Murdoch to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
30 April 1861
I have to acknowledge your letter of 22nd instant, enclosing the copy of a Despatch from the Governor of Vancouvers Island, with a correspondence which had passed between his Secretary and the Hudsons Bay Co relative to the reservation of certain Water frontage in the Town of Victoria for a Government Wharf and Harbour Masters Office.
2. The Hudsons Bay Co, as is known, claim the greater part, ifManuscript image not the whole, of the site on which the Town of Victoria stands, as the property of the Company by reason of occupation prior to the grant of the Island of 13th Jan[ua]ry 1849. As they were selling their Water frontage to private purchasers, the Governor applied to them to reserve a plot suitable for a landing place and Harbour Masters Office, offering to repay their actual outlay in the purchase and improvement of the land. The Agent of the Company declined to accede to this application but offered to build an office forManuscript image the Harbour Master for a moderate rent, and to grant him the free use of the Company's Wharf. The Governor in reply pointed out the insufficiency of such an arrangement, and recalled the attention of the Agent to the instructions of the Governor of the Company of May 1851, that reserves required for public purposes should be resumable, upon repayment of the price and expenses. To this letter no answer had been received when the Governors Despatch was written, but the Governor anticipates that it would have no effect on the decision ofManuscript image the Agent.
3. The first step, as it appears to me, would be to communicate this correspondence to the Hudsons Bay Co in this Country, and to invite them to issue such instructions to their Agent as may secure the necessary reservations of water frontage for the public use. Unless they are prepared to repudiate the principle laid down in the instruction from the Governor of the Co to Governor Douglas of 23rd May 1851 (a copy of which will be found in Governor Douglas' despatch of 7th December last) theyManuscript image cannot refuse to make such a reservation. But if they refuse, it may be a question whether the Governor should not be instructed to give notice to purchasers, that the grant of the 13th Jan[ua]ry 1849 excepts from the land which the Company are at liberty to sell, as representing the Crown, all land required for public purposes—that as regards their claim to hold and dispose of this land as their private property the Crown denies that claim—that the claim is now under investigation before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and that if the Judicial Committee should decide against the CompanyManuscript image the Crown will not recognize the sales which they may make of this Land—and that purchasers, therefore, after this notice, will have no right to complain if they should eventually find themselves deprived of the Land which they may have bought from the Co. I cannot doubt that such a notice if it did not prevent the Company offering the land for sale, would prevent individuals from buying it. Such a proceeding is of course an extreme measure—but as the law in the Colony does not, I presume, afford the meansManuscript image which would exist in this Country of arresting these sales, I see no other way, if the Company support their Agent, of preventing an alienation of property which may be permanently injurious to public interests.
4. It is hardly necessary to add that this question shows, even more strongly than the similar questions which have heretofore been submitted for the Duke of Newcastles consideration, the inconvenience of the present uncertainty as to the claims of the Hudsons Bay Co in Vancouver Island. The extent which theyManuscript image claimed as their private property in the neighbourhood of Victoria was 3084 Acres, and if I understand the Governors despatch right, they have sold all of this except about 300 Acres. Their recent sales of Town lots have been at the rate of upwards of £9000 an Acre, and they still retain 60 Lots which if sold at the same rate would produce nearly £11,000. For these sums the Company will of course have to account if the decision of the Judicial Committee should be against them—but it is very undesirable in the meantime that land of such great valueManuscript image should be disposed of solely with reference to the pecuniary profit to be made out of it, and without regard to the public interests, present and future, involved in its disposal.
I have etc.
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
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ABd 2 May
TFE 2 May
Duke of Newcastle
It will be a most Serious matter if public interests are sacrificed by the proceedings of the H.B.Co. Request Mr Murdoch to draft a letter to them in the first instance?
CF 8
N 11
Other documents included in the file
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Rogers to H.H. Berens, Hudson's Bay Company, 23 May 1861, forwarding copy of the despatch and correspondence received from Douglas, and asking whether the company was prepared to instruct their agent in the colony "to suspend the sale of the Land in question."
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Fortescue
Would it not be possible to get an injunction from the Ct of Chancery addressed to the Govr & Co in this Country. If not the words in brackets shd be left out.
Other documents included in the file
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F. Peel to Colonial Office, 22 May 1861, as follows:
Hampton in Arden
May 22
My Dear Sir
I send to the Treasury by this days post the Paper (Claim of Hudson's Bay Co) you are anxious for, and I have no doubt you will receive an answer in a day or two. I regret the delay that has occurred in disposing of the matter.
Very faithfully yours
F. Peel
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
This has fallen into my hands.
I should somewhat doubt the jurisdn of the British Court of Chancery over land in a Colony possessing responsible Govt & shd be disinclined to make the threat witht a clear view of what the Court could do.
Wd it not be advisable to send the L.Bd report to the Treasy as a reason for letting us have a speedy answer on the questions respectg the reference ofManuscript image Hudson's Bay Compy Claims to the Privy Council.
FR 15/9
TFE 15 May