We do not know his name: Klatsassin and the Chilcotin War

Seymour to Newcastle, No. 8

20 May 1864

In my despatch of even date on the subject of the Bute Inlet massacre I mentioned that I proposed to address your Grace respecting the defenceless state of this Colony. I wish to make no unreasonable requests. I prefer no complaints.

2. During my administration of the Government of Honduras, there seldom passed any long interval of time without my having to make application for the support of a ship of war. I cannot call to my mind a single occasion in which reluctance was shewn to furnish me with the aid required. Whether addressed to Jamaica or Greytown my applications were at once complied with.

3. In British Columbia I find the arrangements in these matters very different. A frigate and two gunboats were in Vancouvers Island when the news of the massacre was received; but the transmission to me of the intelligence was delayed two days, and then sent by the ordinary mail packet.* My urgent request for naval assistance was, after some hesitation, complied with by the Senior Naval Officer, to the extent of supplying the gunboat "Forward", coupled with the request that she should be detained in the Colony as short a time as possible.** I am therefore left in doubt whether she is available for keeping up the communication between head quarters and the force I have despatched to Bute Inlet under Mr. Brew. *** Your Grace will have seen from the statements made in my despatch above referred to, that I am not grudging in the expenditure of the resources of this Colony, but the want of a sea-going steamer--cannot be supplied here. We have river steamers drawing 18 or 20 inches, with two or more stories of cabins upon them, which would not be safe in rough water. I have done what I can to make up for our deficiencies, by despatching an Agent to purchase from my own travelling allowance a small vessel at Portland in the state of Oregon. I shall not however be able to depend upon her in bad weather.

4. At this present moment there are in Esquimalt harbour three vessels of war. The "Tribune"frigate, the "Columbine"sloop and the gunboat "Grappler."In British Columbia we have merely the gunboat "Forward", which I have been requested to return as early as possible. Lord Gilford the present Senior Officer has, though with perfect civility, thus disposed of my urgent application for aid, in a crisis which may be one of great importance to the Colony. He informed me, it is true, that the "Tribune"has not sufficient steam power to proceed to the head of Bute Inlet, and that the "Grappler"has received severe damage in a cruize to the Northwest. Mr Brew's expedition, it should also be added had been dispatched before the arrival of the "Columbine"at Esquimalt was known to Lord Gilford. The great urgency for her assistance had therefore passed before I was informed that she could not be spared for service in this Colony.

5. I am ignorant of the instructions furnished to the Admiral of the Pacific Station, and it may be beyond the power of any subordinate authority, if even of the Admiral himself, to employ ships of large size in the navigation of this coast; but I should conceive that the gunboats ought to be freely placed at the disposal of the Governor of British Columbia.**** in any case of emergency, when their services are not indispensably required in Vancouvers Island. Or that if the "Grappler"and "Forward"are specially attached to the neighbouring Colony, one or two vessels of the class might be allotted to this. This large and important province which now costs the Imperial Government absolutely nothing for its maintenance, and does not absorb a fraction of Her Majesty's land forces, has claims I conceive, in the still early stage of its existence, to receive a share of the naval protection the mother country affords to other and less exposed prossessions.

6. I regret that I have to make these representations at the particular time when a person so obliging and anxious to please in other respects as Lord Gilford, is Senior Naval Officer. But it is well at the outset, that I should understand what assistance I may expect from Her Majesty's Naval forces, in case there should be an imminent risk of isolated massacres swelling into insurrection.

7. I should add that the fear of the Indians is now very general along the coast, and that I have been requested by the workmen in the Copper Mines of Queen Charlotte's Island to afford them some protection or else permit them temporarily to abandon their labours, with the right to resume them at some safer time. My reply is that I can afford no naval protection, but that the Company will not forfeit their Charter should they now have to retire from the island.

I have etc.

[P.S.] The gentleman who copied this despatch for me has called my attention to the despatches named in the margin***** from which it appears that the "Grappler" "Forward"were specially sent out for the service of British Columbia. I shall call Lord Gilford's attention to these papers.

* In his other draft, Mr. Seymour lays much stress on this 2 days delay. Perhaps Governor Kennedy has an explanation.


** This seems short.

*** Which is clearly legitimate.

**** Admiralty will object to phrase.

***** Sir E. Lytton, No. 30, 10 March 1859.
Duke of Newcastle, No. 21, 21 October 1859.

Sir F. Rogers

This despatch opens a [ticklish?] question. Sir E. Lytton insisted upon the Admiralty supplying a couple of Gun boats for service in B. Columbia and forced that Department into saying that they would send them. But that was all that was done. No gun boats ever reached the Colony--nor do I remember that except on account of the misconduct of some Coast Indians the assistance of the Naval Authorities on the Station has been ever asked for by B.C.

Sir E. Lytton further obtained a small force of Engineers--who were stationed in the Colony for the double purpose of affording Military protection, & of making roads, laying out land, & being the pioneers in the Wilderness. These men have been withdrawn, & the Colony has neither ships, or soldiers. But is it necessary for the Colony to have either one or the other at its own disposal? In my opinion it is not. Excluding from consideration the possibility of a foreign invasion, which would have to be dealt with by Imperial resources, what enemies have the Colonists? Only discord and tumults among themselves, and Indians, who though crafty and revengeful are not of that fierce warlike character which belongs to many other tribes. If I am right in this impression the Colonists ought to be able, & ought to be told that they would be expected, to combine for their self protection. It may be expensive to have a strong force of Constables stationed in different parts of the Country, but it is one of the consequences of the gold attractions of the Colony, & can happily be paid for. The great thing, in my view, is for the Governor himself to bear in mind, & for him to impress on his subordinates, that there is the same retribution for offences by Indians as by whites: & that the misconduct of Indians, too often provoked by the Whites, should not drag him or others into regarding their behaviour as a Tribal affair. The greatest care should be taken to distinguish between the crimes of Individual Indians and of Tribes. If the Governor treats a massacre by a dozen Indians as a Tribal affair & follows it up by retribution in that sense we shall speedily step into a war.

I should wish to add that an understanding should be come to with the Admiralty to afford the Colony liberal assistance in case of emergency, seeing how unprotected it is, & how rare have been the demands made on the naval force by the Colony in the course of 5 years.

Abd 22 July

Mr Fortescue

It seems to me that the Admiralty might possibly be urged to give such instructions to their Officers as would be calculated to ensure hearty cooperation with the authorities of the Colony and to secure that at least the two Gunboats are especially sent from England for the assistance of this Colony should be made available in crises of this kind.

The recent Admiralty instructions grounded in Mr. Seymour's private letter might be almost understood by the officer receiving it that he was to do as little as possible.


CF 27

Source: Great Britain Public Record Office, Colonial Office Records, CO 60/18, p. 302, 6960, Frederick Seymour, "Letter to Newcastle, No. 8 ," sent May 20, 1864, received July 22, 1864.

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