Murdoch to Elliot (Assistant Under-Secretary)
23rd February 1864
I have to acknowledge your letter of 16th instant, with one from Mr Dowsett representing the hardship to which Capt Houghton, late of Her Majesty's Army, has been subjected, by an unexpected alteration of the privileges in the acquisition of Land accorded to Naval and Military Officers in British Columbia.
2. Mr Dowsett represents, in substance, that Capt Houghton left the Army in July last with the bonâ fide intention of settling in BritishManuscript image Columbia—that at that time the only regulations respecting Land to officers known in this Country were those of March 1861—that those regulations promised a remission of purchase money to Captains of £400 or £300 according to length of Service—that Captain Houghton left the Army on the faith of obtaining certain advantages including of course that remission "guaranteed by Her Majesty's Circulars"—but that on arrival in the Colony he found that the remission had been reduced 4/5ths—that the Governor refused him redress on the ground that the Proclamation reducingManuscript image the remission was issued in British Columbia before Capt Houghton left the Army—a fact of which Capt Houghton could not possibly be aware, as the Circular from the Horse Guards in which it was announced was not issued till 31st Augt last. Mr Dowsett under these circumstances urges the claim of Capt Houghton to receive the remission "promised" to him.
3. In regard to the alleged "guarantee" by Government of the advantages offered in the Circulars issued by the Horse Guards, I may point out, that those Circulars expressly state that as the management of the Crown Lands hasManuscript image been transferred to the Local Legislatures "Her Majesty's Government cannot guarantee" the continuance of the Regulations. I do not, however, lay stress upon this, because an officer about to leave the Army has a clear right to expect that the inducements officially held out to him by the Government of this Country to induce him to settle in a Colony will be recognized and fulfilled by the Government of the Colony. If this is not done it would be better and fairer that the Home Government should decline to give any official information on theManuscript image subject, and should leave an Officer to discover through other Channels the advantages offered to Settlers by the respective Colonies.
4. At the first Settlement of British Columbia the upset price of Land was £1 an Acre. That price was reduced by a Proclamation dated the 19th January 1861 to 4s/2d an Acre. On the 28th March 1861, a Proclamation was issued granting remission in purchase money to Naval and Military Settlers at the rate of from £600 to £500 for a Field Officer and £400 to £300 for a Captain. This Proclamation was copied from the Regulations in force in some of the AustralianManuscript image Colonies, New Zealand &c without sufficient reference to the difference in the upset price in those Colonies. The effect in British Columbia was to give to Naval and Military Settlers nearly 5 times as much land as was given them in other Colonies. The extent of these grants was found inconvenient and the Proclamation was, therefore, repealed, by a Proclamation (No 2 of 1863) which fixed the extent of Land to be granted at the same number of Acres as the Proclamation of 1861 allowed pounds of remission. This proclamation was sent home by Governor Douglas in a despatchManuscript image dated 13th May 1863—was referred to us in your letter of 11th July—and is said to have been published by the Horse Guards in a Circular of 31st August.
5. As Capt Houghton left England in July—and had previously sent out the Stores required for his settlement in British Columbia, there can be no doubt that he had made his arrangements to leave the Army for the purpose of settling there, not only before he knew of the change of the Regulations, but before that change was known to anyone in this Country. There was nothing to lead him to expect such a change, and he omitted no precautionManuscript image apparently, which a prudent man could be expected to take to ascertain on the best authority the terms offered to Settlers of his description. Under these circumstances to subject him to loss on account of a Proclamation which, as far as he is concerned, must be regarded as ex post facto, would, I think, be an injustice and a hardship. As the Proclamation in question has the force of Law no alteration can be made except by the issue of another Proclamation of equal authority. But it appears to me that in order to relieve Capt Houghton and preserve the goodManuscript image faith of the Government in this matter, the Governor of British Columbia should be directed to issue a fresh Proclamation, exempting from the operation of the Proclamation No 2 of 1863, any Officer who can show that he left the Army with the intention of settling in British Columbia previously to the Horse Guards Circular of 31st August last—and who is prepared to depose that he was not aware at the time of leaving the Army of the alteration in the privileges allowed to Officers.
6. It may almost be taken for granted that no other Officer than Capt Houghton would be in a position to take advantage of such a Proclamation.
I have the honor to be
Your obedient
Humble Servant
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
This suggestion seems a full and proper one for meeting the grievance. If the Duke of Newcastle approves of it the Govr shd be instructed to submit to his Legve Council a Proclamation or Ordinace
An Ordinance ([see?] the passing of the O in C.)

(whichever it may be right to term the Law) for the purpose of excepting from the operation of the Proclamation of Feb/63 officers situated as Capn Houghton is. And inform his Agent here accy.
ABd 24 Feb
Sir F. Rogers
I agree.
TFE 24/2
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Mr Fortescue
So do I.
FR 25/2
For draft accordingly.
CF 26
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Seymour, No. 3, 29 February 1864.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Elliot
For tomorrow's Mail.
ABd 29 Feb
Other documents included in the file
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Elliot to C.F. Dowsett, 1 March 1864, advising that the governor had been instructed to pass an ordinance exempting Houghton from the new regulations.