No. 24
11th January 1867
My Lord,
At the request of Mr Joseph Needham I have the honor to forward a letter which he has addressed to Your Lordship respecting the effect which the union of the two WesternColoniesManuscript image Colonies may have had upon the situation of Chief Justice of the Colony of Vancouver Island to which he was appointed by Governor Kennedy on the requisition of a Royal Warrant. Mr Needham encloses several letters which have passed between him and me on the subject.
2. In connection with Mr Needham's communication I have the honor to forward a memorandum prepared by Mr Begbie, Judge of the Supreme Court for Your Lordship's considerationasManuscript image as to his own position under the altered circumstances.
3. I enclose, further, Copy of a Petition very numerously signed, presented to me in Victoria and of my reply.
4. These papers will show first, that Mr Needham is of opinion that the proclamation of the Imperial Act of Parliament has not in any way affected his position. Which position I would observe is defined in the Order in Council, two local Acts, Her Majesty's WarrantandManuscript image and Governor Kennedys Commission as "Chief Justice of the Colony of Vancouver Island." I need not point out to Your Lordship that no such Colony now exists.
5. In the second place will be seen the opinion of Mr Begbie that the Union Proclamation abolished Mr Needham's situation. That he, Mr Begbie, is now sole Judge of British Columbia and best entitled to be created Chief Justice of the amalgamated Colony.6. ThirdlyManuscript image
6. Thirdly, you will observe that I am of opinion with Mr Begbie that the effect of the proclamation of Union was, with the Colony of Vancouver to abolish its Chief Justice. Your Lordship will find however that I endeavoured to deal justly with both these Gentlemen. I propose to appoint Mr Needham, a Judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia with precedence in the Courts of the Island of Vancouver. Mr Begbie's position to be unchanged with the precedence securedtoManuscript image to him on the Mainland. I regret to say that this proposal does not satisfy either of these Gentlemen.
7. Mr Needham at the time he wrote to Your Lordship, imagined that he had a greivance against me as to the manner in which I communicated to him my opinion as to the effect of the Act of Parliament. I believe now that he is satisfied with my conduct to him throughout. I would moreover explain that as it was not in any way proposedtoManuscript image to interfere with Mr Needham's duties or emoluments, I wrote to him in a friendly manner to ask his assistance in arranging matters so as to carry on the Public Offices in Victoria until the end of the Year, notwithstanding that Vancouver Island had been absorbed into British Columbia. I perhaps wrote a little hurriedly in the press of business while very unwell. If I did so, I regret it, but subsequent intercourse has quite undone any feeling of dissatisfaction caused by earlycommunicationsManuscript image communications. There is one point I regret, and that is to see that the Commission addressed to Mr Needham was not drafted according to my instructions. I proposed to appoint him a Judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia having precedence in the Courts held in that portion of the Colony called Vancouver Island.
8. The arrangement I proposed to make appeared to me to be just to the two Officers concerned as well as advantageoustoManuscript image to the Colony and I ventured to submit it for Your Lordship's consideration when I was in England. The distaste with which it is received by both Mr Needham and Mr Begbie would have rendered it necessary for me to apply to Your Lordship for instructions had they not taken the initiative in the appeals I enclose.
9. Mr Needham proceeds quite free from interruption to hold his Civil Courts. ShouldheManuscript image he however continue to refuse to accept any commission from me either as a Judge or a Justice of the Peace, it will not be without the utmost hesitation that I shall issue to him a Commission of Oyer & Terminer. There are three cases of Murder for trial in Victoria.
I have the honor to be,
My Lord,
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Frederick Seymour
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
I think Govr Seymour has rather made a mess in the case of Mr Needham & frightened him unnecessarily. Whatever may be the effect of the Law for the annexation of V.C.I. to B.C. on Mr Needham's Office—on which Sir F. Rogers will be the best Authority—I have reason to think that Lord Carnarvon intended & informed Govr S. that the Union of the 2 Colonies should in no measure jeopardize Mr Needham's apptment. Whether Mr Needham should be called "Judge" instead of "Chief Justice," or whether Mr Begbie should be elevated to the rank of a Chief Justice or whether both should be called "Chief Justice" are questions which are mixed up with the present appeal, and which claim consideration. Mr Begbie has certainly done hard work & good service in B.C.
ABd 26 Feb
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Sir F. Rogers
I can supply nothing on this beyond what the papers say for themselves. The personal question is difficult to adjust as neither of the two parties is contentedwithManuscript image with precedence in the place where he hitherto has been Chief Justice.
There is also apparently an uncomfortable question as to the validity of Mr Needham's position as Judge, since he has declined the issue of a fresh Commission to him by the Governor.
TFE 26 Feby
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Whatever may be the legal effect of the Act of Union in abolishing the C. Justiceship of V.C.I. it is I shd think certain that it was not intended to have any such effect, and that equitably Mr Needham was as much entitled as Mr Begbie to retain his position unimpaired. On the other hand I think that while Mr Needham's claims to equitable consideration shd be fully provided for, he shd not be allowed to representanManuscript image an appointment which is expressly given during pleasure as being for life & during good behaviour.
I think first that Mr Needham's salary could not properly be reduced nor do I understand that there is any question of reducing it.
I think the arrangement by which he & Mr Begbie are to have precedence each in his own Colony, is the best mode of reconciling their conflicting claims, & should be approved—nor—if it pleases them should I object to allowing them both the title anomalous though it wd be of Ch. Justice. But that on any vacancy in either office, the remainingManuscript image Judge should become simply C. Justice & the new appointed simply Puisne.
And I think that the best mode of giving effect to this arrangement wd be by a Local Act, which should declare the validity of all Judicial Acts of Mr Needham about which there appeared to be any technical doubt.
This perhaps wd be facilitated by sending out from this Country a warrant appointing Mr NeedhamManuscript image to be Judge of the Supreme Court of B. Columbia with the designation of C.J. of V.C. Island and Mr Begbie to be Judge of the same Court with the designation of C.J. of the B. Columbian mainland.
As a general rule I think we have too many Colonial C. Justices—but here are entangled by what has already passed.
FR 26/2
CBA 27/2
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I agree in Sir F. Rogers' proposals. They offer the best mode of escape from the difficulty.
C 2/3
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Mr Elliot
We have as yet no official information as to the future relative positions of Judge BegbieB. Columbia, and Mr Needham—the Chief Justice of Van Couver Island, but I believe it is Govr Seymour's intention to send home a report on the subject by the next mail. In the mean time the annexed printed reply to a Petition which the Governor had received in behalf of Mr NeedhamManuscript image indicates the course he proposes to take. The Salaries of both are the same—£1200.
With regard to Judge Begbie's statement that his "promotion to be Chief Justice was most unmistakeably promised" by Sir Ed: Lytton in Aug. 1857 (he means 1858) the following passage occurs in a Despatch dated 14th of Aug. 1858: I shall send you at the earliest moment an Officer authorized to act as JudgeManuscript image and who I trust as the Colony increases in importance may be found competent to fill with credit and weight the situation of Chief Justice.
VJ 18 Feby 67
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I think that we may tell the Attorney General in a private letter that no official report has yet been received about the arrangement of the Office of Chief Justice in B. Columbia, but that by a report in the newspapers it appears that the Governor had proposed that Mr Justice BegbieshouldManuscript image should retain his precedence in the Courts on the Mainland and Mr Justice Needham his precedence in the Courts in Vancouver Island. This proposal, it seems, had not proved satisfactory and it may be expected that before long the Governor will make some report on the subject.
It might be as well at the same time to ask Governor Seymour to report his views on the best arrangement to be made.
TFE 21 Feby
CBA 22/2
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Yes—but I shd be sorry to alter Mr Seymour's discretion at all in these appointments. Care shd be taken on that head.
C 23/2
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Needham to Carnarvon, 29 November 1866, disputing his removal as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Vancouver Island, with explanation and enclosures
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Seymour to Needham, 17 November 1866, defining his role in the newly united colony and forwarding authorization to continue as judge of the Supreme Court with precedence in cases on Vancouver Island.
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Circular, Seymour to Needham (and all public officers), 13 November 1866, giving notice of possible termination of position due to union of the colonies.
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Needham to Seymour, 19 November 1866, advising that his commission appointed him chief justice and disputing that union had altered his position, and returning the new commission.
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Seymour to Needham, 21 November 1866, acknowledging return of commission appointing him judge of the Supreme Court with precedence in Vancouver Island.
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Needham to Seymour, 26 November 1866, reiterating his position but agreeing to continue the administration of justice pending a decision on the subject.
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Commission appointing Needham to act as judge of the Supreme Court in Vancouver Island until 31 December 1866.
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M.B. Begbie to Seymour, 7 January 1867, forwarding memorandum for the attention of the Secretary of State.
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Memorandum, Begbie to Carnarvon, 28 December, discussing the judicial appointments in the colony.
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Copy of Begbie's Commission, 2 September 1858, enclosed in memorandum as noted above, signed by Lytton.
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Petition, Inhabitants of Victoria to Seymour, 20 November 1866, asking that Needham be retained as Chief Justice.
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Newspaper clipping, unnamed, no date, Seymour's response to the petition as noted above.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Buckingham to Seymour, No. 5, 14 March 1867 suggesting both Begbie and Needham become Chief Justices of British Columbia and Vancouver Island, respectively.
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John Bolt to Rogers, 14 February 1867, enclosing extract of letter from Begbie.
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Extract, Begbie to Attorney General, discussing his position in the colony.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
I have written to the A.G. that I shall pass this through you to Lord Carnarvon.
FR 15/2
Seymour, Frederick to Carnarvon, Earl 11 January 1867, CO 60:27, no. 1949, 117. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/B67024.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)