Nicolay to Desart (Parliamentary Under-Secretary)
Sloane Terrace
14 May 1852
My Lord
In accordance with your request I send You some Memoranda on the importance of the N.W. coast of British North America.
Although they have run to Some length I feel that no portion of the subject is fairly represented. I am however prepared to go fully into eavry part of it.
I take the liberty to cautionManuscript imagecaution Your Lordship against a hasty judgement with respect to the interests of this country on the Pacific at the same time that I would beg you to remark that the opinion I have expressed does not in the main affect the subject of the accompanying memoranda. But more especially I would venture to warn You against accepting the statements of the Hudsons Bay Co as satisfactory with respect toManuscript imageto the condition or government of their territories. The truth can only be got at primarily by careful Examination on the spot by some one well acquainted with the history of the fur trade & of discovery on the N.W. Coast.
I do not wish to be considered as making any reflection on its Governors but it is not in the nature of things that a trading monopoly, the operations of which are carried on among savages, should fairly representManuscript image itself or that it should be in a condition to undertake large and important national affairs.
A perusal of the statements of all witnesses on the Subject might lead to a moral but not probably a judicial opinion.
I would also add that what is true of the natives as to isolation would be equally true of convicts if the government desired to Land any where their labour might compensate for the Expense of their maintenance.
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I would also suggest to you whether the cure of many of our social evils at home may not more easily be found in the extension of our Colonial Empire not in territory but in men & the consequent extension of our Commercial and manufacturing relations, than by any other means. Since the accompanying memoranda were written we have learnt from the daily papers the formidable nature ofManuscript image the preparations made at San Francisco for the occupation of Queen Charlottes Island by American citizens which has by this time taken place. Also of their having Caused a republic to be proclaimed at Honolulu & of their intentions to do the same shortly at the Sandwich Islands—the latter has been long the avowed object of their diplomatic agents in centeral America & the Pacific
I am my Lord
Your obedt Servant
C.J. Nicolay

The Lord Desart
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
This is an interesting memorandum especially at this moment when the recent discovery of gold in Queen Charlotte's Island makes information concerning the N.W. Coast of America of value. But I suppose an ackt with thanks is all this Office can return for the trouble the writer has taken.
ABd 20/May
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Lord Desart
Acknowledge with thanks? but I cannot say there seems to me to be much in this gentleman's memorandum. It is made up chiefly of observations suggested by the map, by Sir G. Simpson's travels, & some older books, and a very little heresay from H B Co's servants & others. What we want to know is the actual condition of Q Ch. Island—its capabilities—its native population—the prospects of intercourse between it, San Fransisco, & the Sandwich Islands—of all which there is nothing whatever here. The writer has evidently no personal knowledge.
It seems to me that althoughManuscript image the Admiralty may send a ship of War, & prevent anything like "annexation" of the island by the Americans easily enough, it will be necessary to give some farther & more distinct instructions, how the wandering miners who may arrive there are to be dealt with.
I assume that Govt would not exclude foreigners, as some seem to recommend. I do not know that they have legally the power.
Leaving this out of the question two courses are open:
1. To form an establishment on the island, treat the land as CrownManuscript image Land, exact the payment for licenses from miners, & constitute some kind of force for public protection.
This cannot be done, 1. without some expense—it is idle to suppose, as many do, that such establishments can be made self-supporting, unless there were some very extraordinary mining results. 2. without incurring the perpetual difficulty of guarding a settlement against natives reported to be numerous & warlike. 3. without forming a new colony, with all the adjuncts of representative Government, &c. For it is a recognised principle in colonial law that the Queen cannot (without parliamentary authority) impose a tax, or make a law, orManuscript image allow others to make one, in colonies founded by Englishmen.
2. The other course would be, to direct the Adml to maintain as I have said British supremacy, and to lend his assistance if absolutely required to keep the peace among the miners, but not to interfere with them in any other way. If in the course of time the wish for something like settled Government should manifest itself, the immigrants might then be encouraged to constitute one, paying its own expenses. This latterManuscript image Scheme would certainly be facilitated if commissions of the peace could be issued to one or two individuals, but the difficulty is, to know to whom. I fear commissions in blank are not legal. I would strongly recommend you to talk this matter over privately with any member of the Admiralty who would charge himself with it.
As to the H.B.C. whose position the writer does not correctly represent, their case stands thus. They have rights both of territory & government over an immenseManuscript image tract of N.E. America. These rights have been very much attacked of late years; that they are vexatious & monopolistic is easily shewn. that any other body, except such a Company, could make any use of those vast but desolate regions, and, above all, could manage the Indians on any terms of humanity & good order, is not so easily shewn. But however this may be, they have their rights by charter—the law advisers of the late Government declared them valid—it is open to any one to attack them at law, or to move Parliament to control them, but the CrownManuscript image has no power in the matter.
But these rights extend only as far W. as the Rocky Mountains. The N. West Coast, & islands (except Vancouver) are under no Government at all. The Company have an exclusive right to trade with the Indians there, but nothing more. That right expires in 1859, but if the Crown makes a "colony" in any part of this region, the Crown can (not must) revoke the license so far as that colony is concerned.
HM May 20
I concur very generally with all that is said in the above minute.Manuscript image I think however that the annexed memorandum explains fully of how much advantage the colonization & formation of trading establishments in Queen Charlottes & Vancouvers Islands might be to this empire. I sent to Lord Palmerston a short precis of what passed during a short interview I had with the writer of this memorandum.
D 21
Acknowledge the Comn with thanks.
The subjects involved must be [maturely considered?].
JSP 24
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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"Memoranda on the importance of the North West coast of British North America in connexion with
1. The discovery of Gold in Queen Charlottes Islands.
2. The trade of the Pacific.
3. The British Colonies in North America.
4. The Native inhabitants."
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to Nicolay, 29 May 1852, thanking him for his views.