No. 3, Executive [Queen Charlotte's Islands]
Victoria Vancouver's Island
26 July 1853
My Lord Duke,
I have the honor of reporting for the information of Her Majesty's Government, the safe arrival of Commander Prevost of Her Majesty's Steam Ship "Virago", at this place, on his return from a cruize on the coast of Queen Charlottes Island, and other Ports of this coast.  
Captain Prevost arrived by boat from "Nanaimo", about 80 miles north of Victoria, where the "Virago" will be detained a few days taking in Coal, and he will return thither immediately by the same conveyance, to bring Her Majesty's Ship to this Port.  
Your Grace will observe by Commander Prevosts Report [Marginal note: 23rd July 1863], a copy of which is herewith transmitted, that in pursuance of instructions, from me [Marginal note: 8th June 1853], which were transmitted with my letter to your Grace, of the 8th June last, requiring him to visit Queen Charlotte's Island, for the purpose of enquiring into the causes, which led to the capture of the "Susan Sturges", and if necessary to punish the authors of that outrage, he touched at Skidegate, a port of that Island, to procure the evidence of two Indians, who were on board the "Susan Sturges" at the time of her capture; but not finding the parties there, he followed them to Fort Simpson, an establishment belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, and commenced an investigation, with the assistance of Dr Kennedy, of the Hudson's Bay Company's service, and I herewith forward copies of the statements made by the several Indians [Marginal note: Scowell's statement. John Winnet's statement. Edenshaw's statement], whose evidence was then taken, which do little more than corroborate the information previously in our possession. He then proceeded to Massett Harbour, and anchored in a commanding position off the principal Village, which could have been easily destroyed by the guns of the "Virago."  
"Seakai" one of the minor Chiefs and the Indian, who commenced the plunder of the "Susan Sturges", and proposed to murder the crew, was arrested, and detained on board the "Virago", but of the other leaders concerned in the capture of that vessel, some were absent, and "Tatulat", the least guilty, eluded pursuit by flying to the mountains, in the Interior of the Island. In these circumstances the only exemplary punishment, that could be inflicted on the Tribe, was the destruction of the Massett Village, but as many innocent persons must necessarily have been involved, in that calamity, Commander Prevost, from a laudable feeling of humanity, spared it, from the Flames, and simply exacted restitution of the plunder of the "Susan Sturges", which still remained in their possession, consisting of two boats, and an iron safe; which were given up, by the Indians present.  
The punishment inflicted upon the Massett people though, disproportioned to the offence, will have a good effect, upon the minds of the Natives at large, as admitting that the power of the Government was on this occasion exercised with scrupulous humanity, enough has
been effected to convince them, that the same power might easily be used for their destruction. I would remark to your Grace that Merchant vessels should never enter into close communication with the savages of this coast, without a strong crew and being well equipped with fire arms, for I am fully convinced that the destruction of one half of the fighting men of any given tribe of natives, would not deter the survivers from attempting to plunder, the next defenceless vessel that fell into their power, even without having formed any preconcerted plan, and merely from the instinctive thirst of gain which is the ruling passion, more powerful even than the fear of death, in their unprincipled, and badly regulated minds. The loss of the "Susan Sturges", as I stated to your Grace in my letter of the 8th June last, arose entirely from the neglect of those necessary precautions.  
A small merchant vessel, with a total complement of seven hands lightly armed, and equipped, imprudently ventures among a crowd of bold and crafty savages [Marginal note: See Scowell's statement], one of them in attempting from curiosity to clamber over the bulwarks of the ship, is severely wounded by James Camden, a seaman of
the "Susan Sturges", the other natives taking umbrage at that hasty act, rush in numbers into the ship, and meeting with no resistance, take possession of the deck, and begin the work of plunder. Such is a brief statement of the case, [Marginal note: Report page 4] and I observe that Captain Prevost, takes a view of it, in substance identical, with that which I expressed in my Despatch to your Grace of the 8th of June last, that the "Susan Sturges", would not have fallen a prey to the savages, had even common precautions, been used to protect her.  
I will further observe to your Grace relative to the subject of the "Susan Sturges" that it is not the intention of this government to take any further measures, with the view of punishing the Indians of Masset, unless compelled thereto, by their own violence or misconduct, or directed to that effect by instructions from Her Majesty's Government.  
Captain Prevost, after leaving Masset ran along the west coast of Queen Charlotte's Island, and called at Mitchel, or Gold Harbour, which he found deserted, no attempt having been made this year, by any parties, to dig gold in that quarter.  
In consequence of the number and warlike character of the Natives, the humidity of the climate, and the almost impenetrable forest, which covers the surface of the country, it possesses fewer attractions than the gold fields of California, and Australia, for which it has been deserted by the crowd of needy adventurers toiling for bread, who flocked thither last year.  
Such persons cannot maintain themselves on Queen Charlotte's Island; there must be a combination of skill and capital to develop its mineral wealth, which I hope will at some future day add to the power and wealth of the empire.  
Begging to refer your Grace for further information to the accompanying report.  
I have the honor to be
Your Graces most obedient Servant
James Douglas
Lieut Governor
Queen Charlotte's Island

The Right Honble His Grace The Duke of Newcastle
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale
Send to the Foreign Office with reference to our letter of the 23 Augt?  
Sepr 27
O 5
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft, Colonial Office to H.U. Addington, Foreign Office, 19 October 1853, forwarding copy of the despatch for information.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • 1. Commander James C. Prevost to Douglas, 25 July 1853, reporting the results of his enquiry into the capture of the Susan Sturges, and enclosing the statements of three Indigenous men questioned on the subject.  
  • 1.1 Statement of Edensaw, chief of North Island, no date.  
  • 1.2 Statement of Scowall, chief of "Chatsina Tribe," taken at Fort Simpson, 18 June 1853.  
  • 1.3 Statement of John Winnets, "Skidegate Indian," taken at Fort Simpson, 19 June 1853.  
Despatch to London:
Douglas to Newcastle, 26 July 1853, National Archives of the UK, 9498, CO 305/4. The Colonial Despatches of Vancouver Island and British Columbia 1846-1871. Ed. James Hendrickson and the Colonial Despatches project. Victoria: University of Victoria. Accessed 10 December 2018. 

Last modified: 11:57:30, 4/12/2018