Confidential
15 December 1859
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Grace's Despatch of the 29th September last marked "Confidential" and also of copies of the correspondence between HerManuscript imageHer Majesty's Government and Lord Lyons, touching the occupation of the Island of San Juan by troops of the United States.
2. I shall not fail to attend to the instructions conveyed to me in your Grace's Despatch, to the effect that it is the desire of Her Majesty's Government that a civil Magistrate should continue to reside on the Island of San Juan, and that he should be directed to forbear from all acts which may lead to hostile manifestationsManuscript imagemanifestations by the United States Officers: and that, without instructions from your Grace or from Lord Lyons, no troops are to be landed on the Island, unless indeed such a step should be required for the support of the resident Magistrate or for the protection of the lives and property of British Subjects.
3. In my Despatch No 55 of the 9th November last transmitting copies of my correspondence with Lieut. General Scott, I reported my proceedings with respect to the Island ofManuscript imageof San Juan up to that date and I am glad to observe that they are in all respects in accordance with your Grace's instructions.
4. The Federal Troops of the United States have all been withdrawn from the Island of San Juan with the exception of a Company of fifty men under the command of Captain Hunt, who still remain there professedly for the protection of American Citizens.
5. Besides these troops, there is a civil staff consisting of a Magistrate andManuscript imageand an Officer of the Customs.
6. On the other hand Her Majesty's Government is represented in San Juan by a single stipendiary Magistrate without any Military or Naval Force whatever—the "Pylades", lately stationed there, having been recalled to this place by the naval Commander in Chief.
7. I do not apprehend the occurrence of any national difficulty with the Captain in command of the Federal Troops stationed on San Juan, but the presence of such a force on the disputed Territory without an equal forceManuscript imageforce of British Troops implies a concession on our part, and will have the worst possible moral effect throughout the Country; and if that state of things continues long the Island will unavoidably slip from our grasp, as the ignorant squatter population of the adjoining American Territory deceived by appearances and considering the question of Title as settled in favour of their own country will occupy the whole of the land and so form a de facto American occupation, the effect of which may be fatal to British rights. And here I might mention that the Pre-emption system of the United States holdsManuscript imageholds out every inducement to American Citizens to settle on the Island, and in this respect they have a great advantage over British Subjects; for should the Island eventually become American Territory, the American squatter is confident that he will be confirmed in his occupation, whilst the British subject has no such satisfactory assurance of his claim being recognised, should the Island become part of Her Majesty's Dominions.
8. Should there be no prospect of an immediate settlement of the question of Sovereignty I have no hesitation in submitting to Her Majesty'sManuscript imageMajesty's Government, in the event of the United States continuing to maintain troops on San Juan that the military occupation should be at least a joint one, and that an equal number of British troops should be stationed there.
9. Either that course, or the withdrawal of all authorities on both sides should be adopted, but for the reasons before mentioned I conceive that the withdrawal of all authorities would be by far the more desirable measure, if the question of Title is to remain for any time in discussion. IManuscript imageI apprehend that now the question of Sovereignty is avowedly in dispute, no Civil Authority can legally exercise any jurisdiction on the Island, for the laws of neither Country can be claimed as extending to it.
10. In conclusion I cannot refrain from expressing to your Grace the satisfaction it has afforded me to find that the course we have pursued has met the approbation of Her Majesty's Government for although well assured how much the Government would deprecate any hasty or inconsiderate action which might imperil the amicable relationsManuscript imagerelations subsisting between Great Britain and any other nation, yet in this case, under all the circumstances of the occupation of San Juan, confident that the offensive movement was the Act of an individual and not of a Government, I must confess I had some doubts in my own mind as to whether the passive and non-resistent policy we had followed would be altogether acceptable to Her Majesty's Government considering the large and magnificent forceManuscript imageforce we fortunately had at our disposal, and that if any collision had unhappily occurred it would not have resulted from any aggressive deed on our part, but simply from the responsibility forced upon us in defence of National Honor and Integrity.
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
ABd 14/2
Mr Blackwood
A detachment of some kind of military force has been stationed in the island since this was written, has it not?
HM F 15
Yes. The For: Office have intimated to us that they have made arrangements with the Admiralty for placing 100 marines on the Island.
ABd 16/2
HM F 16
Every thing that we hear proves, I think, the necessity of a very liberal Land system in V. Island & B. Columbia.
CF 17
I hope that before now Govr D. will have acted upon my suggestions as [one line cut off file].
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 15 December 1859, CO 305:11, no. 1543, 299. 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/V59062CO.html.

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