No. 24
13 May 1862
I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of the Despatches Nos 88 and 89 of the 23rd and 24th February 1862 respectively, addressed to me by Your Grace upon the subject of Mr D'Ewes the late Acting Postmaster at Victoria, having absconded, and informing me of his disastrous end at Homburg,andManuscript image and calling upon me for an explanation in regard to the Circumstances under which I had conferred an appointment upon him.
2. In November 1859 Mr D'Ewes presented to me the special letter of Introduction with which he was furnished by Sir Edward Lytton in September 1858. He also at the same time produced other letters and testimonials bearing evidence to his abilities, literary attainments, and to the position which he held in Society. He wasaManuscript image a person of good address, and appeared to possess a considerable amount of business knowledge and experience. He had with him a wife and two children, and represented himself to be in very straitened circumstances through certain property which he claimed being in Chancery; and he begged for any employment that I could give him as the whole of his available means had been exhausted in defraying the cost of the passage of himself and family fromEnglandManuscript image England to this place by a Sailing Vessel. Shortly afterwards the Clerk in the Post Office at Victoria resigned his position on account of the insufficiency of the Salary. Amongst all the Candidates for Employment under the Government, there was not one that I could fix upon as properly fitted for the office: it was necessary to fill it immediately and the most fitting person I could select appeared to me to be Mr D'Ewes. He entered into the Office and carried on the duties with a degree of assiduity and willingness thatmadeManuscript image made me feel satisfied I had done wisely in selecting him. At this time however the Confidential Despatch addressed to me in November 1858 by Sir Edward Lytton and received by me in January 1859, came to my remembrance. That Despatch unfortunately referred to a Mr John Dewes, not D'Ewes and had I regret to say in the length of time which had elapsed between its receipt, and the arrival of Mr D'Ewes, and in the heavy pressure of public business by which I was surrounded,escapedManuscript image escaped my recollection. The name Dewes is not uncommon or striking, and it is not remarkable that amidst the [blank] hundred letters of introduction which passed through my hands, I should after a lapse of ten months for the moment have lost sight of its particulars as having reference to a gentleman who presented letters of introduction bearing the somewhat uncommon name of D'Ewes. My first impulse immediately upon assuring myself of the application of Sir Edward Lyttons Despatch to Mr D'Ewes,wasManuscript image was to discharge him. Various considerations presented themselves however. Mr D'Ewes was not in a position of any very great trust or responsibility. He was giving every satisfaction in the performance of his duties—and I may here mention that to the last he maintained his reputation with the public for being attentive, energetic, and most obliging in carrying out the functions of his not very enviable office. He had a wife and family dependant upon him for supportandManuscript image and it was reasonable to assume that he would not imperil his own and their means of subsistence by any impropriety on his part. Against all this however was the fact that he had forfeited a position of trust in another Colony. The bare fact, nevertheless, was all I had to deal with, for the precise reasons which led to the forfeiture were not given in such detail as to enable me to judge whether they unfitted Mr D'Ewes for every trust. By the Minute of Sir Charles Hotham enclosed to me by Sir Edward Lytton, itappearedManuscript image appeared simply that Mr D'Ewes had subjected himself to influences unbecoming his position as a police Magistrate and a public officer by having had himself under obligations to a class of persons whose conduct in their capacity of licenced Victuallers brought them under the scrutiny of the Bench of which he was Chairman. Such being the case, and serious riots having occurred, it was not unnatural that Mr D'Ewes was considered unfit longer to beretainedManuscript image retained in the important position of Magistrate, but the nature of the obligations is not stated, and there is no evidence to shew that Mr D'Ewes was unfit for Employment in a subordinate Capacity. Sir Edward Lytton states that he "has been personally acquainted with Mr D'Ewes for many years": and in the Confidential Despatch subsequently addressed to me he merely observes that he was not aware of the circumstances he therein communicates to me, when he gave Mr D'EwestheManuscript image the letter of introduction; but at the same time he remarks that he is "not prepared to pronounce any opinion upon Mr D'Ewes conduct." Having carefully weighed all these and other considerations, I came to the conclusion that it would be scarcely just were I to remove Mr D'Ewes from his office, and to be the means of denying him the opportunity of re-establishing a character, which so far as I was aware from the evidence before me had possibly only suffered throughactsManuscript image acts of indiscretion, and not of moral turpitude.
3. With reference to Your Graces remarks in respect to the Letters of Introduction furnished by the Secretary of State, I would observe that I am not aware of having expressly adopted any course whereby the impression could be created—as has been alleged to Your Grace—that I felt bound in selections for appointments to give a preference to persons who brought letters of introduction from the SecretaryofManuscript image of States Office; but it seems to me that the impression may have existed notwithstanding: for it is but reasonable to suppose that in cases of selection I should give the preference to a person possessed of so satisfactory a voucher to his respectability, character and position, over one who could produce no such reference. I have, nevertheless, never viewed the Letters of Introduction of theSecretaryManuscript image Secretary of State as being binding upon me; but I have felt very grateful to him for giving me the benefit of those letters, knowing as he must have done the perplexing position in which I was placed to obtain adequate assistance in the harassing duties which surround me.
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke
Your Grace's most obedient
and humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
ABd 28 June
Mr Douglas appears to me to have furnished a satisfactory explanation. If he had first received the recommendation and then within two months it's correction, the step taken by him would have been inexcusable. But it will be seen that by a curious accident Mr D'Ewes did not present his introduction until 14 months after it's date, and nearly a year after Mr Douglas had read and thrown aside the letter by which it was meant to be corrected.
It is a pity that the name was written incorrectly in the amending letter, and the present incident is an illustration of the importance of accuracy in the writing of despatches.
May Governor Douglas be told that his explanation is satisfactory?
TFE 30 June
I think so.
CF 1 July
N 1
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 110, 4 July 1862, acknowledging Douglas's quite satisfactory explanation.
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 13 May 1862, CO 305:19, no. 6353, 153. 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.

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