[Despatch from Blanshard to Grey.]1
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Hawes
Colonization of Vancouver's Island
The Hudson's Bay Charter gives them the land, exclusive trade, fishery, lands, &c in the territory East of the Rocky Mountains called "Ruperts' Land" together with the right to make laws & ordinances impose penalties &c.
By 1 & 2. G. 4. c. 66. The Crown was empowered to make grants or give licenses for exclusive trade with the Indians in parts of N. Am. not included in Ruperts' Land.
Under this Act G. 4 granted a license to the Hudson's Bay Co.Manuscript image jointly with certain members of what was then called the North West Co. to trade in what is called the North West Territory (which would include Vancouver's Island as a dependency)
In 1838 the H.B.C. acquired the rights of the North West Co. and the Crown then granted them the H.B.C. similar license for 21 years from that time which will therefore expire in 1859.
This gran license contains a proviso that nothing therein contained should enure to prevent the establishment of colonies in this territory, or constituting anyManuscript image such form of government as might seem meet to the Crown. And it reserves power to the Crown to revoke such license, so far as the same may embrace any territory which may hereafter be comprised within such colony.
15 June 1846.
Lord Ashburton's Treaty establishes the line of boundary so as to […] leave Vancouver's Island within the British territories. and provides "that in the future
With regard to the legal jurisdiction over this North Western region: it is provided for by the ActManuscript image 1 & 2 G. 4. c. 66. already cited: which subjects all the North Western & other Indian territory to the judicature of the Courts of Upper Canada, & empowers the Crown to issue commissions under the Great Seal empowering justices to hold courts of record for the trial of criminal & civil cases, &c, only not so as to affect any privilege belonging to the H.B.C. under their Charter.Manuscript image The H.B.Co. have erected various forts & establishments, and brought into cultivation some tracts in this N. Western territory: and amongst others a fort & land on the south point of Vancouver's Island.
Under these circumstances they
19 Janr 1847
obtained an opinion from the Law Advisers
of the Crown?4
which was to the effect that they could legally take part of any land Westward of the Rocky Mountains.
They then applied for a Grant of land of the whole territory Westward of the Rocky Mountains.Manuscript image This was declined, but a Grant of the land of Vancouver's Island has been offered to them, subject to the conditions, 1. that the settlement shall cost nothing to this Country in […] they shall establish there a settlement of British emigrants, the grant to be void unless if 5 years' hence it is certified that they have not done so by any person employed by the Crown to inquire; 2. that such settlement shall cost nothing to this country. Also, that when the license expires in 1859 the Crown may revoke the grant, subject to the obligation to repay the Co. any expenditure in colonization.
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It is not proposed to give them any jurisdiction or legislative authority.
[…]: But it is proposed to give a Commission to a Governor (who will be nominated by the Companyx3
sancd by the Crown that is the Crown can exercise a veto?5
) with a Charter empowering the government of the island by means of an Assembly of the inhabitants.
It is apprehended that the Crown has undoubtedly this power. It is the manner in which the Constitution
of Newfoundland was created in 1855.
The effect will be that the land will be vested in the HBCo. underManuscript image this grant. 2. The exclusive trade until 1859 under their licence. 3. The criminal & civil jurisdiction can be given by Commission from the Crown under 1 & 2 G 4 C 66. 4. The legislative authority & right to raise the revenue not derived from land will be in the inhabitants.
The same thing or nearly so it will be shewed has been done in the Southern part of New Zealand, where the Crown land and Crown right of preemption from natives are vested until 1852 in theManuscript image New Zealand Company, while the right of Government & of raising revenue is in the Legislative Council, which will be popular unless the Governor exercises his lately granted suspending power.
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You will observe that if Vancouver's Island had been made over to any other body of adventurers, it would have been necessary to put in execution the power reserved to the Crown of revoking the Company's license for exclusive trade so far as that Island was concerned. But this could not have been done without compensating the Company, if not for the loss of the trade, at all events for the establishments which it had made at the Southern end of the island, with a view to the protection & extension of that trade.
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It is hardly necessary to add how great an advantage the Company must have over independent colonists, in the first place from the powerful establishments which they already possess in the North Western territory, in the next place because, possessing the exclusive trade of the main land adjacent of which they could not be deprived, no one could turn the land of the Island to so much account as they.
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With regard to the reasons which have prevailed to induce the cession of this land to the Company notwithstanding the charges which are pending against them for maladministration in the other parts of their territories, you will of course ascertain these from other quarters especially as the negociation was begun before I came into the office. But the following suggest themselves to me.
These charges are twofold: they relate to the conduct of the Company in their only agricultural settlement of any consequence, that at Red River: and, secondly, to various points inManuscript image the general treatment of the Indians throughout their extensive territories by their agents. With regard to Red River, I cannot see if the charges of misgovernment were substantiated, that they would seriously affect the question, whether the Company was fit to be trusted with the land (not the government) of Vancouver's Island. If there be mismanagement at Red River, it is only to be traced in the details of the government of a colony more than 1000 miles from Vancouver's Island & the adjacent coast, which must depend much more on the localManuscript image authorities than on any central supervision of the trading Company in London. The two subjects have really no connexion. But the report of Col. Crofton is quite sufficient to shew that the charges, whatever they are, are mixed up with much exaggeration, although enough of truth may remain to render it advisable that some enquiry should take place, & it is at all events desirable that the situation & wants of such remote subjects of Her Majesty should be known.
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Vancouver's Island will lie in the track of many vessels & become (as we hope) soon the seat of a considerable maritime business. Nothing can possibly be more different than its prospects from those of the remote half Indian settlements in the centre of North America.
2. As to the general charges against the Company: they are really too general to merit much attention with reference to a case like this. It is of course undeniable that a mere trading Company will alwaysManuscript image have a certain tendency towards monopoly and exclusiveness: But in situations where colonization is the true & obvious policy, it will probably soon learn to pursue that policy.
Other documents included in the file
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Colonial Office to Duke of Wellington and to Treasury, 16 July 1849, advising of the appointment of Richard Blanshard as "Governor and Commander in Chief in and over the Island of Vancouver and its dependencies."
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Draft reply, Grey to Blanshard, No. 1, 21 July 1849.
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Draft reply, Grey to Blanshard, No. 2, 15 September 1849.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Elliot
I see in the copy of the instructions herewith sent some pencil marks of Mr Hawes', and am not aware whether any alterations were made in consequence. Mr Smith will know.
The Commission and Instructions were regularly and in usual form transmitted to the Governor on the 16 of July. I never (until this day) saw Mr HawesManuscript image pencilled observations.
PS 11 Sept
Other documents included in the file
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An act entitled "An Act to provide for the Administration of Justice in Vancouver's Island," dated 28 July 1849.
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An act entitled "An Act for extending the Jurisdiction of the Courts of Justice in the Provinces of Lower and Upper Canada, to the Trial and Punishment of Persons guilty of Crimes and Offences within certain Parts of North America adjoining to the said Provinces," dated 11 August 1803.
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An act entitled "An Act for regulating the Fur Trade, and establishing a Criminal and Civil Jurisdiction within certain Parts of North America," dated 2 July 1821.
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Draft reply, Grey to Blanshard, No. 3, 29 June 1850.
  1. This document is missing from the Colonial Office volume.
  2. The following minute entries refer, presumably, to a despatch from Blanshard to Grey, which is missing from the Colonial Office volume.
  3. This X appears to corresponds to marginalia.
  4. This marginalia appears to be in Hawes' hand.
  5. This marginalia appears to be in Hawes' hand.
People in this document

Baring, Alexander

Blanshard, Richard

Crofton, John

Elliot, Thomas Frederick

Grey, Henry George

Hawes, Benjamin

Merivale, Herman

Rogers, Frederic

Smith, Peter

Wellesley [formerly Wesley], Arthur

Organizations in this document

Colonial Office

Hudson's Bay Company

Places in this document


Red River Settlement

Rupert's Land

The Rocky Mountains

Vancouver Island