Wood to Cardwell
Victoria Vancouver Island
August 31 1864
I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of a note of the 18h of June last in reply to my application for the appointment of Chief Justice in this Colony to the effect that my application would be recorded.
Since applying for this appointment His Excellency Governor Kennedy has doneManuscript image me the honour of appointing me Acting Attorney General for this Colony, pending your approval; and I trust that those matters which may have been communicated to you on my behalf will warrant the confirmation of my appointment at your hands.
Looking upon the position of Chief Justice as one of supreme honor and importance I should desire still to have my name retained as applying for it should it still be considered not a matter of paramount importance to the interests of the public that a member of our profession should be appointed direct from home.
Some question regarding the salary of the Attorney General has already arisenManuscript image between my predecessor in office and His Excellency Governor Kennedy and he has kindly allowed me to state my views on the matter in this note which he has enclosed with his own dispatches.
His Excellency is of opinion that the Attorney General for this Colony should undertake for a fixed sum all business both by way of advice to the Government as also all contentious business in Courts of Criminal & Civil Jurisdiction.
I have no experience in myself of the practice in such matters and am at a distance from such friends as could give me reliable information, but my belief is that in Colonies as at home the Attorney Generals salary (in this Colony a very smallManuscript image one) is held to cover only his advice to Government and does not relate to the conduct in Court of Suits & prosecutions in which as in suits between subject & subject, his brief bears a fee of the usual amount paid to him thro' the Crown Solicitor.
I may say that in this Colony the practice of a barristers is distinct from that of an attorney.
It is contended by His Excellency that a fixed salary tends to prevent an Attorney General from giving false advice with a view to litigation which he otherwise ought to & that it is convenient for the Colony to know what their legal expenses will be beforehand—both of which points I concede.
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On the other hand a fixed salary would in the hands of a disingenuous & indolent man tend to make him sacrifice the interests of the Crown, possibly of great moment, if they cost him extra trouble, and it may be easily seen that ill-advice ending in non-action is safer from public notice & detection than advice ending in action, which passing as it would thro' the hands of a Solicitor & forming the subject of conference with him, would also if uncalled for attract remark at the hands of the public. Added to this, payment according to the amount of work done is the natural and ordinary mode of remuneration & I may say that a mode of payment based upon suspicion of the honor of the counselManuscript image and an exception to the known usage of the bar in respect to other clients ought least of all to prevail towards a law officer of the Crown usually a member of the English Bar and presumably a man of integrity & character.
I should respectfully submit that unless inconsistent with the rules of the Colonial Office the Attorney General's salary should only be held to cover his advice to Government and the drawing of proclamations & documents of a simple character but that Acts of Parliament, Indictments, Deeds, & all matters by way of action or suit Criminal & Civil should be paid as extra work according to the scale of fees current in the Colony.
With respect to the existing salary, £300,Manuscript image I believe his Excellency is of opinion that this sum under any view of the Attorney Generals duties is very inadequate. The duties of the Attorney General are by no means light, this being a colony of some commercial importance, & now comprizing a newly discovered gold field and I believe I am correct in saying that the salary bears no proportion to that of other Colonies similarly circumstanced with this & where the costs of living are so high.
In conclusion I may say that I should be much obliged if you would give me separate instructions as to what are understood to be the duties of the Attorney General for this Colony in return for his salary & that you will be kindly pleased to take intoManuscript image consideration the augmentation of that salary.
I have the honor to be
your most obedient
& humble servant
Thomas L. Wood

To The Right Honorable Edward Cardwell
Her Majesty's Secretary of State
for the Colonies
&c &c
Minutes by CO staff
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Mr Elliot
I think that the opinion of Sir F. Rogers is in favor of a reasonable salary being assigned to the office of Attorney Genl with private practice. £300 a year is the salary proposed in the Civil List desph for the Atty Genl of V.C. Island. The Governor has in a recent despatch (now in circulation) observed that the plan of allowing the Att. Genl to receive fees was likely to be productive of litigation expensive alike to the Govt & to Individuals. Supposing the present system of paying the Atty Genl by the means of a salary & of private practice to be reviewed it is well as to remember that the Governor has not hitherto told us that the present salary is fixed too low.
ABd 22 Oct
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
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Kennedy to Colonial Office, 7 September 1864, statement advising that he had no knowledge of the contents of the letter sent by Wood.