Berens to Lytton
Hudson's Bay House
12 October 1858
I now avail myself of your permission to address Her Majesty's Government upon the subject of the possessions of the Hudson's Bay Company around their Forts in British Columbia which were occupied by them long before the influx of Miners into that district.
Up to the period of the Treaty between this Country and the United States in 1846; the Hudson's Bay Company carried on their trade and intercourse throughout the Interior of that vast Continent by way of the Columbia River, when however the Country South of the 49th parallelofManuscript image of Latitude and consequently both the shores of the Columbia River, were ceded to the United States, the Company foresaw that difficulties might arise, and expences be incurred, by navigating the waters of a Foreign Power, although the Free Navigation was confirmed to them; they therefore endeavoured to find another route through British Territory, and commenced their operations of Discovery from Fort Langley, a Post on Fraser's River which had long previously been established.
Fort Langley long previously established. [TFE]
After much trouble, danger, and expence, they completed their exploration by the route of Fraser's River which has since been adopted as the way of communication throughout the Interior of the Country, and to Hudson's Bay.
As all the communication was carried on by small boats, and horses, it became necessary toestablishManuscript image establish relays of Posts where the Brigade could find provisions and supplies, and further, where the large Bands of Horses could be foddered and pastured.
The Officers of the Company fixed therefore upon those spots which were most convenient for their purpose, and in order to render each Post as far as possible selfsupporting and independent of imported provisions, a certain quantity of land was squatted upon for the purpose of raising potatoes and grain, and also for pasturing and foddering the Cattle. The Company did not fence off this land as there were no neighbours to fence against, but now that so large an influx of strangers is taking place, of a class proverbially unscrupulous, it becomes necessary to guard against the infringement of theCompany'sManuscript image Company's property, and I would request Her Majesty's Government through your Kind intervention to instruct Governor Douglas that he should take a liberal view of these possessions, and define their extent, taking as his basis the land occupied and pastured by the cattle of the Company before the influx of the Miners into that Country.
This may be a vast area. [TFE]
The Company possess the same title to these lands that they do to those in Oregon, which title has been fully recognized by Her Majesty's Government, and by the Government of the United States by the Treaty of 1846, and which will of course be recognized in the present instance.
I have etc.
H.H. Berens
Deputy Govr
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
It seems to me only right that the local Government should afford every protection in its power to the property of the Hudson's Bay Company in British Columbia; though I should have a little doubted whether the Government is bound to recognize their claim to the fee simple of "the lands occupied and pastured" by their servants round the Posts or Forts simply because they "squatted" thereon. The squatting, however, was an act of necessity—and the only means the occupants of the Posts had of supporting themselves. So I suppose there is no alternative but to concede their claim to possession. They refer to the course taken with their lands in Oregon when the Treaty of 1846 was negociated. The course then adopted was to confirm them in their farms, lands and otherManuscript image property. Considering the liberality of the Hudsons Bay Company and their readiness to fall into the views of H.M. Government on most occasions, the British Government can scarcely treat them with a less measure of liberality in British Columbia than they have received on American Territory. And therefore I should write to the Governor as requested, and acquaint the Company accordingly.
ABd 20 Octr
Lord Carnarvon
I pass this for your consideration. But a claim, on the ground of having squatted, to an absolute property in all the land occupied & pastured by Cattle, does seem one of which the admission might affect a much larger area, and entail further consequences, than could at first be anticipated. No two cases are exactly alike, but still the warning of experience on this matter inAustraliaManuscript image Australia is not to be overlooked.
TFE 25 Oct
This has apparently by some accident been mislaid for I have not seen it until within the last two days. I annex two drafts wh I think will be on the whole the safest way of dealing with the question. If they are approved the Desp. to Govr Douglas sd go by Tuesday's Mail.
C Nov 13
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Carnarvon to Berens, 16 November 1858, requesting further details of the company's claims and forwarding copy of despatch to Douglas.
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Draft reply, Lytton to Douglas, No. 42, 16 November 1858.