No. 5
14 February 1863
My Lord Duke,
Referring to that part of Your Despatch of the 2nd June 1862 No 101 which relates particularly to Mr Cameron, the Chief Justice of this Colony, and to his antecedents as brought to Your Grace's notice by MrE.E.Manuscript image E. Langford, I have the honor to transmit herewith to Your Grace copy of a communication from Mr Cameron detailing matters connected with his early history, and rebutting Mr Langford's representations that he was an uncertified Bankrupt prior to his coming to Vancouver's Island.
2. The Documents which I forward in my other Despatches of this date Nos 3 and 4, as well as those which weretransmittedManuscript image transmitted in my Despatch No 14 of the 23rd March 1860 relating to another serious complaint of Mr Langford's, when placed in contrast with Mr Langford's statements and accusations, do, I think, lead to the inevitable conviction that Mr Langford is a person wholly unworthy of credence, and one who is principally actuated in these representations against Mr Cameron by malevolent feelings engendered through his having been very properly, although apparently toolenientlyManuscript image leniently punished by Mr Cameron for gross contempt of court.
3. Under such circumstances it would not be necessary for me to accompany Mr Cameron's statement with further remark, but as Your Grace desires to know whether Mr Cameron's antecedents were known to me at the time of his appointment, and at the same time expresses an opinion that the period is approaching when it will be necessary that Vancouver's Island should receive the servicesofManuscript image of a professional Judge, it becomes incumbent upon me to review the circumstances under which Mr Cameron became the Chief Justice of this Colony.
4. In my Despatch of the 7h January 1854 No 2, I represented to Your Grace that in consequence of the inexperience of the Magistrates, and of certain irregularities in the proceedings of their Court, it was found requisite to limit their jurisdiction in civil cases, andinManuscript image in order to provide for the wants of the Colony, to constitute a Supreme Court of Civil Justice. I selected to be the provincial Judge of that Court, Mr David Cameron, who was undoubtedly the most fitting person I could obtain for that position, he being a man of good business habits, of liberal education, some legal knowledge, and what was equal to all possessed of a more than ordinary amount of discretion and common sense. I would beg YourGraceManuscript image Grace to note that Mr Langford was then, the Senior Magistrate in the Colony, and it is not unnatural to assume from subsequent events that Mr Langford, forming his own Estimate of himself, must have viewed Mr Camerons appointment to a superior position with much jealousy and heart-burning. And I may as well here state that I selected Mr Cameron in preference to Mr Langford, because an experience of nearly three years had shown methatManuscript image that Mr Langford was singularly deficient in judgement, temper and discretion, and was much inferior both in legal and general knowledge to Mr Cameron. At the time I selected Mr Cameron I was but very imperfectly acquainted with his early history, and had no knowledge of the circumstances of his having twice failed in business. My knowledge of him extended to the fact that he had given up the management of a largeSugarManuscript image Sugar Estate in Demerara, where he was living in the enjoyment of every comfort, to accept an appointment in Vancouver's Island, offered to him by Mr Colvile, then Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, principally induced thereto by the opportunity it afforded him to seek a more temperate climate, to benefit the failing health of his wife, since deceased.
5. In reporting the appointment of Mr Cameron in my Despatch No 2 of the 7 January 1854, IstatedManuscript image stated that he was not a professional Lawyer, that he had accepted the appointment solely at my request, and only until a Law Officer could be appointed, a measure which I solicited might be early carried into effect. And in my Despatch No 42 of the 11h December 1854, in reporting upon a Memorial addressed to Your Grace upon the subject of Mr Cameron's appointment, I again observed that if Her Majesty's Government thought the appointmentofManuscript image of Mr Cameron improper, I had no wish to retain him in the position, and I requested that a Judge might be sent out from England. I would remark that this same Memorial was the production of a small but violent political clique, with whom were prominently connected Mr Langford and Mr James Cooper, the present Harbour Master of British Columbia; the particular grievance of the latter against my Government being that the sale of ardent Spirits withoutaManuscript image a Licence had been prohibited, and that he, being a Member of the Council, having become a retail vendor of spiritous Liquors, I had brought the matter to the notice of the council, and expressed my opinion that such proceedings were improper and derogatory to the dignity of the Council.
6. The circumstances of the provisional appointment of Mr Cameron must have been duly weighed by the Secretary of State, and I presume a favorable estimate arrived at of his abilitiesandManuscript image and fitness for the office, for by Mr Labouchere's Despatch No 8 of the 26h April 1856, referring to my Despatch of the 7h January 1854, and to the correspondence which had subsequently passed on the subject of the establishment of a Supreme Court of Civil Justice, I was informed that Mr Cameron would be appointed Chief Justice and a Warrant for that purpose under the Royal Sign Manual was forwarded to me in Despatch No 9 of the 5 May 1856.
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7. In consequence thereof Mr Cameron abandoned his employment under the Hudson's Bay Company and devoted himself, as I can testify from actual knowledge, with the most untiring assiduity to the duties of his office.
8. On the 28 July 1857, in my Despatch No 25, I requested instructions as to the amount and payment of the Salary to be assigned to Mr Cameron as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In reply I was informed by the Secretary of State's Despatch No 14ofManuscript image of the 6h November 1857, that the matter had been referred to the Hudson's Bay Company, with whom the decision was considered to rest. Mr Cameron however continued to receive no larger Salary that that attached to the office in 1853, viz: One Hundred pounds (£100) per Annum until the 8h August 1860, when a Salary of Eight Hundred pounds (£800) per Annum, payable from the Land Revenues of the Colony, was fixed by the Local LegislatureforManuscript image for the Chief Justice.
9. The foregoing is a statement of the circumstances under which Mr Cameron became the Chief Justice of Vancouver's Island. It will be seen that he was originally selected by me on account of his being the only person near to me to whom I could with safety entrust the duties of a most responsible office; that I solicited that he might speedily be relieved from those duties by a professional Judge; that HerMajesty'sManuscript image Majesty's Government thought it desirable to retain Mr Cameron in the Office in which I had provisionally placed him; and not only so, but, unsolicited, to elevate him to the higher and more responsible Office of Chief Justice; and I can most conscientiously say that during the period Mr Cameron has discharged these responsible duties, I am not aware of one single act which would show his appointment to have been unwise or inexpedient. On the contrary his high integrity, hisManuscript image firmness, discretion, and sound common sense, coupled with the most even temper and amiable manners have been a source of much satisfaction to me.
10. Although Mr Cameron was not originally educated as a Lawyer, yet I believe him by close application and study for a period of more than nine years to have acquired a knowledge of the profession that would compare favourably with the great mass of those regularly educated in the profession: indeed IhaveManuscript image have on more than one occasion found his opinion, although at variance with that of members of the profession, to be correct; and so far as my own personal experience of Mr Cameron is concerned I can assure Your Grace that although I was not, after the advent into the Colony of regularly qualified Lawyers, at first disposed to place very great confidence in Mr Cameron's opinions on points of Law, yet I have lately very considerably altered my views in that respect.
HoweverManuscript image
11. However should Her Majesty's Government still consider that a professional Chief Justice should be appointed, I will, if Your Grace desires it, call upon Mr Cameron to resign, and I have no doubt that he will under such circumstances, be prepared to meet the views of Her Majesty's Government; but I presume that in such case Her Majesty's Government will grant him a pension in consideration of his services, and of his having abandoned a certainty in order to accept anappointmentManuscript image appointment from which he is removed through no fault of his own.
I have the honor to be
My Lord Duke,
Your Graces most obedient
and humble Servant
James Douglas
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
A successful vindication, I think.
ABd 15 Apl
Sir F. Rogers
See minute on 3699.
TFE 16 Apl
I should like to see the primary papers which wd show how far Mr Cameron's absolute appointment as C. Justice was considered as a permanent appointment.
Mr Cameron's answer seems to me to have every appearance of straightforwardness. And though two failures in business are two arguments against employing a man in a responsible situation, in the first instance, they ought not I think to be remembered against a man (unless they are connected with fraud or gross negligence) after 9 years of hard & useful service.
As to the questions whether Mr C. shd be removed to make place for a laywer—vide minute annexed.
FR 18/4
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The circumstances of Mr Camerons appointment are as follows.
On the 7h of Jany 1854 Mr Douglas reported the passing of a Supreme Court Act for the appointment of Mr Cameron as Judge or acting Judge—with a salary of 100£ a year—stating that Mr C. was not a professional lawyer & had accepted the office solely at his (Mr D's) request until a Law Officer for the Colony (meaning professional Judge) should be appointed by the Crown. Again on 11 Dec. 1854 he referred to the "temporary appointment" of Mr Cameron.
On the 26h April 1856 (petitions having in the meantime been presented against Mr Camerons continuance in office) Mr Labouchere transmitted to the Colony an order in CouncilManuscript image establishing a Supreme Court and overruling these petitions added "Mr Cameron will be appointed Ch. Justice and the Warrant for that purpose will be transmitted to you with as little delay as possible."
Nothing was said about salary which continued at £100 per ann. But Mr Douglas states that on receiving the appointment from home he abandoned the employment of the H.B.Cy and devoted himself to his Ch Justiceship.
And this though somewhat stronger is borne out by Mr Douglas dph of the 28h July 1857 in wh he writes as follows.
I take this opportunity of requesting you to inform me of the amount of salary or emolument which Mr Cameron is annually to receive from H.M's Government for his services as Chief Justice and to direct howIManuscript image I am to draw for payment of the same.
May I trust that H.M's Government will take that matter into their early and favorable consideration, as Mr Cameron is clearly a zealous and most useful public servant, and having no private fortune of his own, he naturally looks to his profession for the support of himself and family.
The result was that a salary of 800£ was in August 1860 voted to Mr Cameron by the Local Legislature.
Mr Douglas now says that Mr Cameron, though not originally a lawyer, has by nine years practice made himself so (which is likely enough) that he discharges his duties well, & that having been led to abandon other employment for whatManuscript image he considered a permanency, he will expect a pension, if removed witht fault.
The Hudson Bay Compy give him a very good character in their letter of 3 August 1854.
It seems to me that Mr Cameron would certainly have a grievance (after all that has occurred) if he were turned adrift. And I see nothing improbable in Mr Douglas' statement that he makes a very good Ch. Justice. But for this I should like better authority than his father in law [brother in law]. And I should be disposed, if a new Governor is likely to go out soon, to leave it for that new Governor to ascertain if Mr Camerons administration of Justice is open toManuscript image reasonable objection, or is heard with honest distrust (on account of his want of legal qualification). If it is, I think that he would be entitled, not to a pension but to some Govt employment of equivalent or greater value than what he holds: for wh he mt be required to give up his Ch Justiceship.
If it is not I do not see why he should not be allowed to remain, it being thenceforth understood that his appointment is to be considered as permanent as that of any other Judge.
I think his explanation of his past life, in answer to Mr Langford is manly & has every appearance of honesty and completeness. I see that Mr Stuart, Attorney for the Estate of Mr Colvile in the Colony in which he (Mr Cameron) failed (British Guiana) recommended Mr Cameron to Mr Colvile for employment, and thatManuscript image the chairman of the H.B.C. offered Mr Cameron employment under the H.B.C. in V.C. Island and (as I have said) that the Company were well satisfied with the way in which he conducted their affairs.
FR 22/4
The question of allowing Mr Cameron to retain his appointment as Chief Justice may certainly remain in abeyance until the new Governor has formed an opinion of his fitness.
N 23
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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David Cameron, Chief Justice, to W.A.G. Young, Colonial Secretary, 2 February 1863, responding to the personal charges laid against him by Langford with a detailed description of his past business dealings, the circumstances surrounding his appointment as Chief Justice, and the charge of contempt he laid against Langford, with enclosures.
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Langford to Cameron, 18 April 1860, declining to appear in court in answer to a summons after it was discovered he had not served a full twenty four hours or paid the fine imposed as a result of his sentencing for contempt of court.
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List of Interrogations brought forward by the court to be answered by Langford in response to contempt of court charges, no date, signed by Cameron.
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Record of the answers given by Langford in response to the Interrogation, 8 May 1860, signed by Thomas G. Williams, Registrar.
Other documents included in the file
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Draft reply, Newcastle to Douglas, No. 13, 25 April 1863.
Minutes by CO staff
Duke of Newcastle
I hardly know whether or not this should be sent.
Something seems due to Mr Cameron who appears to have been unjustly attacked.
It may proceed.
N
Douglas, James to Pelham-Clinton, Henry Pelham Fiennes 14 February 1863, CO 305:20, no. 3701, 83. 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/V63005.html.

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