No. 5
Victoria, 3th March 1864
My Lord Duke,
I have the honor to forward herewith a Memorial addressed to Your Grace by the Legislative Assembly of Vancouver's Island, upon the defenceless state of the Colony in the event of hostilities with Foreign powers.
2. As I have alreadyaddressedManuscript image addressed Your Grace upon this subject, it is unnecessary that I should accompany the Memorial by further remark, than to recommend it to Your Grace's earnest consideration.
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke
Your Graces most obedient
and humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
You will see from the Minutes on 3100 that it was proposed in 1861-62 at the instance of the Foreign Office to send a Regiment from China—but that, with the consent of Lord Russell the matter was allowed to drop "for the present". The subject has not since been renewed. As to the defenceless state of the harbours of Victoria & Esquimalt to which the Assembly advert Sir James Douglas brought the exposed state of the two Colonies under the Notice of the S. of S. in 1861 (see Confidential Desp: 2297). The Despatch was referred to the W.O. but no further steps were taken.
VJ 30 April
Mr Fortescue
See Minute annexed.
TFE 10 May
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Mr Fortescue
This is an application from the Assembly of Vancouver Island for the erection of Military Works. Although there will probably be little doubt what the answer should be, the question involves all the most general considerations of colonial defence.
You are well aware how much attention has been given in the last few years to Colonial Military expenditure. First, there sat in 1860 a Government Committee composed of a permanent member of the Treasury, the War Department, and the Colonial Office. In 1861 the subject was reported on by a Committee of the House of Commons. In 1862 the Defence Committee attended by a Representative of the War Office and of this Office reviewed the whole subject of Colonial Fortifications. [Marginal note: Their report was made in Jany 1863, but has not been published.]
The conclusions, as might be expected on so wide and various a field, were not very precise, but their tendency was sufficiently plain. The small Committee of Government Officials, the subsequentCommitteeManuscript image Committee of the House of Commons and the Defence Committee all evidently agreed in thinking that too much in the way of military aid had been done for the Colonies previously, and that less ought to be done in future.
The two things to be considered in respect of defence are Troops and Works. No Troops have ever been sent to Vancouver. On the formation of British Columbia, Sir E. Lytton sent to it a Company of Royal Engineers, in order that they might answer the twofold object of making roads and doing other useful works, and at the same time filling the part of Troops. They never did act as Soldiers, and there is reason to believe that their work was very costly; and they have been recalled with the unanimous consent of all parties.
On the occurrence of the difficulty at San Juan, the required English detachment wasfurnishedManuscript image furnished by a party of 100 Royal Marines. When Lord Russell was told that these men had been detained so long that their relief was called for in the ordinary course of service, His Lordship at once said that as the War in China was over, a Regiment of the Line ought to be brought from thence to Vancouver. The Military Authorities did not actually resist but they strongly protested against sending a single Regiment so far from all support; and as the Army was kept longer than expected in China, the subject was tacitly allowed to drop.
I have recapitulated these facts, because on the subject's first coming before Mr Cardwell, he may wish to know it in all it's bearings. But the present application is limited to the object of getting one or more Forts or Batteries. The Commons' Committee, in Par. 18 of their Report, give a decided opinion against multiplying Fortifications. The Defence Committee made adistinctionManuscript image distinction between places in which Forts are wanted for some general object of National policy and those where they are wanted, if at all, for local defence. They confined their suggestions to Stations of the former kind; and only recommended the maintenance of works at Imperial cost in positions where they involve an Imperial interest.
The following are examples of such places:
Commanding positions on the Globe, such as Malta, Gibraltar, Bermuda and Halifax.
Places important to Maritime traffic and for Eastern Trade and Eastern Empire, such as the Cape, Mauritius and Hong Kong.
Points of Rendezvous for any National Force employed in time of war in the protection of large tracts of British dominions, such as Jamaica in the West Indies.
Do the twin Colonies of Vancouver Id and British Columbia come under any of these descriptons? It seems to me very doubtful.TheyManuscript image They may indeed give a great command over the North Pacific, but we have no English Trade and interests in that Ocean such as those of India, China and Australia. What we do in these two Colonies therefore must be, it may be argued, for their own sake and not for that of anything lying beyond them. If British Columbia turns out a grand gold producing Colony such as those in Australia, it ought to be able to pay for it's own Forts as they do, and so ought Vancouver as sharing it's prosperity. If British Columbia does not so turn out, it cannot yield so large a commerce as would give a reason for defending it with Imperial money for the sake of an Imperial interest.
On the other hand Vancouver seems to afford the best Harbor open to the British Navy on the Pacific shore of either North or South America; and it may possibly be worth while, on purely Naval grounds, to protect thatHarborManuscript image Harbor by Works on shore. But this would be a ground lying beyond our province.
If therefore I were desired to suggest a course, it would be as follows: I should forward a copy of this despatch to the Admiralty and to the War Office. I should say that Mr Cardwell does not find sufficient reason to recommend the construction of Fortifications at Vancouver Island on Colonial grounds or for mere purposes of local defence. But the further question whether some Fortifications at the two chief Harbors of Vancouver are required for the convenience and safety of Her Majesty's Navy, and are so desirable that they ought to be provided for on Army or Navy Estimates as general objects of national policy, is a matter of which the judgment belongs more immediately to the Secretary of State for War and the Lords Com[missione]rs of the Admiralty,andManuscript image and which therefore Mr Cardwell can only forward for their consideration.
TFE 10 May
Mr Cardwell
An application such as this must, I think, be judged upon its own merits, that is, by the character of the place & of the interests to be protected, rather than upon general principles. It is in its character of a Naval Station for the Pacific (taking the place of Valparaiso), a depôt of naval stores, a place for the repair of the Queen's ships, that Vancouver Id wd have a claim, if any, upon the Imp. Govt & Parlmt for the creation of works of defence. I think it highly probable that this claim will increase in force, and will have to be recognized. But it may be staved off for the present. Victoria is the commercial Harbour,Manuscript image and any works for its defense ought to be made & paid for by the Colony or Colonies concerned. Esquimalt is the Naval Harbour—and there, sooner or later, the Home Govt may be expected to assist. It may also be well to remember that the Governors lately sent out to V.Id & B. Columbia have been instructed to use their best endeavours to bring about a union of the two Colonies; because works of this kind, at what wd. then be the common Capital, wd. be far more easily paid for out of the common exchequer than from the scanty revenue of Vancouver. Upon the whole, I think it will be very proper to send this to the W.O. and Admiralty, with the observations proposed by Mr Elliot.
CF 11
EC 16
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Memorial to Newcastle from the members of the Legislative Assembly, no date, urging establishment of military works to protect the harbors of Victoria and Esquimalt, signed by J.S. Helmcken, Speaker.
Other documents included in the file
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Elliot to Under-Secretary of State for War and Secretary to the Admiralty, 23 May 1864, forwarding copies of the despatch and memorial for consideration.