No. 5
14 March 1867
1. I have had under my consideration your despatch of the 11th January last with its enclosures containing a letter addressed to my Predecessor by Mr. Needham and a memorandum by Mr. Begbie.
2. I have now the honor to inform you, that thoughIManuscript image I approve of that part of your proposal to those two gentlemen which relates to their salaries and respective precedence in the Island and on the Mainland, I think some modification of the other part of that proposal is needed; as in my judgment there has been a misapprehension on the part of yourself and Mr. Begbie as to the effect of the Act of 29 and 30 Vict. C 67.
3. The object of that Act, as I understand it, was!--Manuscript image simply to unite the two Colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia in as general termsasManuscript image as possible, leaving the Colonial Legislature to work out the details of any changes that might be deemed expedient. The Act was not intended to touch titles, jurisdiction, powers and position of the Judges, and it appears to me that it did not touch them. And if this be so Mr. Needham is still Chief Justice of Vancouver Island, and with all the same powers and authority that he had before the Act passed.
But it seems very desirable now that doubts have been raised as to the position of Mr. Needham, that such doubtsshouldManuscript image should be removed, and also that the administration of Justice should be facilitated by giving!--Manuscript image to each Judge jurisdiction over the whole Colony. It is but fair also to so deserving a Judge as Mr. Begbie has fully proved himself to be, that his claim to become a Chief Justice should be assented to, though I need hardly say, that, except for the very peculiar circumstances of the case, it could never be allowed that there should be two Chief Justices in the colony.
Under these peculiar circumstances, however, I desiretoManuscript image to see the following arrangement carried out, which will, I trust, prove satisfactory to all parties, and facilitate the administration of Justice in the Colony.
1. Mr. Begbie to receive the title of "Chief Justice of the Mainland of British Columbia" and to have precedence on the!--Manuscript image Mainland over Chief Justice Needham.
2. Mr. Needham to have his title of Chief Justice of Vancouver Island and to have precedence on the Island over Chief Justice Begbie.
3. Upon the death or resignation of either of the present judges,theManuscript image the surviving or remaining judge to have the title of "Chief Justice of British Columbia," and a puisne judge to be then appointed under him for the whole Colony.
4. Jurisdiction to be given to each Chief Justice and to any future Judge over every part of the Colony of British Columbia as now constituted.
The question then arises how this arrangement can best!--Manuscript image be carried out, and after some consideration, I have arrived at the conclusion that this can best be affected by an Act of the ColonialLegislatureManuscript image Legislature.
Such an Act would in the first place have to provide for the exercise by Mr. Begbie under the title of "Chief Justice of the Mainland of British Columbia," of all the powers and authorities now or hereafter exercised or conferred upon him.
With regard to precedence I am disposed to think that this Act should be accompanied by a formal declaration by you, as representing the Crown in its character of the fountain of honor, as to the precedence Mr. Begbie shouldhaveManuscript image have on the Mainland over the other Chief Justice.
I may observe that Mr. Needham's precedence in Vancouvers Island over every one, but the Governor and Commander in Chief!--Manuscript image has been specially settled by the Order in Council of April 1865. It is not therefore necessary that you should declare his precedence over Mr. Begbie on the Island. But if you should think it desirable to do so, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, you will only have to declare that the precedence givenhimManuscript image him as Chief Justice by the Order in Council shall continue.
If however it seems likely that questions may be raised as to the validity of the precedence thus given it will be better for you to settle the question by legislation.
And if it be contemplated that the two Judges shall ever sit together, it will be necessary to declare by law what opinion shall prevail in case of difference.
The proposed Act in the second place should make the necessary provisions forcarryingManuscript image carrying into effect clauses 3 and 4 of the above arrangement.
From the former part of this despatch you will perceive that, in my opinion, all acts of Mr. Needham done in his judicial capacity of Chief Justice have been legal, and cannot properly be impugued [impugned?], but if there is any probability from anything that has passed the Colony of such acts or any of them being hereafter impuguged [impugned?], I think it extremely desirable for the interests of justice, that a clause should be inserted in the proposed ActdeclaringManuscript image declaring all acts valid and legal which have been done by him as Chief Justice since the passing of the Act 29 and 30 Vic. C 67.
I have only to add that I trust this arrangement may be speedily carried out, and thus put an end to the questions which have been raised in the Colony.
I have the honor to be
Your most obedient
humble Servant
Buckingham & Chandos