Colvile to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Hudson's Bay House
16 April 1855
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 5th Instant, enclosing a copy of an opinion of the Law Advisers of Her Majesty, denying the right of the Governor and Council of Vancouver Island to legislate for that Colony, and pointing out that the power of legislation is really vested in the Governor, Council and General Assembly; also enclosing the draft of a Confidential Dispatch proposed to be sent to Governor Douglas, and at the same time submitting, for the consideration of the Governor & Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company, the question whether under the present state of circumstances the Company would not consider it advisable to abandon the Grant, and surrender the Land to the Crown.  
The Governor and Committee
have given their best attention to the subjects referred to, and I am desired to submit for the consideration of the Secretary of State, whether it might not be expedient to postpone the proposed communication to Governor Douglas until it can be accompanied by the Order in Council providing for the administration of Justice, and by instructions to summon an Assembly, there being now more than Forty Freeholders possessed of twenty acres of land, and upwards, which the Regulations have declared to be the qualification of voters for Members of Assembly.  
The first or provisional Assembly might consist of seven, or some other moderate number, and although it would probably be impossible to separate the present small number of Freeholders into distinct districts for the separate election of Members, yet such an Assembly as could be formed might obviate the legal difficulty, and be sufficient to carry on the Government for a few years until the settlement of the Island shall be more advanced.  
With respect to a surrender of the Grant, the Governor and Committee would be disposed to recommend to the Company to meet the views of Her Majesty's Government, in the event of what I have now suggested not being considered to be a more convenient mode of overcoming the present difficulties, provided the Company shall be reimbursed the outlay which has been incurred in promoting the settlement of the Colony. It will be necessary, however, to understand more fully the intentions of Her Majesty's Government, and all the details of the measure, before a definitive answer can be given to this question; and I would propose to wait upon the Secretary of State, accompanied by one or two of the members of the Committee, whenever it may be convenient for his Lordship to receive us.  
I enclose a nominal list of those freeholders who have already received titles for their purchases, and also of those persons who have purchased town lots, and built houses thereon.  
I have the honor to be Sir
Your obedt Servant
A. Colvile

Herman Merivale
&c &c &c
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale
The despatch to the Governor which it was "proposed to address to him by the earliest oppy" was sent yesterday.  
17 Apl
Mr Ball
This short letter involves three questions  
1. The "Order in Council" establishing a Supreme Court is under the consideration of the Att. & S.G. and will soon be sent out. So I have told Mr Colvile.  
2. The proposal of the H.B.C. to summon an Assembly (although there are but 40 Electors) is quite in accordance with the view taken by Mr Sidney Herbert during his short administration here: Mr Peel who had a good deal considered the subject was of a different opinion. In my own part I rather agree with Mr S. Herbert, if it is thought out of the question to apply to Parliament. The minutes in the Law Officers' opinion, 6 Vanc. Id will best shew you the position of the case.  
3. But I can hardly help thinking that this zeal of the HBC in favour of constitutional rights has a somewhat ulterior view. If they hold the island until the natural termination of their powers (1859 unless renewed) they will be entitled to reimbursement of their expenses thereon. But if it is certified to Government before that time that they have not succeeded in bona fide establishing a settlement on the island, then Government can eject them, and there is no stipulation in that case for their expenses—why, I cannot tell. See printed papers annexed.  
Now if Government were to accede to the establishment of an assembly, this would be going a long way toward admitting the foundation of a bona fide settlement.  
The whole question is therefore difficult & delicate. I should think it would be best to reserve it for Ld John Russell who must deal with it in ulterior stages: and that in the mean time, the answer might be that the O. in C. will be shortly sent out, but that the other questions raised in the letter, and the application for an interview, remain under consideration?  
Apl 17
I concur & meanwhile have kept the papers.
17 Apr
This Course will be best. Ld John Russell will be here probably
by the End of next week & so think a Delay cannot be material.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
List of Persons Holding 20 Acres of Land and upwards in
Vancouver Island, January 1855

James Douglas, Esqre
John Tod
Roderick Finlayson
*Charles Dodd
William Fraser Tolmie
Robert Clouston
John Sebastian Helmcken
James Sangster
John Gregg
Henry Nathan Peers
George McKenzie
John Frederick Kennedy
*James Yates
James Tod
George Frederick Hawkins
James Cooper
John Work
Isabella Ross
Thomas Skinner
*William Henry McNeill
*George Blenkinsop
Modeste DeMers
John Lemon
Batiste Botineau
*Leon Morell
William Richard Parson
Paul Fraser
Archibald Muir
*William Bamfield
Michael Muir
*Andrew Muir
John Muir
*William John MacDonald
William McNeill
Arthur Whaley Owen
Robert Weir
*Gideon Fifford Halcrow
John McGregor
William Huggins
John Ross
J.W. McKay
William H. Eller
William Leigh

NB. Those marked thus * are persons holding Town-lots at Victoria, in addition to their rural allotments.

List of persons holding Town-lots, having houses build upon them of value £50 and upwards, at Victoria, Vancouver Island, not included in the foregoing list.
Thomas Jonathan Cotsford
John Spence
Thomas Hall
Joseph Montgomery
Charles Edward Stuart
Eli Short
John Henry Johnston
William Logie Guthrie
Horace Rising
George Dixon
James Murray Reid
Aimie Leclerc
Camille Raymond
Frederick Minie
Francois Xavier Cabanagh
George Anderson
George Deans
Robert Laing
William Alexander Mowatt
Louis Trudelle
André Balthasar
George Frederick Johnston
James Thorne  
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft, Palmerston to Colvile, 27 April 1855, advising that the order in council would be sent out when completed, and that the other matters raised in his letter were under consideration.  
Public Offices document:
Colvile to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary), 16 April 1855, National Archives of the UK, 3578, CO 305/6. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871. Ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed 18 June 2018. 

Last modified: 16:55:56, 24/2/2015