No. 45
9 September 1859
I have the honor of transmitting herewith for Your Grace's information the copy of a letter, lately received from Brigadier General Harney, in reply to my communication toManuscript imageto him of the 13th August last.
2. With respect to General Harneys letter, it is unnecessary to do more than request Your Grace's attention to a few very important points.
In the first place I would refer to his remark, that on two different occasions since he entered upon his present command, he had "reported to his Government in terms of commendation and praise" concerning my "acts affecting American citizens", and secondly, that though the explanation given in my letter had removed the impression that any violation of the rights of American citizens had been committed by the authoritiesManuscript imageauthorities of Vancouvers Island, he nevertheless declines to withdraw the United States Troops now occupying the Island of San Juan "until the pleasure of the President of the United States has been made known on the subject."
3. In the meantime the occupation of San Juan is every day becoming more complete; the troops have been removed to, and now occupy, a commanding hill, the very position in fact, which I intended should be occupied, had they been landed according to my plan, by Her Majesty's Troops, contiguous to the settlement of the Hudsons BayManuscript imageBay Company.
4. They are now engaged in strengthening that position by various military works, which indicate an intention to make good their occupation, as Your Grace will observe by a communication from Mr De Courcy, Magistrate for the District of San Juan, of equal date, which is herewith transmitted.
5. The Squatter population, alluded to in that letter, will soon disappear in the event of the United States Troops being withdrawn from San Juan, as it is only the presence of the latter which now induces them to remain there; a remarkManuscript imageremark which I take the liberty of making in case the Government of the United States should make it a point of honor to hold the Island, under the plea of its containing an American population of a fixed character and settled habits, which is however not the case.
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
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ABd 1 Novr
Transmit as proposed?
From the tenour of the Governor's remarks, it is evident that he considers that passing events strongly support the original view that it would have been better to effect a landing of a British Force immediately that the Americans had landed theirs. The opposite mode of proceeding [is] [p]leasing to the [pa]cific and [tem]perate views of a Manuscript imageCommunity like ours, but it is difficult to receive the daily arriving accounts of the manner in which the Americans are strengthening themselves without having some uncomfortable misgivings whether after all Governor Douglas was not right and whether it would not have been better to land some of our people likewise and announce that we should maintain a joint occupation until the Americans withdrew.
We have preserved the peace, but I greatly doubt we may have lost San Juan.
TFE 1 Novr
Whatever may be the eventual decision as to the Isld of S. Juan no British Govt ought to be in the slightest degree influenced by this lawless occupation, and if so the fact of Govr Douglas having been overruled by the Naval and Military Authorities can have no effect upon the ultimate result of diplomatic negociations.
It is however quite open to question whether Govr Ds plan would not have been the best, but it was not open to question whether, when his plan Manuscript imagehad been abandoned the Govt at home should hesitate to share the responsibility of and approve that which had been adopted. If unhappily our Force had been inferior we could hardly have taken the course we did with honor—it being greatly superior, the act was one of generous forbearance—not of timidity. Copy to F.O.
N 2
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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William S. Harney to Douglas, 24 August 1859, declining to remove the troops until he received instructions from the president.
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John de Courcy, Stipendiary Magistrate, to Douglas, September 1859, reporting on the state of affairs on San Juan.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to Foreign Office, 7 November 1859, forwarding copy of the despatch.