No. 17
28 March 1860
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your Despatch No 1 of the 2nd January transmitting Copy of a letter from Mr Berens together with your Grace's replyManuscript imagereply thereto having reference to the subject of the advance of Twenty seven thousand Dollars ($27,000.00) by the Hudson's Bay Company for the erection of Public Buildings in Vancouver Island.
2. My recent Despatch No 11 of the 16th Ultimo will I trust have placed your Grace in possession of every detail in connection with the transaction, and I therefore will confine myself in this Despatch solely to the question of the claim now put forth by theManuscript imagethe Company to the Ownership of the Land.
3. I must confess that it is not without some surprise that I have perused the letter of Mr Berens, and I am convinced that the course pursued by that gentleman must originate through want of proper and full information in the premises.
4. During the period I have been Governor of Vancouver Island I have always found the Hudson's Bay Company most liberal in their views, and sparing of no reasonableManuscript imagereasonable expense for promoting the good of the Colony, and in the present instance the right of the Colony to the land sold is so clear and indisputable that I cannot but presume that so soon as the Company become aware of the facts in connection therewith, they will at once relinquish a claim which I feel assured has only been advanced through misconception.
5. On the 1st January 1851 the Hudson's Bay Company acquainted Governor Blanshard that the sum of Four thousand Pounds (£4000) would be placedManuscript imageplaced at his disposal for the erection of some of the Buildings most urgently required, and informed him that those Buildings "and the Lands that may be appropriated with them" were to be held by him and his Council as Trustees for the Colony, and further, that "the site of these Buildings should be near the Fort (Victoria) for convenience and protection."
6. For the better information of your Grace I enclose a Copy of the entire Despatch in which the above instructions are embodied.
7. Shortly after the receipt of theseManuscript imagethese instructions Governor Blanshard left the Colony, but a residence for the Governor was put up before his departure, and this very building with the land appropriated to it was that sold in May last, and is now claimed by Mr Berens on behalf of the Hudson's Bay Company.
8. I became Governor Blanshard's immediate successor, and carried out so far as I was able the other arrangements Contemplated by the Hudson's BayManuscript imageBay Company. The land appropriated to the Government House was always regarded by me as a Government Reserve, and the Colonial Surveyor had strict orders from me not to dispose of any part thereof, and although no formal conveyance had been effected, yet I did not view that circumstance at the time as a matter of anyManuscript imageany moment, the intentions of the Hudson's Bay Company being so unmistakeable.
9. In point of fact had the Hudson's Bay Company themselves not adopted the foregoing arrangement—an arrangement which apparently removed all probability of cavil or dispute, it becomes a question whetherManuscript imagewhether the land could not have been reserved from the first under the Charter of Grant which prohibits the disposal by sale of any land "which may be required for public purposes";
But the Compy maintain that this land was not included in the Grant of the Island i.e. that they held it before that grant.
but as in the interpretation of this passage it is not improbable that some controversy might have arisen, I consider that the Hudson's Bay Company acted very wisely and properly at the outset in laying it down as a rule that the lands appropriated with the public Buildings were to be held in trust for the Colony.
10. The ground upon which theManuscript imagethe claim is now advanced is I perceive considered by Her Majesty's Government as utterly untenable; but were it not so, I think that the information I now supply sets the question entirely at rest so far as the public reserves are concerned.
11. I will not fail in furnishing Your Grace, as soon as I can obtain it, with the information you require as to the land claimed by the Hudsons Bay Company under a title anterior to the Grant, and as to the land acquired by them in their private capacity.
I have etc.
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
As Mr Fortescue has observed in his minute on 3603/160 the decision of the Judicial Comee on the Hudson's Bay Company's title to their Fur Trade Reserve will probably carry this question also. But in the mean-while I think that this despatch and the preceding one on the same subject—3603 should be sent to the Company for their observations.
ABd 17/5
Mr Fortescue
This is a subject to which you have particularly attended. Your note on 3603 shows (& this despatch confirms) the probable nature of the difference between Governor Douglas and the Company: the facts supplied by the present report appear strongly to support the former.
TFE 18 May
This is certainly a strange & unsatisfactory affair. It is difficult to read the H.B. Co's letter of Decber 16/59 & its enclosures—especially the language of the Govr & Mr Pemberton in the latter—without believing that the Govr began by admitting this land to be the Cos. property, and has since found out that he ought never to have made that admission—but will not confess his blunder.
But send to the H.B.Co.?
CF 21
To H.B.C. in first instance, but this affair must be carefully watched.
N 23
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
Manuscript image
A. Barclay, Secretary, Hudson's Bay Company, to Blanshard, 1 January 1851, with information on the disposition of land and buildings required for public use, as per despatch.
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft, Fortescue to H.H. Berens, Hudson's Bay Company, 7 June 1860, forwarding two despatches on the subject of disputed land in Vancouver Island, and asking whether their position had altered as a result of the information contained therein.
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 28 March 1860, CO 305:14, no. 4820, 145. 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/V60017.html.

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