Longford to Under-Secretary of State
21th November 1866
I am directed by the Secretary of State for War to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 26th ultimo, with Enclosure, on the subject of Defences for Vancouvers Island.
In reply I am to acquaint you for the information of the Earl ofCarnarvonManuscript image Carnarvon Carnarvon that, in the absence of an intention to apply to Parliament for funds for the construction of works for the Defences of the Harbour of Esquimalt, the proposals of Admiral the Honble J. Denman on the subject have not been referred for the consideration of the Defence Committee, nor has any Estimate of the probable cost of theworksManuscript image works been framed.
I am to add that the Army Estimates for the ensuing year will not admit of any vote being taken for the Defence of Vancouvers Island.
I have the honor to be,
Your obedient Servant
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
The previous Papers on this subject are not in the Dept. They consist of an Admiralty letter dated 16th Octr enclosing one from Admiral Denman, and a draft referring it to the W.O.
VJ 23 Novr
Mr Jadis
There is now a further letter from the Admiralty on the same subject dated 18 Decr. If you cannot recover the previous papers by Wednesday morning will you procure copies from the Admiralty.
TFE 24 Decr
Mr Elliot
Copies of the previous Papers are annexed.
VJ 27 Decr
See separate Minute on 4th Paper.
TFE 28 Decr
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Copy of a Minute by me on defences of Vancouver. Duplicate (the original being in too small writing, not convenient for reading).
Admiral Denman's suggestion of defences
This subject is new to me, as I was absent on leave when the suggestion arrived. And the original Papers being mislaid, and only copies obtainable, I have not the advantage of seeing any Minute which Lord Carnarvon may have made. It is therefore with diffidence that, on a subject involving large questions of nationalpolicyManuscript image policy, I will note what occurs to me.
Admiral Denman seems to me to have no more than done his duty in pointing out that unless Vancouver can be well defended, the Naval Depôt there should not be increased beyond the ordinary wants of a time of peace. Of course Stores should not be accumulated where they are likely to fall into the hands of an enemy. He also justly observes that if the permanent retention of the Country is doubtful, our interests there shouldnotManuscript image not be needlessly extended, nor any special encouragement held out to Emigrants (which in fact is not done). These remarks are correct; but they point, it will be observed, not to a single conclusion, but to a choice between two alternatives.
Vancouver is for practical purposes probably the most inaccessible to Great Britain of any settled part of the Globe. At the time of the Trent crisis, we were at our wits ends to get a Despatch safely conveyed across the Isthmus of Panama. Troops and StoresmustManuscript image must go round Cape Horn by a voyage of, I should conjecture, about four months. The place is about twice as far in time as the Antipodes. If we were to fortify Vancouver there would be:
1st The cost of the Batteries and of their Armament (no mean Item in modern days).
2nd The expense of a Garrison, for we could not plant Works and Guns without a defensive force; and the inhabitants are too few, too busy, and of too lukewarm an attachment to us, to be employedforManuscript image for the purpose.
3rdly When all is done, we should in the immediate neighbourhood of the overwhelming population of California, be attempting with a scanty, mixed, and not universally well-affected population, at a distance of three or four months from England, what is considered difficult in Canada with a population of Millions, thoroughly well-disposed to the connexion, and within some ten or twelve days steaming of our shores.
Whilst agreeing therefore in the dilemma put by AdmiralDenmanManuscript image Denman, there seems to be much to be said for letting things alone, and awaiting the course of events. The War Office it will be seen, are not disposed to undertake a Defensive Work. For my part I would shrink from no expenditure of lives or Treasure on any object dear to England; but I cannot help doubting whether it would be worth while to do so in order to provide a Government for the Americans who, I suspect, must in the long run form the majority of the inhabitants of Vancouver and British Columbia.
TFE 28 Decr 1866
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The defence of V.C.I. in time of war is, as far as I can see hopelessly difficult—and whatever sums one might expend upon military works & garrison they wd only be taken & the island over-run before reinforcements (at an enormus expense) cd reach the place of action. I cd not with a view to war recommend any expenditure.
The only question is whether it may not be desirable with a view to many contingencies wh are quite possible if not probable in the U.S. to remove the feeling of discontent, wh from many quarters we are told exists in V.C.I., by some local changes & commissions provided that they do not involve a large or permanent expenditure on this country.
As regards the dock the expense wd probably be considerable & the value—except commercially, in wh case it ought to beManuscript image constructed as a private undertaking—slight. But I sd wish to have some information as to the cost of making Esquimalt a packet station. Admiral Denman speaks of it as trifling. We know from other sources that it wd be viewed as a great boon by the Colony. A Private communication to the Treasury or Post Office wd be the best means of ascertaining this.
Something may perhaps be done on the spot by preserving to Victoria some of the advantages of a capital. But Govr Seymour will be best able to speak on this point.
I shall be glad to be informed on the point I have noted above.
C 31 Dec/66
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Question of Dock & Packet Station at Esquimalt V.C.I. raised by Admiral Denman, & commented on by Lord Carnarvon.
Admiral Denman suggests two measures the creation of a Dock at Esquimalt and the establishment of a Packet Station there, which he says might be effected at a very small expense on the present contracts.
I have placed myself in communication with the late Governor of Vancouver Island, Captain Kennedy, with Captain Richards, R.N. the Hydrographer of the Admiralty, who was on the North Pacific Station for 7 years, and with Mr W.J. Page, one of the Chief Clerks at the General Post Office whose business is to superintend Colonial Post Office questions. Adding my own informationtoManuscript image to theirs on these subjects the result is as follows: On the whole of the N. American side of the N. Pacific there is not a single Dock belonging to Great Britain where Vessels of War or Merchantmen can repair their disasters. They are obliged to go to San Francisco for that purpose, and are consequently entirely dependent on the courtesy of the Americans to enable them to refit. Captain Richards' ship, during the critical time of the "Trent" difficulty, was actually in dock at San Francisco and might have been impounded if war had occurred. The want of a dock has been felt tobeManuscript image be a most serious evil—but the Admiralty have not thought proper to remedy it. An attempt was made by a commercial company to make a dock but it fell through, and at the present time there is little probability of any renewal of it from that source: But are there not grounds for the work being undertaken by the British Government? Vancouver Island and B. Columbia cannot be defended by Forts and Garrisons. Their only protection is by the means of a naval force. We have on the Station now 13 Vessels of war of differentsizesManuscript image sizes, numbering 191 guns. These ships must occasionally require repairs. It would be worth while to know what these repairs annually cost the Admiralty in a foreign port. If we must have a squadron on the station we surely ought to possess in a British port facilities for repairing them, and not be beholden to any foreign country for such convenience which may be withheld at pleasure. Captain Richards, on a rough estimate, thinks £80,000 would probably suffice for the work. But I fear this sum would not be enough; for the land about EsquimaltisManuscript image is in the hands of private parties, and would have to be purchased. The Admiralty have a very small bit of ground there. The harbor of Esquimalt is one of the finest in the world. The objection may be raised that if the Imperial Govt makes this dock we might only be making if for the Americans. But ought this objection to prevail? We have these Colonies, and are bound to protect them as long as we can. And can we do so, in time of war, without a dock of our own?
If Lord Carnarvon should at all agree in the view I have faintly sketched a lettermightManuscript image might be written to the Admiralty referring to Admiral Denman's suggestion as to the dock, desiring to know whether, in consideration of the duty imposed on this country of affording protection to these Colonies by the means of a Naval Squadron, their Lordship's consider that a dock can any longer be dispensed with. That representations have, it is understood, been addressed at different times [to] H.M. Govt on this subject, and that Lord Carnarvon is of opinion that the suggestion made by Admiral Denman deserves the early and serious attention ofManuscript image the Admiralty.
2. Packet Station
When the Colony of British Columbia was established Lord Lytton pressed very strongly for a postal subsidy. But it could not be granted. In 1863 Mr Childers revived the subject with no better success.
See annexed copy of a Letter from the G.P.O. to the T-y d. 14 Novr/63.
The two Colonies were therefore compelled to get their correspondence conveyed in the best way they could, which has been by the means of the American Steamers.
AtManuscript image
At the present moment the English line, in the direction of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, ceases at Colon, and is thence carried in American Steamers to San Francisco, whence the Mail is conveyed by an American Steamer, subsidized by the Colonies (one in 21 days) at a cost of £300 to each Colony for each trip.
Many Letters reach V.C.I. overland viâ New York & S. Francisco & are ansd by the same route.
There is no book post and the American postage is, in amount prohibitory. It would doubtless be a great help to B. Columbia and Vancouver Island to get a British subsidy to their Mails, or to have a packet station made forthemManuscript image them. Admiral Denman says that a station at Esquimalt for the steam vessels running between Panama and Australia might be effected at a very small increase on the cost of the present contracts under which the English Mails taken to San Francisco in American Vessels are now brought up from thence to Esquimalt. What Admiral Denman means, I suppose, is not that any mail service should be grafted on the Australian New Zealand and Panama Line—which receives a subsidy from those Colonies of £70,000 a year, and who would never consent to a diversion of 10,000 miles outofManuscript image of the direct route—but that a station should be built at Esquimalt for a mail service between B. Columbia and Vancouver Island to San Francisco, which Mail service should receive an English subsidy for that duty.
Mr Page is of opinion that even if the Panama and N. Zealand Co wd agree to call at Esquimalt it wd only give a communication with England once in each Calendar month, & even by that communication the time occupied wd exceed that in wh. Letters are now generally carried vi'a New York, & overland to San Francisco.
The distance between San Francisco and Vancouver Island is 700 miles. Between Panama and Vanc: Island it is nearly 5000 miles. But before building a packet station we must have packets, and those ought to be British not American. Supposing that a subsidy be granted for the mail service to San Francisco we shall still be entirely at the mercyofManuscript image of the Americans for the conveyance of the correspondence and of passengers from San Francisco to Panama: and the Americans will use every exertion, as they are doing now, to extend their commercial and other influences in the North Pacific and maintain their ascendancy in that quarter over Great Britain: I fear myself that neither a packet station nor a dock at Vancouver Island will be an equipoise to the pushing vigor of the Americans of California and Oregon, but the Treasury might be fairly asked whether, now that B. Columbia and Vanc: IslandhaveManuscript image have become one great Dependency of the Crown, and that their postal system is so imperfectly conducted, the time had not arrived for giving that Colony some assistance in the shape of a postal subsidy.
ABd 14 Jan/67
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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[Enclosure with Minute above:]
Stanley of Alderly, General Post Office, to Treasury, 14 November 1863, declining to reopen the question of providing a subsidy for mail enroute to British Columbia, with explanation.

Minutes by CO staff
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Sutlej 35 Screw S. Frigate (ordered home).
Clio 22 Screw Corvette
Topaze 31 Screw Frigate
Zealous 20 Screw Frigate
Scout 21 Screw Corvette
Mutine 17 Screw Sloop
Albert 17 Screw Sloop
Malacca 13 Screw Corvette
Reindeer 7 Steam Sloop
Columbine 4 Screw Sloop
Sparrow Hawk 4 Screw Gun Vessel
Grappler Screw Gunboat
Forward Screw Gunboat
191 guns

Lord Carnarvon
I do not concur with Mr Blackwoods suggestion to tell the Admty the proposal for a Dock deserves their early & serious attention.
But I do think his second suggestion a good one, to make a general recommendation to the Treasury to review their Correspondence with the GPO as to the mails, now that the two Colonies are one large one.
CBA 17/1
Dock & Packet Stations at Esquimalt
Pakenham, William to Adderley, Charles Bowyer 21 November 1866, CO 305:30, no. 11134, 128. 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/V665WA01.html.

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