vancouver Island these latter may be divided into four classes: The Commercial and Manufacturing in Victoria Town, represented by a population of 5000 and in Esquimalt by 500 persons; the Agricultural interest, comprising all other localities but Nanaimo, and represented by, about 500 of a population; andManuscript image the Coal mining interest at Nanaimo absorbing a population of about 300.
At the present time, with proper facilities given the inhabitants for registering their names on the electoral roll, it would be found that there are fully 1050 persons qualified to become voters. By an increase of eight members to the number of representatives in the Legislative Assembly, we would then have as a basis one representative to every fifty voters—or, on an average, a member to every 300 of the population. As the voters in the agricultural districts are much more numerous in proportion to the population than those in the towns this change would leave them no cause for complaint. Victoria, accordingly, would be entitled to about nine members, giving three to each of the Municipal Wards. Combined with Esquimalt town, which from its growing importance might with reason claim two representatives, it would be seen that this arrangement would give exactly eleven members to the commercial and manufacturing portion of the community, nine to the agricultural, and one to the coal mining—as evenly balanced a representation as, I think, could, under the circumstances, be adopted.
The next subject is that of the Legislative Council, which I think should be increased from five to nine members—one third being nominated by the Governor, and the other two thirds (or six) representing the various interests of the Island without regard to population; for instance—two representing commerce and manufacture; two, agriculture; and two mining, lumbering, or other interest connected with this description of Industry.
Manuscript image
The question with regard to qualification for members of Legislature is one which, I think, should not be allowed to rest in the present unsatisfactory state. The small population of the Island necessarily makes our choice of representatives exceedingly limited, without having its dimensions still further and unjustly circumscribed to those only who are in possession of landed property to the amount of £300.
[illegible] I think.
It unfortunately happens that the majority of this class on Vancouver Island are men whose life-long experience has been principally confined to trading with the native tribes, and who are, of course, in a great measure, unacquainted with the political economy of a more progressive description of civilization. In the first place, therefore, I think the qualification too high and too restrictive, and consequently injurious in its general effect; because it is rather a premium on indolence than on industry; since the man who spends his capital solely in house property, in manufactures, or even in merchandise adds to the general wealth and industry of the place, he whose money is invested in land, unless he be a bona fide agriculturalist (which is not often the case in a new country) actually occupies a position—that of speculator—highly inimical to the general welfare. Yet it is to this class principally the inhabitants of Vancouver Island are at present compelled to look for representatives. Without a more liberal qualification it would be almost impossible to obtain any beneficial change in the composition of our Assembly, and of course that change is not to be expected from the colonial Government. I therefore take the liberty of putting this fact before your Grace in the hope that it may merit your earnest attention.
Manuscript image
There is but one other subject with which I have to trouble your Grace—a subject which I approach with both respect and anxiety. I mean the composition of the Executive and Administrative Departments of the Government of Vancouver Island. I cannot get over the fact, and I hope I may be pardoned for making the perhaps bold assertion, that any reformation in the political condition of Vancouver will be very incomplete indeed that does not include a thorough change in the official departments of the country—from the highest to the lowest; or at least that does not confer some such power upon the colonists. So bold have the men occupying these important positions become, from uninterrupted success in ignoring constitutional usage and public sentiment, that I confess to the fear that however liberal the changes which your Grace might make in the machinery of the Government, much of their beneficial character would be destroyed or counteracted by the administration of those at present filling the most important yet most irresp[onsible?] offices in the Government of Vancouver Island.
I hope that, in presenting your Grace with the foregoing details and remarks, I have not exceeded my position, or trespassed too heavily on your time and patience. The importance of the subject must be my only excuse. For certain am I that it only requires the establishment of a liberal and enlightened system of government on Vancouver Island to make that colony a magnet for the attraction of all those numerous British elements which now be scattered along the American portion of the Pacific coast, and for drawing from all parts of the world, in a very few years a population more commensurate with the greatness of its natural resources and the unequalled nature of its geographical position.
I have the honor to be, My Lord Duke
Your very humble and obt servant
Leonard McClure
His Grace
The Duke of Newcastle
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
I presume that Mr McLure [McClure] has supplied the information contained in this Letter in pursuance of a request of the Duke of Newcastle.
If the Assembly of Van Couver's Island is imperfectly based the necessary reform of that House is in the hands of the local Parliament. That Body has once already added to the number of the Representatives. When first established the House of Assembly consisted of seven persons. In 1859 the number was augmented to 13. The Legislature can equally amend the system of registration. As I conceive, it is not in the power of theManuscript image Crown now to interfere with rights delegated to the local Parlt.
It is another thing with respect to the Legislative Council. The Crown can deal with this Body as it thinks right and proper.
So also with an Executive Council; the establishment of which body the Duke of Newcastle some time ago decided upon—though it was deemed prudent to defer action in consequence of the impending revision of the B. Columbia Constitution.
I annex a Parly Paper 229.Sep.2/1857 on the subject of the grant of Representative Institutions to Vanc. Isld., in case His GraceManuscript image should not have a copy before him. It will be useful in the consideration of Mr McLure's Letter.
Mr McClure seeks for an alteration in the composition of the Administrative Depts which, he represents as "bold" & "ignorant of constitutional usage & sentiment". These are not very tangible offences. And surely if the official class has so conducted itself that no person can be found on the spot to bring more definite charges against it than the above it is very unlikely that the Secretary of State will think it his duty to reform Depts against whom there is nothing more positive to allege than what Mr McLure can say. I do not forget the charges preferred by Mr Langford against theManuscript image Legal Functionaries. I will only say that they have still to be proved. So far as my knowledge goes of the conduct of the officials of V.C. Isld I should say that, considering the difficulty of finding really good men in young colonies, and considering also how very inadequately the officials are remunerated in a place where every necessary of life is dear, the officials, as a whole, are by no means, open to the imputations of Mr McLure.
ABd 13 Feby/63
Mr Fortescue
As I believe that the Duke of Newcastle has already given much attention to this subject, I abstain from adding any remarks.
TFE 14 Feby
Complaints have reached us from several quarters of the mode in wh. the Govr is paid to "manage" the Assembly, and the want of independence in that body.
CF 18
McClure Leonard to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 11 February 1863, CO 305:21, no. 1490, 336. 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.

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