Cooper to Lytton
Snow Hill
August 20th 1858 The Right Honble Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton Bart
Her Majestys Secry of State for the Colonies
Rt Honble Sir
I most respectfully beg leave to reply to a communication dated 18th Inst forwarded to me by the under Secry of State containing charges impugning the integrity of my character.
First, "That I was indebted at the Compys Store".
This statement carry's with it an impression, that I had created a debt in the country, whereas the debt alluded to was created in "England", by & with the consent of Govr & Committee.
I now beg to explain that in the year 1849 when in command of the compys vessel & previous to my departure from Vancouvers Island, I deposited a sum of two hundred pounds in their hands for land, to be selected by me on my return to that country for the purpose of colonization which amount is so entered in the books of the Company. Manuscript imageWith the view of carrying out the above Scheme on my arrival in England, I invested the whole of my money in the purchase of a Schooner, Agricultural Implements, Stores & other merchandize, & upon my representing to the Compy the difficulty of complying with the heavy requirements of their prospectus, they liberally allowed me to take credit for land, freight & passage (and thus was the debt created) & only required of me a letter stating that I would not demand the title deeds of my land, before alluded to, until I had paid all claims.
Then did they pay him back the money he had deposited in the island? [HM]
After struggling for some years against many disadvantages, consequently upon my being the only free settler & incurring many losses, I found there was little probability of my being able to pay the Compy their claim upon me and was induced to offer to Mr Douglas in 1853 my Farm for Sale, for the purpose of liquidating that claim, Mr Douglas's reply to which, will be found accompanying this Nod 7.
Answer, he did not want to buy. [HM]
Subsequently to this vizt in 1856, by way of still further desiring to discharge the above claim (which was a continued Source of anxiety & trouble to me) I offered to Mr Douglas my schooner for sale. Vide letter No. 8.
What was Mr. Douglas' answer? [HM]
And previously to my taking any step for quitting the country in 1856 & 7 I communicated to Mr Douglas my intention of returning to England & made certain proposals to the Board of Managet which were accepted by them for the future Manuscript imageliquidation of their claim against me. Vide letter to Hudson Bay Co. No 9. & correspondence &c attached thereto.
No "correspondence" is attached. [HM]
Second, "That altho, I had registered a tract of land in the Island it had not been paid for."
In reply to this charge I beg to state, I have registered three tracts of land, for two
Yes, two at Eskimalt. See the return. [HM]
of which I have paid the whole of the purchase money & hold the deeds, as to the third—that which is represented as not being paid for,—is the one upon which the £200, was paid as before stated, the balance being considered in the arrangement entered into between the Board of Management and myself as previously shown.
Third, "That I returned to this country in pecuniary difficulties which it is presumed have not yet been settled."
In reference to this charge I beg to say, that the minimum value of my property in Vancouvers Island, before the discovery of Gold (which property the Hudson Bay Co hold in trust as security) far exceeds the amount of the whole of my liabilities;
How much land has he? [HM]
it will thus be seen that this charge conveys an impression greatly calculated to mislead. I would add that the parties in England with whom I had opened trading a/c's showed their confidence in me by leaving me at liberty to remit them as I found it convenient, and on my return to England not having succeeded in my enterprise Manuscript imageI offered them the deeds of my property as security for the balances due to them which they at once accepted & to shew their appreciation of my character & sympathy with me in my position assured me they would neither charge me interest nor press me to realize. Vide letters 10 & 11.
As the substance of these charges so seriously reflects on my reputation I beg leave to mention that on my resigning the service of the Compy they showed their estimate of my conduct by presenting me with a gratuity of £150.
When? [HM]
As a further proof that I have in all my transactions been actuated by a principle of right beg to refer you to letter No 12 showing that a small bequest left at the death of a relative to my wife was immediately handed over to my Creditors as reference to this fact please apply to Messrs Surr & Gribble Solicitors City. As a further reference to my integrity I beg leave to name Messrs James & Wright Solicitors Birmingham who are in possession of the whole of my business transactions.
Rt Honble Sir, I have preferred stating the simple facts relating to the charges brought against me, & forwarding the documentary evidence substantiating the truth thereof feeling assured that your judgement will entirely absolve me from the slightest imputation on my character.
I have the honour to be Rt
Honble Sir
Your Most Obdt & Hble Servt
James Cooper
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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1. Cooper to Governor and Committee, Hudson's Bay Company, 7 August 1858, enclosing supporting documents, claiming "I stand alone in the history of Vancouvers Island with but one exception of having complied with prospectus of the Company & that my failure was synonymous with the failure of the whole scheme of colonization," and requesting "a further indulgence of time" to enable him to pay all claims against him.
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
This is Mr Cooper's defence. I have not had time to examine it. Perhaps Sir Edward Lytton wd desire to see it at once. He will doubtless return it to us on Monday. See 8561/58.
ABd. 21 Augt
Sir E Lytton.
The so-called defence, simply admits the whole case. It is clear that this gentleman is much in debt to the H.B.C. (in his letter of Augt 7 he speaks of "all his debts") and that he left Vanc. I. in this insolvent state. From the return of land, sold, it appears that the two properties of which he speaks, as really his own, consist only of 80 acres, at Eskimalt. The third property, at Mitchosen, is not entered at all, he never having paid for it, & I suppose in point of fact it is not legally his. He offered Gov. Douglas in 1856 to sell his schooner to pay his debts, but the governor, I suppose, did not accept, for no answer is enclosed. Again in August/58 (with the prospect of going out to B. Columbia) he makes fair promises to the Company and asks for more time. But they have not answered him either. The rest is all general testimony to his character. It is vexatious to be so far compromised with a person of this description, but I cannot think him a safe candidate for employment?
HM Augt 23
Will Mr Merivale draft an official answer, not reflecting on Mr Coopers character in any way nor disqualifying him for any other office; but stating simply that for the office of Collector of Customs it wd be better to have a person free from all serious credence of pecuniary embarassment in the place a very civil but very cautious reply.
Minutes by CO staff
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Will Mr M. carry into effect my minute to Mr Cooper.
EBL Aug 31
When this mail is off, write to Mr Cooper the substance of the despatch addressed to the Governor about him
Annex draft
HM S 1
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Colonial Office to Cooper, 8 September 1858, confirming that Lytton had carefully considered his case, had instructed Douglas to appoint him Harbour Master at Esquimalt, and granting him a travel allowance of £150 to proceed to Vancouver Island by the earliest opportunity.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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2. James Douglas to Cooper, 20 December 1853, stating that neither he nor the Hudson's Bay Company nor any of his acquaintances are interested in purchasing his farm. p. 477
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3. Cooper to Douglas, 3 March 1856, offering his schooner in payment of his "long outstanding debt" to the Company. 478
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4. Thomas N. Stokes to Cooper, 13 September, 1855, informing him of a legacy to his wife of £420. 479-480
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5. Joseph Calracy, 36 St Mary Hill, London, to Cooper, 18 August 1858, vouching for the "honourable" arrangement he has made for the liquidation of claims against him. 481-482
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6. Thomas Gibbons, 18 Upper 6 Smithfield, to Cooper, 18 August 1858, testifying to the "honour & integrity of your general transactions with us." 483-84
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7. C.P. Villiers, 39 Sloane R., to Cooper, 19 August 1858, with character reference. 486-91
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8. Robert Bew, Bilston, to Cooper, 20 August 1858, with character reference. 488-89