Murdoch to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
31 January 1861
I have to acknowledge your letter of 23rd instant enclosing an extract of a letter addressed to the Duke of Newcastle by Mr Berens the Governor of the Hudsons Bay Co.
2. Mr Berens complains that Governor Douglas has put up to sale, not only a portion of the land which had been staked out by himself in 1858 as claimed by the Hudsons Bay Co, but also some of the Buildings upon it—and heManuscript image expresses a hope that the Duke of Newcastle will at once direct the Governor to discontinue proceedings of this description, until the title of the Company to the lands claimed by them has been decided. In the absence of any explanation from Governor Douglas it is impossible to form an opinion upon the specific facts complained of, but the following is the present position of the question in regard to the land claims of the Hudsons Bay Company in British Columbia.
3. Prior to the erection of British Columbia into a Colony the Hudsons Bay Co had occupied many tracts of land for the erection ofManuscript image Forts or Trading Establishments as well as for purposes of cultivation. After the erection of the Colony and the resort to it of Settlers the title of the Company to lands so occupied was brought into question. There is no doubt that the Company never received any formal title to the lands—but they maintain that long and continuous occupation gives them a title, and that this title is supported by the stipulations in the Oregon Treaty of 1846, in regard to land held by them South of Latitude 49o on exactly the same tenure.
4. A considerable correspondence took place on the subject in 1858Manuscript image-1859 but without leading to any satisfactory result. Under these circumstances it was arranged with the Company that the question should be referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and in order to raise it in the regular form, the Company addressed the necessary Petitions to Her Majesty in Council—the reference of which to the Judicial Committee the Duke of Newcastle assented to on 4th of July last. What further steps have been since taken to bring the question to decision I do notManuscript image know, but it would be manifestly desirable (if it were possible) to obtain a decision of the Judicial Committee at an early date. In the meantime it would also be desirable that Governor Douglas should abstain from dealing with the Land claimed by the Company, except in cases of absolute necessity. If the Title of the Company should be affirmed by the Judicial Committee, H.M. Government would be clearly at a greater disadvantage in dealing with them for land which had been already appropriated, then for what had been left untouched in their hands.Manuscript image Without, therefore expressing any opinion on the transactions alluded to by Mr Berens of which we have so little information, I would submit that Governor Douglas should be directed, pending the settlement of the question before the Judicial Committee, to avoid as far as possible all interference with lands claimed by the Hudsons Bay Company.
I have etc.
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
I passed to you yesterday the papers bearing on this subject.
ABd 1 Feby
They must have gone on in circulations. I presume that Mr Murdoch's advice in the present report will be adopted.
TFE 1 Feb
I passed them two days ago. I enquired lately when we might expect the decision of the Privy Council and was informed that the state of business would prevent the case being taken up before April. Adopt Mr Ms advice.
N 2