No. 25, Miscellaneous
17 May 1862
I have had the honor to receive your Despatch No 91 of the 15th March upon the subject of the suspension from office of Mr George Tomline Gordon, the Treasurer of this Colony, in consequence of his having been committed for trial upon achargeManuscript image charge of embezzlement of the public Funds: and also commenting upon the manner in which I had appointed a Successor to Mr Gordon.
2. Your Grace considers that the defalcation in three instances of persons recently appointed by me to Offices of trust and responsibility is discreditable to my Government, and cannot fail to deprive the Executive of the respect and confidence of the Colonists; andYourManuscript image Your Grace attributes this state of things to the want of proper care in the distribution of the patronage that has been left so unreservedly in my hands.
3. It is with the most sincere regret that I find myself thus imperatively called upon to defend myself from the very serious reflections which Your Grace has esteemed it necessary to cast upon me. I do so, however, unhesitatingly & fearlessly, conscious of my own rectitude of action, and of myhonestManuscript image honest endeavour to discharge the trust reposed in me faithfully & impartially. In the career of my office I have neither sought nor coveted the exercise of patronage, on the contrary in the difficulties surrounding me gladly would I have freed myself from that not the least of the responsibilities and cares pressing upon me. Her Majesty's Government, however, thought fit to charge me with that responsibility, and I did not shrink from it—as I have not shrunk from any onerous duty demanded from my position—butManuscript imagebut I have on all occasions endeavoured to discharge it to the best of my knowledge and belief for the sterling interests of the public service. From the moment that the circumstances of the Country suddenly and urgently demanded the creation around me of all the machinery of Government—amidst a state of previous quiescence & retirement that precluded the existence on the spot of fitting materials—from that moment until now, the selection of individuals to perform its various functionshasManuscript image has been a matter of deep and increasing anxiety. Easy indeed, by comparison, would have been the task, had I been able to fall back upon a long tried and proved staff of officials regularly educated in the service, and advanced from one stage to another in regular gradation according to character and ability: easy would it have been, light would have been the responsibility, when it became necessary to make a fresh appointment, if that appointment had been but to instal a junior clerk to asubordinateManuscript image subordinate office. But what has been my position? I will venture to say it is without a parallel. I have had to organize a Government Staff. I have been compelled to appoint at once to positions of trust and responsibility men who I felt were not properly qualified to discharge the duties required of them, but who were the best qualified I could obtain; men of whom I, personally, knew nothing; men in whom I, personally, had no interest; and of whom I could only judge from theLettersManuscript image Letters of introduction which they brought to me, and from the Character they bore elsewhere, or had acquired during their residence in the Colony. One person whom I appointed in this manner was Mr Gordon, the defaulting Treasurer. I staved off the responsibility of making such an appointment as long as it was practicable. I employed the services of Captain Gosset the Treasurer of British Columbia while the Treasury of that Colony was temporarily established in Vancouver's Island, but upon its removalIManuscript image I was forced to create the fresh office. I knew not where to find a suitable person to fill it, whose antecedents and character were such as I could rely upon with confidence. Of all the candidates for public employment Mr Gordon appeared the most fitting. He had been 12 months in the Colony. He had earned for himself a good reputation. He had worked assiduously during part of the time as a Clerk in a Barristers office. He had acquired a certain status and position. He was a Member of the House of Assembly. HehadManuscript image had settled in the Colony with his wife and a family of seven children. He was a graduate of Cambridge—and finally he had presented to me not an ordinary—but a special letter of introduction from Your Graces predecessor in Office, Sir Edward Lytton. Could I, under the circumstances, have desired more satisfactory evidence of character and respectability, or—as to the point I mainly sought—honesty? Was it not natural that with such evidence I should have felt secure in appointing Mr GordontoManuscript image to the vacant office. That his subsequent defalcation may be discreditable to my Government I will not contest, but much as I may deplore the circumstance—bitterly as I do feel it—I must contend that I am more entitled to the sympathy than to the reprehension of Her Majesty's Government.
4. Into the other two cases of defalcation alluded to by Your Grace I will not now enter. One I have already explained in a previous Despatch; the other—that oftheManuscript image the Harbour Master—has turned out upon strict investigation to be not so bad as it first appeared, and might, perhaps, under less scrupulous supervision and watchful carefulness have been overlooked altogether.
5. With regard to Your Graces remarks upon the manner in which I appointed Mr Watson as a Successor to Mr Gordon, I hasten to express my regret that my Despatch should have led Your Grace into the supposition that I had adopted any other course than that prescribed bytheManuscript image the regulations of the Service. The appointment I gave to Mr Watson was merely provisional, as I intended to convey by the use of the words to act as Treasurer, and in begging that Your Grace would be pleased to obtain Her Majesty's confirmation of the appointment. Mr Watson perfectly understood this, and in leaving the Bank of British North America, and accepting the appointment the only stipulation he made was that I should recommend his confirmation to the Secretary of State. TheimmediateManuscript image immediate appointment of an officer was an act of imperative necessity. Revenue was coming in every day. There was no Cashier or other person to receive it. The Treasurer himself comprises the whole staff of his Department, and it was necessary to keep that Department in being: and the opportunity of obtaining the services of Mr Watson was not to be thrown away. I feel very thankful that Your Grace has confirmed the appointment, for Mr Watson promises to be a most useful Member of my Government, andaManuscript image a most efficient public Servant.
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
VJ 5 Aug
This appears to me one of those cases in which it is impossible to answer a Govr—and at the same time impossible not to retain the conviction that a succession of bad appointments wd not have been made witht a certain offhandedness or want of care in apptmt. I should be disposed to put by.
FR 5/8
CF 6
The Govr does not inform us of what we learn by newspapers—that Mr Gordon escaped from [one line off microfilm] apparently questionable circumstances.
Put by.
N 7
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 17 May 1862, CO 305:19, no. 7703, 162. 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. https://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/V62025.html.

Last modified: 2020-12-02 13:40:34 -0800 (Wed, 02 Dec 2020) (SVN revision: 5008)