JAMES STEPHEN ON GRANTING VANCOUVER ISLAND TO THE
HUDSON’S BAY COMPANY, 1846-1848.
BC HISTORICAL Quarterly October 1945
James Stephen[i], the powerful Under-Secretary of State for the
Colonies, 1836—47, was a determined opponent of efforts by private
companies to secure control over large areas of colonial lands. In 1832
he reported adversely on the request of the South Australian Land
Company for the grant of territory “larger in extent than Spain and
Portugal.” The fact that the plans of the Company harmonized with
the policies employed in colonizing North America carried no weight
with him. “Counties palatine,” he wrote, “were erected in favour of
Individuals with a disregard of the public interest of which it were
difficult to find an equally strong example.”[ii] These early mistakes
might be excused on the ground of lack of experience in founding
over seas colonies, but this extenuating circumstance existed no
longer. In January, 1837, he suggested that the activities of the New Zealand Company should be limited to a certain part or parts of the islands, and that other companies or private individuals should be allowed to found settlements.[iii] In harmony with his attitude on these occasions Stephen was severely critical of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s project for securing control of the British territory in North America north and west of Rupert’s Land, and he delayed for nearly two years the grant of Vancouver Island to that Company.
Shortly after the treaty of June 15, 1846[iv], had settled the Anglo-American boundary dispute over the Oregon country, the Hudson’s Bay Company formulated plans for entrenching itself in the area allotted to Britain. It was believed that unless British settlements were established in this region Americans would move in and seize control, like they had done in Texas. On the ground that such an eventuality must be forestalled, Sir J. H. Pelly, the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company,[v] on September 7, 1846, wrote a letter to Lord Grey, the Colonial Secretary,[vi] inquiring about the Government’s intentions concerning granting of land and colonization in British Oregon. Attention was called to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s establishment on Vancouver Island, which was in the process of being enlarged, and to the fact that the Company by a grant from the Crown of May 13, 1838, had for a period of twenty-one years secured the monopoly of trading with the natives west of the Rocky Mountains.[vii] This was the opening gun in the Hudson’s Bay Company’s campaign for control of British Oregon. On September 12, 1846, James Stephen reported as follows on the topics mentioned in Sir John Pelly’s letter:
It is scarcely possible to determine what are the limits of the Territory of the Hudson’s Bay Company. But I suppose it to be quite clear that Van Couver’s Island and our part of the Oregon Territory are not within those limits. The Company have no proprietary or other rights there, save only the right which they derive under the License of the year 1838 for 21 years to trade exclusively with the Indians and to carry on the Fur Trade. But that License expressly reserves to the Crown the right of founding Colonies and of establishing any form of Civil Government within the Territory comprized in the License. Consequently, the Company have no right, in strictness of Law, so far as I can perceive, to any land in Van Couver’s Island or elsewhere, westward of the Rocky Mountains, and there may be serious difficulty in assenting to the application they now make. It wd., I think be hardly consistent with the terms of their Charter. It wd. be very unusual to grant Lands to any Company or indeed to any one else in the vague and comprehensive manner here suggested and without any previous inquiry. Probably also the United States’ Gov’ment wd. object to such an act. The Company at the date of the Treaty of Washington [Oregon Boundary Treaty, 1846] had no Proprietary or other rights in the Oregon Territory save only under the License of 1838 which License must expire in 1859. Now the Treaty which gave to British subjects the right of navigating the Columbia in order to trade with the Company, and which declared the navigation of the River free to the Company must, I presume, be understood as having been made with the full knowledge of the fact that the Company’s rights westward of the Rocky Mountains will expire in 1859. Now to give to that Company a new interest and title in Lands in those regions wd. be said to be an attempt to prolong beyond 1859 the right of navigation. Whether this objection wd. be well-founded I do not undertake to say. All I wd. suggest is that caution should be used in laying any ground for it.[viii]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, Benjamin Hawes,[ix] agreed with James Stephen that the Hudson’s Bay Company had no rights under the charter to territory west of the Rocky Mountains, but he thought that the Company might hold land, which Stephen apparently doubted. Hawes did not believe that the Oregon Treaty precluded granting Vancouver Island to the Hudson’s Bay Company. He was anxious to preserve for British subjects the right to navigate the Columbia River, and observed that the Canadian right to navigate the Mississippi had been lost by a geographical blunder. The British Government must be careful lest the rights on the Columbia should be lost through a diplomatic omission. The opinion of the Colonial Secretary, Lord Grey, was recorded in a minute dated September 16, 1846. He wrote:
This is a very difficult and important question. Looking to the encroaching spirit of the U. S. I think it is of importance to strengthen the B[riti]sh hold upon the territory now assigned to us by treaty by encouraging the settlement upon it by B[ritijsh subjects; and I am also of opin[io)n that such settlement cd. only be advantageously effected under the auspices of the Hudson’s Bay Co. wh. I am therefore disposed to encourage — But certainly great care must be taken in adopting any measures with this view to avoid any irregularity or informality — Instead of writing a letter throwing a doubt on the right of the Co. to lands they now occupy, the best course I think wd. be for Mr. Hawes and Mr. Stephen together to have an interview with Sir J. Pelly in order to ascertain clearly from him what rights the Co. claims — what they now wish to have done — and what measure may now safely and properly be adopted with a view to establishing more B[ritijsh settlers in this territory.
Lord Grey suggested that a letter should be written pointing out that Grey was leaving London, and that Pelly should consult Hawes and Stephen. On September 21, 1846, Hawes wrote such a letter, and a conference between Hawes, Stephen, and Sir John Pelly took place at the Colonial Office two days later. Memoranda by Stephen and Hawes recording what took place at this interview are dated September 24, 1846.
Stephen’s memorandum is a lengthy document summarizing answers by Pelly to questions asked. From these Stephen drew the following conclusions:
1st That the Hudson’s Bay Company was unable to define the extent of the territory granted to it by the charter of 1670 except that this territory included all lands drained by rivers falling into Hudson Bay.[x]
2nd That the Company claimed no rights west of the Rocky Mountains save the general powers of trading with Indians and from the license to carry on trade in the Oregon country which would expire in 1859.
3rd That it was doubtful if the Company had any right in “British Oregon” except those under Act of Parliament by which the license was granted and under the license itself “so that, after the year 1859, the Company wd. have no rights at all in any British Territory West of the Rocky Mountains, save only such rights, if any, as may be now, or hereafter, conferred upon them.
4th That the Hudson’s Bay Company have certainly no right to the soil in the British Territory West of the Rocky Mountains, or to any part, however inconsiderable, of that soil.
5th That it is very doubtful whether, consistently with their Charter, the Company could accept the grant of any such Lands.
6th That, therefore, it wd. be better that whatever may be granted, shd. be so granted, not to the Company, but to a subordinate Association [the Puget Sound Agricultural Association] which some Members of the Company have formed in their personal and independent characters, and to wh. Association really belong all the Possessions of the Company in American Oregon.
7th That the real object and wish of the Company is not to have any grant of Land either to themselves or to the Association but merely, to have an assurance that if Vancouver’s Island shall hereafter, be brought within, and under, any Colonial Gov.ment; and if the Company or the Association shall then appear to possess the requisite Legal competency to acquire and hold lands within the limits of any such Gov.met, then a grant shall be made to them of the Lands they have already occupied: and, further, that they shall not, in the interval, be disturbed in the occupation of them.
8th To this is to be added that the Company have no maps or other means of showing what the Lands which they have so occupied are, nor what the exact extent of them may be, though it is supposed to exceed 1,000 acres.
9th Sir John Pelly had no definite plan for Colonizing the Country but expressed his readiness to concur with any other persons who might be interesting themselves on the subject in devising such a plan.
James Stephen remarked further: “From. these statements it may, I think, be concluded that the right answer to the present application from the Company is that their first step must be to specify with greater distinctness, what is the particular Territory to which their application refers, and to state whether they are of opinion that the Hudson’s Bay Company are legally capable of becoming owners of those or any other Lands in H. M’s Dominions West of the Rocky Mountains. This last inquiry will lead to a statement regarding the Association of which Body we have, as yet, no knowledge, save only as far as it is derived from Sir John Pelly’s conversation.”
Hawes wrote to Lord Grey, September 24, 1846, that Stephen’s statement contained an exact account of what took place in the interview with Pelly. As additional information Hawes mentioned that Pelly had compared the climate of Vancouver Island with that of England; that corn and wool had been exported from the Hudson’s Bay Company’s settlement on the island to the establishments on the Willamette River; that the Company had supplied its farms with agricultural implements and was willing to send more; and that the island had harbours suitable for naval stations. This might be important for Britain in case the United States acquired San Francisco.[xi] Upon receiving this letter, Grey wrote on September 25: “These facts are of considerable importance and will make it necessary soon to con sider what is to be done as to colonizing this territory—in the meantime the answ. suggested by Stephen shd. be sent.”
On October 3, 1846, Hawes wrote to Pelly, in behalf of Lord Grey, inquiring how much territory the Company desired to secure, and asking for a detailed description of this territory, and whether the Hudson’s Bay Company could hold land west of the Rocky Mountains.[xii]
In reply Sir John Pelly on October 24, 1846, stated that the charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company did not preclude the holding of land west of the Rockies; new areas might simply be added to Rupert’s Land. He considered it important that Vancouver Island should be colonized by Britain, and its natives Christianized; and he expressed the belief that these ends could be best achieved by placing the island under the control of the Hudson’s Bay Company. Enclosed with this letter was a report by Chief Factor Douglas [xiii] of July 12, 1842, with description of the territory desired by the Company.[xiv]
This letter with enclosures was referred to Stephen, who after a careful examination of it presented a lengthy report, dated November 25, 1846. In this report Stephen called attention to discrepancies between claims made by Pelly in the letter of October 24 and what he stated at the interview of September 23. On the earlier date Pelly had explained that by creating the Puget Sound Agricultural Company the Hudson’s Bay Company had overcome legal obstacles to holding land west of the Rockies, while now he asserted that the legal competence of the Hudson’s Bay Company was undoubted. Then he said that the Company did not want a grant of land but only assurance that it should be allowed to keep what it controlled, while now he renewed the application for an additional land grant. Stephen observed: “My inference is that he has no steady opinion on the subject.” In discussing the request of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Stephen wrote:
I shd. dissuade a grant for the following reasons:
lst, Sir John Pelly is even yet unable to describe the Lands to be granted with any degree of precision.
2nly, To grant Lands is impliedly to promise to the Grantees protection in the enjoyment of them.
3ly, To accept such a grant wd., I believe, be to infringe the spirit, if not the letter, of the Company’s Charter.
4ly, To make such a Grant wd. be to give needless umbrage to the Americans, who wd. say that it was done in order to impart to their late Treaty with us in a wider sense and a more enduring effect than properly belongs to it, or than was contemplated by the contracting parties. And,
5ly, Every useful end could, I think, be answered by a simpler method.
I would give the Company an assurance that they shd. not be dispossessed of any Lands on which they have already entered, or on which they may yet enter, within some definite time, provided, that, within Ten years from the date of their first occupation of such Lands, they shd. make and shd. be able to prove the having made, an expenditure on them in Buildings, or other permanent works, equal to £10 per acre; and provided that the Lands so occupied, and improved, shd. be surrendered up, if requisite, as the site of any Works required, for the Public defences or other Public interest of any future Colony within the limits of which they might fall.
Furthermore, Stephen complained that Pelly’s letter did not advance the discussion of colonization beyond “what has already been written.”
Hawes agreed with Stephen[xv] that Pelly had in his letter put “a larger construction” upon the charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company than he did in the interview. “What passed upn that occasion,” wrote Hawes, “Mr. Stephen, in my opinion most accurately recorded.” On the other hand, Hawes felt that the terms proposed by Stephen were discouraging where they should be encouraging, because it was important to have settlements established on Vancouver Island, which had a good harbour, and whose climate and soil favoured agriculture. Hawes said further: “Without the agency of the H. Bay Co. I despair of any speedy colonization mov [emen] t in that quarter, except at the Expense of the Treasury.” He believed that to require an expenditure of £10 per acre within 10 years with surrender without compensation would prevent all enterprise, and he suggested instead that the grant of Vancouver Island to the Hudson’s Bay Company should be made on conditions similar to those stipulated in the case of the Auckland Islands, where the Government had agreed to pay for improvements on land required for public purposes. “It must not be forgotten,” observed Hawes, “that we are now dealing with a Company of both standing and capital—and sound policy.”
Lord Grey agreed with Hawes[xvi] in considering it very desirable to encourage the Company in colonizing Vancouver Island. “I shd. have no objctn (reserving a power to the Crown of resuming possession in payment of the value of improvements) to granting a long lease provided Mr. Stephen thinks there is not the same legal objctn to a lease as to a grant.” Stephen concurred[xvii] in the advisability of encouraging the Company to establish settlements, but he saw no real distinction between grant in perpetuity and a long-term lease. He would, however, advise a grant in perpetuity if the law officers of the Crown considered this legal under the charter and if the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, said that there was “no objection to it as far as respects our relations to the United States.” But Stephen adhered to his conviction that the grant, whether in perpetuity or for a term of years, should include the reservation concerning resumption without compensation.
Grey then instructed Stephen[xviii] to draft a letter to Pelly. This had been accomplished by December 3, 1846. In his draft Stephen stated that the Government would be happy to consider specific measures proposed by the Hudson’s, Bay Company or by private individuals for colonization in British Oregon. Land might be granted to the Company provided (1) it could get an opinion from the law officers that this would be consistent. with its charter; (2) the Foreign Secretary saw no’ objection to such a grant from the standpoint of relations with the United States; (3) that the Company accepted the condition that the land it secured would automatically revert to the Crown if within a ten-year period £10 per acre had not been expended on buildings and other permanent improvements; and (4) if the Company agreed “to the stipulation that land should be surrendered to the Crown without compensation if needed for the public defence” or “otherwise for the Public benefit, of any future Colony within the limits of which such Lands may fall.”
Hawes and Grey considered these terms too onerous.[xix] The former repeated his advice that the precedent set in the case of the Auckland Islands should apply to Vancouver Island, and the latter saw no need for mentioning the United States. He would confer privately with Lord Palmerston concerning this point. On December 7, Grey reported that Palmerston had “no objctn to allow the Co. to colonize Vancouver island but on the contrary considers it desirable that we shd. as soon as possible do acts of ownership there.” Stephen then prepared another letter[xx] in which Grey was to express readiness to make grants of land to the Hudson’s Bay Company if land-holding were not inconsistent with its charter Land within this grant needed for defence or public works might be taken over by the Government upon paying the cost of actual improvements made upon it by the Company.
Shortly after the receipt of Grey’s letter, Sir John Pelly transmitted to the Colonial Office the opinion of the law officers that under its charter the Hudson’s Bay Company had the power to hold land in British territory west of the Rocky Mountains. Hawes then informed Pelly that the Government was ready to consider a proposition from the Company relative to grant of land in the Oregon territory.[xxi] On March 5, 1847, Pelly’s draft of an agreement assigning to the Hudson’s Bay Company all British territory north and west of Rupert’s Land was drawn up.[xxii] Three days after this document reached the Colonial Office Stephen wrote the following memorandum, addressed to Hawes:
“It seems to me that this calls for much more explanation than is here given. The Hudson’s Bay Co. propose that the whole of the Oregon Territory shd. be granted to them as Lords and Owners of it, exactly in the manner in wh. the ancient proprietary Gov.ments were constituted on the North American Continent in the 16th and 17th Centuries. Without a word of preliminary discussion (so far as I know) they have sent the dft of a Charter to accomplish this object. My own belief is that to execute such a scheme now wd. be impracticable, unconstitutional, and illegal; and that even if it were otherwise, it wd. be indispensable to ascertain 1st That the H. B. Company are capable of such a grant—a point wh. the recent opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown does not ascertain. Secondly, That they have resources and capital available for the Colonization and Settlement, of this Territory—a subject on wh. they say nothing. Thirdly—That they have some well-considered plans of proceeding, wh. is here taken for granted. Fourthly, That it wd. be possible to maintain a Proprietary Lordship with powers independent of the Crown and Parliament, in the immediate vicinity of the Great Nation now peopling the North American Continent-a circumstance wh: totally changes the present state of such a questn. from the state of corresponding questions in the reigns of Elizabeth and the Stuart family. Fifthly, That there is any good reason why if we are to have a Colony at all at Oregon, we shd. not also have the Electoral and other Franchises prevailing in every other part of the North American Continent. Sixthly, That there is any good reason why the Crown shd. abdicate to this, or to any other Company the prerogative, privilege and duty, of Colonization if Colonization be desirable. Seventhly, That it is politic to establish in the 19th Century a new Proprietary Govmt. in defiance of the proofs wh: all History furnishes of the impossibility of maintaining such a Govmt. any longer than the inhabitants are too few and too feeble to shake it off. Long before the American War the Colonists had thrown off every vestige of those Institutions; and had universally established the Representative form; buying up the rights of the Lord proprietors at a heavy expense of money; or trampling upon them at a still heavier expense of Justice. For the reasons, wh: I thus rapidly suggest, it seems to me that this scheme is a very unmeaning one and merits no encouragement.
Sir John Pelly had clearly overshot the mark and Hawes wrote: “I quite agree with Mr. Stephen that it is quite impossible to make this grant with or without an explanation.” This was, also, the opinion of Lord Grey who informed Pelly that the Company must submit a more moderate plan.[xxiii]
No official reply was made to the Hudson’s Bay Company’s proposal of March 5, 1847. The negotiations concerning Vancouver Island were in abeyance until early in 1848, when J. E. Fitzgerald presented a proposal to form a company for working coal deposits and establish a colony n Vancouver Island.[xxiv] (25) Lord Grey then let Pelly know that the Government was anxious for the colonization of the island and would consider propositions from the Hudson’s Bay Company more limited in scope than those of March 5, 1847. Stephen was no longer permanent Under-Secretary in the Colonial Office,[xxv] 25 but was consulted by his successor, Herman Merivale,[xxvi] concerning the terms of grant outlined by Sir John Pelly in a draft of April 15, 1848.
On June 21, 1848, Merivale reported to Hawes that Stephen had suggested that nothing should be granted to the Hudson’s Bay Company except land in Vancouver Island. “The reason is,” Merivale wrote, “that the power of the Crown in these days to make a grant like Charles 2nd’s and to transfer to the Company the right of governing British subjects is to say the least very questionable. I should therefore suggest (if the Company accept these terms) that a simple Commission and Instructions should be issued as nearly contemporaneous with the grant as may be to any governor whom the Company may choose to appoint with the Crown’s sanction empowering him to govern and make laws with the advice of an assembly of inhabitants. This Sir J. Stephen considers perfectly legal. But this governor must be responsible not to the Company but to the Secretary of State. Nothing short of an Act of Pant, can make this other wise.” Hawes agreed with Merivale that the government of Vancouver Island under the Company should be placed in the hands of a governor and an assembly, but he did not see why the Company’s governor should be responsible to the Colonial Office.[xxvii] 27 Grey wrote on June 24, 1848, that since the governor “wd. be restrained by an Assbly represent. the inhabitants I can see no danger in allowg. the Compy. to select him. . . .“ With the main points in dispute settled the road was cleared for an official presentation of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s terms for securing control of Vancouver Island. These were submitted to the Committee of the Privy Council for Trade and Foreign Plantations, of which Sir James Stephen was a member. Amendments to the grant contained in the report of this committee bear the imprint of the ex-Under-Secretary. Reluctant to hand such a rich prize as Vancouver Island over to the Hud son’s Bay Company, he, till the end, insisted upon hedging restrictions which would safeguard public interests.
PAUL KNAPLUND. The UNIVERSITY of WISCONSIN, MADISONN, WISCONSIN.
[i] James Stephen (1789—1859), counsel to the Colonial Office and the Board of Trade; Assistant Under-Secretary for the Colonies, 1834—36; Under-Secretary, 1836—47; K.C.B. and Privy Councillor, 1847; Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge, 1849—59. See Caroline Emelia Stephen, The Right Honourable Sir James Stephen, Gloucester, 1906, and Paul Knaplund, “Mr. Oversecretary Stephen,” in The Journal of Modern History, I. (1929), pp. 40—66.
[ii] Report of July 14, 1832, on draft of charter for the South Australian Land Company, Public Record Office MSS., C.O., South Australia, 13: 1.
[iii] Draft by Stephen dated January 3, 1837, of letter Lord Glenelg to Lord Durham. Ibid., C.O., New Zealand, 209:3.
[iv] For the text of this treaty see British and Foreign State Papers, XXXIV., pp. 14—15.
[v] Sir John Henry Pelly (1777—1852), created baronet in 1840. For a sketch of his career see E. E. Rich (ed.), The Letters of John McLoughlin, second series, Toronto and London, 1943, pp. 399—401.
[vi] Henry George, 3rd Earl Grey (1802—94), Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, 1846—52.
[vii] For original MS. of this letter see C.O., Vancouver Island, 305: 1. It was printed, together with selections from correspondence dealing with the transfer of Vancouver Island to the Hudson’s Bay Company, in Parliamentary Papers (hereafter cited as P.P.), August 10, 1848, 619. Pelly brought the letter in person to Lord Grey who on the same day, September 7, 1846, asked Stephen to report on this question. The complete correspon dence with drafts, letters, minutes, and memoranda are found in C.O., 305: 1. All quotations from original sources given in this paper are from this volume unless otherwise indicated. For a brief discussion of the transfer of Van couver Island see W. P. Morrell, British Colonial Policy in the Age of Peel and Russell, Oxford, 1930, pp. 444—446.
[viii] Original MS., C.O., 305:1.
[ix] Afterwards Sir Benjamin (1797—1862), Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Colonies, 1846—51. Hawes’s memorandum is undated, but it was obviously written after Stephen’s report of September 12 and before Grey’s minute (see below) of September 16.
[x] For the text of the Hudson’s Bay Co.’s charter see Minutes of the Hudson’s Bay Company 1671—1674, ed. by E. E. Rich, Toronto, 1942, pp. 121—148.
[xi] San Francisco and California were included in the large area ceded by Mexico to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidaigo, February 2, 1848.
[xii] Printed in P.P., op cit., pp. 3—4.
[xiii] James (later Sir James) Douglas (1803—77), Governor of Vancouver Island, 1851—63, and of British Columbia, 1858—64. See Walter H. Sage, Sir James Douglas and British Columbia, Toronto, 1930.
[xiv] This letter was received at the Colonial Office on October 28. Frederic Rogers observed that it made no mention of the method by which the Hudson’s Bay Company hoped to hold this land. Hawes suggested, October 30, that the letter should be referred to Stephen, and Grey agreed.
[xv] Minute by Benjamin Hawes dated November 25, 1846.
[xvi] Grey’s remarks are dated November 26.
[xvii] On November 27.
[xviii] November 29.
[xix] The observations are dated December 5, 1846.
[xx] The draft is dated December 10; it was approved by Hawes the same day and by Grey the day following. The official letter, dated December 14, 1846, is printed in P.P., op. cit., p. 8, but this version contains no reference to the conditions upon which land might be taken over by the Crown.
[xxi] The opinion of the law officers was dated January 19, 1847; it was transmitted to the Colonial Office on January 22; and Hawes wrote to Pelly on February 2. The letters, but not the opinion of the law officers, are printed in P.P., op. cit., pp. 8—9.
[xxii] Ibid., p. 9.
[xxiii] On Hawes’s minute, dated March 10, is found the following marginal note: “I have seen Sir J. Pelly who will communicate with Mr. Hawes and submit some less extensive demand. G[rey] 25/3 [18471”
[xxiv] For a biographical sketch of James Edward Fitzgerald see G. H. Scholefield (ed.), Dictionary of New Zealand, Biography, Wellington, 1940, I., pp. 256—8. Beginning in June 1847, Fitzgerald wrote numerous letters to the Colonial Office advocating colonization of Vancouver Island by a joint stock company. For selections from this correspondence see P.P., op. cit., and “Report of the Provincial Archives Department of the Province of British Columbia, 1913” in Sessional Papers, 1914, pp. V 55—V 68. It appears that Fitzgerald at first thought it would be possible to work with the Hudson’s Bay Company. In a letter to Hawes of June 9, 1847, he expressed the opinion that the Company would not oppose his project (original MS., C.O., 305:1), and in February 1848, he had an interview with Pelly and supplied the latter with a prospectus of a company organized “for the Purpose of Working the Coal and Establishing a Colony in Vancouver’s Island.” No agreement was reached. From then on Pelly sought to obtain the island for the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Fitzgerald became the bitter opponent of this project. During the latter part of 1848 and in 1849 he wrote numerous letters to W. B. Gladstone (original MSS., the Gladstone Papers) accusing the Company of being oppressive, monopolistic, and hostile to colonization. This material formed the basis for Gladstone’s attacks on the Company in the House of Commons. See Hansctrd, 3d series, CI. pp. 268—89, 315; CIII., pp. 1355—9, 1361—2. Fitzgerald also inspired attacks upon the Company by J. R. Godley in leading articles in the Morning Chronicle, 1848 and 1849. Another opponent of the Company was Lieu tenant Adam D. Dundas, R.N., who for two years had been stationed “within limits of Fort Vancouver.” Since his brother was a Member of the House of Commons this testimony could not be disregarded. Among the supporters of Pelly’s proposal was Charles Enderby, who with his brother had been given the right to establish whaling stations on the Auckland Islands, and who contemplated making Vancouver Island their headquarters for whale-hunting in the North Pacific. Of greater weight, however, was the aid which Pelly secured from the Governor-General of Canada, Lord Elgin. In a letter to Grey of June 6, 1848, Elgin wrote that he had insti tuted inquiries concerning the conduct of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Rupert’s Land, and received favourable reports on its activities. Moreover, he cautioned that to throw open the trade of British Oregon might have dangerous consequences. Another famous person who took an interest in Vancouver Island was Samuel Cunard, the great shipping magnate. On January 3, 1848, he called the attention of the Admiralty to the coal deposits of the island, and, suggested that they should be reserved for the use of the Crown. He warned that unless something was done soon the mines might fall into the hands of Americans.
[xxv] He retired in October 1847 and was made a Privy Councillor. For the next few years he was the guiding spirit of the revived Privy Council Committee on Trade and Foreign Plantations.
[xxvi] Herman Merivale (1806—74), Under-Secretary in the Colonial Office, 1847—59.
[xxvii] At this time Benjamin Hawes showed little enthusiasm for transferring Vancouver Island to the Hudson’s Bay Company, which he did nob think would do much to promote colonization. See undated memorandum written some time between June 21 and June 24, 1848. Original MS., C.O., 305: 1. Grey, on the other hand, favoured this transfer and hostile critics called attention to the fact that a leading member of the Committee of the Hudson’s Bay Company, Edward Ellice the elder (1781—1863), had been married to an aunt of Lord Grey and that Lady Elgin was Lord Grey’s niece.