No. 4
16 July 1858
I have to acknowledge your Despatch, No 23, of the 19th May last, inclosing a Proclamation which you had issued on the subject of boats and vessels entering Fraser's River for trade, and reporting farther on the state of the Couteau Gold diggings.
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The accounts which have reached Her Majesty's Government from other quarters as well as your own, afford abundant evidence of the critical nature of the circumstances in which you are placed. They have much satisfaction in reflecting that the maintenance of public order and of the rights of the Crown in that quarter is placed in the hands of an officer so vigilant, and so well acquainted with the Country and the people, as yourself, and you may rely on their support in the performance of this arduous duty, under the very peculiar difficulties of your position.
They are now engaged in conducting through Parliament a measure for the purpose of giving the sanction of law to the steps which the Crown will beManuscript image advised to take for the establishment of regular government and protection both of the immigrants and the natives as far as practicable and they are also devising the means for affording you the support of a Military force, as soon as this can be effected.
In the meantime I must lay down a few rules for your guidance in the administration of the authority which has thus devolved on you.
In strict law your Commission extends to Vancouver's Island only; but you are authorized, under the necessity of the case, to take such measures not inconsistent with the general rights of British subjects and others within Her Majesty's Dominions as that necessity may justify.
I approve, therefore, of your having detached an Officer ofManuscript image the Customs from Vancouver's Island (if the intention announced in your Despatch was carried into execution) for the purpose of preventing the landing in Fraser's River, of articles prohibited under the Customs Laws to which you refer. Subject to this restriction Her Majesty's Government, wish no obstacle to be interposed to the disembarkation of passengers and goods at the mouth of Fraser's River by foreign vessels.
But it is necessary to maintain the principle, that the navigation of Fraser's River itself, above the mouth, is open in law to British Vessels only. American or other foreign vessels, therefore, if admitted to navigate that river (to which it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government that no unnecessary obstacle should be interposed) should be required to take a license from yourself or such officerManuscript image as you may delegate for the purpose.
But I must distinctly warn you against using the powers hereby entrusted to you, in maintenance of the interests of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Territory.
That Company is entitled under its existing license to the exclusive trade with the Indians, and possesses no other right or privilege whatever.
It is, therefore, contrary to Law, and equally contrary to the distinct instructions which I have to convey to you, to exclude any Class of persons from the territory, or to prevent any importation of Goods into it, on the grounds of apprehended interference with this monopoly; still more to make any Governmental regulations subservient to the revenues or interests of the Company.
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I am compelled therefore to disapprove, and to disallow if still in force, the proclamation of which your Despatch transmitted a Copy.
To fit out boats and Vessels to enter Fraser's River for trade is no "infringement of the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company" as that proclamation terms it. Such infringement only commences when any trading with the Indians is attempted: and no steps can rightfully be taken to put a stop to legal acts of this description on the ground that they may be intended for ulterior purposes, infringing on private rights. For the same reason, to require a "license from the Hudson's Bay Company" of persons landing in the Territory is altogether unjustifiable.
I am obliged for theManuscript image same reason to disapprove of the terms which you have proposed to the Pacific Mail Company. They ought not to be put under terms to "carry the Company's Goods, and no other." Nor ought they to be prevented from carrying persons not furnished with a Gold Miner's license; such License can properly be required of intending diggers on the ground, but not of persons merely seeking to land on the Territory. Still less has the Hudson's Bay Company, any right whatever to exact from Passengers any fee or head money by way, as you term it, of "compensation."
Should therefore the Pacific Mail Company have assented to these terms, I must nevertheless require their being altered according to the tenor of these instructions, for the future.
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I am fully aware that before this despatch can reach you the state of things may have materially altered, and that some of these directions may have become inapplicable. Even in that case, however, they will serve as an indication of the general policy which is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to pursue and their wish that you should execute, in this emergency.
I hope by next Mail to be able to add to these directions.
I have etc.
People in this document

Douglas, James

Lytton, Edward George Earle Bulwer

Organizations in this document

Hudson's Bay Company

Places in this document

Fraser River

Fraser River District

Vancouver Island