Harris to Newcastle
75 Old Broad Street
27th March 1862 To His Grace the Duke of Newcastle &c &c &c

My Lord Duke,
It is proposed to form a Company with a Capital of 50,000£ for the purposes of working the Alluvial Gold deposits in British Columbia. For the successful carrying out, it is necessary to send out Artizans and Laborers, and as Contracts will be made with them here for the due performance of their duties there, permit me to enquire if the Law in British Columbia is sufficiently strong to enforce agreements if an attempt should be made to evade them.
I have the Honor to remain Your Graces
Most Obt Humble Sert
Isiah Harris
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
There is at present no Law in B. Columbia specially relating to Contracts. Sir F. Rogers could perhaps say how far the English Law is applicable to the case.
ABd 28 March
TFE 28 March
The English Law is in force in B. Columbia "so far as the same is applicable to the circumstances of the Colony." What the English Law is, is a question for Mr Harris' Attorney—whetherManuscript image a judge would, in this respect hold English Law to be "applicable to the circumstances" of the Colony is a matter to a certain extent of conjecture. Nobody knows exactly what the phrase means. I should think it would.
What is certain is that in a thinly peopled country contracts of service never can be enforced unless it is for the advantage of the labourer to keep them.
I would answer generally to the above effect, viz That British law was generally in force in B. Columbia and that in the absence of any special legislation respg contracts, H.G. presumed that the English Law of Contracts wd be in force in the Colony—& that Mr Harris wd probably judge for himself after consulting his usual legal advisers how far the provisions of that law would be sufficient for his purposes. But that it is proper to add that in all thinly peopled countries where the labour is in request there is found to be the greatest difficulty in enforcing the performance of contracts of service against labourers who desire to escape from them—a difficulty arising not from the provisons of the Law but from the condition of the country itself wh renders an efficient policy for such purposes impossible.
FR 31/3
CF 2
N 3
Other documents included in the file
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Fortescue to Harris, 8 April 1862, advising that although it would appear the English laws concerning contracts would be valid in the colony, it would be extremely difficult to uphold contracts in such a thinly populated area where labour was is great demand.