Berens to Newcastle
Hudson's Bay House
27 August 1861
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Mr Fortescue's letter of the 9th instant communicating to me, by the directions of Your Grace, the substance of a despatch recently received from Governor Douglas on the subject of the claims of the Hudson's Bay Company to land in British Columbia, in which he suggests as a basis for the settlement of those claims—first, as regards Country lots that the places occupied by the Company as existing Forts or Posts; and which are necessary for carrying on their business, should be transferred to the Company infeeManuscript image fee together with all fenced or cultivated lands, if not exceeding One hundred acres of Country land in any one grant, except, at New Langley and Kamloops where the grants should be increased to five hundred acres each, and secondly, as regards town lots that the Company be restricted to lots actually occupied by their business premises.
In reply I beg to assure Your Grace that it is the earnest desire of the Hudson's Bay Company to put an end to the differences existing on this subject, on any terms that may appear to be reasonable, and I trust that the suggestions thrown out by Governor Douglas furnish ground for hoping that an arrangement may now be come to.
TheManuscript image
The limit put by Governor Douglas upon the quantity of land to be transferred to the Company, in connection with their different Forts and Posts bears, in most cases, but a small proportion to the amount to which they have laid claim, and which claims they certainly understood Governor Douglas, (from the terms of his despatch to Your Grace under date the 31st day of May 1859, and transmitted to me by Your Grace's direction under date the 14th September 1859) to have admitted as well founded. But still the wish of this Company being to have the question settled in such a manner as that their rights shall be clearly defined, so that they may be enabled to pursue their business without furtherencroachmentsManuscript image encroachments or intrusion, they are ready to adopt the proposal of Governor Douglas as a general proposition, coupled however, with certain modifications rendered necessary by local circumstances, where it is clear that the quantity of land proposed to be given is not sufficient for the carrying on of the Company's trade.
I shall not trouble your Grace by entering into an examination of Governor Douglas's proposition as applicable to each particular Post or Fort, as it would require an intimate local knowledge of the places in question, but I herewith enclose a statement drawn up by a Gentleman who has recently returned from Vancouver's Island where he actedforManuscript image for the last three years as representative of the Company, and from which Your Grace will observe that there is no disposition on the part of the Company to be exacting in their demands, or to require more space than is actually required for the maintenance of their establishments on their present footing. The terms suggested are in some instances almost the same, in others only a trifle larger than those proposed by Governor Douglas, and I trust that there is no difference which can be considered essential. Upon the whole I may state that the Company will be prepared to come to a settlement, substantially, on the terms proposed by Governor Douglas if they beallowedManuscript image allowed to purchase such other portions of the lands to which they lay claim as they find it may be necessary for the purposes of their trade, at the fixed price demanded by the Government for the lands in the Colony, not charging the Company with any extra value attaching to the lands in question, and which can only have arisen from the outlay made upon them by this Company.
With regard to what are called "Town Lots" I have to submit that the rights of the Company should not be restricted to the ground actually built upon, but that they should be allowed a certain open space around each lot of from 60 to 100 feet which they are advised by their Agents in the Colony will be essential for their protection aswellManuscript image well against fire as against the inroads of the Indians.
If Her Majesty's Government are prepared to assent to a settlement of the Company's claims upon the basis I have here suggested I presume it will be necessary that the Government should appoint some one in the Colony, and the Company do the same, for the purpose of carrying this arrangement into effect, and giving to this Company an indisputable title to what may be made over to them.
I have etc.
H.H. Berens
Minutes by CO staff
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EBP 30-8/61
Mr Fortescue
This appears to me satisfactory in the highest degree. I wd write to the Compy acknowledging the liberal way (for so I think it is) in wh they have met the proposals of Govr Douglas, and stating that though the D. of N. could not lend himself to a definite opinion upon questions of detail requiring so much of local knowledge for their decision, it appears to him that little difficulty could be experienced in concluding this affair on the general basis laid down in Mr Dallas' memorandum. That he would propose that the Compy or their Solicitor shd place themselves in communication with the Emgt Bd on the subject, who wd receive the instructions requisite in order to bring the matter into a definite shape.
That some modification wd be required in the proposal of Mr Dallas that the Compy sd have "the right of purchase at the minimum price of all or any portions of the Cy's (unascertained) claims." But that probably there wd be no difficulty in giving the Company every requisite facility for purchasing what they require (purchases wh it is the clear intent of Govt to promote rather than discourage) witht giving them any such indefinite preemptive power as wd act as a discouragement to settlement.
I think thatManuscript image Mr Murdoch, or in his absence Mr Walcott, would be able to frame, in communication (say) with Messrs Maynard & Dallas, a kind of basis upon & within which Govr Douglas might be instructed to conclude the Matter.
My impression is that this is really an opportunity for settling the Matter, & that it wd be very foolish to go off upon a few thousand acres more or less—provided that neither the grants themselves, nor the preemption or other hanging rights of the Compy are such as to obstruct the settlement of the Country.
FR 30/8
Duke of Newcastle
I talked this matter over with Sir F.R. before leaving the Office & quite agree with him that it is an occasion on wh. we may meet the H.B.Co. in a friendly spirit.
CF 2 Sep
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The only part of this proposal which appears to me doubtful and likely to involve us in difficulty is that respecting "Town Lots." Would the proposal for 60 or 100 feet around each lot entail the acquisition by the Company of a Street laid out for Public use? Whether there is really anything in this doubt must depend upon local circumstances.
Upon the whole I think the deviations from the Govrs terms may be conceded.
N 6
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Memorandum of A.G. Dallas, 15 August 1861, regarding the company's claims in British Columbia.