Land Reform Meeting

British Colonist
June 24, 1859

A preliminary meeting took place on Wednesday evening, at the Colonial Hotel, which was attended by several members of the Legislature, and some of our most influential citizens, in order to concert measures to modify the present land system of the colony. J. T. Pidwell, Esq., was called to the chair, and C. A. Bayley, Esq., appointed secretary. Mr. Pidwell in a happy and eloquent manner explained the object of the meeting. Mr. Alfred Waddington, who has always exhibited a great deal of public spirit, and was largely instrumental in getting up the meeting, explained in his lucid manner how necessary it was that something should be done to settle the country, and that there were a great many Canadians here, and many now on the way, who were desirous of engaging in agriculture, but from the high price of land and the difficulties in the way obtaining it, they are likely to leave our shore for the American side, if the price of land was not reduced, and every facility afforded for settlement. He was followed by Messrs. J. Yates, C. B. Young, Dr. Tolmie, De Cosmos, Capt. Duncan, C. A. Bayley, and several others, who made valuable suggestions. A committee of five, Messrs, C. B. Young, J. Yates, A. De Cosmos, A. Waddington and Mr. Begg, were appointed to draw up resolutions, and petitions to the Governors and the Assembly, relative to reducing the price of land to $1.25 per acre, and throwing open the lands to pre-emption, -- and to submit them to a public meeting for ratification and signature.

The meeting passed off harmoniously, -- and concluded by a vote of thanks to the chairman and secretary.

British Colonist
July 4, 1859

At a meeting of the inhabitants of Victoria, held at Assembly Hall, Saturday, July 2d, for the purpose of ratifying or amending the resolutions and petitions drafted by a Committee appointed at a meeting held on June 22d. J. T. Pidwell, Esq., was called to the chair, C. G. Alston, Esq., appointed Secretary.

The chairman explained in a few well-timed remarks the objects of the meeting, and briefly adverted to the objection which had been raised as to the informal manner the first meeting was called. He asked the meeting if it endorsed the action of that meeting, and received an unanimous response in the affirmative.

Mr. C. B. Young reported the resolutions and petitions, which were accepted, and vote of thanks was tendered to the Committee.

Mr. J. N. Thain moved,
Resolved, That the history of nations, and the experience of ages, dictate a liberal encouragement of the art of agriculture, as the only sure guarantee of the enduring prosperity and wealth of a country.
Seconded by Mr. A. Langley. Passed unanimously.

Mr. C. A. Bayley moved,
Resolved, That the true policy as well as duty of government is to encourage agricultural pursuits above all others; to induce immigration to the country; to invite the hardy pioneer to occupy its territory; to furnish the actual settler cheap access to the soil -- whereon to permanently invest his labor, and rear his home.
Seconded by Mr. Treweek. Passed unanimously.

Mr. Selim Franklin moved,
Resolved, That the practice of making the public lands a source of revenue is unwise and impolitic; that instead of attracting to, it repels population from the country; and that the better policy, grounded on the experience of new countries, is to donate the public domain to bona fide settlers rather than exact a high price with a view to revenue; that the taxable property of a country whose land system is liberal so rapidly increases that it soon yields a revenue which far exceeds the proceeds of the sale of lands at any price.
Mr. Main seconded. Passed unanimously.

Mr. Duncan moved,
Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting, the public lands of this Colony which are held by the Crown, for the benefit of the people, if sold at all, to actual settlers, should not exceed in price $1.25 per acre, payable in five years -- or such sum as would barely pay the expenses of the survey.
Seconded by Mr. J. Austen.

Mr. S. Franklin moved an amendment that the words "for the benefit of the people" be omitted. After some discussion, in which Messrs. Waddington, Young, DeCosmos and others took part, the resolution was carried unanimously.

Mr. Harris moved,
Resolved, That in the opinion of this meeting, the departure of valuable immigrants from our shores in consequence of not being able to obtain agricultural lands, imperatively demands the adoption of a land system which would enable the pioneer to obtain land at once, on application, in quantities not exceeding 160 acres.
Seconded by Mr. Byles. Carried unanimously.

Mr. G. I. Wight moved,
Resolved, That a preferece should be given to actual settlers in the choice of the public lands, surveyed or unsurveyed: that a land system should be adopted which should guarantee to them a pre-emptive right; and that they should have ample time to locate lands from permanent homes by actual residence and progressive improvements, before they are offered in the market for general competition.
Seconded by Mr. J. D. Carroll. Passed unanimously.

Mr. Duncan offered a resolution in relation to taxing public lands, which was withdrawn after some discussion.

Mr. G. J. Wight moved, and Mr. Hicks seconded,
Resolved, That the petitions to the Governor and Council and to the House of Assembly, which had been read to the meeting, be adopted.
Passed unanimously.

Mr. De Cosmos moved, Mr. Begg seconded,
That the chairman appoint a committee to circulate them for signatures and present them to the Governor and Council and to the House of Assembly.
Carried unanimously.

Messrs. C. B. Young, A. Waddington, ___ Harris, G. J. Wight, and J. N. Thain were appointed a Committee to present this petition.

A vote of thanks given to the Chairman and Secretary, when the meeting adjourned sine die.

The following is a copy of petition to the Governor and Council. That to the Assembly is of the same tenor.

To His Excellency, the Governor and the Honorable, the Council of Vancouver's Island:---
Your Petitioners, the undersigned, actual residents of this colony, and deeply interested in its prosperity, having viewed with alarm the departure of many of her Majesty's loyal subjects and others from this Colony to the neighboring republic; and having learned that their departure has been induced by the difficulty of obtaining agricultural lands at once, on application, and by not being obtainable on such terms as would afford equal encouragement to actual settlers in this Colony, as are offered in the neighboring republic; and believing that we shall lose many more of Her Majesty's loyal subjects and others whom it is desirable to retain, as well as induce those who are now on the way here, or desirous of coming, to turn their attention to countries where greater encouragement is offered to agriculturalists; and persuaded that except the land system of the colony is materially modified, the prosperity and settlement of the country will be seriously retarded; and believing that the encouragement of agriculture is the surest way to secure the enduring prosperity of the country; and that a liberal land system is best calculated to rapidly populate the colony; and holding that the public lands are the patrimony of the people vested in the Crown for their benefit,-- and presuming that your Excellency and the Honorable Council have at heart the well-being and prosperity of the country, and are desirous of introducing those changes which you may deem necessary to secure so desirable a result;--

Therefore, Your Petioners would respectfully submit to your Excellency and the Honorable Council , that they humbly pray that the Crown lands of this Colony may be opened at once to actual settlers; that a preference may be given to them in the choice of the public lands, surveyed or unsurveyed, over capitalists; that they may be secured in a pre-emptive right; that the highest price of land to actual settlers may not exceed one dollar and twenty-five cents per acre or such price as will barely cover the expenses of survey; and that five years may be allowed for its payment; all of which is most respectfully submitted, hoping that it may please your Excellency and the Honourable Council to take this humble petition into your favorable consideration, and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Victoria, July 2, 1859

British Colonist
July 8, 1859

The Committee is happy to report a courteous reception from His Excellency, the Governor, who, though he promised to forward the petitions to the Home Government, expressed his conviction that it woudl be referred back to the local Legislature, which would be omnipotent in the matter, as soon as it could raise a revenue sufficient to meet the current expenses. That he is personally opposed to the present system, which he has not the power to alter; but would even advocate a free gift of quarter section to each early settler.

That in the meantime, however, if there are emigrants here desirous of immediately settling on lands, he requests that they will make a representation to him to that effect, setting forth their actual condition and offering some guarantee of their good faith; that if there are a hundred farmers ready to settle in the Cowitchen Valley, let them present themselves, and facilities will be afforded them, the Indian title extinguished as soon as practicable; that no immediate payment will be required for the land, and the price left to be determined by the Legislature.

That the proposal of any persons desirous of engaging in legitimate industrial pursuits, will be met half way, whether it be in Vancouver's Island or British Columbia, that he is willing that the very liberal law of Newfoundland with regard to fisheries, be adopted in these colonies.

His Excellency regretted that details had not been entered into in the petition, assuring the committee that practical suggestions will always meet with due attention.

In reply to a suggestion relative to the actual tenure of the land, His Excellency stated that he considered the title to be still in the H. B. Company, as he had received the official notification to the company.

John B. Young

British Colonist
July 11, 1859

Land Meeting -- A considerable number of persons, chiefly Canadians, who are desirous of settling in Cowitchan Valley, met on Saturday evening, at the Law chambers of John Copland, Esq.; to devise means to settle there at once. Alfred Waddington, Esq., was called to the chair, and John Copland, Esq., appointed secretary.

After some discussion, a petition to the governor was adopted, -- setting forth their desire to settle in Cowitchan, thay they were farmers; that they engage to settle on condition of actual occupancy and improvement, and if they fail to do so, their lands to be forfeited.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the petition was singed by upwards of twenty five.

It now lies in Mr Copland's office awaiting the signatures of those who are desirous of settling in Cowitchan.

The Victoria Gazette
July 14, 1859

The Settlement of Lands in this Island -- A deputation of thirty or forty persons waited upon Gov. Douglas yesterday and presented a petition signed by one hundred names, asking to be allowed to take up land in the Cowichan Valley, on a plan similar to that of the American pre emption system. The governor replied at length, the gist of his remarks being that the present price of land, 1 per acre, was fixed by the Crown and can only be altered by the same authority. His only power lay in modifying the instalment payments. He would therefore, in this special case, direct that the petitioners be permitted to occupy any surveyed lands remaining unsold, upon the payment -- as first instalment -- of one shilling per acre, another in three months, and so on until $1.25 had been paid and the balance to be paid at the expiration of 4 years. In the unsurveyed districts actual settlers would be allowed to go on the land upon payment of one shilling per acre at the time of settlement, and no other payment would be required of them until the land was surveyed, which would not be for at least one year. It was probable that ere long the Crown would transfer its right in the land to the Colony, when the local Legislature will have the whole control of the matter. This will take place when the Colony is self-supporting. After some further conversation the deputation withdrew, and we understand that it is the intention of the petitioners to take up lands on the specified terms.

Sale of Public Lands, Vancouver Island Colony

Persons holding receipts for payments made on lands in the Cowichan Country are hereby notified to produce the same at the Land office, to select their lots, and to exchange the written receipts for the usual printed installment papers on Wednesday the 3d of August next. The District Maps are open to inspection. Sale of Lands in Cowichan will, on and after the 4th of August, be continued upon the ususal terms.

Joseph Pemberton
Colonial Surveyor
July 13, 1859

Source: "Land Reform Meeting," British Colonist, June 24, 1859

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