Nias to Kimberley
Hall of Commerce
Melbourne
24 March/71
(Pre-Emption Claim to Land in Vancouver Island)
My Lord,
I am in receipt of a communication from the Colonial Office dated the 17th January/71, in which I am informed that "the Government of British Columbia dispute my Title to the land in question" and that "my case will be dealt with by the local Government when Dr Trimble's case is decided upon," and you further state that "the matter appears to be one to be settled by a Court of Law."
I must beg to remind your Lordship that it requires a large sum of money to go to law with Government, that Government pay no costs if defeated, and the costs would probably exceed the value of the Land.
The Pre-emption Law was passed to benefit bona fide Settlers, and yet I (with hundreds of others) have been ruined by the policy pursued by the British Columbian Government officials. In 1862 there were 10,000 white people in theManuscript image Town of Victoria, and 40,000 in the two Colonies of BC and VI. Now there are about 4000 at the utmost. We were driven away by folly and injustice.
I beg to submit that the BC Government have never given me notice that they dispute my Title. But at the end of the Four years which the Law required I should live upon it, refused to give me a Title.
That I gave them notice of my intention to occupy the Land, by recording my claims at the Land Office (as the Law requires) Mr Pemberton (Surveyor General) himself receiving and recording the entry.
That I had to build a house upon the Land and live in it within one month from the time of recording my claim. This I did do.
That I improved my claim by expending £600 upon it, and myself and family resided upon it (as the law required) and they are now residing upon it.
That at the end of four years when I was entitled to claim a Title—on application I was told that I had no business to pre-empt that land and that I never should have a title.
I submit That having allowed me to record my claim—having allowed me to build my house—Fence in the land—Dig Wells at a very heavy expense—reside for years on the Land—and comply ineveryManuscript image every respect with the very stringent law, without giving me notice that I was doing wrong. The Government of BC are bound in honor—in justice—by equity—by every obligation which can bind Governments and their Subjects, to complete the contract they entered into with me by the Pre-emption Law and give me a Title.
The Land is Government Land, marked so on the Large Map sent home by the Hudson Bay Company in 1863 (I believe). No one else claims it openly. Why then am I refused my Title? My character is unstained & untainted, but I am poor. My newspaper died, when the population went (driven) away. The Government Officials are trying to wear me out by delay, and a cruel trial it has been to me & my family. It has caused our separation for four years and what further distress the delay may bring upon them and me I cannot tell.
I fear the length of this communication will offend you my Lord, but if you do not interfere in my behalf, I must despair—my family will be homeless. You cannot comprehend what this means as your dogs have never wanted a home. But bear with me, while I point out the result of such tyranny & injustice.
The land all about me (on one of the principal drives round the Town) lies a desert, most of it fenced in, but uncultivated, for upwards of 1 1/2 miles in one direction and 1/2 mile at right angles in another there is not a house or a garden plot, although close to the now deserted House of Representatives.
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I claim at your hands my Lord, as the representative of her Majesty, that justice that I am powerless to enforce through a Court of Law—this
That If I have complied in all and every respect with the stringent Pre-emption Law, that you will require the BC officials to carry out that Law, and give me a Title.
Dr Trimble's claim may not be precisely similar to mine. He may not have complied with the residential or other clauses. There is no reason for coupling my claims with his except that ours are the only two legal Pre-emption claims in Victoria District (equivalent to County).
I beg you again My Lord to consider the loss I have already sustained. If the Government of 1862 made a mistake they have no business to punish me for it. If the whole district had been taken up by bona fide settlers there would have been a thriving Town and Colony, where a wilderness now exists.
This surely is a case for a Supreme authority to interfere in.
I have the honor to be,
My Lord,
Your most obedient Servant,
G.E. Nias

The most noble
The Earl of Kimberley
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Meade
See Minutes on 142.
I do not see that anything can be done but to regret that Lord Kimberley can only refer him to the previous letter of 17 Jany.
CC 23/5
Mr Herbert
The Colonial Secretary in his report—see 142, p. 5—says that these questions have caused great excitement in the Colony. I should be inclined to answer Mr Nias as Mr Cox proposes, adding however that a copy of his representation will be forwarded to the B.C. Govt.
RM 23/5
As Mr Trutch the Surveyor General & Commissioner of Crown Lands is at home I think it might be as well if the Department were to ask him whether he can give any further explanations.
RGWH May 23/71
So proceed. On the face of it the case is a hard one. If Mr N. was allowed to record his claim on entering the land I should doubt whether he has not the law on his side.
EHKH 25/5/71
Ask Mr Trutch.
K May 25/71
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Mr Herbert
I saw Mr Trutch yesterday & I spoke to him about Mr Nias' land claim. He says that Mr Nias' claim is invalid & it is for him to prove his right. The claim has been hanging over until a decision has been arrived at on Dr Trimble's claim which is similar. When the Chief Justice refused to compel the Surveyor General to issue his Certificate for Dr T's land, the local Govt ought to have treated him as a Squatter & have then ejected him, but this they were afraid of attempting as public feeling was in Dr T'sManuscript image favor. Hence it was that the Govt instead consented that a case should be stated to enable the Supreme Court to decide whether or no Dr Te had a claim. The matter is said to be still pending many difficulties having interposed to delay a decision—the difficulties being as far as I could make out a desire to put off the question until the claimants should have to fight their case agst a Responsible Govt.
As Mr Phillippo will be here very soon we may wait to see whether any further progress has been made. If notManuscript image the only interference, if any is advisable, from here would be to tell the Govr that if Dr Trimble & the other similar claimants are unable to establish their claim the proper course would appear to be to take steps for ejecting them from Land to the occupation of which they had no right.
CC 2 June
We may as well wait to hear Mr Philippo's opinion, if he can give us one, on these papers. My impression is the same as Mr Hugessen's that in recording the title the Surveyor General committed the Govt to the recognition of settlement on this land as the basis of a title: but wait.
RGWH June 3/71
Yes: wait for Mr Philippo.
K June 4/71
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I saw Mr Philippo on this subject yesterday. He says that the statements in Mr Nias's letter are much exaggerated: for instance that his family the separation from whom has caused him so much pain for four years consists of a wife not a particularly steady character, & a daughter now married. The law under which Nias claimed to have the right to preempt this land was applicable to country lands worth a dollar an acre, & not to land in the city worth £50 an acre. Mr Philippo thinks that full justice, & more, would be done to Mr Nias if he were granted a lease say for 21 years at a peppercorn rent in order to enable him to exhaust the value of the improvements (a small cottage fencing &c) which he has made on the land. He has suggested this to the Govt.
I think with him that this would be the best course & I would press it on the Government and tell Mr Nias that Lord Kimberley having made repeated inquiry into the merits of his case is unable to satisfy himself that he has established a claim to the preemption of this land, but is still in correspondence with the Colonial Goverment on the subject.
RGWH June 10/71
The man has, or has not a right, however, there can be no objection to this course if he consents.
EHKH 10/7/71
Should we not also tell Mr Nias that we have suggested a lease as above?
K June 11/71
Other documents included in the file
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Holland to Nias, 17 June 1871, advising that Kimberley had suggested to the governor that if no definite decision could be reached respecting his claim, he should be granted a lease on the land at a nominal rent.
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Draft reply, Kimberley to Musgrave, No. 61, 17 June 1871.
Nias, George Elmes to Wodehouse, John 24 March 1871, CO 60:44, no. 4959, 345. 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/B716N01.html.

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