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The Assay office and the proposed Mint at New Westminster, a chapter in the history of the Fraser River… Reid, R.L. 1926

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By R. L. REID, K.C.
Printed by Chakles F.  Banfield, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
By R. L. REID, K.C.
Printed by Chahles F. Banfield, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
nmwi'.' I Provincial Library,
Victoria, B.C., 1926.
The Hon. William Sloan,
Provincial Secretary and Minister of Mines,
Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C.
Sir,—I have the honour to transmit herewith the seventh memoir
of the Provincial Archives Department, entitled " The Assay Office
and Proposed Mint at New Westminster: A Chapter in the History
of the Fraser River Mines," compiled by Mr. R. L. Reid, K.C., who
has made exhaustive research among the original manuscript sources
in the Provincial Archives and elsewhere, from which he has produced
a detailed account of an interesting episode of the early days of this
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient servant,
Librarian and Archivist.  CONTENTS.
Introductory    1
The Assay Office  16
The Mint  30
The Coins  85
The Officials  88
The Treasurer  92
The Engraver  96 ILLUSTRATIONS.
Early view of New Westminster Frontispiece.
Columbia Street, New Westminster    8
Francis G. Claudet at the time of appointment as head of the Assay
Office   20
Frederick H. Bonsfield, Assistant Assayer  21
W. Hitchcock, Assistant Melter  21
The Assay Office and the Mint Building  30
Panoramic view of Victoria about 1860 .-.  42
Royal Engineers' Barracks  54
Chartres Brew, Colonial Treasurer in 1862  71
Francis G. Claudet at the time he left British Columbia  89
Captain William D. Gosset, Treasurer and Postmaster of the Colony
of British Columbia  92
Albert Kiiner, Engraver  96
Twenty-dollar gold piece  97   The
THE story of the beginning of civilized society in
British Columbia is not the ordinary one of settlement
in a new country. Usually civilization is begun by a
few pioneers, who, led by the desire to see " beyond the
ranges," or moved by the pressure of overpopulation in an
older land, seek a new and untried locality in which to make
a home. Others follow from time to time as the country
becomes known, and the organization of society gradually
takes form and substance with the increase of population.
Unless some great prize—some hope of immediate and enormous gain—is held out, the process is slow and gradual.
But if, as in British Columbia and the other El Dorados of
the nineteenth century, there is made known to the world a
glittering prospect of sudden wealth, and men flock from all
quarters of the globe, not intent on making a home, but bent
solely on gathering riches without limit, so that with such
riches they may return in a short time to their old homelands,
a different condition of affairs arises.
Here in British Columbia there was no Government
when the first Argonauts came seeking the Golden Fleece;
none of those institutions which, almost unseen but always
present in civilized communities, give peace and safety to
the residents; none of those conveniences which men have
evolved to make the transactions of life move without friction. Before the discovery of gold everything here was
peaceful with the peace of barbarism. Time went on from
day to day as it had for untold ages. The savage lived
and hunted, fished and fought, as his forefathers had done.
Suddenly, lured by the rumour of gold, white men came in
thousands from other lands and swarmed up the Fraser
River seeking for sudden riches. Nothing had been prepared for them. There was no Government, no conveniences of civilized life; nothing but the wild land, the
Indian, and, at a few isolated points, posts of the Hudson's
Bay Company established for the purposes of trade with
the savages. Naturally much time was necessary to organize
this virgin land, to provide for the government and direc- Assay Office and Mint.
tion of this crowd of gold-seekers, more difficult to rule and
guide than agricultural settlers; and to supply the country
with the usual facilities of common life. What could be
done was done. The ruler of the adjoining Colony, James
Douglas, stepped in without authority and took control, leaving his actions to be ratified by the British Government.
As speedily as possible he and his assistants did what they
could to meet the need and to establish that organization
of society to which the new arrivals had been accustomed in
the lands from which they came. But during the period of
time which necessarily elapsed before this could be made to
function properly, many difficulties were encountered which
caused inconvenience and annoyance to the inhabitants of
the Colony.
In this book an attempt is made to describe one
of the difficulties which arose during this period of the
Colony's existence, owing to the lack of a circulating
medium, such as was in existence in civilized lands; a currency absolutely above suspicion, bearing the guarantee of
the Government and issued in such denominations as to be
available for all business transactions, whether large or
small. In doing so, as far as possible, the actors in the
drama will be left to tell their own story in their own words.
Besides the economic and numismatic interest, there will
necessarily appear something of the antagonism which
existed between the autocratic Governor of both Vancouver Island and the Mainland Province and the headstrong and peppery Colonial Treasurer of the latter; and
something of the rivalry between the respective capitals of
the two nascent Provinces, a rivalry which ended years
afterward in the dominance of a third city then unborn.
In the nineteenth century four El Dorados were discovered, three of them within a decade. Three were found
on the western coast of North America and one in Australia. Their discovery brought before the eyes of an
astonished world the riches to be obtained in regions which
till that time had been considered f back of the beyond ";
lands till then only known to some adventurous explorers.
Until the discovery of gold these had been little more than
blank spaces on the map of the world, when suddenly the
eyes of all men were turned upon them as lands in which
wealth could be had for the taking.    From every country ■■»
Assay Office and Mint.
gold-seekers poured, seeking the magic metal which means
power, place, and luxury. All sorts and conditions of men,
intoxicated by the lure of gold, came seeking what seemed
to them the solace for all human ills. Some found it and
returned to their own lands rich and powerful; some returned as poor as or poorer than they came; some failed to
return, it may be, unable to obtain sufficient means to pay
the expense of the return journey, or, it may be, so pleased
with the new lands to which they had gone that they had no
desire to go back; some found as the end of their pilgrimage
only an unmarked grave.
The first of these El Dorados was, of course, located in
what is now the great State of California. In 1848 word
went forth to the four corners of the globe that gold was
there for the taking, and immediately from all parts of the
world—east, west, north, and south—adventurers flocked to
that hitherto unknown and unconsidered land. Those were
1 The days of old, the days of gold, the days of '49." But
the treasures of California were comparatively accessible.
San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River gave easy
access by water to a point but a little distance from the
golden sands. The reports were not exaggerated and great
quantities of the precious metal were taken from their
hiding-places for the use or abuse of man. But it was soon
found that gold in its natural state was not a convenient
means of exchange. Men had long been habituated to using
it in the form of coins with the precise weight and value
stamped thereon. Only in this form could it be made economically available for the transaction of business affairs,
and consequently there was an immediate demand for
coined money. The demand immediately caused the supply
to be available. As early as 1849 and until the establishment of a branch of the United States Mint in San Francisco
in 1854 many private firms cut dies and minted the produce
of the mines into current coin. In all, fifteen private mints
were established in California, the first coins struck being
the $5 pieces issued by Norris, Greig & Norris in San Francisco in 1849.
In this way a great deal of the produce of the mines
was transformed into coins which circulated in California
until the establishment by the United States Government of
the Branch Mint at San Francisco rendered such private
Adams, U.S.
Private & Terr.
Gold Coins,
p. 44. Assay Office and Mint.
issues no longer necessary or convenient. The coinage of
their gold by officials of the Government under governmental regulation was a guarantee to the miners that they
would receive its full value in the regular coinage of the
country, and made it more readily available as a medium of
exchange than any private coinage could possibly be.
The excitement occasioned by the discovery of gold in
California had hardly reached its height, the adventurers
already there were still busily engaged in reaping their
golden harvest, and more were on their way thither, when
in 1851 the discovery of the second El Dorado in far-off
Australia became known to the world. The experiences
of California were repeated in the rush to the Australian mines. Here again, though the land itself lay far
from the civilization of that day, on the other side of the
world in sooth, access was comparatively easy by sea, followed by a short overland journey to the locality in which
the gold was found. The same difficulties were experienced
by the first-comers by reason of a lack of currency necessary
for the convenient carrying-out of business transactions, but
this was soon remedied by the establishment of a branch
of the Royal Mint in Sydney in 1855.
As if these discoveries were not enough to satisfy the
desires of mankind for gold in the short space of one
decade, there came within a few years word of another
great gold discovery. In 1857 a whisper passed along the
Pacific Coast that somewhere on the Fraser River, in a
terra incognita marked vaguely on the then maps of the
world as New Georgia and New Caledonia, and lying somewhere north of the northern boundary of the United States;
in a land so far beyond the confines of civilization that it
did not have a Government or even a pretense of a Government, there had been discovered gold deposits of fabulous
richness. There was no reason to disbelieve the story.
A similar story had been found to be true in respect to California. Equally true had been found the reports of gold-
fields in Australia. Why should it not be true of any other
country, especially if it were far enough away and hitherto
entirely unknown? So to the north rushed the gold-seekers
bent on securing riches, and the third " Great Devil Dance
of the Decade," as it has been called, was on in earnest
during the summer of 1858. Assay Office and Mint.
The fourth rush for El Dorado was the Klondike
excitement of 1896 and 1897. Comparatively few years
have passed since then, and so many of the present citizens
of British Columbia took part in it that the essential features of such a stampede are familiar to us. In this case
access to the diggings was much more difficult than had been
the case in California and Australia. It was a long, difficult,
and toilsome journey from the sea to the scene of the discovery. The steep slopes of the Dyea or the Chilcoot
Pass had to be climbed, and after the mountain barrier had
been left behind many weary miles had to be travelled on
foot and by boat on the Yukon River before the Klondike
was reached and access had to the tributaries on which were
the new discoveries. Yet times had changed on the Pacific
Coast since the days of 1858. Cities had sprung up as far
north as Seattle, Wash., Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., and
these served as supply-points. Government officials and private explorers had mapped out the country. Boats on the
Yukon River and its tributaries soon made transportation
of passengers and supplies easy and comparatively cheap.
The North West Mounted Police enforced law and order.
The chartered banks of Canada followed close after the
miners to buy the gold and supply currency for commercial
transactions. So that in a very short space of time the
usual media of commerce were functioning in the Klondike
in the same way as in the older and more developed parts
of Canada.
The episode to be recounted here forms a part of the
history of the third search for El Dorado on the Fraser
River, or " Fraser's River " as it was then called and as it
is still spoken of by some of the survivors of those adventurous days. It received its name from Simon Fraser, of
the North West Company, who, travelling from the east in
the year 1808, was the first white man to follow its perilous
course from Fort George to the sea, and whose bust now
looks down from the hillside at New Westminster upon
the great river which bears his name and perpetuates the
memory of his achievement. Access to the treasures of the
Fraser was, under the conditions of the time, by far the
most difficult and hazardous of any of the four. The nearest point of supply was San Francisco, nearly a thousand
miles away from the mouth of the river.   True, there was a lit'
Assay Office and Mint.
Archives of
B.C., Vol. III.,
p. 25.
British Colony of Vancouver Island, containing a settlement
of a kind at its Capital, Victoria, near its southern extremity.
Here were the headquarters of the Hudson's Bay Company
on the Pacific Coast, with its customary complement of
employees, busy in the fur trade with the Indians and
with little else. Other than the officials and servants of the
Great Company, there was but a meagre handful of settlers.
Indeed, the Chief Factor of the Hudson's Bay Company,
James Douglas, was himself also the Governor of the
Colony, but he did not govern alone. By direct command
from the authorities in England he had established a phantom Legislature consisting of seven members, nearly all of
whom were in some way connected with the Company,
either directly or indirectly. The only available revenue
was that derived from the tax on licensed houses, and this
in 1853 was £220; in 1854, £400; and in 1855, £340.
Practically all business and all real control was vested in
the Hudson's Bay Company. The Mainland of what is now
the Province" of British Columbia had no Government at all.
In it there were no settlers whatever. There were a few
Hudson's Bay Company forts, scattered at immense distances from each other throughout the land, carrying on the
fur trade with the Indians, and the employees of the Company at these forts were its only white inhabitants. Otherwise, it was, as it had always been, a savage wilderness.
The Company had no desire either to give information to
the world in respect to it or in any way to open it to colonization or commerce. Its great desire was to preserve it in
its natural condition as a field for the exercise of the fur
trade and for commerce with the Indian tribes. Even on
Vancouver Island, where it was under obligations to the
Imperial Government to promote colonization, it carried out
its agreement in such a way as to render the results of its
efforts practically nugatory; while, as to the Mainland,- little,
if any, information was available, even to the student, and
there were no means of travelling therein or of obtaining
supplies except with the permission and consent of the Great
In order to get an idea of the scene of our story, let us
glance for a moment at the map of British Columbia, and
in using this term let us apply it solely to what is now the
Mainland or continental part of that Province, remembering Assay Office and Mint.
always that during the period in question herein the Mainland was a distinct Colony, entirely separate from its sister
Colony, that of Vancouver Island; the two colonies not
becoming one until 1866. Parallel to British Columbia's
western shore lies this great Island, some 300 miles in length,
practically a range of rugged, wooded mountains. Near its
southern extremity was the seat of Government and headquarters on the Pacific Coast of the Great Company, originally called Camosun or Camosack, afterwards Fort Albert,
in 1852 renamed Victoria, the gateway to the whole of
the vast territory of British Columbia. Leaving this point,
and passing north-easterly through the Island-studded inland
sea of the Gulf of Georgia, we reach British Columbia.
Parallel to the coast lies a tremendous range of mountains,
with but one practical entrance through the southern part,
where the great Fraser River seeks the sea. Following up
this river for nearly 100 miles through the low-lying lands
of the Fraser Valley, where the river is navigable, we reach
Fort Hope, or a few miles farther, Fort Yale, the head of
navigation on the lower part of the river. This latter point,
while not being the place where gold was first found, was
the locality at which it was first mined to any extent.
For about the same distance above Yale the river follows
the well-known Fraser Canyon, a tremendous gorge through
the eternal hills, turbulent, swift and turbid, and absolutely
unnavigable. Another 200 miles takes us to Quesnelle,
where the gold-seekers left the Fraser and turned eastward
into the Cariboo Mountains. Sixty-two miles eastward
from Quesnelle up the slopes of these mountains we reach
Barkerville, the centre and metropolis of the Cariboo mines.
At the time of the Cariboo stampede there were no
roads in British Columbia; no means of access to the interior
except by the rivers and lakes and the Indian trails over the
mountains. There were no sources of supply, except the
Hudson's Bay posts; no currency; no form of Government;
none of those institutions of civilized life which are evolved
in any community for the purpose of enabling the relations
between its members to be carried on conveniently and economically. With the invasion of the gold-seekers in 1857
and 1858, an anomalous condition came into existence. So
sudden was it and so long did it take to communicate with
the only power which could authorize a legal form of
™    -**■■ 8
Assay Office and Mint.
Government, the Imperial Government in London, that
nothing could be accomplished de jure until the fall of the
latter year. The nearest British authority was Governor
Douglas, of Vancouver Island, and he, seeing the necessity
of some governmental supervision being exercised over the
heterogeneous collection of adventurers pouring into the
country and of some power enforcing law and order, stepped
into the breach and took control de facto until directions
should come from London. His actions were ratified by
the Home authorities, who, in August, 1858, passed an Act
providing for the institution of a legal Government in
British Columbia, and in September of that year appointed
him Governor of the new Colony, as well as of the older
one, and gave him in respect of such new Colony, not only
the powers of a Governor as ordinarily understood, but also
full legislative authority to pass such Statutes and Ordinances as he should see fit, subject only to the power of disallowance by the Home Government, and this without the
assistance of any Legislature or Council of any kind. Still
he resided at Victoria and governed the Mainland Colony
from that point, much to the disgust of the residents of the
latter, who saw, or thought they saw, in every one of his
actions something which favoured Victoria's interests as
against those of New Westminster, their Capital and chief
The British Empire has always been fortunate in finding men able and willing to do its work under any circumstances, however unforeseen. The emergency has always
found the man to meet it. Kipling speaks of " The Luck of
the British Army." He might have extended his phrase
to include the Empire as a whole, and never was its good
fortune better exemplified than in this particular instance.
In no emergency did the Empire have a more fitting man
to meet the exigencies of the time than Governor Douglas
on the North Pacific shores in the years 1857 to 1862. Like
some other great men, the place of his birth is uncertain,
some placing it in Jamaica, some in British Guiana, and
some in Scotland. However this may be, he was educated
in the latter country and at the age of 17 came to Northwestern America as an employee of the North West
Company, the competitor and rival of the Hudson's Bay
Company.   The two companies were amalgamated in 1821, a
■H  Assay Office and Mint.
and Douglas, by virtue of his outstanding ability and
strength of character, soon rose to a commanding position in
the councils of the united companies. He had led an adventurous life for many years in New Caledonia (now the
northern interior of British Columbia). He had been the
trusted assistant of, and second in command under, Dr.
John McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River
(now Vancouver in the State of Washington), and had
succeeded him there. Foreseeing the trend of events and
the overwhelming probability that that part of the Pacific
territory would sooner or later become part of the United
States, he prepared for such a contingency by establishing
the headquarters of his Company at Victoria, as being more
likely than any other available site to remain a portion of
the British Dominions.
Douglas was a man born to command. Tall, over 6
feet in height, and powerfully built, he had always been a
dominating figure whatever his surroundings. Used, from
an early age, to exercise absolute power over his savage and
half-savage underlings; accustomed to owe his personal
security and success in the matters confided to him by the
Company to his own strength and dominance, far from any
possibility of outside support; his training, coupled with his
personal qualifications and natural ability, fitted him to be
a ruler of men. He took authority as his lawful right and
exercised it unflinchingly; in general, wisely, but always
firmly—it maybe, sometimes harshly. As Governor he
never forgot that he was the servant of the British Empire,
and that it was his duty to preserve even the most outlying
part of that far-flung Empire for his Crown and country.
In later years, as Governor of Vancouver's Island and
of British Columbia, he was an autocrat. Punctilious to a
fault and impatient of any opinions but his own, he was a
strong man, to whom unlimited power was given in a time
of storm and stress, when the qualities of an autocrat were
necessary to keep in check a turbulent mob of adventurers
from all quarters of the world, thrown on a new land empty
of all but the aborigines. Under the peculiar conditions
he was the right man in the right place. His personal character was irreproachable and he held the banner of English
honour and English justice untarnished. He kept the peace
under circumstances that tried men's souls, and to him, in
m* Assay Office and Mint.
Papers relative
to Affairs of
Part I., p. 11.
B.C. Papers,
Part I., p. 13.
great part, we owe the fact that the Province of British
Columbia remained and still remains an integral part of the
British Empire. He was characterized by Governor Burnett, of Oregon, as " a very superior intelligence, and a
finished, Christian gentleman," and he fully deserves the
respect and admiration that those who have succeeded him
have delighted to pay to one of the greatest of British
colonial administrators.
The rush to the Fraser River started early in 1858.
Douglas's dispatch to the Home authorities at London of
May 19 of that year sets out in detail the condition of
things as they appeared to him, watching them from the
gateway of the Strait of Georgia. In it he states that
" fifteen hundred white settlers, at the smallest computation,
had reached the diggings," which were at Fort Hope and
farther along the Fraser, and that although the rivers were
in flood, owing to the melting mountain snow, some gold
had been found. Some of the invaders coming in from the
United States were attempting to open roads from Belling-
ham Bay and from Nisqually and by the way of the
Columbia River, but he was striving to legalize the entrance
of gold-miners to the Fraser River only on certain conditions, " which would at once assert the rights of the Crown,
protect the interests of the Hudson's Bay Company, and
are intended to draw the whole trade of the gold districts
through Fraser's River to this Colony [Vancouver's Island],
which would procure its supplies directly from the Mother-
On the 10th day of June, 1858, he writes again. He
" The actual gold-diggings commence on the Upper
Fraser River about 1 mile below the point on which Fort
Hope is situated, and from that point upwards . . .
a distance of 20 miles."
He gives considerable detail as to the work that is
going on, not forgetting his connection with the Hudson's
Bay Company and his desire to protect the interests of that
organization, a desire not fully concurred in by the Home
authorities. On August 14th, 1858, the Right Honourable
Sir E. B. Lytton, the Colonial Secretary, transmitted a copy
of the Act to provide for the Government of British Columbia (as Queen Victoria had named it), under which Douglas Assay Office and Mint.
was appointed Administrator of the Colony, with power to
make " laws, institutions, and ordinances as may be necessary for the peace, order, and good government of our subjects and others residing therein." It was under this
authority that English law, both civil and criminal, was, on
the 19th Nov., 1858, proclaimed in force in the Province so
far as it was not, from local circumstances, inapplicable,
until changed by the British Government, the Governor, or
such other legislative authority as might thereafter be legally
constituted in the Colony.
The new-comers thought inexhaustible treasures were
in sight. They came from every direction and by every
means possible; some by land and some by water. While
the river was high many remained in Victoria; others penetrated the interior. The gold found on the bars of the
Lower Fraser was fine and was known as " float-gold";
the gold being larger in size and coarser the farther up the
river it was found. Except for some Indian trails, " utterly
impassable," says Judge Begbie, | for any animal but a man,
a goat, or a dog," there was only one trail from Yale over
what was known as Manson's Mountain, made by the
Hudson's Bay Company, known as the 1 mule-trail," and
this was passable only for a few months of the year. The
miners agreed with the Government to open a new road on
certain terms, and this was the beginning of the Lillooet
Road, which, with Harrison River and Lake and Anderson
and Seton Lakes, was to open a new route to the Fraser
River and so avoid the necessity of passing through the
Great Canyon, but before this was finished there was a
reaction. The cry was raised that the story of gold on the
Fraser was not true and many of the miners left the country
faster than they had come. They spoke of the " arctic
climate," and by the time that the winter of 1858 set in all
had gone but about 1,000, who remained and wintered in
and about Victoria.
In 1859 about 3,000 returned, but no great discoveries
were made, although many succeeded in getting farther u*p
the river. In 1860 a new mining district was found in and
about Quesnelle, and in 1861 the great discovery of the rich
deposits in Cariboo was made. Victoria and the lower
river were at once deserted, and there was great rejoicing
among the mining population of British Columbia.    On
B.C. Papers,
Part III.,
p. 18.
Alta California,
Oct. 11, 1861. Assay Office and Mint.
Trade in
p. 57.
October 7, 1861, the correspondent of the Alta California
at Victoria writes:—
Victoria is looking up. The dull season has passed.
Miners are arriving with their bags of gold determined upon
a holiday . . . gold is more plentiful in British Columbia than pebbles."
On October 27, 1861, the British Colonist, of Victoria, published an extra stating that $250,000 in gold had
been brought down by the S.S. I Otter " from New Westminster. On November 3 the S.S. | Pacific " carried gold
to San Francisco, amounting to $50,000. The value of
the gold recovered in that year has been estimated to be
in the neighbourhood of $5,000,000. For several years
afterwards the gold production of British Columbia was
immense and the golden stream has never entirely dried up,
for the Cariboo mines still pay their yearly tribute. Even
as late as 1922 new discoveries were made, and no doubt
many a year will pass before the treasures of the Cariboo
mines will be entirely exhausted.
From the earliest times the inconvenience of changing
goods for goods, or barter, has been overcome by the use
of stamped metals or tokens, which have been issued to
facilitate the operations of commerce. This has been found
to be a necessity in all civilized societies. In countries far
removed from the centres of civilization, or which are for
other reasons deprived of a circulating medium certified by
the Government and made legal tender, great difficulties
have always been experienced in carrying on business. Many
have been the devices used in various places to supply a circulating medium of some kind. In the West India Islands
the want of small coins was supplied by cutting the currency
of various South American States and Mexico into fragments, which were stamped with such a value as was provided by the Statutes of the country. In some places these
were given a value greater than they intrinsically had in
order to prevent their export. From this device originated
the term " bits," which still lingers in the vernacular of the
Pacific Coast, a " bit" properly representing one-eighth of
a Spanish dollar, one reale or 12^ cents. In early days in
Oregon, George Abernethy, a storekeeper at Oregon City,
to provide small change, gathered up fragments of stone
left by the manufacture of Indian arrow-heads, shaped them Assay Office and Mint.
and glued thereon pieces of paper on which were written
the date, his initials, and the amount represented, and these
" rocks " passed as currency for some time.
Owing to its distance from commercial centres the lack
of a circulating medium occasioned great inconvenience in
British Columbia from the" beginning. References to the.
lack of coined money, and the difficulty of carrying on ordinary commercial transactions with the gold in its natural
state as taken from the ground, are to be constantly met
in the literature of those days. The use of gold-dust as a
medium of exchange was of course the necessary expedient,
but it was an expedient both uneconomical and subject to
abuse. It was inexact because the fineness of the gold was
not definitely fixed; specific sums were difficult to ascertain
with any degree of accuracy; and the opportunities open to
the unscrupulous to take advantage of the miners were
The trading community demanded that some speedy
action should be taken to remedy the trouble, and this on
two grounds: First, that commercial transactions were being
hampered by the lack of currency; and, secondly, that a
large amount of business was being lost to British Columbia
by reason of the miners finding it necessary to go to San
Francisco in order to have their gold transmuted into coin.
A similar difficulty had been experienced in the Western
Territories of the United States, in which gold had been
discovered, during the period between the discovery of gold
and the establishment of branches of the United States Mint
at San Francisco and Denver, and this difficulty had been
met by private coinage as mentioned hereinafter. It was
felt more in British Columbia than elsewhere owing to the
want of financial organization and to the distance from any
financial centres from which to obtain the means wherewith
to supply its business requirements.
As early as April 25, 1859, Captain Wm. Gosset, the
Treasurer of the Colony of British Columbia, made a report
to the Governor on the matter, suggesting that the Home
Government be requested to send out (not in the way of a
loan, but to be repaid in bullion) sovereigns to the amount
of £60,000, half-sovereigns to the amount of £20,500,
florins to the amount of £11,000, shillings to the amount of
£5,000, pence to the amount of £2,500, and half-pence to
See p. 30.
J 9
as Assay Office and Mint.
B.C. Papers,
Part III.,
p. 13.
April 11, 1861.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
April 9, 1861.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, April
20, 1861.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
Aug. 21,  1861.
Col. Sec. to
the amount of £1,000, making in all a total of £100,000,
which, in his opinion, would relieve matters for the time
being. This report was approved by the Governor and forwarded by him to Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton, under date
of May 25, 1859, in which the Governor says:—
" The only point to which I would desire to draw your
attention is the allusion made by Captain Gosset to the
inconvenience experienced from the want of British coin
in this country. This is a serious evil, and if Her Majesty's
Government would entertain the suggestion of sending out
a supply of coin it would confer a real benefit on the
In April, 1861, the S.S. | Tartar " from Great Britain
brought florins amounting in value to £4,000, shillings
amounting to £2,000, sixpences amounting to £800, and
threepenny pieces amounting to £100; total, £6,900. This
relief was hailed with great satisfaction by the community
in general and by business-men in particular, as silver coins,
especially in the smaller denominations, had been almost
unobtainable either in the City of New Westminster, the
Capital of the Province, or in the interior.
Another attempt was made to relieve the situation by
an issue of Government notes. On a visit by the Governor
early in 1861 he advised the Treasurer that he proposed
raising £5,000 in this way before July 1st of that year.
Gosset did not approve of the plan, owing to the necessity of
keeping a reserve of coin on hand to meet presentations, and
the necessity of having the plates engraved and the printing
done in England. The Governor, however, had made up
his mind to do this and therefore Gosset forwarded a
" specimen note." Whether this issue was made cannot be
determined, but from a letter written by the Treasurer in
August, 1861, referring to " some paper, which would seem,
as its money value is now acknowledged, to be a species of
currency issued by the Commissioner of Lands and Works,"
something of the kind must have been done, as the £5,000
was needed to pay the contractors on the Cariboo Road,
a matter which would come under the jurisdiction of that
Late in 1861 the Governor made up his mind to issue
more notes, but this time in dollars. Gosset was notified
that there were to be issued 2,400 notes of $25 ; 1,000 of $10; Assay Office and Mint.
and 1,000 in $5, making $75,000 in all, of which $20,000
were to be ready by June. He was told that " the denomination of the Notes must be in Dollars, as that is the notation
of account of the community at large," and the notes were
to be paid to the contractors as advances as their work
progressed, who were to pay them to their workmen and
receive them back for provisions at 1 per cent, premium,
" it being their object to keep the Notes in the Upper Country [i.e., East of the Cascade Mountains] until the end of
the season, and thus to avoid the payment of the interest
with which they would be chargeable in the event of the
Government borrowing money to make these advances."
The notes were to be printed on a peculiar paper manufactured in Edinburgh and watermarked 1860, and were to
bear an impressed stamp, signed by the Treasurer and
Cashier and be countersigned by the Colonial Secretary.
The notes were duly issued as directed by the Governor
and the first instalment forwarded to Gosset in January,
1862. As none of these notes are known to exist, they were
evidently all redeemed in due course by the Government.
Gosset, however, was not satisfied with the action taken.
In April he took up the matter again. He complained of not
having been consulted about the issue; that it was a dangerous experiment to be made by a petty Government; that the
Treasury was practically insolvent; and that the notes would
probably be at a discount. He protested against the use of
dollars instead of pounds as " American currency " as being
unconstitutional, and " a yielding up of Her Majesty's currency of the realm without due reason or authority."
He also feared that the notes would be counterfeited
owing to the late improvements in the " lithographic art,"
by means of which imitations could be made so perfect as to
defy detection. The Governor paid no heed to his remonstrances, noting on the margin of Gosset's letter:—
" The proposed Treasury orders are not intended to
remain in circulation as a permanent currency, but to meet
an emergency caused by executing of indispensable public
works which by their reproductive effect on the revenue will
repay the outlay before the year is at an end. The Government is pledged to make certain advances to the contractors
of these works which they have agreed to receive in Treasury orders at their full value—and  I simply wish the
Col. Sec. to
Jan. 18, 1862.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
April 12, 1862. ■Ha
Assay Office and Mint.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
May 16, 1862.
Nov. 7, 1861.
Aug. 7, 1861.
Aug. 29, 1859.
Treasurer to point out how the details are to be managed
with the least risk and inconvenience."
This was communicated to the Treasurer, who returned
to the charge and discussed the matter at great length. He
could not approve the Governor's action and gave his reasons
at length. No reply to this letter has been found. Probably
the Governor, who had had his own way, thought it
The importation of coin above mentioned in 1861 was
not sufficient to satisfy the demands of the merchants. The
lack of a circulating currency continued to be severely felt.
On November 7 the New Westminster paper in an editorial said:—
" Owing to the scarcity of coin in the Treasury here
and in the banking-houses in Victoria, miners are compelled
to go to San Francisco for the purpose of having their gold-
dust turned into coin. ... If the coin question is so
seriously felt now, to what alarming dimensions will it attain
next year with a mining population at least fivefold what it
is now, and a corresponding increase in the yield of our
Another attempt to relieve the situation was the offering of a premium on the importation of sovereigns from
California, but this did not meet the public need.
The first attempt made by the authorities to remedy the
trouble which was being experienced by the business-men
of the Colony owing to the lack of currency, was the establishment of a Government Assay Office. A private Assay
Office had been established in Victoria as early as August,
1859, by Marschand & Co., formerly of San Francisco.
It was thought that if the weight, fineness, and value of
gold ingots could be authentically established, persons dealing
therewith, whether as vendor or purchaser, could be certain
that they were getting or giving a fair price, and so the gold
could be easily and accurately made available for the purposes of commerce. It was also hoped that by this device
the exodus of miners to San Francisco would be stopped,
and the gold and its owners would remain in British Columbia, and thereby its population and wealth permanently
increased. Assay Office.
B.C.  Papers,
III., p. 2.
There was another reason which inclined the authorities
to consider the establishment of an Assay Office. The revenue of the Colony was small and the expenses large. An
export duty on gold was being considered as a proper mode
of taxation. As long as the miners came into the Province
and went out with their gold in their own hands, there was
no means of accurately knowing what the output was; but
if the gold could be made to go through an Assay Office
operated by the Government itself, such a tax could be easily
imposed and collected. This tax was actually imposed in
1865, but it was so unpopular that it was abolished in the
following year.
The advisability of establishing an Assay Office was
first brought to the attention of the Imperial authorities in a
despatch from Governor Douglas to Lord Lytton under date
of April 8, 1859, as follows:—
I The want of an Assay Office in the Colony is felt as
a public inconvenience, and is no doubt highly detrimental
to the commercial interests of the country. There being at
present no means here of ascertaining the true commercial
value of gold-dust, the merchant to save himself from loss
will only purchase it at a low rate, which the miner will not
accept, or the gold-dust is retained in the merchant's hands
in deposit, until samples of it are sent and tested at San
Francisco. Hundreds of miners worn out with the expense
and delay so occasioned, fly in disgust with their gold to
San Francisco.
| An Assay Office established here, the evil would cease
to operate, and the gold would remain in the country.
I The establishment of an Assay Office would otherwise, I believe, prove of signal advantage to the public revenue, inasmuch as it would give facilities for levying an
export duty on gold. That is now impossible, and will be,
so long as the miner cannot get a fair price for his gold in
this country, and in consequence keeps it in his own hands.
If collected at all, in those circumstances the duty would
have to be wrung from each individual miner, and they, to
elude the payment, would cross the frontier and fly with
their treasures into the United States.
'I The Assay Office would provide a remedy for the evil.
Every man might, through its aid, learn from an official
source the true value of any gold in his possession, and wen
Assay Office and Mint.
B.C. Papers,
III., p. 4.
B.C. Papers,
Part III.,
p. 5.
either spend or exchange it for coin in the country. This
would throw the export of gold into the hands of large
dealers, who, having no inducement to smuggle equal to the
risk, would export through the lawful channel, paying the
duty, which they in turn would take care to levy on the
miner by deducting it from the price paid.
" An export duty might then be imposed with advantage, and be found easy and cheap of collection."
In a further letter under date of April 11, 1859, he
states that he has attempted to induce the owners (not
Americans) of private Assay Offices at San Francisco to
establish branches of their houses at Victoria, but without
success, and states that the reasons given by them for refusing to do so are:—
| That Her Majesty's Government would at no distant
date probably establish a Mint at Victoria, and their business would therefore then cease.
" That being foreigners they could not expect the same
privileges as are granted to English houses taking up the
assaying business."
But in his opinion the real reason was:—
" That they had already the whole assaying business of
British Columbia in their hands, as nearly all the gold
produce of the Colony is now carried to San Francisco, and
they have therefore nothing to gain by extending their business to Victoria, or to compensate for the certain outlay of
capital which the process would involve."
The result of establishing the Assay Office, he thinks,
would be that the bars having the Government stamp thereon
would be currency, and that:—
" The expenses would be small, involving little more
than the erection of a house, fire-brick furnace, a few crucibles which could, no doubt, be made here, a good assayer,
and a few assistants. The process is simple to a degree,
and the whole expense of the plant of an Assay Office would
not exceed £600. Its operation, judging from the operations of the San Francisco private assayers, who have all
become wealthy, would leave a profit. I therefore believe
that a well-managed Government Assay Office would, at
least, pay its own expenses.
" Its advantages to the Colony would be incalculable.
Keeping the gold circulating in the country, the status it 5^pi
Assay Office.
would give the place, the confidence it would inspire abroad,
the benefits to the miners, the contentment it would diffuse
amongst them, by the certainty and fairness and celerity of
its operations, and its security, are amongst the advantages
of such an establishment."
Alas for prophecy! It never paid its expenses. In
1866 alone the deficiency in operating was $2,941.49. In no
year was the income equal to the expenditure nor were the
results as satisfactory as the Governor anticipated. Notwithstanding this, on the whole, it was a benefit to the
Colony and assisted materially in promoting its commercial
In a letter to the Colonial Secretary written a few
days later, Captain Gosset gave his ideas as to the possibility
of establishing a Mint, which will be referred to later. In
the meantime he agreed with the Governor that a Smelting
and Assay Office should be established at once. He
referred to his investigations in California on his way to
British Columbia and pointed out the following facts:—
(1.) That the establishment of an Assay Office in San
Francisco had greatly tended to retain population in the
(2.) That the public had more confidence in a Government institution than in private practitioners.
(3.) That nine-tenths of the gold of California was
smelted and assayed at the Government Mint at San Francisco, the balance going to New York.
(4.) That nearly, if not quite, the whole of the British
Columbia gold went to the Government Mint in San
(5.) That the miners of British Columbia, being unable
to obtain proper value for their gold in that Province, have
returned in large numbers to San Francisco, solely to have it
assayed there, and have spent the proceeds there, rarely
returning until their earnings were exhausted. In this way
not only was the gold lost to British Columbia, but also the
time and industry of the miners during their absence.
To these facts he ascribed the lack of population in
British Columbia and recommended immediate action. He
asked for authority to prepare suitable buildings, stating the
number of employees required and the salaries which it
would be necessary to pay.    He expressed the opinion that
Gosset to
Col. Sec,
April 25, 1859. <mm
Assay Office and Mint.
B.C. Papers,
III., p. 101.
B.C. Papers,
III., p. 103.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Aug.
15, 1860.
Letter, Master
of the Mint to
Claudet, Oct.
17, 1859.
these employees should be obtained from England and not
from the United States, for the following reasons:—
" But for the express purpose of engendering confidence
in the Department at the outset I look upon the procural of
assistants in the first instance direct from the Mother-
Country as of the utmost importance.
I Assayers might be obtained from California, but for
the very reasons adverted to in a former part of this report
such men would not invest the Department with that
thorough reliability which it is absolutely essential that it
should at once command not only that it may succeed, but
for the credit of the Government in so delicate a matter as
the adjudicating the quality of the precious metals."
He included an estimate of the expense which would
necessarily be incurred during the first two years, amounting
to £3,800 the first year and £1,950 the second, and closed
his remarks on the proposed Assay Office by prophesying
that the Department would be self-supporting after the first
The Government communicated with the Colonial Office
in London at once and on September 19th, 1859, the establishment of an Assay and Refining Office as a Government
institution was authorized, and the scheme as outlined by
Captain Gosset, slightly modified in the matter of wages,
allowances, and supplies, was approved.
Mr. Francis George Claudet, a brother, and for some
years an assistant to his brother, Mr. Frederick Claudet, an
eminent London Assayer, then of Cannon Street, was
appointed Assayer at a salary of £500 per year, and Mr.
Frederick Henry Bousfield, a junior Assayer who had been
employed in the same office for three years, was appointed
assistant at £350. Both these gentlemen had received a
good scientific education and were qualified to analyze ores
and to act generally as analytical chemists. Notification of
the appointment was given Claudet by Thomas Graham, the
Master of the Royal Mint at London, by letter dated October
17, 1859, as follows:—
" Sir,—I have the honour to inform you of your
appointment to the office of Assayer in the Government
Refinery  and Assay  Office  to  be  established  in  British
MMI Francis G. Claudet at the time of appointment
as bead of the Assay Office.
A i-J
I —
! M
Frederick H. Bonsfield,
Assistant Assayer.  Uij
W. Hitchcock, Assistant Melter. ■■■ aummm •>—r>-
Assay Office.
Columbia by the Colonial Government and placed under the
direction of Capt. Gosset, R.E., Treasurer of the Colony.
" The engagement is for a period of two years and a
half from the time of your arrival in British Columbia.
The salary of your office is to be Four hundred and fifty
pounds for the first year and at the rate of Five hundred
pounds per annum for the remainder of the period. One
hundred pounds in addition is to be allowed for your passage
money, and also three months' half-pay.
"' Your assistance will be immediately required in collecting and preparing for shipment the various implements,
apparatus, and material necessary in your department, till the
period of your embarkation, which it is expected will not
exceed six weeks from this date.
" I have, etc.,
"Thomas Graham."
Mr. Charles A. Bacon was engaged as operative melter
at a salary of £500 per year and Mr. W. Hitchcock as
assistant melter at £300. The terms of the appointments
were for two and a half years certain after their arrival in
the Colony, the operative melter to be allowed £50 for
return passage money if he wished to return at the end of
that period.
In January, 1860, the approval of the Assay Office
reached the authorities in British Columbia, and the Governor proceeded at once to have the necessary buildings
erected, including quarters for the officers.
The British Columbia officials at New Westminster considered a Government Assay Office to be an important institution and that it should therefore be housed in a fitting
building. A plan was accordingly drawn and estimates made
showing the proposed cost of the same at £3,400. The
Governor's ideas were of a different sort, for on April
2, 1860, the following letter was forwarded to Captain
" I  am  desired by His  Excellency the  Governor  to
acquaint you that a plan for an Assay Office has been
received from Colonel Moody, the estimated cost of which
is three  thousand four hundred pounds.    Funds to that
• extent are not available, and therefore, to prevent further
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Aug.
15, 1860.
Letter to
Gosset, May
19, 1860.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset,  April
2, 1860.
—^H f
Assay Office and Mint.
Feb.  14, I860.
B.C. Papers,
IV., p. 22.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Aug.
10, 1860.
loss of valuable time, His Excellency directs me to request
you will institute measures at once for the erection of a
building that will answer all present purposes, and which
His Excellency has good reason to believe can be carried
out for a sum not exceeding four hundred pounds."
The instructions of Governor Douglas were complied
with and the building was completed on May 23, 1860.
£250 more was expended in providing quarters for the
officials sent from London. They reached Victoria in February, 1860, and arrived in New Westminster during the
summer; installed the machinery and apparatus for assaying,
and at the beginning of August, 1860, the Assay Office was
in operation. By the 28th of the month, 1,600 oz. of gold
had been smelted and run into bars of various weights.
There was continual friction between Captain Gosset,
the Treasurer of British Columbia, and the Governor. An
extract from a letter from the Colonial Secretary to Captain
Gosset is an example of this:—
" With reference to your letters of the 4th and 8th
inst, I am directed by His Excellency the Governor to
inform you that he cannot suffer his time to be consumed in
the perusal of a mass of correspondence purporting to seek
certain specific information, but in reality forming a vehicle
for the expression of self-appreciation of your services as a
public officer, and for the enunciation of your ideas of the
manner in which His Excellency should conduct his official
duties, and His Excellency, therefore, declines to receive any
further communications of a character so irrelevant and
unbusiness-like, and contrary to the established rule of the
public service, which provides that separate letters are to be
invariably written on separate subjects."
They were naturally antipathetic. Both had been accustomed to command, not to obey. The people of New Westminster, among whom Gosset lived, disliked Douglas, whom,
they considered, whether rightfully or wrongfully, to be a
partisan of their rival, the City of Victoria, where he resided.
In any case, without in any way reflecting either on the
Governor or the Colonial Treasurer, the above letter, as well
as many others quoted hereafter, together with the Governor's terse memoranda on the margin of many of Gosset's
letters, show that, to put it mildly, they had no affection for
each other. "*^
Assay Office.
They disagreed as to the designation of the Government
Assay Office. Gosset insisted on calling it " The Royal
Mint." The Governor insisted that it should be styled " The
Government Assay Office." Various letters passed between
them on this point, but the matter was settled definitely and
distinctly by the Governor without regard to Gosset's wishes.
This is the last word:—
" I have laid before His Excellency the Governor your
letter of the 20th instant, explaining the reasons which had
induced you to adopt the designation ' Royal Mint' in your
letters and documents relating to the Government Assay
Office, British Columbia.
" Her Majesty's Government, notwithstanding the
report to which you allude, decided upon the establishment
of a Government Assay Office and Refinery in British
Columbia, which was all at present asked for, and, therefore,
His Excellency conceived that to authorize the adoption of
the fictitious title of ' Royal Mint,' the office being an assay
office and not a mint, would be a proceeding of unwarrantable assumption on his part, and an act of pretence unworthy
the dignity of Government."
The first ingots cast by the Assay Office had no value
stamped thereon, as no rules and regulations had at that
time been drawn up, but in August, 1860, the Governor
instructed Gosset to stamp them with the value and a distinctive mark:—
% It would seem indispensable that the value of the
ingots should be stamped thereon, and it appears equally
necessary that some distinctive mark, not easy of counterfeit should also be stamped on the ingot to show where
the assay was made and vouch for its genuineness."
This definite instruction does not seem to have been
carried out. As Claudet said in a letter to his brother in
London, " Captain Gosset has curious notions about adopting £'s and decimals instead of $'s and cents for our assay
memoranda," but, having no authority to do this, compromised by putting no stamp on the bars themselves, but
directed a certificate to be given to the owner stating the
value in dollars. This made it necessary for holders of the
Government Assay Office bars to go to private assayers in
order that the value of the bars should be reascertained and
marked thereon in dollars and cents.    Naturally this caused
Ool. Sec. to
Gosset, Oct.
31, 1860.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Aug.
27, 1860.
Letter,  Claudet
to his brother,
Aug. 4, 1860. HUUSO,!
Assay Office and Mint.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Nov.
29, 1860.
B. Davidson to
Douglas, Nov.
28, 1860.
the Government bars to be at a discount as against those
originally issued by private assayers. On this being communicated to the Governor he reiterated his directions to
comply with his instructions.   He says:—
I His Excellency learns with great concern, and, indeed,
with some surprise, that the Government bars are at a discount as compared with the bars of private assayers, for
transactions in bullion and coin are not subject to many of
the incidents attending other occupations and trades, and
against such transactions no serious combination can be successfully established or carried on so long as equal accommodation and confidence exist.
| His Excellency fully concurs with you in the idea
expressed in the second paragraph of your letter—that an
effort should be made to terminate this state of things—and
he should observe that an obvious and practical remedy presents itself in making the public sensible of the superior
advantages of the Government over private assays in point
of economy, accuracy, and character, which, unfortunately,
he gleans from your communication, would not seem to be
the case at present.
I His Excellency would desire that the simple expedient
should be tried of reducing the charge for assays to the same
standard as private offices, and he has no objection, so far
as means permit, to your purchasing gold-dust from persons
who are in haste and cannot wait for the assay; but from
careful inquiries instituted at this place, and judging from
the opinion of the leading men of business here, His Excellency is convinced that the most cogent objections to the
Government Assay Office arises from the simple fact of the
value of the bars not being stamped thereon in the current
notation, dollars and cents; and he feels satisfied that this
practice must be adopted to meet the requirements of the
mercantile community, over whose method of notation the
Government has no control, and whose convenience the Government must consult if it desires their support."
At the same time he submitted the matter to Rothschild's agents in San Francisco (Davidson & May), who
replied as follows:—
1 The bars, as far as I have had an opportunity of
observing, are well cast and present a neat appearance,
ai ^MF
~. s—
Assay Office.
although the numbers are too large and might with advantage be replaced by smaller ones.
" The amount in dollars and cents according to the
American standard (printed tables of which exist) ought to
be stamped on the bars. It is indeed necessary that this
should be the case, as the purchaser would otherwise be
invariably subjected to the inconvenience of making the calculations himself. It is true that a certificate accompanies
each bar and shows the value in dollars, but that is only for
the use of the original depositor of the gold.
" I think for the present that it would be quite useless
to stamp the value in £ ; the bars, with few exceptions, are
remitted to this country, and therefore it is evidently preferable that the value should be calculated in the same
manner as the bars made here. To stamp the value in £
would only complicate the disposal of them, and give rise to
endless discussions between the seller and purchaser as
to the relative value of the two currencies. In addition to
this the majority of the merchants, miners & traders, both
in British Columbia and Victoria, are, I believe, in the habit
of keeping their accounts in dollars."
In consequence of this advice which was communicated
to Gosset, the Governor ordered the value to be stamped on
each bar in dollars and cents according to the American
Before the Governor's decision had reached Gosset, he
had already recognized the necessity for taking this course
and had begun to stamp the ingots with their value in American money. The rates of assaying were reduced, and the
Treasurer was authorized to make any advances for gold-
dust that the funds in his hands would permit, provided sufficient specie was reserved for the requirements of Government, and care taken that no loss was occasioned to the
revenue by the transaction.
These changes in the practice of the Assay Office rendered it more acceptable to the miners and made the Government bars marketable at regular prices. As the Governor
" The depreciation of the Government Assay Office bars
arose solely from the imperfect form in which they were at
first issued, and from their being in consequence unmarketable until recast."
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Dec.
13, 1860.
Col. See. to
Gosset. Dec.
17, 1860.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, April
1, 1861. ^mmmm^t
Will ■
Assay Office and Mint.
April 4, 1861.
Col.  Sec. to
Gosset, June
19, 1S62.
Aug.  8, 1861.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, June
19, 1862.
Colonist, April
25, 1862.
Bank of B.C.
to Col. Sec,
Sept.   9,   1865.
In April, 1861, formal regulations were issued providing that each ingot of gold bullion was to be stamped with
the number corresponding to its number in the official
records; with its weight in ounces and decimals of an ounce;
its fineness in thousands; also the Government cipher, a
Crown over the letters | V.R." With each ingot was to be
given a certificate signed by the Government officer of the
weight of the deposit before melting; its weight after; its
fineness; the charge for assaying; and its value in dollars
and cents.
In 1862 the staff was ordered to be reduced to one
Assayer and one melter, as from December 31, 1863.
The Assay Office was a success in handling the gold so
far as the miners were concerned. Two or three per cent,
on the whole value of the dust was gained by having the
gold melted and assayed at the Government Office. One
trader alone estimated his gain in 1861 by using the Assay
Office at over $1,000.
The Assay Office never became self-supporting. In
1861 the expenditure in salaries alone was £1,100 more
than the receipts. In January, 1862, the expenses from the
commencement had been upwards of £7,000 and the
receipts about £800.    In 1866 the deficit was $2,941.49.
It was only a short time before other Assay Offices
opened. Molitor, of San Francisco (probably the Molitor
of Wass, Molitor & Co., who coined gold pieces in San
Francisco in 1852), and Wells Fargo & Co., also of that,
city, opened private Assay Offices in Victoria in April, 1862.
The Bank of British Columbia had an Assay Office in Cariboo in 1865. The Government insisted not only on reassay-
ing, but on remelting the bank's bars at its office in New
Westminster. The bank protested against this action by the
Government, claiming a loss in the value of the gold thereby
and in some cases a loss of interest occasioned by delay in
transmission to the point of shipment to market. It asked
that the gold bars as assayed by the bank should be allowed
to pass on the declared value without further assay; or, if
this could not be done, that the bars be simply assayed without being remelted. If this last was not allowed the bank was
willing to dispense with the Government's stamp being put
on the bars, as it was quite satisfied with its own assay.
mtmatss Assay Office.
It will be noted that at this time there was a duty of 2s.
per ounce on the export of gold unless the gold had been
assayed at the Government Assay Office, in which case the
duty was Is. 6d. per ounce. Hence the desire of the bank
to have its gold bear the Assay Office stamp, if possible, so
long as obtaining such stamp did not cause loss to it in
other ways.
The matter was taken up with Mr. Claudet, who pointed
out that if the bank's bars were permitted to pass without
being remelted, it would be necessary for the bank assayer to
allow enough in the weight of each bar to admit of a chip
being cut off at New Westminster for assay without altering
the enfaced weight of the bar. After consideration the
Government, without acceding to the bank's request, made
a change in the instructions to the Assay Office in order to
obviate delay in transmission. The reason of the refusal to
comply with the bank's request was the fear that any such
favour might be an inducement to miners to sell direct to it
and not pass their gold through the Assay Office. The
instructions were:—
"... I am directed by the Officer administering
the Government to inform you that he is unable to grant all
the privileges asked for in that letter, but being anxious to
meet your views as far as is consistent with the public interests of the Colony, he has issued the following instructions
to the Manager of the Government Assay Department:
r That, whenever it can be shown that the Treasure is likely
to miss the opportunity of being shipped by the mail-steamer
through the delay caused by remelting the Bars, he is authorized to use his discretion in passing such Bars without
remelting the fineness of which corresponds with his own
assay/ but the Government stamp cannot in these cases be
placed on bars which have not been remelted."
The bank was not satisfied with the Government's decision, claiming that the small privilege granted was of no
value to it and pointing out an instance where it had lost
interest on $106,000 for a fortnight or more by reason of
having to pass their bars through the Assay Office. In
replying to this the Government pointed out:—
"... I would beg to call your attention to the
fact that in order to meet Clause 3 in the Gold Export
Ordnce., specifying that' Gold assayed at a Govt, assay office
Ordinance of
B.C. No. 13,
March 25,
Letter from
Claudet, Oct.
12, 1865.
Note by Hon.
A. N. Birch,
■on copy of
letter to Lang,
Letter to Lang,
Mgr. Bank of
B.C., Nov 7,
Letter, Lang to
Col. Sec, Nov.
13, 1865.
Letter to Lang,
Nov. 17, 1865.
■HMiirtiaaHlH BTKIM*
Assay Office and Mint.
Claudet to Col.
Sec, March
29, 1867.
should only pay 1/6 per oz. duty,' it was absolutely necessary that the gold should be reassayed, and as the gold
bars which came down last week from Cariboo were only
deposited in the Assay Office here at 10 a.m. on the 11th, just
as the ' Enterprise' was leaving and the steamer ' Active'
left Victoria on the morning of the 13th I cannot see how
your loss of interest arises from the decision of His Honor
contained in my letter of Novr. 7th."
The duty on gold referred to having been removed in
1866, the bank went on with its own assaying to the detriment of the business of the Government Office.    In March,
1867, Claudet endeavoured to arrange for the assaying of
the Bank of British Columbia being done by the Government
Assay Office, and found, in discussing the matter with the
Manager, that the Bank of British North America had
agreed to do it for one-eighth of 1 per cent.
" Knowing that the result of such an arrangement would
be that nearly the whole of the gold produced in the Colony
would be assayed at the Bank Assay Office," he offered to do
it for one-tenth of 1 per cent. The Manager said that as he
had been notified that the resolution of the Council only
provided for the continuance of the Assay Office for that
year unless self-supporting, he feared that in all probability
the office would be closed at the end of the year, and if he
cancelled the arrangement with the Bank of British North
America he might have to renew it the next year on less
advantageous terms, and therefore considered it best to carry
out the arrangement he had made. The result of this would
be that, as nearly the whole of the gold produced passed
through the banks, but little would find its way to the Government Office. In order to keep it alive and to prevent a
monopoly in the purchase and assay of gold-dust which could
not but be prejudicial to the interest of the miners, he suggested the establishment of a small branch Assay Office at
Williams Creek on which the town of Barkerville is situated.
" The miners will, I think, prefer having their dust
assayed and selling the bars at a certain discount, to disposing
of their dust at whatever value is placed upon it by the
He did not imagine that this would render the office
self-supporting, but, as he understood the Governor wished
to continue it, it might make it of more use to the Colony ^
o ■SHriMaiMi \
Assay Office.
than by keeping it on its then footing at New Westminster.
The only extra expense would be transport of material
and travelling expenses. He proposed to go to Williams
Creek himself and leave Hitchcock and the assistant at New
Westminster. He also suggested the purchase of gold bars
by the branch office and the disposal thereof through Messrs.
Davidson & Co., Rothschild's agents at San Francisco.
The arrangement to buy gold was looked upon favourably, but when the expenses of the proposed Williams Creek
branch were estimated by Mr. Claudet at $1,700, the Government found itself unable at that time to entertain the
At one time the Government contemplated establishing
a branch Assay Office at Kootenay, but the scheme was
never carried out.
The idea of establishing a branch Assay Office at
Williams Creek was not abandoned entirely. Later, in 1868,
the matter was again taken up and it was determined to make
the experiment. Figures were obtained for the cost of conveyance of the necessary equipment to Cariboo. It was
arranged for Hitchcock to go there and take charge with the
assistance of William McColl (well known in New Westminster in later years), who at one time had been in the New
Westminster office for a considerable time, " and is an
intelligent lad." In May, 1869, Hitchcock left New Westminster to open the new establishment. The rate for assays
was fixed at one-half of 1 per cent, as being the same as
that made by former Assay Offices in Cariboo. Ten dollars
was made the charge for quartz assays. In August Hitchcock sent down his report to July 23, from which it appears
that the venture bade fair to be a success and Claudet
was in great hopes that it would prove to be self-supporting.
The Bank of British Columbia had its gold assayed there,
a special rate of one-quarter of 1 per cent, being made to it;
and the Hudson's Bay Company took the Government gold
bars at par. The office did more than assay gold; it furnished accurate assays of ores, reported on minerals, and
give advice and information on geological, mineralogical, and
metallurgical subjects.
In 1869 there was considerable excitement over the discovery of gold in the Peace* River country. Owing to this
the Government doubted whether it would be advisable to
Letter, Claudet
to Col. Sec,
April 12, 1867.
Letter, Claudet
to Col. Sec,
Nov. 26, 1868.
Letter, Claudet
to Col. Sec,
Dec. 21, 1868.
Letter, Claudet
to Col. Sec,
Feb. 4, 1869.
Letter, Claudet
to Col. Sec,
April 27, 1869.
Letter, Claudet
to Col. Sec,
Aug.  10, 1869.
Letter,  Claudet
to Col. Sec,
Jan. 4, 1870.
MttHwSi T
Assay Office and Mint.
Note  to
April 26, 1870.
Letter, Claudet
to Col. Sec,
May 20, 1870.
Letter,  Claudet
to Col. Sec.
Nov.  29,  1870.
Note to letter,
Claudet to Col.
Sec, Nov.
22, 1870. •
Letter,  Claudet
to Col. Sec,
Jan. 4, 1871.
Col. Sec to
Claudet, Jan.
9, 1871.
send the year's supply of stores, etc., to the Cariboo branch,
fearing an exodus of miners to the new goldfields, but left
the matter to Mr. Claudet, to hold back the stores or forward them as he deemed best.
In May, 1870, Hitchcock reported to Claudet that the
Bank of British Columbia had instructed their agent at
Barkerville to cease patronizing the Cariboo Branch Assay
Office and to send all their gold to Victoria to be assayed
.there. This was a severe blow, as it deprived the office of
its largest customer, and in consequence of the bank's action
the amount of gold passing through the office was much
less than that handled the previous year.
In December, 1870, the Government notified Claudet
that in all probability his services would not be required
after 1871, but on his inquiring what the intentions of the
Government were as to compensating him for his eleven
years' service as head of the Assay Office, and when it was
proposed to close the office, he was advised:—
" That it is not the intention of the present Govt, to
abolish the Assay Dept. and that the question will be dealt
with by the Local Administration which may be in office
after Confederation, but that as it seems probable that such
a change may then be made, timely warning was given in
order that you might have due notice thereof."
British Columbia became a Province of the Dominion
in July, 1871, and on January 21, 1873, Hon. W. J. Armstrong, Provincial Secretary, notified Claudet that the Assay
Office was to be closed.
The idea of a local Mint coining local gold into currency was no new one to the miners. In 1849 the Oregon
Exchange Company had coined their own money at Oregon
City, made from their own gold. From 1849 until 1855,
when the branch of the United States Mint was established
at San Francisco, private firms had coined the gold of California into currency. In 1849 the Mormons in Utah had
minted their gold into coins, engraving thereon the bee-hive
as an emblem of that industry which alone enriches a commonwealth. Various firms in Colorado were busy coining
money in 1860 and 1861.    In Australia the demands of the —~
mm    < ..-. _
1 i
L The Mint.
B.C. Papers,
III., p. 5.
miners had caused the Imperial Government, in 1855, to
establish in Sydney a branch of the Royal Mint, and there
seemed no reason why such an institution should not be
established in British Columbia. The gold of British
Columbia was pouring into the United States Mint at San
Francisco and into private Assay Offices in that city. By
November 20, 1858, gold to the value of $500,000 had
reached the Californian Metropolis.
The first mention of a Mint made by Governor Douglas
in his despatches to London is in that of April 11, 1859.
Even at that time he thought that, although expensive, such
an establishment would be more efficient than an Assay
Office, and that, if Her Majesty's Government were to set
one up at once, he thought the circumstances of the country
would justify the outlay. But even this was not the first
time the matter had been under consideration by the Home
In November, 1858, when Captain W. Driscoll Gosset
was sent from England as Colonial Treasurer of the Province of British Columbia, one of the duties imposed on him
by the Secretary for the Colonies, Sir Edward Bulwer-
Lytton, had been to organize " a mint (of which an assay
office forms a part) should the necessity arise for such an
establishment in this colony." To do this intelligently, he
discussed the matter with the officials of the Royal Mint
before leaving England, and on his way to the scene of his
labours studied the American institutions of the same class,
and made inquiries from the residents of San Francisco as
to the effect on the people of the operation of a Mint in that
city. He made no report on the matter until requested by
Governor Douglas to do so in April, 1859.
Before this report was asked for, the Legislature of
Vancouver's Island had moved in the matter. Although
the gold was produced in British Columbia, a separate
Colony, the good people of Victoria thought it would be
more advantageous to the country generally, and to themselves in particular, to have the Mint located in their own
city regardless of the locality in which the gold was found.
Accordingly, on March 31, 1859, an address to the Governor was adopted, " praying that he will urge upon the
Home Government the desirability of establishing a Mint in
this Colony, and also that the money therein coined shall be
B.C. Papers,
III., p. 13.
Archives of
B.C., Vol. IV.,
p. 50. Sf-
Assay Office and Mint.
Archives of
B.C.,  Vol. IV.,
p.  51.
B.C. Papers,
Pt. III., p. 13
et seq.
decimal currency of the same value as that of the United
States of America"; to which the Governor replied on
April 6:—
" I beg to assure the House that I will, without delay,
enter into communication with Her Majesty's Government,
strongly recommending the expediency and advantage of
establishing a Mint on Vancouver's Island."
This reply did not increase his popularity in New
On April 25, 1859, in obedience to the Governor's
instructions, Gosset made a lengthy report to the Governor
on the question of the Mint. He considered that the establishment of a Mint at that time, even in British Columbia,
would be premature, on account of the large expenditure
that would be necessary, as had been shown by the establishment of the Mint in Sydney, New South Wales, which
cost between £60,000 and £80,000. He considered it
would be sufficient for the time being to establish those
branches of a Mint comprised under the heads of a smelting-
house and assay office, and that this should be done with the
least possible delay. (See p. 19.) He did not look with
favour on the suggestion put forward by the Legislature
of Vancouver's Island, and apparently approved by the
Governor, that a Mint should be established at Victoria.
On this point he says:—
" By the admirable express arrangements of the transit
houses, the gold will follow one known channel—trade compels this,—and that channel will be to, as it is already by,
the declared capital of British Columbia. At the capital,
therefore, as in most countries, there should the mint be
established, and not on Vancouver's Island, as proposed by
the House of Assembly of Vancouver's Island, and in all
respect I venture to think, inadvertently acquiesced in by
His Excellency the Governor of the two colonies.
" The very best intentions of so costly an establishment
would be frustrated by taking the gold, for coinage, 100
miles across the sea, away to a colony not itself gold-,
producing, nor likely to be other than of secondary magnitude as compared with British Columbia, to be again
returned with the charge of double freight and double insurance to the producers of the metal. wmmmmm
The Mint.
" The very eagerness of the Vancouver House of
Assembly to grasp at a mint is evidence of this; the House
doubtless felt that a mint in Victoria would tend to draw
population and trade away from British Columbia, and to
raise their town into the position of a capital to British
Columbia, to their own advantage, but to the detriment of
their sister colony, of which I venture to count myself one
humble guardian.
" Not only, in my humble opinion, does it appear imprudent for the Government of Vancouver's Island, especially
in the present state of its finances, and without any immediate prospect of increased resources, to contemplate the
establishment of a mint for the purpose of coining the
metal derived from the heart of a neighbouring colony, but
I should even deem it inadvisable for British Columbia to
come to too hasty a solution on a matter involving, as
proved by the cost of the Sydney Mint, £60,000 to
If it were decided to establish a Mint and coin money,
as a loyal Englishman he could not see the necessity of
adopting the currency of the United States, but preferred
using the British sovereign, substituting for the usual divisions thereof a decimal arrangement, giving the following
reasons for this conclusion:—
" With regard to the adoption of the currency of the
United States, I do not perceive the necessity for hastily
declaring in favour of a foreign metier; nor, in my opinion,
is there any ground for departing from Her Majesty's
initial coin, the British sovereign, possibly substituting for
the existing a decimal arrangement proceeding therefrom;
of which already there has been issued (I believe as a tentative coin) the much-esteemed florin, the tenth of which
might be termed a groat, reviving an old English name of
somewhat the same, with one-tenth again, as a mill or
mille; such a decimal arrangement being that which (I
believe) would have been recommended by the Commission
of Inquiry into the subject, but for the one argument,
advanced by dealers who received and disbursed farthings
in thousands per diem—viz., that the poor of Great Britain
would suffer by the alteration of the farthing or 1/960 of
a pound to the 1/1,000, an argument which would have
no weight here, where poverty is unknown, and where the
*N1 Assay Office and Mint.
Colonist, Aug.
7, 1860.
Letter, Claudet
to his brother,
Jan. 27, 1861.
Letter, Claudet
to his brother,
April 6, 1861.
habits of the people and their prosperity induce a positive
disregard of fractions under a 5 cent (or about 2^4d.)
This report was transmitted to the Colonial Secretary
at London by Governor Douglas on May 25, 1859. The
result, as has been said above, was the establishment of the
Assay Office. Still the talk of a Mint persisted. A correspondent in the Colonist newspaper published at Victoria in
August, 1860, said:—
Our Government officials tell us that in a few years
we shall have a branch of the Royal Mint, pointing to the
Assay Office at New Westminster as an earnest."
In January, 1861, Claude't called on the Governor and
discussed the question of striking coins, and was asked " to
write a report about the mode I should propose to make
these coins in British Columbia, with all the advantages,
etc., and the expense of machinery."
Claudet sent in his notes on the coin question to Gosset,
it being customary to send letters to the Governor through
the head of the Department. The Treasurer did not forward it at once, if he ever did.    Claudet says:—
" I think he [Gosset] does not approve of it and wishes
to delay sending it as long as possible. . . . The Governor and his officials are pulling in opposite directions,
quarrelling, jealousy, etc., going on to a great extent.
. . . The Treasury is purchasing bars at 2 per cent,
discount, which they send to Victoria and sell at 1^> per
cent, discount at Wells,  Fargo's.
But I believe
Wells, Fargo are going to charge 2% per cent. soon. This
method is not a bad one if they will keep it up, but every
now and then they refuse to buy at the Treasury, so the
people never know whether they can depend upon selling
their bars in New Westminster. . . . Of course the
plan of striking tokens would be of advantage to the inhabitants as they could obtain coin at ^2 per cent, instead of 2
per cent."
With the flood of gold which came from Cariboo in the
fall of 1861, the situation became acute. In September,
1861, Major Downie, an experienced and successful California miner (afterwards the author of "Hunting for Gold,"
published at San Francisco in 1893), writing to Alex.
McDonald, the pioneer Victoria banker, said:— TO
The Mint.
" California is nowhere in comparison with Williams
Creek. Keep good courage, and order a mint for next year."
The condition of affairs in British Columbia is well
described by the Victoria correspondent of the Alta California, of San Francisco, in October, 1861:—
" Although thus abundant the gold, the scarcity of coin
is notorious. Much of the metal sent down has to return
here in the shape of money, and, of course, there is a loss
of between two and three per cent., the result of freight,
insurance, and what not. This loss has been observed to
act very deleteriously to the interest of the colony in several
ways, and in none more than the dissatisfaction miners
exhibit at the discount, so much so, indeed, that several leave
for San Francisco on this account alone, although in carrying their dust with them they must pay a portion thereof,
supposing, of course, their treasure to be insured. To obviate
in some measure these disadvantages, it has been proposed in
the Legislature to present a petition to Her Majesty, praying
for the establishment of a mint in the colony. Although
acknowledging the desirability of such an institution, if supported and paid for by the Home authorities (which, Of
course, they would not do), the resolution was opposed upon
the ground that, whether coin or dust were exported, the
loss would be nearly the same, particularly as the coin would
not circulate in a foreign country; moreover, the cost of
establishing a mint ($50,000) and the expense of maintaining it, say $2,500 per annum, would, in the present limited
amount required for circulation in the colonies, really
amount to a very much greater loss than 2% per cent.;
in fact, figures were brought forward to show that every
dollar coined for circulation within the colony would cost
about $4; of course, for exportation, in payment for value
received, the gold-dust would be employed. It was therefore considered, at all events, economical to make use of the
U.S. money, and it was observed that Canada, with her
large population, found this to be the case. The fact is,
a mint would be beneficial in many ways, but the colony
cannot just now afford the luxury; at the same time, it is
not a question which can be settled by figures and a two-
foot rule. There are so many real losses and inconveniences connected with a want of coin, that there may be a
doubt whether the expense of a mint would be really any
B.C. Papers,
IV., p. 60.
Alta California,
Oct. 25, 1861. 36
Assay Office and Mint.
Colonist, Oct.
12, 1861.
Colonist, Oct.
12, 1861.
Daily Press,
Oct. 11, 1861.
Daily Press,
Oct. 24, 1861.
loss at all, even at present. However, the gude folk of
Westminster may take the matter in hand (they have an
Assay Office) and put it down among their next list of
grievances, that he (the Governor), knowing how badly off
we are for money, has failed to supply us therewith! Until
the consummation of this desire, we must be content, as
heretofore, to exchange our gold for American coin in San
Francisco, and bear the loss, however much we would like
to have the profile of our Queen in place of the head of
The newspapers took up the demand for a Mint. In
the Colonist in October a correspondent, signing himself
I Oro," braving the ire of his fellow-townsmen in suggesting that the Mint should be established at New Westminster,
" I believe the Home Government could at the cost of
about £5,000 establish a Mint, say, at New Westminster.
Why should not the dust be coined here and circulated
instead of going down to San Francisco for that end ? I conceive that such an establishment would by no means be a
speculation; but, on the contrary, a certain and profitable
institution. It would prove an immense saving to the miners,
prevent a scarcity of coin, keep the money in the country,
encourage emigration," [sic] " and probably induce many
new-comers to buy lots and thereon establish their homesteads."
The matter came up again in the House of Assembly
in Victoria on October 11, when Mr. Waddington gave
notice of a motion that he would move a petition to Her
Majesty on the following Tuesday, asking for the immediate
establishment of a Mint in Victoria. When the matter came
up opinions were divided as to the practicability of the
Colony taking upon itself the financial burden of such an
undertaking. The Daily Press, one of the Local Journals,
was of the opinion that it would be hazardous for Vancouver's Island, with its meagre income, to take upon itself such
a responsibility; that it should be located at New Westminster and that it should be financed by British Columbia.
It said:—
" A few days since, Mr. Waddington introduced a
measure to the House of Assembly, the object of which was
the establishment of a Mint in Victoria.   We are sorry the The Mint.
question had not an opportunity of being properly discussed—not because there was a great probability of its
meeting with the views of the majority of the inhabitants,
or that there was the slightest chance of its passing the
House, but in order that every information in possession of
the members on the subject might have been placed before
the public.
" Any person who has been watching closely commercial transactions in Victoria for the past month must have
been struck with the heavy losses both Colonies are suffering for want of coin, though gold in bars and gold in dust
could be met with almost everywhere in town. The necessity for the existence of a Mint, under the circumstances of
abundance of gold and absolute scarcity of coin is surely
evident, but when we consider the peculiar circumstances of
our case in reference to the miners the establishment of such
an institution becomes more and more urgent. That the
Mint, however, should be in Vancouver Island, and the
expense entailed by its establishment and maintenance supported by the already heavily taxed inhabitants of this
Colony, is a scheme with which we by no means coincide.
" New Westminster is the proper locality for such an
institution and British Columbia the proper Colony for its
maintenance. Already there is a Government Assay Office
established in New Westminster which costs the colony at
least £1,500 a year for its support. The scheme originated
with Capt. Gosset and was intended to have been the forerunner of a Mint. The great difficulty in the way heretofore to place the establishment of a mint in a favorable
light before the British Government was the total absence
of data in reference to the yield of gold. No reliable statistics could be furnished, and it was not likely that an enterprise would be indulged in, costing at the outset beween
£20,000 and £30,000 without some tangible foundation to
go upon. Circumstances have now happily changed this condition of uncertainty. The amount of gold which we know
has come this season from Cariboo, and the prospects which
are opened of immense yields next year fully justify the
Government of the neighbouring colony applying to the
Home Government for the immediate establishment of a
' M 38
Assay Office and Mint.
Daily Press,
Oct. 24, 1861.
" So important has this question become to us, that
without the capacity to coin, we shall be virtually no better
off with the enormous wealth of British Columbia which
recent events have displayed, than we were when the gold
was coming from the Fraser in driblets of a few thousand
dollars a month. So long as there is a heavy premium for
miners taking their gold to San Francisco to exchange it for
coin, every lucky digger will take his gold from the colony,
and leave us poorer than ever in wealth and in population.
The returns from the express office in this town show how
fractional a portion of the gold is cashed in Victoria. The
reason is certainly obvious—for no miner who has got over
$2,000 in gold would be silly enough to lose from 2}£ to
3^2% on the amount when he can pay his passage down to
San Francisco, get his gold turned into coin and have sufficient surplus to carry him over a considerable portion of
the winter, all for the sum which is pocketed by the express
offices or other establishments that exchange coin for gold.
There is also another inducement for the miner taking his
gold to a country where a Mint is established—he gets the
proper value for his dust. In all, when we come to consider the risk, insurance, freight of the value to and fro, loss
of time in realizing, and the depreciated price of the metal,
we are not wrong in stating that under present circumstances
the miners, and therefore both colonies, are losing a percentage that is perfectly startling on the value of the gold
produced, from the fact of depending upon other countries
for our coin. The inevitable loss to the country in the departure of both wealth and population is of course incalculable,
and unless the Government of British Columbia bestirs itself
in the matter of establishing a Mint, the gold of Cariboo
will be a curse instead of a blessing to both colonies."
And later:—
" The want of coin . . . will always drive away
the miner whose bags are well filled with dust or bars, and
until a Mint is established in British Columbia we cannot
hope to ameliorate this miserable condition of affairs. On
Friday there were merchants in this town actually asking
four per cent for cashing bars."
The Press was of the opinion that the Officials of the
Assay Office were quite able to operate the mint while carrying on the work of the Assay Office.
—— The Mint.
" The Assay Office at New Westminster is an expensive institution, and unless connected with a Mint or aided
by the Treasury purchasing its bars will prove but little
benefit to the community. The men who are employed in
the establishment have exceedingly high salaries, and are certainly not one-third their time engaged."
But the " Colonist " disagreed. Referring to Mr. Wad-
dington's motion, it said:—
" The immediate cause of Mr. Waddington's retirement, as we understand it, was the unfortunate ending of
the discussion about a mint, an institution much wanted."
It was again referred to in the Colonist in November,
in an editorial insisting as a necessary condition that the
Mint should be established in its home city. The argument
of Gosset that the gold should be coined in pounds and subdivisions thereof is effectually answered, so effectually,
indeed, that the matter is never afterwards referred to. It
" Fully a million of dollars in gold-dust has arrived in
our market during the last month. So common has gold-
dust become that the market is glutted. No one will buy
it, or but very small quantities can be sold. The reason for
this is simply that there is not coin enough in the country
to purchase it. Buyers would be numerous enough were it
not for this cause. The miners are put to serious inconvenience for want of a medium of exchange, and they have
to put up with this inconvenience or go, or send their gold-
dust, to San Francisco. We have been pestered with the
questions: ' Why don't you pitch into the banks ? ' ' Why
don't you call upon Government to establish a mint ? *
" In answer to the first question, we have to say that
we have no more right to pitch into the banks to make them
exchange their coin for gold-dust than we have to pitch
into them to exchange their coin for the potatoes of our
farmers. Both are commercial commodities, and we prefer
to let bankers, like other people, buy what they please or do
what they please with their money. The real truth of the
whole matter is that our bankers, like everybody else, have
not money to spare from the ordinary transactions of trade.
In answer to the second question about the establishment
of a mint, we have to reply that no government mint could
be established here soon enough to afford relief during the
Daily Press,
Nov.  4,  1861.
Colonist, Nov.
4, 1861.
Colonist, Nov.
7, 1861.
hi r
Assay Office and Mint.
present glut of gold-dust; consequently there is no use whatever in recommending the establishment of a mint with the
object of accommodating the miners at the present time.
" In view of the yield of gold another season, it may
be well enough to bring the question under notice. There
cannot be a doubt in anybody's mind that enough gold will
be taken from the mines next year to warrant the establishment of a small mint. But whether we shall get a mint,
that is a question too problematical for us to solve. From
the manner in which the discussion on the mint ended in
our Assembly, we should infer that we will not, and, consequently, some other expedient will have to be resorted to in
order to supply the country with coin.
" Coining money is simply manufacturing money.
Hitherto we have been content to produce the raw material,
and ship it abroad for sale or to be manufactured into coin
and returned here. The whole question, then, resolves
itself simply into the fact whether it would be cheaper for
us to export raw gold or encourage the manufacture of
gold into coin here. The general opinion of experts appears
to be that, basing calculations on the amount of gold-dust
hitherto received here, it would be cheaper to export our
gold than coin it at home. In other words, the cost of
transportation to San Francisco and costs of sale there on
our annual yield of gold would be less than to have it coined
here by a cumbrous and costly Government staff of Mint
officials. We have not the space nor intention to examine
into the pros and cons of this conclusion at this time. Hereafter we shall deal with it.
" We may as well, nevertheless, bring under notice a
few things that deserve consideration if a Mint be seriously
contemplated—and we can perceive no good reason why it
should not. In the first place, if a Mint be established in
these Colonies, it should be established at Victoria and
nowhere else. Grant that a Mint be established at New
Westminster, and the consequence is a derangement, or at
least there would be serious inconveniences to the commerce
of the country. The commerce of the country is not centred
at New Westminster. It is centred at Victoria. The
up-country merchants don't buy at New Westminster—
they buy at Victoria. They buy on credit here, not there.
If they sent down gold-dust to pay off, it would have to be The Mint.
sent back to New Westminster for coinage and then
returned here. Thus three passages would have to be made
when one direct passage to Victoria would answer every
purpose, and, moreover, the gold would be at its proper
destination if it was coined here, where it could be employed,
and where it could not avoid being chiefly accumulated.
If it be urged that it may be stopped at New Westminster
and coined, we urge that merchants usually want to realize
as quickly as possible, and they cannot wait for the slow
motions of a mint, nor be put to the trouble of hunting up
advances on certificates of gold lodged for coinage there.
For this reason, if it must be anywhere, it should be
here.    .    .    .
| In the next place, the coinage should be a decimal
currency, and not in sterling money. Our money of account
is kept in a decimal currency; will be kept in a decimal
currency; nothing can prevent it. Our largest trade being
with the United States, the money of account will be the
same here as there. If we were to coin sovereigns and
their fractions, there would be such a loss on the coinage
when put in circulation that it would not be tolerated by
commercial men, and the gold-dust would be exported
abroad. If we think of coining money here, when we are
assured that we have enough raw gold to warrant an expensive Mint, then these two points will have to be considered
" Wre have said that some other means might be provided to create a circulating medium without a government
mint; we certainly think so. In the early days of California, Moffatt & Co. and Kellogg obtained licences to coin
money and stamp it with their own names. The same thing
may be done here if our Government is willing to meet the
circumstances. Were there no doubt about a government
mint paying, yet with all the pushing it would be a year
and a half before it would be established. If a private mint
can be established and the community willing to take the
coin, we see no reason why some one should not engage in
the business. The question of the government monopoly
of coinage is not worth consideration. Practical considerations show that a large circulating medium could be created
here and universal accommodation be provided; and that,
we believe, ought to be sufficient to induce government to
1 42
Assay Office and Mint.
Nov.  7,  1861.
Colonist, Nov.
9, 1861.
Daily Press,
Nov. 13, 1861.
grant a licence here to private parties to coin money,
stamped with their names. If such were done there would
not be much greater danger of loss to the country than
by assaying gold and stamping the bars—and they pass
The Columbian at New Westminster agreed with the
Colonist in its demand that a Mint be established, but
insisted that it be placed at New Westminster. In the issue
of the 7th November it said:—
" Owing to the scarcity of coin in the Treasury here
and in the banking-houses in Victoria, miners were compelled to go to San Francisco for the purpose of having their
gold-dust turned into coin. . . . Having no adequate
supply of coin, and destitute of a mint as we are, this
treasure has gone to California, thereby obliging miners,
who would remain here till the Spring, when they intend
returning to their claims, to go to San Francisco, and when
once there they will of course remain till the time arrives
for them to return to Cariboo. . . . The bankers of
Victoria have certainly practised their usury long enough,
and with the prospects ahead the Government should set
about the immediate establishment of a mint in connection
with the Assay; for if the coin question is so seriously felt
now, to what alarming dimensions will it attain next year,
with a mining population at least fivefold what it is now,
and a correspondent increase in the yield of our mines."
The Victoria correspondent of the Alta California as
quoted on page 35 shows the condition of things in British
Columbia at the time, and a little later, in a letter of
November 5, 1861, he refers at length to the debate in the
Vancouver Island Legislature.
The difficulties of carrying on business under these circumstances became so great that on the 8th of November a
large number of merchants of the City of Victoria waited
on the Governor to consult him as to the best means of
obtaining a plentiful supply of coin for the Colony. A suggestion was made by a Victoria paper that to meet the
emergency the Assay Office at New Westminster should be
authorized to run the miners' gold into small ingots with
the value stamped on their face. The want of a Mint
was freely canvassed and a proposition discussed to coin
$5, $10, and $20 pieces, but nothing definite was arrived  a The Mint.
at. At the same time exciting news came from the
North. Fine gold, such as had been found on the Lower
Fraser in 1858, had been discovered in paying quantities
($10 per diem with a rocker) on the Stickeen River. Gold
had also been found upon the Naas and the Skeena. Letters
came telling of gold discoveries on the Saskatchewan and
also on the western side of the Rocky Mountains. In fact,
the indications were that an immense auriferous region
extended from Cariboo to the Saskatchewan and south to
the Okanagan and Similkameen Districts, and how far north
no one could tell. The apparent wealth of the Colony
loomed immense in the eyes of the people of British Columbia. The Governor yielded and on November 14, 1861,
after consulting Captain Gosset and Mr. Claudet, and without communicating with England, he directed the Colonial
Secretary to write to Captain Gosset as follows:—
" With reference to the interview which you and Mr.
Claudet had to-day with the Governor upon the subject of
meeting the inconvenience and loss which at present results
to the Colonies of British Columbia and Vancouver Island
through the scarcity of coin, I am instructed by His Excellency to authorize you to dispatch Mr. Claudet to San Francisco to obtain the necessary machinery for coining at the
Assay Office in New Westminster pieces of the value of
Twenty and Ten Dollars American currency, the total
expense of which, it is estimated, will not exceed one thousand pounds sterling.
" 2. His Excellency wishes you to submit a rough
sketch of the device for the coins in question."
The design was made by Captain Gosset as requested
by the Governor. This, as sketched by him, was approved
by the Governor, with the exception that the words " British
Columbia Mint," which he had suggested on the obverse,
were directed to be omitted, and the words " Government of
British Columbia " substituted therefor.
In obedience to these instructions, Mr. Claudet left
for San Francisco on the 21st November, 1861, to purchase
the necessary apparatus for striking coins. He took with
him a letter of introduction to Davidson & May, asking them
to give him as much information as possible relative to assaying and refining gold in California. On the same date that
the Governor authorized Gosset to send Claudet to San
Alta California,
Nov. 25, 1861.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset,  Nov.
14, 1861.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Nov.
15, 1861. 44
B.C. Papers,
IV., p. 62.
Assay Office and Mint.
Francisco, he sent a despatch to the Duke of Newcastle
relative to the matter, which is worthy of quotation in full:—
I Much inconvenience and loss have, ever since the formation of these Colonies, been occasioned by the want of a
circulating medium of fixed and recognized value, equal to
the business demands of the country. The scarcity of coin
has been so great, and gold-dust not being received for
duties, that importers of goods have found it difficult at all
times to make their Custom House payments, and, as is well
known, are frequently compelled to borrow money for that
purpose at exorbitant rates of interest, varying from two per
cent, per month and upwards. Almost all the business of
the country is transacted in gold-dust of uncertain value,
and it is easy to conceive the difficulty and inconvenience of
adjusting payments by such means, when the holder and
receiver are both alike subject to loss and fearful of
" The effects of an over restricted monetary circulation
are now, however, operating so fatally in both Colonies that
it is indispensable to devise a remedy for an evil that is
sapping the very foundations of our prosperity. To illustrate this fact, I would inform your Grace that at this
moment there is an amount of gold-dust in the hands of
miners from Cariboo, residing at Victoria, exceeding one-
quarter of a million sterling; and so great is the present
dearth of coin that it brings a premium of five per cent, and
over when procurable, which is not generally the case, as
men may be seen hawking bars of gold about the streets of
Victoria, who cannot raise coin enough, even at the high
rates of discount just mentioned, to defray their current
expenses. The miners and other holders of gold-dust are
naturally incensed and refuse to submit to this depreciation
on the value of their property, when they know it can be
converted into coin for the moderate charge of one-half of
one per cent, at the United States Branch Mint in San Francisco, making an important saving to them of 4^ per cent.
They are consequently leaving Victoria by every opportunity; and it is most painful to witness a state of things
which is rapidly driving population and capital from the
I It has been suggested that "an issue of notes of varying values, guaranteed by the Government and payable on The Mint.
demand at the public Treasury, would, by providing a cheap
and simple medium of exchange, meet the evil; but, independently of the general objections to a paper currency,
its effect in banishing the precious metals, in producing
unhealthy inflation and rash speculation, and the fluctuation
in the value of the circulating medium, it appears to me that
the ramifications of business are not extensive enough to
retain the notes in circulation; they would therefore simply
return to the Treasury, and soon exceed our means of
" This I conceive would be the inevitable result of an
issue of paper in the present condition of the Colony, unless
the notes were made a legal tender, a measure I am not
prepared to recommend.
" As a safer remedy and one more suitable to the actual
circumstances of the Colonies, I propose to take immediate,
steps for the manufacture of gold pieces, equal in value to
the 10 and 20 dollar American coins, and to bring them into
general use as a circulating medium in both Colonies.
I This plan does not contemplate refining the gold, as
the expense would be greatly increased by that process;
it is merely proposed to bring it to a uniform standard of
fineness, without separating the natural alloy of silver
which to some extent exists in all the gold of British
" The pieces will be prepared at the Government Assay
Office, and will bear the stamp of unquestionable character;
and I am of the opinion that by making the gold contained
in them of the full current value of the piece, without taking
the silver into account, which I propose should go as a
bonus, they will not only answer as a cheap and convenient
currency within the Colonies, but also have the same
exchange value when exported to other countries.
" It appears to Mr. Davidson, a gentleman of large
business experience, and agent for the Rothschilds at San
Francisco, that the average fineness of Californian gold in
its natural state ranges between 880 and 885, that is to say,
in valuing the samples brought to him for sale, his calculations have been always based on those figures, and have
never proved defective. This shows that some simple
process for roughly determining the value of Fraser River
gold may also be arrived at; and that knowledge will f acili-
45 HiJJJiAlL"
n Jj'
Assay Office and Mint.
tate its reduction, within 10 or 20 thousandths, to a uniform
degree of fineness, in order that the pieces representing the
same value may not vary in weight.
" All the machinery required for this purpose may be
procured at San Francisco for the moderate sum of five
hundred pounds and without materially adding to the expense
of the present Assay Establishment. Mr. Claudet thinks it
will be in his power to manufacture all the pieces wanted
for the circulation of the country.
" I have submitted this plan for the consideration of
the principal banking and commercial houses of Victoria,
with the object of obtaining their views as to the probable
effects of the proposed currency on the general business of
the country, and more especially as to its exchange value
when exported to pay for supplies; the single point which
I think admits of any question, for in that case it would
probably be treated as simple bullion.
" It was clearly proved by the statements of those
gentlemen that the actual cost of importing coin from other
countries is rather over 5 per cent., which they believe to
be the actual cost of our present metallic currency. Not
having had sufficient time for consideration, they were not,
however, prepared to give a decided opinion on the general
measure, but they admitted that it would establish the value
of the gold produced in British Columbia in the cheapest
manner, and provide a metallic currency for the country at
a cost of 4 per cent, less than is paid for imported coin, and
offered no objections either to the plan or the basis of the
proposed currency.
"If the principal banking and mercantile houses agree
among themselves to receive this currency as a legal tender,
no difficulty will be experienced in carrying the measure into
effect; and no reason exists why it should not receive their
hearty support, as it will surely tend to their advantage, not
only by the saving, as before shown, of 4 per cent, on the
cost of importing coin, and the complete removal of the cause
which is draining the country of wealth and population, but
also in the numberless other ways by which the investment
of capital serves to promote the general prosperity.
" I will only further remark that considering the great
importance of the object in view, and the advantages
expected from the operation of this simple and inexpensive
-—son The Mint.
plan of providing a metallic currency of character unsuspected and intrinsically equivalent to its stamped value, and
therefore not subject to depreciation nor open to the objections which may be urged against a paper currency, I can
hardly doubt that Her Majesty's Government will, in these
circumstances, withhold their approval, or object to my
declaring it a legal tender, and causing it to be received at
all the public offices within the Colonies in payment of duties
and taxes; especially as there is no prospect of this currency
being replaced by any preferable circulating medium until
the produce of gold, by its abundance, renders the establishment of a branch of the Royal Mint in British Columbia a
public necessity."
Later the correspondent of the Alta California writes:—
" Victoria is full of miners. . . . The fact is that
the miners have brought down so much gold that there is
not anything like sufficient coin to purchase it. This is a
cause of general complaint. The next thing is that gold
bars cannot be changed into coin, excepting at a discount
varying from 2y2 per cent, to 4 per cent. Of course this
arises from having to import coin and export the bars, which
cost in insurance and freight 4 per cent, at least. Rather
than suffer such a loss, the miners will take themselves and
bars to San Francisco, and thus Victoria and Vancouver's
Island loses the greater part of the benefit expected. There
being no amusements of any nature here adds to the exodus.
. . . From these causes the \ Pacific' will receive, it is
expected, not less than 300 passengers, perhaps more, with
their piles, and thus San Francisco reaps the benefit of these
mines which she has been so apt to decry. ... I told
you before of the question of the establishment of a Mint
having been discussed in the Assembly. Since that, however, the loss to the country by the deficiency of coin and
the manifold injuries resulting therefrom has forced the
attention of the community to the subject and various
schemes of no value have been promulgated to meet the
sudden emergency. The Governor has taken the matter up
and called a meeting of the merchants about the affair. He
has a scheme, viz., of taking varieties of dust of different
fineness, and melting them together so as to produce a
standard fineness, and, having obtained that, to coin 20, 10,
and 5 dollar pieces, which shall be in gold intrinsically worth
, M
Alta California,
Nov. 29, 1861. mgmmmmmm
Assay Office and Mint.
Nov. 14, 1861.
the sum mentioned and shall equal those of the United
States. In fact, he would establish a Mint, but without the
most expensive part of the establishment, viz., the refinement
of the gold. The silver contained, in more or less quantity,
in all the gold, would be left therein, and this would actually
increase the value of the coin. It is believed that by such
a process coin could be manufactured at a discount less than
1 per cent. There is a difficulty, however, which is not
easily got over, viz., the depreciation of the value of such a
coin in a foreign market where probably it would not circulate. . . . The long and the short of the matter is that
before long British Columbia will possess a Mint."
While Claudet was in San Francisco purchasing the
machinery necessary to carry out the scheme proposed by
Douglas, the wordy warfare between the press of the two
capitals went merrily on. The Columbian replied to the
editorial in the Colonist quoted on page 39 as follows:—
" In the Victoria Colonist of the 7th inst. we find an
editorial article upon this subject which is of such an extraordinary and absurd character that we can scarcely deal
with it under this head. The main object of the writer
seems to be to show, first, that it is very doubtful whether
the yield of our gold fields will warrant the establishment of
a mint; secondly, that if a mint is established, Victoria, and
not New Westminster, is the location; and, thirdly, that
Government ought to license private coinage.
" To all three positions we take decided exception, but
shall confine ourselves to the first for the present. We
think the present and prospective yield of our mines would
fully warrant the establishment of a Mint. . . . Those
who are in the best position to know have computed the
yield of our mines this season at four million dollars, and we
think we are safe in assuming that it will be 50 per cent,
more next year, which would give us six millions; and calculating that if we had a Mint, and also an export tax on gold,
at least two-thirds of this amount would find its way there,
which would give us four million dollars to be coined during
the ensuing season. And that sum at one per cent., which
we believe would be a reasonable charge for coinage, would
give forty thousand dollars as the earning of the Mint for
the first year. The cost of a Mint has been variously estimated at from one hundred to one hundred and fifty thou- The Mint.
sand dollars. But we have it from a gentleman who should
be the most undoubted authority, that a Mint capable of
turning out coin at an average rate of $100,000 per week,
could be established for $75,000, and that would include a
refinery and $10,000 in silver. And, further, that it could
be worked in connection with our Assay for about $30,000
a year. . . . But this is by no means all that should be
placed to the credit of a Mint. We look upon such an institution in very much the same light as the postal service, or
any other part of the public service. . . . Neither can
we see how any man who understands the Mint question
should take the position we should do without one till such
time as it would be self-sustaining. This we say for the
sake of argument, holding, as we do, that it can be clearly
shown that a Mint would actually earn enough to pay current expenses and interest on the original cost. . . .
Quite a variety of schemes have been suggested as a cure
for the present coin difficulty, but our own opinion is that
nothing short of a Mint will be found to meet the difficulty,
and the sooner we have that desideratum, the better for the
To which the Colonist replied:—
" The last Columbian thinks our remarks upon the Mint
question both ' extraordinary and absurd.' Of course it
does. We never expected it to arrive at a different conclusion. It is too patriotic to see any other suitable place
where a Mint could be located except New Westminster.
Had it been published here three years ago it would doubtless have advocated the doctrine of Gov. Douglas's proclamation that there was ' no convenient place for a port
of entry near the mouth of the Fraser,' and, consequently,
Victoria was the only place. We differed then with such
high authority, and a few months after a ' convenient' port
of entry was found at Queensboro'. We differ now with
Gov. Douglas and the Columbian. We hold that Victoria is the proper and only place where a Mint ought to be
established. If water-power were absolutely necessary to
propel the machinery of a Mint, and if the capacious
Fraser were the most convenient water-power, why we, of
course, would concede the correctness of the conclusions of
our contemporary and consent to see a Mint established
there.    Or if the commerce of the country were centred at
Nov. 21, 1861. I
i h
Assay Office and Mint.
New Westminster, we would offer no objections to the
selection of that place. If experts in coining money could
not be had out of New Westminster, of course we would
submit to the necessity. But it so happens that Fraser
River is not required for water-power, neither is commerce
centred anywhere but here, and, as for manufacturers of
coin, they can be had elsewhere. Under such circumstances
we cannot perceive that New Westminster has a solitary
advantage to recommend it to public favor in reference to
the establishment of a Mint there.
" When Gov. Douglas told the gentlemen who waited
upon him by invitation to consult about the coinage question, that it was impossible to have money coined except
in New Westminster, he was only following out to the letter
the mistaken and injurious policy which he has encouraged
of keeping these colonies separate and distinct. Had he,
in 1858, used his influence to have united them together,
the political and commercial interests of the whole country
over which he presides would have been much more
advanced than they are to-day. If the colonies had been
united, such an absurd idea as selecting New Westminster
as the place for a Mint would never have been uttered,
except by some one requiring the services of a straight-
jacket. One might just as well think of erecting a manufactory as far away from the point where its manufactured
staples were to be consumed as to suggest any other place
than Victoria as the proper locality for a Mint, however
humble its proportions might be. No manufacturer would
think of selecting a place for his manufactory which would
neither accommodate his customers nor enable him to produce the manufactured article at the lowest (cost) of
production. Yet such is the policy that Gov. Douglas encourages. Such is the idea that our contemporaries are at
work upon.
" The raw gold it is proposed to coin into money
where it will not be convenient to the commerce of the
country, but where the delays, commissions, risks, and
freight upon it will unavoidably and unnecessarily add to
the cost of the money coined. This may be political economy; but it is a very different system from any that is
current elsewhere. It may be statesmanship; but we are
so obtuse that we cannot see it.    It may be an accommoda- The Mint.
tion to the commerce of the country; but we would like to
see the merchant who admits it to be so. New Westminster may be the cheapest place to coin money; but no one
will believe it. Let a Mint be established there, and it will
only be like most of the work of the Government: it will
have to be undone. Government will have to pursue its
crawfish policy, and back out as it did out of the mule-tax,
and in the end will have to commence the coinage of money
here as the only suitable and proper place."
From this editorial it is evident that, notwithstanding
Governor Douglas's diplomatic reply to the Legislature of
Vancouver's Island in April, 1859, he recognized the necessity and fairness of coining the gold of British Columbia
at its Capital City.
While in San Francisco Claudet purchased the necessary machinery, consisting of screw-press, rolling-mill,
cutting-press, milling-bench, draw-bench, line-shafting, pulleys, hangers, couplings, moulds with strap, balance for
weighty blanks, gauge for measuring thickness, steam-
engines, dies, for which he paid $5,085. Evidently his credit
was £1,300, as he notes in his diary (now in the possession
of his son, F. J. Claudet, Jr., of Nanoose, B.C.) :—
1,415 left for fuel, reagents, etc."
The screw-press was evidently the one which had been
used by the well-known firm of Wass, Molitor & Co. for
making the coins issued by them in 1852 and 1855, for he
" Screw-press turns out about twenty coins a minute
(Molitor). One man who puts in the blanks has the
command; 2 others ply the lever. Man in command has
a small stick to push away coin when struck. Dies must
be adjusted or set at the proper distance every time before
He says of the rolling-mill:—
" Rolling-Mill, during rolling, anneal three or four
times. Rolling does not increase the width except a trifle
(1/16 inch) ; $20 ingot, l1/* inches, 12^4 inches long, yi
March 7, 1862.
note-book. WSsammm^mmm
Assay Office and Mint.
inch thick; $10 ingot, 1% inches, 12^ inches long, 1 inch
thick. Speed of rolling-mill, 20 turns per minute; 120
revolutions on pulley. Every draft through the rolls
reduces the strip 1/32 of an inch."
His memoranda on the other machinery are:—
I Cutting press, speed 100 per minute. Milling-
machine, 30 turns per minute.
" Draw-bench: In drawing the strips are not widened
but only lengthened and compressed; maybe they become a
little narrower by tension. Extra dies, for when the others
are worn they may be ground over again. Speed 100 feet
per minute or 90 revolutions on the pulley. A lathe will
be a desirable thing to have, as dies of draw-bench, etc.,
may require repairing. A rope 1 inch diameter for draw-
bench. Mr. Targuot will forward lathe when we have
decided on the price.
" Nine moulds of two ingots each in one cast-iron pan.
This pan is to prevent the loss by spilling or spitting.
" Steam-engine: A 7-inch diameter cylinder, 10 horsepower, 100 speed; 9-foot 4-inch horizontal engine, $1,400.
Boiler ought to have 15 square feet heating surface for
every horse-power. The boiler ordered has 20 square feet
surface.    Boiler was tested to 140 lb. per square inch.
" Dies are made according to the coin more or less deep
to account for the different thickness of the coin; one
original set of each and two duplicate sets; two collars for
" Wooden tank lined with sheet copper (6 by 2 feet)
for quenching blanks. The blanks being thrown into a
copper sieve (copper pan with large holes) which is placed
in the vat with weak sulphur and a pickle. This sieve is
then transferred to the other vat, in which it is well washed
with hot water. The vats have leaden tubes which lead
from the boiler to heat them. The wax is cleaned off the
planchets in a similar way, only the pieces are put in a
strong solution of soap and rattled about with a kind of
rake made of cast iron. For the pickle it is made of copper.
The dies will soon wear. At the Mint they upset and refix
them every two or three weeks (lathe). One pair nearly
finished and will require turning down—to upset—heat and
redress and hammer a little. Then turn off and heat to
redress and cool in water.    The pieces have to be  cut
K& ■^*»*^«^^*fafc.
*m-   ~
■■"« —
The Mint.
according to the depth of the die. The deeper the more
milling is required. Therefore pieces have to be cut
The machinery was ordered from the Vulcan Foundry,
San Francisco, and was to be ready by January 21st, 1862.
The dies were ordered from Mr. Wagner, of Vanderslice's
Silver Manufactory, and were to be ready within six weeks
after December 10, 1861. They were to consist of the
mother dies, or matrices, as they are called, for $20 and $10
pieces, the punches (the dies used for the actual minting
of the coins) for same, both without the date, and dies
with date added.    The whole to be under $300.
Claudet returned to British Columbia in March, 1862,
reaching Victoria, V.I., on the 6th. The machinery and
supplies, consisting of twenty-five packages and eighty-one
pieces of machinery, came on the same vessel and were
landed at Esquimalt, near Victoria. On the 19th the Governor applied to the Senior Naval Officer at that place, Hon.
J. W. S. Spencer, for the services of a gunboat to convey
it to New Westminster. The " Forward " was requisitioned
for this purpose and on April 3 it reached New Westminster. The crew of the " Forward " landed it and conveyed it to the building which had been erected for the
purpose on the site now occupied by the easterly portion of
the Post-office Building on Columbia Street. The citizens of
New Westminster were rejoiced to see their dream of a
Mint becoming a solid fact and confidently expected to see
it in operation and coining money by May 1. Alas for the
vanity of human wishes!
Gosset lost no time in taking steps to get the Mint in
operation. On April 3 he wrote to the Governor for
instructions respecting the arrangements for installing the
machinery. But what was his surprise to find that the
enthusiasm which had actuated the Governor in his dispatch
to the Duke of Newcastle in November, 1861, and which
had been the cause of Claudet's mission to San Francisco,
had entirely evaporated. The Governor did not propose to
authorize any additional expenditure at this time. On the
contrary, Gosset was, in the language of the citizens of New
Westminster, to " grease it and lay it away," or, as the
Colonial Secretary more elegantly phrased it:—
Mining &
Scientific Press,
S.F., April 25,
March 7, 1862.
Gov. Douglas
to Spencer,
March 19,
April 3, 1862.
Apr.  10,  1862. ma
he-- l*-^-*^mmmmmmW
Assay Office and Mint.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, April
7,  1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, April
14, 1862.
Letter,   Gosset
to Col. Sec,
April 19, 1862.
Howay, Work
of the Boyal
Engineers in
I In the meantime proper care is to be taken for the
due preservation of the machinery, and application is to be
made to Colonel Moody for the occasional services of a
sapper* to do any necessary work of cleaning, oiling, etc."
To say that Gosset was indignant is to put it mildly.
A well-known citizen of New Westminster, W. B. (Bailey)
Ross—now dead some years—told the writer that, meeting
him about this time, he asked him, " Captain, what's new
to-day ? " All Gosset could say was, " Grease it and lay it
away." He (Gosset) walked three or four steps and
repeated, 1 Grease it and lay it away."    Mr. Ross thought
Gosset was crazy.    Again he broke out, " D n it, grease
it and lay it away."
Gosset protested vigorously, but was again told " to
take such measures as may be proper for the due preservation of the machinery." The Governor, however, yielded
so far as to allow the unexpended balance of the appropriation of £1,500 which had been made for the Mint to be
used for the purchase of timber and bricks to complete the
work. As Claudet's note-book shows (see page 51) that his
limit of expense in San Francisco was £1,300, there must
have been some £200 yet available. As to actual coinage,
the Governor did not propose to authorize it at this time.
He did " not intend to commence any coining operations
before later in the season, when the gold commences to
arrive from the upper country."
With this grudging permission, Gosset proceeded to
install the machinery. With the assistance of some of the
sappers, placed at his disposal by Colonel Moody (for, as
he says in a letter to the Governor, " being an Engineer
officer, and therefore not disqualified from directing Engineer soldiers "), he personally took upon himself the task of
devising the necessary arrangements. He designed and
superintended the masonry, carpentry, and smith's works,
and, " with his own hands," in some cases put machinery
together and in position. In a short time he succeeded in
having everything set up and ready for operation.
He then demanded from the Governor that he be
allowed to use the title of " Deputy Master of the Mint."
* In 1858 the Home Government sent to British Columbia a company of
sappers and miners to New Westminster under the command of Colonel Moody.
They were stationed in the eastern part of the city; hence the name Sapperton,
by which it is still called.    They were disbanded in 1863.
I ——i. m#»~~.
■ .'  ^ammm
If The Mint.
The Governor curtly refused, stating that he had no present
intention of altering the designation of the Assay Office.
Gosset would not take " no " for an answer. He forwarded a long letter to the Governor, in which he referred
to a personal interview he had had with Sir E. B. Lytton
before leaving London, and which had been ratified by a
Colonial Office letter dated October 11, 1858, which contained these words: " You will further be required to undertake the duties of Deputy Master of the Mint, in case of the
establishment at any future period of a Mint there "; and
he argued that according to ordinary usage he had now the
right to assume this designation, for " By the rule or custom
of the public service, when an officer is called upon to perform any duties connected with establishing a new department, he is at once acknowledged by that title under which
it may have been previously agreed upon he should eventually control that department."
He pointed out that he had given a device for the coins
in November, 1861, which had been approved; that under
his instructions machinery necessary for the Mint and not
required by the Assay Office had been purchased; that he
had superintended and personally assisted in putting the
machinery in place for operating; that this was no part of
his duties as Superintendent of an Assay and Melting
Department, but purely Mint duties; and that, in accordance
with the custom above referred to, he was entitled to the
title of " Acting Deputy Master of the Mint" even though
actual coinage should be deferred for a few months.
To verify his statements in this regard he requested
Colonel Moody to certify the truth of his statement as to the
custom of the service. Moody corroborated his views,
" This is correct, assuming that such duties occur in the
country of his future permanent labours. For instance, no
duties of a Colonial Department performed in England prior
to assuming office in the Colony would authorize the functionary to assume in England (ex officio) his Colonial title.
" I am prepared to state the above, should His Excellency wish for an opinion from me.
"R. C. M.
"April 23rd, 1862."
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, April
17, 1862.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
April 19, 1862.
Letter, Gosset
to Moody,
April 22,
-w  ... yym
Assay Office and Mint.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, May
5, 1862.
Booker, Br.
Consul, to
Douglas, April
16, 1862.
Col. Sec.
to Gosset,
April 27,
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
April 28,
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, April
30, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, May
22, 1862.
Col. Sec to
Gosset, May
15, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, May
22, 1862.
I His Excellency " did not " wish " for any " opinion "
from Colonel Moody. He had his own opinion in the
matter and he proposed to stand by it. Gosset was informed
that the contents of his letter of the 19th had' not been
" overlooked " by the Governor, and that no change was to
be made either in the name of the British Columbia Assay
Office or in the title of the superintending officer.
The dies were forwarded to Douglas by the British
Consul at San Francisco on 18th April and were received
and acknowledged on the 23rd; on the 27th they were
forwarded from Victoria to Captain Gosset by the steamer
" Enterprise " and reached New Westminster on the 28th.
The test coins in silver usually sent by the engraver with
the dies did not accompany them. Gosset wrote for them,
and was informed by the Colonial Secretary that the Governor had taken them to New Westminster with him. Not
receiving them he wrote again, and found that, instead of
taking them to Gosset, the Governor had forwarded them
to England for the information of the Home authorities.
Hearing that a dispatch had been received from London
in reference to the projected issue of gold coins, Gosset
wrote asking for a copy, so that he could carry out the views
of the Home Government in respect thereto. He did not
get it, but received instead a severe reproof. He was
advised by the Colonial Secretary that:—
" I am desired by His Excellency to refer you to the
instructions you have already received upon this subject,
and to acquaint you that further instructions will be issued
to you as circumstances require, to all of which His Excellency begs you will strictly attend, as by so doing you will
be properly fulfilling the duty entrusted to you."
A forcible way, surely, of telling him to mind his own
business. Gosset wrote again to the Governor on May 19,
1862, a letter which has not been found, but evidently protesting against the action of the Governor in not proceeding
with the coinage, but all the reply he got was a reiteration of
the direction that the services of a sapper were to be utilized
from time to time for keeping the coining machinery in
Soon another bombshell exploded. Whether it was
initiated by Gosset or arose among the employees of the
Assay Office themselves cannot now be determined.   They
— The Mint.
formally applied through him to the Governor 1 for an
increase of salary on account of anticipated extra work arising through the projected issue of gold pieces from the
Assay Office."
The Governor was not pleased. He replied that he
would take this application into consideration when he determined to make such issues. He relied on these men to
undertake cheerfully any extra labour within their power
which the circumstances of the Colony might require, and
suggested that after they had done so he would give his best
consideration to an appeal for additional remuneration. At
the same time he could not refrain from saying that he had
perused the communication under reply with considerable
regret and disappointment.
The Governor's answer was transmitted to the officials,
who were in no way appeased by the conciliating terms
thereof. They wrote again setting out the terms on which
they had accepted their appointment in British Columbia
and proposed to go on strike.   They said:—
" Having been favoured by you with a perusal of His
Excellency's reply to our application for an increase of
salary, we cannot but express our regret that His Excellency
should have taken so mistaken a view of the grounds on
which our application was based, as to imagine that we were
desirous of taking advantage of the proposed coining
arrangement to urge an unwarrantable claim for additional
services. We most certainly considered that the great
increase of labour and responsibility would have had some
weight with His Excellency; but, apart from this, we hold
ourselves entitled to an increase of salary from what we
were led to expect from the Master of the Mint before leaving England, and, as we informed you in our application,
it was on this understanding only that we accepted our
" As, however, His Excellency seems disposed to ignore
the promises of the Home Government made through the
Master of the Mint, we think it right to inform His Excellency that until the question is decided we shall decline taking any part in the mintage operations."
This was duly transmitted to the Governor, who, in
reply, asked for copies of the documents containing such
promises, as those in the Governor's possession failed to
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, May
30, 1862.
Letter, Gosset
to officials,
June 3, 1862.
Letter, officials
to Gosset,
June 3, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, June
9,  1862. 1KG
*8»MI  I^W-.l
A.ssay Office and Mint.
Letter, Claudet,
Bousfield, &
Hitchcock to
the Col. Sec,
June 11, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, June
19, 1862.
show any greater increase provided for than had been
already accorded.
The officers replied that no written agreement with
respect to increase of salary had passed between Mr.
Thomas Graham, the Master of the Mint at London, and
themselves, but that there had been a verbal arrangement
made in the presence of them all, and that, owing to his
high position, it had never occurred to them to request him
to put it in writing. They said they had been encouraged
to accept the low salaries offered them and to come out
to the Colony by his assurance that their salaries would not
long remain at so low a figure. They referred him to
Mr. Graham, who, they assured him, would cheerfully corroborate what they had stated. In the interim they
reiterated their statement that under the existing arrangement he must not expect their co-operation in the proposed
The Governor replied that their premeditated refusal
to undertake the operation of issuing from the Assay Office
gold pieces of a certain value bearing a distinctive assay-
mark had been under his consideration. He had carefully gone over the reports of the Master of the Mint and
found in these no foundation for their statements. He
points out that the conditions therein expressed have been
faithfully carried out and that they had had free quarters
in addition; something that had not been promised. In
those reports there was not, that he could find, any stipulation or condition that they were to be the judge of the
duties they were to perform.
" The Master of the Mint, in fixing the staff, although
on a somewhat smaller scale, evidently took the Branch
Mint at Sydney as his guide, and, indeed, constantly refers
to that establishment as a prototype. He, moreover, did
not consider the services of a melter as indispensable, but
considered that the duties might be performed by one or
both of the Assayers. A melter was, however, afterwards
added to the staff, thus rendering it complete and far larger
than, in proportion to the duties performed, the staff of the
Sydney Mint."
He points out that their duties had been of the lightest
possible description. The expenses up to that time had been
more than £7,000; the receipts only £800; and that there The Mint.
was now an opportunity of making it self-supporting.
Instead of putting the gold-dust into bars of large and varying value, it was proposed to put it in pieces-of small fixed
values, and in anticipation of instructions to that effect being
issued they refused to carry out those instructions. They
must be under a misapprehension and possible ignorance of
the customs and requirements of the public service. He
desired to give them every opportunity of perfectly understanding the matter, and informed them that the Home .Government had approved of the issuance of such pieces of
specified value from the Assay Office of British Columbia,
and that he considered it part of their legitimate duty to
assist to the utmost of their power to carry out this project.
Unless they did so, he would be compelled to view continued
refusal on their part as a direct breach of the engagement
they entered into with the Government. Faced with the
determined stand taken by the Governor, the officials were
not prepared to carry out their threats to cease work if
their demands were not acceded to. They wrote a long letter
to Gosset justifying their claim and asked that the matter be
transmitted to the Secretary of State in England and the
Master of the Mint for consideration, and that in the meantime they would undertake the operations in question. They
also called the Governor's attention to a few points set out
in his letter.
They were advised that the Governor refused to trouble
the Secretary with the matter. He said that it was a matter
of detail which was solely for him to deal with. He
informed them that the only terms upon which he could
accept the continued services of the officers employed in the
Assay Department would be their unconditional submission
to the views of the Government.
The officials did not at once accept the Governor's
terms. They insisted on their privileges as Civil Servants
and forwarded a copy of the whole correspondence, demanding that it be sent on to London at the earliest possible convenience.   They add:—
" We beg to call the attention of His Grace the Duke
of Newcastle to the points for which we contend: 1st,
that assurance of salaries larger than those we at present
receive were given us by Mr. Graham; 2nd, that we have
an additional claim for increased salaries in view of addi-
officials to
Gosset, June
23, 1862.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
June 24,  1862.
officials to
Gosset, July
14, 1862. •w
Assay Office and Mint.
% W
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
July 15, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, July
21 and 29,
officials to
Gosset, July
22, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Brew, Sept.
28, 1863.
tional responsibility for bullion about to devolve upon us,
and of the performance, in coining operations, of duties no
part of those for which we engaged, as our official titles
significantly express."
In forwarding it Gosset shows his sympathy with their
request, whether he inspired it or not.    He says:—
" I deem it but just towards these gentlemen to record
my high opinion of their strict integrity and efficiency in
their respective positions. £140,000 worth of gold-dust
has passed through their hands and it is my conviction that
not one grain has been lost that could have been saved. In
this country the value of public officers of unimpeachable
character can scarcely be overestimated.
" In view of the Colony's interests, I append a return
of the expenditure and receipts of the Department up to the
end of last month, and to the remarks thereon beg to request
the attention of the Secretary of State, for I should deplore
any circumstances which might, especially on the eve of a
great gold yield, check the advance of the Department in
public favour, or militate against its daily increasing utility,
and the great importance and value of which to the public
of British Columbia are generally and loudly acknowledged
in the Colony."
The Governor was not moved by their demand and
demanded a categorical reply. They reiterated their demand
that the matter be referred to London and the Governor
yielded. The correspondence was forwarded as requested
and the Assay Office went on in its accustomed way.
No more was heard of it until 1863. The Secretary
of State for the Colonies referred the matter to the Lords of
the Treasury, who condemned the course pursued by the
officers of the Assay Department, and left the question of
increase of salary to be dealt with by the Governor. At the
same time he called for further statistical information with
a view of determining the propriety of continuing the Assay
Office, reducing the staff, or discontinuing it altogether. In
consequence of the information given the Assay Office force
was reduced to one Assayer and one melter. An annual
return was ordered to be made to the Secretary of State
for the Colonies thereafter.
An attempt was made by the Columbian in May, 1862,
to force the Governor's hand and induce him to operate the PHM
The Mint.
Mint. Gosset himself may not have written the editorial
referring to this matter, but there are many circumstances
which warranted the Governor's suspicion that he did, or at
least that he instigated the publication of it. In it his
authority is frequently cited; the name which he had
attempted to have given to the institution, and the title
claimed by him as head of it and refused by the Governor,
are continuously used; many facts are stated which were
peculiarly within his knowledge, and the whole article is
peculiarly reminiscent of his letters to the Colonial Secretary.    In part it says:—
" We have drawn attention before to the Royal Mint
at New Westminster and its progress to completion. Its
importance is now undoubted and its proper position in
these colonies, locally, is equally undeniable. The public
are not a little indebted to Captain Gosset, R.E., the Deputy
Master of the Mint, appointed by Sir E. B. Lytton, and
the Chief Commissioner of Lands and Works [Col. Moody]
for the energetic manner in which the arrangements of the
former have been carried on, and the valuable aid rendered by the latter towards the,erection of the requisite
Part of the report of Captain Gosset to the Governor
of the 25th April, 1859, is then cited, and the opening of the
Assay Office on the 1st August, 1860, referred to. It continues :—
" In Nov., 1861, our goldfields seemed to warrant
another step in civilization. Capt. Gosset was called upon
by Governor Douglas to obtain immediate appliances for
coinage, and to send to San Francisco for some secondhand machinery, said to be obtainable there for a few thousand dollars. It is no secret that Capt. Gosset was opposed
to hasty action, and would have preferred waiting the
results of this year's mining, and, if confirmatory of last
year's indications, procuring perfect and very economical
machinery from England in time for the down-coming gold
of 1863. His opinion was overruled, however, and without
delay a gentleman connected with the Department was sent
to San Francisco, and Mint machinery was landed in New
Westminster early last March. [April really.] ... At
present, we understand that the funds necessary to complete
the arrangements of the Mint are refused to Capt. Gosset,
May 17, 1862.
zammtSmm m^*-sm
Assay Office and Mint.
May 31, 1862.
who, rather than see all progress stopped, is going on with
the principal operations out of his own pocket, heartily aided
by Col. Moody's co-operation in the artificer line. This
prompt and generous personal action and mutual co-operation have saved us several weeks' delay, and will not fail to
meet that public approbation to which, under the circumstances, they are pre-eminently entitled. . . . It is time
the Governor should issue a proclamation declaratory of the
mintage standard, weights, denomination, etc., legalizing the
whole procedure, and results, both as a lawful and recognized act of the Deputy Master of the Mint (against whom
any one can lay information for his arraignment for coining
money), and to satisfy the public that no harm can accrue
by the decision already referred to, a convenient medium of
commerce like coined money being always preferable to gold
bars, great or small."
A few days later appeared a further editorial on the
same subject:—
" Gold in considerable quantities—large quantities
indeed, considering the season—is coming down and the
daily cry is for coin in exchange. The anxious inquiry propounded every day, * When shall we be able to get our gold
converted into coin,' demands an answer from our Government, and what that answer shall be interests all of us.
Capt. Gosset, the Deputy Master of the Mint, has certainly displayed the most praiseworthy zeal in the erection
of the plant so far, and it is gratifying to learn that the Mint
will be ready in a few days. But the question is, will it be
put in operation when it is ready ? We regret to know that
His Excellency the Governor has seriously hampered Capt.
Gosset in the way of funds; and even now the small
amount necessary to construct the requisite buildings is not
forthcoming. The work has all been done by two or three
Royal Engineers kindly furnished by Col. Moody, and under
numerous disadvantages, and in spite of diverse obstacles—
one would almost be tempted to say, designedly thrown in
the way—the indomitable energy and firm determination of
the Deputy Master have triumphed, or will, at least, in a
few days. The Royal Mint will shortly be a verity; the
coin manufactured from our own gold, bearing its impress,
will shortly be in circulation. But hold! Peradventure we
are assuming too much.   Is the Deputy Master yet in a The Mint.
position to coin gold if he had it? And is he in a position
to procure the gold ? Have the necessary steps been taken
to enable him to do the former, and will the necessary funds
be promptly placed at his disposal to accomplish the latter?
These are questions to which the people will expect a practical reply.
" No one having the prosperity of the colony at heart
could, without experiencing feelings of keen regret, see the
constant current of virgin gold which has, during the last
four years, flowed into a foreign country for coinage, with
an average loss to this country of not less than two per cent.,
to say nothing of loss and inconvenience arising from scarcity of coin. If we would not have this evil perpetuated
for another year, there is no time to be lost. The Government should be at once in the field with the Mint. . . .
The Royal Mint, if set in timely operation, and conducted
upon liberal principles, when taken in connection with the
assaying branch, cannot fail to prove a very great colonial
desideratum. . . . The action of the Deputy Master
from the first, in connection with it, will not be forgotten
by the people. And now the Governor is expected to
mature, as quickly as may be, any requisite preliminary
arrangements, and thereby not only remove the monetary
evil of which we complain, but dispel that degree of uncertainty in which the Mint is unhappily enshrouded."
These editorials moved the Governor, but not in the
direction that the writer desired, and no order was given to
proceed with the coinage. On the contrary, he immediately
attacked Captain Gosset as being himself the author or instigator of these articles. Through the Colonial Secretary he
demanded from Gosset what he had had to do with them.
" The attention of the Government having been drawn
to two articles headed ' The Royal Mint of British Columbia '; the other, ' The Royal Mint,' which appeared respectively in the British Columbian newspaper on the 17th and
31st May, 1862, I am desired by His Excellency to request
you will state whether you either wholly or partly wrote
those articles, or supplied the information, or any part of it,
contained in them, or in any way induced their insertion;
for it is very evident to His Excellency that, if you did not
do so, some person in your Department, either in the Treasury or Assay Office, has betrayed the confidence reposed
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, June
23, 1862. 64
Assay Office and Mint.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
July 18, 1862.
in him, the articles in question so closely resembled the
strain of certain official letters recently received from you.
I Under such circumstances His Excellency deems it
but just to your character as a public officer to make these
inquiries from you, notwithstanding, it may be, that these
articles are now brought to your notice for the first time;
for your long experience of the public service, both Military
and Civil, will have taught you how impossible it is for
public business to be carried out if official matters and
arrangements are betrayed in an unauthorized manner, and
how contrary such proceedings are to the recognized rules of
the public service.
" I am to add that I have made the strictest inquiry
throughout my Department, and I am satisfied that the
information referred to was not supplied from hence."
Gosset replied, but it will be noticed that he makes no
direct answer to the pointed query of the Governor. He
pleads that illness and pressure of business has put it out of
his power to give it due attention sooner. He goes on to
" I cannot abstain from expressing my astonishment at
being asked whether I wrote articles which are a continued
tissue of panegyrics on my humble services, or whether I,
the Treasurer of this Colony, supplied information for the
express purpose of assailing its Governor.
" I have obtained and enclose the articles referred to,
and cannot perceive that any facts are related therein which
are not common topic of conversation amongst all classes
here, the natural consequence of the people's great interest
in the arrival and establishment of a Mint in the Colony,
and of the repeated inquiries of visitors at the works why
greater advance was not made after the urgency for the
establishments expressed by the Governor in November last,
as also the consequence of my having to inform architects,
and applicants for the post of Engineer, that the Governor
did not wish the buildings I recommended, to be gone on
with, or the machinist I wanted to be appointed.
" There have been no secrets to keep in the matter, or
I should have cautioned my Departments to keep them.
"Although opposed to the formation of a Mint this
year, yet, ever since the Governor's representations to me in
Nov. of  its immediate urgency,  I  have endeavoured to The Mint.
carry out the scheme with as much vigour as (perhaps more
than) if I had been its strongest advocate, and when denied
the aid my professional knowledge told me was necessary,
sooner than that the want of it, or a temporary want of
public funds, should militate against interests, the Governor
in November represented to the Secretary of State were
important, I laboured with my own hands as a common
mechanic, as everybody knows who saw me at work, and
advanced out of my private purse funds for forwarding
some of the most pressing operations.
" I am prepared to meet any inquiry into my conduct
as an official of the Colony, and I have, in conclusion, but
to request that if His Excellency be not satisfied with this
statement he will at once forward this to the Secretary of
The Governor did not reply until late in August. He
evidently took Gosset's answer more as an admission than
as a denial, for the Colonial Secretary says:—
" As you have pleaded ill-health as the cause of your
not replying at an earlier date to my communication as aforesaid [viz., of the 23rd June], and as you have since been
granted leave of absence on medical certificate, His Excellency desires me to say that he will not pursue the subject
further at present so far as you are concerned, but he considers it necessary, nevertheless, now to place upon record
that the explanation you profess to afford is most unsatisfactory, and does not, in any way, meet the question at issue,
in relation to yourself personally."
So the incident closed. But neither the pleadings of the
Treasurer, the proposed strike on the part of the officials,
nor the thundering of the press moved the Governor. By
May 31 the machinery was in place and tested and found
to give satisfaction. On June 23 Gosset wrote to the
Governor, asking for an engineer to be permanently attached
to the Assay Department. The answer of the Governor was
decided as ever.    The Colonial Secretary says:—
" I am desired by the Governor again to acquaint you
that it is not, for various weighty reasons, the intention of
the Government to commence the manufacture of gold
pieces of fixed value until a much later period of the season,
and, consequently, there is no present occasion for the services of an engineer to drive the engine.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Aug.
25, 1862.
May 31, 1862.
Colonist, June
2, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
to Gosset, June
26, 1862.
>] Assay Office and Mint.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, July
3, 1862.
Colonist, June
3,  1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, June
30, 1862.
I Whenever it may be determined that the manufacture
of the gold pieces should be undertaken full notice will be
given, and then the subject of your present application shall
receive all due consideration."
Gosset protested, but it was of no use. The Governor
was immovable. He reiterated his former statement that he
would notify the Treasurer when the issue of gold pieces
from the Assay Office would commence.
The people of Victoria still growled because there was
no Mint in that city.    The Colonist said editorially:—
" Our Legislative Assembly is the most amusing specimen of imbecility which it is possible to find anywhere.
. . . When Mr. Waddington brought forward his motion
for a Mint, it was settled in a jiffey. No sooner was his
back turned than the discussion ended and a Mint denied to
Victoria. Yet within a week the establishment of a Mint at
New Westminster was resolved on by Governor Douglas—
a place where it cannot be of as great convenience to the
commercial community as it would have been here. But our
commercial interests were sacrificed to imbecility then and
they promise to be so still."
The Mint being ready to be operated, a few pieces were
struck off. In a letter written in 1883 by Provincial Secretary, Hon. John Robson (afterwards Premier), the editor
of the Columbian newspaper at New Westminster in 1862,
to R. W. McLachlan, the veteran numismatist of Montreal,
he says:—
II well remember meeting him [Gosset] after he had
achieved his object. He had the coins in his hands, jingling
and admiring them, as a child would a new and attractive
Gosset forwarded a trial specimen of the $10 gold piece
to the Governor on June 26th, 1862, as a sample, but got
little thanks from that gentleman. He was informed
that :—
" His Excellency will retain the piece in question, and
I am, therefore, to request you will bring the value of same
to account accordingly.
i With reference to your remark that you had purposely
defaced it to prevent its being accidentally circulated, His
Excellency presumes this is the only specimen that has left •wr
»' IF
The Mint.
your hands, as no authority has been issued to you to commence the manufacture of the gold pieces."
Gosset, however, did not strictly comply with the Governor's orders. Some of the residents of New Westminster
had obtained specimens of the coins made from gold supplied by them. Four gold coins were forwarded to the
Governor on July 2nd, presumably in consequence of his
letter of June 30th, with a request that they be forwarded
to the International Exhibition at London, which was to be
held that year. In reply the Governor reiterated his orders
to strike no more.    The Colonial Secretary writes:—
" I am desired by the Governor to thank you for the
gold pieces forwarded with your letter of the 2nd instant.
" His Excellency declines sending them to the World's
Fair, as he considers that the exhibition of four coins would
not produce a very exalted impression of our wealth or
artistic ability.
" His Excellency may, however, forward them to the
Secretary of State, and you are therefore to bring the
amount to account as supplied to this Department.
" The fact of the machinery being in working-order
being now established, I am to communicate to you His
Excellency's instructions not to stamp any more pieces without specific orders, and to take care that none of the pieces
which may have been already stamped as specimens leave
your hands."
Specimen coins, however, had been struck off as above
mentioned, and were exhibited to visitors, who were delighted
with them, and the people of New Westminster hoped soon
to realize the practical benefits of the institution in the issue
and circulation of the coin.
On July 10 Gosset followed up his prior suggestion
of sending coins to the London Exhibition, naming a larger
amount, and this was accepted by the Governor. The
Colonial Secretary says:—
" Having laid before the Governor your letter of the
10th inst., I have the honour to acquaint you that His
Excellency considers it would be desirable to exhibit £100
worth of 10 and 20 Dollar Assay Office gold pieces at the
International Exhibition.
" I am therefore to request you will remit the amount
as a payment on account to the Agents-General for Crown
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, July
5, 1862.
July 9, 1862.
xM Assay Office and Mint.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, July
18, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Julyan and
Sargeaunt, July
25, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Aug.
22, 1862.
Colonies (Messrs. Julyan and Sargeaunt, 6 Adelphi Terrace,
London), to whom I will write by the ensuing mail to
authorize the loan of the pieces to the Commissioner for
British Columbia during the time the exhibition may be
If you will send the package to me, I will make the
necessary arrangements for forwarding by express to the
Agents General.
In reply to your enquiry, His Excellency has no objection to a pair of specimens being framed and preserved in
the Assay Office Department, but until the pieces are put
in circulation he cannot permit any to leave your hands without his distinct authority."
Gosset coined eighteen $10 pieces and ten $20 pieces,
value £.76, and forwarded them to Victoria, whence they
were sent to London via San Francisco, with instructions
that they should be exhibited as suggested, and that after
the exhibition was over they should be sold as bullion and
the proceeds placed to the credit of the Colony. That these
instructions were carried out is evident from the fact that so
few of the coins are now in existence.
Evidently reports reached the Governor that Gosset had
paid little heed to his peremptory instructions not to strike
coins, nor to allow any pieces struck to pass out of the hands
of the Government into the possession of private persons.
In August Gosset was required to furnish the Governor
" A return showing the number of 10 and 20 dollar
gold pieces stamped at the Assay Office, the manner in which
same have been disposed of, the total weight and value of
the gold used in the operation, and the total loss that has
arisen therefrom."
As no such return can now be found in the records at
Victoria, B.C., and as Gosset shortly after left the Province,
it is probable that it was never made.
Although the people of New Westminster had the
pleasure of seeing the Mint established in their city and the
machinery in full working-order, and enjoyed the view of
the specimen coins struck off by that machinery, they waited
in vain for the coinage to commence in earnest. Their
spokesman, the Columbian, again took the matter up in ^m
The Mint.
August.    After rehearsing the history of the Mint, it goes
on to say:—
" After waiting anxiously for the arrival of the machinery, and eagerly watching the necessarily slow process of its
erection, the announcement that the machinery was in successful motion, and subsequently that specimen coins had
been minted and transmitted to the great Exhibition in
London, gladdened the hearts of all. But now that several
months have transpired and yet no coin is being issued,
although the evil which last Fall led the Governor to procure
this temporary affair from San Francisco in a great hurry,
still exists. If the demand for a Mint was so urgent last
Fall as to induce our phlegmatic Governor to take the step
he did—if the urgency was so pressing that there was no
time to procure a proper establishment from England, but a
second-hand discarded thing from San Francisco must be
taken, we should exceedingly like to know why it is that,
after incurring three or four times the estimated expense,
this Mint is allowed to stand idle for several months, while
the evil it was designed to cure still exists and extends with
the increasing yield of our mines? We know the Master
of the Mint is not in fault, for he has done all that mortal
man could do in this matter. The Governor only is to
blame, and the people would like to know—have a right to
know—why they are subjected to this extraordinary treatment at the hands of the Governor. This miserable apology
for a Mint will doubtless stand in the way of our getting a
thorough and permanent establishment from England. . . .
Certainly the least that the Governor can do after getting the
thing in such haste is to set it in motion, and let the country
reap all the benefits that it is capable of bestowing."
While these events were taking place Gosset's health
was not of the best. It may have been that he was ill physically or it may have been that the constant friction with the
Governor had its effect upon his nerves. At any rate, as
early as January, 1862, he was asking for a year's leave of
absence on the ground that he had been on continuous
employment under the Colonial Office since 1855, and that
this entitled him to a respite from his labours. His request
was not granted, but in July of that year he insisted on being
granted leave. He refers to his former request and states
that at that time he " had been advised to seek relaxation
Aug. 27,  1862.
Letter, Gosset
to Col.  Sec,
Jan. 25, 1862.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
July 14, 1862. jiiumii
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, July
22, 1862.
Assay Office and Mint.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
July 24, 1862.
from an office of which the whole organization (since
approved by the Audit at home) had from many causes been
unusually irksome and the anxieties of which are (as they
cannot but be to any one in so responsible a post) many and
" Averse as a soldier, however, to acknowledge the
want of relaxation and desirous of fulfilling, if in my power,
the engagement when I accepted office of organizing a Mint,
I have since struggled on, until at length I have coined a few
hundred dollars' worth of money as specimens."
He goes on to say that he encloses a certificate from
the medical gentleman who had wished him to quit before,
that he desires six months' leave of absence, and asks that
as soon as possible an officer be appointed to act in his
absence. He enclosed in the letter a certificate from Dr.
Vernon Seddall, Staff Assistant Surgeon, which described
his condition as " suffering from extreme nervous debility,
accompanied by severe headaches, which, at times, completely prostrate him, and render him incapable of carrying
on his official duties," in consequence of which he recommends a leave of absence for the purpose of proceeding to
England for the recovery of his health. The letter itself is
" Leave of absence will be granted as soon as arrangements are made for the transfer of the department.—J. D."
A few days afterward the Colonial Secretary advised
Gosset that his request for leave would be granted subject
to the conditions mentioned in the Governor's endorsement,
and as the necessary arrangements would, in great part,
depend on the period of his absence, he was asked whether
it was his intention, if his health was benefited by the change,
to return to the Colony, and not to apply for any further
extension of leave. His reply was indefinite, but shows that
he had little intention of returning.    He says:—
" I have no thought beyond the one, of every hour I
delay here, to get away from an anxious post I've stayed at
too long.
" I could not under best circumstances be out in much
less than six months;—if unfit to return the absence may be
longer or it may be total. Arrangements to meet a protracted absence are always on the safest side, so many contingencies are against a short limit."
^-^—SssSbi Chartres Brew, Colonial Treasurer In 1865  mm
The Mint.
Not having received the promised leave of absence, he
wrote again, asking that there be as little delay as possible in
relieving him of his duties.
The Colonial Secretary replied that the Governor proposed to appoint Mr. Chartres Brew as Treasurer during
Gosset's temporary absence, and asked if he had an objection
to urge against this arrangement. Gosset approved of the
Mr. Chartres Brew had been sent to British Columbia
as Inspector of Police in 1858. He had been a member of the
Irish Constabulary and had served with distinction in the
Crimean War. He had also acted as Chief Gold Commissioner at Yaje in 1859.
On August 21, 1862, formal leave of absence for six
months was granted to Gosset. Brew was appointed as
Treasurer of the Colony in his absence. All public moneys,
books, documents, papers, stores, and all other things whatsoever now in Gosset's charge were to be transferred to him.
The public money was to be transferred in the presence of a
committee, consisting of Colonel Moody and Mr. Wymond
O. Hamley, the Collector of Customs, pursuant to Article 36
of the Treasury instructions.
At the same time Brew was informed of his appointment during Gosset's absence and directed to take over from
him the property of the Colony in the latter's possession,
and to give the proper receipts therefor.
On August 26, 1862, Gosset transferred to Brew all
moneys and postage-stamps in his custody, also all books,
stores, etc., and took receipts therefor, which he forwarded
to the Colonial Secretary at Victoria. The receipts are
signed by both Gosset and Brew, but no mention is made
therein of the dies for the coins or the matrices, although
all the other apparatus of the Assay Office are set out
in detail, including British Columbian coins to the value
of £16.
Early in September, 1862, Gosset left the Colony. He
had been popular with the people of New Westminster, who
had been solidly behind him in his contests with the Governor. An address was given him by the Municipal Council
of the city regretting his departure. In this address occurs
a reference to the Mint matter:—
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
Aug. 6, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Aug.
11, 1862.
Reply, Aug.
12, 1862.
Scholefield &
Howay, Hist,
of B.C.,
pp. 51, 84.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset,  Aug.
21, 1862.
Col. Sec. to
Brew, Aug.
21, 1862.
Letter, Gosset
to Col. Sec,
Aug. 26, 1862.
Sept. 3, 1862.
i\ 9mm
Assay Office and Mint.
Colonist, Oct.
7, 1862.
| We value also your energetic endeavours to bring the
coining department into a state of efficiency, and trust that
the authority of the Governor to commence operations will
be speedily given, as in the absence of sufficient coin a supply
of colonial money will prove a great boon to our commerce."
After Gosset's departure pressure on the Governor to
proceed with the coinage did not cease. In Victoria it took
the form of a demand for a Mint in that city, or in the alternative that the New Westminster plant be put into operation.
Some extracts from the press, both in Victoria and in New
Westminster, will show the feeling of the public on the subject. In October, 1862, the Colonist, in an editorial entitled
" The Mint," says :—
" Some time has now elapsed since the public were
informed of the erection in New Westminster of all the
necessary machinery for coining money. Expectation was
naturally excited that nothing could prevent our having the
gold brought down from the Upper Country by the miners
this year transformed into bright ten and twenty dollar
pieces. This would have been the case had the same preparations been made in any other country. . . . But our
rulers have a way of doing business quite peculiar to themselves. They see nothing strange—nothing ridiculous—in
importing a costly machine, providing a staff of officials
drawing good round sums for their salary, and contenting
themselves with showing what could be done if they felt disposed to do it. With the exception of striking off a few specimens of coin—which, by the way, compare favourably with
those of any other country—this costly toy seems to have
hitherto served no other purpose than to tickle the vanity of
those who are contented to take the shadow for the substance. . . . Coin is the most convenient form for the
purpose of trade. No one can doubt, therefore, but that it
would be of great advantage to have the produce of our
mines converted into money. We have not the slightest
doubt but that a great deal more money would be expended
in the country if miners could readily, and without loss, convert their dust and nuggets into coin. ... As things are
now, a great many prefer to carry their dust to San Francisco and save the exchange. Of course there are many
who urge that you could not get men to wait in Westminster
to get their gold changed.   There may or may not be some BS
The Mint.
truth in this objection. . . . But why, we ask, are the
people of this Colony compelled to depend upon New Westminster or San Francisco for their coin? What is to prevent the establishment of a mint in this city?
" The absurdity of the arguments advanced by several
members of the House of Assembly, when debating this
question last year, is becoming every day more apparent.
That short-sighted one-idea policy is behind the age. No
country ever yet rose to eminence whose rulers or statesmen
were animated by such narrow-minded principles as at times
have characterized the conduct of our legislators. If they
had done their duty, we would, no doubt, ere this have had
in the city all those facilities for coining money which we
are justly entitled to, and which we require quite as much as
Westminster, if not more so. Although we are at present
under a different form of government from that of the British Columbians, yet our interests are the same. We must,
from our situation, be the channel through which they
approach the outer world. . . . We are not their rival,
but their friend. We are the head and they are the body.
. . . We must seek to extend the facilities for trade
which nature gives us. We must have a mint, not only for
the mines of Cariboo, but for those of the Columbia and
Salmon Rivers. The yield of gold from both these sources
will justify the step. We must not look to the present only;
the future must claim our attention as well. We must coin
for the Americans as well as for ourselves; by making our
coin of the same standard value as theirs, the principal
obstacle may be removed, and our coin and their own be
equally current.
" But in the meantime the authorities in Westminster
should do their share towards putting money into circulation. The gold of Cariboo will shortly come down in large
quantities and every facility must be afforded for converting
it into coin. We feel confident that a most beneficial effect
would result from that course of proceeding."
At the same time the Columbian also pressed upon the
Governor the necessity of immediately proceeding with the
coinage.    It says:—
" We wonder how the Governor will explain in his dispatches the fact that this institution, the necessity of which
he urged in 1859, and which was ready for coining six
Oct. 8, 1862 / 5
Assay Office and Mint.
months ago, is standing idle and rusting—has not coined a
single piece beyond a few specimens. What change has
taken place since '59, when, in writing upon the subject, His
Excellency deplored the scarcity of coin, and the necessity
for our raw gold finding its way to a foreign country for
coinage ? What change has taken place since the fall of '61,
when the necessity for a mint was deemed so pressing that
there was not time to procure a proper plant from England,
but a temporary thing must be obtained from San Francisco ?
Has the evil which he deplored in '59 ceased ? . . . The
evil continues the same as ever. Our gold still goes to San
Francisco for coinage, while our staple circulating medium
is the sovereign, upon which there is a loss of from two to
three per cent, in all transactions out of the Colony. . . .
Either the Governor was wrong in getting this machine at
very considerable expense to the Colony, or he is culpably
wrong in keeping it standing rusting, while the evil it was
brought to cure still exists. Some are naughty enough to
say that it was because the mint was brought to New Westminster ; that had it been located in Victoria, it would have
been in active operation all this time. . . . Now, however, that our successful miners begin to come down with
large amounts of gold, with the confident expectation that
they could get it converted into coin in this city, the agitation naturally revives. We have recently conversed with
some of these, and they assure us that such expectation was
general in the mines; and that much of the proceeds of this
season's operations would have found its way to our mint
had it been in operation. Now these men do not even get
it assayed here. They say, and very naturally too, if we
have to go to San Francsico to get it converted into coin,
we may as well save a trifle by getting it assayed there also.
Thus our mint is a dead loss and is actually operating as an
obstacle in the way of the Assay Department. Shall we
again urge the Governor to set the mint agoing? . . .
Time and again we have urged upon His Excellency's attention this and other matters which he must know to be of
vital importance; but it seems like throwing chaff against
the wind. Meanwhile the interests of the Colony are being
cruelly sacrificed and her progress criminally impeded. And
to such an alarming extent have matters gone in this direction that we are unwillingly forced to one of two conclu-
ggggr; The Mint.
sions: Governor Douglas is disqualified to govern this
Colony either by private interests or lack of ability, which,
concerns us little, seeing we are the victims of either."
In November the Columbian again attempted to persuade the Governor to go ahead.
" Whenever a day of reckoning comes, Gov. Douglas
will certainly have to account for the extraordinary course
he has thought proper to pursue in regard to the Mint.
. . . The mining as well as the trading population
received every assurance last spring that money would be
coined here early last summer. And the best evidence of
the fact that the miners would have availed themselves of
such an arrangement to a very great extent is the general
feeling and expression of surprise and disappointment on
arriving here to find that the Mint is not in operation.
. . . The want of coin as a circulating medium is now
pressing upon every inhabitant. The sovereign is now
almost the only coin we have, the value of which is $5 in
this Colony, while only $4.85 out of it, thus entailing a loss
of three per cent, upon all commercial transactions. When a
miner arrives with his gold, instead of getting it converted
into coin here as he anticipated, he is offered a low price by
private buyers, payable in coin upon which he must lose three
per cent. And as a natural consequence he borrows a few
dollars from a friend, or perhaps disposes of a few ounces
of his gold in order to raise enough to carry him out of the
place, and hurries to California, or maybe, sells at Victoria.
Now all this may seem right enough from a Victoria or San
Francisco standpoint, but such a state of things can hardly
be satisfactory or conducive to the interests of this Colony.
. . . Of course it is too late in the season now to remedy
the evil by starting the mint—a cure we would hardly
expect from the present executive."
These effusions of the press, backed as they were by
solid facts, had their effect on the Governor. He asked for a
report from Mr. Brew as to the possibility of going on with
the work of coining gold. Brew called on Claudet for a
report, who, on October 29, 1862, replied as follows:—
" I have the honour to append the following replies to
your queries respecting the Mint:—
" 1. The Mint machinery is not at present fit to be put
to work.
Nov.   22,  1862.
Letter, Claudet
to Brew, Oct.
29, 1862.
■"'• ,{ *m*
Assay Office and Mint.
" 2. As far as I am able to jujdge without having seen
the machinery worked, the alterations required are as follows : The better adjustment of the connecting bands and
the alterations of the rolling mill wedges or the obtaining of
thinner ones.
I The additions required are the completion of the
Mint and Assay Office Buildings which still remain in an
unfinished state.
I Extra dies will be required, there being at present
only one set for each coin, and as they are always liable to
break, it would not be prudent to commence working without a stock on hand; a fresh supply of chemicals used for
toughening, that brought for the purpose having been nearly
all consumed in the ordinary business of the Assay Office,
and the erection of quenching troughs and various other
fitments. The exact expense of these alterations and additions I am not prepared to estimate.
1 3. The present staff of Assay Officers however willing, could not possibly undertake the working of the Mint,
their time being at the present season entirely taken up with
the Assaying and Melting alone, and also their not being
sufficiently acquainted with the practical details of coining.
14. The Assistants required would be at least three—
viz., a coiner, a man practically acquainted with the machinery and manipulations of coining, an Engineer to keep all the
machinery in good order and repair the same if necessary
and to work the engine, and an operative Melter who would
also have to assist the Coiner.
I 5. If the necessary assistants were on the spot and the
machinery in working-order, it would no doubt be an advantage to the public were the coining in operation. By the
time, however, that the assistants were obtained and the
necessary alterations made, and the whole establishment
organized on a proper footing, it would be too late to be of
use this season. If it is intended to work the Mint next
season it would be desirable that the necessary men be
obtained from England so as to be here in the Spring of the
ensuing year; that the occasional services of an Engineer be
secured to take care of and clean the machinery in the meantime, and that the additional dies, etc., be got and everything
prepared in due time. mtm^mm"^
The Mint.
" 6. In San Francisco the coins will be regarded as
bullion, and they will be melted and bought up at the same
rates as bars of the same fineness. Merchants will, however, always prefer remitting bars to remitting coin, although
if bars are scarce the British Columbian coin will be preferred to American coin.
" 7. The English and American coin may not be scarce,
but the charges made by the banks for converting bars into
coin are high, and the higher the greater amount of bullion
there is in the market. The present charge here is 2j4 per
cent., and it will probably be higher. It cannot be much
under 2 per cent, at any time, as it costs 1 per cent, to send
bullion to San Francisco and 1 per cent, to get coin back in
I 8. It would not take very long to put the machinery
in working order, but the extra dies would have to be
obtained from San Francisco, which would take some weeks,
and if necessary assistants were obtained from England they
could not be here under six months. I proposed when in
San Francisco employing a man acquainted with the machinery and coining, who could have put up the machinery and,
with the assistance of an engineer, worked it no doubt satisfactorily for this season, but objections were raised on
account of his being an American, and it being impossible
to find a qualified person here, the only means of obtaining
the required assistants is to send to England.
" 9. It would of course depend upon the amount of Gold
coined whether 1 per cent, would pay the current expenses
of the Mint. At present it certainly would not, but a greater
charge could not well be made, otherwise it would do away
with the chief object of the Establishment, which is to afford
the public an opportunity of obtaining coin at a cheaper
rate than by selling their bars to a bank.
" N.B.—The foregoing remarks are based upon the suppositions that a bullion fund of not less than £5,000 to
start with be granted."
This was forwarded to the Governor by Mr. Brew.
" I have the honour to submit for the information of
His Excellency the Governor a report received from Mr.
Claudet, Chief Assayer, on the question of the Mint. The
report is in reply to queries put by me on every point on
Letter,  Brew
to Col. Sec,
Oct.   31,   1862.
Assay Office and Mint.
Col. Sec.
to Brew, Dec.
17, 1862.
which I conceived His Excellency would desire information.
I have therefore little to say in addition.
" It appears there is sufficient coin in the country for
the purchase of gold, but it costs more than the British
Columbia coin would. I fear though that a good deal of
the difference would be at the expense of the Government.
According to Mr. Claudet's probable estimate the expense
of the mint would be an engineer at £350 salary, a coiner
at £400 salary, an assistant at £250 salary, and fuel and
chemicals £500 a year; total £1,500 a year to cover which
at one per cent, over £60,000 a month should be coined, an
amount which I believe could not be circulated in these
Colonies in addition to other coin and which would not be
coined to be sent out of them."
In consequence of the representations contained in this
report, the Governor directed that no further steps were to
be taken for the present in respect to the coining operations
at the Assay Office.
In the year 1863 various articles appeared in the press
of the two Colonies in reference to the Mint—Victoria, as
usual, striving for a Mint in that city; New Westminster,
in a helpless way, striking futilely at the Governor's failure
to act, and denouncing Victoria's attempt to bear away the
British Columbia capital's highly valued but useless possession.
In March, 1863, the Colonist demanded a Mint for Victoria. It sneered at " our so-called Mint at New Westminster " which " performs no office that could not be done
equally as well by the Assayers of this city." In any case
New Westminster was " not likely for a long time to come
to present any sufficient inducement to miners to cause
them to make it their winter residence." So there should
be a branch Mint in Victoria.
Later it returned to the charge. The old ground was
retravelled. The advantages of a Mint were retold. A Mint
at New Westminster was no benefit; it was " seventy miles
from where it ought to be to prove a public convenience "
[70 miles being, in round numbers, the distance between New
Westminster and Victoria]. A Mint should be located at
the latter place " and to that end every energy ought to be
-^ m
The Mint.
In April the Colonist approvingly referred to a leader
in the London Times of January 28, 1863, which spoke
of the erection of a Mint at New Westminster instead of at
Victoria, as being an illustration of the strange error made
in dividing what should have been one Colony into two.
Again, in the same month, it went over the reasons why
the Mint should have been and should be in the Island
I The propriety of establishing a mint in this city, to
meet the downward stream of gold that must henceforth
have its embouchure at this point must strike the plainest
In May the Columbian could no longer contain itself,
and replied:—
" Our Island contemporary has been labouring during
the past two years to convince his readers that Victoria is
the proper place for the mint. Had he simply advocated
the propriety, or possibly the necessity, of having a mint
there, without going beyond his legitimate province by claiming that the mint should be there, and that we should have
no mint at all, we would not have considered it worth our
while to notice his periodical effusions, further than giving
expression to our doubt as to the ability of so small and poor
a colony as Vancouver Island to support so expensive an
" Assuming that the thing could be put in operation for
$28,000 and worked for $8,000 a year, here would be a sum
equal to within a fraction of the entire revenue of the
colony. It would be infinitely cheaper for the people of
Victoria to get their coin from San Francisco, and better
still, to have the gold coined here free of expense to them.
... . The fact is the people of Victoria are poor and
greedy. They do not want to see anything here. They
want everything properly belonging to this Colony crowded
into Victoria. But unfortunately for the gratification of
this greed, they are not able to pay for this mint. . . .
In truth they ought to be very thankful to have a mint here
which would supply their wants without any additional burden and would answer every purpose without costing them
anything. . . . The people of Victoria have an undoubted
right to have a mint of their own, or a dozen of them, if
they will, and we have no right whatever to object, nor do
Colonist, April
4, 1863.
May 2, 1863. 80
Assay Office and Mint.
June 27, 1863.
Colonist, Aug.
24, 1863.
we object to that. But we do most decidedly deny their
right to have our mint, to claim that the mint for both
Colonies should be at Victoria, and that there should not be
a mint at New Westminster. Whenever they get upon this
ground they expose themselves to the charge of ignorance
and impudence, intermeddling with matters with which they
have no more to do than they have with the affairs of
Canada or Australia.
I Is it really necessary for us to inform the editor of
the Colonist that British Columbia is a distinct Colony, and
that anything in the shape of dictation as to where our mint
should be, or concerning any other matter connected with the
internal arrangements of our affairs, coming from another
colony, must not only appear impertinent to the outside
world, but is most offensive to the people of this colony."
Evidently the people of New Westminster were still
fearful of the Mint being taken to Victoria.
The Colonist took no notice of its Mainland contemporary. In June, 1863, the Columbian went after the Governor again. The old arguments were rehearsed at length.
Only one paragraph need be quoted:—
"If we had not a mint and the position were taken
that we could not afford to get one, we could understand
the matter. But when it is considered that we have one
already to go to work at a cost to the Colony of not less
than $15,000, and moreover, that we have the force to work
it too, the policy, if so it can be called, of allowing the establishment to lie and rust, while the commerce of the country
is suffering for want of coin, is entirely beyond our comprehension. . . . We, of course, have our own solution
to the seeming mystery; and it is that the Governor desired
to have the mint in Victoria, and that, having been circumvented by Capt. Gosset, he determined that we should not
derive any benefit therefrom."
In August the Colonist, noting the large quantities of
gold coming from the interior of British Columbia, discussed
the question as to how this could be made available in the
interest of the Colonies. It took the stand that the proper
way to do this was to have it converted into coin.
" All this has now to be done out of the country. The
mint at New Westminster, though having gone to the
trouble of having dies provided, has as yet produced nothing. mm
The Mint.
It is now nothing more than a mere assaying office. It
neither benefits this nor the neighbouring colony so far as
minting is concerned. It is inconveniently situated, even if it
were in full operation. Most of the miners in coming to the
lower country make Victoria their place of destination.
. . . Here all the accommodation necessary to convert it
into money should be afforded, and the expense of shipping
coin and dust saved. In short, we want a branch mint. . . .
In a very short time a large quantity of the Cariboo and
Peace River gold will find its way here by the Coast routes.
It would be exceedingly inconvenient then, if there was no
choice left for converting it into coin but New Westminster and San Francisco. If there were a mint here, then
there would be a probability too of our receiving considerable quantities of gold for assay and coinage from the neighbouring territory [Washington Territory]. Altogether the
arguments are in favour of a mint being established here.
It should have been done long ago instead of locating in an
out-of-the-way place like New Westminster, but since we
are not favoured by that institution, let us have one of our
The discussion of the Mint question came to an end in
December, 1863, when the Colonist reviewed it at length. It
referred to the expiry of the term of engagement of two
gentlemen who had theretofore been employed in the Assay
Office at New Westminster and suggested that at least an
Assay Office should be established in Victoria. If this
proved successful, it could later be developed into a Mint.
It was hoped that the House of Assembly would take the
matter up and make the necessary provision in the forthcoming estimates.
Nothing, however, was done. No official action of any
kind was taken. The Bank of British North America
(lately merged in the Bank of Montreal) opened a branch
at Victoria in 1859. Wells, Fargo & Co. and McDonald &
Co. carried on a private banking business (the latter failed
in December, 1864). The Bank of British Columbia (since
amalgamated with the Canadian Bank of Commerce) commenced business in 1862. The Province issued Treasury
notes. The pressing necessity for a local coinage gradually
died away and the agitation faded from the public mind.
The last official reference to the Mint was in the Legislative
Colonist, Dec.
5, 1863.
Scholefield &
Howay, Hist.
of B.C.,   Vol.
II., pp. 153,
■ v. 82
Assay Office and Mint.
April 23, 1864;
May 4, 1864.
Aug.  17, 1864.
Council in British Columbia on the 23rd April, 1864, when
Hon. Joshua A. R. Homer, who had moved for a Committee
of the Whole on the question, asked to have the discussion
on the subject deferred for a week, as he had just received
important returns, only that day placed on the table, and
he was not quite prepared to go on. Evidently these returns
satisfied him that there was no use in proceeding, for on
May 4 he asked leave to withdraw his request for a committee, and this leave was granted.
The last reference to it in the press was in the
Columbian of August of that year. A reference is made to
the Governor's idea of obtaining coining apparatus in 1862,
and his unusual haste in dispatching an official to procure it.
" The machine arrived in due course, but with an inexplicable perversity the mandate was issued to * grease it and
lay it away I' This command our eccentric and energetic little Treasurer managed to circumvent, and the result was that
the machine was set up, put in motion, and a few specimen
ten and twenty dollar pieces struck off, and very handsome
coins they were. But here the matter dropped and up to the
present nothing has been done in the direction of coining, the
building being locked up and the costly machinery being permitted to lie and rust. Various explanations of the Governor's conduct in acting so erratic a part in connection with
the matter was given, the prevailing opinion being that he
was acting under Victoria influence in peremptorily ordering
the suspension of the movement. And this opinion appeared
the more feasible in view of the fact that the people of that
town made a desperate effort to have it established there
instead of here. At the time His Excellency's intention of
procuring such a machine from San Francisco became
known, we opposed it upon the ground that it would only
prove a waste of money, strongly advocating the taking of
a little more time so as to procure a thorough minting plant
from England. But although disapproving of the Governor's course in getting such a thing, once it was obtained,
we, of course, strongly advocated the working of it. This,
however, was never attempted, and . . . the machinery
is locked up and rusting, at an expense to the Colony of
about $14,000 ($11,000 for the plant and $3,000 for the
buildings and labour of setting up and putting in order the
machinery).    And what is worse than all, we understand ■■WHWH*
The Mint.
Begg's Hist, of
B.C., p. 405.
Report, p. 35.
the whole thing is valueless, as from the incompleteness of
the plant—having no refinery by which to separate other
metals from the gold—coin struck from it would not pass
current and would in reality be little better than gold in the
bar. Thus it would appear that by this one piece of mismanagement the Colony must lose $14,000."
Gosset never returned to British Columbia. His formal
resignation reached the Colony in October, 1863.
In 1866 the two Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia were united under the name of the latter
Colony. In 1871 the United Colony became part of the
Dominion of Canada. In August of that year Hon. H. L.
Langevin, afterwards Sir Hector Langevin, Minister of
Public Works in the Dominion Cabinet, made a visit to the
Province to see the new Province of the Dominion and to
judge for himself of its resources and the railway prospects.
In 1872 he made a lengthy report to the Governor-General.
In it he refers to the Mint and Assay Office. He places the
cost at $8,609. He saw two $10 pieces and two $20 pieces.
He says:—
" The machinery or apparatus is, however, carefully
preserved. It appeared to me to be in very good order. It is
under the care of Mr. Claudet, who also has charge of the
Gold Assaying Office at New Westminster, of which there
is a branch at Barkerville, in the District of Cariboo."
In an appendix he says:—
" The cost of cleaning it and replacing it into working
condition would be about $300.    It is in good order.
" The whole of the apparatus is worked by steam-
power, with the exception of the coining-press, which is
turned by hand. If the Mint were to be again used, it would
be advisable to connect this machine with the other apparatus, and work it by steam-power also, which could be
done at a moderate cost. The machinery is a facsimile of
that used by the South American Government Mints."
It was never again used. In 1876 the boiler and engine
were sold to a Mr. Mann, the contractor for the construction of the Penitentiary at New Westminster. The remainder of the machinery was stored in the attic of the old gaol
in that city. After the new gaol was built, the copper
boiler was kept on the stove of the reception-room full of
water, and the steam arising therefrom did much to sweeten
Report, p. 246.
_*S.. 84
Assay Office and Mint.
*As the
mutilated dies
above mentioned have not
had the year
" 1862 " engraved thereon,
they are not
the dies from
which the existing coins were
struck, and
another set
of dies must
have been in
existence and
are still
the air. The steel pestle came into and is now in the possession of E. A. Jenns, Esq., for many years a practising
barrister of New Westminster, now a resident of Vancouver.
The building was for many years used as a Mechanics'
Library. It stood on Columbia Street on the lot now covered by the eastern half of the Post Office Building. Where
the rest has gone no one knows.
Except the dies and matrices. The writer for years
made inquiries as to the whereabouts of these. Many offhand statements were made, all of which were found, on
investigation, to be incorrect. A well-known numismatist
of Montreal assured him that they were in the hands of the
Heatons, " The Mint, Limited," Birmingham, England.
Another was sure that they were in the Museum at New
Westminster. It appeared to be an insolvable problem until,
being one day in the Parliament Buildings in Victoria, an
inquiry was made of Mr. J. McB. Smith, for so many years
Deputy Finance Minister of the Province. He at once
stated that they were there in the Treasury and produced
them for inspection. The matrices were found to be as they
came from the hands of the die-cutter; the obverse die of
each coin had been mutilated as if some one had taken a hammer and broken off the edge around the engraved part. When
asked how they came to be there then, as inquiries had been
made there before, and no officials had had any knowledge
of their whereabouts, Mr. Smith said that but a short time
previous the dies and matrices had been sent by the British
Consul at San Francisco to the Government at Victoria,
with a covering letter to the effect that in clearing out an
old closet in the Consulate a tin box had been found, marked
" Government of British Columbia." On opening it there
was found enclosed the dies and matrices of the British
Columbia gold coins of 1862, and he therefore forwarded
them to the Treasury. Later they were placed in the
Archives Department, where they may now be seen on
application to Mr. John Forsyth, Librarian and Archivist.*
No data have been discovered which explains either the
mutilation of the dies or the reason why they came to be in
San Francisco.
So the matter ended. The ambition of the Treasurer
to issue a gold coinage for his Province came to nothing.
As a matter of sentiment, one feels that after all the trouble
MB mqp
which was taken and all the expense which had been
incurred, it was a pity that the Mint had not been operated
for a time at least, leaving a coinage which would have been
an everlasting memento of British Columbia's golden days,
for a coin exists long after other memorials have passed
away. As an economic experiment one is convinced that
it would have been a failure. The gold-bearing territory
turned out to be of much less extent than it appeared to the
people who were here in 1862. Other financial agencies supplied the means of carrying on business, and to have relied
on the very meagre plant which Claudet brought from San
Francisco for a Provincial coinage would only have involved
the Colony in an expense not commensurable with the
The coins are simple in design and yet artistic. They
are a credit to Gosset, who designed them, and also to the
engraver.    Their description is as follows:—
" 1. Obverse, a crown. Legend, \ Government of British Columbia.' A rose in exergue beneath the crown, dividing the legend. Reverse, \ 20/Dollars/1862 I in three lines
within two wreaths of oak leaves and acorns, joined with
ribbon.    Beneath the ribbon, the words ' Kuner fecit.'
12. Similar in design, but smaller in size, \ 10' replacing ' 20.'"
They are of the same diameter and value as the coins
of the United States, but were of unrefined gold of the fineness of 850. The $20 piece weighed 546V& grains and
contained about 20 cents' worth of silver.
It is needless to say that these coins are extremely rare
and command large prices when obtainable. At the famous
Murdoch sale in London in 1903 the $20 piece brought
£116. In 1911, at Sotheby's in London, Gosset's $20 piece
brought £210; in the same year a silver trial piece brought
£ 151. The $10 piece should bring as much or more, for it is
rarer than the $20. We have no record to show how many
of these coins were struck. Any statement that may have
existed in the Government files or elsewhere has been lost.
Major Ernest A. G. Gosset, of Chiswick, England, son of
Captain Gosset, writing to a collector in London in 1912,
said that his father had told him that only twenty were
Scholefield &
Howay, Hist.
B.C., Vol. II.,
p. 142.
MM 11
Assay Office and Mint.
Ross, Hist, of
Can. Bk. of C,
Vol. I., p. 461.
minted, and this is probably correct as to those struck from
Government gold, but may not include a few struck from
gold supplied by local residents. In a letter written to an
officer of the Canadian Bank of Commerce in 1906 by the
Deputy Minister of Finance at that time, the late Mr. J.
McB. Smith, it is stated that an old record of them had
existed in a book kept at the Treasury and containing the
details of cash balances. The item was entered as " unissu-
able gold coin," and according to the writer's recollection
this balance was $140, which he took to represent four $20
coins and six $10 pieces. This book had been lost and could
not be found, the supposition being that it had been destroyed
at the time the department moved into the new Parliament
Buildings. This, of course, would be exclusive of those
exhibited in the International Exhibition at London in 1862,
mentioned on page 67. Those that were in the Treasury
were allowed to be purchased by the officials from time to
time. So far as can be ascertained at the present time, the
only ones known are owned as follows:—
The British Museum  $20       $10
Collection of the late Colonel
H. Leslie Ellis      20 10
Provincial  Archives,  Victoria,
B.C    20
Canadian Bank of Commerce,
Toronto, Ont    20
L. Norris, Esq., Vernon, B.C.-   20
A collector in Europe    20 10
Owned in London, England    20
Mrs. Martha Smythe, Somenos,
B.C  10
Mrs.   John   Robson,   Victoria,
B.C  10
Mr. Waldo Newcomer, Baltimore, Maryland     20 10
Mr. Virgil M. Brand, Chicago,
111    20 10
Mr. Justice Drake, of Victoria, B.C., had a $10 piece
which he wore as a pendant on his watch-chain until his
death. Afterwards his son, Brian H. T. Drake, wore it
until he had the misfortune to lose it some years ago.
mamimmim Coins.
The two coins in the British Museum were presented
to that institution in 1864 by Governor Frederick Seymour,
successor to Governor Douglas. The specimens in the collection of the late Colonel H. Leslie Ellis were those sold in
the Murdoch sale in 1903. The $10 is probably that which
belonged to Garesche, Green & Co., formerly private bankers
in Victoria, as they sold one to Messrs. Spink & Son, from
whom the late Mr. Murdoch purchased his $10. The $20
belonging to the Canadian Bank of Commerce was purchased
from Mr. C. G. Major, of New Westminster, B.C., who was
living in that city in 1862 and well remembers the occurrences herein related. While in his possession the coin was
weighed by Mr. Edward Riggs, of the Royal Mint, and found
to weigh 1.14 oz. troy. The intrinsic value, assuming it to be
of fine gold, being £4 16s. 10d., or about $24. Mr. Norris's
coin originally belonged to Hon. Geo. B. Martin, who,
elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1882, became Chief
Commissioner of Lands and Works in 1894. From him it
passed to Mr. James Tunstall, of Vernon, B.C., who sold it
to the present owner. The $20 piece owned by the continental collector was sold to him by Mr. A. H. Baldwin,
numismatist, of Duncannon Street, London, England. This
was the coin which had belonged to Colonel Gosset and was
sold at Sotheby's in 1911. The name of the owner of the
remaining $20 has not been made public, but its existence
was vouched for by Mr. Baldwin to Mr. Victor Ross, the
author of the " History of the Canadian Bank of Commerce," above cited, in 1920. The $10 owned by Mrs. John
Robson was the property of her late husband, Hon. John
Robson, Premier of British Columbia, 1889 to 1892, and in
1862 the editor and publisher of the British Columbian newspaper at New Westminster, from whose columns we have
freely quoted. Mrs. Smythe is the widow of the late Wm.
Smythe, Premier of the Province, 1883 to 1887.
Besides the gold pieces there were a number of silver
trial pieces struck from the dies. Those sent up with the
dies from San Francisco were taken possession of by
Douglas, much to Gosset's disgust, and forwarded to the
Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1862.    (See page 56.)
Another set is in the possession of Fred G. Claudet,
Esq., of North West Bay, Nanoose, Vancouver Island, son
of Mr. F. G. Claudet, the assayer of the British Columbia
i r\
Assay Office and Mint.
Mint in 1862. A third set was held for sale in 1920 by
Messrs. Spink & Son, of London. The $10 of this set came
to Spink & Son from Paris, where it had been in a private
collection for nearly fifty years. The $20 is reported to have
come from the possession of Captain Gosset originally. It
next turned up in the hands of a Miss Millard, a collector of
curios at Teddington (near Chiswick), by whom it was sold
to Lieutenant-Colonel Simonet. From him it passed to
Spink & Son. A $10 belongs to Mr. A. H. Baldwin himself, bought by him from a daughter of the Engraver, Kiiner,
of San Francisco. Mr. W. W. C. Wilson, of Montreal, has
another, and Mr. Virgil M. Brand, of Chicago, 111., a prominent United States collector, has a set which has been gilded.
A set which until lately was in the hands of his daughter,
Miss Kiiner, in San Francisco was transferred by her in
1924 to Max Mehl, the well-known numismatist of Fort
Worth, Texas. These are all the silver proofs, the existence
of which has been ascertainable up to the present time.
Some years ago Mr. J. E. Miller, formerly of Vancouver, but now of Victoria, B.C., persuaded Mr. C. G.
Major to allow his $20 to be sent to the Museum at Ottawa
for inspection. While there a number of bronze replicas
were made, one of which is in Mr. Miller's possession.
Of course the outstanding figure during the days when
these events took place was that of the Governor, Sir James
Douglas. This is not alone due to his position as Governor
of the one Colony and Governor and Legislature of the
other, but also to his picturesque and dominating personality,
which would have made him conspicuous among the foremost in any circle in the world. It is not, however, necessary to give any sketch of his life and achievements here, as
these have been so fully detailed in Gosnell and Coats " Life
of Sir James Douglas," published in the " Makers of Canada
Series" by Morang & Co., Toronto, in 1909. It is also
reported that a further volume on the same subject is now
in preparation by a prominent member of the staff of the
University of British Columbia.
The other actors in the drama are not so well known
and a short sketch of their lives may be interesting. ^
Francis 6. Claudet at the time he left British Columbia. t
*	 mi-     *n
The Officials.
The Superintendent of the Assay Office.
Francis George Claudet, the Superintendent of the
Assay Office, was of French descent, being the son of an
eminent French scientist, Antoine Francois Claudet, F.R.S.,
Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur, a native of Lyons,
France, whose position among scholars is attested by a reference to him in the Encyclopaedia Britannica in the following
" Claudet, Antoine Francois Jean (1797-1867), French
photographer, was born at Lyons on the 12th August, 1797.
Having acquired a share in L. J. M. Daguerre's invention,
he was one of the first to practise daguerreotype portraiture
in England, and he improved the sensitizing process by
using chlorine in addition to iodine, thus gaining greater
rapidity of action. In 1848 he produced the photograph-
ometer, an instrument designed to measure the intensity of
photogenic rays; and in 1849 he brought out the focimeter,
for securing a perfect focus in photographic portraiture.
He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1853 and
in 1858 he produced the stereomonoscope in reply to a challenge from Sir David Brewster. He died in London on
the 27th of December, 1867."
Mr. Claudet, Sr., was the nephew of a prominent
Parisian banker, and for a time in his youth was employed
in his uncle's bank. Not finding this calling congenial, his
tastes and inclination being towards science rather than commerce, he began the manufacture of glass at Choisi-Le-Roi,
France, in 1821, but soon after removed to Birmingham,
England, where he was associated with the firm of Chance
Bros., who were manufacturers on a large scale of glass for
scientific purposes, and especially for lenses of all kinds,
telescopic, photographic, or otherwise. About 1840 he
became a partner with Daguerre, the inventor of that form
of photography known as the daguerreotype. This he introduced into England, where he adapted it to portraiture.
Among his many inventions was the stereomonoscope,
referred to above, an instrument with two lenses for exhibiting on a screen of ground glass a single picture so as to give
it the effect of solidity.
Francis George Claudet, the head of the British Columbia Assay Office, was his youngest son and was born in
89 ■p
Assay Office and Mint.
B.C. Papers,
No. 3, p. 103.
London at Islington on the 14th day of February, 1837.
He was educated at the University College, London, and in
1854 went to Caroline College, Brunswick, Germany, where
he specialized in chemistry, physics, mine surveying, and
other cognate subjects. His older brother, Frederic Claudet,
had been for some time established in Cannon Street in
London as a chemist and assayer and was widely and favourably known, numbering the Bank of England among his
clientele. As soon as the younger brother had completed
his education, he became his brother's assistant and was
actively engaged as such for several years. When in 1859 it
was decided to establish an Assay and Refining Office in
British Columbia at once, with the possibility of a Mint in
the future, he was selected by Mr. Thomas Graham, the
Master of the Royal Mint at London, as the head of
the new establishment. The letter of appointment is set out
at p. 20.
The Assay Office was merely a department of the
Colonial Treasury and under the Treasurer's control until
April, 1866, when it was made a separate department with
Mr. Claudet in full charge.
While Governors succeeded each other and various
administrations held the reins of office, every one in
authority had at all times the fullest confidence in Mr.
Claudet. Office after office was committed to his charge
and the duties thereof carried out by him to the satisfaction
of the Government and of the public. He was Chief
Assayer, 1859 to 1866, and Superintendent of the Assay
Office from 1866 until it was closed in 1873. In addition
to this he was appointed Savings Bank Agent at New Westminster in July, 1869; Justice of the Peace in June, 1870;
Assistant Commissioner of Lands and Works in April,
1871; Returning Officer in the elections for member of the
Assembly for New Westminster City and District in September, 1871; Coroner in October, 1871; and Stipendiary
Magistrate in January, 1872. He helped to organize the
Volunteer forces of the Colony, becoming ensign in that
force in September, 1870.
He took more than ordinary interest in his duties as
Superintendent of the Assay Office and for the information
of the public wrote and published a most complete and interesting book on " Gold, its Properties, Modes of Extraction,
jsjsm r*
The Officials.
etc.," which was published at the office of the Mainland
Guardian in New Westminster in 1871. In it he discusses
the history and properties of gold, its geological position,
how it is extracted from the rock in lode mining, and from
the earth in placer diggings, hydraulic mining, vein mining,
and how it is valued in the mints of the United States and
England, ending with a most interesting tabulated statement
of the value per ounce of gold-dust from the various localities in British Columbia, as follows:—
Value of Dust
per Ounce.
Value of
Dust per
Big Bend 	
Burns Creek 	
892 to 923
895 to 920
811 to 820
802 to 827
868 to 927
895 to 920
877 to 898
821 to 838
888 to 925
906 to 925
860 to 869
847 to 862
892 to 913
899 to 923
821 to 836
847 to 869
$17.37 to
17.42 to
16.16 to
15.52 to
16.75 to
17.67 to
18.10 to
17.48 to
15.05 to
17.21 to
17.88 to
16.54 to
16.78 to
17.59 to
17.58 to
15.35 to
16.60 to
Cedar Creek 	
Grouse Creek 	
Keithley Creek 	
Last Chance Creek	
Lightning Creek	
Lillooet River 	
Lowhee Creek 	
Mosquito Gulch 	
Peace River 	
Rock Creek 	
Stouts Gulch 	
Van Winkle 	
Williams Creek (upper)
Williams Creek (lower)
He left New Westminster for England in March, 1873,
followed by the regrets and good wishes of the little community in which he had lived so long. He was the recipient
of a farewell address from the citizens of New Westminster, accompanied by a valuable gift of silver plate suitably
After his return to England he continued in active life,
holding the position of manager of a large chemical-works
for twelve years, after which he again became associated
with his brother Frederic in the Assay Office (at this time
situate on Coleman Street, London) until his death in 1906.
91 n^
i ay
Assay Office and Mint.
Howay &
Hist, of B.C.
Vol. II.,
p. 142.
He was married at Victoria, B.C., on the 18th Sept.,
1863, to Miss Fleury, daughter of Mons. Charles Fleury,
Weymouth, England, to whom he had been engaged before
leaving England. He left four children; two sons, Frederick
G. Claudet, Esq., of Nanoose Bay, B.C., to whom the writer
is greatly indebted for information herein contained, especially the extracts from his father's note-book and for photographs, etc., and H. H. Claudet, Esq., of Ottawa, and two
daughters, Alice and Ethel, residing in Europe.
The Treasurer.
Capt. William Driscoll Gosset, sometimes improperly
written " Gossett," the " nervous and mercurial little Treasurer," as Judge Howay describes him, belonged to a military
family and had had a long career in public service prior to
his coming to British Columbia and afterwards. He was
descended from a Huguenot family which left France at
the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685
A.D., and settled in Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, then,
as now, a part of the British Empire. Some of the family
remained in Jersey, and some settled in England. Capt.
Gosset's father was John Noah Gosset who saw active
service in the Peninsular war and in America, retiring from
the army as Major of the Rifle Brigade. His mother was
Maria Driscoll, a native of Dublin, Ireland. His early education was private, until he entered the Royal Military
Academy of Woolwich, and, on the completion of his studies
in that institution, he joined the Royal Engineers, becoming
second lieutenant on the 20th of June, 1840, first lieutenant,
27th May, 1843, and captain, 11th November, 1890. He was
appointed to the Ordnance Survey of England, and became
executive officer with headquarters at Southampton. He
was specially selected for the conduct of an important series
of scientific and astronomical studies and triangulation,
which had for their object the accurate fixing of the latitude
and longitude of Valentia, Ireland; and for this, and for
his book on the survey, including the application of photozincography to map reproduction, he was elected Fellow of
the Royal Society of Edinburgh. While on this survey he
married Helen Dorothea Gosset, daughter of the Rev. Isaac
Gosset, Chaplain to four Sovereigns, who belonged to the
English branch of the family. He left one son, Major
E. A. G. Gosset, of Bedford Park, Chiswick, England.
mstt Captain William D. Gosset, Treasurer and Postmaster of the
Colony of British Columbia.  ^•WP^F
The Treasurer.
In September, 1855, he was appointed Surveyor-General
of Ceylon and in 1858 Colonial Treasurer and Postmaster of
the Colony of British Columbia. He left England in December, 1858, for his new field of labour.
At first he took up his residence at Victoria, V.I., with
the other British Columbia officials, and for some time discharged his official duties from that city. In August, 1859,
he was appointed by the Governor as Treasurer for Vancouver's Island, but without any additional salary or any
contribution to his salary as Treasurer for the sister Colony.
Gosset accepted the appointment as desired, but in accepting
it expressed a hope that His Excellency would be pleased to
award some temporary salary to the office pending permanent arrangements.   Apparently his hopes were not realized.
While carrying out the duties of his dual position he
became so interested in the local affairs of the Island Colony
in which he lived that he offered himself to the constituency
of Saanich as a candidate for the local Legislature. He
went so far as to publish his address to the electorate on
January 5, 1860. Apparently his political ambitions were
not approved by the Governor, for he withdrew his candidature, and his opponent, John Coles, was returned without
The good people of the Mainland Colony were not at
all pleased at having their Governor residing in the rival
Colony, but as he was the Governor of that Colony also they
were in no position to complain. But having all their other
officials who had no necessary connection with Vancouver
Island residing there also, was entirely too much for their
patience and could not be passed over in silence, and a public
meeting in New Westminster vigorously protested against it.
The Home authorities did not need this expression of the
feeling of the British Columbia people to induce them to
act, and on the 5th September, 1859, Douglas was notified
that the officials of British Columbia:—
" Must repair with the least practicable delay to the
scene of their duties, or, if they decline to do so, must at
once resign their situations."
This direction came to Douglas in January, 1860, and
he agreed with the Home authorities " as a general principle," but circumstances had compelled him, he said, to
retain some of the principal officers of the Government of
Colonist, July
20, 1859.
Col.  Sec.  to
Gosset, Aug.
25, 1859.
Colonist. Marcb
10, 1860.
B.C. Papers,
III., p. 101. UM
Assay Office and Mint.
B.C. Papers,
III., p. 95.
Colonist, July
21,   1860.
Colonist, Aug.
1, 1860.
Col. Sec. to
Gosset, Aug.
7, 1860.
British Columbia at Victoria. Mr. Begbie, the Judge, had
been assisting him in framing laws; he constantly required
the attendance of the Colonial Secretary and Attorney-
General ; and as to the Colonial Treasurer, Captain Gosset:—
" It is probably more for the convenience of the service
and for the benefit of the Colony of British Columbia, that
he should at present, and probably for some little time to
come, reside at Victoria."
But that:—
" So soon as I am satisfied that his stay here is detrimental to the public service, I will instantly require him to
proceed to British Columbia."
The peremptory demand of the Home authorities had
little effect on the Governor. The British Columbia officials
continued to reside at the Island Capital. In July, 1860, he
relieved Gosset of his duties as Treasurer of Vancouver
Island, appointing in his stead Mr. George P. Gordon,
member in the local Legislature for the constituency of
Esquimalt. Even then he did not send Gosset to New Westminster, but the latter on the 31st July, with the clerks
belonging to his office, left without bidding good-bye or
intimating his intended removal to the Governor and crossed
the Gulf of Georgia to New Westminster, in consequence of
which he received a severe rebuke from that gentleman.
Of his life in New Westminster and his constant bickering with the Governor, we have related practically everything germane to our subject. He only held the office of
Postmaster of British Columbia until August, 1860, when
that part of his duties was taken over by Warren Reeve
Spalding, and" Gosset carried on the duties of Colonial
Treasurer only.
On his return to England he was promoted to the rank
of Major (November 9, 1862) and in 1863 he resigned
his position of Treasurer of British Columbia. Thereafter
he rose steadily in the service, becoming in succession Lieut.-
Colonel (August 3, 1863), Brevet-Colonel (August 3,
1868), Colonel (August 3, 1872), and Major-General (September 24, 1873). In 1872 he was the officer commanding
the Royal Engineers, Woolwich District, and in 1873 he
retired on full pay.
It was unfortunate for the harmony of the official family
that two men of the character and training of Douglas and
-  . ,,         P The Treasurer.
Gosset should have been placed in the positions they occupied.
Douglas, by his natural bent of mind, his early life, and his
years of absolute power as Chief Factor of the Hudson's
Bay Company on the Pacific, was an autocrat. Gosset had
himself been used to the exercise of authority during his
years in the public service in the Royal Engineers. The
brusque reprimands which he received from the haughty
Governor must have been agony to him. No wonder that he
never returned to the Colony which he had served faithfully
and well, and whose interests he had never failed to forward
so far as he was able. The people of New Westminster, among
whom he dwelt, appreciated his worth and his services in
proportion as they disliked his superior, the Vancouver
Island Governor, whom they blamed for keeping their own
officials in the rival capital and who, as they thought, was
doing all he could to press forward the interest of the Island
at their expense.
Sir James Douglas left among his private papers some
memoranda on the various officials in the public service during his term of office. Through the kindness of Mr. John
Forsyth, Provincial Librarian and Archivist, and by permission of Mrs. Dennis R. Harris, of Victoria, B.C., a daughter
of the Governor, a copy of that part referring to Gosset has
been obtained. It is not published with any intention of
asserting that the strictures made therein on Gosset are justified ; on the contrary, his rapid rise in the Imperial Service,
both before he came to British Columbia, and after he
returned to England, would indicate the contrary; but to
show the antagonism between the men which destroyed any
chance of co-operation between them. Moreover, the discerning reader will have seen from the correspondence
quoted in the foregoing pages, in a general way what the
Governor's opinion of Gosset was, and the memorandum is
but a restatement of that opinion in concise form. It is as
" Confidential Report on W. D. Gosset.
" Appointed by Secretary of State to be Treasurer for
the Colony of B. Columbia Oct. 1858. Arrived in the Colony
in Dec. 1858. Went home on sick leave in September 1862.
Age about 40.    Health and constitution Feeble.
95 96
Assay Office and Mint.
" My experience of Captain Gosset, has not been happy.
Except as a mere Treasury Clerk, he has been of no use to
me. As a financial officer he was valueless. I have invariably found him defective in judgment. His temper is capricious, and I cannot recall a single instance of any useful
suggestion made by him. I could never rely on his cordial
co-operation in combined measures, and I am moreover persuaded that he encouraged disaffection, and wilfully misrepresented my government, through the public Press, both in
this Country and abroad. In short I believe him to be
politically faithless and unprincipled."
After reading this, one wonders what Gosset's characterization of Douglas would have been, had he seen fit to leave
it to posterity!
The Engraver.
The Engraver was George Ferdinand Albrecht Kiiner,
better known as Albert Kiiner (he having dropped the first
two names on his arrival at San Francisco), the first and
most famous engraver of the Pacific Coast. For particulars of his life and activities we are indebted to the article
by Edgar H. Adams in the " American Journal of Numismatics," Vol. 46, pp. 18-21. He was born at Lindau,
Bavaria, on October 9, 1819, where he learned the profession of a gold and silver smith and cameo-cutter. He
came to the United States in 1848, intending to follow the
occupation of cameo-cutting, in which he was skilled, but,
being attracted by the gold discoveries in California, he
followed the current thither, arriving in San Francisco on
July 16, 1849.
He entered the employ of Moffat & Co. as a die-cutter
and seal-engraver. This firm was then carrying on the business of smelting and assaying, and for them he cut the dies
for the first $10 piece of private manufacture on the Pacific
Coast, those issued by Norris, Greig & Norris.
He commenced business for himself on Clay Street,
San Francisco, as a die-cutter and engraver in October, 1849,
and carried on the same in various locations in that city
until 1891.
He kept a carefully prepared record of each specimen
of his work—impression in wax, dies, etc.—nearly all of
which, with his papers, were destroyed in the great fire of
1906, when his house at the corner of Golden Gate Avenue Albert Kiiner, Engraver.  wBmWm
Twenty-dollar gold piece, made in British Columbia in 1862.
One of the original coins is in the Provincial Archives of British
Columbia.  The Engraver.
and Gough Avenue was burned. There is, however, a record
in his own handwriting of many of the coins for which he cut
the dies and this was published in a book issued by Eckf eldt
& Dubois in 1851. From this we know that he cut the dies
of the Norris, Grieg & Norris $5 piece, 1849; the $5 and $10
pieces of Moffat & Co., 1849 and 1850; the Schultz & Co. $5,
1851; the Dunbar & Co. $5, 1851; and the $50 octagonal,
with the denomination reading " Fifty Dolls." and the name
on the obverse around the border. The Wass, Molitor & Co.
$5 and $10, 1852, and the $20 and $50, 1855; and the Deseret
(Utah) $5, 1860, were also from his hand. This last as
originally cut showed mountains back of the reclining lion,
and a pattern made from the original dies and worn by
Brigham Young as a watch-charm until his death is now in
the possession of the Mormon Church at Salt Lake City.
In the piece as issued the mountains were omitted.
He also engraved the first State seal of the State of
California; all seals required by Wells, Fargo & Co., from
1852 until his death, as well as many medals, some of which
were, that of the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Society;
the Mechanics' Institute of San Francisco, 1882; Pacific
Coast Kennel Club; Sonoma County Agricultural Park
Association (two varieties); Portland Mechanics' Fair;
Southern District Agricultural Society; Calvary Presbyterian
Sunday School; Palermo Butter Co., Cal.; Charles Willis
medal; Portland Industrial Exhibition; St. Joseph's Benevolent Society, San Francisco; Denman medal, 1888; Souvenir
de Centennial de la Bastille, San Francisco, Cal., 1899; California State Agricultural Society; and the King Kalakua
medal, commemorating his visit to San Francisco, November
16, 1886.
He painted in water-colours, and during his leisure
hours executed many exquisite examples of the engraver's
art, principally in mother-of-pearl, for the pleasure of his
family only. These were of original conception and of the
most delicate and artistic workmanship and are still carefully preserved by his family.
He died at his home in San Francisco on January 23,
1906, aged 86 years, leaving his wife, Mrs. Judith Kiiner,
three daughters, Mrs. Ida Herman, Mrs. Martha Gehricke,
Miss Anna Kiiner, and one son, Mr. Rudolph Kiiner. f
Abernethy, Geo  12
Albert, Fort    6
Alta California 12, 35, 47
Armstrong, Hon. W. J  30
Assay Office, bars 23, 24, 25, 26
Assay Office, Barkerville 28, 29, 30, 83
Assay Office, Government 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 30, 34, 58
Assay Office, Kootenay (proposed)  29
Assay Offices, Private 18, 26
Australia  :. 4, 30
Bacon, Chas. A  21
Bank of B.C 26, 27, 28, 29, 81
Bank of B.N.A  81
Barkerville 28, 30
Begbie, Judge 11, 93
"Bits"  12
Bousfield, F. H  20
Brew, Chartres 71, 75, 78
British Columbia 6, 7, 10, 30
Bronze replicas  88
California 3, 4, 16, 30
Camosun, or Camosack    7
Cariboo 7, 11
Cariboo Road  14
Claudet, Francis G 20, 27, 28, 29, 30, 34, 51, 53, 75, 76, 89, 90, 91
Claudet, Fred. G 87, 92
Com. sent from England 13, 14
Coins, design of , 35, 43, 85
Coins, in existence 86, 87
Coins, test 56, 87, 88
I Colonist," newspaper 12, 39, 49, 66, 72, 78, 79, 80, 82
| Columbian," newspaper 42, 48, 60, 62, 69, 73, 75, 79, 80
Currency, lack of 13, 16, 38, 42
Currency, Gosset's proposal 33
I Daily Press," newspaper 36, 38
Davidson & May 24, 25, 29, 43, 45
Decimal currency 32, 41
Dies 56, 84
Douglas, Sir James 2, 6, 8, 9, 10, 14, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25,
31, 42, 43, 44, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 63, 65, 66, 67, 68, 71, 75, 88, 93, 94, 95, 96
Downie, Major  34
Exhibition at London, 1862  67
Export duty on gold 17, 27
Fort Albert    7
I Forward " gunboat  53
Fraser Canyon     7
Fraser River  4, 7, 10
Fraser, Simon    5
! I
Assay Office and Mint.
Georgia, Gulf of    7
Gold discoveries 4, 10, 11
Gosset, Capt. Wm 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 31, 32, 33, 34, 43,
53, 54, 55, 56, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96
Government notes 14, 15, 81
Graham, Thos., Master, Royal Mint  20
" Grease it and lay it away " <.  54
Hamley, Wymond 0  71
Harris, Mrs. Dennis R  94
Hitchcock, W 21, 29, 30
Homer, Hon. J. A. R  82
Hope, Fort j 7, 10
Hudson's Bay Co.....'. 6, 10
Jenns, E. A  84
Klondike)    5
Kootenay Assay Office (proposed)  29
Kiiner 96, 97
Langevin, Sir Hector  83
Lillooet, road via  11
McColl, Wm  29
McDonald, Alex. D 34, 81
McLoughlin, Dr. John    9
Marschand & Co  16
Mines, access to 7, 10, 11
Mint, The 1 19, 20, 31, 37, 38, 39, 43, 48, 53, 54, 55, 61, 65, 76, 82, 83, 84
Mint building j 21, 22, 84
Mint machinery 51, 52
Molitor  26
Monetary difficulties 13, 16
Moody, Col 55, 61, 71
Mormons  30
"Mule Trail," The  11
Naas River  43
New Westminster 37, 71, 72, 73, 74
Norris, Greig & Norris    3
Officials threaten strike 56, 57, 58
Oregon Exchange Co  30
"Oro," letter of  36
Peace River  29
Private coinage of California 4, 30
Quesnelle 7, 11
Route to Mines  11
Robson, Hon. John  66
Ross, W. B  54
San Francisco, Mint in 3, 30
Sappers  54
Saskatchewan River  43
Skeena River 43
Stickeen River  43
Strike, threatened 57, 58 Index.
Sydney, Aust., Mint in 4, 31, 32, 33, 58
Union of the Colonies  83
United Colony joins Dominion - „ 83
Vancouver, Fort „    9
Vancouver Island Legislature 6, 31, 36, 73
Victoria 7, 42
Victoria, Mint asked for at _ 18, 31, 72
Vulcan Foundry, S.F :  54
Waddington, A 36, 39, 66
Wells, Fargo & Co 26, 34, 81
Williams Creek 28, 29, 39
Yale, Fort    7
Printed by Charles P. Banfield, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
1926.   ;i  1^ I r? Panoramic view of Victoria about 1860.


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