Berens to Lytton
Hudson's Bay House
4 March 1859
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Mr Merivale's letter of the 24th ulto in which he acquaints me that before communicating to the Admiralty my letter of the 10th ulto on the subject of the Sale of Thetis Island you would be glad to have some further explanation on one point. Mr Merivale then observes that by the return forwarded with Captain Shepherd's letter of July 15th 1858, the only lot of 24 acres sold at Esquimalt is stated to have been sold to the Hudson's Bay Company, and he adds "that as the subsequent sale by Auction, was not made by the Company or any one acting for them" he infers that, "the lot must have passed into the hands of some intermediate possessors."
In answer I beg to state that Thetis Island is a portion of the lot of 24 acres on Esquimalt BayManuscript imageBay which appears in Captain Shepherd's return as having been sold to "The Hudson's Bay Company". But the entry in the return in question is a mistake which seems to have originated with the Colony Surveyor who in reporting the sale used the words "Hudson's Bay Company" in place of the words "James Douglas and John Work as Trustees for the Fur Trade" which is a subordinate branch of the Hudson's Bay Company.
The history of the transaction is this. In 1856 it was felt by Governor Douglas that one of the great impediments to the Colonization of Vancouver's Island was the rule laid down by the Government when the Grant of the Island was made to the Hudson's Bay Company, by which they were prohibited from disposing of inappropriated land to Settlers in lots of less than 20 acres. To obviate this inconvenience Mr Douglas suggested that he and Mr Work another head Officer of the Hudson's Bay Company in the Island should as Trustees for the Fur Trade branch of the Company purchase one or more lots of public land for the purpose of disposing of them afterwards at the original cost, in small allotments to working people desirous of becomingManuscript imagebecoming Settlers but unable to purchase larger lots. Accordingly two or three lots were purchased for the purpose by "The Fur Trade" and among them Lot 53 (of which Thetis Island is a part) and which was sold in 5 acre lots with the exception of Thetis Island itself (which consists of only one acre) and which was sold separately to a person of the name of Jeremiah Nagle as may be seen by the return made by the Governor of this Company to the Government on the 23rd January 1858 where it figures under the head of "Suburban Lots No 35" with the price paid namely "£1:0:10. Herewith I have the honour of enclosing extracts from letters addressed by Governor Douglas to the Secretary of this Company in which the whole course of the affair is traced. In the first (dated March 5th 1856) is set forth an account of the purchase of the 24 acres in question and the object of the purchase; in the second (dated 4th June 1857) an account is given of the subsequent purchase of a still larger lot with similar views; and the third, dated July 9, 1858 gives the latest account we haveManuscript imagehave received from the Island as to the position of the affair. These Extracts make the object of all parties so clear that it is unnecessary for me to add a word.
With respect to the subsequent sale by Auction all that has come to our knowledge is the fact that Mr Jeremiah Nagle the purchaser of Thetis Island having afterwards got into difficulties had made over that and other property to his Creditors, and as it appears from the letter from the Secretary of the Admiralty to Mr Merivale which you did me the honor to transmit to me that a Sale by Auction of the Island had taken place as late as the 16th of January of the present year, we have inferred that the Sale must have been made at the instance of Mr Nagle's Creditors.
I have etc.
H.H. Berens
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Merivale
I wonder if the Company has been pursuing this practice of selling Land to its own people with the view to a resale, for any length of time. It might be worth while to enquire—though only for our satisfaction. The proceeding is a suspicious one: & the statements in the Co's letter of the 10th Feb: & in this are repugnant to each other inasmuch as in the first it is said that the sale of the Land was not made by any body acting for the Co & in the second it appears that it was made by the Co to persons constituting a subordinate branch of their service.
The Land regulations in V.C.Id having been drawn up by the company I presume the Govt is powerless and that we can do no more than forward to the Admiralty copies of the Manuscript imagecorrespondence in which we have been engaged on their behalf.
ABd 7 March
I must say I agree with Mr Blackwood that the Company would cut a very indifferent figure if transactions like this were laid bare before a Committee or other investigating body. Being bound not to sell public land in lots under 20 acres, they evade this—for the good of small colonists as they say! by conveying to themselves pieces of particularly eligible land, under some sham name such as "Fur Trade", and then reselling in small lots, & doubtless at a profit. I am not sure in what shape the investigation of the Company's accounts at Vancouver I. is at present, but it seems to me exceedingly questionable whether all profits made in this way ought not to be set off against Manuscript imagewhat is due to them. It is not however likely the amount is large.
This does not touch the question between the Co. & the Admiralty. Mr Jeremiah Nagle's auditors have no doubt got hold of Thetis island, owing to the remissness, or false economy, of the Admiralty in not getting possession of it.
HM Mh 8
C Mch 9
EBL M 12
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Merivale to Secretary to the Admiralty, 18 March 1859, forwarding copy of the letter.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Extract, Douglas to William G. Smith, Hudson's Bay Company, 5 March 1856, advising that he and John Work had purchased 24 acres in Esquimalt "on account of the Fur Trade concern" and explaining their reasons for doing so.
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Extract, Douglas to Smith, 4 June 1857, advising of a further purchase of 119 acres on account of the fur trade.
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Extract, Douglas to Smith, 9 July 1858, stating that Nagle had rejected offers of a settlement for Thetis Island, but as it was not expected that he would attempt to take forcible possession of it, the Crown could probably claim the island without interference.