N America | Vancouver Isl

1Daily News
Feby17. 1849
Documents enclosed with the main document (transcribed)
Manuscript image
2The Colonial-office has got an ugly character for suppressing and garbling the documents it may be obliged to present to parliament. The copy of the correspondence between Earl Grey and the chairman of the Hudson's Bay Company, authenticated by the signature of Mr. Hawes, which has been printed by order of the House of Lords, will not re-establish the character of the office on this ticklish point. In the course of the correspondence Earl Grey expressed a doubt as to the competency of the company to receive a grant of land under their charter. Instead of consulting the crown lawyers, and acting upon their opinion on this point, as was the duty of a minister, Earl Grey promised the company to grant their request, provided they could produce an opinion of the crown lawyers in their favour. By this means he threw a good fee in the way of these learned gentlemen, and relieved them from the responsibility of advising the crown while emitting an opinion upon which the crown was sure to act. This is a
It is here insinuated that the Crown lawyers had an extra fee—this is not the fact—the Compys Solicitor drew the case, and the usual fee was paid on it and nothing more
parenthesis: what we would at present direct attention to, is the fact that the company feed the crown lawyers, that the opinion was given and transmitted to the Colonial Office, that Mr. Hawes thereupon wrote to Sir J.H. Pelly that Earl Grey "is now ready to receive and confirm the draft of such a grant as the company would desire," and that in the copy of the correspondence transmitted to and published by the House of Lords, the opinion is suppressed.
In any circumstances, such a suppression of an essential document would have an awkward look; it is particularly unlucky in the present case, for even the meagre documents furnished by the Colonial Office, irresistibly awaken suspicions of complicity and collusion between the Hudson's Bay Company and the Colonial-office. On the part of the office, the correspondence betrays a strong desire to gratify the company, checked by misgivings, first as to the legality of the transaction, and next as to the safety of complying with their exorbitant demands to the full extent. In the end, however, a compromise is made between conscience and appearances by which the company really obtain all they want while the office contrives to get up a show of refusing something.
This is not the fact, it was confined to a small portion of the Island of Vancouver, and is so stated in Sir J H Pelly's letter to Mr Hawes of the 24th Octr.— but the question relating to the colonization of the Oregon territory generally was left open
The first application of the company was to be "confirmed in the possession of such lands as they may find it expedient to add to those which they already possess." This, which in a subsequent letter that paragon of modesty Sir J.H. Pelly calls a "very limited grant of lands," would be neither more nor less than leave to take as much as the company pleased, though it were the whole of the yet uncolonised portion of British North America. But the grasping spirit of the company did not stop here: finding the Colonial-office in a yielding mood, Sir J.H. Pelly, on Manuscript imagebeing invited to transmit a draft of such a grant as the company would require, bluntly asked for a grant of exclusive jurisdiction as well as of proprietary rights over the whole of the enormous extent of territory that lies to the north of the United States boundary line and Canada. "If her Majesty's ministers should be of opinion that the territory in question would be more conveniently governed and colonised (as far as it may be practicable) through the Hudson's Bay Company, the company are willing to undertake it, and will be ready to receive a grant of all the territories belonging to the crown which are situated to the north and west of Rupert's land." A draft of a grant conveying territorial sovereignty and proprietary right over this huge region was transmitted along with this condescending offer: the draft, like the opinion of the crown council, has been suppressed by Mr. Hawes, in his return of papers to the House of Lords.
This was rather too much even for our good-natured Secretary of State for the Colonies. In an interview with Sir J.H. Pelly he delicately intimated to that gentleman that "the proposal he had made was too extensive for her Majesty's government to entertain." The company, in consequence of this hint, limited their request to a grant of Vancouver's Island alone. But the Colonial-office cannot plead that it was deceived by this affected moderation. Sir J.H. Pelly frankly told Earl Grey that the additional territory he had asked was inaccessible, except through the company's territories from the east, or from the western seaboard, and he as frankly expressed his dislike to the idea of different parts of it being "colonised under different authorities." The avowed object and wish of the company was to keep the whole of the vast region of which they had asked a grant in their own hands. The grant made to them, which embraces Vancouver's Island, and all the islands on the west coast of America, from the Russian boundary on the north to the United States boundary on the south, renders the whole of the rest of the territory originally asked by the company inaccessible except through the company's possessions, unless it is approached from the Russian or American territories. If the company have not got all the land they asked for, they have got the power of impeding the access of others to it, and that will suit their purpose quite as well.
The Colonial Office have done no such thing — the legislature has authorized the Crown to make grants of […] exclusive trade with the natives, & under that authority the Hudson's Bay Company have the right of excluding all British subjects until May 1859 — therefore the Hudson's Bay Compy may be considered the best channel for colonization, as should it fall to anyone […] else their interests would jar — but it is not asked for —
The Colonial-office have de facto made the Hudson's Bay Company sovereigns of the whole of that part of North America which is situated north of the United States boundary and Canada, with the exception of the strip of land on the N.W. coast occupied by the Russians. It has granted them a charter, which recognises their title to the eastern part of the territory, and makes them masters of all the straits which lead to the west coast, through the islands which form a barrier to that coast. And it has a bill ready to be brought into parliament to withdraw the country newly granted from the civil jurisdiction to which it is at present subjected, and to substitute new courts of justice, in the appointments to which the Hudson's Bay Company will have a voice potential.
a The greater part of British North America has been placed at the absolute disposal of the Hudson's Bay Company.X
a — By Parliamentary enactment.
The Colonial Minister pretends that this has been done to accelerate and impart greater regularity to the settlement of the region. The pretext will not hold water.
b — Let him prove it, if he can.
b The Hudson's Bay Company is, by its constitution, an anti-colonising body, and its uniform policy, since it was called into existence under Charles II., has been to prevent settlement in its territories. Every possible impediment has been thrown in the way of all British subjects seeking to penetrate into them. When the North-Western FurManuscript image Company was formed in Canada, its agents were repeatedly attacked by the armed agents of the Hudson's Bay Company. c
c The Act of Parliament is passed for this very object. (1 & 2 Geo 4. Cap 66). […]
Both before and since the amalgamation of the two companies all traders not connected with the corporation have been prevented from trafficking with the Indians, and no Europeans but a few retired servants of the Hudson's Bay Company have been allowed to form settlements in the country. The most jealous care has been taken to conceal from the public what goes on in this region. But facts have nevertheless transpired which show that the company's rule has been as fatal to the inhabitants as it has been obstructive to English commerce. Their sole objects have been to keep the merchandise they send thither at high monopoly prices, and to prevent the Indians from becoming agriculturists instead of hunters. Unchecked by any enlightened public opinion, or by any efficient control on the part of the directors, the great body of their agents have indulged in a wanton exercise of arbitrary power over the Indians, and in habits of the grossest licentiousness with regard to the intercourse of the sexes. The publications of Mackenzie, Cox, and a few others who have penetrated into their territory, show the extent to which club-law prevails among the whites and bois-brûlés (or half-bloods), and the gross immorality which prevails in respect of the Indian women. The Hudson's Bay Company have kept their territories as inaccessible as the Jesuits kept Paraguay, but there all resemblance between the sway of the mercantile and of the priestly monopolists ends. The Jesuits kept their Indians in a state of constant pupilage which unmanned them, but they taught them habits of industry and domestic purity. The agents of the Hudson's Bay Company have discouraged settled habits among their Indians, and communicated to them the worst vices of civilised society without its redeeming qualities. And to a body whose rule
This is not the fact — nothing but Vancouver's Island has been given up by this grant
has been productive of results so baneful has the Colonial Minister given up the far greater part of our North American possessions in perpetuity for a yearly rent of 7s. We say in perpetuity, for the only condition upon which the grant can be voided is the company's failing to make a settlement of resident colonists from any part of the British dominions in five years. A show settlement will easily be made.
The legality of the grant may fairly be questioned. It is true that an opinion of the law officers of the crown was submitted to the Colonial Secretary before the grant was made; but the tenor and terms of that opinion have been kept secret, and the manner in which it was obtained is suspicious. On the other hand, it may fairly be argued that ever since a fixed civil list was granted to the crown in lieu of its land revenues, it is not in the power of the crown, or its ministers, to confer grants of crown lands either upon companies or individuals without the concurrence and sanction of parliament. Certain it is that the charters of New South Wales, South Australia, and New Zealand, all rest upon acts of parliament. The New Zealand company obtained its lands in consideration of the moneys it had expended for colonising purposes. In these circumstances we hold that we are warranted in maintaining that the free grant of Vancouver's Island to the Hudson's Bay Company by the crown, having been made without the concurrence and sanction of parliament, is invalid. If this view is correct, the colonial minister by whose advice that grant has been made has perpetrated an act at once impolitic and unconstitutional. When Lord Lincoln again brings this clandestine and impolitic transaction under the notice of the House of Commons, we trust he will not fail to ask a decision upon its legality.
  1. The printed article referred to here is transcribed in full below.
  2. This transcription is from a news print clipping that is pasted on the left side of the enclosed pages. Extensive marginal comments appear to the right; see image scans.
People in this document

Cox, Nicholas

Grey, Henry George

Hawes, Benjamin

Mackenzie, Alexander

Pelly, John Henry

Organizations in this document

Colonial Office

Hudson's Bay Company

London Daily News

Places in this document

New South Wales

Oregon Territory, or Columbia District

Rupert's Land

Russian Territory

Vancouver Island