24th January 1866
I think it necessary to accompany my Despatch No 4 of yesterday's date by some observations and explanations which I could not offer so freely in a formal Despatch and which may enable you to form a more correct judgment on theproceedingsManuscript image proceedings of the Legislative Assembly of this Colony.
A perusal of the printed proceedings of that Body which accompany my Despatch above adverted to will enable you to form a more accurate conception of the spirit and prudence with which the annual Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure have been discussed and decided upon, than any description I could offer.
Entertaining as I do the strongest sympathy for liberal and constitutional government and a desiretoManuscript image to see the people of this Colony manage their own affairs with the least possible interference of the Imperial Authorities, I think the time has arrived when the existing form of Government should be reconsidered and amended if Vancouver Island is to be permanently retained as a British Colony.
Two years experience has convinced me that the House of Assembly as at present constituted is not capable of using constitutionalpowerManuscript image power in a respectable manner.
There is no officer of the Government or other sufficiently informed person or Member of the Assembly to initiate Measures or afford explanations and hence misstatements both intentional and unintentional are constantly put forward and pass uncontradicted and uncorrected, to the great detriment of the public interests.
The majority in the present Assembly is mainly composedofManuscript image of reckless adventurers with small stake in the Colony and in too many instances wanting in personal respectability—some notoriously insolvent.
Their avowed object is to drive matters to extremity—to abolish property qualification in Members—to extend and lower the franchise, and thus obtain responsible or party Government with paid Representatives. Some go so far as to advocate Members and voters sitting and voting without having taken the oath of allegiance.
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If these Measures were carried the large American element and influence here would render Government on constitutional or British principles no longer possible. Characterless adventurers would be encouraged to the total exclusion of the few respectable persons who now offer themselves as Representatives.
It must be borne in mind that this Colony started with Representative Institutions without any of that experience or solid foundation usually laid in a Crown Colony—without the controlofManuscript image of its Crown Lands, and without a Civil List. Hence the continual wrangling over the public establishments which are provided for by annual vote when the salaries of public officers are discussed rather with reference to the interests of individuals than those of the public.
In the proceedings of the Assembly now under consideration it will be observed that the three principal officers whose salaries are struck out are the late Acting ColonialSecretaryManuscript image Secretary (Mr Wakeford), the Treasurer (Mr Watson), and the Registrar General (Mr Alston) who ably conducted a painful inquiry into the frauds of the Probate Court and conduct of the late Chief Justice and made an honest and conscientious Report thereon (Vide Despatch No 38 dated 15th June 1865). Under the existing system no public officer has any reasonable assurance of the permanence of his office. A majority of one in the Assembly may at any time deprive himofManuscript image of his means of subsistence and thus corrupt and destroy all independence in those who remain.
While meritorious public officers appointed by the Queen have been thus summarily dismissed without compensation it will be observed that some Members discussed and fixed (as far as their power extends) their own emoluments.
You will observe that the Assembly propose to leave the Indian population to "execute their own laws," that is to murder each otherwithoutManuscript image without let or hindrance when inflamed by drink, the sale of which to Indians they propose to legalize.
They propose to abolish offices whose occupants the Queen has nominated Members (ex officio) of the Legislative Council—to create new offices—and vote money to pay them without reference to the Executive.
They have reduced the vote for Police to such an extent as virtually to abolish that force which the Colony stands somuchManuscript image much in need of and where there is no organized force of any kind beyond a few Volunteers, not yet placed on a legal or effective footing.
I regard this as a most hazardous experiment. The working classes here are attracted from distant places—strangers are continually pouring in—moral and social restraints are few and feeble, and the temptations held out by 85 licensed public houses in Victoria alone, saloons, brothels and gambling houses (some of them combining all threecharacteristicsManuscript image characteristics) far exceed those usually found elsewhere.
The salary for the Superintendent of Police (Lieut. Hankin) a most useful officer in dealing with the Indian population, has been disallowed and it is proposed to replace him by the "Stipendiary Magistrate" (Mr Pemberton) an officer whom I was obliged to remove from that position in consequence of the scandals and disorganization existing in the office as reported in my DespatchNo 100Manuscript image No 100 dated 3rd December 1864.
The Stipendiary Magistrate (who was also Harbour Master and Collector of Revenue) at Nanaimo, the second town in the Colony, has been "struck out," thus leaving that important settlement 80 miles distant from Victoria and accessible by sea only, without a single public officer, and in lieu of such I am recommended "to appoint an unpaid Magistrate" from amongst a community consisting of working men, coal miners and smallshopkeepersManuscript image shopkeepers.
In the last two Sessions the Assembly were in Session for 9 and 10 months respectively. The unnecessary duration of these sittings is in itself a great public mischief.
The whole foundation of a sound and prosperous Colony has yet to be laid and I see no prospect of its being done by an irresponsible Assembly strongly imbued with republican and American sympathies.
The electoral franchise anddistributionManuscript image distribution of the Members requires thorough reform (vide Blue Book Report 1864) and it is not likely to be undertaken by Members who in many cases virtually return themselves.
I have adverted to the population and number of voters in my annual Report No 73, 24th August 1865, and need not recur to it beyond stating that the franchise cannot well be lowered without reaching manhood suffrage—a most dangerous expedient in view of the large American element in thepopulationManuscript image population.
The time of the Legislative Council is almost wholly occupied in revising or rejecting the crude Bills drawn and passed by unprofessional Members of the Legislative Assembly and a constant warfare between the two bodies is the natural and inevitable result.
Few respectable men will consent to go through the ordeal of an election to the Assembly and hence the legislative power is abandoned to political adventurers.
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Capital is repelled and industry paralyzed when the form of government offers no security for any fixed or consistent policy.
The latest effort in the way of raising Revenue consisted in the imposition of import duties upon cabbage, carrots, potatoes, beef, mutton and pork while spirits, wine, beer, tobacco, and all other luxeries are left free.
Public charities, cost of a fire brigade, roads, bridges, and gratuitous education offered totheManuscript image the whole community, are all made charges on the general Revenue without local or municipal taxation of any kind.
I have on former occasions stated that the present system of taxation is crude and inequitable, the great bulk of the population escaping taxation in any form whatever, direct or indirect.
The expenditure for education $15,000 a year is rapidly degenerating into a monster job managed by an irresponsible Board.
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I am in a position to know that the refusal to recognize or provide for the offices of Surveyor General and Treasurer is a foolish attempt to deprive me of the services of these Gentlemen in the Legislative Council.
It will naturally occur to you that a dissolution of the present Assembly and the election of a new House might partially remedy some if not all the evils I have pointed out—I have well considered this matter andfeelManuscript image feel convinced there would be no improvement in its material—the population and constituencies are too small for anything like healthy political action. Moreover, the present House is pledged to adopt any form of Government Her Majesty may concede to them in the event of a union of the Colonies, and it would therefore be imprudent to dissolve a House so pledged while that question is undecided. I firmly believe that the respectable element in Board of Trade and all those withpropertyManuscript image property at stake would wish to see a nominated in preference to an elected Legislative body for at least some years to come. The comparatively orderly and quite conduct of Government in the neighbouring Colony without a Representative Assembly affords a strong contrast to the often disorderly and mischievous proceedings here.
A strong Government and individual responsiblity are absolutely requisite for thesuccessfulManuscript image successful dealing with the large Indian population which becomes a greater source of anxiety and a more difficult problem daily.
Whether separate or united to the sister Colony I can see no reason why Vancouver Island should not become prosperous and entirely self supporting, but at present the Colony is being experimented upon by very rude hands and confidence at home and abroad is thoroughly shaken.
It is difficult for any person at a distance to realize the stateofManuscript image of things as they exist here whether in a national, social, or political point of view, and I have therefore thought it my duty in this hurried and I fear very imperfect manner to bring the subject before you at a time when the union and future form of Government of these Colonies is under your consideration.
I enclose copies of a letter I addressed to the Speaker of the House of Assembly together with his reply thereto on the subject of the salary of my Private Secretary.YouManuscript image You were good enough on a late occasion to appoint Mr Wakeford Auditor of the colony the salary for which (£247) is also disallowed, thus leaving this Gentleman who relinquished an office in Western Australia to accept of it, without any salary whatever.
Mr Wakeford during the period he was Acting Colonial Secretary afforded me efficient aid in effecting many reforms and correcting various irregularities and I cannot attribute this economical proceeding to othercauseManuscript image cause than a desire to get rid of an officer whose high sense of honor and incorruptibility are uncongenial to the majority of those who had to decide upon it.
I have the honor to be,
Your most obedient Servant
A.E. Kennedy
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Cardwell
You may like to see this at once, in connection with Gov. Seymour's letter on Union of B. Columbia and Vancouver. The mail goes on Saturday.
CSP 28/3
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Please return this to the Department. This shd be examined, in order to see how far the Crown Fund will suffice for the payments refused by the Assembly?
EC 28
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Mr Blackwood
Perhaps you will look into this point. I do not perceive that anything will have to be written by the mail of Saturday.
TFE 29/3
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See minute of 12 April with 3765.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Kennedy to Speaker of the Legislative Assembly, 16 January 1866, disputing the decision of the house to disallow a salary for his private secretary, with explanation.
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J.S. Helmcken, Speaker, to Kennedy, 17 January 1866, advising that "there appears to be but little chance at present of the House altering its determination," and expressing his personal support of retrenchment in general.