No. 29
13th December 1855
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Despatch No 2, of the 13th of August last, in which after noticing certain passages of my Despatch of the 24th of November 1853, on the subject of the occupation of the Arro Islands, to which the Authorities of Washington Territory had then recently set up pretensions of Sovereignty, ontheManuscript image the part of the United States of America, you desire me to furnish a more detailed report of the circumstances, and date of the British occupation of the Island of San Juan, and I shall now proceed to obey your instructions.
In my several reports to Her Majesty's Government of the Numbers and Dates noted in the Margin,
No. —, 09 December 1852
No. 10, 24 November 1853
No. 05, 27 February 1854
No. 28, 17 May 1854
No. 48, 30 January 1855
I stated my intention of asserting the Sovereignty of those Islands; the grounds which induced me to take that course; the reasons for believing that the Arro Islands were not within the Territory ceded to the United States, by the Treaty of 1846, and also the measures taken from time to time, to defeat the plans of the officers of that Government, for depriving us of that possession. I perceive, however, that I have omitted to give information on certain points, in reference to theSettlementManuscript image Settlement formed there under the superintendence of Mr Charles Griffin, in the month of November 1853, an omission which I regret, and will now supply.
When apprizing Her Majesty's Government in my despatch of the 24th of November 1853 that I had succeeded in defeating every attempt made to pre-occupy the Arro Islands by means of American Squatters, and that those Islands still remained a de-facto dependency of Vancouver's Island, unoccupied by any settlement of Whites except a fishing station established some years previously by the Hudson's Bay Company, on the Island of San Juan, my intention was simply to give an idea of the actual condition, in respect to the settlements of whites, of those Islands. I did not mean to convey the impression toHerManuscript image Her Majesty's Government, that no further steps would be taken to assert Her Majestys rights to the Territory in question by a more extended occupation.
I confess that, on the contrary, it was my firm resolution to assert the rights of the British Crown, by every means within my power, to a Territory which from the first establishment of this Colony, had been treated, as a dependency, coming within the jurisdiction of the Government of Vancouvers Island, and of which we had held unquestioned possession, until an adverse claim, unsupported so far as I can discover, by any regular authority, was set up to it, by some American citizens towards the close of the year 1852, as announced to Her Majesty's Government in my Despatch of the 9thDecemberManuscript image December of that year.
It was in that case clearly my duty as a Servant of the Crown, to maintain in their integrity the established metes and boundaries of the Colony.
I accordingly proceeded to warn the parties, who had commenced building huts on Lopez Island, that they were committing a trespass, the site of their settlement being on British Territory. I moreover informed them that the spot which they proposed to occupy would be reserved for the use of Her Majesty's Government, and that if they persisted in the attempt they would in all probability lose their labor and improvements. I also objected to their removing a quantity of Timber, which they had cut for exportation. Whereupon artfully changing theirtacticsManuscript image tactics the leader of the party declared that he was a British born Subject, and intended to settle and purchase land in the Colony. To that course there could be no objection, and I thereupon at his application, issued a Licence in the Queen's name, permitting him to cut Timber on Lopez Island, and he gave security for payment of the regular duty levied on Timber cut from the public lands.
That proceeding, asserting British Rights, put an end to their plan of settlement, and the whole party soon after, abandoned the place.
Other attempts were in like manner made to establish a claim on the Arro Islands, and as there was every probability of their being frequently repeated, by our unscrupulous neighbours, it appeared to me that the best plan of defeating such attempts would be the commencement of British Settlements on those Islands.TheManuscript image The Governor and Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company having been consulted on the subject of a more extended occupation of the Arro Islands, as a defensive measure against American encroachments, gave me authority solely with that view, to employ their Agents and Servants in forming a British Settlement on the Island of "San Juan." That project was carried into effect in the month of November 1853, at their sole expense, and Mr Charles Griffin one of their servants, was entrusted with its management.
As a means of further strengthening our possession, by encouraging the settlement of British subjects on the Arro Islands, I also received the instructions of the Governor and Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company, to make free grants oflandManuscript image land, to the extent in all of 500 acres, to any British Subjects, who would occupy and improve the land.
This last measure entirely failed of success; no persons having up to this time, accepted the terms of settlement, proposed, altogether, I think for want of the requisite means and capital. The other measure has on the contrary been attended with complete success; the settlement formed on the Island of San Juan, by the Hudsons Bay Company under Mr Griffin's management being in a most flourishing state. Upwards of 2300 head of horses, cattle and Sheep, are now ranging over that Island; a large extent of land is under cultivation, and roads have been cut through the forest, nearly from end to end of the Island.
Thus, has been accomplishedatManuscript image at a great expense, an enterprise of which no private persons would willingly incur the risk. I trust however, that the patriotic exertions of the Hudson's Bay Company are appreciated, and will in due time be rewarded.
I did assure Mr Griffin when he was sent to settle the Island of San Juan; that he would be protected, and I have done every thing that lay in my power to redeem that promise.
The style of Mr Griffin's report, on the outrage committed by certain American citizens, transmitted with my letter of the 18th of May last, may have led Her Majesty's Government into the conclusion, that the San Juan Settlement is a private possession of his own; but such is not the fact, as the farmsteads, implements, live stock, and all other effects there, are the exclusive property of the Hudson's Bay Company, and are placed under MrGriffin'sManuscript image Griffin's management.
I beg further to observe in respect to the date of the British occupation of the Island of San Juan, that it was in the first place taken possession of, by the Agents of the Hudsons Bay Company in the month of July 1845, and a notice to that effect, engraven on a wooden tablet, was erected on an eminence near the South east point of the Island, a record which is still in existence, but there was no real occupation of the Island, until the year 1850 when a fishing Station was established by the Hudson's Bay Company, and lastly their pastoral and agricultural establishment was commenced by Mr Griffin in November 1853.
Thus the Island of San Juan was taken possession of in the year 1845, and has been occupied by the Agents and Servants of the Hudson's Bay Company since the year 1850.
Trusting Manuscript image
Trusting that I have herein given the information you desired me to communicate I will conclude for the present my remarks on the subject.
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most obedient humble Servant
James Douglas

The Right Honble Sir William Molesworth Bart.
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
I assume that this will be referred to the F.O. with reference to the C.O. Letter of the 15 Augt last.
ABd 14 F
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Ball to Chairman, Hudson's Bay Company, 22 February 1856, forwarding correspondence on San Juan Island, with observations on some discrepancies and asking that the company provide any correspondence they may have on the subject.
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Draft, Merivale to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 22 February 1856, forwarding copy of the despatch.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Ball
A little cross examination in this case has brought out facts of importance & to me quite unexpected. If you will look at the minutes on 6877, and the despatch thereupon addressed to Mr Douglas, you will see that Government had not been in the least apprized of any settlement being made on the disputed island of San Juan: but that the Governor's language would have led them to infer the contrary; and that the first notice we had of Mr Griffin's establishment there was an account of its having been attacked under a claim of right by the Americans.
Now it appears from the present despatch that this was not after all a settlement of Mr Griffin himself, that his so-called establishment belonged to the Hudson's Bay Company,Manuscript image that the Company had themselves, without giving information to government, corresponded with Mr Douglas, & directed him or authorised him to found a settlement on this island, known to be disputed by the Americans.
I look upon this as rather a serious matter, & am disposed to think that in forwarding this despatch to Ld Clarendon, we should inform his Lordship that the H.B.C. have been called upon for an explanation of their proceedings in the affair: and that we should write to the HBC for such explanation, adding a request to be furnished with all correspondence between them and Mr Douglas on the subject?
HM F 15
Mr Labouchere
I concur with Mr Merivale—and I may at the same time point out that although there is nothing to prove misconduct on the part of Governor Douglas in any of his recentManuscript image transactions they go to suggest a serious doubt as to the policy of maintaining the present relations between the H. Bay Company & the Govt in regard to this Island.
The double relation in which Govr Douglas stands to the Govt & the Company suggests if it does not impose upon him conduct of an inconsistent nature.
It is the interest of the Company to secure islands which may turn out to be valuable, if they are so the Cy reaps the profit, if not they expect to recover their outlay from the Home Govt in 1859, but the Imperial policy is to avoid unnecessary complications in a question involving a difference with the United States.
Again in regard to the Indian War the hostility of the natives is altogether directed against the Americans. Our policy is to keep aloof from the quarrel merely affording shelter & protection to life for American citizens.
But the Hudson's By Compy have establishments in the district whereManuscript image the conflict is raging. An officer of the Company is tempted to go farther in assisting the Americans with ammunition, sending steamers to different points of the Coast &c than may be quite prudent. See 1481.
Again in a smaller way Mr Douglas (see 1476) as Governor charters a steamer belonging to the H.B. Compy for the protection of the Colony, & again as Governor certifies that the charge of 20 a day made by his masters is quite correct.
If Governor Douglas has succeeded in keeping a perfectly straight course throughout these transactions I can only say that he will have done more than most men can be expected to do.
The questions will arise whether complete resumption of the Grant to the H.B. Compy or a more complete Grant involving the concessions to the Compy of greater power & increased responsibility be the wiser policy—much may I think be said for each alternative.
JB 16 Feb
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The Hudson's Bay Company should be written to in the manner suggested by Mr Merivale, and it should be added that in the somewhat anomalous position in which Governor Douglas is placed between his duties of Home Gment & the H. Bay Company, it is expected that this Departmt should be treated both by the Company and by him with the most complete confidence & unreserve in all matters which concern the Colony.
HL Fy 18th 1856