§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
, in moving the second reading of this Bill, said, its provisions were simple and few, and required very little explanation. But a wish had been intimated to him from several noble Lords that he should give some further information on the subject of an extension of the means of communication across that great interval of country between British Columbia and Canada. Before, however, he proceeded to give that information, he begged leave to say a few words upon the present condition of British Columbia and Vancouver's Island—because he believed that upon their prosperity depended very much what had been so long desired and was so nearly accomplished in those districts. An impression prevailed, that whatever was the case with regard to British Columbia, the Colony of Vancouver's Island never had and never would prosper. But whatever had been the case until recently, Vancouver's Island had now taken a considerable start, and was likely to be of the greatest importance to this Empire in future years. Practically, this colony was founded as lately as 1849; and during the earlier years since that date, while it was under the management of the Hudson's Bay Company, who used it not with any view to colonization, but for the transactions of their commercial business, it certainly made no material progress. Five years ago, however, the charter of the Company expired; but although it was only in the present year that the last payment was made to the Company on the proprietorship being resumed by the Crown, yet the prospects of the colony, especially during the last two years, had very greatly improved. There were great complaints from certain parties of the present system of Government, both in Vancouver's Island and British Columbia. In Vancouver's 49 Island the Government established in 1849 was composed of a Governor, a Legislative Council, and a House of Representatives. The number of Representatives was necessarily very small; at first they were only seven; but recently he had advised the Crown to increase the number to fifteen; and to grant to the colony an Executive Council. It was not his intention to recommend any further interference on the part of the Crown with the constitution of the colony. He would now show, by statistics, what very considerable progress the colony had made during the last two years. In 1861 the shipping entered was 101,721 tons, and in 1862 it had increased to 199,000 tons. The imports in value were, in 1861, 2,335,000 dollars, and in 1862 they had increased to 3,555,000 dollars. An idea prevailed that this increased prosperity was more beneficial to other countries than to England, but he found that the imports for England alone were in 1861, 516,000 dollars, and in 1862, 694,000 dollars, being an increase of 178,000 dollars. Another fact, very gratifying and conclusive as to the advantage to British trade, was, that the imports from England, which in the first three months of 1862 were 120,000 dollars, had in the first three months of the present year reached 400,000 dollars, being an increase of more than 300 per cent, whilst the increase of imports from other countries was only 63 percent. He might say, further, that the merchants were beginning to store goods at Victoria instead of San Francisco, and that, at the former place, there was a small but growing Admiralty establishment; and this was a matter of considerable importance to the navy of this country, inasmuch as the district itself afforded an ample supply of coals, and the harbour was one of the safest in the world. The progress of British Columbia was almost without example. The colony was established only four years ago, and already it was self-supporting, and would not, he believed, ever appear again in the annual Estimates of the House of Commons. Considering the recent formation of the colony, that was in its kind an unexampled proof of colonial growth and prosperity. There were no exports at present except gold; but the imports, which in 1861 were in value 1,414,000 dollars, had in 1862 reached, 2,201,000 dollars, or nearly double in the short space of twelve months. The revenue of British Columbia was increasing annually. It had doubled within 50 the last twelve months, and now amounted to £100,000, with every prospect of an increase. As a proof of the energy of the colonists, he would state that a thousand miles of roads had recently been opened. They had borrowed £100,000 for the purpose; but as the tolls had last year produced £10,000, and were expected to produce £20,000 next year, the debt would probably be paid off in five years. These roads were concentrated in the town of Alexandra, in the centre of the colony; and when the system of roads was completed up to the Frazer river, there would then he communication with the Rocky Mountains, at a point where it was not difficult to cross them, and whence the route to Canada was not so difficult as was generally supposed. Before he proceeded further, he would refer to the future Government of these two colonies. At present, according to the arrangement made by his predecessor, both colonies were governed by one Governor, under two different forms of government. The right hon. Gentleman who had preceded him (Sir E. Bulwer-Lytton) was perfectly justified in establishing that system as an experiment; but in all respects it had not worked well, and it was not desirable it should be continued. Some blame had been thrown on the Governor, Mr. Douglas; but he (the Duke of Newcastle) did not think it was at all deserved. Governor Douglas had done immense service to the colonies; and if there had not been a man of his peculiar character and energy of mind in the position, British Columbia would probably not have attained to its present state of prosperity. Though he was now relieved, it was only in the usual course; in fact, he had been longer at Vancouver's Island than the usual term. It was contemplated to confer on British Columbia a form of government which was thought would be best adapted for the present to the peculiar population, in which at present the natives outnumbered both the settled and migratory whites. It was manifest that complete representative institutions could not be conferred upon such a community. The plan adopted for the future government of the colony was the establishment of a Legislative Council very much resembling that of Ceylon. It was to consist of fifteen members, one-third of whom would be public officers of the Colony, one-third magistrates, and one-third would be chosen by the population in such a manner as the Governor 51 might think fit. This was an intermediate stage between the present system and representative Government, and was thought best fitted for the present condition of the Colony. The greatest impediment to the future prosperity of the Colony was its want of communication with the outer world. The communication with England by San Francisco and Panama was exceedingly circuitous and difficult; but communication with Canada and the east of North America was absolutely precluded. In the course of the discussion last year he said that he had every reason to hope that he should be able this year to state to the House that arrangements had been made to complete the communications between the Colony and the east of British North America; and he thought he could now inform their Lordships that arrangements had been entered into calculated to carry out that object. When he spoke upon the subject last year, he was in communication with a gentleman of great experience, knowledge, and energy—Mr. Edward Watkin—who was constantly travelling between Canada and this country, and he had requested him to inquire whether it would be possible to effect a communication across the continent. This gentleman returned with considerable information; and he (the Duke of Newcastle) suggested to him to place himself in communication with persons in the commercial world who might be willing to undertake the carrying out of such a communication. He had put himself in communication with Mr. Baring, Mr. Glyn, and others; and he believed they had arrived at the conclusion, that if arrangements could be made with the Hudson Bay Company, the undertaking should have their best attention. In order that this important communication across the continent might be made certain, guarantees were to be given by Canada on the one hand, and British Columbia and Vancouver's Island on the other, and it was proposed that each Colony should appropriate land for this purpose. The scheme would not involve any expenditure on the part of the Imperial Government. No Bill on the subject had as yet passed through the Canadian Parliament, because the Canadian Legislature had been in something like a state of abeyance during the last year, and lately it had been dissolved; but the guarantee had been sanctioned by the Canadian Government, and there was very little doubt that it would receive the sanction of the Legis- 52 lature. If it did not—which he by no means apprehended—of course the whole thing would fall to the ground. A similar guarantee would be asked from British Columbia and Vancouver's Island, and he had the assurance of the Governor that these Colonies were in a position to give such a guarantee; and he added that in his opinion it would be money well expended. A complete intercolonial railway system had long been looked forward to by those interested in our North American provinces, and he hoped none of their Lordships would be disposed to undervalue its immense importance. It would be impossible to overrate the importance to this country of an interoceanic railway between the Atlantic and the Pacific. By such a communication and the electric telegraph, as great a revolution would be effected in the commerce of the world as had been brought about by the discovery of the Cape of Good Hope. It was unnecessary to point out to their Lordships of what importance it would be in case of war on the other side of the Atlantic. Nobody who had paid any attention to the subject could doubt that a great future was before our North American Colonies; and he hoped that none of their Lordships would, without mature deliberation, pronounce this scheme either visionary or premature. On every ground the subject was well worthy of that attentive consideration which he was sure it would receive at the hands of their Lordships. There was another matter on which he wished to say a few words. Some eight or nine days ago it was stated in a portion of the press that the Hudson's Bay Company had sold their property to the International Financial Association. That statement was not altogether accurate, and certainly it was premature; for he had been informed, within two hours before he came down to the House, that the whole arrangement had only been completed that afternoon. He had not received any official communication on the subject, but some of the gentlemen concerned had been kind enough to inform him of the facts. He had stated on a former occasion that the Hudson's Bay Company had expressed a wish to sell. Certain parties in the City had, in the first instance, entered into communication with the Company for the purpose either of purchasing or obtaining permission for a transit through the Company's possessions. After some negotiations, the alternative of permission for a transit was agreed upon. 53 That conclusion having been arrived at, he did not know what it was that raised the whole question of sale again; but some fortnight or three weeks ago, fresh negotiations were opened. Parties in the City proposed to the Hudson's Bay Company to give them, by way of purchase, a sum of £1,500,000. What had appeared in the papers was that the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company had been transferred to the International Financial Association. What had really taken place was this:—The Hudson's Bay Company very prudently required that the money should be paid down, and that the whole sum of £1,500,000 should be ready on a given day, which he believed was yesterday. Of course, the intending purchasers could not raise the funds to carry out that transaction in the course of a week, and they therefore applied to the International Financial Association to take the intermediary position, which was the special function of that Association. The Association agreed to do so, and the money either had been paid, or would be ready on a day arranged upon. The report that the Association itself had intended to become the proprietors of the shares of the Hudson's Bay Company originated, no doubt, out of this negotiation; but to do so was, he believed, quite foreign to the principle on which the Association carried on their business, as in such transactions they occupied only an intermediate position. A prospectus would be issued to-morrow morning, and the shares, amounting to a capital sum of £2,000,000, would be thrown upon the market, to be taken up in the ordinary way upon the formation of companies. These shares would not remain in the hands of the Association, but would pass to the proprietors as if they had bought their shares direct from the Hudson's Bay Company. Of course, the Company would only enjoy the rights which those shares carried, and no more. They would, in fact, be a continuation of the Company; but, besides carrying on the ordinary business of the Company, they intended to direct their management to the principle of developing and promoting the settlement of the country, the development of the postal and transit communication being one of the objects to which they would apply themselves. Of course, the old Governor and his colleagues, having sold their shares, ceased to be the governing body of the Hudson's Bay Company, and a new council, consisting of most responsible persons, had been formed that 54 afternoon. Among them were two of the Committee of the old company, with one of whom, Mr. Colvile, he had had much personal communication, and could speak in the highest terms as a man of business and good sense. There were also seven or eight most influential and responsible people, and the name of the Governor—Sir Edmund Head—who had been elected to-day, would be a guarantee of the intentions of the new Company; for no one would believe that he had entered into this undertaking for mere speculative purposes, or that the new Company would be conducted solely with a view to screw the last penny out of this territory. While the Council, as practical men of business, would be bound to promote the prosperity of their shareholders, he was sure that they would be actuated by statesmanlike views. No negotiation with the Colonial Office had taken place, and, as this was a mere ordinary transfer, no leave on their part was necessary. But arrangements must be entered into with the Colonial Office for the settlement of the country, and at some future time it would be no doubt his duty to inform their Lordships what these arrangements were. With regard to the present Bill, the Act of 1858 had prescribed certain limits to the colony of British Columbia which were amply sufficient at that time. But since then very large gold districts had been discovered north of that boundary, and it was necessary to have some laws there, and a magistrate to enforce them. It was now proposed, therefore, to add that district to the colony of British Columbia. Another object was to continue the existing Act to the close of the year as a matter of precaution, though the moment the Order in Council was promulgated the old form of government would cease and the new one would come into force.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
expressed himself gratified with the statement of the noble Duke as to the progress and prosperity of the Colony. That statement showed the necessity, more and more, that communication from Canada across the Continent should be established as soon as possible. The last despatches stated that gold had been discovered on the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, on the head waters of the Saskatchewan River, as well as on the western side. He was not informed whether the yield at present was abundant; but the geological formation being some- 55 what similar to that on the other side of the ridge, he thought large quantities of gold would be found there. That was another reason why some intercommunication should be made with those districts, for the purpose of conveying food and other necessaries to those districts, for the mining population would otherwise suffer severe privations if there were no such means of conveyance. As his noble Friend on the cross benches (Lord Taunton) had probably parted with his interest in the Hudson's Bay Company, he would probably not object to hear a free opinion with regard to it. He believed the Hudson's Bay Company to have been a complete bar to the progress of the territory. The whole policy of the Company had been to prevent settlers from going into their territory—they seemed to think that it was necessary for the purposes of their trade to keep it a "howling wilderness." He was sorry to hear the noble Duke say that two of the Directors of the old Company were to be members of the new board, because if they retained their former opinions and feelings, he could have very little hope of any desirable change taking place. One great objection which the Company had to settlers going there was that it would destroy the means of obtaining a certain sort of preserved meat which was wanted for provisions for their men; but he himself should surely have thought that good meat might have been carried out from England upon more advantageous terms. He could not agree with that part of the noble Duke's speech in which he said that this transaction between the Hudson's Bay Company and the new association was an affair with which the Colonial Office had nothing to do; that it was a mere transfer of the rights of the Company from one set of shareholders to another. The fact was, that the circumstances of the Hudson's Bay Company were very peculiar. In the reign of Charles II. a charter was granted to certain persons conferring rights of a most enormous character; the whole of the country which drained into Hudson's Bay was conveyed to the Company for ever; they had not mere manorial rights, but absolute possessory rights—at all events such rights were said to be conveyed by the charter. Now, putting out of question the fact that at the time of the grant only part of the coast of Hudson's Bay had been discovered, there was also this fact, that a portion of the 56 territory had already been granted by the French King to his subjects, and on grounds as valid as those acted upon by our King when he granted those vast territories to the Company. A large portion of the territory, as far as Fort Tropez to the westward of the Rod River, had been actually occupied by the Canadians; and a very considerable portion of the territory conveyed by the charter now formed part of the United States, by virtue of a boundary line which had been agreed upon. The whole of the upper part of the course of the Red River was admitted to be within the boundaries of the United States. It was only in British territory, however, that the Company claimed to exercise possessory rights. He was perfectly well aware that the question had been considered, as to what steps could be taken to fix the extent of the rights claimed both as to the territories they existed over and also as to their nature. This course had been recommended some years ago by a Committee of the House of Commons, but nothing had been done to carry out that recommendation. He had not himself been much disposed to press the matter whilst the Hudson's Bay Company followed the practice of passive resistance; but now that a complete change was taking place, he thought that some decision should be come to in the interests of Canada and British Columbia, and also those of the Company. If this course were not adopted, the new Company would say that what they had done had been done under the eyes of the Colonial Office, and therefore that the Government could make no objection. He was also afraid that the new Company would use their rights in the same way as the old one had done. He had not understood very clearly what the exact arrangement was to be. Last year it was understood that the Hudson's Bay Company were to sell or to grant a slip of land for the road, that Canada and British Columbia should each construct the portion of road within their boundaries, and that those two colonies, together with the colony of Vancouver's Island, should each bear a certain amount of charge; but the arrangement had been changed, as he now understood the Colonies were to purchase a strip of the Company's territories.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
observed, that he also understood that the in- 57 terest in respect of part of the road was to be guaranteed by the Colonies of British Columbia, Canada, and Vancouver's Island. The whole arrangement now seemed to have been changed, and a new Company was to be formed.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
believed that those who had now purchased the shares of the Hudson's Bay Company were nearly identical with those who had previously agreed to make the road without having such shares.
THE EARL OF DONOUGHMORE
feared that there would be a conflict of interests between the Company that was to make the road and the new Hudson's Bay Company; for even the making of a road would be considered an interference with their interests by a company who thought it desirable to keep the territory a desert. He further believed that it would be found almost impossible to make the road; and it would be cruel to take labourers out for that purpose and then leave them there. The proper way would be to take settlers there first; and as the road became finished, they would naturally settle along it, and raise corn and cattle for those who used the road. He had hoped to hear that this new Company had entered into some arrangement that they would not claim the extreme rights under the charter which the old Company had claimed; and that they would have entered into engagements in reference to the introduction of settlers. He was sorry that the Foreign Secretary was not in his place, because before concluding he wished to ask a question, which was naturally connected with this subject, and that was as to the disputed claim to the island of San Juan. That island was so situate that all vessels passing from Esquimault harbour to Victoria must pass within cannon-shot. He wanted to know what was the state of the negotiations with the American Government, or whether we were to wait until it suited the convenience of the United States Government to settle the question. It was true that the events of the last year had been such as to occupy all the attention of that Government; but still the fact of an American force being stationed almost within sight of the capital of a British Colony was one that ought not to be lost sight of.
§ LORD TAUNTON
said, that the language of the noble Duke had conveyed to him the impression that he did not attach sufficient importance to the transfer of the stock and rights of the old Hudson's Bay 58 Company to a new joint-stock company. The position of the old Hudson's Bay Company was one full of anomaly. It was not a mere fur-trading Company, but possessed rights of almost an imperial description. Taking, as he did, a more favourable view of the manner in which that Company had fulfilled its trust than did the noble Earl who had just sat down (the Earl of Donoughmore), he was never much disposed to cavil at or attack its charter. He admitted that the Company had pursued a blind and inconsiderate policy with respect to the introduction of settlers, because nature herself had drawn a distinction between the part of their territory which was adapted to the habits of the fur-bearing animals and that which was adapted to settlements. But while he admitted that something might be said against the old Company, on the other hand the Company had had great duties and great trusts, which they had fulfilled in a manner that was creditable to them and to the country which they represented. Their conduct to the Indian tribes was, taken as a whole, highly creditable; and they had executed their powers in a truly British spirit, taking care to keep the country for England, and jealously watching the frontier against intruders, and always ready, when the interests of this country were at stake, to remember that their charter had been granted by an English Monarch for English purposes. Now, however, everything was changed. The territory, the stock, and everything belonging to the old Company had now, it appeared, been transferred by a sale in the market. It was true that the shares might have been sold before, but the spirit and traditions of the Company remained the same. Now all that must be changed. He was ready, from the general information which he had received, to concur with the noble Duke that the persons who had undertaken to form the new Company were highly respectable; and both on private and public grounds he could not speak too highly of Sir Edmund Head, whose services they had secured as the new Governor; but it must be remembered that Sir Edmund was not a mercantile man, and would not have much influence in the commercial affairs of the Company. He had been told, however, that the real effective directors of the new Company were either Americans by birth or closely connected with the American trade; and he was told that one very strong element 59 in the Company were the agents in this country of the American Fur Company. He hoped that he was expressing no unreasonable jealousy when he said that he looked with alarm at a transfer of this description. He should not like to see the seat of the fur trade transferred from London to New York. Nor should he like to see this matter treated on purely mercantile principles, without reference to any other consideration. Formerly they were told that this was a close corporation. He was afraid that there was now some danger of our falling into the opposite extreme. The now Company would be a completely open one, its shares would be sold in the market, it would be constantly changing, and, as far as political subjects were concerned, could have no steady or settled policy. The fur trade, he had no doubt, would be conducted very much as it was by the old Company. Some persons complained of the existence of a monopoly, and desired to have free trade. It was impossible to carry out free trade in a fur district. You might as well talk of having free trade in a deer forest or a pheasant covert. Under such a system the animals would speedily become extinct. What was more important was that there should be no change in the treatment of the Indians, which had always presented a pleasant contrast to the mode in which they were dealt with on the American side of the frontier. An American writer, who was no friend to the Hudson's Bay Company, had admitted that its officers had discovered the secret of preserving the Indians by rendering them useful to the white man and the white man to them, and had afforded an instance, singular in history, and as valuable as it was singular, of the protection of this unfortunate race against the advances of civilization. He should like to know more of the views of Her Majesty's Government upon this question, and in order that they might approach its discussion with rather more knowledge than they then possessed, he suggested that the noble Duke should postpone the third reading of this Bill for a few days, and should, in the mean time, lay upon the table the correspondence of which he had spoken. This he would say, that this transfer of the rights and property of the Hudson's Bay Company was a matter of too much importance in our colonial history to be passed over as a merely mercantile transaction with which Parliament had nothing to do. He was glad to hear the 60 noble Duke's declaration as to the importance which he attached to the preservation of Vancouver's Island, and he did not object to what he had said with reference to the modification of the constitution of British Columbia. At the same time, he should be sorry to see what was called representative institutions given to the population of that colony at the present moment. The noble Duke had drawn a very flourishing picture of the state of that country, but he was afraid that it admitted of the addition of some dark shades. There was one very painful matter in connection with the subject, to which he wished, before he sat down, to refer. He was informed that a very shameful traffic in Indian women was being carried on in those quarters, and that these wretched creatures were in many instances allowed to perish from the most shocking of diseases, or carried back to their homes from which they had been taken, where they spread the evil among the aboriginal tribes. He heard it also stated that a spirit of a most injurious character was frequently administered to the natives, and that owing to these two causes the most horrible results were produced. He should wish to know whether the attention of the noble Duke had been called to the subject. As to the facilities for the establishment of telegraphic communication, his noble Friend must possess more ample information than himself; and it was evident he was discharging no mere official duty, but one which was grateful to his understanding and heart, in making the proposals which he had done, with a view to contributing to the welfare of the country to which they related. He trusted, however, the noble Duke would postpone the third reading of the Bill to a date which would admit of all the information possible being obtained on the subject.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, he should be most happy to lay on the table any papers which could afford his noble Friend (Lord Taunton) the additional information which he desired. With regard to the transfer from the Hudson's Bay Company, the only document which he was able to produce was a very short letter intimating that such an arrangement had been made. What he had proposed to lay on the table was a much larger collection of papers relating to the subject generally. Those he must produce at a later period, because they were somewhat bulky; while be should be happy to postpone the third reading to as distant a day as would ad- 61 mit of the Bill being passed in the present Session. He might further state, in reply to the remarks of his noble Friend, that there were in the old Company several gentleman who did not wish to part with their shares, and who had determined to retain them; and that his sanction was not required in the matter; while he had still reserved to him every power which he previously possessed. His noble Friend had made some observations which were calculated to raise a prejudice against the new Company when he observed that he understood the American element was very strong in it. It would, however, have been fairer if he had waited until the next morning, when the prospectus would be issued; the fact being, he believed, that there was one gentleman out of nine on the Council who traded largely with the United States, and that he was a naturalized Englishman; while it was impossible to know that the American element prevailed among the shareholders, inasmuch as the shares had not yet been allotted. His noble Friend had drawn a sad picture of crime at the gold diggings and of the state of the unfortunate Indian women; but he did not believe, that except by the introduction of a larger male population, matters were at all worse than before the discovery of gold. He gave the Hudson's Bay Company the greatest credit for endeavouring to protect the Indians to the utmost of their power; but the Company had found it impossible to prevent some of the evils which arose from the presence of sailors and persons trading for profit to the district. Moreover, the disease to which he had referred was introduced by the Spaniards a hundred years ago, and had since swept off whole tribes. It was most lamentable, but so it was, and it was not fair to endeavour to raise a cry against the colony upon this ground. He took the statements of his noble Friend for granted, because it was a picture of what had unfortunately existed for nearly a century; but as to any increase in the evils described, he did not believe it, because there were intelligent magistrates in British Columbia whose duty it was to report these things to the Government, and no such reports had been received by him. With reference to the Island of San Juan, the state of things was unfortunate, but no so bad as the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Donoughmore) seemed to suppose. When the American Government placed an armed force on the island, and the matter was likely to lead to serious differences be- 62 tween the two countries, an arrangement was made, principally through the instrumentality of General Scott, for a joint occupation. Since the war, the American force had been entirely withdrawn; but negotiations had not proceeded, because the American Government pleaded that their hands were too full to give the matter attention. It was perfectly true that the island remained in dispute, but there was no danger attending the delay, and the delay was not attributable to the British Government.
§ LORD CHELMSFORD
said, that it appeared that this was an entirely new Company, and he wished to ask whether the attention of the Law Officers of the Crown had been called to the question whether it was competent for the Hudson's Bay Company to make a transfer to a new Company?
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
said, he was only informed of the arrangement an hour before he came down to the House. He had not the smallest doubt himself of the perfect legality of the transaction; but as a noble Lord of the experience and legal ability of his noble and learned Friend had put the question, he assumed there were reasons for it, and he should deem it his duty to make inquiry before the discussion on the Bill was renewed.
§ Motion agreed to: Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Eight o'clock.