No. 21
Victoria Vancouver's Island
6th September 1856
Sir
I have to announce, for the information, of Her Majesty's Government my return, this day, from "Cowegin", with the expeditionary force placed at my disposal by Rear Admiral Bruce for service in the Cowegin country.  
We succeeded after much trouble in securing the person of the Indian, who lately attempted to take the life of Thomas Williams, the natives
themselves
themselves having been prevailed upon to seize and deliver him into our hands.  
He was tried before a special court convened on the spot, and was found guilty of "maiming Thomas Williams with intent to murder," an offence which the statute 1st Victoria chapt. 83 section 2. considers felony, and provides that the offender should suffer death.  
He was accordingly sentenced to be hanged, and the sentence was carried into effect, near the spot where the crime was committed, in the presence of his Tribe, upon whose minds, the solemnity of the proceedings, and the execution of the criminal, were calculated to make a deep impression.  
The Cowegin Tribe can bring into the field about 1400 warriors but nearly 1000 of those were engaged upon an expedition to Fraser's River, when we entered their country. About 400 warriors still remained in the valley, nevertheless no attempt was made, except a feeble effort, by some of his personal friends, to rescue the prisoner
or
or to resist the operation of the law.  
The troops marched some distance into the Cowegin valley, through thick bush and almost impenetrable forest. Knowing that a mere physical force demonstration would never accomplish the apprehension of the culprit, I offered friendship and protection to all the natives except the culprit, and such as aided him or were found opposing the ends of justice. That announcement had the desired effect of securing the neutrality of the greater part of the Tribe who were present, and after we had taken possession of three of their largest villages the surrender of the culprit followed.  
The expeditionary force was composed of about 400 of Her Majesty's seamen and marines under Commander Mathew Connolly and 18 Victoria Voltigeurs, commanded by Mr McDonald of the Hudson's Bay Company's service.  
My own personal staff consisted of Mr Joseph McKay and Mr
Richard
Richard Golledge, also of the Hudson's Bay Company's service, and those active and zealous officers were always near me, in every danger.  
In marching through the thickets of the Cowegin valley the Victoria Voltigeurs were, with my own personal staff, thrown well in advance of the seamen and marines, formed in single file, to scour the woods, and guard against surprise, as I could not fail to bear in mind the repeated disasters, which, last winter, befel the American Army, while marching through the jungle against an enemy much inferior in point of numbers and spirit, to the Tribes we had to encounter.  
I hope I may be permitted to recommend that very talented and active officer Commander Mathew Connolly to Her Majesty's Government, for promotion, as I should really be wanting in justice to his extraordinary merit
were
were I to refrain from urging this request as a personal favour to me.  
I may also remark for the information of Her Majesty's Government that not a single casualty befel the expeditionary force during its brief campaign, nor was a single Indian, the criminal excepted, personally injured, while their property was carefully respected.  
The expedition remained at Cowegin two days after the execution of the offender, to re-establish friendly relations with the Cowegin Tribe, and we succeeded in that object, to my entire satisfaction.  
I greatly admired the beauty and fertility of the Cowegin valley, which contains probably not less than 200,000 acres of arable land. I shall however address you on that subject, in a future communication.  
Trusting that my proceedings on this occasion may meet with the approbation of Her Majestys
Government
Government.  
I have the honor to be Sir
Your most obedient humble Servant
James Douglas
Governor

The Right Honble Henry Labouchere Esqre
Her Majesty's principal Secretary of State
For the Colonial Department.
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale
Send copies of this Desp: & 9709 to the Admiralty & approve the Govrs proceedings?  
VJ
8 Novr
HM
N 8
I think so but the despatch shd be cautiously worded showing that it is only under the peculiar circumstances of the case that H.M. Govt can approve of an armed expedition being sent among Indians.  
JB
10 N
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft, Merivale to John Shepherd, Hudson's Bay Company, 19 November 1856, forwarding copy of the despatch.  
  • Draft reply, Labouchere to Douglas, No. 20, 13 November 1856.  
  • Mr Labouchere
    This is worth yr reading.  
    JB
 
Despatch to London:
Douglas to Labouchere, 6 September 1856, National Archives of the UK, 10152, CO 305/7. 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=V56021.scx. Accessed 18 November 2018. 

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