Kelly and Cairns to Lytton
18 June 1859
We are honored with your commands signified in Mr Merivale's letter of the 8th June inst. in which he stated that he was directed by you to transmit to us the Copy of a Despatch from the Governor of British Columbia reporting a serious injury to the Colony caused by the practices of certain American Citizens who are the owners of the Steam Boats running on the Fraser River.
Mr Merivale was also pleased to state that Foreign Vessels have hitherto been admitted by license Manuscript imageof the navigation of the Fraser River, but, that the Governor having reported that these American Owners are combining to obtain complete right of this navigation by taking out British Registers for their vessels by means of transfers to British subjects which there is every reason to believe are only nominal and fictitious, he was desired to request that we would take these papers into our consideration & favor you with our opinion on the question raised by the Governor whether he would be justified in witholding a British Register from Vessels becoming British under such circumstances as those described in his Despatch.
In Manuscript image
In obedience to your commands we have taken these papers into our consideration and have the honor to Report
That under the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, (17 & 18 Vic. c. 104) s. 18. no ship is to be deemed a British Ship unless she belongs wholly to natural-born British subjects, or persons made denizens as therein mentioned, and although by s. 56. security is provided against the colorable or fictitious transfer in the form of a declaration by the transferees that no person not qualified to be an owner of a British Ship is entitled as owner to any interest legal or beneficial in the Ship transferred, yet we are of opinion that the Governor of British ColumbiaManuscript imageColumbia is not bound to accept such Declaration as conclusive, but that if he knows and is able to prove that the vessel really belongs to a person not a British Subject, he would be justified in witholding a British Register from the Vessel.
If proof be called for and a searching inquiry instituted into the circumstances and condition of the alleged transference, and the actual payment of the consideration, and the receipt and application of the profits made by the Ships, the truth can scarcely fail to appear.
We must however point out that mere surmise or suspicion of the foreign ownership would not be sufficient, nor would the Governor be entitled to witholdManuscript imagewithold a Certificate upon any arbitrary view of the probabilities of the case. He must, if he witholds it, be in a position to show satisfactorily that the Ship is really in whole or in part foreign-owned.
We have etc.
FitzRoy Kelly
H.U. Cairns
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
Send copy to the Governor in anr to his desph of 12 April No. 137. See also 6319 B. of Trade.
ABd 22 June
HM June 22
CF June 23
N 24