No. 5
18th May 1855
Sir
I beg herewith to transmit for your information copy of a Report from Mr Charles Griffin, detailing the particulars of an outrage committed by an armed party of American citizens headed by a person styling himself Sheriff Barnes of Whatcomb county, who landed on the Island of San Juan, and in the name of the United States of America, demanded payment of certain local taxes on British property there, amounting in all to the sum of about 80 dollars.
The demand being refused theyproceededManuscript image proceeded to make seizures, and succeeded in carrying off with impunity, thirty four head of valuable breeding Rams, with which they hastily took their departure for the American shore, before the British residents could muster for the protection of their property.
I despatched a sufficient force to their assistance, but the Americans had left the Island with their booty, a few hours before the arrival of that detachment, which unfortunately did not pursue the party, or the property abstracted might have been recovered.
I have addressed a letter to Mr Stevens Governor of Washington Territory in reference to that subject, and transmit a copy of the same herewith.
The Federal Officers of Washington Territory having latterly stood entirely aloof, and taken no part in the boundary dispute, I was in hopes of remaining in quiet possession of the Arro Islands, until the question of sovereignty was decided by the action of the Imperial Government, but it appearsthatManuscript image that the mob of Washington Territory have taken the matter in hand, and are disposed to settle it in their own way.
I am very unwilling at the present conjuncture of affairs in Europe, to take any steps that may give trouble or disturb our peaceful relations with the Government of the United States; but I fear that consequence will be inevetable, unless measures are taken, on both sides, to prevent unlawful acts, and to enforce the peace of the country.
Outrages on the one side, will, as a matter of course, lead to sharp reprisals on the other, and the result may be very serious to both parties.
I have applied to Rear Admiral Bruce, for assistance, which he may probably be able to afford, without materially interfering with his contemplated operations, for the present summer.
Trusting that those proceedings may meet with your approbation.
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most obedient humble Servant
James Douglas
Governor

The Right Honble Sir George Grey Bart.
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Merivale
It is unfortunate that Congress should have refused to authorize the measures that had been proposed for defining the British and U. States Boundary in this quarter of the globe. We can only furnish the F.O. with copy of this report with reference to previous correspondence.
ABd 23 July
[Following minute by Merivale crossed out, probably after Blackwood's response below:]
Mr Blackwood
The former papers are not complete. It is impossible to tell what documents were sent to the For. Office with our letter of 22 July 1853, as the draft of that letter is not annexed. See 8610 of 1853.
HM Jy 24
Mr Merivale
I suspect you overlooked the Letter &c you ask for: as it was with the papers which were sent to you. I have now put it more prominently before you.
Manuscript image
Mr Ball
This despatch is for the Foreign Office, but it suggests one or two important considerations.
The question of boundary between the English & Amn governments is well argued, on the English side, by Govr Douglas in his desp. of 24 Nov. 1853 annexed (No 7387 of /54) and you will see a notice of the American view in my minute thereon. The point has been long disputed, & Mr Lawrence pointed out to me the American argument when he was minister here.
Now in that desp. of 24 Nov. Gov. Douglas says he has defeated American attempts, &c so that these islands shall remain a de facto dependency of Vanc. Id unoccupied by any settlement of whites, except a fishing station, which was establishedManuscript image some years ago by the HBC on the island of S.Juan.
Now, the Mr Griffin on whom the outrage is here alleged to have taken place, in this island of S. Juan, & who has sheep, &c agricultural property, says When I first established myself here 15 Nov 1853 (coincident with the date of the despatch) as a British subject, I was given explicitly to understand by your Excellency that this was British territory, and that I should be protected by my country from foreign aggression.
It would seem therefore that the H.B.C. had some sort of establishment on this debateable ground, and that the Govr himself a servant of the Company, had, without any sanction from hence,Manuscript image promised to defend that establishment.
I think the Govr should be called upon to explain the inconsistency between this statement & that in his despatch of 24 Nov. and that the Foreign Office, to whom these papers must be immediately transmitted, should be informed that he has been so called upon.
HM Jy 26
Sir W. Molesworth
Though this may be done it is surely most desirable to come to a settlement of the remaining point of dispute if that be possible. Perhaps some such opinion shd be communicated to the For. Off. with the opinion that if such a settlement could be concluded on the terms of Securing undisputed possession of the Islands on which there are British settlers the claim to other unoccupied islands in the ArchipelagoManuscript image might be surrendered. I am not sure whether the Hudson's Bay Compy can give the requisite information on this point.
JB 28 July
Call upon Govr to explain the discrepancy between Mr Griffins statement and the despatch of the 24 Nov. Communicate papers to Foreign Office, and inform that Govr has been called upon to explain.
WM 3 A
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft reply, Molesworth to Douglas, No. 2, 13 August 1855.
Manuscript image
Draft, Colonial Office to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 15 August 1855, forwarding copies of Douglas's despatches Nos. 5 and 7, and the proposed reply. .
Minutes by CO staff
It is December. I misread the handwriting. [Reference is to the month in which Griffin established himself on San Juan Island.]
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
Charles John Griffin, Magistrate and Justice of the Peace for the District of San Juan, to Douglas, 2 April 1855, reporting the "outrage" committed against his property, as per despatch.
Manuscript image
Douglas to Isaac I. Stevens, 26 April 1855, seeking assurance that the outrage was not officially authorized, and expressing the hope that steps would be taken to prevent futher occurrences of the kind.
Douglas, James to Grey, George 18 May 1855, CO 305:6, no. 6877, 55. 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/V55105.html.

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