1109. N. America

British Museum
June 2nd 1848.
Dear Sir,
I am anxious to draw your attention once more to the Subject of Vancouvers Island
Subsequently to the last conversation I had the honor of holding with Mr Hawes and yourself I was informed by Sir J.H. Pelley that the Govt had determined to give the Island to the Hudsons Bay Company. Understanding that the matter was settled, I gave up all intention of taking any further part in this, because I did not believe that the Hudsons Bay Comy could, or would, effect the colonization of the Country. In consequence, however, of what passed between a friend of mine and Sir J H Pelley, I waited upon that Gentleman. He then offered to make us a grant of all the Coal Mines, upon terms which he specified in detail, and promised at the same time to assist us in procuring the Capital necessary to commence working the mines. I was therefore induced by these liberal promises to take up the scheme again, and I expected that we should be able to sail in the Course of the Summer. Gentlemen having been sent over from New York with the object of entering into arrangements for procuring the supply of Coal for the steamers about to run on the N.W. Coast, it was essential that our plans should be arranged as speedily as possible. But on waiting upon Sir J H Pelley, in order to bring matters to a final settlement, He informed me that Sir George Simpson had been in communication with Mr Aspinwall, the owners of the Steamers destined to run on the NW. coast, and had issued orders that the coal Mines in Vancouver's Island should be immediately occupied, with a view to supplying coal to the steamers. Sir J H Pelley therefore declined to say any thing more, untill he had communicated with Sir G. Simpson, which could not be earlier than next September. When I represented to Sir J H Pelley that some arrangements should be made at once, and that the opportunity for securing a Sale for the coal would otherwise be lost; and that I had been working for the proposed colony for some time, on the strength of his promises, Sir J H Pelley denied having made any promise or offer whatsoever! 
Now I only trouble you with these facts, because I think it of importance that Earl Grey should be aware of what dependance is to be placed on the promises of the Govr of the HBCoy and of the consequence of the step about to be taken, of putting the HB Coy in possession of Vancouver Island
I beg you will believe that I have no interest in the affair, farther than that which attaches to a Subject upon which I have bestowed considerable time and Attention; and in proposing to undertake the management of the coal speculation, I did so, only because it offered me the means of carrying into effect my scheme of founding a Successful Colony. But I bring these facts under your notice, for the information of Earl Grey, because they are sufficient Evidence that Sir J.H Pelley's professions of liberality and disinterestedness in offering to colonize the country, are utterly insincere: And I have been warned, on all hands, that I should find this out at last. The Hudsons Bay Coy want to get the island into their own hands in order that they may prevent any Colony there, except of their own servants and dependants. I am anxious that Earl Grey should be informed, that there is no one who is acquainted with the System of the HB Coy, who does not coincide in this opinion. 
I cannot refrain from expressing an Earnest hope that Earl Grey will pause in taking any final step in this matter, untill he has availed himself of the information to be derived from indifferent and independant witnesses, for example, the officers of HMS's Cormorat, Modeste, America &c &c as well as from other persons who are intimately acquainted, with the proceedings of the Compy
There is not a servant of the Coy who would not leave the Service at the first opportunity; and there is not one of those who have left, who does not loudly condemn the conduct and policy of the Coy. 
The servants of the HBCo in the Oregon are a poor and ignorant class, chiefly of the lowest order of the Scotch. They are not well paid, and the Comy having the monopoly of all the supply of the necessaries of life, they are bound in a state of practical slavery to their masters. 
Now it will be perfectly manifest to Earl Grey, that the HBCoy are unable to found an independant colony, because no independant man, no gentleman, will ever settle under their sway. They will, if they get the island, Extend their present system. They will get a large settlement of labourers and workmen who will be little better than slaves. All the Capital will be in their own hands. But surely that is not the sort of Colony which His Lordship desires to be formed, as the representative and model of British power in the Pacific Ocean. 
There is another mode of ascertaining what the HBCoy are likely to do. What have they done in their vast possessions on the East Side of the Rocky Mountains? Have they produced one Single Contented thriving or prosperous Settlement, in any part of their vast estates? They have not. 
Moreover is not Colonization opposed to the interests of the HBCo. necessarily? Must it not interfere with their monopoly of the Fur trade, and still more with their import trade of manufactured goods, on which they make such vast profits? 
If Vancouvers Island gets into the Hands of that Company, His Lordship may be assured that no colony will ever exist there. 
In urging upon Lord Grey the Strong reasons which present themselves, for pausing before giving this Island to the HB Coy, I assume that His Lordship is well aware of its daily increasing importance to Great Britain. Prospects of extensive steam communication to all parts of the Pacific Ocean, are rapidly opening. A Project is even now entertained of running steam ships from Calefornia to China, and a route is proposed by which the London mail from Canton may be conveyed in 45 days. Mr Enderby's plan for extending the whale Fishery will bring a considerable number of ships into the northern aeas, and that gentleman contemplates leaving a part of them to refit in Vancouvers Island
It does then seem to be running a great risk, to place the fortunes of such an Enterprise in the hands of a Comy, notoriously close and narrow in their policy, exclusively commercial in their character and objects, and whose interests are, of necessity, diametrically opposed to those of an independant Settlement. 
Nor is it to be forgotten that the Charter of Trade which the Coy possess will expire in 10. or 12. years; and, in the event of the Govt then refusing to renew it, it is not easy to see what legitimate or beneficial position the Coy will occupy, as the proprietors of a tract of land on the N.W. Coast. It would be even doubtful whether they could continue, in such circumstances, to exist as a Company any longer. 
In offering these observations I am aware I have no claim whatsoever upon his Lordships attention, further than that I have bestowed considerable time and attention on the subject on which I speak. 
I have no rival Scheme to propose. I did indeed formerly bring under your notice the advantages to be gained by forming a company for the purpose of Colonizing the Country. But I know how difficult it is, in the present state of money affairs in Europe to obtain capital, or to form a company: and though I have my own opinion how the object in view may be effected, I do not wish to trouble you with any observations, further than what are warranted by the immediate object of this letter, viz:, to do whatever I can, to prevent the Country, which has been for so long a time a matter of so much interest to myself, falling into such hands as would for ever annihilate its usefulness for the purposes of Colonization. 
I am, dear Sir,
yours truly
James Edward Fitzgerald

Herman Merivale Esq
&c &c &c
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale.
I am unable to say whether the statements advanced against the Hudson's Bay Company in this Letter are true or not. The writer apparently writes as if he was sure of his facts. I believe you have or had the papers connected with the Colonization of Van Couver's Island before you lately.  
ABd
5/6.
Mr Hawes
Mr Fitzgerald stated the same facts, as regards his communications with Sir J Pelly, to me the other day. Of course nothing can be said by me on the alleged breach of faith, further than that Mr Fitzgerald is one who is I am Sure persuaded of the truth of all he advances. As to the subject itself; I have in pursuance of direction from Lord Grey told the Solicitor for the H.B.C. that Ld Grey would require some distinct condition to enforce colonization in the grant of Vancouver's Island, and, also, some distinct statement, from the Company, of their present intentions respecting it. This was only last week, & I have not yet had any answer. 
HM
June 5.
June 6
Another Communication has been made by Lt Dundas R.N respecting VanCouvers Island, which leads me to think that we should pause before we hand over the Island to the H.B. C.y I agree with MrMerivale as to Mr Fitzgerald.  
BH
Thank Mr F. for this communicatn — It is obviously necessary to be very strict in exactg from the H.B.Co efficient securities for their proper use of any powers conferred upon them.  
G.
9/
 
Correspondence (private letter):
Fitzgerald to Merivale (Permanent Under-Secretary), 2 June 1848, National Archives of the UK, 1108, 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=V486F03.scx. Accessed 20 October 2019. 

Last modified: 8:37:09, 23/5/2019