HL Deb 12 June 1854 vol 133 cc1356-8

presented a petition from landed proprietors and inhabitants of the Colony of Vancouver's Island, complaining of defects in the government thereof, and praying for amendment. The request of the petitioners was, that at the expiration of the Hudson's Bay Company's charter, the Crown should appoint a governor for the island. This possession was of great importance, in consequence of the large supply of coal which it contained. He had reason to believe that no coal was to be found on the north-western coast of America except upon this island.


said, that the interval since he had ceased to belong to the Colonial Office was not so long as to have caused him to have entirely forgotten everything connected with that department. He was quite aware of the importance which was rightly attached by the noble Earl to the Colony of Vancouver's Island, little as was at the present moment the comparative interest with which it was regarded in this country, on account of the small number of inhabitants it contained. The subject was by no means new to him, as, at the time when it was originally proposed to make a grant of the island to the Hudson's Bay Company, he had called the attention of the House of Commons to it. He was quite aware that the colonisation of the island had not made that progress which it was important that it should make, not only on account of its proximity to the Russian possessions, but also to the British possessions of North America; but it must be borne in mind, when we considered the transactions of the Hudson's Bay Company, that they had laboured under disadvantages which could not have been anticipated when the grant was made. Since the grant had been made, the discovery of gold in California had taken place, and it was extremely difficult to colonise an island like this, the climate of which was not very temperate, situated near gold diggings, although, no doubt, its mineral advantages were more likely to enrich those who turned their attention to them than gold digging. The immense importance attaching to this island on account of the supply of coal which it contained rendered it one of the most valuable possessions of the British Crown; but at the same time, although he thought that due exertions might not have been made by the Hudson's Bay Company, he also thought that some allowance must be made for the great disadvantages under which they had laboured from the peculiar circumstances to which he had referred; and he only trusted that they would make such increas- ed exertions as would enable the Government to deal with the question hereafter in a manner more favourable to the claims they might put forward than they could do at the present moment. He could assure his noble Friend that the attention of the Government would continue to be directed to the subject.

Petition ordered to lie upon the table.