1865 Van Couver's Isla

"Gold"⎯ Queen Charlotte's Island" […] July/1858
Extract No - 6 for Admity
D - No 7 for Foreign Off
16th Decr 1851. To the Right Honble. Earl Grey
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
for the Colonial Department

My Lord
I have the honor to transmit herewith duplicate of my letter of the 31st Octr.
There is nothing of importance to communicate respecting the Colony since that date; the Native Tribes continue their friendly intercourse with the Settlements,
2Extract |par 6| to Admiralty for […]
⎯ […] |par 7| to Foreign Office } 24 Mar/52
for information
3Ansd 18 March/52. No 2.
and in return they are protected in their rights, and we endeavour by every possible means to conciliate their good will, as it is a matter of vast importance to acquire their confidence, and to lead them to appeal for redress in all cases of wrongs to the law of the land, instead of having recourse to lawless retaliation. ⎯
A difficulty of some weight has lately occurred to me, in the settlement of disputes between the Colonists and Indians, which I will take the liberty of briefly submitting to your Lordship; for unless obviated in some way, it may prove dangerous to the peace of the Colony.
The question was forced upon my attention some days ago, on the occasion of a complaint made by "," chiefManuscript image of the Soke Tribe, against Thomas Hall a white settler, who was charged with having forcibly dispossed the Plaintiff of a double barrelled fowling piece, leaving the Plaintiff a much inferior Gun, in return.
The plaintiff had no evidence to support the charge except the testimony of one of his own countrymen, who not being a Christian, could not be duly sworn. ⎯ I nevertheless admitted the evidence of the Plaintiff's witness, which however failed in proving the fact of force being used by the defendant, in obtaining the Plaintiff's Gun; while it was, on the contrary, proved by the defendant, that the exchange was effected without force being used, and by the mutual consent of the parties. ⎯ It appeared however that Plaintiff on being, better informed as to the relative value of the two guns, wished to recover his own. ⎯ The case was necessarily decided in favour of defendant, and against the Plaintiff who nevertheless had evidently been duped in the transaction, and I therefore prevailed upon the defendant, not by order of Court, but as a matter of justice, to give the plaintiff some further compensation.
The question arising out of that simple case, on which I would request your Lordship's instructions is this: How far the testimony of Indians is to be admitted as evidence in the Law Courts of this Colony?
It is not in my opinion advisable toManuscript image receive Indian testimony in adjudging the disputes of white men; but in the case of disputes between the white man and Indian I do not see how we can with justice reject the only species of testimony the latter may have to offer, and when offences against life or property are committed by Indians, the only testimony against the offenders may be that of their own countrymen. On that subject I would take the liberty of remarking to your Lordship, how very important it is to the peace and security of the settlement that instant attention should be paid to the complaints of Indians, and their wrongs receive speedy redress as nothing will tend more to inspire confidence in the governing power, and to teach them that justice may be obtained by a less dangerous and more certain method than their own hasty and precipitate acts of private revenge.
We have received advice from the Settlement at the north end of the Island, up to the 10th Novr, when every thing was well and quiet in that quarter. The Mining operations of the Hudson's Bay Compy at Fort Rupert, are 1proceeding with great spirit, but I am sorry to say, as yet without success, the bore having been carried to the depth of 183 feet, without revealing a remunerative bed of Coal; there is however every reasonManuscript image to hope that coal will eventually be found.
The Puget Sound Compy are making extensive improvements on their Farms in the Victoria District, and several of the Hudson's Bay Company's Officers; who have purchased tracts of land, are building houses, and bringing the land gradually into cultivation. ⎯
Since I had last the honor of addressing your Lordship two vessels from the American Ports in Puget Sound bound to Queen Charlottes Island have touched at this Port. They had collectively about 64 passengers on board, who were going thither, for the purpose of digging Gold. ⎯ It is also currently reported that several vessels filled with passengers have sailed from the Columbia and California, for the same quarter. Their presence on the Coast will I fear, be productive of much evil, and lead to serious difficulties with the Native Tribes. ⎯ It has also occurred to me that those adventurers may possibly attempt to plunder the British Trading Posts, on the neighbouring Coast, and I will further submit for your Lordships consideration the probability of their becoming formidable, from the mere force of numbers, and should Gold prove abundant, putting Government toManuscript image much future trouble and expense in guarding national rights, unless measures are immediately taken to restrain the subjects of the United States, and other foreign powers from entering or forming settlements on that Island.
We have very lately received intelligence that the Hudson's Bay Compys. Steam vessel "Beaver" and one of their Coasting Vessels are detained at Nesqually by the Officers of the United States Customs upon frivolous pretences, a circumstance which has caused an intense excitement among the people of this Colony, and I had some difficulty in preventing a forcible demonstration on their part, for the rescue of the vessels; which had been sent to Nesqually principally to bring down Cattle, for the supply of the Colony.
The proceedings of the United States Officers are highly injudicious, and a serious hindrance to trade. They however plead the orders they have received, and are receiving by every mail, from Washington, in justification of their proceedings. ⎯
I have the honor to be
Your Lordships
Most Obedient Servant.
James Douglas
Governor Vancouvers Island.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale.
The reports received from Governor Douglas respecting this settlement are much more favorable than those we used to receive from Govr Blanshard. Perhaps the former may be a little too anxious to view things in a good light, whilst the latter was prejudiced against the Hudson's Bay Co.
The question in Par: 3 you will be able to suggest a solution for.
Par: 6. should I think be referred to the Admiralty with positive instructions to send and station a ship of War off Queen's Charlotte Island. The discovery of gold in that quarter of the Queen's dominions, & the resort thither of adventurers from different parts of the Pacific & elsewhere seem to demand the despatch of some sort of force there to keep order in the Territory. At the same time the question is a nice one as to the Government within which this Island is comprized. I conceive, after perusing the Governor of Van Couver's Island Commission that it is not under that officer's administration, & I am confirmed in that impression by the primâ facie evidence of a Map sent here by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1851 which excludes Van Couvers Queen Charlotte Island from the Territory over which they have possession. I assume therefore that it must belong be a dependency of Canada in the absence of any proof to the contrary. Be that, however, as it may it is clearly British Territory and as such seems to require the moral support of a Man of War to protect our national rights & private interests. If this view is adopted an extract of Par: 6 should be sent to the Admiralty.
Par: 7. Do you think the complaint account of the conduct of the American Customs Officers is sufficiently precise to found a complaint upon to the Foreign Office? It might be sent there for their consideration.
ABd 2 March/52
As to par. 3. The instruction to Govr Douglas should be express & distinct in my opinion. He should receive Indian testimony in all cases, swearing or pledging the witnesses to the truth according to whatever form is held most solemn among themselves. Nor should he establish any such distinction as he proposes between their testimony in cases between Whites & cases in which they are themselves
Manuscript image† concerned. They should be admitted in all cases. It will be for Courts & juries to say what their testimony is worth.
Par. 6. I agree with Mr Blackwood. Queen Charlotte's Island is clearly out of the Governor's Commission. It is British territory, under the earlier trading licence of the H.B. Company, but not under their Charter.
7. I should say that this should be sent to the F. office for information, in order to keep them on their guard.
HM Mh 6.
I see nothing to add to Mr Merivales observation.
D M 8
JP 9/
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Pakington to Douglas, No. 2, 18 March 1852.
Manuscript image
Draft, Colonial Office to Hamilton, Admiralty, 24 March 1852, forwarding extract of despatch in support of the need to station a Ship of War at Queen Charlotte Island.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
Adverting to the Minute on 1865 am I right in supposing that Sir J. Pakington sanctions the application to the Admiralty to station a Ship of War off Queen Charlotte's Island? The measure seems necessary if the Admy can execute it.
(I do not feel sure of the necessity, but conclude Sir J Pakington would wish the question submitted to the Admy at all events?)
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft, Colonial Office to Addington, Foreign Office, 24 March 1852, forwarding extract of despatch regarding the conduct of American officials at Nisqually.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
The despatch should have accompanied this draft.
The Despatch from Govr Douglas was forwarded with this Draft & was returned to the Dt a day or two ago together with the answer to it.
  1. Please note that "proceeding with great spirit" is underlined, presuambly not by the author; see image scan.
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People in this document

Addington, Henry Unwin

Blackwood, Arthur Johnstone

Blanshard, Richard

Cuffe, John Otway O'Conner

Douglas, James

Grey, Henry George

Hall, Thomas

Hamilton, William Alexander Baille

Jadis, Vane

Merivale, Herman

Pakington, John Somerset

Victoria, Alexandrina

Organizations in this document

Colonial Office

Foreign Office

Hudson's Bay Company

Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty

Vessels in this document

Beaver, 1835-1888

Places in this document

Columbia River

Fort Rupert, or T'sakis

Haida Gwaii

Nisqually, or Fort Nisqually

Puget Sound


Vancouver Island