No. 28
17th May 1854
My Lord Duke
In my Despatch No 5 of the 27th February last, I informed your Grace that a claim had been vaguely made to the Islands in the Canal De Arro, by the Legislative Assembly of Oregon, when dividing that Territory into Districts, and that Mr Ebey, who now holds the office of Collector in Puget Sound pretended on the strength of that Act to consider the Arro Archipelago as part of his Revenue District, and had, according to report, expressed an intention to seize upon all the British Property on the Island of San Juan on behalf of the UnitedStatesManuscript image States; and I also informed your Grace, at the same time that I had taken measures to protect the property of Her Majesty's Subjects from aggression, and explained the nature of those precautionary steps, which have I trust, met with your Grace's approval.
The public excitement caused by the discussion of that question, on both sides of the line was increased by the arrival of Collector Ebey himself on the debateable ground, as announced to me on the morning of the 4th Inst, in a hasty note No 1 from Justice Griffen [Griffin]. A few hours afterwards I repaired to the Island of San Juan, with the Steam vessel "Otter" to watch proceedings, but on discovering that Collector Ebey, was only accompanied by four assistants, I thought it better to retire from the spot, after landing Mr James Sangster, Her Majesty's Collector for Vancouver's Island, with instructions to acquaint Collector Ebey, that the Revenue District of Vancouver's Island, which was placed under his superintendence included Smith's or Bonilla Island, in the Straits of De Fuca; the Islands of San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas; the west side of Cypress Island, andallManuscript image all the other Islands, in the Archipelago De Arro, west of a line drawn through the middle of the Gulf of Georgia & Vancouver's Strait.
The subsequent proceedings of Collector Ebey are detailed in the reports of Justice Griffin No 2, and Collector Sangster No 3, which are herewith transmitted for your Grace's information. On his departure from San Juan, Collector Ebey, left a Mr Webber on that Island whom he appointed Inspector for the United States. Your Grace will observe by those reports that an attempt made to arrest that person, without sufficient grounds, had nearly ended in bloodshed. Mr Webber left the Island on the following day, and again made his appearance there on the 11th Inst, when I sent a further letter of instructions to Mr Justice Griffin No 4, in reply to a note from him No 5, touching his conduct to Mr Webber, whom I directed him to consider as a mere private person, living under the protection of Her Majesty's Government and amenable to the Laws of the Country, which afford him protection. I hope your Grace may approve of that course, and send me suchinstructionsManuscript image instructions for my guidance, as you may consider necessary.
This movement on the part of Collector Ebey, is not openly supported by the Executive Authorities of Washington Territory, though there is reason to believe that he is secretly countenanced by them, as he certainly is by the whole American population.
Mr Webber, assured Collector Sangster, and Justice Griffin that Mr Stevens Governor of Washington Territory invited him to settle on the Island of San Juan, promising to support him with all the authority of Government.
In that case Webber would have received a free grant of 640 acres of land from the United States, a principle of liberality which I beg to suggest to your Grace, prodigiously strengthens American influence in this part of the world, and contrasts advantageously with the system of colonization followed on Vancouver's Island, which may suit the condition of other colonies but will, I fear, never succeed in the vicinity of American Settlements, where free grants of land are made to every settler.
I have the honor to be
Your Grace's most obedient humble Servant
James Douglas

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
From these documents you will learn that the intention of the Govt to propose to the U. States Govt that measures should be taken for defining the boundary between the British & American Territories has not been formed too soon or without ample reason. This desph shd I apprehend be communicated to the F.O.
ABd 26 July
Mr Peel
The last remark is also important. If it is really hoped that this island & this neighborhood should be settled, the "Wakefield" plan will hardly stand competition with the neighboring American free grants. The H B C. are only bound by their grant to sell at a "reasonable price"—the actual price of 1 an acre is only fixed by themselves, though in full accordance with the understood views, at the time, of government.
HM Jy 27
FP 28
GG 28
Manuscript image This despatch, I am informed at the F.O., has been referred to Mr Crampton, from whom no ansr has been recd at this date.
ABd 22 Augt
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Colonial Office to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 4 August 1854, forwarding copies of the despatch and enclosures.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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1. Charles Griffin to Douglas, 3 May 1854, reporting the arrival of Colonel J[I].N. Ebey, American Collector of Customs for Puget Sound, on San Juan Island.
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3. Griffin to Douglas, 7 May 1854, reporting fully on his discussions with Ebey and Weber, the abortive attempt to arrest Weber, and Weber's subsequent departure.
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2. James Sangster, Collector of Customs, to Douglas, 5 May 1854, reporting on Ebey's arrival, his appointment of Henry Webber as US Inspector of Customs for San Juan Island, and the abortive attempt to arrest Webber
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5. Douglas to Griffin, 12 May 1854, instructing him as to his conduct towards Weber.
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4. Griffin to Douglas, dated "Wednesday 8 p.m.," asking if he should arrest Weber at all hazzards.