Murdoch to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
4 June 1860
I have to acknowledge your letter of 23rd ultimo, inclosing a Despatch from the Governor of Van Couvers Island on the subject of a complaint made by Mr E. Langford against the Colonial Surveyor Mr Pemberton. The facts of the case appear to be as follows.
2. Early in 1858 Mr Dallas, the Agent of the Puget Sound Company, applied to the Surveyor General for certain Land adjoining a FarmManuscript imageFarm belonging to the Company. The Surveyor General accordingly set the Land aside and, as he states, considered it as sold. In July 1858 Mr Langford, who is Bailiff to the Company, applied for a portion of this Land and was refused on the ground that it was already sold. Eventually the Puget Sound Company did not complete the purchase and the Land was thrown into the market, where it is still unsold. But Mr Langford states that he had in the meantime an opportunity of disposing of it to great advantage, of which he was deprived by the incorrect allegation of a previous Manuscript imagesale to the Company. He adds some general strictures on the Land Department of the Colony and the bad repute in which it is held, which it is unnecessary further to notice.
3. If this were the whole case it would not I think be reasonable to impute blame to Mr Pemberton. He might fairly consider that Land which had been applied for by the Puget Sound Company was virtually appropriated, and that he did bona fide so consider it is proved by the fact, stated by the Governor, that an instalment paper was actually made out at the time the land was surveyed and now exists in a cancelled form Manuscript imagein the office books. But Mr Langford stated in his first letter to the Governor, that Mr Pemberton told him that the necessary instalment on the Land had been paid, and in his letter to the Duke of Newcastle he reiterates this statement more circumstantially, asserting that Mr Pemberton not only said that the Land had been paid for, but offered to produce his books in proof of it. This statement, moreover, is confirmed by a declaration made by the Surgeon of H.M.S. "Satellite" who was present at the interview. In his explanation Mr Pemberton did not notice, and might have overlooked, this statementManuscript imagestatement in the first letter, and he has had no opportunity of seeing the more circumstantial statement since made. But Governor Douglas reports that the Assistant Surveyor, who was also present, denies that Mr Pemberton made any such statement, and he himself considers the inherent improbability of the Story so great as to make it scarcely credible. As Mr Pemberton is on leave of absence and his address is probably known at the Colonial Office, it would, I think be right to give him an opportunity of explanation on this point. However improbable the allegation Manuscript imagemay appear, it seems still more improbable that the Surgeon of H.M.S. "Satellite" should have misunderstood or misstated the fact.
4. But Mr Langford further complains of lukewarmness and delay on the part of Govr Douglas in instituting the enquiry which he demanded into Mr Pemberton's proceedings. Mr Langford's complaint against Mr Pemberton is dated 17th DecemberMr Pemberton's answer to the Governor 20th December. No time, therefore, had been lost in calling on Mr Pemberton for explanation. But Mr Pemberton's Manuscript imageanswer was sent to the Attorney General who, Mr Langford was informed on the 26th December, was to communicate with him on the subject. Mr Langford applied repeatedly to the Attorney General, and on the 26th January the Attorney General reported to the Governor that in his opinion Mr Pemberton's answer was sufficient and that no further steps need be taken in the matter. A copy of this letter and of Mr Pemberton's explanation was transmitted to Mr Langford by direction of the Governor on 4th February. In the meantime Mr Pemberton had left the Colony Manuscript imageon leave.
5. These facts do not bear out Mr Langford's complaint that the Governor was lukewarm & dilatory in investigating his complaint. If delay is chargeable anywhere it is with the Attorney General to whom the papers were referred. The Govr attributes Mr Langford's proceedings and his hostility to the Government to political motives, and he points out the delay which Mr Langford had himself incurred before preferring his complaint and the moment at which he brought it forward as supporting that view.
Manuscript image
Be that as it may it is I think clear that Governor Douglas showed no want of readiness in investigating the matter when his notice was called to it, and that no blame is attributable to him for the delay which occurred in communicating to Mr Langford the answer of Mr Pemberton.
I have etc.
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
ABd 6 June
Mr Fortescue
Call on Mr Pemberton for the explanation which Mr Murdoch suggests should be required of him?
TFE June
CF 8
N 9
Other documents included in the file
Manuscript image
Draft, Fortescue to Pemberton, 19 June 1860, forwarding correspondence relating to Langford's complaint, and asking for further explanation of his actions.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Blackwood
The last paragraph of this draft is submitted for consideration. If the payment of an instalment at the time of purchase was a part of the Land Regulations, and if that Sale was enforced against others, it wd certainly appear that Mr Pemberton acted both irregularly and with partiality towards the Compy in dispensing with the rule in their favor.
I therefore suggest that some further explanation should be obtained, & that in the meantime it may be better to defer expressing to Mr Pemberton the acquittal pronounced on him by Mr Murdoch in the 3d par: of his report.
HT Irving 14 June
Quite right, I think.
TFE 14/6