1111. N. America

26 Pall Mall
Tuesday
30th May 1848.
Sir
In accordance with your request that I should transfer to paper the subject of our conversation on Saturday with regard to the advantages or disadvantages that would accrue to a colony on Vancouver's Island, under the jurisdiction or superintendence of the Hudson's Bay Company I beg to submit the following. 
Having during my late period of Service in the Pacific been for upwards of two years employed on that part of the North West Coast generally known as the Hudson's Bay Territory, the greater part of which has been spent within
Ansd. 14 June
the limits of Fort Vancouver their great Western Depot, I have had every opportunity of observing, not only how all their arrangements were managed but the spirit which pervaded their whole system, and which I have no hesitation in saying would be wholly, and totally inapplicable to the nursing of a young Colony, with the hopes of ever bringing it to maturity. And my opinion only accords with that which I have heard universally
expressed
expressed by all disinterested individuals who have had an opportunity of visiting not only these regions, but their Settlements in Hudson's Bay and on the Red River
There has always appeared to me an overbearingly illiberal usurpation of power on the part of the H.B. Co to which every better feeling has invariably been Sacrificed, and which has rendered their line of conduct in many instances most irregular and unjustifiable, however necessary this System may have been found when dealing with Savages, it could not but prove repugnant to the feelings of the Colonists. And the facility which in this case would be offered them of leaving the island, would doubtless be taken advantage of, and the Colony after dwindling into insignificance would become but another dependance wholly at the mercy of the Hudsons Bay Co
That this powerful Company have the ability to form advantageous Settlements in these unfrequented parts, there is not a doubt, but when their trade is wholly carried on with the Aborigines, is it to be supposed, that they would aid in the advancement of civilization
when
when from time immemorial, it has been proved that the progress of the one has ever been made at the expence of the other? And should the Natives cease to exist, why, their occupation is gone. It is only a natural conclusion then to arrive at that the efforts which the Hudsons Bay Company are putting forward to obtain either a direct or indirect influence in Vancouvers Island are with the Sole motive of protracting to as late a period as possible a monopoly which they have so long enjoyed, and which could not benefit the country, the only object of establishing a Settlement in Such a distant quarter. The Puget's Sound Company are doubtless equally anxious for Hudsons Bay jurisdiction but it must be at the same time remembered that these two Companies are so wholly incorporated in each other, and their interests are mutually blended, their object being to engross all those other available Sources of revenue to which the free trade is not immediately applicable. 
Were it necessary to corroborate what I have now stated, I might quote instances which have come under my immediate observation but I believe it to be unnecessary as there has never been but one opinion on the subject. 
With regard to the Natural advantages of the island, my impression is that they are highly favourable for the establishment of a Colony, the climate is a most desirable one, and comparing it, with that of this Country infinitely more equable, it is as healthy as could be wished for and seems to Suit the European Constitution admirably, and though fever and ague are very prevalent on the main land yet from the absence of low and marshy ground they are unknown here. Water however is not wanting and can always be obtained in sufficient quantity, as a proof of which there are beaver on the island, whose aquatick propensities are too well known to be commented on. 
To give a correct description of the island would entail a task, which I do not hesitate to confess I am incompetent of performing, as its interior has never been explored, and in fact it has only been penetrated at one point to the extent of twenty miles, the shores however have been very frequently visited, in the course of trafficking with the Indians
and
2.
and from such sources of information a very Satisfactory conclusion may be arrived at. 
Vancouver's is an island about two hundred and fifty miles long, and sixty five its extreme breadth at any part, although in many places it does not exceed the half of that, in its general appearance it is mountainous and thickly wooded, the Western or sea coast being the most precipitous 
As the Straits of de Fuca are entered its wild aspect gradually diminishes until within some fifteen or twenty miles of Victoria the Company's only Settlement on the island — here it presents a most favourable view, the dark pine forest giving way to plains and open park land studded with fine oaks, this continues with some exceptions along the Coast bordering the Canal de Arra and gulph of Georgia running up in a North Westerly direction offering many eligible spots for agricultural operations. The Navigation here is considered difficult at times even for Steam vessels, owing to the rapidity and irregularity of the currents, but when it is remembered that Vancouver found his way through here in Safety, it cannot be doubted
but
but that these difficulties will dissapear before advancing civilization and science. To compensate however for the Casual disadvantages in the navigation the whole coast abounds in most excellent harbours which can scarcely be equalled in any island of Similar extent, and where the most Secure inlets are wanting numerous Small islets afford the Mariner a safe anchorage and protection from the weather. With regard to the minerals as yet coal is only known to exist here, but sanguine hopes are entertained that there are others, lead and tin having been discovered in Queen Charlottes island which is little more than a degree to the Northward — 
The coal was quite accidentally discovered from the vein having been seen on the beach at low water, a quantity of this although taken almost from the surface has been satisfactorily tried on board the Company's Steamer Beaver on several occasions, the situation of this mine is about twenty-five miles from the entrance of Queen Charlottes Sound, and could be reached by sailing vessels with perfect ease, entering from the Northward. The timber which is here to be met with consists almost
ex-
exclusively of the gigantic pine in different varieties. There are also oak ash and such other trees as are to be met with in this country, although they bear but a small proportion. The pine is most available for ships spars and the more Northerly the climate the more valuable they are. 
I have as yet said nothing about the Soil there are conflicting opinions as to its being very available for agricultural purposes and I have very lately seen it publically stated, that there was such a thin surface over rock as to render it perfectly unavailable, but I think that, that is rather a sweeping assertion. That the ground is in many places stony there is no doubt but with a little labour they can be removed, and there remains as rich a soil as the farmer can desire. 
So little being known of the interior of the island as I have already observed, it would be difficult to form a very correct estimate of the number of its inhabitants, but from the knowledge of the existence of nine tribes on the coast, averaging Seven hundred men to a tribe, a sufficiently accurate approximation may be arrived at, by stating the whole
to
to amount to about ten thousand which however I should think it did not exceed. They are for the most part generally friendly to Strangers, although not wholly perhaps to be depended upon, yet a simple demonstration of force has always been found to keep them in check. They subsist chiefly on fish, but likewise take a great quantity of game, all of which are easily procured and are in great abundance; they even venture after the whale in their light canoes and that animal frequents the Straits of de Fuca, and gulph of Georgia during the Season, great numbers are caught, I was informed on good authority, as many as a hundred had been taken during the year. This of Course has been found a very productive sport. 
The subject of transporting emigrants across the isthmus of Panama, having been suggested as a less expensive method than Conveying them around Cape Horn, I would beg to observe as far as my experience allows me that the latter must certainly prove the more economical of the two. Allowing fifty days as the passage of a Sailing vessel from England to Vera Cruz
and
3.
and that from Panama to Vancouver's Island to be sixty which would be the probable amount taking into consideration the prevailing winds, add to which ten days occupied in transporting the Emigrants and their baggage across the isthmus — the amount would be one hundred and twenty. Now the whole journey round the Cape would scarcely occupy more than one hundred and forty, this certainly would show a saving of twenty days, but when taking into consideration the expences of Conveyance overland, and the two sets of vessels which it would of course require, independently of no small inconvenience to the Emigrants attending their transhipment, I doubt not but that the longer route would eventually be the more preferable 
I have the honour to remain
Sir
Your most obedt Servt
Adam D. Dundas
Lieutt R.N.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale.
This Letter, which has just reached me, gives a remarkably favorable account of Van Couvers Island, and [...] supports the statements made in the Letter from Mr Fitzgerald, which I sent you this morning, as to the ineligibility of the Hudson's Bay Company to undertake any new settlement in B.N. America. 
ABd
5/6
Mr Hawes
It does not appear to whom this letter is addressed or how it got here: (N.B. It would be always advisable before destroying the envelope to ascertain whether there is any address inside.) I conclude we have it through Mr Fitzgerald. The account of Vancouver's Island is certainly very good, as to the attack on the Hudson's Bay Co. I have no means of forming a judgment. 
HM
June 6
xy
This letter is from Lieut Dundas R.N. (The brother of Mr Dundas MP) & a very intelligent officer. He was introduced to me by his brother & this Letter is the result of a long conversation. Since then Mr Dundas tells me that he is inclined to think that a Scotch Colony cd be founded here. That if sanctioned by Ld Grey, & a good charter or Govt given that both Settlers & Capital cd found & raised — & that some leading Scottish names would join. I think the matter well worth consideration. I do not believe that the H.B. Cy would enter into the Colonization of Vancouvers Island with any large & liberal views. Whereas a good (proprietary?) Charter might I understand tempt some distinguished Scottish friends to join in attempting to found a Settlement here. I conceive it may be done without involving this Cy in any share of the Expence beyond the periodical visits of Ships of War?  
BH
From the conversatn I had yesterday with Sir J. Pelly I believe the Hudson's Bay Company are disposed to colonize V.C. Island upon very liberal Principles, & they have advantages for such an enterprize in their existing establishment & Capital which no other body possesses — I shd recommend that the Scotch Gentlemen who have contemplated such an undertakg shd communicate with the Company — by their combined exertns much might be done. — Thank the writer for this communicatnMr Hawes had better perhaps see him again & learn more of the scheme — I shd also be glad by & by to see him. — 
G.
7/
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft, Colonial Office to Dundas, 14 June 1848, thanking him for his letter concerning Vancouver Island
  • Mr Hawes will notice that Lord Grey wishes that he should have a further interview with Mr Dundas in order to learn more of the Scheme of colonizing Van Couver's Island with Scotch Settlers. 
    ABd
    BH
 
Footnotes
  1. This text runs perpendicular to main body text. Author unknown, although it could be Blackwood's hand; see image scan.
Correspondence (private letter):
Dundas to Colonial Office, 30 May 1848, National Archives of the UK, 1111, CO 305/1. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871. Ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria: University of Victoria. http://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/getDoc.htm?id=V486D01.scx. Accessed 21 November 2018. 

Last modified: 16:55:29, 24/2/2015