Hamilton to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Treasury Chambers
24 May 1861
I am directed by the Lords Commissioners of Her Majestys Treasury to acquaint you for the information of the Duke of Newcastle that after a full consideration of all the circumstances represented in your letter of the 21 March last, Their Lordships are prepared to acquiesce in the proposed investigation before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council into the title of the Hudson's Bay Company to certain Lands in British Columbia and Vancouver's Island and to accept the decision of the Council in the matter.
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As regards however possible claims to compensation supposing a decision favorable to the Company, Their Lordships cannot consent under any circumstances to come under any obligation in respect of them so far as the Revenues of the Country are concerned.
The question must be considered as one between the Local Governments acting through the Crown on the one hand and the Company on the other, and any claims which may arise out of the proposed reference to the Privy Council must be met out of such means as the respective parties have at their disposal and can in no case beallowedManuscript image allowed to fall upon Funds which would have to be provided by Parliament.
In like manner the expenses connected with the enquiry before the Privy Council might in Their Lordships opinion be defrayed by the Governments of Vancouvers Island and British Columbia jointly.
I am etc.
Geo. A. Hamilton
[P.S.] The Petitions are herewith returned.
Minutes by CO staff
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VJ 25 May
Mr Fortescue
I should think the proper course was to send this letter & ours of 19 March to wh this is an answer to the P. Council with an intimation that the Secy of St. concurred with the Lds of the Treasy in considering that the expense of paying for this reference & of compensating the H.B.C. for any lands wh may appear to have been wrongfully taken from them will properly fall on the Revenues of V.C.I. and B.C.
But then comes the question what these revenues amount to, & whether the Secy of State will be able to pay the expenses wh on behalf of the Colony he thus acknowledges to be chargeable on it—(vide Mr Murdoch's note annexed).
Of this you will be more able to judge than I.
FR 27/5
Duke of Newcastle
I think the Colony must take its chance of being able to pay and that this sh. go to the Privy Council at once—with a request to be informed when they will be prepared to enter on the investigation—as it is of the greatest importance to the Colonies concerned and but fair to the H.B.Co that that [sic] as little further delay as can be avoided, sh. take place in the settlement of the questions at issue.
CF 29
I agree. Write at once to P.C.
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
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Government Emigration Board
Park Street, Westminster
27 May
My dear Rogers
It is, I think, quite fair that any indemnity which may be due to the H.B.Co for Land in B. Columbia or Vancs Island should be paid out of the Revenues of those Colonies respectively—the only difficulty would be as to the time of payment. The Colonial Revenues wdManuscript image I presume be insufficient for several years to pay the indemnity—and the Co if ousted of their Land would probably object to wait. If the Treasury would not advance the money as I suppose with New Zealand's experience before their eyes they would refuse to do, the only alternative would be to give the Co a lien on the Land Revenues of theManuscript image Colonies & pay them interest in the meantime. My belief is that the Co will not be able to make out a legal title to the Land in either Colony—but that they will make out a strong case for equitable consideration in Vancs Isld. But a case for equitable consideration can be of course settled at the convenience to a certain extent at the discretion of the Govt and need not therefore causeManuscript image any embarrassment.
I am afraid unless you take some immediate step all the Water frontage in Victoria will be sold. Is it prudent to wait the issue of the proceedings before the Judicial Commee which will probably last some months?
Ever yours truly
TWC Murdoch
Other documents included in the file
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Rogers to Henry Reeve, Privy Council, 4 June 1861, forwarding a copy of an earlier letter on the subject of HBC land-claims, and asking when the Privy Council will begin their investigation into the same.