Murdoch to Elliot (Assistant Under-Secretary)
28th July 1866
I have to acknowledge your letter of 23rd inst, with a letter from the Under Secretary of State for the War Department, on the subject of the claim of the discharged Soldiers of the Royal Engineers in B. Columbia to grants of Land.
2. It appears that when the men of the Royal Engineers were sent to B. Columbia in 1858, they were promised "grants of Agricultural Land not exceeding 30 Acres each after 6 years continuous good faithful service in British Columbia, onManuscript image condition of residence & Military Service in the Colony if called upon." Seven of these men were discharged in 1865, and they complain that they have not obtained the 30 Acres of Land "unconditionally promised" them—and they allege that "not a man was aware on volunteering for the Colony that the acceptance of such land would be coupled with the condition that he would render himself liable to be called on for Military duty". They accordingly refuse the Land coupled with this condition. They further represent that as the price of the Land at the time it was promised them was 20s/ an Acre, they are entitled to £30 worth of Land at its present price instead of 30 Acres.
Manuscript image
3. This Memorial was transmitted by the Assist. Adjutant General of the Royal Engineers to GenlMoody who commanded the Engineers in British Columbia. He states in answer that the Petitioners "were aware of the conditions on which Land would be granted to them"—but he was not surprized at their refusing it on those conditions, as under the preemption Law any man may obtain 160 Acres of Land in any part of the Colony, without payment until the Survey comes up to him—which may not be in his lifetime. He adds that several of the Royal Engineers have obtained Land on those terms.
4. Under these circumstances, I do not see that anything can beManuscript image done in regard to the Land claimed by these men. As Genl Moody went out in command of the R. Engineers at the first establishment of the Colony, and was in command till after the time of these men's discharge, he must be assumed to be conversant with all the circumstances connected with the original promise to them. As they decline to accept the conditions attached to that promise Her Majesty's Government are of course relieved from the obligation to give it effect. Nor is there any real hardship thereby inflicted on the men—considering the easy terms on which, as Genl Moody points out, they can become possessed of Land free from allManuscript image condition in any part of the Colony.
5. In respect to their claims of £30 worth of Land instead of 30 Acres—in the first place the highest price of Land in British Columbia was 10s/ an Acre and secondly, the object was not to give them a marketable commodity of a certain value, but to attach them to the Colony by giving the means of Settling. The extent of Land promised was not measured by its value to sell—but by its capacity to support the Settler. It is clear that they have no claim on this ground.
Manuscript image
6. I return the original papers which accompanied your letter.
I have the honor to be,
Your obedient
Humble Servant
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Sir F. Rogers
Found a short letter to the W.O. upon this report rejecting the claim.
ABd 2 Augt/66
Draft at once.
FR 2/8
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
S. Walcott, R.J.S. Macdonald, Emigration Office, to Macdonald, 18 August 1866, agreeing that land promised to the Royal Engineers was intended for settlement and should be required to be brought under cultivation.
Manuscript image
Colonial Office to Under-Secretary of State for War, 18 August 1866, stating that Carnarvon rejected the claim of the Royal Engineers, with explanation.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
N.B. Before sending off the Letter ask the E.C. privately whether the few words I have added are correct in fact. They can hardly be otherwise.
See private note from Mr Walcott, dated 18 Aug.