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LETTER OF INSTRUCTIONS.
TREASURY DEPARTMENT, August 2, 1866. Sir: In entering upon your duties as special commissioner to collect mining statistics - izi the States and Territories west of the Rocky mountains, it is important that you should clearly understand the objects designed to be accomplished by this department and by Congress.
The absence of reliable statistics in any department of the government on the subject of mines and mining in our new mineral regions, and the inconvenience resulting from it, induced Congress at its last session to appropriate the sum of teñ thousand dollars for the collection of information of all kinds tending to show the extent and character of our mineral resources in the far west.
The special points of inquiry to which your attention will necessarily be directed are so varied, and embrace so large a scope of country, that it will scarcely be practicable for you to report upon them in full by the next session of Congress.
I entertain the hope, however, that you will be enabled by that time to collect sufficient data to furnish, in the form of a preliminary report, the basis of a plan of operations by which we can in future procure information of a more detailed and comprehensive character.
The success of your visit to the mineral regions, in carrying out the objects contemplated, must depend in a great measure upon the judicious exercise of your own judgment, and upon your long practical'acquaintance with the country, your thorough experience of mining operations, and your knowledge of the best and most economical means of procuring reliable information.
The department will not, therefore, undertake to give you detailed instructions upon every point that may arise in the course of your investigations. It desires to impress upon you in general terms a few important considerations for your guidance, leaving the rest to your own judgment and sense of duty.
1. All statistics should be obtained from such sources as can be relied upon. Their value will depend upon their accuracy and authenticity. All statements not based upon actual data should be free from prejudice or exaggeration.
2. In your preliminary report, a brief historical review of the origin of gold and silver mining on the Pacific coast would be interesting in connection with a statement of the present condition of the country, as tending to show the progress of settlement and civilization.
3. The geological formation of the great mineral belts and the general characteristics of the placer diggings and quartz ledges should be given in a concise form.
4. The different systems of mining in operation since 1848, showing the machinery used, the various processes of reducing the ores, the percentage of waste, and the net profits,
5. The population engaged in mining, exclusively and in part; the capital and labor employed; the value of improvements; the number of mills and steam-engines in operation; the yield of the mines worked; the average of dividends and average of losses, in all the operations of mining.
6. The proportion of agricultural and mineral lands in each district; the quantity of wood land; facilities for obtaining fuel; number and extent of streams and water privileges.
7. Salt beds, deposits of soda and borax, and all other valuable mineral deposits.
8. The altitude, character of the climate, mode and cost of living; cost of all kinds of material; cost of labor, &c.
9. The population of the various mining towns; the number of banks and banking institutions in them; the modes of assaying, melting, and refining bullion; the charges upon the same for transportation and insurance
10. Facilities in the way of communication; posial and telegraphic lines; stage routes in operation ; cost of travel; probable benefits likely to result from the construction of the Pacific railroad and its proposed branches.
11. The necessity for assay offices and pubiic depositories; what financial facilities may tend to develop the country and enhance its products.
12. Copies of all local mining laws and customs now regulating the holding and working of claims.
13. The number of ledges opened and the number claimed; the character of the soil and its adaptation to the support of a large population.
Upon all these points it is very desirable that we should possess reliable information. Whatever tends to develop the vast resources of our new States and Territories must add to the wealth of the whole country.
I am extremely solicitous that the information collected should be ample and authentic.
Trusting that you may be enabled to make such a report as will be of great public utility, and at the same time promote the interests of the miners to whose industry and energy so much is due, I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Secretary of the Treasury. J. Ross BBOWNE, Esq.,
Washington, D. C.
J. ROSS BROWNE,
SPECIAL COMMISSIONER FOR THE COLLECTION OF MINING STATISTICS,
SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA,
November 24, 1866. Sir: I had the honor to send you by last steamer a preliminary report on the mineral resources of the States and Territories west of the Rocky mountains.
Congress, at its last session, appropriated ten thousand dollars “to enable the Secretary of the Treasury to collect reliable statistical information concerning the gold and silver mines of the western States and Territories,” &c. Under a letter of appointment, dated August 2, 1866, and in accordance with detailed instructions of same date, I entered upon the discharge of the duties assigned to me, immediately upon my arrival at San Francisco, September 3, ultimo.
The views of the department as to the impracticability of reporting in detail by the next session of Congress were fully realized when I came to consider the magnitude of the subject and the immense scope of country over which the inquiry extended.
You were pleased to express the hope, however, that I would be enabled to collect by the meeting of Congress " sufficient data to furnish, in the form of a preliminary report, the basis of a plan of operations” by which information of a more detailed and comprehensive character could be procured in future.
To obtain any geological or statistical data whatever, within the brief space of two months, precluded the possibility of a personal visit to the mineral regions prior to the transmission of my report. The experience of Mr. William Ashburner and Mr. A. Rémond, members of the State geological survey, satisfied me that it would be utterly impracticable to examine the mines of a single district, much less of all the States and Territories west of the Rocky mountains, within that time. Mr. Ashburner spent eight months in procuring data for a single table, showing the operations of the principal quartz mills in Mariposa, Tuolumne, Calaveras, Amador, Eldorado, Plumas, Sierra, and Nevada counties. Mr. Rémond spent three months in visiting the principal mines and mills in that part of Mariposa and Tuolumne counties lying between the Merced and Stanislaus rivers, and three months more in preparing tables showing the results of his observations.
Under these circumstances, and in view of the fact that I had already visited nearly every mining district within the range of my instructions, and was familiar with the topography of the country and the general condition of the mining interest, I deemed it best to avail myself of such reliable sources of information as were immediately accessible. San Francisco being the central point of trade and commerce for the Pacific coast, afforded facilities in the way of statistical data and scientific aid which could not be obtained elsewhere. From this point nearly all the capital radiates, here the records of all mining enterprises are kept, and here centre the products of the mines.
The report to which your attention is respectfully invited embodies the results of many years of careful and laborious research. It is compiled from original data furnished by the most intelligent statisticians and experts known on this coast, as well as from notes made by myself during the past three years.
In many respects this report is imperfect. No reliable system has hitherto existed for the collection of mining statistics, such as the governments of Europe have long since deemed it expedient to establish. The existing system in the British colonies of Australia and North America, thongh not adapted to our mineral regions, or to the habits and customs of our people, is both thorough and comprehensive. Surveyors and registrars are appointed for each district, and all mining operations are carried on under their inspection. Monthly and quarterly reports are made by them, under the direction of a supervising officer, whose duty it is to collect and arrange all the data thus furnished for publication. These reports show the actual condition of every branch of mining industry from month to month and quarter to quarter, so that at the expiration of the year a complete history is given of the progress of development and the profits and losses of mining. A permanent system like this, established upon a somewhat different basis, is greatly needed in our country.
One of the difficulties already experienced in the collection of mining statistics on this coast is the disinclination of parties interested to expose the secrets of their business. Either the business is not remunerative and they desire to encourage further investments by false representations, or by withholding the truth; or, if unusually successful, they may consider it to their interest, in view of further purchases, arrangements, or contracts, to avoid giving publicity to the facts. I am inclined to believe, however, that the advantages of fair and truthful stateinents, in the encouragement of immigration, the reduction of the cost of labor, che promotion of confidence in mining enterprises, and the establishment of a more uniform system of laws, will soon become apparent. Indeed, the difficulty to which I refer is not so general, even now, as might be supposed. I have found mining companies, doing a steady and reliable business, nearly always disposed to furnish the desired information. The cases of refusal are exceptional, and there is usually a cause for it, well understood by persons familiar with mining enterprises.
Another difficulty, which, however, will not exist to so great an extent hereafter, has been the conflicting character of statements made by different parties. In many instances where the sources of information are equally reliable, but where conflicting influences prevail, it is almost impossible, after the lapse of any great length of time, to get at the exact truth. Even facts, seen from different stand-points, appear differently to the most conscientious persons. In cases of this kind, where the proofs on either side are not positive, I have preferred—sometimes at the expense of prolixity—to give the different statements, especially where there is a general concurrence of testimony as to the main facts. Thus, it will be seen that the amount of bullion produced on the Pacific coast is variously estimated by the best informed and most intelligent men. Mr. Ashburner’s estimates are somewhat lower than those usually accepted by the public, but I believe they are well-considered. Gold and silver are so generally blended together under the head of “bullion,” that none of the express companies or bankers have hitherto kept separate records of the products of each. It would be very difficult to obtain correct returns on this point, unless the numerous assay offices and the authorities at the branch mint could furnish details of the quantity obtained by parting, or by estimating the bullion passing through their establishments—the two metals are so universally alloyed with each other.
Mr. Swain, superintendent of the branch mint at San Francisco, a gentleman possessing both the means and the disposition to inform himself on this subject,