No. 63
8th October 1866
My Lord,
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of Your despatch No. 3 of the 30th July, forwarding a letter from the Governor of the Hudson Bay Company, together with an extractof aManuscript image of a letter from Mr R. Finlayson representing that the Hudson Bay Company are subjected to the payment of Customs Duties on importations into this Colony which are not exacted with equal strictness from other traders.
2. In reply to this Statement I have the honor to enclose a copy of a Report from the Collector of Customs.
3. It is difficult to furnish any explanation of such astrangeManuscript image strange misstatement of facts, as that contained in the extract from Mr Finlayson's letter which accompanies Your despatch.
The Company's Agents maintain that their Statements are substantially correct. See 12157 Page 11 of enclosure.
4. Mr Finlayson states that repeated representations have been made to me on the subject, and even informs the Hudson Bay Company, through their Secretary, of the reply I have given to these representations.
5. If the first portion of Mr Finlayson's statement is correct, the postal service betweenVancouverManuscript image Vancouver Island and this Colony must be very defective. During the fourteen months I have administered the Government of this Colony I have never received a representation from the Employees of the Hudson Bay Company on this subject, it is needless to add that I have never had occasion to reply in the terms stated in Mr Finlayson's letter.
6. Mr Finlayson cannotbutManuscript image but be aware of the very stringent Laws lately passed by the Legislature of this Colony with a view to suppress the sale of intoxicating liquor to the native tribes, and of the desire of this Government to do everything in its power to destroy a trade which is so demoralizing to all engaged in it.
7. The Ordinances noted in the Margin
No. 2 1865—Native Evidence.
No. 16 1865—Prohibiting sale or gift of liquor to Indians.
haveworkedManuscript image worked most successfully throughout the interior of this Colony and it is only on the Coast that the sale of liquor to Indians continues to any extent—and even there I am led to believe from the reports received from the Customs Agent that the consumption of Spirits is much reduced.
8. In October 1865, Mr Duncan, of the Methlakatla Mission informed methatManuscript image that two Vessels were employed in selling liquor to Indians on the Coast of this Colony. I immediately applied to Admiral Denman for a Ship of War. A vessel was placed at my disposal without hesitation, and within six weeks both vessels had been captured. I have received no representation from any source since that date.
9. There can be no doubtthatManuscript image that a large quantity of liquor is taken from Victoria in canoes up the Coasts of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. A glance at the map of the Coast line, will show the almost impossibility of preventing this while the laws of Vancouver Island allow with impunity the sale and exportation, in any kind of craft, of any quantity of spirits & alcohol.
It is stated by the Company's Agent in V.C.I. that most of the Small Trading Vessels are fitted out at Victoria. See enclosure in 12157 Page 11.
10. Had the Laws of theseColoniesManuscript image Colonies on the questions connected with the Native Races been assimilated, the Indian liquor trade would long ere this have been destroyed.
11. It is somewhat remarkable that the representatives of the Hudson Bay Company in Vancouver Island strongly opposed the Bill brought in by the Government of that Colony, on the model of the one now in force in British Columbia, and Mr FinlaysonasManuscript image as a Member of the Legislative Council, went so far as to propose the introduction of a Bill, legalizing the sale of liquor to Indians.
12. While the Laws of Vancouver Island have encouraged this vile traffic, and a large number of the "Merchants" have lived on the proceeds of this lucrative trade, it has been very difficult to carry out on the sea-coast the laws existing in BritishColumbiaManuscript image Columbia for the prevention of the sale of intoxicating liquor to Indians; more especially since the receipt of Mr Secretary Cardwell's despatch No. 50 of July 1865, informing me that the Law Officers of the Crown were of opinion that all the Islands, adjacent to the West Coast of North America, south of the 52nd degree of North Latitude, belong to the Colony of Vancouver Island. After this decisionwasManuscript image was received the Customs Officer stationed on the Northern Coast, could no longer overhaul canoes and small vessels coasting along the Vancouver Island shores, and thus a large amount of liquor has been sold with impunity, and some has doubtless found its way in small quantities to the Indian Tribes on the mainland. It is difficult to make the Indians understand the justice of allowing the tribes on Vancouver IslandtoManuscript image to hold their drunken orgies without interference, while the Indians resident on the mainland are punished if liquor is found in their Camps.
13. I have on several occasions in interviews with Dr Tolmie and Captain Lewis proposed a somewhat unusual course, but one which I considered the present anomalous state of affairs justified, namely, that the Captain and Officers of the Hudson Bay Company'sSteamerManuscript image Steamer engaged in the North West Coast Trade, should be allowed to receive, from the Government, an authority to act in the prevention of smuggling and the sale of intoxicating liquor to Indians, but the reply has invariably been that such an authority might interfere with the Company's trade. Had the representatives of the Company in these Colonies acceded to this suggestion, the North West trade would have been virtually secured to theHudsonManuscript image Hudson Bay Company, and the illegal traffic referred to, destroyed. Indians will freely give information to trading vessels as to the sale and amount of liquor in their possession, while, during the presence of one of Her Majesty's Ships on the Coast they are generally invisible, having a great dread of a Man of War.
14. With the immediate Union of these Colonies in view, and the consequent extension of theBritishManuscript image British Columbian Ordinances to the Island of Vancouver, I apprehend no difficulty in dealing with this important question.
Will this take place as a matter of course—and pro facto?
15. If the Hudson Bay Company find their Fur trade on the North West Coast on the decline the cause may be traced, not to the action of the Government, but rather to the conduct of their own servants, who have invariably opposed the Government of Vancouver Island in passing proper and humane laws for theprotectionManuscript image protection of the native tribes, and are unwilling to render the Government of this Colony, the slightest assistance in carrying out laws for the suppression of an illegal and demoralizing traffic, which by their own action they have assisted to create.
I have the honor to be,
My Lord,
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Arthur N. Birch
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
See 12157 from the Company received today. It appears that Mr Birch called upon the Agent of the H.B. Company for an explanation of the Statement sent here in July last (6900). The Agent replied on the 13 of Oct (see 12157 Page 10 to 33 of enclosure) but this Desp was written before the receipt of the reply. We shall no doubt receive a further report. If this despatch is sent to the Company they can only refer us to their Agent's letters to the Govr copies of which they now furnish.
VJ 24 Dec
I think we may dismiss in silence any impatience of what is termed the "complaint" of the Hudsons'Manuscript image Bay Company. The letters of their Servants in 12157 (herewith) do not appear to me otherwise than temperate and to the purpose. If they saw an injurious illicit trade in liquor, they are right to denounce it to the Governor.
As to their declining to undertake the office of detecting, seizing and punishing illicit traders—in fact of Custom House Officers—it must be remembered that they are no longer Rulers or a political body but only Commercial—and I do not think there is good reason to complain of Traders declining to accept the questionable business of judging and punishing their rival Traders. Even the collateral advantages to which this despatch alludes of the Indians' givingManuscript image information to them more readily than to a Man of War, would cease the moment that they were known to have received the power and duties of a Man of War.
Dismissing then anything controversial, and turning to substance, the important point seems to be that Mr Birch tells us that there are efficient Laws against the illicit trade in B. Columbia, but not in Vancouver. This should be verified, & if the B. Columbia ordinances (which should be referred to) appear good, the next step should be to ascertain whether (as is indicated on page 15) they become by the Union extended to Vancouver, and if not, to draw the Governor's attention to the expediency of that measure unless there be local objection not within the knowledge of the Secy of State.
(At page 7 will be seen an account of a vigorous punishment of two illicit trading Vessels.)
TFE 26 Decr
Should we send a Copy of this, or of Enclr to H. Bay Company, to whom it might give offence that is unnecessary; but I should tell them in due time what is done on the substances of the question.
TFE 28/12
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The question raised by Mr Elliot sd be looked into.
As regards the imposing of B. Columbian Laws upon V.C.I. care is necessary. There is gt jealousy obviously existing in the two Colonies of each other—and the operation of a law wh is satisfactory to the B.C. community may turn out very distasteful to the Colony of V.C.I.
This is merely a caution.
C 30 Dec
I am sufficiently acquainted with what has passed on this subject to be able to say that the B.C. Ordinances for the suppression of spirit selling to the Indians, aided of course by the occasional help of Gun boats &c &c have worked fairly well; & that whenever mischief has ensued on the Coasts of B.C. it has been the consequence of V.C.I. andManuscript image or other trading vessels smuggling the liquor up the Rivers & arms of the Sea where the B.C. Officials, without boats, could not follow. What Mr Birch says of the opposition of the Legislature of V.C.I. is quite true. That Body not only refused to pass Laws to put down the Liquor selling to the Indians but even proposed to legalize it and the Agents of the H.B.Co took an active part against the Govt.
As to the extension to V.C.I. of the B.C. Ordces that can only be accomplished by an express Law passed for the purpose. By the 5th Sect. of the Union Act the Laws of the separate Colonies are declared to continue except as to Revenue of Customs. Wherefore Govr shd submit to his Legislative Council a draft of a Law for the suppression of this traffic. He will probably resort to the B.C. Ordces for a model. I quite agree in Lord Carnarvon's obsern as to the caution which shd be generally used in imposing B.C. Laws on V.C.I. but in this case I think we need have little delicacy in theManuscript image matter the V.C.I. people having obstinately opposed the passing of humane and necessary Laws, and attempted to legalize a traffic fraught with so much evil. Fortunately one of Mr Seymour's qualifications is that of tact, & I shd not be at all apprehensive of his pressing too hardly upon the inhabitants of V.C.I. who are not, perhaps, just now in very good humor. I shd rather fear he wd not be coercive enough, & for my own part, I shd be disposed, in earnestly directing his attention to this subject, & to the expediency of having a vigorous Law passed to arrest an evil of great & admitted magnitude, remind him of the frequently expressed wishes of H.M.G. to have measures passed which shall tend to the protection & amelioration of the condition of the Queen's Indian Subjects.
ABd 7 Jany/67
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Since writing this minute a despatch of Lord Carnarvons—d. 16 Nov 66—has been brought to me which tell[s] Govr Seymour that one of his earliest duties is that of considering what measures shd be adopted to check so grave an evil as liquor selling to the Indians. This desph was written whilst I was on leave.
The Desph from the Governor 10225 bears out all I have said.
ABd 7 Jany
I am much obliged to Mr Blackwood for his min.
C 12 Jany
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
W. Hamley, Collector of Customs, 28 September 1866, reporting on trade in the colony with reference to the Hudson's Bay Company's charge.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Carnarvon to Seymour, No. 16, 16 February 1867.
Minutes by CO staff
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On looking carefully again through this despatch and the minutes, it has struck me that it may be thought fit to send out some such despatch as the present to Governor Seymour. I circulate with it the draft of a letter to be sent in that case to the Hudson's Bay Company.
TFE 14 Feby
[Transmit as?] a very good draft.
CBA 15/2