1301. N. America

Hudson's Bay House
October 24, 1846
Sir
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 3d Instant, stating
Ansd 14 Dec / 46. 
that you had received the directions of Earl Grey to make certain enquiries of the Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company the answers to which might perhaps relieve his Lordship from the difficulty he at present feels in returning any definite answer to the application made in my letter of the 7th. September, respecting an Establishment which the Company have formed on the south point of Vancouver's Island.  
In reply to his Lordship's enquiries as to the extent and limits of the territory in the possession of which the Company desire to be confirmed, and the soil, harbours, and navigable streams comprized within it, I enclose the Report, dated July 12 1842, made by Mr. Chief Factor Douglas, the officer who was sent to survey the locality, and to select an advantageous situation for carrying on the Company's trade in the event of any portion of the territory north of the Columbia River falling under the dominion of the United States, together with extracts from Despatches of various dates received at the Hudson's Bay House since the receipt of that Report. 
The only additional information in the Company's possession will be found in the Report of Lieuts Warre and Vavasour, dated November 1. 1845, addressed to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, and in that of Lieut. Vavasour to Colonel Holloway of the Royal Engineers, Canada, dated March 1. 1846, which is accompanied by a sketch of the harbour of Camoosan and a plan of Fort Victoria
In reference to the question, whether the Company are advised that their right is clear in point of law to receive and hold in their corporate capacity any lands within the dominions of the British Crown westward of the Rocky Mountains, I beg to observe that there is nothing in the Charter of Incorporation, granted to the Company by Charles the Second, to preclude them from holding lands in addition to those comprehended within it; and I entertain no doubt whatever, that if Her Majesty be graciously pleased to grant the Company, in perpetuity, any portion of the territory westward of the Rocky Mountains, now under the dominion of the British Crown, such grant will be perfectly valid. Had I, indeed, ever had any
! [...]co[...]
[...]
clear [...]
[...]
[...]  
doubt on that point, it would have been removed by the Treaty lately concluded between Great Britain and the United States, in the third article of which (as I interpret it) the British Government has fully recognized the right in question. 
The lands held by the Company south of the 49th parallel have been confirmed
[...] 
to them under that Treaty by an act of the Crown, and they therefore hope Her Majesty's Government will not see reason to withhold from them a similar confirmation in the lands they held north of that parallel at the time the Treaty was concluded. 
This, however, is a matter of small importance compared with the colonization of such parts of the territory as may be adapted to that purpose. 
The Royal Grant to the Hudson's Bay Company of the exclusive privilege of trading with the natives of the territories westward of the Rocky Mountains, dated May 13. 1838, reserves to the Crown the right of establishing Colonies within those territories, or of annexing any part of the territories to any existing Colony or Colonies; and the Company's Charter constitutes the territory included within the limits therein prescribed, "one of His Majesty's Plantations and Colonies in America" under the name of Ruperts Land. The inference there appears to me to be clear and obvious
[...] 
that the Company may legally hold any portion of the territories belonging to the Crown, westward of the Rocky Mountains, that it may please Her Majesty to annex to Rupert's Land
It would be a superfluous task to enter into a detail of the reasons which render the colonization of Vancouver's Island an object of great importance; I shall, at present, merely submit to Earl Grey's consideration whether that object, embracing as I trust it will the conversion to Christianity and civilization of the native population, might not be most readily and effectually accomplished through the instrumentality of the Hudson's Bay Company, either by a grant of the Island on terms to be hereafter agreed upon, or in some other way in which the influence and resources of the Company might be made subservient to that end. 
I have the honour to be
Sir
Your Obedient
humble Servant
J.H. Pelly



Benjamin Hawes Esq.
&c &c &c
Colonial Office
Downing Street
P.S. Please to return Mr Douglas's Report, of which you may take a copy if you wish to do so.
Minutes by CO staff
To await Mr Stephen's return. 
The enclosure from Mr Douglas to be copied & the original returned to Sir J. Pelly
ABd
Mr Hawes
This is written in answer to two questions
1. What is the land wh the Hudson B. Compy. want
2. Whether they are advised that they are competent to take & hold it. 
1: In answer to the first of these questions Sir J. Pelly transmits papers contg a particular description of the locality in wh their establishmt is placed [...] and an apparently valuable amt of the neighbouring coast — but no statement of the limits of the land wh they have occupied, or wish to acquire. 
But Sir J. Pelly refers to some reports & & maps wh he supposes to be with this Office but wh are not registd in the department. They are I believe of a confidentl character. 
2. In answer to the second questn Sir J.P. states that he entertains no doubt that the Company can receive a grant of lands — esplly since their possessory rights are [...] expressly recognized in the Oregon Treaty. 
The letter to Sir J. Pelly has not [...] elicited a statement of the means by wh the Compy at present adopt for holdg land. 
It may be worth while, as Sir J.P. suggests, to copy the report of Mr Douglass wh he desires may be returned. 
You will probably suggest what course shd be taken on these papers. 
FR
Oct 30
Perhaps Ld Grey may wish the answer to this Paper to wait for Mr Stephens return. I had a great deal of conversation with him upon it & he has looked into the various documents, which must be consulted before any reply can be made. 
BH
Yes. 
G.
31
1301 N. America
25 Nov. 46.
Mr Hawes
There is a singular contrast between the language held by Sir John Pelly in his conversations with us here, & his language in this Letter. Then he told us that the Legal Incompetency of the Hudson's Bay Company to hold Lands West of the Rocky Mountains was so clear that their Lands in Oregon were, in fact, vested, not in the Company, but in a certain private Association of it's Members, united together for the express purpose of getting rid of the Legal difficulty. Now he states their legal competency to be undoubted, &, in effect, denies that he ever doubted it. In conversation he said that the Company did not wish for any grant of the Land, but merely for an assurance that they should not be dispossessed of it. In this Letter he infers & renews & urges the application for a Grant. My inference is that he has no steady opinions on the subject. 
I shd dissuade a grant for the following reasons: —
1st. Sir John Pelly is even yet unable to describe the Lands to be granted with any degree of precision. 2ly To grant Lands is impliedly to promise to the Grantees protection in the enjoyment of them. 3ly To make such accept such a Grant wd I believe, be to infringe the spirit, if not the letter, of the Company's Charter. 4th To make such a Grant wd be to give needless umbrage to the Americans, who wd say that it was done in order to impart to their late Treaty with us a wider sense and a more enduring effect than properly belongs to it, or than was contemplated by the contracting parties, and, 5th., Every useful end could, I think, be answered by a simpler method. 
I wd give the Company an assurance that they shd not be dispossessed of any Lands on which they have already entered, or on which they may yet enter, within some definite time, provided, that, within Ten years from the date of their first occupation of such Lands, they shd make, and shd be able to prove the having made, an expenditure on them in Buildings, or other permanent works, equal to £10 per acre; & provided that the Lands so occupied, and improved, shd be surrendered up, if requisite, as the site of any Works required for the Public defences or other Public interest of any future Colony within the limits of which they might fall. 
On the subject of Colonization this Letter does not appear to me to make any advance at all on what has already be written. 
JS
Nov. 25. Sir J.H. Pelly has certainly put a larger construction upon his Charter than he did in his interview with Mr Stephen & myself. What passed upon that occasion Mr Stephen, in my opinion most accurately recorded. The Memorandum is herewith. 
The terms now proposed by Mr Stephen seem discouraging — when for many obvious reasons, I think, they should be encouraging. I attach importance to a Settlement upon or near Vancouvers Island. It is here alone we have a good Harbour on the Western coast of America. There are many reasons for believing the Climate & soil favorable for agriculture. I have stated some facts in the Memorandum bearing upon this subject, annexed. Without the Agency of the H. Bay Cy I despair of any speedy colonizing movt in that quarter, except at the Expence of the Treasury. 
Under these circ I should willingly grant a lease on very favorable terms — the lease of the Aukland Islands is a case in point, — for any reasonable gran extent of Land the Cy desired in Vancouvers Island. A condition making making an Outlay of 10£ an acre necessary — though within 10 years — wd cripple all enterprise: — & the subsequent surrender of the Land, — without any deduction for improvts, — would utterly prevent all enterprise. In the case of the Aukland Iss the Crown resumes — paying for improvts — if Land is required for any public purpose. 
It must not be forgotten that we are here dealing with a Company of both standing & capital — & sound policy I think sanctions every reasonable encouragt being given to a distant uncertain, but I think, important public enterprise. 
BH
I agree with Mr Hawes in considering it very desirable to encourage the Co in colonizing Vancouvers Island — I shd have no objectn to leasing (reserving a power to the Crown of resuming possessn on payment of the value of improvements) to granting a long provided Mr Stephen thinks there is not the same legal objectn to a lease as a grant — 
G.
26/
27 Novr
Mr Hawes
Entirely concurring in your opinion that this is a case in which everything shd be done to assist the Company, as far as possible, I confess I do not see how any substantial distinction cd be made between a grant in perpetuity, or a grant for a term of years. I wd howr advise a grant in perpetuity if 1st. The Company will produce an opinion from the Law Officers of the Crown that the acceptance of such a grant wd be consistent with their Charter, and 2ly If Lord Palmerston shall say that there is no objection to it as far as respects our relations to the United States. But in the Grant, whether for perpetuity or for years, I wd introduce the reservation I have mentioned. 
JS
Nov. 27. I imagine Lord Grey will adopt Mr Stephens advice. The Law officers opinion should be upon the question, whether a lease or grant is or not consistent with the Charter? 
BH
G.
29/
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • James Douglas to John McLoughlin, 12 July 1842, recommending the port of "Camosack" as the best site for a fort on Vancouver Island. Transcribed fully below. 
  • Sir George Simpson to Governor and Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company, dated Red River Settlement, 21 June 1844, extract of letter reporting on the satisfactory condition of Fort Victoria
  • Peter Skene Ogden and Douglas to Simpson, dated Fort Vancouver, 19 March 1846, extract of despatch describing the progress at Fort Victoria.  
  • Simpson to Governor and Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company, dated Red River Settlement, 18 June 1846, extract of despatch reporting on conditions at Fort Victoria.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)

Copy
Fort Vancouver
12 July 1842
John McLoughlin Esq

Dear Sir
According to your Instructions I embarked with a party of six men, in the Schooner "Cadboro" at Fort Nisqually, and proceeded with her to the South end of "Vancouver's Island," visited the most promising points of that Coast, and after a careful Survey of it's several Ports and Harbors, I made choice of a
Site
site for the proposed new 〜 Establishment in the Port of Camosack which appears to me decidedly the most advantageous situation, for the purpose within the Straits of De Fuca
2. As a Harbor it is equally safe and accessible, and abundance of Timber grows near, it for home consumption and exportation. There being no fresh water Stream of sufficient power, flour or Saw Mills may be erected in the Canal of Camosack, at a point where the channel is contracted to a breadth of 47 feet, by two narrow ridges of Granite, projecting from either bank, into the Canal, through which
the
the Tide rushes out and in with a degree of force and velocity capable of driving the most powerful machinery, if guided and applied by Mechanical Skill. 
3. In the several important points just stated, the position of Camosack can claim no superiority over some other excellent Harbors on the south Coast of Vancouver's Island, but the latter are generally speaking surrounded by Rocks and Forests, which it will require ages to level and adapt extensively to the purposes of Agriculture, whereas at Camosack there is a range of
Plains
Plains nearly six Miles Square 〜 containing a great extent of valuable Village and Pasture Land equally well adapted for the Plough or for feeding Stock. It was this advantage and distinguishing feature of Camõsack, which no other part of the Coast possesses, combined with the Water Privilege on the Canal, the Security of the Harbor and abundance of Timber around it, which led me to choose a Site for the Establishment at that place, in preference to all others met with on the Island
4. I will now proceed to describe the most prominent features
of
of the other Ports visited during this cruize, in order that you may know and weigh the grounds of my objections to them as eligible places of Settlement. 
5. The finest and only District of Vancouver's Island which contains any considerable extent of clear Land is situated immediately on the Straits of De Fuca, beginning at Point Ganzalo, the South East Corner of the Island, and running westward from it to the Port of "Sy-yousung", from whence to the South West point of the Island opposite Cape Flattery, there are no Safe Harbors for Shipping, and the
Country
Country is high, rocky, and covered with woods, presenting in it's outline the almost unvarying characters of the Coast of North West America, to which it unfortunately bears a too faithful resemblance. 
6. On the contrary, the former District of the Island extending from Port Sy-yousung Point Ganzalo, is less elevated, more even and diversified by wood and Plain; the Coast is indented with Bays and Inlets; there are several good Harbors, with anchorage at almost every point where vessels may bring up in calms. To this part of the Coast I directed much attention and having
travelled
travelled over almost every mile of it, I will here state my observations, beginning with Port Sy-yousung, the most Westerly Harbour deserving of notice. 
7. "Sy-yousung" (see Map) is a spacious Inlet extending more than two miles into the Country, where Shipping may lie at all seasons of the year in perfect safety, as it is protected from every wind; there is however a strong current setting through the entrance, with the flood and ebb that might detain and prove inconvenient to Vessels entering or leaving
Port
Port, otherwise it is unexceptionable as a Harbor. A Shallow rivulet 30 feet wide, which takes it's rise from a Lake in the interior of the Island, falls into the north end of the Inlet, remarkable as being the largest and only fresh water stream capable of floating a canoe that be found on this part of the Island
It can however hardly be called navigable, as during a short excursion I made upon it, we had to drag our Canoe over banks of Gravel that traverse the bed of the Stream at
every
every Hundred Yards. An extensive mud flat also lies off it's mouth, which is nearly dry and impassable in the smallest craft at low water. It has also the reputation of being a good fishing Stream, and as far as I could learn from the Natives of the place, a considerable quantity of Salmon is caught there annually; a consideration which would make it exceedingly valuable to an Establishment. These are the only good points of this Harbor, which the character of the Country in it's vicinity, render of no avail, as the place is
totally
totally unfit for our purpose, the Shores being high, steep, rocky, and every where covered with woods. In ranging through the Forest we found one small plain containing 3 or 400 acres of Land at the distance of one mile from the Harbor; but the rest of the Country in it's neighbourhood appeared to consist either of Wood Land or Rocky Hills. 
8. Eight Miles east of "Sy-yousung" is the Port of "Whoyring" divided from the former by a ridge of Woody Hills extending from the coast to the central high Land of the Island. This is a
pretty
pretty good Harbor, but has nothing further to recommend it, as a single glance at the high broken hills of naked granite, which form the East side of the basin, and the equally sterile character of the West Shore, satisfied me that this place would not answer our purpose. 
Roberts 
In one of our excursions we found a narrow plain nearly a mile long at the same distance from the harbor, which is the only clear Land in it's vicinity. 
9. Metcho-sin is an open roadstead one and a half mile East of the former Port. It is a
very
very pretty place and has a small fresh water run near it. There is however no Harbor, and the anchorage is exposed and must be insecure in rough weather; in addition to that disadvantage the extent of clear gound is much too small for the demands of a large Establishment, and a great part of what is clear is poor stony Land with a rolling surface, so that on the whole it would not do for us. 
Is-whoy-malth is the next Harbor to the Eastward and appears on the ground plan accompanying this letter. It is one of the
best
best Harbors on the Coast, being perfectly safe and of easy access; but in other respects it possesses no attraction. It's appearance is strikingly unprepossessing, the outline of the Country exhibiting a confused assemblage of Rock and Wood. More distant appear isolated ridges thinly covered with scattered Trees and masses of bare Rock, and the view is closed by a range of Low Mountains which traverse the Island at the distance of about twelve miles. The Shores of the Harbor are rugged and precipitous, and I did not see one level spot clear of Trees of sufficient
extent
extent to build a large Fort upon. There is in fact no clear Land within a quarter of a mile of the Harbor, and that lies in small patches here and there, on the acclivities and bottoms of the rising gound. At a greater distance are two elevated Plains, on different sides of the Harbor, containing several bottoms of rich Land, the largest of which does not exceed 50 acres of clear space, much broken by masses of Limestone and Granite. 
Another serious objection to this place is the scarcity of fresh
Water
Water. There are several good runs in Winter, but we found them all dried up, and we could not manage to fill a single
[...]
Mosses 
breaker in the Harbor. 
11. The next Harbor about 11/2 mile east of the former is the Port and Canal of Camosack, which as already said I think the most advantageous place for the new Establishment. From the general description here given I fear you will not discover many traces of the level champaign Country so fancifully described by other Travellers who preceded me in this field; and
You
you will also observe that there is one important objection which applies to all the places, except "Camosack," mentioned in this sketch, namely the absence of any tract of clear Land sufficiently extensive for the Tillage and Pasture of a large Agricultural Establishment. It would also be difficult to find a convenient situation for an Establishment, on the high rugged shores of any of the other Harbors, and moreover these latter places with the exception of "Sy-yousung" and "Metchosin" are all scantily supplied with fresh Water.
12. On
 
12. On the contrary at Camosack there is a pleasant & convenient site for the Establishment, within 50 yards of the anchorage, on the border of a large tract of clear Land which extends Eastward to Point Gonzalo at the South East extremity of the Island, and about six miles interiorly, being the most picturesque, and decidedly the most valuable part of the Island that we had the good fortune to discover. 
The accompanying Ground Plan shows pretty correctly the distribution of Wood, Water, and
Prairie
Praire upon it's surface, and to it beg to refer you for information upon such points. 
13. More than two thirds of this Section consist of Praire Land and may be converted either to purposes of Tillage or Pasture, for which I have seen no part of the Indian Country better adapted; the rest of it, with the exception of the Ponds of Water, is covered with valuable Oak and Pine Timber. I observed, generally speaking but two marked varieties of soil on these Prairies, that of the best land is a dark vegetable mould, varying from 9 to 14 inches in depth, overlaying
a
a substrate of grayish clayey loam, which produces the rankest growth of native Plants that I have seen in America. The other variety is of inferior value, and to judge from the less vigourous appearance of the Vegetation upon it naturally more unproductive. 
Both kinds however produce abundance of grass, and several varieties of red clover grow on the rich moist bottoms. 
In two places particularly we saw several acres of clover growing with a luxuriance and compactness more resembling the close sward of a well managed lea
than
than the produce of an uncultivated waste. 
14. Being pretty well assured of the capabilities of the Soil as respects the purposes of Agriculture; the climate being also mild and pleasant we ought to be able to grow every kind of Grain raised in England. On this point however we cannot speak confidently, until we have tried the experiment and tested the climate as there may exist Local influences, destructive of the husbandman's hopes which cannot be discovered by other means. As for instance it is well known that the
damp
damp Fogs which daily spread over the Shores of Upper Calefornia, blight the crops and greatly deteriorate the wheat grown near the Sea Coast in that Country. I am not aware that any such effect is ever felt in the temperate climate of Britain, nearly corresponding in it's insular situation and geographical position with Vancouver's Island, and I hope the latter will also enjoy an Exemption from an evil at once disastrous and irremediable. We are certain that Potatoes thrive, and grow to a large Size, as the
Indians
Indians have many small fields in cultivation which appear to repay the labor bestowed upon them, and I hope that other Crops will do as well. 
The Canal of Camosack is nearly six miles long, and it's Banks are well wooded throughout it's whole length, so that it will supply the Establishment with Wood for many years to come, which can be conveyed in large Rafts with very little trouble, from one extreme of the Canal to the other. 
I mentioned in a former part of this letter that I proposed to erect any machinery
required
required for the Establishment, at the narrows of the Canal, about two miles distant from the Site of the Fort, where there is a boundless Water Power, which our two Millwrights "Crate" & "Fenton" think might, at a moderate expence, be applied to that object. A fresh water River would certainly be in many respects more convenient, as the moving power could be made to act with greater regularity and be applied to Machinery at probably less labor and expence than a Tide power; besides the facilities and immense advantage
of
of having a Water communication, instead of a tedious Land Transport for the conveyance of Timber from a distance, after exhausting that growing in the immediate vicinity of the Mill Seat. But I saw no Stream that would fully answer these purposes, not even excepting the one in the Harbor of "Sy-yousung"; We must therefore of necessity have recourse to the Canal, or select a Mill Seat on the Continental Shore, a step that I would not advise until we have gained the confidence and respect of the Native Tribes. 
The natural supply of fresh
Water
water will probably be found scanty enough for the Establishment in very dry seasons; but I think that between a small Stream at the distance of 300 paces, and it's feeder a Lake 800 Yards from the site of the Fort, we may always depend on having at least a sufficiency of this indispensable element. The labor of carting it from a distance of even 800 yards would however be very great, and I would therefore recommend that wells should be dug within the Fort, of sufficient depth to yield a constant and regular supply at
all
all times. This I have no doubt will be found the cheapest Plan in the end, besides the importance of having water at hand in cases of fire, or in the event of any rupture with the Natives. 
17. It is unnecessary to occupy your time with any further details on the subject of this Cruize, as the present sketch will enable you to form a correct estimate of the advantages and disadvantages of the several places visited, and I think your opinion cannot vary much from my own respecting the decided Superiority of Camosack over the
other
other parts of the Island, or of the continental Shore known to us, as a Place of Settlement. The situation is not faultless or so completely suited to our purposes as it might be, but I despair of any better being found on this Coast, as I am confident that there is no other Sea Port north of the Columbia where so many advantages will be found combined. 
I remain
Dear Sir
Your very obedient Servant
Sd James Douglas
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft, Colonial Office to Pelly, 1 December 1846, advising that the colonization question remained under discussion, and laying out the terms under which the company might be granted land in the colony. Marked "Cancelled." 
  • I still think these terms too onerous & discouraging. Wherein does the Case differ from that of the Auckland Islands. 
    BH
    Decr 5
    I agree with Mr Hawes in thinking these conditns too onerous; I shd be prepared to sanctn the scheme upon terms similar to those proposed to Mr Enderby. There is no occasn to put in the conditn about the approbatn of Ld Palmerston. It is for me to ascertain this which I will do privately before the letter is sent. 
    G.
    5/
    I have now received L Palmerston's answer. He sees no objectn to allowg the Co. to colonize Vancouver's Island but on the contrary considers it desirable that we shd as soon as possible do acts of ownership there. 
    G.
    7/12
Other documents included in the file
  • Extract, Hawes to Pelly, 14 December 1846, saying Grey is willing to assent to his proposal of 24 October 1846 but requests "production by the Company of an opinion from Her Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor General, to the effect, that the acceptance by the Company of such a grant would be consistent with their Charter of Incorporation."  
  • Draft, Stephen to Pelly, 14 December 1846, a revision of the above. 
  • Mr Hawes
    I have written this over again in conformity with your own & with Lord Grey's notes on the margin of the former draft. I find that I had mistaken his Lordship's intentions as expressed in the Minutes of the 26th & 29th Novr
    It appears to me that the only conditions in the case of the Auckland Islands which cd be applied to the present case, is the latter part of the condition numbered 4 in the Letter to Messr Enderby of the 8h of October which alone, therefore, I have transferred into this draft. 
    JS
    10 Dec
 
Footnotes
  1. This addressee information appears at the foot of the first page of the despatch.
  2. This first minute entry appears near the top first page of Pelly's letter to Hawes.
  3. This is a scribal filler, likely used to denote the continuation of a given paragraph. This representation is approximate; see corresponding image scan for the original mark.
  4. This is a scribal filler, likely used to denote the continuation of a given paragraph. This representation is approximate; see corresponding image scan for the original mark.
Public Offices document:
Pelly to Hawes (Parliamentary Under-Secretary), 24 October 1846, National Archives of the UK, 1301, CO 305/1. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871. Ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria: University of Victoria. http://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/getDoc.htm?id=V465HB02.scx. Accessed 18 October 2017. 

Last modified: 15:05:28, 31/3/2015