Shepherd to Labouchere
Hudson's Bay House
February 29th 1856
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of Mr Ball's letter of the 22nd Instant, enclosing, by your directions, copies of Correspondence between the Colonial Office and the Governor of Vancouver's Island on the subject of certain proceedings in the Island of San Juan in the Canal de Arro: Stating that Mr Douglas appears to have given somewhat inconsistent information with reference to the Settlement of that Island, and requesting the Hudson's Bay Company to furnish Copies of such Correspondence as may have passed between themselves and Governor Douglas upon the subject.  
In accordance with this request I have the honor to forward Extracts of various letters addressed to Governor
, with his replies thereto and at the same time beg to lay before you the circumstances connected with the occupation of the Island of San Juan by the servants of the Hudson's Bay Company.  
In August 1853 the Queen's Advocate communicated, by authority of the Foreign Office, with Mr Barclay, the then Secretary of the Company, on the subject of the American encroachments at the Islands in the Canal de Arro, and in consequence of what passed at that time it was determined that instructions should be sent to Governor Douglas to secure possession of the Islands of San "Juan" and "Lopez."  
The proceedings of Governor Douglas in this matter were from time to time reported to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, as will appear by the accompanying copies of letters; and on this point, I beg leave to request your particular attention to the letter received by the Governor and Committee from Lord Clarendon under date the 21st May 1855
and to the communication made to Governor Douglas by Sir George Grey, alluded to in the letter from the former addressed to the Governor and Committee, dated 20th April 1855. *
But the HBC had a fishery on S Juan before this. See p. 3 [of the extracts]. It was established in 1850. p 12 [HM].  
The Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company are convinced that after a reference to the Chart of the Straits of De Fuca, and a perusal of the whole of the correspondence that has taken place, you will be of opinion that the Hudson's Bay Company have been actuated solely by a desire to cooperate with Her Majesty's Government in retaining for the British Crown a portion of territory secured to it by Treaty; and I may mention to you that these Islands are of little advantage to the Fur Trade business of the Company, **
"There is now a flourishing Fur Trade settlement on the isld of San Juan" 26 May 1854 p 15 [HM].  
though it is obvious that a Settlement of lawless American citizens so near to Vancouver's Island would be a great detriment to the peace and prosperity of the Colony. ***
And of the Fur Trade [HM].  
With reference to Mr Griffin's report to Governor Douglas on the subject of the outrage committed by the authorities
of the United States, I beg to request your attention to my letter of the 24th July 1855 to Lord Clarendon, and to an extract o f the Committee's letter to Governor Douglas, dated 30th July 1855; by the former you will perceive that the Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company lost no time in informing Her Majesty's Government that the property seized by the American authorities belonged to the Company, and by the latter that they disapproved of, and censured Mr Griffin for the ambiguous terms of his Report.  
The Directors have no doubt that both Governor Douglas and Mr Griffin were of opinion that the claims of an independent British subject would be more likely to be respected by the authorities of the United States, than those of the servants of the Hudson's Bay Company; and this may be considered some extenuation of
their proceedings under very trying circumstances.  
In reference to the last paragraph of Mr Ball's letter, I beg to assure you that the Directors of the Hudson's Bay Company have at all times been most anxious to communicate with Her Majesty's Government without reserve upon all matters forming the subject of correspondence between them.  
They are well aware that in the peculiar position in which the Hudson's Bay Company stand with regard to the Colony of Vancouver's Island, it is essential to the proper conduct of the affairs of that Colony that entire confidence should exist between Her Majesty's Government and the Company, and they venture to think that in this respect you will find the accompanying correspondence with the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
completely satisfactory.  
I have the honour to be Sir
Your most obedt Servant
John Shepherd Depy Govr

The Right Honble Henry Labouchere
&c &c &c
Minutes by CO staff
Mr Merivale You will, I think, scarcely want the mass of papers on
this subject. They are at hand, if you do.  
Mr Ball The Directors admit & apologize for the duplicity of the
Governor's statements & shew that they had already censured him for it (see enclosures p. 45) *
in very mild terms.  
But the matter by no means ends here. It is plain, 1. That the HBC. occupied this island with the very deliberate consciousness that they were likely to provoke a collision with the U.S. without our being in the slightest degree informed thereof until the collision took place, and then in an incorrect manner calculated to deceive. 2. That matters of great importance to the island government have been habitually transacted in correspe between the Governor and the Company without any information to us. 3. That the Company have been in the habit of corresponding directly with the Foreign Office respecting the important political questions arising on the frontier of Vanc. I without our being informed. (Insomuch that, as will be seen from the last pages of the second [set of] enclosures, the Company were pressing the For. Office to get reparation from the Amn Government for damage done to their property on the I. of S.Juan, at a time when we had only intelligence of certain injuries inflicted by U.S. citizens on a Mr Charles Griffin.)  
I certainly think this ought to cease at once. So long as the Governor is a servant of the H.B.C so long we cannot compel him to confine himself to the colonial office as his correspondent: we can only urge on both the necessity of frankness. But with regard to the For. office, I think the Company should be told plainly that they must desist altogether from the practice of corresponding with that department on Vancouvers' Island affairs. The H.B.C. have a long American frontier in the interior of the continent, and have I daresay been accustomed to consult the Foreign Office only as to its affairs. But Vancouver's Island is a colony; the Secy of State here is the person responsible for its government: and I do not see how he can execute that trust unless its affairs, international as well as internal, are placed before him in the first place, & before the Foreign Office through him & him only where he finds it necessary. Mr Labouchere will consider whether this matter is best settled by official or private correspondence: but I should think the former: in which case the best way might be to write a letter to the Directors, & submit it, in draft, to Lord Clarendon for his Concurrence.  
Mh 3
I think so & perhaps the letter shd state that it is written
with Lord Clarendon's concurrence.  
4 March
I agree with Mr Merivale. Let a Letter be prepared
and registered. I think Mr Merivale might speak privately to Mr Hammond before it is sent. & send a Copy of it to Lord Clarendon either perhaps ends "& [private?] to the [Clinsal?] before & [or] after, as he advises.  
M 7
Other documents included in the file
  • Draft, Ball to E. Hammond, Foreign Office, 15 March 1856, forwarding copy of letter from the Hudson's Bay Company and proposed the draft answer, for Clarendon's concurrence.  
  • Draft, Colonial Office to Shepherd, 22 March 1856, expressing concern at the lack of information supplied to Labouchere and asking that all information concerning Vancouver Island of interest to the government be communicated first to the Colonial Office.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • 1. "Extracts of Letters from the Hudson's Bay Company to Governor Douglas respecting the Islands in the Canal De Arro, with his replies thereto."  
  • P. 1, Secretary of HBC to James Douglas, 1 September 1853, stating the Company had referred American claims to the San Juan Islands to the Advocate General for an opinion, and requesting "all the information that can be obtained respecting these Islands."  
  • P. 3, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 21 November 1853, providing information about the San Juans and describing initial efforts by squatters, beginning in 1851, to settle in the vicinity of the Company's fishing station.  
  • The fishery therefore was established before then.
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • P. 7, Secretary, HBC, to Douglas, 3 February 1854, stating the information he had provided on the San Juans had been forwarded to the Foreign Office.  
  • P. 9, Secretary, HBC, to Douglas, 16 September 1853, forwarding a copy of an American map showing the boundary in Rosario Straits and instructing him to occupy the most easterly part of the islands by the Company.  
  • P.11, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 5 December 1853, promising to do what he could to occupy the islands, including Lopez Island, and stating the Company's fishery was first established on San Juan Island in 1850.  
  • P. 13, Secretary, HBC, to Douglas, 24 February 1854, approving taking possession of Lopez and authorizing him to make grants of land on the islands of up to 500 acres each, reducing the price of land if necessary to secure its occupation.  
  • P. 15, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 26 May 1854, reporting that the farming operations on San Juan under Charles Griffin were thriving but that he had not been able to sell any land there but had offered 50 acres free to the Seargent commanding the Voltigeurs as a reward for services but was not sure he would accept.  
  • P. 16, extract of a letter from Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 27 December 1853.  
  • P. 17, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 30 January 1854, reporting that Governor Stevens had visited Victoria for a day and said nothing about the San Juans, but the American collector there had threatened to sieze the Company's sheep so he had commissioned Griffin a J.P. and "directed him to apprehend, and commit to Jail, any person who may attempt to commit a breach of the peace, or any other unlawful act, within the District of San Juan.  
  • P. 21, Secretary, HBC, to Douglas, 21 April 1854, stating the information about occupation of the San Juans was being referred to the Foreign Office, and if any Americans attempted to take forcible possession of the islands to apply to the Admiral commanding the Pacific Station for assistance.  
  • P. 23, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 27 April 1854, reporting Collector Ebey of Washington Territory was enroute to San Juan to seize British property there, so Douglas had "immediately dispatched the 'Otter' with a force of whites and Indians to support the magistrate in the discharge of his duty, and to prevent breaches of the Queens peace."  
  • P. 25, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 15 June 1854, reporting the acting governor of Washington Territory had visited San Juan but resisted Ebey's urging to take possession of it for the United States.  
  • P. 27, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 30 October 1854, reporting an armed US revenue cutter was stationed about San Juan and appeared "resolved to gain forcible possession of the disputed Territory, and I hardly know how to prevent them."  
  • P. 29, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 19 December 1854, stating they had resisted American attempts to collect taxes on two occasions, and a recent despatch from Sir George Grey had approved his proceedings with respect to the sovereignty of the islands.  
  • P. 33, Secretary, HBC, to Douglas, 20 April 1855, conveying the director's satisfaction that "your proceedings in regard to the occupation of Isle San Juan have been approved by the Secretary of State for the Colonies and trust that a commission may ere long be appointed to finally determine the Boundary line and put an end to all disputes in that quarter."  
  • Not at all. The SS approved his proceedings knowing nothing
    whatever about the agricultural occupation.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • P. 35, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 27 February 1855, reporting no further incidents had occurred at San Juan since Christmas, and that Stevens had again visited Victoria and suggested the settlement of the dispute should be left to the governments of both nations.  
  • P. 37, Secretary, HBC, to Douglas, 11 May 1855: "The account of the proceedings of Mr Griffin . . . is very interesting and it is hoped that Her Majesty's Government may take the proper steps to secure the possession of these Islands to this country ."  
  • P. 39, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 19 April 1855, reporting the siezure of sheep by American authorities. "This is an exceedingly annoying affair, and I most heartily regret that our people though dispersed at their various occupations, and taken by surprise, did not shew a more resolute bearing. The "Beaver" was dispatched to their aid, and was within two hours of catching the fellows in the act, and had she given chase, might have overtaken them and recovered the abstracted property."  
  • P. 41, Secretary, HBC, to Douglas, 16 July 1855, stating news of the "outrage" by Sheriff Barnes has been transmitted to the Foreign Office with a request that "prompt measures may be taken for defining the boundary . . . and preventing a collision with the lawless citizens of the United States."  
  • P. 43, Douglas to Secretary, HBC, 7 May 1855, transmitting a report by Griffin and copy of a letter Douglas had addressed to Stevens.  
  • P. 45, Secretary, HBC, 30 July 1855, stating Griffin's report and Douglas's letter to Stevens had been forwarded to the Foreign Office, and deploring the "rather ambiguous" wording of Griffin's report from which it appears "the sheep belonged to him and not the Hudsons Bay Company."  
  • 2. "Copies of Letters from the Hudson's Bay Company to the Foreign Office, respecting the Islands in the Canal De Arro."  
  • P. 1, A. Barclay, Secretary HBC, to Lord Woodhouse, Under Secretary, Foreign Office, 4 February 1854, enclosing extract of Douglas's letter, 21 November 1853.  
  • P. 3, A. Colvile, Governor, HBC, to Earl of Clarendon, 28 February 1854, enclosing extract of Douglas's letter, 5 December 1853.  
  • P. 5, Colvile to Clarendon, 22 April 1854, enclosing extract of Douglas's letter, 30 January 1854, and urging the settlement of the boundary.  
  • P. 7, W.G. Smith, Secretary, HBC to Clarendon, 26 June 1854, enclosing extract of Douglas's letter, 27 April 1854, and requesting his early attention to the subject.  
  • P. 9, Colvile to Clarendon, 22 January 1855, enclosing extract of Douglas's letter, 30 October 1854, for information.  
  • P. 11, John Shepherd, Deputy Governor, HBC, to Clarendon, 17 May 1855, enclosing extract of Douglas's letter, 27 February 1855, and seeking the approbation of the Foreign Office.  
  • P. 13, Shepherd to Clarendon, 11 July 1855, enclosing extract of Douglas's letter, 19 April 1855, and urging adoption of such measures as would resolve the issue.  
  • P. 15, Shepherd to Clarendon, 24 July 1855, thanking him for raising the issue in Washington and enclosing copies of Griffin's report and Douglas's letter to Stevens.  
  • P. 17, Colvile to Clarendon, 6 December 1855, enclosing copies of Douglas's letter, 28 September 1855, outlining damages suffered by the Hudson's Bay Company, and further correspondence between Douglas and Stevens, and requesting Clarendon to "call upon the Government of the United States to reimburse the Hudson's Bay Company for the damage caused by the illegal acts of their officers."  
  • At this time we had no idea of any occupation by the HBC at all.  
Documents enclosed with the main document (not transcribed)
  • P. [19,] Wodehouse to Shepherd, 21 May 1855, stating "the officers of the Company appear to have adopted a proper course with respect to the question of disputed sovereignty which has been raised by the Authorities of the United States . . . and . . . that Lord Clarendon will express that opinion to Her Majestys' Minister at Washington."  
  • P. [21,] Queen's Advocate to Secretary, HBC, 10 August 1853, requesting attendance of some gentleman well acquainted with the locality and issue raised, plus some map or sketch.  
  • P. [23,] Barclay to J. Harding, Advocate General, 2 September 1853, enclosing a map published by the U.S. Senate accompanying the surveys of John C. Fremont, 1848.  
  • P. [25,] Barclay to Harding, 10 September 1853, reporting Blanshard had allegedly taken possession of the San Juan Islands and their might be a record of this in the Colonial Office.  
Public Offices document:
Shepherd to Labouchere, 29 February 1856, National Archives of the UK, 1962, 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. Accessed 10 December 2018. 

Last modified: 11:58:18, 4/12/2018