R. E. (R. Edward) Gosnell.

A history; British Columbia online

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pany had been made on conditions of colonization. It was an empire within
an empire, so to speak. That anomalous relation came to an end, ten years
later, as the result of an investigation before a select committee of the Im-
perial House of Commons. The separate colony of British Columbia came
into existence on the 19th of November, 1858, with James Douglas, after-
wards Sir James, as governor. In the interim, that is, between the time of
the rush of miners up the Fraser and the formation of the colony, he had gov-
erned the country by proclamation, without authority, it is true, as he had
no jurisdiction beyond the Island of Vancouver, but it was not a time to
cavil about nice distinctions; and the Colonial Secretary, while cognizant of
the irregularity of the proceedings, approved the action he had taken to pre-
serve order and establish a temporary form of government.


Governor Douglas's Instructions.

Lord Lytton, acting for the Imperial Government, lost no time in in-
structing Douglas as to the course he should pursue, and the wisdom of his
suggestions will be recognized today almost as fully as at the time when they
were penned. They bear all the ear marks of enlightened statesmanship for
which His Lordship was distinguished, and were a constitution for the new
colony in embryo, and a charter of liberties for the new commonwealth on
the Pacific Coast, the extremest outpost of the British Empire. A few ex-
tracts from these dispatches will best convey an understanding of the spirit
in which they were framed, and which wisely actuated the British authorities
at the time, so different from the policy which had emanated from Downing
Street on many previous occasions when dealing with colonies in British
America. Writing on the i6th of July to Governor Douglas, Lord Lytton
advised him of the steps that were being taken to organize a colony and
establish civil government. Among the instructions to Douglas were the
following :

" It is proposed to appoint a governor with a salary of at least £i,ooo
per annum, to be paid for the present out of a parliamentary vote. And it
is the desire of Her Majesty's Government to appoint you at once to that
office, on the usual terms of a governor's appointment, namely, for six years
at least, your administration of that office continuing to merit the approval
of Her Majesty's Government; this government to be held, for the present,
in conjunction with your separate commission as governor of Vancouver
Island. With regard to the latter, I am not at this moment able to specify
the terms as to the salary on which it may ultimately be held, but your in-
terests would, of course, not be overlooked.

" The legal connection of the Hudson's Bay Company with Vancouver
Island will shortly be severed by the resumption by the crown of the grant
of the soil. And their legal rights on the continent opposite terminate in


May next, at all events by the expiry of her license, if Her Majesty should
not be advised to terminate it sooner on the establishment of the new colony.

" It is absolutely necessary, in their view, that the administration of
the government, both of Vancouver Island and of the mainland opposite,
should be entrusted to an officer or officers entirely unconnected with the
company. I wish, therefore, for your distinct statement, as early as you
can afford it, whether you are willing, on receiving the appointment which
is thus offered to you, to give up, within as short a time as may be practicable,
all connection which you may have with that company, either as its servant,
or a shareholder, or in any other capacity.

" I make this proposal without discussing at present the nature and ex-
tent of your actual connections with that company, but with the acquiescence
of the governor of the company, who has seen this dispatch. In the mean-
time, and awaiting your answer, it is my present intention (liable only to be
altered by what may transpire in future advices from yourself) to issue a
commission to you as governor ; but you will fully understand that unless
you are prepared to assure me that all connection between yourself and the
company is terminated, or in course of speedy termination, you will be re-
lieved by the appointment of a successor.

" I make this proposal briefly and without unnecessary preface, being
lully assured that you will understand, on the one hand, that Her Majesty's
Government are very anxious to secure your services, if practicable; but on
the other that it is quite impossible that you should continue to serve at once
the Crown and the company, when their respective rights and interests may
possibly diverge, and when, at all events, public opinion will not allow of
such a connection."

" As it is a matter of considerable importance, both to Her Majesty's
Government and yourself, that there should be a perfect understanding as
to the terms on which, if you should so decide, you would assume office un-


der Imperial authority. I think it right to state, as it was omitted on the last
occasion, that beside relinquishing, directly or indirectly, all connection with
the Hudson's Bay Company, it will be indispensable to apply that condition
equally to any interest you may possess in the Puget Sound Company.

" It is most probable that you have understood the offer contained in
my confidential dispatch of the i6th instant in that sense, but I think it bet-
ter now to guard against any possible misconception on the subject by this
additional explanation. It is due to you to add that if, after reflection, you
should entertain the persuasion that it will either not conduce to the public
interests or your own to exchange your present position for that of governor
of British Columbia, the ability which you have displayed whilst holding
the office of gx)vernor of Vancouver Island will not escape the recollection
of Her Majesty's Government, should it be your wish, on the expiration of
the Hudson's Bay Company's license next year, to enter into the service of
the Crown in the colonies."

" I need hardly observe that British Columbia, for by that name the
Queen has been graciously pleased to observe that the country should be
known, stands on a very different footing from many of our colonial settle-
ments. Tliey possess the chief elements of success in lands, which af-
forded safe though not very immediate sources of prosperity. This territory
combines in a remarkable degree, the advantage of fertile lands, fine timber,
adjacent harbors, rivers, together with rich mineral products. These last,
which have led to the large immigration of which all accounts speak, furnish
the government with the means of raising a revenue which will at once de-
fray the expenses of an establishment. * * * ]y[y own views lead me to
think that moderate duties on beer, wine, spirits and other articles usually sub-
ject to taxation would be preferable to the imposition of licenses ; and I con-


fidently expect that from these sources a large and an immediate revenue
may be derived.

" The disposal also of public lands, and especially of town lots, for
which I am led to believe there will be a great demand, will afford a rapid
means of obtaining funds applicable to the general purposes of the colony.
You will, probably, at an early period take steps for deciding upon a site for
a seaport town. But the question of how a revenue can best be raised in
this new country depends so much on local circumstances, upon which you
possess such superior means of forming a judgment to myself, that I neces-
sarily, but at the same time willingly, leave the decision upon it to you, with
the remark that it will be prudent on your part and expedient to ascertain
the general sense of the immigrants upon a matter of so much importance.
Before I leave this part of the subject, I must state that whilst the Imperial
Parliament will cheerfully lend its assistance in the early establishment of
this new colony, it will exj^ect that the colony will be self-supporting as
soon as possible. You will keep steadily in view that it is the desire of this
country that representative institutions and self-government should prevail
in British Columbia, when by the growth of a fixed population, materials for
these institutions shall be known to exist; and to that object, you must from
the commencement aim and shape all your policy.

" A party of Royal Engineers will be dispatched to the colony im-
mediately. It will devolve upon them to survey those parts of the country
which may be considered most suitable for settlement, to mark out allotments
of land for public purposes, to suggest a site for the seat of government, to
point out where roads should be made, and to render you such assistance
as may be in their power, on the distinct understanding, however, that this
force .is to be maintained at the Imperial cost for only a limited period, and
that if required afterwards, the colony will have to defray the expense there-
of. I have to add, that I am of the opinion that it will be reasonable and
proper that the expense of the survey of all allotments of land to private in-


dividuals should be included in the price which the purchaser will have to
pay for his property.

" I shall endeavor to secure, if possible, the services of an officer in com-
mand of the engineers who will be capable of reporting on the value of the
mineral resources. This force is sent for scientific and practical purposes,
and not solely for military objects. As little display as possible should,
therefore, be made of it. Its mere appearance, if prominently obtruded,
might serve to irritate, rather than appease the mixed population which will
Idc collected in British Columbia. It should be remembered that your real
strength lies in the conviction of the immigrants that their interests are
identical with those of the government, which should be carried on in har-
mony with, and by means of the people of the country.

" As connected with this subject, it may be convenient to you to know
that I contemplate sending out an experienced inspector of police to assist
you in the formation of a police force. You should consequently lose no
time in considering how that force may be org-anized. It must be derived
from people on the spot, who will understand that for their preservation from
internal disturbances, they must rely solely on themselves, and not on the
military. I cannot permit myself to doubt, that in a matter so essential to
the common security of all, you will meet with the ready concurrence of
the community, and that you will act for their interests in a manner which
shall be proper and conformable to their general sentiments.

" I have to enjoin upon you to consider the best and most humane means
of dealing with the native Indians. The feelings of this country would be
strongly opposed to the adoption of any arbitrary or oppressive measures
towards them. At this distance, and with the imperfect means of knowledge
which I possess, I am reluctant to offer, as yet, any suggestion as to the
prevention of affrays between the Indians and the immigrants. This ques-
tion is of so local a character that it must be solved by your knowledge and
experience, and I commit it to you, in the full persuasion that you will pay


every regard to the interests of the natives which an enlightened humanity
can suggest. Let me not omit to observe, that it should be an invariable
condition, in all bargains or treaties with the natives for the cession of lands
possessed by them, that subsistence should be supplied to them in some other
shape, and above all, that it is the earnest desire of Her Majesty's Govern-
ment that your early attention should be given to the best means of diffusing
the blessings of the Christian religion and of civilization among the natives.
" I wish to impress upon you the necessity of seeking, by all legitimate
means, to secure the confidence and good-will of the immigrants, and to ex-
hibit no jealousy whatever of Americans or other foreigners who may enter
the country. You will remember that the country is destined for free in-
stitutions at the earliest moment. In the meanwhile it will be advisable
for you to ascertain what Americans resorting to the diggings enjoy the
most influence or popular esteem, and you should open with them a frank
and friendly communication as to the best means of preserving order and
securing the interests and peace of the colony. It may be deserving of your
consideration whether there may not be found already amongst the immi-
grants, both British and foreign, some persons whom' you could immediately
form into a council of advice ; men whom, if an elective council were ultimate-
ly established in the colony, the immigrants themselves would be likely to
elect, and who might be able to render you valuable assistance until the ma-
chinery of government were perfected, and you were in possession of the
instructions which the Queen will be pleased to issue for your guidance. I
shall hope to receive, at an early period, your views on these and other topics
of importance which are likely to present themselves for your decision in
the difficult circum.stances in which you are placed, and I request you to be
assured, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, that I shall be most ready
to afford you every assistance in my power."


" There has not been time to furnish you by this mail with the order-
in-council, commission, and instruction to yourself as governor, which are
necessary in order to complete your legal powers. You will, nevertheless,
continue to act during the brief interval before their arrival as you have hith-
erto done, as the authorized representative of Her Majesty's Government in
tlie territory of British Columbia, and take, without hesitation, such steps as
you may deem absolutely necessary for the government of the territory, and
as are not repugnant to the principles of British law; but you will do so in
conformity with the directions which I transmit to you on several subjects
by my dispatches of even date herewith, and in such others as you may re-
ceive from me."

" I have to acknowledge the very important series of dispatches (num-
bers 24 to 29 inclusive, from June loth to July ist, 1858), showing the
manner in which you have continued to administer the government of the
territory in which the recent discoveries of gold have taken place, and de-
tailing the extraordinary course of events in that quarter. Her Majesty's
Government feel that the difficulties of your position are such as courage,
judgment and familiarity with the resources of the country and character
of the people can alone overcome. They feel also that minute instructions
conveyed from this distance, and founded on an imperfect knowledge, are
very liable to error and misunderstanding. On some points, however, you
have yourself asked for approval and instructions; on others it is absolutely
necessary that the views of Her Majesty's Government should be made clear
to you.

" As to the steps which you have already taken, I approve of the appoint-
ments which you have made and reported of revenue officers, Mr. Hicks and
Mr. Travaillot, of Mr. Perrier as justice of the peace, and of Mr. Young as
gold commissioner. I approve, also, as a temporary measure, of the steps
which you have taken in regard to the surveying department, but I have it in


contemplation to send to the colony a head of that department from England.

" I propose selecting in this country some person for the office of collect-
or of customs, and shall send you also, at the earliest moment, an officer
authorized to act as judge, and who, I trust, as the colony increases in im-
portance, may be found competent to fill with credit and weight the situation
of chief justice. I await your intimations as to the wants and means of the
colony, in this sudden rise of social institutions in a country hitherto so wild,
in order to select such law advisers as you may deem the condition and prog-
ress of immigration more immediately require. And it is my wish that
all legal authorities connected with the government should be sent from home,
and thus freed from every suspicion of local partialities, prejudices and in-

'' I highly approve of the steps you have taken, as reported by yourself,
with regard to the Indians. It is in the execution of this very delicate and
important portion of your duties that Her Majesty's Government especially
rely on your knowledge and experience obtained in your long service under
the Hudson's Bay Company. You may in return rely on their support in the
execution of such reasonable measures as you may devise for the protection
of the natives, the regulation of their intercourse with the whites, and when-
ever such work may be commenced, their civilization. In what way the fur
trade with the Indians may henceforth be carried on with the most safety,
and with due care to save them from the demoralizing bribes of ardent spirits,
I desire to know your views before you make any fixed regulations. No
regulations giving the slightest preference to the Hudson's Bay Company
will in future be admissible, but possibly, with the assent of the whole com-
munity, licenses for Indian trade, impartially given to all who would embark
in it, might be a prudent and not unpopular precaution.

" I approve of the measures which you have taken for raising a revenue
by customs, and authorize their continuance. I approve also of your con-
tinuing to levy license fees for mining purposes, requesting you, however,


to adapt the scale of these fees to the general acquiescence of adventurers,
and leaving it to your judgment to change this mode of taxation (as, for in-
stance, into an export duty), if it shall appear on experience to be inadvis-
able to continue it. But on this head I must give you certain cautions. In
the first place, no distinction must be made between foreigners and British
subjects as to the amount per head of the license fee required (nor am I aware
that you have proposed to do so). In the second place, it must be made
perfectly clear to everyone, that this license fee is levied, not in regard to
any supposed rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, but simply in virtue of
the prerogative of the Crown (now confirmed by the Act of Parliament
transmitted to you, if this was necessary) to raise revenue as it thinks proper,
in return for the permission to derive profits from the minerals on Crown

" Further, with regard to these supposed rights of the Hudson's Bay
Company, I must refer you, in even stronger terms, to the cautions already
conveyed to you by my former dispatches. The Hudson's Bay Company
have hitherto had an exclusive right to trade with Indians in the Fraser River
territory, but they have had no other right whatever. They have had no
rights to exclude strangers. They have had no rights of government, or of
occupation of the soil. They have had no right to prevent or interfere with
any kind of trading, except with the Indians alone. But to render all mis-
conceptions impossible. Her Majesty's Government has determined on re-
voking the company's license (which would itself have expired in next May)
as regards British Columbia being fully authorized to do so, by the terms of
the license itself, whenever a new colony is constituted.

" The company's private property will be protected, in common with
that of all Her Majesty's subjects, but they have no claim whatever for com-
pensation for the loss of their exclusive trade, which they only possessed sub-
ject to the right of revocation. The instrument formally revokyig the
license will shortly be forwarded to you. * * * ^^^ immense resources


which the information which reaches England every day and is confirmed
with such authority by your last dispatch, assures me that the colony pos-
sesses, and the facility for immediate use of those resources for the purposes
of revenue, will at once free the Mother Country from those expenses which
are adverse to the policy of all healthful colonization. * * * The most
important works to which, the local revenue can be applied seem to be police,
public works to facilitate landing and traveling, payment of the absolutely
necessary officers, and above all, surveying. But your own local judgment
must mainly decide. You will render accurate accounts to me both of re-
ceipts and expenditure, and you will probably find it necessary shortly to ap-
point a treasurer, which will be a provisional appointment.

" You are fully authorized to take such measures as you can for the
transmission of letter and levying postage. It appears by your despatch that
the staff of surveyors you have engaged are at present employed on Van-
couver Island, the soil of which is as yet held under the expiring license
of the Hudson's Bay Company; but it is British Columbia which now de-
mands and indeed may almost absorb the immediate cares of its governor,
and your surveyor may at once prepare the way for the arrival of the sur-
veyor-general appointed from hence, and of the sappers and miners who
will be under his orders.

" I now come to the important subject of future government. It is
p<..ssible (although on this point I am singularly without information) that
the operations of the gold diggers will be to a considerable extent suspended
during winter, and that you will therefore have some amount of leisure to
consider the permanent prospects of the colony and the best mode of admin-
istering its affairs.

" You will be empowered both to govern and to legislate of your own
authority; but you will distinctly understand that this is a temporary meas-
ure only. It is the anxious wish of her Majesty's Government that popular
institutions, without which they are convinced peace and order cannot long


prevail, should be established with as little delay as practicable; and until
an Assembly can be organized (which may be whenever a permanent popu-
lation, however small, is established on the soil), I think, as I have already
stated in a former despatch, that your best course will protebly be to form
some kind of temporary council, calling in this manner to your aid such
persons as the miners themselves may place confidence in.

" You will receive additional directions along with your commission,
when forwarded to you; and I have embodied in a separate despatch those
regarding the very important question of the disposal of land.

" Aware of the immediate demand on your time and thoughts connected
with the pressing question of immigration to the gold mines, I do not wish
to add unnecessarily to the burden of duties so onerous; but as yet, our
Department has been left singularly in ignorance of much that should enter
into considerations of general policy, and on which non-official opinions are
constantly volunteered. Probably, amongst the persons you are now em-
ploying, and in whose knowledge and exactitude you can confide, you might
find someone capable of assisting, under your superintendence, in furnish-
ing me, as early as possible, with a report of the general capacities of the
harbors of Vancouver, — of their advantages and defects; of the mouth of
Fraser River, as the site of the entry into British Columbia, apart from the
island; of the probabilities of a coal superior for steam purposes to that oi
the island, which may be found in the mainland of British Columbia; and
such other information as may guide the British Government to the best
and readiest means of developing the various and the differing resources
which have so strangely been concealed for ages, which are now so sud-
denly brought to light, and which may be destined to effect, at no very
distant period, a marked and permanent change in the commerce and navi-
gation of the known world. The officers now engaged in the maritime sur-
vey will probably render great assistance to yourself and to her Majesty's
Government in this particular."


" With regard to the very important subject of the disposal of land,
you are authorized to sell land merely wanted for agricultural purposes,
whenever a demand for it shall arise, at such upset price as you may think
advisable. I believe that a relatively high upset price has many advantages ;
but your course must, in some degree, be guided by the price at which such

Online LibraryR. E. (R. Edward) GosnellA history; British Columbia → online text (page 14 of 79)