No. 35
6 May 1861
I trust your Grace will not deem me importunate in again bringing before your notice the subject of the claims of the Hudsons Bay Company to lands in British Columbia. The inconvenience of those claims being still unsettled, or even any basis of settlement determined upon, is dailymoreManuscript image more felt, and in proportion with the delay so will the difficulty of a final adjustment be increased, the more especially as the Agents of the Hudsons Bay Company, presuming upon the provisional concessions made by this Government in reserving quantities of land to meet their claims if confirmed by Her Majesty's Government will affect, and, in truth, already do affect, to regard as a right what was simply intended as an act of consideration and courtesy, for I am not aware that, otherwise, it was incumbent upon this Government to step in between the Hudsons BayCompanyManuscript image Company and the public to reserve to the former more than what they had actually enclosed and actually occupied.
2. I do not forget that the subject is one involving many considerations, and one with which Her Majesty's Government may have some difficulty in dealing, from the very general character in which the claims are preferred, and it therefore may not be out of place for me to submit a few remarks which, perhaps, might assist Her Majesty's Government in disposing of the questions in a manner at once equitable to the Hudsons Bay CompanyandManuscript image and to the Colony, or at all events which might establish a basis of settlement that would be of material assistance to us here, in dealing with many of the complicated cases which are frequently arising in connection with the Company's claims, more especially at Yale and Hope.
3. The Grant made by Her Majesty's Government of the exclusive right of Trade on the western coast of North America was a valuable privilege which the Hudsons Bay Company enjoyed for many years, but the Charter contains no provision granting the fee of the soil to theHudsonsManuscript image Hudsons Bay Company, or agreement for compensation upon the expiration of the grant. Such being the case the Hudsons Bay Company can have no legal claim founded on the Charter to free grants of land in British Columbia.
4. Her Majesty's Government may, however, be of opinion that the Hudson's Bay Company have claims to consideration in consequence of the abrupt termination of the Charter in 1858, soon after and by reason of the discovery of Gold in British Columbia. The Charter it is true legally expired within a few monthsofManuscript image of its revocation, but it might have been renewed, had it not been for that circumstance.
5. Should Her Majesty's Government be disposed to take this liberal view of the position of the Hudsons Bay Company, and the Despatches which I have had the honor to receive upon the subject lead me to such a conclusion, I would take the liberty of recommending, on that ground solely, the transfer in fee to the Company of all places occupied by existing Forts or Posts and necessary for carrying on the business of the Company, together with any fields or gardens actually enclosed by fencesandManuscript image and under cultivation, provided however that no such grant should exceed 100 Acres of country land at any one place, except at New Langley and Kamloops where the Company have a large number of Cattle and Horses, and where the grant might be increased to 500 Acres, but in towns the grant should be restricted to building lots actually occupied by the Company's business Houses, at Yale for instance, to the Town Lots at present occupied by their dwelling and Store Houses, and at Hope to the site of their Buildings and to the adjacent carral.
HavingManuscript image
6. Having received invariably so much consideration and favor from Her Majesty's Government the Hudsons Bay Company have no real claim to privileges other than would be conceded to their fellow subjects, and it cannot be required in equity or in sound policy that they should have a gift made to them of town or country land for the mere purpose of sale. They cannot want more than I have here suggested for business purposes. They could only utilize larger tracts of land by speculating on its resale at a higher price, as they have done and are now daily doing at Victoria,andManuscript image and however anxious Her Majesty's Government, as well as myself, may be that the most liberal consideration should be accorded the position of the Company, still the interests of the Colony are undoubtedly pre-eminent and must be so regarded.
7. If Her Majesty's Government approve of what I herein submit, either as a settlement, or as a basis of settlement, I will, under their instructions, carry the same into effect by marking out the several Establishments and the lands appertaining to each, bothinManuscript image in towns and in country places. This will have the effect of removing many difficulties and embarrassments now existing in respect to lands claimed by other individuals, and it will bring the question to a decision; and should the Hudsons Bay Company consider they have further legal or equitable rights of claim, they will be at liberty, like other of Her Majesty's Subjects to appeal to the Civil Courts of the Colony.
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke
Your Graces most obedient
and humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Fortescue
This, as I understand, is a new and original proposal of the Governor's of a mode of settlement with the Company. I believe it to be very doubtful whether you would have in any event considered it an eligible proposal, but the accompanying letter is at this moment ready to go to the company for the purpose of carrying into effect a different mode of settlement which has been mutually agreed upon between them and the Government. The practical question seems to be whether this despatch from the Governer gives any reason to suspend the sending off of the letter to the Company.
You have so entirely watched the whole course of the negotiation on the subject that I merely submit the point and do not attempt to offer any opinion.
TFE 8 July
Duke of Newcastle
Considering the vast extent of the land claims of the H.B.Co. in B. Columbia—93,000 acres, there can be no use in making this offer to them—but we had better have a report upon it from Mr Murdoch?
CF 9
Refer to E. Cs. Draft to Mr B. may proceed.
N 10
I was fortunately quite mistaken.
CF Novr 13
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Fortescue to H.H. Berens, Hudson's Bay Company, 9 August 1861, describing the governor's proposal for settlement of the company's land claims and requesting any observations on the subject.