No. 19
Victoria Vancouver's Island
20th August 1856
Sir
In my letter No 15 of the 22nd of July I made known to Her Majesty's Government that a not unreasonable degree of alarm existed in the minds of the inhabitants of this Colony, in consequence of the great number of northern Indians congregated in the settlements. A gang of Queen Charlotte Islanders, who had been several months
resident
resident here, soon after the date of that communication, attacked and nearly destroyed a native "Cowegin" village situated about 50 miles north of this place. The "Cowegins" few in number fought desperately and were all slaughtered on the spot; and the assailants made off toward their own country with a number of captive women and children.  
When tidings of that disaster reached the Colony, the remaining northern Indians, though still numerous were greatly alarmed, and the Cowegins incensed by the loss of their friends, were only restrained from attacking them en masse, by their respect for Her Majesty's Government, and the dread of giving us offence. They however hovered on the borders of the settlements, and shot every northern Indian without respect to Tribe or person, who ventured abroad. In those circumstances it became
necessary
necessary to apply a remedy, as the excited passions of the hostile savages would have eventually brought on a collision within the limits of the settlements, where the northern Indians had assembled for protection, and they were afraid to leave the Colony as the route to their distant homes leads directly through the "Cowegin" Country. There was also great cause to fear that so large a number of Indians united by a common sense of danger, if permitted to leave in a collective body, would in all probability, from a feeling of their own strength, become dangerous, and commit numberless depredations on the less powerful native Tribes of Vancouver's Island, who might be surprised and cut off in detail.  
I therefore adopted a plan which without displeasing the Cowegin Tribe, was considered by the northern Indians as a mark of peculiar
favor
favor; this was to despatch them on their return homeward, under the escort of the Hudson's Bay Company's Steamer "Otter," and according to that arrangement, fifteen large canoes manned with about 300 northern Indians were sent away from this place on the morning of the 7th of August, and were conducted as far as River de Grullas, about 150 miles north of Victoria, where they were left to make their own way. The Colony was thus delivered from the greater number of the northern Tribes who have been resident at this place since the end of spring, and I am in hopes they will not renew their visits next year, in bodies so formidable.  
I have now the satisfaction of announcing the arrival of Rear Admiral Bruce in Her Majesty's Ship "Monarch" at Port Esquimalt on the evening of the 11th of Instant; and the
"Trincomalee"
"Trincomalee," Captain Houstoun, arrived the following day. The "Alarm" and "Brisk," are also under orders to repair to Vancouver's Island, and are daily expected here. The health of the squadron is generally good, and there is an abundant stock of vegetables and fresh provisions in the Colony for their use.  
Admiral Bruce proposes to prolong his stay till the first week in September, and one of the ships will remain here after his departure for the protection of the Colony.  
The House of Assembly was opened on the 12th of the present month. The affair passed off quietly, and did not appear to excite much interest among the lower orders.  
I herewith forward a copy of my address to the assembly on that occasion, which I can only hope will meet with your approbation. As mentioned in one of my previous
communications
communications, the House of Assembly consists of seven Members vizt John Muir Soke District

John S. Helmcken ) Esquimalt District
Thomas Skinner )

J.D. Pemberton )
James Yates ) Victoria District
E.E. Langford )

John F. Kennedy ) Nanaimo District  
J.S. Helmcken has been elected speaker of the House, but nothing further has been done; in consequence of objections having been raised to the validity of the election in one instance, and to the property qualification in two cases, making three out of the seven members, against whose return, petitions have been sent in, leaving only the speaker and three members at liberty to act, and that number is insufficient to form a Committee of enquiry, the House therefore hardly know how to get over the difficulty. One of the petitions is evidently got up for mere party purposes, and if that were withdrawn
there
there would be four members and the speaker, who might proceed to regulate the affairs of the house. In the Territorial Governments of the United States, the practice in such cases, is for the Governor to grant certificates of qualification to a majority of the Members; who then proceed to constitute the house, but I am not certain if such a course would be in harmony with English law; nevertheless if the House should appeal to me on the subject, I will have recourse to that expedient.  
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most obedient humble Servant
James Douglas
Governor

The Right Honble Henry Labouchere Esqre
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale

Approve, I presume, of the measures taken by the Governor for getting rid of the Northern Indians, and approve also his speech on opening the two Houses of the Legislature.  
ABd
28 Octr/56
The Governor seems to differ very much from his employers the
HBC about the advantages of the Reciprocity Treaty.  
I am sure I do not know how he is to get over the difficulty about constituting a quorum of his House of Assembly but we can only say that we wait for his next report on that subject.  
HM
O 29
Mr Labouchere
I suppose that there is no other alternative.  
JB
3 Novr
We can do nothing else.
 
HL
4
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft reply, Labouchere to Douglas, No. 19, 10 November 1856.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • Speech by Douglas opening the Legislative Assembly, 12 August 1856.  
 
Despatch to London:
Douglas to Labouchere, 20 August 1856, National Archives of the UK, 9708, CO 305/7. 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=V56019.scx. Accessed 22 July 2018. 

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