Murdoch to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Emigration Office
12 June 1861
I have to acknowledge your letter of 4th instant enclosing a Despatch from the Governor of Vancouvers Island with an Address from the House of Assembly, on the subject of the extinction of the Native Title to Land in that Colony.
2. The Assembly represent that nearly three years ago many Colonists purchased Land over which theManuscript image Native Title has not yet been extinguished, at the rate of £1 per acre, that the Natives being well aware of the sums paid to other Natives for the extinction of their Title refuse to allow the Colonists to take possession of the Land, that any attempt to do so by force would produce collisions and render the Natives, who are numerous and warlike, hostile to Settlers, and that the existence of the Native title has deterred many persons from settling on the Island. The HouseManuscript image of Assembly express an opinion that the Imperial Government is bound to extinguish the Native Title, and pray that early steps may be taken for that purpose.
3. Governor Douglas concurs with the Assembly as to the importance of extinguishing the Native Title as early as possible. He observes that the Indians of Van Couvers Island have distinct notions of property, and would resent any attempt on the part of Settlers to occupy land over which their claims had not been extinguished. He states thatManuscript image up to 1859 he had made it a practice to buy up the Native rights prior to establishing a Settlement, and that he had been able to do so at a cost not exceeding £2.10. to each family, that all the settled Districts except three have been already bought up, and that even at the present enhanced value of Land, these three could probably be bought at a cost of £3 to each family, or a total, assuming the Native population at 1000 families, of £3000. He suggests that this sum should be advanced by the Imperial Government to beManuscript image repaid out of the proceeds of Land Sales as soon as they are sufficient for the purpose.
4. Of the importance & practical economy of at once extinguishing a claim which must be a continual source of danger, and which can scarcely fail to grow in amount as time goes on, there can be no question. It is due moreover to the Settlers who have paid for Land of which, so long as this claim exists, they cannot take possession without risk to the peace of the Settlement. The only question is the source from whichManuscript image the money should in the first instance be obtained. This apparently must be either from the Imperial Treasury or by a Loan in the money market. But a Loan for so small a sum and for a Colony so little known as Vancouvers Island could not probably be obtained without an Imperial Guarantee except on very disadvantageous terms. Whether the money should be advanced from the Imperial Treasury is a question which belongs to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, and I would suggestManuscript image that it should be submitted to them. There cannot of course be a doubt that from whatever source the money is in the first instance drawn it must eventually be paid out of the Land Revenues of Vancouvers Island.
I have etc.
T.W.C. Murdoch
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Mr Elliot
My feeling is that it will constitute an inconvenient precedent for the Imperial Govt to be lending money at this early period of Van Couver Island history. Notwithstanding the Governor's assurance that the Community raises, with difficulty, money enough to pay the most indispensable wants of Govt I shd be in favor of requiring the Colony to find this £3000 for extinguishing the native Titles to Land. We have scarcely a colony which might not allege the same Reason as an excuse for an appeal to the English Exchequer. And a young Colony cannot too soon be taught to look to itself alone for the accomplishment of an object of primary importance to its welfare.
Should the Duke of Newcastle decide on applying to the Treasury we must endeavor to supply that Board with materials to shew what sort of security the Colonial finances afford. But I doubt our possessing sufficient infn on this head.
ABd 13 June
Mr Fortescue
You are much the best informed on these Vancouver Island questions. But if we have yet secured to the Crown the right of disposing of all public Lands there irrespective of the Company, the prospects of the Colony must be bad indeed if the land revenue is not certain to replace such a sum as £3000 within a very short time.
TFE 14 June
Duke of Newcastle
This is a very strong and very peculiar case. And, considering above all the great disadvantage to wh. the Colony has been put by our protracted negociations with the H.B.Co., I wd. recommend the Tr[easur]y to make the advance.
CF 17
I do not object to the application, but I fear we shall get a refusal.