No. 10, Executive
24th November 1853
My Lord Duke
In a Despatch to Secretary Sir John S Packington [Pakington] dated the 9th December last, I had the honor of submitting for the information of Her Majesty's Government that certain American citizens, had set up a claim to the Islands on the Canal de Arro, on behalf of the United States, and that it was my intention to assert the sovereignty of Her Majesty the Queen to all the Islands of the Arro Archipelago, lying to the westward of Strawberry Bay (Cypress Island), as named by "Vancouver," situated in "Vancouver Strait," the usual ship channel from the Straits of Juan de FucaintoManuscript image into the Gulf of Georgia, which has always been considered the boundary between the possessions of Great Britain, and the Territories of the United States.
2. Having received no reply to that, or any of my subsequent communications to Her Majesty's Government, in consequence I suppose of the non arrival of the ship "Colinda," bound to this port, by which the Secretary of the Hudson's Bay Company, in a letter transmitted by the way of Panama informs me that five packets from the Colonial office had been forwarded.
This Vessel did not sail until 4 Augt/53. It carried out all Despatches up to that date. Since the 14 Octr we have sent all Desp through the P Office.
I nevertheless beg to apprize your Grace that I have acted in accordance with the views above expressed; and have succeeded in defeating every attempt made to pre-occupy the Arro Islands, through the agency of American squatters, so that those Islands still remain a de facto dependency of Vancouvers Island, unoccupied by any settlement of whites, except a fishing station, which was established some years ago by the Hudson's Bay Company, on the Island of San Juan.
If Manuscript image
3. If I may take the liberty of referring your Grace to Arrowsmiths improved map of Vancouver's Island, you will observe that the three principal Islands of the Arro Archipelago, "San Juan," "Lopez," and "Orcas," are of considerable extent, and I may add from my own knowledge that they are exceedingly valuable, not only on account of their relative position to Vancouver's Island, but also from the fact that their shores and Inlets, abound with Salmon and other fish, which form a productive export, and inexhaustible source of wealth.
They contain a great extent of arable land, are capable of supporting a large population, and form an appendage of incalculable importance to this Colony.
4. In reference to their geological structure the most southerly Islands of the Archipelago, are chiefly composed of Trap or Greenstone but sandstone and other strata, similar in character to those found in the Coal District of Nanaimo, mark the more northerly Islands as belongingtoManuscript image to the same geological series.
Some fine specimens of serpentine and auriferous quartz have also been found there.
5. According to the intention expressed in my said Despatch to Sir John S Packington of the 9th December last, I shall proceed to lay before your Grace the grounds which led me to assume without positive instructions on that head, that the Islands of the Archipelago de Arro, did of right belong to Her Majesty the Queen.
I was led to take that view of the question by a fair construction of the Oregon Treaty which defines the territorial limits of the contracting Powers on this coast; the common opinion of the day; and the maps published in both countries exhibiting the boundary line in the middle of "Vancouver Strait," the only direct channel which connects the Gulf of Georgia with the Straits of Juan De Fuca.
6. The first article of that Treaty, declares that the lineofManuscript image of boundary shall be continued westward along the said forty ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the Channel, which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island and thence southerly through the middle of said channel, and Fuca Straits to the Pacific Ocean, provided however, that the navigation of the whole of the said channel and Straits, south of the forty ninth parallel of latitude remain free and open to both parties.
The letter of the Treaty clearly implies the existence of a navigable channel, extending from the point in the Gulf of Georgia, where the westerly line ceases, to the Straits of Juan De Fuca, and also declares that the said channel runs in a southerly direction.
8. On that head I wish to observe that "Vancouver's" Chart, to which I beg to refer your Grace, shews that no navigable channel, leading from the Straits of Juan De fuca, into the Gulf of Georgia, was known to exist when the Treaty was made, neither had any channel, which can be safely navigated by sailing ships, beendiscoveredManuscript image discovered, even to this day, except "Vancouver Straits," which up to this hour, is the route invariably taken by sailing ships, bound to and from the Gulf of Georgia.
9. The Treaty also declares that the boundary line shall run, "thence," (i.e. from the middle of the Gulf of Georgia)," southerly, through the said channel." The chart will here again shew that none of the passages, in the Arro Archipelago, run continuously in a southerly direction, and that no other outlet, from the Gulf of Georgia, answers the description given of the channel, through which the boundary line, was to be carried, except "Vancouver Strait."
10. The Treaty moreover provides, that the navigation of the whole of the said channel and straits (of De Fuca), south of the forty ninth parallel of latitude remain free and open to both parties.
I would observe in respect to that article that there could be no object for leaving the navigation, of the "whole" of the Straits of Juan De Fuca, as far east asWhitbyManuscript image Whitby Island and Deception passage, free and open to British Vessels, unless it was intended, that "Vancouver Strait," should be the boundary Channel, and I cannot suppose that any other consideration would have induced the American Plenipotentiary, so tenacious on all other points affecting the interests of his country, to make in that instance an important concession in favour of British commerce, a concession affecting the navigation laws of the United States; by throwing open a large extent of the American coast to British Vessels; without any real or apparent necessity, arising from the nature of the navigation, and without securing thereby, any reciprocal advantage for his own country.
11. In respect to the evidence derivable from public opinion, we who have lived almost on the spot, have ever believed thatVancouversManuscript image Vancouvers Strait, is the sure line of boundary, between the two countries, and as a proof that we are not alone in that opinion, I herewith transmit a Map of the Arro Archipelago, being a section faithfully copied from a Map of Oregon and Upper California, from the surveys of John Charles Fremont, and other authorities, drawn by Charles Preuss, under the order of the Senate of the United States Washington City 1848 on which the boundary line is carefully traced, exactly as your Grace will observe on the section, through the middle of "Vancouver Strait" into the Gulf of Georgia. The original map is now in my possession and may be consulted if necessary.
12. "Vancouver Strait" is thus shewn to be the only channel, answering to the description given of the boundary channel, in the Treaty—being a navigable channel—running southerly—and from its position requiring for the safety and convenience of the vessels frequenting it, the free navigation of the whole of theStraitsManuscript image Straits of Juan De Fuca, and the description is applicable to no other channel in that quarter.
The Map published at Washington City in 1848, under the orders of the Senate also shews that "Vancouver Strait," was supposed to be the boundary channel, by the highest authority in the United States.
13. The question of right appearing thus clearly in favour of the claims of Great Britain, I conceived it my positive duty to assert them, and I was also influenced in coming to that decision, by another pressing consideration that "Vancouver Strait," is the present navigable outlet from the Gulf of Georgia, and without it, that noble inland sea, bounded on every side by the Territories of Great Britain, would be in a measure, sealed to British commerce.
14. I also have the honor of transmitting herewith a section embracing the Territory herein described, of "Vancouvers chart," of the north west coast of America, shewing the routetakenManuscript image taken by the vessels under his command, into the Gulf of Georgia, which will further illustrate the hints I have herein taken the liberty of submitting for your Grace's consideration.
I have the honour to be
My Lord Duke
Your Grace's most obedient Servant
James Douglas
Governor Vancouver's Island

His Grace the Right Honble The Duke of Newcastle
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
This is the further report promised by Govr Douglas in 3851. At the date of this despatch he had not received the Duke of Newcastle's Desp: N 12 of the 22 Octr. Send to the F.O. with reference to previous correspondence?
VJ 25 Jan
Manuscript image
Mr Peel
This is a very clear statement of the Governor's of our assumed right, it is however controverted by the Americans on the ground of the words "middle of the channel" which they interpret to be midway between Vancouver's Island & the continent, & which so understood would give them part of the Arro islands—their own map is however a valuable piece of evidence against them. Foreign Office?
HM Jan 26
From Mr Crampton's despatch of Jan. 13.1848 in the annexed
boundary papers, it would seem as if Mr Buchanan was at that time much disposed to acquiesce in the view here defended by the Governor, viz. that the "middle of the channel" meant, not midway between island & continent, but the middle of the chief navigable channel wherever that might be found to exist.
FP 1/2
N 2
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft, Colonial Office to H.U. Addington, Foreign Office, forwarding copy of the despatch.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
Arrowsmith map of southern Vancouver Island and surrounding mainland, "Traced from a Map drawn under the Order of the Senate of the United States at Washington, 1848," showing the border as passing through "Vancouver" [Rosario] Strait. [Map about 5"x6", p 104]
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 24 November 1853, CO 305:4, no. 738, 96. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871, Edition 2.2, ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria, B.C.: University of Victoria. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/V53210.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)