Hudson's Bay House
London
January 14th 1852
My Lord
I have to acknowledge Mr Under Secretary Peel's letter of the 20th Ult. transmitting to me a Despatch and its enclosures from Rear Admiral Moresby to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having reference to the present state of Vancouver's Island.  
To the allegations contained in these documents I shall, after adverting to the different subjects alluded to in Mr Peel's letter, make such replies as will, I trust, satisfy your Lordship that you have little cause for uneasiness as far as those allegations are concerned.  
For facility of reference the paragraphs are numbered so as to correspond with those of Mr Peel's letter.  
2. That the colonization of Vancouver's Island has made so little progress is, I beg to assure your Lordship, as deeply regretted by the Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company as it can be by Her Majesty's Government, but they cannot accuse themselves of having omitted to use every effort in their power for the colonization and improvement of the Island, which it is not less their interest than their duty to promote. They have had to encounter difficulties equally beyond their control and that of the Government. The derangement of the ordinary course of events occasioned by the state of things in California has been a discouragement to persons who might otherwise have desired to settle at Vancouvers Island, as it was evident that there could be no confidence placed on hired labourers fulfilling their engagement. This also operated as an obstruction to the intentions of the Hudson's Bay Company to establish cultivation sufficient to secure food for new settlers on their arrival. They have been obliged to import at high prices flour and other provisions for their own establishment, and for the support of the large number of agricultural labourers which they and the Puget Sound Company have sent from this country to commence cultivation in order to test the capability of the Island and encourage its settlement. The result of this measure has yet to be ascertained, though they trust it may be successful. It is the intention of both the Puget Sound Company and the Hudson's Bay Company to settle their retiring servants on small lots of land in all cases where they have acted with fidelity and industry, and thus gradually form villages of small settlers and independent labourers.  
Mr Peel states "that your Lordship hopes that with a view both to the interest of the Company itself and that of the settlers that more efficient measures may be taken for its improvement than appears hitherto to have been the case." I am not aware to what measures your Lordship alludes, and I can only assure you that the Directors of the Company would give their best consideration to any measures which you may be pleased to suggest.  
3. On the subject of the public works to be undertaken on the Island referred to in the third paragraph of Mr Peel's letter I beg to observe, that in answering Mr Merivale's letter of the 3rd September, the omission to express in direct terms my concurrence in the views therein expressed, did not arise from any intention or wish to dispute the right of Her Majesty's Government to exercise control over such works.  
Mr Peel's remark that I stated that the Governor and Council did approve of certain works of the above description is not quite correct. On reference to my letter of the 10 September I find I said "it was left almost entirely to the Governor and his Council to select both the sites and the works to be erected on them", but first obtaining the sanction of the Hudson's Bay Company. [Marginal note. "I do not see much difference."] I may observe that it is not intended to make an expenditure on public works beyond the Trust fund that may arise from Sales of land &c, but if it should hereafter appear expedient to do so your Lordship's approbation will be previously applied for.  
4. With respect to the reserves of land concerning which your Lordship wishes for more particular information, I have to state that by the last mail Mr Pemberton, the Colony Surveyor, has sent home surveys of the lands which the Fur Trade of the Hudson's Bay Company propose to take, but has omitted to distinguish that which they possessed previous to the Boundary Treaty from the whole quantity. The former will be made over to them without purchase, and, for any addition thereto they will have to pay 20/- an acre as all other Settlers do.  
He has likewise sent a survey of the Puget Sound Company's allotment. Any part of these allotments may be taken for Government purposes at the cost price, but it would be convenient that the wishes of Government should be intimated, that costly improvements may not be made, nor buildings erected on such portions.  
With regard to a duty on imports which your Lordship seems to think can not be imposed but by the Legislative Assembly, I can only say that I have no recollection of any understanding to that effect. My view is that as the formation of the Legislative Assembly is prospective, the Colony may in the meantime be considered as not possessing such an Institution, and that the parts of the constitution already formed may perform the functions of the whole until a complete developement has taken place. The duty to be levied would principally fall upon the Hudson's Bay Company's Fur trade, as the importation of goods for their inland Fur posts by Fraser's River, and the supply of their posts in the Gulf of Georgia, will be more than 9/10ths of the whole.  
6. I have already stated to your Lordship that the Hudson's Bay Company neither claim nor exercise any monopoly whatever in Vancouvers' Island. But it appears to have been represented to your Lordship that the Company exercise a virtual monopoly with respect to Settlers and visitors. The only visitors to the Island hitherto, as far as I know, are Her Majestys' ships of War which have received supplies of provisions from the Company's stores. The prices charged for these supplies have been complained of as too high, and in order to ascertain whether they are so or not, I some time ago applied to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty for information as to the rate of charge, which I regret to say I have not succeeded in obtaining. I must therefore content myself with stating that there have been unprecedented fluctuations in the provision market on the North West Coast of America of late, and that the Company imported provisions for their establishments from the Sandwich Islands at very high prices.  
I am not aware that any indirect means have been resorted to for establishing a monopoly by refusing ground for building sites in suitable places, to Traders who might compete with the Company, or that any facilities for trading have been denied such persons. Such proceedings on the part of the Companys Agent would, I beg to assure you, meet with the marked displeasure of the Directors of the Company. The Company have afforded the facility of importing goods in their Ships, and some of the Settlers have availed themselves of this privilege.  
7. California will I trust in time afford an advantageous market for the productions of Vancouver's Island, and thus exercise a favourable influence in the Settlement of the Colony. At present however the unsteadiness of that market holds out but little encouragement to the Agriculturist. Wheat, which some time ago was selling in Oregon at 7/- per bushel had fallen by late accounts to 3'/1 1/2d.  
Should Mining operations succeed in Vancouvers Island, Coal will find a sure and ready market. As yet however none but surface coal has been discovered.  
I shall now offer a few remarks on Admiral Moresby's letter and the enclosures therein.  
Adml Moresby's letter, par: 2  
It is gratifying to me to find that Admiral Moresby bears testimony to the high character of Mr Douglas. In confiding the direction of their affairs to such a man the Company feel assured that they have adopted the best means in their power for preventing such abuses as those alleged in the Admirals Report to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty.  
Whether the opinion stated by the Admiral in a former Despatch and here repeated "that the attempt to colonize Vancouver's Island by a Company with exclusive rights of trade is incompatible with the free and liberal reception of an emigrant community" be correct or not I will not take upon me to say. I can only repeat that it is not applicable to the case of Vancouvers Island inasmuch as the Hudson's Bay Company neither claim nor exercise such right in that Island.  
Par 3 & 4.  
The farm let to Mr Langford by the Puget Sound Company contains 600 acres, and the Hudsons Bay Company have placed a Bailiff on a small farm of 60 acres, who is paid by salary.  
On the terms on which the Puget Sound Company have let their land to Mr Langford I do not think it necessary to make any other remark than this, that they are much more favourable to the tenant than those stated by Admiral Moresby, favourable as the latter must be considered to be.  
Par 5.  
The Company have as yet received no distinct information respecting the Sale of the two building lots mentioned in this paragraph, but they have reason to believe that they are on land which forms a part of the allotment for the Fur trade, neither have they any information of a misunderstanding with the Indians caused by Padre Lampfrit [Lempfrit] the missionary. Mr Blanshard was reimbursed by the Company for the expence he incurred in building his cottage.  
Par 6.  
It was hardly to be expected that two ships of War coming unexpectedly at the same time could procure sufficient supplies of provisions from the Company's stores, which are provided solely with a view to their own requirements. The charge for grass and mutton seems high, and will be enquired into. With regard to the latter article it is to be borne in mind that the traffic between Vancouver's Island and Nisqually, from which cattle and sheep are brought, was stopped by the United States Custom House authorities in Oregon, the natural consequence of which would be to enhance the price at Fort Victoria. So many of the Company's servants had deserted in consequence of the gold digging temptation, that Mr Douglas had difficulty in carrying on the ordinary business of the trade, and could not spare labour for the cultivation of either gardens or fields.  
Par 8.  
The Statement in the 8th paragraph of the Admirals letter is a revival, with additions, of the story which I had occasion to notice and, as I had hoped, to set at rest, in a former communication, but as it has been reproduced by Admiral Moresby I shall bestow a few remarks upon the present version of it.  
It has been the uniform policy of the Hudson's Bay Company never to suffer the blood of a white man to be shed by a savage with impunity. This policy is well understood by the tribes who inhabit the regions under the control of the Company, and it is not too much to say that it has saved many a life that would otherwise have been sacrificed. There is therefore a very strong antecedent improbability that any officer of the Company,—were it only for his own sake—would offer a premium for the murder of white men. But the testimony of Mr Beardmore [Beardsmore] is conclusive on this point, and the more so because he is known not to be well affected towards the Company. When examined by Admiral Moresby he says expressly that a reward (and to Indians no small reward) was offered for the apprehension of the murderers, and that no reward was offered for the deserters. The charge of offering a reward for the heads of the Seamen may now, I think, be considered as finally disposed of.  
But a similar charge in regard to the Muirs is now, for the first time, brought foward as the hearsay evidence of one of them. Andrew Muir, the Admiral's informant, was the ringleader of a mutiny at Fort Rupert, and a deserter.  
It is also worthy of remark that this man omitted to mention the offer of a reward for his head when he submitted to Governor Blanshard his complaints of the bad treatment he had received from the Hudson's Bay Company. Nor is it probable that if such a reward had been offered the Governor who reported to your Lordship the rumour respecting the murder of the Seamen would have left this to be reported by Admiral Moresby twelve months after the transaction to which it refers is said to have taken place.  
Par 10.  
The Title deeds have been delayed for want of surveys. The Surveyor first sent out having failed to fulfil his engagements, it was found necessary to send out another, and much time was consequently lost. Terms of Deeds have been transmitted to the Company's agent, to be filled up as soon as the boundaries of the allotted lands shall have been fixed by the new Surveyor. When these Deeds, which are supposed to be on their way to England, arrive, they will be executed here and returned to the Colonists by the first opportunity.  
Par 11.  
The people hitherto sent out have been hired Servants, a portion of whom have been married men; but in this matter the Company must be guided by circumstances, as the limited means of feeding the people, until cultivation to some extent could be established, rendered it inexpedient to send out men with large families.  
Par 12.  
On the subject of protection referred to in the correspondence between Mr Blanshard and Mr Douglas attached to the Admiral's Report, I had the honor of stating to your Lordship in my letter of the 28th February last that I did not consider a Military force necessary. I have seen no reason to alter that opinion, but on the contrary am confirmed in it by Mr Douglas's letter to Mr Blanshard of the 3rd July 1851. I quite agree with him that the appointment of local Magistrates is all that is necessary. When I read Mr Blanshard's letter of the 2d July 1851 to Mr Douglas I was not a little surprised, as Mr Douglas always discountenanced a Military force, and had lived on the Island for years with only a few white men; but how Mr Blanshard could have stated the substance of Mr Douglas's conversation as implying the necessity of a military force is quite incomprehensible. That it was a misapprehension on his part is evident from Mr Douglas's answer.  
Par: 12  
The Servants of the company are engaged on contracts for five years; the wages of labourers are 17 per annum; they are lodged, fed, supplied with implements, and conveyed out and home at the Company's expence. They almost all remit money to their families during their contracts, and very many of them, when they quit the Service, have considerable balances to receive. Salmon and Pork, with Beef and Mutton occasionally, constitute their foods. The English labourers are chiefly from Dorsetshire. Now the wages of a Dorsetshire labourer have not for some years averaged more than 7/6 per week, out of which he has to find every thing for himself and his family, when he has one. It hardly need be enquired how much fresh meat, or animal food of any kind, can possibly be procured with such wages, or whether the labourer is better off in Vancouver's Island or at home. But the Company, like all other employers of labourers, have a right to hire them at as low wages as they may be willing to engage for. They find no difficulty in procuring men for those wages in Orkney, from whence they have for many years obtained them, and where the nature of the service is perfectly known. The wages o. 17 are for the first term of engagement, and afterwards, on a renewal of their engagements, the men get increased wages according to their industry and usefulness. Almost all the European servants save money in the service besides remitting money to their families.  
Admiral Moresbys informant is mistaken in saying that only Canadians and Indians have till lately been employed by the Company. A large proportion of their servants are from the Western Isles of Scotland and the Orkneys. Englishmen were engaged solely from a belief that having been more exclusively occupied in Agricultural labour than the Islanders, they might be very useful in a new Colony.  
With respect to the quality of the Pork supplied to the Servants, I can only say that it was the best that could be procured, and cost a very high price.  
The informant states that the price of an article is withheld, or some punishment inflicted upon the men for asking it, that nothing under half a dollar is allowed to be purchased by the men, that a little thread is charged half a dollar, a button or two the same. Now I find upon examining the mens accounts that the charges against them are composed of a variety of articles, small in quantity, and many charges of 3d, 4d, 5d & 6d, in short like small shop accounts in any other part of the world.  
In the Admiral's Report of the conversation he had with Mr Beardmore, I observe he says the men were deceived by the Hudson's Bay Company—that no man in his right senses would come from England to suffer what these men have got to suffer, it was worse than transportation, &c &c.  
Admiral Moresby might have seen that Mr Beardmore had left the Company's service a discontented man, and should have therefore been on his guard against receiving his opinions and statements as correct representations of the real state of things. Some of the men stated to have been deceived and to have been subjected to treatment worse than transportation—men from Kent—came home in one of the Company's vessels in place of seamen who had deserted, it being impossible to procure other seamen at the time. Now those very men had been but a few months at home when they volunteered to resume their places in the Company's service, and they did so. They returned to Vancouver's Island by the next ship. I may also mention that the Company have had applications from the friends of the Englishmen who are now in Vancouver's Island to be taken into their Service—and this in consequence of the statements sent home from thence.  
One man writes thus from Cumberland—"I had a letter from an uncle that went out on the first of November 1850, and he wants me to go out as soon as ever I can for the same place, and he went by your Company, his name was Wm Aikenson, he requested me to write up to you directly. Please write back as soon as you can, and let me know how the emigrators rules or conditions are."  
Another says "I have received a letter from my sons James and Charles and Robert Fish now in your employ in Vancouvers Island, and they give me a very satisfactory account of the place. they never regret leaving their home but say they are very happy and comfortable."  
From the person who engaged the Dorsetshire men for the Company the following letter was received in October last, "I write these few lines to enquire if you want any hands this fall for Vancouver, as I have applicants every day and I cannot give them an answer until, Sir, I hear from you; if you want any please to let me know as I think I can get them for you, married or single". and in another letter he says "their friends (the friends of the men sent out to Vancouver's Island) have brought me their letters for me to read, and they all give it an excellent character, plenty of every thing."  
Permit me in concluding this letter to assure your Lordship that the Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company have no more earnest wish than to see the Settlers prosperous whether engaged in trade, agriculture, or any other branch of industry.  
I have the honour to be
My Lord
Your Lordships most obedt humble Servant
J.H. Pelly
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale
 
VJ
17 Jan/52
Mr Peel
1. On the question of public works, it seems to me this letter is satisfactory as far as it goes, & that with the caution already conveyed to the H.B.C. there is no necessity for farther remarks at present.  
2. As to the import duties the case remains where it was. Sir J. Pelly thinks that where there can be no representative Council there arises ex necessitate a right to tax in the existing authorities. It would be a convenient doctrine, and I am not prepared to say the tribunals would not uphold it, but I do not know that such a point has ever been decided.  
3. The rest of the letter consists of special contradictions or modifications of Adm. Moresby's statements.  
See the new Governor's recent report, 484.  
HM
Jan 22
FP
23
There are some parts of this letter that I do not understand—especially the passage xx in which Sir J.P. adverts to what had been said as to the appropriatn of land by the Company. I shd be glad of any explanatn of this which can be given. This & the questn respectg the impositn of duties as to which the company has not succeeded in removg the doubts I entertain as to whether such duties can lawfully be imposed without the authority either of an elected Assbly or of Parlt—seem to be the only points requirg to be further noticed except by a general expression of satisfactn with wh I have received the assurances of the Company as [to] the principles on which they have acted.  
G
26/
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft, Colonial Office to Pelly, 2 February 1852, expressing satisfaction with the company's assurances, but asking for further explanation about the company's fur trade lands and proposed import duties.  
 
Public Offices document:
Pelly to Grey, 14 January 1852, National Archives of the UK, 409, 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=V525HB01.scx. Accessed 21 November 2017. 

Last modified: 14:00:35, 16/2/2015