8058. Vancouvers Island

Copy all
10 June 1851.
My Lord,
I beg to enclose to your Lordship a copy of a memorial presented to me by Andrew Muir, a Scotch miner lately in the employment
3Copy to Hudson's Bay Compy for observations 10 Oct.
of the Hudsons bay Company; The said Andrew Muir appears to have been grossly ill treated by the officers of that company, and in consequence left the Island in a ship bound for San Francisco, in company with some other persons who declared they did not consider their lives safe after the violent threats that had been herd to them, They have returned by the first opportunity and seek redress for the loss and damage they have sustained, Several minor cases of the same kind I have settled summarilyManuscript imagesummarily, but a case like the present does not admit of being so disposed of, as considerable damages are claimed; I expect that other actions of a similar nature will shortly be commenced, and to secure a fair trial will to say the least be a matter of great difficulty as with the exception of the plantiffs family (the Muirs) there are not five persons in the Island except the Hudson's bay company's servants. My instructions authorize me to make magisterial and temporary judicial appointments, but do not provide for the event of there being no persons qualified to hold them. I would beg to press on your Lordships notice the expediency of making an immediate appointment of Chief Justice, or some law officer for the colony, who shall have full power to hear and determine all causes, subject to the usual appeals, a fair salary should be attached to the appointment, to be paid by the Hudson's bayManuscript imagebay company, till such time as it can be raised in the Island,
The ship Tory has just landed about one hundred and twenty persons, all with two exceptions servants of the Hudson's bay company, some have already been sent to Oregon, and some to other posts of the company, no preparations had been made here for their reception beyond erecting a couple of log houses or rather sheds, in these the remainder are huddled together like cattle, as I have seen myself, to the number of thirty or thirty five in each shed, men and women, married and single, without any kind of screen or partition to seperate them, as may be supposed great discontent exists already and will most certainly increase, the result will probably be that they leave the colony and seek employment in Oregon,
I have the honor to be
Your Lordships Obedient Servant
Richard Blanshard Governor
1 The Rt Honble
Earl Grey
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot.
The Governor presses in this despatch for the immediate appointment of a Chief Justice, or Magistrate - to decide causes & complaints which it appears are now beginning to arise in VanCouver's Island. Hitherto the paucity of settlers has not required the necessity of any such legal Officer, nor does there now seem to be a sufficient number of Immigrants to justify any great expenditure being incurred on account of the proposed functionary. The Hudson's Bay Company will probably demur to the Governor's anxiety on this subject as it the apptment of a Judge will involve them in some expense, & serve as a check upon their proceedings which Mr ⎯⎯ Blanshard has on almost every occasion on which he has written to this Office not failed to describe as unfavorable to the interests of the Settlement. But if the time has arrived for the apptment of a salaried Magistrate the objections of the Company wd probably not be allowed to prevail here. Another motive also may be assigned for insisting on the Company making this apptment at once. It is that we have on record the opinion of the Committee of the Privy Council (see P. 20—of the accg Par: P. 103) that the existing provisions for the trial of criminal offences, & also of civil causes in V.C. Isld are ⁜2⁜ inadequate to the due admn of justice: Wherefore the committee recommended in their report of 1848 that further & more satisfactory provisions for the trial of offences in the Colony should be made, which cd, they stated, only be effected by an amendment of the Act 1 & 2. Geo. 4. C. 66 regulating the fur trade, & establishing criminal & Civil jurisdiction in certain parts of B.N.A. . With this advice, well known to this Office, & with in the face of this application of the Governor, coupled with the consideration that some persons in & out of Parlt have strongly disapproved of the grant of the Island to the Hudson's Bay Company, and that Mr Blanshard himself has invariably complained of the Company's conduct it appears to me that the proposed appointment would be very beneficial; & that it wd meet the objections taken by the Cee of the P.C. to the existing arrangements for the administration of Justice in the Colony, & obviate the necessity of amending the Act of Parliament for at least some time to come.
I have written perhaps rather a more full minute on this subject than may really be necessary but as I entertain the apprehension that this Office may some day be put upon it's defense in regard to V.C. Island affairs I have deemed it my duty to make the preceding observations so that, so far as I have the means of preventing it, this Office may not be led into embarrassment hereafter for want of sufficient consideration on the subject.
ABd 24/Sepr/51.
Mr Hawes
I am sure that you will be very glad to have the advantage of Mr Blackwood's remarks. I forward this for consideration.
TFE 24/9.
/24 This returns an important despatch in every point of view. The paucity of Settlers—independent of the Companys Servants—the absence of accommodation even for those—are circs which I fear indicate little or no prospect of Revenue. Notwithstanding which (by the recent dispatches) the Company proposes to lay out Manuscript image
2000 £ in public Buildings & that in their own reserves. Looking at the proximity of San Francisco, at the discovery of gold in N.S. Wales—at the state of the Labour market at home & abroad, I see very little prospect of any immigration in this direction. I do not see the inducement to settle in V.Couvers Island—nor do I expect the H.B. Company will allow the means of encouraging it.
How then is the Governors request to be met? — How far judicial powers could be conferred on the Govr I know not. But were they ample, his relations with the Company would I should apprehend, render the grant of such powers of doubtful expediency. If theManuscript image course were open, it would desirable before Expences are incurred, for which really under the Charter the Govt will become responsible, without any adequate or satisfactory control over them to endeavour to bring about a surrender of the Charter — before any expenditure upon Public works or buildings is commenced. Otherwise I foresee a future large demand upon the Govt & probably litigation & much trouble in settling it.
I think the state of the account between the Govt & the Company should be accurately known — They are bound to pay all the charges of Settlement, Manuscript image& it may be doubted whether they have incurred any, bonafide, for Settlement — The Govr says that there are not five persons in the Island beyond their Servants — & that of those recently arrived some are being drafted off to Oregon. I confess it appears to me that the Compy is making use of the Charter simply for their own interests; & that finding the sale of Land & the revenue from coals or minerals amounts to little or nothing — they are making an outlay upon Public works, very probably of great future utility to themselves but at the Expence of the Govt hereafter.
It is Manuscript imagenot to be lost sight of that though the Company is not doing much for the settlement of Vancouver's Island nothing at all cd have been done without them since there were no funds whatever available for the purpose. — The first step must be to obtain the Company's answer to this statement Send them copies for any remarks they may have to offer on the despatch & enclosure. —
G. 1/10
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft, Colonial Office to Pelly, Hudson's Bay Company, 10 October 1851, forwarding copy of the despatch and enclosure for observations.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
Muir to Blanshard, 29 April 1851: a memorial charging that three officers of the Hudson's Bay Company had assaulted and illegally imprisoned him. Signed by ten "Witnesses."
  1. This addressee information appears at the foot of the first page of the despatch.
  2. These dotted crosses indicate that the text carries forward across a fold in the manuscript; see image scan.
  3. This text runs perpendicular to main body text; see image scan.
People in this document

Blackwood, Arthur Johnstone

Blanshard, Richard

Elliot, Thomas Frederick

Grey, Henry George

Hawes, Benjamin

Muir, Andrew

Pelly, John Henry

Organizations in this document

Colonial Office

Hudson's Bay Company

Vessels in this document

Tory, 1834

Places in this document

Oregon Territory, or Columbia District

San Francisco

Vancouver Island