Swanston to Grey


To the Right Honorable Sir George Grey Her Majesty's Secy for the Colonies

The Humble Memorial of Robert Swanston most respectfully sheweth.
That your memorialist is a British Subject, and resident Colonist of this Island, employed in Commerical pursuits.
That on the 23d July Ulto the American Schooner "William Allen," chartered, & consigned to your Memorialist by his agents in San Francisco, arrived at this Port of Victoria.
That on the 24th of the same month, being the next day ensuing, your Memorialist, having made the necessary entries at the Custom House, did apply for a clearance for the said Schooner hence to ports on the west coast of this Island.
That the Collector of Customs denied Compliance with the application under the plea of the Schooner being a foreign bottom.
That your Memorialist, in answer to this objection, shewed, by reference to the Custom House books, that the Honble Hudsons Bay Co had been in the habit of employing foreign vessels on the Coast without let orManuscript image hindrance on the part of the Custom House officials.
That the said foreign vessels so employed by the Hudsons Bay Co had been regularly permitted to go Coasting.
That other vessels owned and employed by, and representing in toto the interests of, nonresidents and foreigners had in no instance been refused permission to take in cargoes at other ports on the Coast.
That foreign vessels, having been chartered in San Francisco for the use and benefit of the Hudson Bay Co had been allowed to proceed to Beaver Harbor, on the North East Coast of this Island, which is no port of Entry, to take in a Cargoe and return direct to their port of departure without making any appearance at the Custom House of this Colony, either on arriving at, or departing from the said Colony.
That the Collector of Customs still persisted in his refusal, and also informed your memorialist that the vessel would be liable to seizure should she proceed to any ports on the Coast.
Your memorialist then addressed a letter to this Officer on the subject. Copies of this Communication andManuscript image of Mr Sangsters reply are annexed.
That in the reply an entirely new ground of refusal is urged, viz. "because there are no settlements on the coast". In this averment your memorialist most distinctly asserts that the Collector of Customs is wrong. There are settlements on the Coast! Your memorialist has had for nearly six months white men settled on the west coast collecting native produce for exportation, which fact is notorious to the whole Colony. Your memorialist being thus, as he most humbly conceives, grievously and illegally hampered, and embarrassed, in the peaceful prosecution of his business by the officer at the Head of the Customs department of this Island, by and with the consent, advice, and knowledge of the Head of the Executive, and fearing a reiteration of similar, or equally pernicious (to him), proceedings Most humbly lays his case before your Right Honorable Self, and while averring to the truth of the foregoing statement your memorialist most respectfully asserts
That he is entitled to the same rights and privileges of trade in this Colony, as those enjoyed by the Hudsons Bay Co.
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That any foreign vessel he may employ is, by the laws and usage of commerce, entitled to proceed after discharging cargoe at one port of this Colony, to other port or ports on the same coast to load for abroad.
That as he is, in the prosecution of his business, necessitated to employ ships and land goods on the west coast of this Colony his rights to proceed thither without interference after entering at the Custom House of Victoria is under the fact of no customs Establishment existing at any of the ports on the said Coast being no fault of his, & for which he in justice should not suffer.
And further that the Honorable Lessees of this Island in their prospectus issued to the world (where, in publishing the Conditions of the Lease) affirm, in the latter part of the sixth clause that . . . all the ports and harbors shall be open and free to residents, and to all nations either trading or seeking shelter therein. Your Memorialist having full confidence in the justness of his complaint, and in theManuscript image earnest desire of Her Majesty's Government to foster the rising Commerce of a young Colony, and to check any overstretch of authority on the part of the Local Executive, lays his case before you with a confident assurance of ample protection.
And in conclusion your Memorialist most humbly prays, that, as there is no law officer in the Colony to advise with in these matters, such definite instructions may be addressed to the Head of the Customs department of this Colony, as shall enable him to act at all times, in all matters Connected with the Commerce of this Island, in accordance with the laws of Great Britain.
And your memorialist
As in duty bound
Will ever pray
Robt S. Swanston
l 15 Septr 1854
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Swanston to Collector of Customs, Port Victoria, 24 July 1854, demanding the clearance denied earlier in the day.
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James Sangster, Collector of Customs, to Swanston, 24 July 1854, refusing to give clearance on the grounds that there were no settlements at the destination ports.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
We have no information on this subject beyond what these papers, which have not been submitted to the Governor for report, contain. I presume that we must return the lithographed ansr. I cannot but think that Governors do not sufficiently promulgate our rules of correspondence with this Office, & that it would be well if they were all told, in a circular, to occasionally remind the public by a Govt notice of the existence of the rule, & the necessity for observing it.
ABd 9 Novr
Acke to the Governor. I suspect such ignorance as Mr Blackwood suggests is not very common.
HM N 9
Put by for the present. It is endorsed as a duplicate, the original having been sent to Gov Douglas on the day which this is dated. The Notice of it must not be lost sight of. In a place like Vancouvers Island it does not seem wise to throw Impediments in the way of trade which the Authorities there would seem to have done in Mr Swanston's case.
FP 11
If the original does not soon arrive this shd be forwarded to the Govr.
GG 17
Mr Merivale
No Report having up to this date been recd the Govrs attention should now I presume be called to the subject of this Meml.
VJ 14 Decr
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Grey to Douglas, No. 6, 18 December 1854, transmitting a copy of Swanston's memorial of complaint against Sangster.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Richard Golledge, Private Secretary to Douglas, to Swanston, 27 March 1854, returning a memorial which Douglas declined to forward.
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Statement of Edward E. Langford, J.P., 18 April 1854, certifying that the letter from Golledge (above) was "a true & correct copy" of the original.
Swanston, Robert S. to Grey, George 15 September 1854, CO 305:5, no. 9803, 310. 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/V546S02.html.

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