No. 161
31 May 1859
With reference to your Despatch of the 16th November 1858, No 42, transmitting the copy of a Letter, dated the 12th October 1858, from the Deputy Governor of the Hudsons Bay Company, together with your reply thereto, respecting the possession of land occupied by thatManuscript imagethat Company in British Columbia previous to the recent immigration of Gold Miners, I have now the honor to address you upon the subject, in compliance with the instructions contained in your Despatch.
2. You inform me that for want of information as to the extent of the Territory which would be included in the claim of the Company, and the relation which in parts of British Columbia it may bear to the Gold Fields, you were not prepared to return a definite answer to the request of the Company, and also that in estimating the extent of their claimManuscript imageclaim you were disposed to draw a considerable distinction between Land which has been subjected to cultivation or has involved outlay on the part of the Company, or, which is necessary to the maintenance of their existing Stock or Establishment, and Land which has served the more occasional purpose of affording pasturage to herds or beasts of burden.
3. You therefore instruct me to inform you as accurately as I can of the extent and character of the land claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company around their Forts, and direct me to add any suggestions whichManuscript imagewhich my experience and local knowledge may enable me to furnish.
4. You at the same time impress upon me that it is the wish of Her Majesty's Government to take a liberal view of the claims of the Company, consistently of course with what is due to the public interests of the Colony, and that wherever a fair title to property can be made out by them, Her Majesty's Government are ready to afford their support and countenance for the protection of that property.
5. On the receipt of your Despatch I called upon the Agents ofManuscript imageof the Hudson's Bay Company to furnish me with a statement of the Lands occupied by them previous to the recent immigration of Miners into British Columbia, and I received a communication from the President and Council of Chief Factors and Traders, dated Victoria 16 February 1859, declaring the position and extent of their land claims. A copy of this communication is herewith transmitted for your information.
6. I also forward herewith a tabular statement of those claims, shewing, with reference to your instructions, the conditions under which the land is held, that isManuscript imageis to say if
I. It has involved outlay
II. It has been brought into cultivation, or
III. Was necessary for the maintenance of existing stock
and establishment, or
IV. Had served for occasional pasture.
This Document will probably supply, though in a general manner, the information under those several heads which you directed me to furnish.
7. The lands thus claimed have no connection with the Gold fields; none is used for gold mining, nor is any part of the land known to be auriferous.
8. I observe from the letter ofManuscript imageof the Deputy Governor before referred to, that it is the desire of the Hudson's Bay Company to have the extent of their possessions defined before the influx of population into British Columbia, and further that the Company found a Title to the lands occupied by their Establishments in British Columbia on the Treaty of 1846, wherein Her Majesty's Government, as well as the Government of the United States, have recognized the Title of the Company to land in Oregon.
9. I conceive that the Hudson's Bay Company have strong claims to be regarded with favourable consideration byManuscript imageby Her Majesty's Government upon the following grounds:
First The Country west of the Rocky Mountains was previous to the Company's occupation held by Foreigners. The Company succeeded, but not without great exertion and heavy expense, in gaining possession and holding it for Great Britain.
Secondly The Company have incurred a heavy pecuniary loss through the revocation of their exclusive rights of Trade in British Columbia nearly Twelve months before the legal termination of the License under which they enjoyed the privilege. I am not entirely considering the losses which must naturally have resultedManuscript imageresulted from the interruption to the ordinary pursuits of the Company, but, more particularly, the losses which it has been represented to me they have sustained from special causes connected with and dependent upon their position in the Country. For example, viewing their rights of Trade in the Country as exclusive, the Company justly conceived that Her Majesty's Government would hold them morally responsible for the safety of the Mining population, and on that supposition, to my own knowledge, they made prodigious efforts, and spared no expense, even when prices ruled high, in laying in large stocks of food to meet the probable demand. In consequence ofManuscript imageof the opening of the Trade these supplies have been left on hand, only a few days ago I was informed on the most creditable authority that the actual loss incurred merely through the subsequent fall of prices was upwards of Fifteen Thousand Pounds!
Thirdly There is another point which I would bring before Her Majesty's Government in connection with the consideration of these claims. The Government of the United States have not confirmed the right of the Hudson's Bay Company to the lands in Oregon, and will doubtless watch with interest the action of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the claims of the Company in British ColumbiaManuscript imageColumbia, drawing a parallel between the two cases, and readily adopting the course pursued by Her Majesty's Government if unfavourable to the admission of any equitable right of Title.
10. The lands claimed by the Company in British Columbia, with the exception of the Posts on the lower parts of Fraser's River, are not of any extraordinary value for the purposes of settlement; and moreover, they are at so great a distance from the Sea that years will probably elapse before they can be settled. Taking these circumstances into consideration it does not, therefore, appear that the public interests ofManuscript imageof the Colony will be seriously affected by a recognition of the Company's claims, and such recognition would, undoubtedly, be regarded as a graceful act of justice on the part of Her Majesty's Government.
11. I have availed myself of the presence of Colonel Moody to consult with him upon the various points in connection with the Company's claims, and I forward herewith for your information, as directed by your Despatch No. 42, of the 16th November last, the written report upon the subject which I have received from that Officer.
12. It will be seen that ColonelManuscript imageColonel Moody is in favor of recognizing the general principle of the Company's claims; but proposes that the land at Langley and Fort Hope should be curtailed in extent, and an equivalent given at other places on Fraser's River, a proposal to which I should not think the Company would be inclined to object.
13. Until Her Majesty's Government arrive at a decision upon the matter, we shall respect the lands claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company, and will not make any sale or transfer within their limits, and it is therefore important that an immediateManuscript imageimmediate settlement be effected, as well upon that account, as for the prevention of the difficulties and complaints that, otherwise, will be of constant occurrence.
I have etc.
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
I am not quite clear whether we shall hear again from the Hudson's Bay Company in London on this subject. Adverting to 12291/58 we might propose the enquiry. At any rate a reference of all the correspce to the Land Board will be necessary.
ABd 26 July
Land Bd in the first instance?
HM Jy 27
CF 29
N 30
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
A. Dallas, J. Work, R. Finlayson, and C. Dodd, Hudson's Bay Company, to Douglas, 16 February 1859, discussing land claims of the company in British Columbia.
Manuscript image
Statement of claims for land in British Columbia by the Hudson's Bay Company.
Manuscript image
Tabular Statement of Land in British Columbia held by the Hudson's Bay Company.
Manuscript image
Moody to Douglas, [blank] April 1859, on the claims of the Hudson's Bay Company.
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft, Colonial Office to Emigration Commissioners, 15 August 1859, forwarding copies of correspondence relative to land claims made by the Hudson's Bay Company in British Columbia for report.