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The Colonial Office, in Downing Street, has received annually for a series of years a “ Blue Book” in manuscript from each Colony, containing a variety of commercial, financial, ecclesiastical, and general information for the use of Government. The “Blue Books” were commenced about the year 1828. Three blank books, with ruled columns and printed headings, are sent to each Colony every year ; the blank columns are filled in by returns from the different departments, under the authority of the Colonial Secretary in each settlement; these returns are then sent in duplicate to Downing Street, and one of the three copies is retained in the Colony for the use of the Governor. In 1836-7, a Committee of the House of Commons, then sitting to inquire into the financial condition of the Colonies, examined witnesses with reference to the feasibility and expense of reducing these “ Blue Books” into a form adapted for publication. In consequence perhaps of the time and expenditure, which the arrangement and publication of a vast mass of documents would occasion (about £10,000), nothing was done by Government; and, in pursuance of an object which has occupied a third of my life at home and abroad (namely, to make the condition of the Colonies of the Empire fully known to, and their importance appreciated by, the British public), I solicited permission from the Secretary of State to prepare, with my own assistants, and at my own expense, such a work as the Committee of the House of Commons was desirous of possessing. His Lordship’s reply to my application was as follows :From Sir George Grey, M.P., Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies.
“ Colonial Office, Downing Street, " Sir,
7th February, 1838. “I am directed by Lord Glenelg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 2nd instant, and to acquaint you in reply that his Lordship has much pleasure in complying with your request for access to the information in this office, comprised in the “ Blue Books” annually transmitted from the respective Colonies. Mr. Meyer, the librarian, has received his Lordship’s directions to submit them to your inspection, on your application to him for that purpose. Lord Glenelg will also be happy to afford you access to any other statistical information in this office respecting the Colonies.
“I am, Sir, your most obedient servant, “ To Robert Montgomery Martin, Esq., &c. &c.”
“GEORGE GREY. An office was assigned for my use in Downing Street, and, by the courtesy of Mr. Meyer, I was supplied with upwards of two hundred and fifty volumes of “ Blue Books,” and with various documents of a public nature. The materials which these books contained were carefully examined, and the facts which I deemed it useful to publish were collated and arranged in a tabular form, together with an immense mass of facts collected from every public department, and from every quarter deemed authentic, so as to present consecutive views of the progress or decline of each Colony in population, education, religion, crime, commerce, shipping, staple products, finances, and in every thing which can portray the physical, moral, and intellectual condition of so large a part of the British Empire.
At the East India House also an apartment was assigned me, and the commercial returns from Bengal, Madras, and Bombay for forty years, were, by the urbanity of Mr. Peacock, placed before me. Mr. Melville, Secretary to the East India Company; Mr. Irving, Inspector-General at the Custom House ; Mr. Woodhouse, of the Plantation Office ; Mr. Covey, Registrar-General of Shipping ; Mr. Brown, Registrar-General of Merchant Seamen ; Mr. Porter, of the Board of Trade; and the Courts of Directors and Secretaries of the different public Companies connected with our transmarine possessions, all granted me their invaluable aid towards the preparation of this work.
The Colonies are arranged geographically, and divided into Books, thus :
Book I.---POSSESSIONS IN THE WEST INDIES.- Jamaica, Trinidad, Tobago, Grenada, St. Vincent, Barbadoes, Antigua, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Christopher, Montserrat, Nevis, Tortola and the Virgin Isles, New Providence, and the Bahamas, the Bermudas, &c.
Book II.--POSSESSIONS IN South AMERICA.-Demerara, Essequibo, Berbice, Honduras, and the Falkland Islands.
Book III.- POSSESSIONS IN North AMERICA. — Canada (Upper and Lower), New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, Prince Edward Isle, Newfoundland, Labrador, and the Hudson Bay Territories.
Book IV.-POSSESSIONS IN Asía.-Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Ceylon, Penang, Malacca, and Sincapore.
Book V.-PossESSIONS IN AUSTRAL-Asia.- New South Wales, Van Diemen's Island, Swan River, and Southern Australia, &c.
Book VI.-Possessions in Africa. — Cape of Good Hope, Mauritius and Seychelles, St. Helena, Ascension, Sierra Leone, the Gambia, Accra, Cape Coast Castle, &c.
Book VII.—PossESSIONS IN EUROPE.— Gibraltar, Malta and Gozo, Corfu, Cephalonia, Santa Maura, Ithaca, Zante, Paxo, Cerigo, and Heligoland.
Each Colony forms a separate chapter, which is again subdivided into numbered sections, according to a system which will shew at a glance under each head of Population, Commerce, Finances, &c. all the information which could be obtained relative to these subjects. In the Appendix a similar plan has been adopted, the documents belonging to each Book being classified according to their respective geographical arrangement.
In the West India Appendix will be found the general trade of the West Indies in the aggregate, and of each island for a series of years as regards the exports to England, and the duties levied there on sugar, coffee, rum, &c. Full details of the recent reports relative to education among the emancipated negroes, of sickness in the West Indies, of the prices of tropical produce, &c., will also be found in this Appendix. The Appendix to the book on North America contains several important statements relative to the lands granted in Canada, aggregate statements of the trade of the Northern Colonies, the value of Spanish dollars, &c. The Asiatic Appendix supplies a great variety of information, some of which was obtained at the East India House after the text was printed. The documents respecting the British feudatory, stipendiary, and dependent chiefs--the classified population of different districts--the rates of pay and regulations of the army-the commerce, coins, weights and measures, &c. of the Anglo-Eastern Empire, are all of the highest value. There will be found in the Austral-Asian Appendix copious details relative to population, crime, the treatment of convicts, secondary punishments, &c., in addition to the abundant facts given in Book V. The judicial, mercantile, and banking charters are given in the Appendix of the book to which the Colonies belong possessing such charters. Thus the Colonial Bank charter is in the West India Appendix, the British Guyana Bank charter under South America, the Hudson Bay charter under North America, the East India Company charter under Asia, and the Ionian Islands charter under the Europe Appendix. An Emigration Appendix, with a variety of data as to emigrants, rates of wages, regulations, &c., has been added, and at the conclusion is given a General Appendix of several documents relating to shipping, finances, &c. not applying specifically to any one Colony.
In order to render the work more complete for reference, a brief view of the manner in which each Colony has been acquired by Great Britain, and of its chief physical features,