Young to Rogers (Permanent Under-Secretary)
Walmer Kent
23rd September 1864
I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 21st Instant, acquainting me, by direction of Mr Secretary Cardwell, that the Governor of Vancouver's Island has recently brought to his notice certain circumstances connected with the sale and transfer to the Colonial Government of Fisgard Island, and requesting, in view of the official position I held in theColonyManuscript image Colony at the time the transaction took place, that I will afford for the information of the Secretary of State such explanation in regard to such sale and transfer as may be in my power.
2. In accordance, therefore, with this desire of the Secretary of State I have much pleasure in communicating to you the following particulars.
3. During the year 1859, an Island called Fisgard Island, lying at the entrance of the Harbour of Esquimalt, was selected by a Board of Naval Officers for the site of a Lighthouse. That Island formed a portion of an Estate called Belmont, then and nowtheManuscript image the property of my Wife. This portion being thus selected and needed for public purposes, Mr Pemberton, the Surveyor General, applied to me to name the amount of purchase money asked for its transfer to the Colonial Government. I informed him that owing to the particular official position I held, I declined to place any price upon it, but would be prepared to accept upon behalf of my wife, whatever sum might be settled by competent authority as a fair compensation for the loss we should sustain by the alienation of the Island: and I suggested that he, as Surveyor General, should consultwithManuscript image with the Governor directly upon the subject, instead of making reference through me as Colonial Secretary. I assume that he did so, for shortly afterwards he informed me that the sum of One Hundred and Fifty Pounds (£150) had been named as Compensation, and he asked whether I was satisfied with that sum. I told him that I considered it was very much under the value of the Island, but, after what I had previously said, and in view of my position as a public officer, I felt constrained to take the amount offered. Within a few days Mr Pemberton brought and paid to metheManuscript image the amount in question, for which I gave such receipt as he required. Shortly afterwards, but I do not now remember within what precise time, either Mr Pemberton, or his Assistant, Mr Pearse, presented to me the Deed to be executed by my wife and myself for the conveyance of the land to the Colonial Government. I personally submitted this Deed to the Attorney General, to ascertain whether it was in order, and what were the precise formalities in relation to its execution. The Attorney General acquainted me that it must be executed by my wife in the presence of the Chief Justice. I applied to the Chief Justice, andobtainedManuscript image obtained the appointment of a day for his attestation of her signature of the Deed. On that day I brought my wife from Esquimalt, where we then resided, and she and I punctually appeared before the Chief Justice. He examined the Deed, and informed me that it was imperfect, inasmuch as it lacked certain Certificates which should be attached to it prior to its Execution, and which it was the duty of the Attorney General to supply. I instantly repaired to the office of the Attorney General—which was in the same Building with the Judge's Chambers—in order to get the omission at once supplied; but he was either absent,orManuscript image or else specially engaged, so that I did not succeed in my object. As by this time it was drawing towards dusk, and Esquimalt a considerable distance off, I was obliged—much to my vexation and annoyance—of which I have now the most vivid recollection—to abandon for that day the attempt I had then made formally to complete the final conveyance of the property. As soon as practicable afterwards, I again handed the Deed to the Attorney General, and stated what the Chief Justice had said. He replied—to the best of my recollection—that he could not then attach the required Certificates, as he had not by him the necessary Book of reference. I thenagainManuscript image again sought the Chief Justice, to ascertain whether I could procure from him the form of the Certificates, as I was most anxious that the matter should be settled and done with, and the trouble of it off my mind; but I failed to accomplish my purpose, as I did also upon several occasions subsequently, when I specially obtained the attendance of my wife to complete the transaction. In these proceedings I had lost much valuable time, and in the multiplicity of duties I had to attend to, I then allowed the matter to stand over, as one—both parties being upon the spot and always accessible—that could be concluded at any moment;andManuscript image and thus time rolled on; but before leaving the Colony not forgetting that the Conveyance was still unexecuted, and determined to avoid the delays I had previously encountered, I employed my own Solicitor, Mr Drake, to complete the Draft Deed, and at some trouble got the parties together and the Deed formally executed. Mr Drake was present and took the Deed into his custody, and I requested him to forward it without loss of time to the Surveyor General, he being the officer in whom the trust was vested, and in whose custody the Deed should remain. I did not take the Deed and do this myself, for the reason that beingwithinManuscript image within a few hours of quitting the Colony, I was nearly overwhelmed with the multitude of matters I had to arrange and settle, and I knew that the Deed was quite safe in Mr Drake's hands. I can now only express my great regret that Mr Drake should have delayed to carry out my wishes until a period of more than a month after my departure from the Colony.
4. I have related these circumstances in detail, although in as brief a manner as the subject would permit, in order to describe the formalities that occurred, and to shew that both my wife and myself were not only prepared but werereallyManuscript image really anxious to execute and complete the conveyance of the property, concurrently with the payment of the purchase money, and that the delay which ensued was more attributable to others, than to us as individuals. I believe this statement furnishes all the information more especially required by the Secretary of State, with the exception of one point—the non-execution of the Deed by Mr Pemberton, the Surveyor General, the party to whom the property was conveyed. With respect to this I can only add that I am unable to reply to the query further than to say that I do not think such a proceeding is customary—certainly not in Vancouver's IslandandManuscript imageand I am not aware that the absence of Mr Pembertons signature in any way affects the validity of the transfer. I would also remark in regard to the non-delivery of the deed concurrently with the payment of the purchase money, that although in this particular case there was no studied or intentional delay, yet that it is not a remarkable or solitary instance in Vancouver's Island of such non-delivery. I am aware of many instances—Some so far back as 1858, in which year the purchase of certain lands from the Hudson's Bay Company was completed—and yet up to the period of my leaving the Colony no Deeds had been delivered. I could also cite other instances, if itwereManuscript image were necessary, but I merely allude to the circumstances to shew that this particular case, in which I happen to be concerned, is not unprecedented.
5. I further, cannot conclude without expressing my regret that the Governor, as appears by your letter, should have failed in obtaining any information from the Officers of the Government in Vancouver's Island in respect of this transaction, beyond, apparently, the solitary fact that money was paid to me for the land, and as is alleged by my order. There was no mystery connected with the acquisition of the land by the Government. It was well known that Fisgard Island was private property for years antecedent to that acquisition.TheManuscript image The particulars I have narrated in respect of the execution of the Deed cannot have escaped the memory of the Chief Justice. The Attorney General must remember my repeated applications to him upon the subject. The original Draft Deed was actually prepared in the Surveyor Generals Office. The map attached to it was likewise prepared in the Surveyor Generals Office; and I believe that the map now attached to the executed Deed was actually only completed a few days prior to my departure from the Colony, for it was found that the map first prepared had become soiled. I am, however, not perfectly sure upon this latter point, and I have not my paperswithManuscript image with me to refer to, but it is my firm impression that a second sketch map was made by the Surveyor General, and that at a period immediately preceding my departure.
6. With respect to the statement of the Surveyor General, of which you make mention, that the purchase money was paid to me, upon my order as Colonial Secretary, by the Surveyor General, I beg most distinctly to deny ever having given such an order to the Surveyor General. The amount I received, upon behalf of my wife, was named by him, and paid by him under the circumstances I have already described. The fact of my name as Colonial Secretary appearing upon the Requisition authorizing theexpenditureManuscript image expenditure, only applies to this expenditure in common with other items. It conveys no authority from me individually, but merely certifies, according to established custom, after the Document had been laid before the Governor, that the Governor approves the outlay and authorizes the Treasurer to pass it. All the accounts and documents connected with the Light House Expenditure were sent home from time to time to the Board of Trade, and a reference to that Department will no doubt produce the Documents I refer to and confirm what I state.
7. In regard to the assumption of the Secretary of State that I will be prepared to execute such Deeds andtoManuscript image to do all other such acts as the Crown may be advised are necessary to make the transaction herein referred to complete and effectual, I trust that what I have related will serve to shew that the Secretary of State is not wrong in so judging me. Both my wife and myself are fully prepared—if the existing conveyance be held to be defective—to do all that may be in our power to repair the omission. I must, however, disclaim being responsible for such omission if really existing. The draft Deed was delivered to me from the office of the Surveyor General, and—issuing from such a source—I, not unnaturally, assumed that it had been prepared with due regard to saving the rights of theGovernmentManuscript image Government.
8. In conclusion I would desire further to remark that after placing myself in the hands of the Colonial Government to determine the value of the land, I should, naturally, have been reluctant to originate my appeal against the decision arrived at; but as the subject is now before the Secretary of State, I trust I may be pardoned in further trespassing upon his attention by alluding to the loss I conceive my family to have sustained through what was really to me—considering the view I took of the official position I held—mistaken though it might be—the compulsory alienation of a piece of valuable land,althoughManuscript image although I am, at the same time, free to confess that I have only myself to blame for having allowed a sense of delicacy to blind me to the duty which I owed to my wife and children. The Secretary of State is well aware that land in a new Country, and more especially in an auriferous one, is not held at its actually existing or intrinsic value, as in the case with property in old and settled countries where calculations can be pretty accurately made of what return an investment will yield for years to come. No such standard of value can be applied in a new country. What may be considered a piece of almost worthless land to day, may tomorrow be worth a fortune. Vancouver's IslanditselfManuscript image itself is every day affording striking instances of this—much to the benefit of the far-seeing. The spot herin referred to—Fisgard Island—is situated immediately at the entrance of the most accessible Harbour in the whole Northern Pacific, and one that I firmly believe will within a few years be crowded with shipping, as San Francisco is now; for, so long as the Port is maintained Free, I have a perfect faith in the future of the Colony, and of its becoming the great British Emporium for the northern Pacific. The value of such a position as Fisgard Island, under such circumstances, is evident, and the inadequacy of the compensation paid for it apparent. At the time the Island was taken possession of by the Government, I consulted thelargestManuscript image largest Real Estate Agent in the place as to its value, and judging from his opinion, any my own knowledge of the prices that land at Esquimalt had brought, I feel confident that had the Island been then put up for Sale at public auction it would have realized a sum not less than Five Thousand Dollars ($5000); and if I—instead of remaining passive—had insisted upon the matter being referred to arbitration, I am convinced a sum very much larger than that I received would have been awarded.
I have the honor to be
Your most obedient
and humble Servant
William A.G. Young
Minutes by CO staff
Manuscript image
Sir F. Rogers
As the Land Bd prepared the Letter to Mr Young I presume that gentleman's ansr should be sent to them.
ABd 28 Sepr
At once.
CNB. Is not Mr Pemberton rather than Mr & Mrs Young the person who is particularly required to make a fresh conveyance of the Land?
FR 28/9
Other documents included in the file
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Elliot to Emigration Commissioners, 3 October 1864, forwarding copy of the letter for their suggestions and observations.