[No. 8]
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Vancouver's Island
Fort Victoria
11th November 1852
To the Right Honorable Sir John S. Packington Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State for the Colonial Department

Sir
I had last the honor of addressing you on the 27th August, and have now to report that the ‸grain crops in the several Districts of this Colony were secured in good condition. The wheat land generally yielded a fair return, averaging about 23 Bushels to the acre, but the oats were thin and deficient both in grain and
Ansd 10 Feb/53. — Extract to Hudsons Bay Compy 14 Feb/53
﹏﹏﹏"﹏﹏﹏  Admiralty  ﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏﹏ " ﹏﹏﹏"  
straw, in consequence of a remarkably dry summer, which also greatly injured the potatoe and other green crops. Those useful esculents have however been raised in sufficient abundance to meet the wants of the Colony, and even to afford a quantity for exportation, but I have ascertained that there is a deficiency of bread stuffs, which must be made up by
I
Admy and H.B.Co.  
timely importations from abroad.  
I reported in my last letter the important discovery of Coal lately made on Wentuhuysen Inlet, or more properly speaking Nanaimo Harbour, on the east coast of Vancouver's Island. The researches since made by
2  
the Miners of the Hudson's Bay Company have confirmed the opinion then formed of the vast mineral wealth of that District of Vancouver's Island. About 1 1/2 miles from the great bed mentioned in my last letter the natives, who are now indefatigable in their researches for Coal, lately discovered a magnificent seam over 6 feet in depth, cropping to the surface on New Castle Island, where several thousand Tons of Coal may be procured without the trouble & expense of Mining. Such places are left entirely to the Indians, who work with a surprising degree of industry, and dispose of the Coal to the Agents of the Hudson's Bay Company, for clothing and other articles of European manufacture. The Miners of the Hudson's Bay Company have carried down a shaft, at a short distance from the coast, and struck the great seam, on the 6th Inst at the depth of 48 feet below the surface, an event which has diffused a general feeling of satisfaction in the Colony as every inhabitant naturally takes a lively interest in the success of an undertaking on which the prosperity of the country, and in a great measure, his own private interests, so much depends.  
We have received no intelligence from Queen Charlotte's Island since my last communication, and I have not heard of any vessel proceeding thither from the American Ports in Oregon. The excitement with respect to the Gold products
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of the Island was still, by our last advices very great in California; but I am of opinion that no vessels will be despatched to that quarter, until spring, as the cold and stormy climate of the coast in winter is now well known, both in Oregon and California, and will probably have the effect of detering ship owners from adventuring their property at that dangerous season of the year.  
In respect to the administration of public affairs in the Colony I have nothing very important to relate. The Government has ‸been hitherto carried on by the Governor and a Council of three Members, as it was not considered expedient to enter upon the subject of legislation nor to call General Assemblies of the Free holders until the population increases, and there be a sufficient number of persons of education and intelligence in the Colony, to form the Members of such assemblies. In the administration of Justice, we follow the Laws of England which provide fully for every emergency that has yet arisen.  
I would except from that remark a local Law regulating the importation and sale of Spirits, which was passed during the administration of my Predecessor in Office and was intended to discourage the Sale of intoxicating drinks, which are the bane of the settlement and the great source of poverty and crime. That Law had a salutary effect for a time, and until the settlement of the American side
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of the Straits of De Fuca, where there is no restriction on the sale of Spirits, when the Law became a dead letter, in consequence of the facility with which it could be evaded and Spirits introduced clandestinely into the settlement. Drunkeness is now the crying and prevalent sin of this Colony, and will I fear continue to be so, until a better and more respectable class of people are sent to the Country, or a    improvement takes place in the moral tone of the great bulk of the present population.
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There is no want more severely felt at present than the services of an earnest and zealous clergy, and Her Most Gracious Majesty, could not in my opinion Confer a greater or more lasting benefit upon Her Colony of Vancouvers Island, than by making an immediate provision for the moral and religious instruction of Her faithful subjects
H.B.Co  
in this part of the world. The Colonists being with few exceptions of the poorer classes, and destitute of means, stand greatly in need of the fostering care, and material aid of the mother country, or I should not have drawn your attention to these wants at present.  
Our relations with the
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Native Tribes, continued in the most satisfactory state up to the 5th Inst, when an event occurred which I fear may lead to serious difficulties with the Cowegin Tribe. The event of which I have reference is the foul and wanton
murder
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murder of Peter Brown a servant of the Hudson's Bay Company, by some Cowegin Indians, at one of the Company's sheep stations, about 5 miles distant from this place, under circumstances of great atrocity. In such cases we are naturally led to suspect the existence of some exciting cause, of some previous injury or provocation, that has tempted the untutored mind of the Savage to commit a fearful crime, but after the closest investigation of that case I have not been able to discover any mitigating circumstance whatever, which can be urged in extenuation of its guilt. The murder of Peter Brown may be therefore regarded in the light of a mere wanton outrage, as this unfortunate victim, of savage treachery was known to be a remarkably quiet and inoffensive young man, the only son of a respectable widow in Orkney.  
The circumstances attending the murder are detailed in my correspondence with Captain Kuper of Her Majesty's Ship "Thetis" now fortunately stationed in the neighbouring Port of Esquimalt, of which I herewith transmit a copy, and I feel gratified in reporting, for your information, that he has promised to cooperate with this Government, by means of the force under his command in the measures that may be adopted for bringing the criminals to justice. It is reported that they have fled towards the Nanaimo Country, with the intention of taking refuge among their friends in that quarter, and a force will be sent as
soon
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soon as we collect the means of transporting it, to that part of the coast, to apprehend them wherever they may be found, as the peace and quiet of the Colony will be best preserved by bringing them to justice with as little delay as possible. Messengers were despatched to the Cowegin Chiefs on the 7th Inst to demand the surrender of the criminals, and they have just returned accompanied by Soseeah the Chief, who possesses the greatest degree of influence with that people.  
I had a conference with him to day on the subject of the murder, and he expresses the utmost regret, that such an unhappy event should have taken place, as his people are not disposed to quarrel with the whites to whom they are under so many obligations, and he assured me that all his Tribe, with the exception of one little party called Thlim Thlimelits, who are related to one of the assasins have resolved to give up the murderers, and should the latter attempt to screen them from justice, the rest of the Tribe are not disposed to aid or assist them in any manner in resisting the Queen's authority.  
This is so far satisfactory, as we are desirous as far as possible to prevent the effusion of blood, and to avoid implicating the Tribe in the guilt of individuals, acting without their knowledge or consent.  
The Thlim Thlimelits may also see the folly of taking part with the murderers, and shun a contest, which would be disagreeable to us, and calamitous to themselves.  
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We are now daily expecting the arrival of the Hudson's Bay Company's Steam Vessel, and I propose as soon after as possible to despatch her with a sufficient force to seize the assasins wherever they may be found.  
I shall do myself the honor of advising you from time to time of our proceedings, which I trust will soon be brought to a satisfactory issue.  
I beg also to communicate for
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your information, that I have found it necessary, with the advice and consent of the Council, to appoint an Officer bearing the Title of "Collector of Her Majesty's Customs for Vancouver's Island." No salary is attached to the Office; as from the circumstance of there being no Customs dues levied in this Colony, its present duties will not be onerous, and will chiefly consist of entering and granting clearances to vessels arriving at, or leaving the Ports of Vancouver's Island. and of causing the observance of Port regulations and the laws relating to the domestic or foreign trade of the Colony. Mr James Sangster, a gentleman of worth & experience, has been provisionally appointed until Her Majesty's pleasure is known.  
I have the honor to be
Sir
Your obt Servant
James Douglas
Governor
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale
It wd be a convenience if the Governor were to number the Paragraphs of his despatches.  
1. Should the passage I have marked regarding the Coal be sent to the Admiralty and the Hudson's Bay Company?  
2. The passage about the establishment of a Clergy shd I think be sent to the H.B.Co, who were written to lately on this very point; but, if I remember right (their ansr is in circulation) they rather evaded coming to any conclusion; & perhaps they might be pressed more vigorously this time.  
3. The proceedings for avenging the murder of Peter Brown do not seem to call for any remark at present.  
4. The appointment of the Collector of Customs will, I suppose, be approved.  
ABd
29 Jany
Mr Peel
Adopt these suggestions?  
The circumstance of the Indians being active in working the coal (p. 2) is very important if it prove lasting.  
HM
F 3
Adopt them.  
FP
3
JSP
4
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 2, 10 February 1853.  
  • Draft, Colonial Office to Colvile, Hudson's Bay Company, 14 February 1853, forwarding extracts of the despatch respecting the need for clergy in the colony.  
  • Draft, Colonial Office to Hamilton, Admiralty, 14 February 1853, forwarding extract of the despatch relating to discovery of coal mines.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
In 933/53  
Vancouver's Island
Fort Victoria
8th Novr 1852
Augustus N. Kuper Esqre
Captain of Her Majesty's Ship "Thetis"
Sir
I beg to communicate for your information that a foul and wanton murder was committed on the 5th Inst by two Indians of the Cowegin or Nanaimo Tribe, at a herding station about 5 miles distant from this place.  
The unfortunate victim of savage treachery by name Peter Brown was in the service of the Hudson's Bay Company, a native of Orkney, and was a remarkably well conducted and inoffensive young man.  
The circumstances attending this tragic affair as gathered from the statements of James Skea, the fellow shepherd of Brown are as follows. In the morning of the 5th Inst four natives two men and two women, arrived at the station, and entered the house in their usual quiet and friendly manner. Such visits being matters of daily occurrence excited no attention, and shortly afterwards Skea drove the sheep out to pasture leaving Brown and the natives in the house. It was near mid day when he returned to the station, and discovered to his great horror and surprise the lifeless remains of his fellow shepherd who had been murdered in his absence extended on the ground a few yards from the House. The body was still warm though life was extinct and death had evidently been caused by several gunshot wounds which had pierced the chest and must have produced immediate death. The door of the house was found open and many articles of property including two Guns and four Blankets were missing having been carried off it is supposed by the murderers. A fine Bag, Looking Glass a wooden Comb and pipe of Indian manufacture which the assasins had left behind in the hurry and alarm of their retreat were also found in and about the House a fact which adds strength to the conviction arising from other circumstances, that the deed was committed by the natives, who had called at the station that morning and who had afterwards decamped with their booty. One of these parties is well known here, and I have no doubt his accomplices will soon be discovered.  
The Criminals have fled to the Nanaimo Country, and our great anxiety at present is to secure and bring them to justice, a measure absolutely necessary for the prevention of crime.  
There is no reason to suppose that they were acting with the knowledge or in concert with any other Members of their Tribe, who have on all occasions evinced the most friendly disposition towards the whites.  
We have therefore, and for reasons of public justice and policy, as not wishing to implicate the whole Tribe in the guilt of a few, nor to furnish a motive powerful enough, to induce the several branches of the Tribe, through a sense of common danger, to unite in a league, offensive and defensive against the whites, thought it proper, in the first place, to despatch a message to the chiefs of the Cowegin Tribe demanding the surrender of the Criminal. and should that measure fail in its object I shall be under the painful neccessity of sending a force to seize upon the murderers wherever they may be found.  
In that case I shall be compelled to make a requisition on you for a sufficient force to carry out the measures necessary for the defence and protection of this Colony, and I communicate thus early with you in order that you may be aware of my intention.  
I have the honor to be
Sir
Your obt Servt
Signed. James Douglas
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • Kuper to Douglas, 10 October [November] 1852, offering his full cooperation.  
 
Footnotes
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Despatch to London:
Douglas to Pakington, 11 November 1852, National Archives of the UK, 933, CO 305/3. 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=V52108.scx. Accessed 22 July 2018. 

Last modified: 15:05:30, 31/3/2015