Murdoch and Wood to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Colonial Land and Emigration Office
4th July 1853
We have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 15th instant
enclosing a correspondence with Mr Richard Taylor relative to a Mining Lease of a portion of Queen Charlotte's Island, and directing us to preparetheManuscript image the Draft of a Lease for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. You at the same time direct us to consider whether in granting any such Lease to a new Association the rights or privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company will in any respect be interfered with.
2. We have to report for the Duke of Newcastle's information that before proceeding with the Lease we have placed ourselves in communication with the Hudson's Bay Company to ascertain, in obedience to His Grace's instructions, how far the proposed grant would interferewithManuscript image with their rights or privileges. We also communicated to the Governor of the Company the letters noted in the margin
Taylor to Duke of Newcastle, 7th April 1853.
H. De la Becke's Report, 28th April 1853.
June 27th 1853, from Govr of Hudson's Bay Co.
and have now to submit his answer for His Grace's consideration and instructions.
3. It will be seen that Mr Colville [Colvile] objects to the proposed Lease on several grounds. He states 1st that the Company, and not Messrs Gray & Easterby, were the Discoverers of the supposed vein and that the names "Mitchell's Harbour" and "Una Point," referred to as its site, are in fact the names of the Company's Vessel and her Commander, sent at their expense in 1851 to exploretheManuscript image the Island—6 months before the voyage of Messrs Gray &c. 2dy that the inhabitants of these Islands are savage and dangerous—that the Company's exploring party in 1851 was driven off by them; the Natives rushing in to scramble for the Gold after every blast—and that a force of at least 80 men would be required as a protecting party before any works could be carried on. 3dly that it would be impossible to carry on Gold Digging without also trading with the Natives, that the proposed Lessees, if they failed in getting Gold, would tradeManuscript image trade in furs, and thus the Company's exclusive License of Trade would be infringed.
Mr Gray's Company might be restricted from tradingManuscript image by the terms of the Lease.
4thly that the connection of the promoters of the scheme with America, (Messrs Easterby, Gray and Rooney being, if not Americans at any rate settled at Sn Francisco) might possibly lead to a very inconvenient collision of interests between the subjects of the two Countries. And lastly Mr Colvile states that it is the intention of the Company to establish a trading Port on Queen Charlotte's Island as soon as they can do so with a sufficient force and thoroughlytoManuscript image to explore the Island with a view to ascertain whether the Minerals can be profitably worked, in which case they will submit the result to Her Majesty's Government with a proposal to work the Mines.
4. Under these circumstances we have thought it right at once to submit for His Grace's decision the question whether the proposed Lease should be proceeded with. We do not understand that the Land which it is proposed to include in the Lease is claimed by the Hudson's Bay CompanytoManuscript image to be held under their Royal Charter, nor do we find in the Statute 1 & 2 Geo: 4. c: 66, regulating the Trade with North American Indians, any provision which could preclude Her Majesty from granting to another Association either the privilege of trading with the Indians of Queen Charlotte's Island, or of working any minerals which may be discovered there, altho' without a special License any such Trading would we think be illegal. It would follow that so far as the rights and privileges of the Hudson's BayCoManuscript image Company are concerned there is no legal obstacle to the grant of the proposed Lease.
5. But if it is not travelling beyond our province we would venture to submit whether, looking to the character of the Natives who inhabit Queen Charlotte's Island, as proved by their seizure of the present applicants Vessel, as well as by their conduct to the Hudson's Bay Company's people, it would be expedient to grant a Lease in that Island to any but persons whose position and responsibility would afford a guarantee as to their proceedings.ItManuscript image It is, we think, impossible to read the reports of the Hudson's Bay Co's Officers, written it must be observed without reference to the question now under consideration, without feeling that it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to carry on the search for Gold in Queen Charlotte's Island without a collision with the Natives. And it is obvious that under such circumstances unless the matter is managed with firmness and discretion the consequences may be very lamentable. But independently of these considerationsifManuscript image if the Hudson's Bay Company really were as they allege, the first discoverers of these Mines and not the Gentlemen represented by Mr Taylor, as His Grace was led to suppose. The Duke of Newcastle may be of opinion that the Company are entitled to an opportunity of obtaining the advantage of their discovery, and if they are prepared to work the Minerals their position and connexion would certainly appear to afford better prospects of success than could be expected of a new Association. If we might be permitted toexpressManuscript image express an opinion on the subject we would submit, that with the present limited, but unfavorable, information respecting the Natives of Queen's Charlotte's Island, it would be hazardous to grant a Mining Lease there to private adventurers—that it would be more advantageous if the Hudson's Bay Company would undertake the working of the Mines—that whether they do so or not enquiries should at once be set on foot to ascertain as far as possible the correctness of the reports respecting the Natives,
their numbers and habits,andManuscript image and that if this further information should show that they may be reasonably managed, and the Hudson's Bay Company should not work the Mines,
Within a reasonable time.
or should do so in an inefficient manner, the applications of private Companies for Leases should be entertained.
6. With respect to the source from which further information may be obtained respecting the Natives it appears to us probable that application might be successfully made to some of the Religious Societies whose Missionaries have devotedthemselvesManuscript image themselves especially to the education of the North American Indians.
We have the honor to be, Sir,
Your Obedient Humble Servants,
T.W.C. Murdoch
C. Alexander Wood
Herman Merivale Esq.
&c &c &c
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
These reports of the natives of Queen Charlotte Island confirm the general accounts we have already received as to their being a savage race of people and would justify the Govt in opposing, on the score of humanity, settlements being formed upon it or the search for gold unless conducted by an imposing force, able to control & awe the natives. But the existence of gold in that quarter being an ascertained fact it will be a difficult matter for the Govt to prevent enterprizing people from resorting for it, and if the Lease be denied Messrs Gray & Esterby [Easterby] we shall shortly have applications from other persons for the same thing, and perhaps "squatting" in the Country to a large extent—which we have no means of preventing. It will be therefore necessary for the Govt to decide at once whether to encourage the Hudson's Bay Company in their contemplated explorations, & the establishment of a fur trading post in this particular locality—with a view to discovering whether the mines can be advantageously work'd, or to give the preference to the Association proposed to be established by Messrs Gray & Esterby. If the Hudson's Bay Co prevail I would suggest that some limit in point of time be required for their decision, for they are soManuscript image dilatory in their movements that if permission is accorded them to explore &c they will use it as a means of exclusion of other parties from the ground, & do nothing themselves. I believe that one of the projectors of this scheme, if not both of them has returned to California, but as the Messrs Taylor are in London, it occurs to me that it would be a fair & proper mode of proceeding with the competing applicants (for I suppose the H.B. Company must now be regarded in that light), if the Messrs Taylor were apprized of the serious difficulties they would encounter from the hostility of the natives, and that they should be asked whether, with the knowledge of thatManuscript image fact they are prepared to despatch such a force as shall effectually repress the attacks of the natives, & prevent the loss of life on both sides which, as of old, it seems only too likely that this search for gold will occasion. If Messrs Taylor, & his Companions have not the means or disposition to undertake the enterprize on a scale that is suitable in all respects, & decline, on this infn about the Natives to go on with it, which I think is not improbable, the Govt will necessarily fall back, at all events for the presentManuscript image present, on the Hudson's Bay Co.
Do you think we are at liberty to include the information now sent by the H.B.Co as to the searching for gold in Q. Charlotte Island in the Parliamentary Paper on the point of being delivered? It is not too late to include it if it is thought that we may do so.
ABd 7 July/53
Manuscript image
Mr Blackwood
Papers are clearly not all here. Where is Mr Taylor's answer to ours of 28th May? And the letter to Land B&Sr'd enclosing the papers?
Mr Peel
These papers are now in a state for consideration & decision, & involve some important questions.
1. I think it is quite plain that Mr Taylor'sManuscript image associates have no ground to ask for this lease on the score of merit as discoverers. The vein of auriferous quartz discovered by the H.B.Co's vessel on the 6th Augt 1851, was in all reasonable probability the same with that alleged to have been discovered by Mr Rooney on 23 April 1852 (it is rather remarkable by the way that in none of the letters so far as I have observed is the name of the vessel stated; which might identify the voyage.)
2. I think this establishment would be virtually an American one, & that no sufficient reason exists for giving an American party exclusive rights in Q Charlotte's island, however ready we may be to assist them in concurrence with others.
3. The Governor has also taken the matter into his own hand by granting licenses. These of course would be overridden by any subsequent lease from the Crown, but the parties holding them (if there be any such) would hardly submit to exclusion contentedly.
For The[se] reasons (besides the hostility & power which are alleged as to the savages)Manuscript image I doubt whether any encouragement should be given to Mr Taylor's proposal.
Mr Colvile's letter of 27 June however requires a little notice.
I think the Hudson's Bay Co. go a little far in pressing their alleged claims over Q. Charlotte's island.
These claims amount at most only to this—the exclusive rights of trafficking with the Indians for 6 years longer (until 1859 when their present license expires).
And I think it is very doubtful—though the words of the license are too loose to enable me to speak with certainty—whether the Crown could not at once put an end to that license by declaring Q. Ch. Island a "province" or colony.
And there can be no doubt the license was really sought, & obtained, with a view to the fur trade of the interior, & not to check maritime enterprise & commerce on the N.W. coast.
For the Company therefore to opposeManuscript image digging for gold on the island, because the diggers would probably trade also with the Indians & interfere with their license, appears to me a very impolitic endeavor to extend their monopoly.
If my view is adopted, it may be enough at present to inform Mr Taylor that on full consideration HM's Govt do not intend to grant the lease, being not satisfied either of the expediency of granting a lease of mining land in Q. Charlottes' Island in the present uncertainty which exists as to the character & habits of the savage population, & while the opposite system of granting licenses, according to the Australian practice, has been resorted to by the Governor: or of any claim founded on discovery, it appearing probable that the discovery had been previously made by others. And send copy of the letter to the L. & Em. Board?
HM Jy 14
I quite concur with Mr Merivale.
FP 14
I agree, being confirmed in my original doubt of the expediency of any lease at present.
N 15
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Mr Merivale
Will you excuse me for drawing your attention to the enquiry contained in my minute on 6879 of the 7 July, which appears to have escaped notice.
The Papers respecting the discovery of gold in Queen Charlotte Island which have been moved for in the Ho. of Commons have been deliveredManuscript image I believe, but some further papers are going to be presented, amongst which the H.B.Cy's memorandum may appear.
The recent letter to Mr Taylor should also, I think, be given, as it will let people know that the Government refuses to grant leases of land for gold hunting in Q.C. Island.
ABd 20 July
I think these papers would be very usefully added to the Australian gold papers.
HM Jy 20
I am not quite sure that they have been yet Delivered: and if not, Mr Blackwood might direct the additionalManuscript image Papers to which he refers to be included in the Collection. If otherwise, these can be added to the next Australian Gold Papers.
FP 20
I think there is an awkwardness in adding them to the Australian Gold Papers, but if the Q.C.I. papers have not been delivered
(In course of Delivery—the Papers have therefore, in accordance with the practice generally followed, been included in a set of "further Papers" in Return to Original address).
(tho' they have been presented) Mr Blackwood can procure the addition of the present papers.
N 21
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
1. A. Colvile, Governor, Hudson's Bay Company, to S. Walcott, Secretary to the Colonial Land & Emigration Commissioners, 27 June 1853, enclosing the Memorandum below, and submitting reasons why a lease of land in the Queen Charlotte Islands should not be granted to the parties in question.
Manuscript image
1.1 "Memorandum of proceedings of the Hudson's Bay Company with respect to the searching for Gold in Queen Charlotte's Island," no date, including, amid the summary, copies of correspondence between Douglas and John Work, W.H. McNeill, and John Kennedy.