Murdoch to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
20 May 1862
I have the honor to report, for the information of the Duke of Newcastle, that our attention having been called to advertisements in the public Papers of a Company formed for the purpose of forwarding Emigrants through Canada overland to British Columbia, we thought it our duty to make some enquiry on the subject. We accordingly requested an interview with the Secretary of the CompanyManuscript image and on Saturday the 18th instant Coll Sleigh, who appears to have been actively engaged in getting up the Company, called upon us with the Company's Broker.
2. Coll Sleigh stated that the Company had undertaken the project of forwarding Emigrants overland to British Columbia very much on the information derived from Governor Douglas' despatches and from Mr Pemberton's "VanCouvers Island and British Columbia." The despatch from Governor Douglas to which he principally referred is that ofManuscript image 18th Octr 1859 in which it is said that the experiment of a land journey from the Red River to British Columbia had been repeatedly made by parties of Red River people—and that it had been stated that the whole distance from Lytton to Red River, with the exception of the Coutannais pass, might be safely travelled by Carts.
3. Coll Sleigh stated that arrangements had been already made at St. Pauls, through which the Emigrants will pass on their way to Red River, to provide the necessary stores of food, horses and carts for the journey across the SaskatchewanManuscript image Country and in answer to the objection that great hardship and exposure might be encountered on that journey he alleged, that the party would be accompanied by a number of Indians as Guides and Assistants; and that it would consist exclusively of Men in the prime of life, many of whom had been in Australia and America, and all were accustomed to horses and firearms—that there would not be a single old man, woman or child with them—and that accordingly they might be safelyManuscript image trusted to take care of themselves. At our request Coll Sleigh has since put in writing the main points of what he stated to us, a copy of which I enclose.
4. It appears to me that if, as we are assured, the party going out is composed exclusively of young men accustomed to a Country life, it is not necessary that the Government should interfere in the matter. No doubt some hardships will be encountered—but none greater than is encountered every day by persons of adventurous disposition—andManuscript image none that men of courage & resource may not safely face. For their own credit and advantage the Company will probably form its first parties of the materials specified by Colonel Sleigh—and if they succeed in opening and rendering safe the overland journey to B. Columbia, there cannot be a doubt that an essential service will thereby be rendered to that Colony—and the connection between it and the Mother Country be materially strengthened. All therefore that will be necessary,Manuscript image as it appears to me, is to watch the proceedings of the Company to see that their engagements with their Emigrants are carried out in good faith, and I would submit that the attention of the Governors of Canada and B. Columbia should be called to that point. The portion of the Company's operations carried on in this Country will be comparatively unimportant.
5. I enclose a Copy of the prospectus of the Company with the names of the Directors &c, and the Copy of a Notice issued by them. IManuscript image have only to add that Coll Sleigh is the same Gentleman who in 1857 was connected with a scheme for a Military Colony in New Brunswick on which a report was made from this Office on 8th June of that year.
This report has been handed over to the War Office with the rest of the Military correspondence.
I have the honor to be
Your Obedient
Humble Servant
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
The antecedents of Col. Sleigh (a Prince Edward Isld Colonel of Militia, I believe) may perhaps raise a prejudice in this office against the bona fides of a Company with which he is associated: but for all that the idea of Colonel Sleigh may be, and is, in my judgement a very good one. Everything will depend on the organization of the undertaking. The Country to be traversed is suitable for carts:Manuscript image The Saskatchewan R. is available, & I can see no reason why strong people should not go by the proposed route—the carts & the boats carrying their food and impedimenta. We know that from St Louis the Americans travel, through a rough wild Country to California—indeed I think there is a regular post from one point to the other—and we have yet to learn that Englishmen cannot accomplish what Americans can do. As I have observed above success can alone be achieved by the organization of the undertaking, & if women & children are excluded from some of the early journies I do not see why the project shd not answer. It is unnecessary to dwell for a moment on the obvious benefit to B. Columbia & V. Couver's Isld if this route can be opened.
ABd 21 May
Mr Fortescue
That future generations will traverse the Continent of North America and enjoy good roads and railways, I think highly probable. I feel equally confident that any large party of ordinary and inexperienced Travellers from England who might now attempt that journey would encounter dreadfulhardshipsManuscript image hardships, and the greater number of them perish. But I do not believe that they will attempt the journey at all. What I expect is that this Company will pocket a large sum of money from the Emigrants for taking them to Columbia, and will then convey them to Canada, where the impossibility of their proceeding further will be made manifest, and thereupon will arise great complaints and disputes in which the Company will logically demonstrate that the failure is not their fault, but the poor people will nevertheless be planted in quite a different place from that which they intended to reach, having paid five times too much for the distance accomplished.
This is what I should have expected at all events. But I confess that my anticipation is confirmed by seeing that this precious scheme is one of the numerous projects of Colonel Sleigh, whom I believe to be a reckless and unreliable speculator. I append a letter from him last Decr on which the minutes will show you that he is unfavorably known to this Department.
The Post from St Louis to California consists of a man who rides for his life on horseback, and who not unfrequently disappears being slain by the Indians or destroyed by some of the other perils of the road.
TFE 22 May
No doubt this Co with Col. Sleigh as its Spokesman, has a highly suspicious look. But these adventurers may prove pioneers of something better. It wd be quite right that the Governors of Canada & B. Columbia sh. be written to, as suggested by this Report.
CF 22
I should not take so unfavourable a view of this scheme as Mr Elliot does if it were in other hands than Coll Sleighs, but [remainder cut off microfilm].
There is more than this regular communication by coaches & waggons. See Burton's book.
[Cut off microfilm]
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Mr Elliot
The following is as nearly as I can recollect the substance of the Land Board Report of 6th June 1851.
Captain Sleigh issued a document professing to be the prospectus of a Company formed for promoting a mixed Military and Naval settlement in New Brunswick.
This paper was such as to lead to a belief that the Company had acquired the necessary land and comprized a list of governors, deputy governors and officers—a description of the position of the proposed colony—a description of the class of emigrants required and of the advantages offered.
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The Emigration Commission found on enquiry that several persons had been unwarrantably named as governors—that the list of deputy governors had not been settled as was alleged—that the land had not been acquired—that the advantages offered were delusive if not impossible.
There was no evidence of capital to enable [the] company to fulfill any engagements into which it might enter.

They observed that the description of the position of the proposed Colony was very vague and calculated to mislead—and they did not under any circumstances consider an attempt to form a settlement of discharged soldiers & sailors deserving of public encouragement.
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They added that a few months if not weeks previously Captain Sleigh had been declared bankrupt with debts of £3000 and assets of £1000.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 126, and Newcastle to Monck, Canada, No. 121, 29 May 1862, sharing information about Sleigh's plan.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Arthur Sleigh, British Columbia Overland Transit Company, to S. Walcott, Emigration Commissioner, 16 May 1862, reporting at length on their recent interview and providing more detail on the company and it's operation.