Pemberton to Newcastle
174 Euston Road N.W.
June 25th 1860
My Lord Duke,
I have the honor very respectfully to acknowledge the receipt of your Grace's communication of the 19th instant commanding me to answer to the very grave charges recently brought against me by a person named Langford in the employment of the Pujet [Puget] Sound Company and supported by the evidence on Oath of Dr Wallace, Assistant Surgeon of H.M.S. Satellite.
Passing by the innuendos contained in Mr Langford's letter as matter which could not for an instant detain your Grace's attention I apply myself at once to the voluminous charges in question which may briefly be resolved into the following vizt:
1st Whether in July 1858 I was guilty of falsehood.
2nd Whether subsequently I was guilty of an act of personal injustice to Mr Langford.
Touching the first charge I would inform your Grace that in the land office at Victoria in answer to persons applying to purchase, Lands Manuscript imageare classified as sold or not sold, I should inform an applicant for any Land that the Colony might be pledged by me to part with although the legal transfer should not have been up to the moment of such application effected that such land was sold. My principal assistant Mr Pearse who bears a high character for integrity had similar instruction from me and by both the terms and bonâ fide sense in which only it could be employed were perfectly understood: brevity and despatch were absolutely necessary after the Spring of 1858 when the Land Office and approaches to it were often so thronged that I could not move in it.
Now, I do not accuse Dr Wallace of wilful perjury or of a malicious intention to injure me but I earnestly submit that Dr Wallace in making in March 1860 a declaration of the substance of a conversation which he had accidentally witnessed nearly two years before and which must have been uninteresting to him may have mentally substituted the word paid for the word sold either term naturally suggesting the idea of payment although in this case the exact word used makes so important Manuscript imagea difference.
I would further remind your Grace that Mr Pearse was also present at the conversation in question that he understood the case and was more interested in it than Dr Wallace could have been and that he distinctly recollects that I did not use the word paid but simply told the applicant that the land was sold.
Whilst in the absence of Dr Wallace I do not impugn his character as a Witness or his qualifications to give unbiassed evidence in this particular case I consider it indispensable to satisfy your Grace of the unimpeachability of Mr Pearse's contradiction.
Enclosure No 1 to which I request your Grace's attention shews that after very diligent enquiry in London both as to private character and professional capability Mr Pearse was selected out of many candidates to fill the office he now holds and has held with great credit to himself since 1851—he is much respected in the Colony and no attempt is made by Mr Langford to account for his denial.
I would further remind Your Grace that no attempt is made to shew that I could have had any motive in misrepresenting the facts.
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With regard to exhibiting the Official books my rule has been if any one shewed me that he had a direct interest in any section of land, whether Sold or not, to allow such person under my own supervision to inspect the entries connected with such section and my offer to do so when Mr Langford doubted my statement proves that I had nothing to conceal. A record of course existed in the office, in the proper book, of the case as it then stood.
Lastly. Assuming Mr Langford's statement to be correct, that the question then discussed related to payment and not to title the book to which he states that I referred him must have been the Cash book: that is to say, that in support of my assertion I invited Mr Langford to inspect either blank paper or a fictitious entry which would render me accountable for money which I did not receive, which is absurd.
Touching the 2nd accusation I would inform your Grace that prompt payment of the first instalment is the rule of the office, but when land contains a large proportion of rock and swamp as in this case, a preliminary survey is necessary before the instalment paper can be fully made out Manuscript imageor the applicant informed what sum he is required to pay.
It was during such an interval that Mr Langford's application to purchase the lands in question was made and that he received the reply that the lands were sold.
When the survey was completed the instalment paper was completed also, payment demanded and refused on the ground that a portion of the land which ought to have been included was omitted and had been sold to some one else, the objection taken was trivial and I believe that at law I could have enforced payment but as I had several applications on my list for the same Land and was otherwise very much occupied at the time thought it better to throw the land again in the Market and sent notice to Mr Langford who was next on the List that the land was for sale, he declined to purchase it and the land was soon after sold to the next applicants and upon the same terms.
In conclusion I would very respectfully submit to your Grace's favorable consideration that in the transaction in question I could have had no object to gain in undoing Manuscript imagethe antecedents of which a copy is herewith enclosed (Enclosure No 2) and which it has taken so many years of professional exertion to acquire.
And that previous to granting me the short leave of absence which I now enjoy His Excellency the Governor ordered a strict investigation by the most competent persons in the Colony into the books and accounts of the Land Office at Fort Victoria and expressed himself perfectly satisfied with their Report.
From the foregoing statement I believe that your Grace will perceive that the charges made have no foundation but as by implication Mr Langford has endeavored to involve the Governor's name in the case.
I solemnly assure your Grace that I firmly believe His Excellency to have been wholly unacquainted with the matter as with any other Land sale until it was brought officially under his notice and that he has cautioned me to exercise the strictest impartiality in dealing between Colonists and the Company an injunction which I have constantly endeavored to obey.
I certainly should have preferred a mode of investigation which by the production of local evidence and cross-examination of my Manuscript imageaccusers in open Court would have enabled me to elicit and substantiate facts which, not from any pretended delicacy for the feelings of Mr Langford or his Witness, but owing to the distance of material evidence I am now unable to bring forward without danger of prejudicing my case—but I trust that as it is, sufficient evidence has been produced to enable your Grace to detect accurately to which side iniquity attaches and to stigmatise it with the authority that belongs to your Grace's high Office.
I have the honor to be
Your Grace's very obedient and humble Servant
J. Despard Pemberton
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
As the charge preferred by Mr Langford was sent to the Land Board for report it would be satisfactory, I think, if this explanation were sent there also before writing to the Govr and Mr Pemberton again.
ABd 27/6
Mr Blackwood
Certainly. Refer to Land Board, with reference to their recent Report.
TFE 29/6
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Fortescue to Pemberton, 28 July 1860, stating his explanation was considered satisfactory, and that Douglas had been so informed.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Testimonial certifying that B.W. Pearse had been selected for the office of assistant surveyor only after close scrutiny by the writer and by the Hudson's Bay Company, dated 25 June 1860, signed by M. Middleton, 6 St. John's Park Villas, Haverstock Hill.
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"Extracts from Professional Certificates of J. Despard Pemberton," printed copies of testimonials (13 entries, six pages).
Other documents included in the file
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Draft, Elliot to Emigration Commissioners, 6 July 1860, forwarding copy of Pemberton's letter for opinion.