Victoria, British Columbia

LETTER FROM VICTORIA

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(From our Correspondent)
Victoria, June, 1865.


INTRODUCTION


I have a vivid recollection of having in an evil or unguarded moment promised to do that which my soul abhors - to write a letter informing you how the world wags here below. I repent, but will not break my word. The punishment is great and must be borne. It is, however, some consolation to know that you will have to read it! Remember you have brought the evil upon yourself!

DULLNESS OF THE CITY, ETC

Victoria is dull and comparatively empty; the people who remain stand at their shop doors with hands in (empty?) pockets, or loaf around to find some equally unoccupied wight, no very difficult matter, to while away the tedious moments. From this you may learn that every one, save the Government officials, are complaining of having too little to do. The reason of this annual and looked for depression - though greater perhaps this year than usual - arises from the migratory nature of the place, for during the summer months Vancouver Island goes to Cariboo, and during the winter months the said Island returns bringing British Columbia along with it - and right welcome the change.

Yet some people say that the two places are separate and have distinct interests. Why the two colonies are evidently one - that is to say, the people are the same, now in one part, now in another portion. The miners are the country, the whole country, and without them there would not be any country, for by them and upon them all those who are not miners subsist. It would be a nice calculation to work out how much a miner is worth, and how many others are supported by him; the circle would be very great and embrace many countries. Of course the benefit is, or ought to be, reciprocal. In British Columbia, however, the peculiarity is that the miner is taxed for everything - he has not only to support the Government, but also to make streets and improve the cities upon the lower Fraser - at least large sums of money have been voted for beautifying New Westminster, the inhabitants of which pay little or nothing into the general revenue.

In Vancouver Island the city has not only to make its own streets out of its own funds, but has in addition to support the Government and make roads in and into the rural districts. In the one case the miners pay for the improvement of towns of no use to themselves directly; in the other the merchants and landowners pay for the support of the Government, and the miners are not taxed directly at all - both systems are perhaps bad, but the British Columbian one is iniquitous. But where on earth am I wandering to - times are dull in Victoria, this arises from the absence of the miners, and, secondly, from the cessation of immigration; hence the small shop keepers and retail dealer suffer most, but curiously enough the imports and exports remain about the same as last year, and therefore the legitimate business is normal.

The fact is, hitherto the city has been prosperous on account of the arrival of immigrants with some money in their pockets, attracted hither by the too glowing accounts of regions of gold, so rich that they shone like the minarets of the temples at Constantinople. The place is now really suffering the punishment due to its own sins, it has deceived others and now, although the bare truth be spoken, it is not believed; however, I hope when your new enterprise comes into being - to which I wish every success - the intelligence direct from the mines will do much to dispel the unbelief in other places, and attract hither by truth, and truth alone, additional people, who will know that they have to work, and work hard too, if they wish to become rich; aye, and work hard and be perhaps the poorer - such unfortunately being the fate of the miner, who although he ruin himself must still support the Government and the whole expenditure of the country.

But although business is dull and amusement scarce, still there is a deadly-lively excitement constantly in being; a sort of lazy writhing of a man unpleasantly aroused from sleep, caused by the infliction of tortures administered by those miserable beings the politicians - a class of men who seem to seek their own ends by setting class against class and everybody by the ears: doubtless they derive some profit in some way or other by their villainous industry - thrive upon the misfortunes of other people. They have however of late been completely worsted, and have most signally failed in their attempts to arouse even a moderate amount of indignation upon subjects which a few years ago they reckoned with a certainty. The fact is people are tired of the play and find that it is for the most part a work of fiction - a sensation drama - startling and apparently fine while upon the stage, but which will not bear inspection by daylight. Thus we have been treated to agitations upon Free Trade, the only result being the stoppage of enterprise and improvement and a considerable diminution of credit and investment.

Then came an attempted agitation against people who held more than one hundred and fifty acres of land, until it was shown that although a person might hold a thousand acres of land that even in that quantity there might not be one hundred and fifty fit for cultivation. Then came a whispered row on account of there being no parsons upon the council of education, and that all denominations had not been represented in the persons appointed; it being quickly know that the law said the system of education should be non-sectarian, a system now generally acquiesced in and therefore settled, it became apparent that as religious dogmas had nothing to do with education so it was unnecessary that the professors of such dogmas should have a place at the board, in fact that it would be better to fill it up if possible with non-sectarian members. Indeed the agitation was looked upon as an attempt to bring up again those antediluvian squabble about religious teaching which have been buried for years, and are now nothing but dry bones. The last of the series is an attempt to excite the people about what is termed the "Church Reserve," that piece of land around Christ Church in Victoria, and to which the Government at home has given the title deeds for the benefit of that church in particular, and for education in connection with the Church of England.

The politicians say it belongs to the people and was intended to remain an open square. Sir James Douglas says, I ordered it to be laid out and intended it for the church - who have now got it and fenced it in. These fences roused the (pretended) ire of the politicians; they, through their tools, called a public meeting - it met; such a meeting, scarcely a tax-payer among the crowd. The speakers counseled pulling down the fences; many took up the idea; some from fun, others from religious fanaticism; about one hundred men rushed to the barriers to pull them down; some for a lark, others in earnest; they reach the scene of intended operations; march determinedly up the hill and then when they reach the brow thereof - they march down again, they beheld the fences and three policemen! Thus that fizzled. The meeting said, the Mayor should pull the fences down and they would hold him irresponsible; but the Mayor did not see that, but did see confinement in Pemberton's hotel. However he brought it before the Council - the Council said it was all buncombe and would have nothing to do with it; and then tow members, who thought the Council useless and also expensive buncombe also, resigned.

So we are to have a Municipal election! and the rallying cry down with fences. As though such a thing as a corporation existed! Why it has been dead a long time, but the Councilors do not know it, or that they are carrying on their existence in another sphere. How strange it is, that the Anglo-Saxon is the most avaricious and jealous and envious people in the world. When a thing is not of any value, or a neighbor not better off then themselves, they take no note of it or them; but let the thing become valuable then it is worth scrambling for and must be taken from its lawful owner, and as to the well-doing neighbor, why the less said about him the better, there must be something wrong when he is doing so well. In this respect it matters not whether they be parsons or others, religious societies are as covetous and envious, and as much blinded by passions as any one else; their piety is not proof against the temptation, although they all rehearse, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's property." How easy it is for them to deceive and persuade themselves they are doing God, law and justice a service! such is man - Anglo-Saxon men.

Saturday, July 8, 1865

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