[No. 1]
21st January 1853 The Right Honble
Sir John S. Packington [Pakington]
Her Majestys principal Secretary
of State for the Colonial Department

Since I had the honor of addressing you on the 9th Decr, I have been so much occupied with the preparations for the expedition, contemplated in my last despatch, into the Cowegin and Nanaimo Districts, and with the execution of that service, which was completed on the 19th Instt that I have had no opportunity of communicating with you.
I shall now do myself the honor of reporting fully on the measures taken, against the murderers of the late Peter Brown, who as I before mentioned was attacked and barbarously murdered near Victoria, on the 5th of November last, by two Indians of the Cowegin and Nanaimo Tribes.
The point at which I principally aimed in my variouscommunicationsManuscript image communications on the subject of that murder, with the Chiefs of those Tribes, was to impress upon their minds, that the terrors of the law should be let loose on the perpetrators of the murder only, and on no other members of the Tribe, except such as should be found resisting the Queen's authority, and protecting him from justice, but that was a matter so different from their own customs in such cases, and so foreign to their ideas of propriety that it was exceedingly difficult to make them comprehend our views.
To our frequent demands for the surrender of the criminals, they sent civil but evasive replies, and withdrew altogether from intercourse with the settlements. Many delays from weather, and other causes, it being the depth of winter, intervened to retard the departure of the expedition, but having at length secured the services of the Hudson's Bay Company's Steam Vessel "Beaver," and Brigantine "Recovery" I left Victoria on the morning of the 4th of January with a force of 130 Seamen and marines under the command of Lieut Sansum of Her Majesty's Ship "Thetis", and a small corps of half whites, raised in this Colony having the "Recovery", and the Boats of the "Thetis" in tow of the Steam vessel.
The expedition anchored off the mouth of the Cowegin River, on the 6th of JanyManuscript image and I immediately despatched messengers with an invitation to the several native Tribes, who inhabit the valley and banks of that river, to meet me, as soon as convenient, at some fixed point; for the purpose of settling the dif[f]erence, which had led me to visit their country, and at the same time giving them distinctly to understand that I should be under the painful necessity of assuming a hostile attitude, and marching against them with the force under my command, should they decline my invitation.
Their answer, accepting my proposal, and expressing a wish to meet me the following day, near the entrance of the river, was received on the evening of the same day. The disembarkation of the force was made early the following morning, and we took up a commanding position, at the appointed place, fully armed and prepared for whatever might happen. In the course of two hours the Indians began to drop down the river, in their war canoes, and landed a little above the position we occupied, and last of all arrived two large canoes, crowded with the friends and relatives of the murderer, hideously painted and evidentlypreparedManuscript image prepared to defend the wretched man, who was himself among the number, to the last extremity. On landing they made a furious rush towards the spot where I stood, a little in advance of the force, and their deportment was altogether so hostile, that the marines were with difficulty restrained, by their officers, from opening a fire upon them. When the first excitement had a little abated, the felon, fully armed, was brought into my presence, and I succeeded after a great deal of trouble, in taking him quietly into custody; and sent him a close prisoner on board the Steam vessel. His capture having removed all cause of dispute, I assembled the Indians and spoke to them long, and seriously on the subject of their relations with the Colony, and the rules which must govern their conduct, in future. They expressed the utmost regret for the death of Brown, and a sincere desire to live in peace with the Colony, a feeling which was strengthened, by the appearance of the imposing force before them. They left us in the course of the afternoon, in the best possible temper; and the forces were immediately afterwards re-embarked having fortunately concluded the days work without firing a shot in anger;thoughManuscript image though several times on the very point of coming to a serious rupture with the natives, which indeed could not have been prevented, had the discipline of the troops been less perfect, and had not my orders, to remain strictly on the defensive, been rigidly enforced by Lieut Sansum; who on all occasions entered cordially into my views, and afforded the most hearty and earnest support.
Having thus satisfactorily effected all that was desired at Cowegin, we proceeded towards Nanaimo, and arrived there on the evening of the 9th of January. I pursued the same course with the Nanaimo Tribe as at Cowegin; but found a decided reluctance, on their part, to surrender the murderer, who was regarded as the hero of the Tribe. He was therefore highly valued, and no ones life was worth a days purchase, among his friends, who would have ventured to arrest him. The Chiefs however at length consented to deliver him into our hands; but on the day appointed, they failed in their promise, and made only an attempt to ransom his life, by a large payment of Furs. In consequence of that breach of faith, his Father and another influential Indian were taken into custody; in hopesofManuscript image of inducing them by that means, to yield to our demands; my earnest wish being, if possible, to gain our object without bloodshed, and without assailing the Tribe at large. After two days of the most anxious suspense, it was again settled that the felon should be given up; and he was accordingly brought to within half a mile of the anchorage, but on seeing me repair to the spot; he fled to the woods and made his escape. It was then impossible to temporize longer, without a loss of character, negotiation had been tried in vain, and I therefore decided on adopting more active measures, and with that view, ordered an immediate advance towards the Nanaimo River, where their villages are situated. We accordingly pushed rapidly in that direction, but the boats had scarcely entered the River before their progress was arrested by the shallowness of the stream, about three quarters of a mile below the first village. The troops were nevertheless immediately landed, and the movement was so rapid, that before the Indians had recovered from their first consternation, we succeeded in carrying the stockade without firing a shot. The day being far advanced,weManuscript image we spent the night there, and the boats came up before morning. We then moved up the river to the second village, which we found nearly deserted by its inhabitants, who had fled to the woods with their effects.
The murderer's father was Chief of this last village, consisting of many large houses and containing the greater part of thei[r] stock of winter food. They were now completely in our power, and as soon as I could collect a sufficient number of the inhabitants I told them that they should be treated as enemies, and their villages destroyed, if they continued longer to protect the murderer, who we were now informed had left the river and lay concealed in the woods near the sea coast, about three miles distant.
The pinnace was immediately despatched with 16 seamen and 9 half whites, towards that point, where his place of refuge was soon discovered. After a long chase in the woods in which the half whites took the principal part the wretched man was captured and taken on board the Steam vessel.
The troops were withdrawntheManuscript image the same day from the River, without molesting or doing any injury whatever to the other natives.
The two felons being now in custody, they were brought to trial and found guilty of wilful murder by a Jury composed of the Officers present. They were sentenced to be hanged by the neck until dead, and the execution took place in presence of the whole Nanaimo Tribe, the scene appearing to make a deep impression on their minds, and will I trust, have the effect of restraining, others from the commission of crime.
I am happy to report that I found both the Cowegin and Nanaimo Tribes more amenable to reason than was supposed; the objects of the Expedition having, under Providence, been satisfactorily attained, as much through the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company's name, as by the effect of intimidation. The surrender of a criminal, as in the case of the Cowegin murderer, without bloodshed, by the most numerous and warlike of the Native Tribes on Vancouver's Island, at the demand of the Civil power may beconsideredManuscript image considered, as an epoch, in the history of our Indian relations, which augurs well for the future peace and prosperity of the Colony. That object however could not have been effected without the exhibition of a powerful force.
I feel much indebted to Lieut Sansum for his excellent arrangements, and for the admirable temper and forbearance exhibited by the force under his command, in circumstances more trying to brave men, than actual conflict. The Officers and men have won my thanks not only by their discipline and steadiness, but also by their promptitude and alacrity in the field, and the half whites emulated their good example.
The reflection that success has been unstained by a single act of cruelty, and that no blood has been shed, except that of those, who paid the just penalty of their crimes, adds not a little to the satisfaction which I have derived from the result of this expedition, which as already stated closed on the 19th Inst by the return of the whole party safe and well.
I Manuscript image
I have nothing more, of much importance, respecting the Colony, to communicate at present, nor have I time for further remarks as Her Majesty's Ship "Thetis," by which this letter will be forwarded, sails from this port tomorrow morning, and I trust the Colony will not remain long without protection, and that another of Her Majesty's Ships will be appointed to replace her.
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most obt Servt
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
Perhaps the Duke of Newcastle may think that the conduct of the Governor, of the Naval Officer Seamen, & others engaged in these two successful Expeditions deserving of his approbation. If His Grace should be of that opinion, & direct a desph to be prepared accly the Admiralty ought perhaps to be informed on acct of the part taken by the Naval force in the transaction. Communicate this report to the H.B. Company with the Duke's decision?
ABd 2 Apl
The account seems to me very satisfactory, & the proceedings if correctly reported doing great credit to those employed.
HM Apl 5
FP 6
Great credit is due. As proposed by Mr Blackwood.
N 8
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to Secretary of the Admiralty, 30 April 1853, forwarding copy of the despatch and Newcastle's reply, for information.
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 4, April 1853.