No. 5
27th February 1854
My Lord Duke,
1. Your Grace's Despatch No 10 of the 15th October last,
With Govr No 6 4064 sent on this day, 11 May.
was received here on the 24th Inst, and I shall carefully regulate the acts of this Government, in its relations referred to, according to the principles laid down in Your Grace's instructions.
2. In my Despatch No 10 of the 24th November last, I reverted to the subject of the Sovereignty of the Islands in the Canal De Arro, and stated the grounds which had induced me to assume that theIslandsManuscript image Islands of San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas, the only territory in debate, did of right belong to Her Majesty the Queen, and come within the Jurisdiction of this Government. Further reflection on the subject has served to confirm the opinions I then entertained of the correctness of that interpretation of the Treaty, which considers "Vancouver's Strait," as the true channel, through which the boundary line, was intended to be carried; that being the only navigable ship channel, which runs "southerly" as the Treaty declares, from the point in the "Gulf of Georgia," where the west line ceases, into the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
3. I would further take the liberty of remarking that the Canal De Arro, is not properly a part of the "Gulf of Georgia," nor of the Channel leading from it, into the Straits of Juan De Fuca. It is considered here to be a separate, and distinct channel, running paral[l]el to the "Gulf of Georgia" from which it is divided by the numerous Islands of the Archipelago De Arro. There are severalpassagesManuscript image passages among those Islands, leading from the Gulf of Georgia, into the Canal De Arro, and the Officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, have ascertained that one of those passages, connecting the two channels is navigable for ships. That passage will be found traced in red in the copy from Vancouver's Chart herewith transmitted, and it will also be observed from the same Chart, that it runs nearly due east and west, and therefore, as well as from the fact of its leading out of the Gulf of Georgia, into another Channel, namely the Canal De Arro, does not appear to be the boundary channel, meant by the convention; which by the term "said channel", I conceive requires that the line should follow the Gulf of Georgia, and no other channel; as it declares that from the "middle of the Channel," which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island, the line shall be drawn thence, "southerly", through the middle of the said channel", and of the Fuca Straits to the Pacific ocean.
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4. The same chart will prove that the channel intended by the negotiators of the Treaty, can be no other than the Inland sea, which Vancouver named the "Gulf of Georgia," for admitting inaccuracies in the present charts, and admitting that the Coast line of Vancouver's Island is several miles west of the position, it is therein represented, still the middle point between the Island, and the Continent, will be found somewhere in the "Gulf of Georgia."
That fact being admitted, and the Gulf of Georgia, being the channel meant, the rest appears plain, for the Treaty declares, that the boundary line is to be traced, "southerly", through the middle of the said channel; that is, (Gulf of Georgia), and of Fuca Straits, to the Pacific Ocean.
5. The Gulf of Georgia certainly extends as far south as McLaughlins [McLoughlins] Island, from which point the boundary line will naturally take the direction of "Vancouver Strait," and from thence as stated in the Treaty, to the Ocean.
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6. This argument appears conclusive, as to the true meaning and intent of the Treaty, which cannot be interpreted in any other sense, without a manifest violation of the letter and spirit of that instrument, which I believe was intended to allow to each of the contracting parties free ingress and egress to and from the Gulf of Georgia, by the usual and frequented ship channel, "Vancouver Strait."
7. I will conclude my remarks on that subject, which I trust your Grace may not regard as over minute, by referring you to a corrected Chart of that part of the Coast prepared by Mr Pemberton the Colonial Surveyor, by which you will observe that the land which bounds the Gulf of Georgia to the westward, and which at the Date of the Treaty, was supposed to form part of Vancouver's Island, is shewn to be a Groupe of Islands, separated from it by a passage which may be regarded, as a continuation of the Canal De Arro.
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8. The discovery of that passage unknown to the negotiators of the Oregon Treaty, and who consequently must have regarded that Groupe of Islands, as the East coast of Vancouver's Island, and fixed the termination of the west line of boundary in the Gulf of Georgia, mid-way between the Islands and the Continent, will not materially affect the question at issue, as the middle point between the Continent, and the true coast of Vancouver's Island, will still be in the "Gulf of Georgia," and it follows as a consequence, that the Gulf of Georgia, is the channel intended by the Treaty, and from that point, it is no less clear from the words of the Treaty, that the line must follow the said Channel, ("Gulf of Georgia"), southerly as far as it extends, that is to McLoughlin's Island, where the "Gulf of Georgia" terminates in Vancouver Strait.
9. Your Grace expresses a wish to be informed how the assertion of the Sovereignty of Great Britain, over the IslandsinManuscript image in the Arro Archipelago, has been met by the Americans, and also what steps they have taken to support the claims they have set up on the part of the United States.
I have to inform your Grace in reply to that enquiry; that the Executive authorities in Oregon have not by any overt act contested the sovereignty of Great Britain, over those Islands, neither do I suppose they will attempt any open act of aggression. The Collector of Customs, whose department is entirely independent of the Local Executive of Oregon, is the party who will be employed to act on behalf of the United States.
A claim was vaguely made by the Oregon Assembly, when dividing that Territory into Districts, to the Islands in the Canal De Arro. The person who now holds the office of Collector in Washington Territory, pretends on the strength of that act that the Arro Archipelago, comes within the limits of his Revenue District, and I am informed, has been threatening to make a seizure of the BritishPropertyManuscript image Property, on the Island of San Juan, I have not however received any official notification from him to that effect; but I believe from the character of my informants, that he has expressed such an intention.
I have therefore taken such measures as appeared proper to protect the property of Her Majesty's subjects from aggression.
Having no military force at my disposal, which moreover I should hesitate to use on such an occasion, I propose to effect that object, by the operation of the civil law, and have therefore appointed Mr Charles Griffen [Griffin], of the Hudson's Bay Company's service, a Justice of the Peace, for the District of San Juan, and charged him, to apprehend and commit for trial, any person who may disturb the Queen's Peace, within his Jurisdiction.
Should the United States Collector appear there for any unlawful purpose, he will be treated as a common offender, unless he brings a large force, in which case Mr Griffen will apply for needful support toinforceManuscript image inforce the Law.
Your Grace will perceive that very serious consequences, may result from such contests, which I should deeply regret, and will do every thing in my power, consistently with the maintenance of national rights, to avoid.
10. Your Grace further wishes to know for what length of time the Americans have been fishing on the coasts of Vancouver's Island, and in what situations, and whether the Commanders of the vessels of war, on the coast have succeeded in arresting their encroachments.
11. The first intelligence concerning the visits of American vessels to Vancouver's Island, was received through the Natives, of "Barclay's sound," who mentioned that an American vessel had been trading with them, and fishing on that part of the coast.
This occurred in the summer of 1851, before my appointment, as Governor.
The following year 1852, we had intelligence through thesameManuscript image same means, of encroachments, on a more extensive scale, which I reported in my letter of the 9th December 1852. One of the vessels engaged in that traffic was wrecked on the north west coast of Vancouver's Island, in the course of the same year, and the natives took possession of the wreck and cargo, consisting, as reported of fire arms, manufactured Goods and Spirits. The crew escaped in the ships boats, and were not molested by the natives.
12. American vessels are still engaging in the same pursuits, as I did not feel at liberty to take any active measures of prevention, without instructions; lest I should in any manner compromit Her Majesty's Government.
Having now received your Grace's instructions on the subject, I will call upon the commanders of Her Majesty's vessels of war, when stationed here, to check those encroachments.
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13. I shall also give effect to your Grace's instructions on the subject of the Hudson's Bay Company's rights of trade, which I believe extend to every part of the British coast except Vancouvers Island, where they exercise no exclusive right of trade, and I shall issue a proclamation to that effect, and to apprize foreigners that they are precluded from fishing within three miles of the shore.
I have the honor to be
Your Grace's most obedient humble 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
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Mr Merivale
Acke receipt.
Transmit copy to F.O. with reference to our Letter of 20 Feby/54.
ABd 11 May
HM May 11
FP 13
N 13
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
"Vancouver's chart," referred to in the body of the despatch, was originally transmitted with it, but is not in the Colonial Office file.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 20 May 1854, forwarding copy of Douglas's despatch and enclosures.