No. 139
18th October 1867
My Lord Duke,
I have had the honor to receive Your Grace's despatch No. 28 of the 24th May stating that the relative positions of Mr Begbie and Mr NeedhamshouldManuscript image should be explained by a local enactment.
2. I do not see my way to the carrying out Your Grace's instructions. If I throw the question open for discussion in the Council, it will take a purely personal turn. Victoria will support Mr Needham. The mainland probably Mr Begbie. Not from any certainty as to the superior merits of the formerwillManuscript image will Mr Needham be supported by Victoria but because he is known to be more a party man than Mr Begbie.
3. Another great difficulty is that Mr Needham will not acknowledge that the Legislature of the Colony has any power over his Court. He holds that the Order in Council is supreme. Mr Begbie, and I beg to say myself, believe that Mr Needham's Court was abolishedonManuscript image on Union.
4. I found an instance of the inconvenience of the present state of things recently when Mr Needham went up to the Cariboo to hear the case of the Flume Company against the Canadian Company. Mr Needham heard cases where Mr Begbie had determined there was no appeal. Mr Begbie being in New Westminster, I suggested that he should take Mr Needham'splaceManuscript image place in Victoria, but he refused stating that it would be very unpleasant for him to have to declare in Mr Needham's absence that he was no Judge at all, his Court having been swept away on the Union of the Colonies. My own belief is that Your Grace will find yourself compelled to withdraw one of these Gentlemen. I apprehend a very unpleasant discussioninManuscript image in the Legislative Council at its next sitting respecting the mode in which the Judicial arrangements of the Colony are left.
5. The present position of things is this—Mr Begbie holds that the proclamation of Union abolished the Supreme Court of Vancouver Island and extended that of British Columbia over the whole Colony. He was until MrNeedhamManuscript image Needham accepted a Commission from me previous to his departure for Cariboo, sole Judge of that Court.
6. Mr Needham on the other hand holds that the Supreme Court of Vancouver Island is untouched by the Act of Union, and is independent of the Local Legislature. If the Order in Council which creates the Court of the Island is still in force perhaps Your GracewillManuscript image will be good enough to inform me if I am in the appointment of Judges under it to use the Public Seal of Vancouver Island which is still in my possession.
7. I have just received a letter from the Police Magistrate of Victoria in which he says, I had an interview with Mr Needham today (16th October) at which he told me that he did not consider himself to be a Judge of BritishColumbiaManuscript image Columbia but was Chief Justice of Vancouver Island and could not act as County Court Judge under the Ordinance of 1867. Yet Mr Needham accepted a Commission from me creating him a Judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and as such Judge has reversed some of the decisions of the Gold Commr of Cariboo.
8. I shall make thebestManuscript image best of the present state of things but I see no satisfactory issue from it save in the removal of one of the Judges. The case is becoming more embarrassing every day.
I have the honor to be,
My Lord Duke,
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Frederick Seymour
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Holland
No answer to the telegram yet recd from Mr Needham.
CC 4 Dec
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Sir F. Rogers
In this despatch the difficulties arising from the uncertainty whether the Court of V. Island was affected by the Act of Union & whether it can be affected by LocalManuscript image Ordinance are restated. Acknowledge & refer to the despatch of 13 Nov. in which the Govr was informed of the opinion of the Law Officers, & a draft ordinance was enclosed.
HTH 4/12
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Probably this had better lie by till Mr Needham arrives. Govr Seymour seems to me to have been raising one difficulty after another & I cannot help believing that if he chose to settle the difficulty he could do so. I would not therefore be inclined to give him more help than he has had.
I should be much inclined (if Mr Needham refuses Singapore) to write out that the question [is one] wh presented no real difficulty whatever and that the Govt by Legislation were perfectly competent to extricate themselves from the difficulty & that H.G. could give them no further advice on the subject. But I think it mt be properly added that if any officer of the Colony, whether Judge or otherwise refused to conform his conduct to the Law of the Colony passed in the opinion of HM's advisers by a competent authority it wd become a question whether the public interest wd not require that HM should be advised to remove him.
FR 4/12
CBA 7/12
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I received reply from Needham sometime back refusing Singapore. Approve Sir F.Rs minute.
B&C 8/12
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Buckingham to Seymour, No. 99, 19 December 1867 stating that Seymour and the British Columbia legislature need to solve the question of the authority of Needham and Begbie without the aid of the Colonial Office and suggesting that if an officer of the colony is no longer serving the public interest, then removing the officer may be in the public interest.