HC Deb 17 July 1848 vol 100 cc510-2

wished to put a question to the noble Lord at the head of the Government, of which he had given notice on Friday last. On Thursday he had asked the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the Colonies, whether an inquiry had been instituted by the Colonial Office into the management by the Hudson's Bay Company of the territories over which they exercised authority; and, if any such inquiry had been instituted, whether, pending that inquiry, it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government to make a farther grant to the company of Vancouver's Island, giving them similar powers over that island as over their other territories? To that question the hon. Gentleman replied, that the inquiry had been instituted through the instrumentality of his noble Friend the Governor General of Canada, and that that inquiry not having been considered sufficiently ample by the Colonial Office, a further inquiry had been ordered to be conducted by an officer in the Queen's service. The hon. Gentleman stated further, that negotiations had been carried on between the Government and the Hudson's Bay Company for a cession of further powers to the company, but that nothing had been as yet concluded, inasmuch as there appeared to be some hesitation on the part of the company to accede to certain demands made by the noble Lord at the head of the Colonial Office, as he (Lord Lincoln) understood, in reference to some arrangement connected with the subject of colonisation. Under these circumstances the question of which he had given notice on Friday, and which he now wished to ask the noble Lord, was, whether pending the inquiry that had been recently instituted into the mode in which the Hudson's Bay Company had governed the territories now committed to its charge, the noble Lord would undertake, on the part of the Government, that, until that report had been submitted to the Government and laid on the table of this House, that no such cession of Vancouver's Island would be made to the Hudson's Bay Company?


said, that his hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies had already informed the noble Lord that the Governor General of Canada had been written to, with a view to his making further inquiry respecting the conduct of the Hudson's Bay Company. His noble Friend at the head of the Government of Canada had not made any special inquiry; but Major Crofton, who had commanded the Queen's troops in the district, had reported that in his opinion the Hudson's Bay Company were justified in their conduct, and that they were not chargeable with the alleged delinquencies of which they had been accused. In this state of affairs the Government had to consider whether or not a further and more special inquiry should be made before taking any steps with respect to Vancouver's Island. On that question his opinion—and it was also the opinion of the Government—was, that as the communication with that part of North America was so difficult—as, in fact, it could only take place twice in the year—there would, therefore, be great delay before any special inquiry could be made and reported to the Governor General of Canada, and then sent to this country; and that it was, therefore, better at once to proceed with the arrangement to be made with the Hudson's Bay Company. That arrangement, as the noble Lord seemed to understand, would imply a cession of the land of Vancouver's Island, and also of certain powers of Government, though not the same as the Hudson's Bay Company now had over their present territory. The agreement which had been made, and which was now awaiting the final answer of the Hudson's Bay Company, would be laid before Parliament; but seeing the anxiety of other parties for colonisation in Vancouver's Island, it was the opinion of his noble Friend at the head of the Colonial Office, and of the Government, that loss of time would be a serious detriment, and that it would be desirable, without waiting for any report such as the noble Lord alluded to, to proceed at once to complete the arrangement with the Hudson's Bay Company. He could not, therefore, give the pledge which the noble Lord required of him.

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