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Correspondence between Gen. Harney and Gov. Douglas 1859

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Head-Quarters Department of Oregon, )
Fort Vancouver, W. T., Aag. 6th, 1859. j
His  Excellency, James Douglas, C. B., Governor of Vancouver's
Island, <&?,, and Vice Admiral of the same.
Sir : I have the honor to inform you of the receipt of an official
copy of a protest made by you to the occupation of San Juan Island,
in Puget Sound, by a company of United States troops under my
This aforesaid copy was furnished by Capt. Hornby, of Her Majesty's ship Tribune, to the United States officer in command at
San Juan Island, Capt. George Pickett, of the 9th Infantry of the
American army, together with a communication threatening a joint
occupation of the San Juan Island, by the forces of Her Majesty's
ships Tribune, Plumper, and Satellite, now in the harbor of that
Island by your orders.
As the military commander of the department of Oregon, assigned to that command by the orders of the President of the United
States, I have the honor to state for your information, that by such
authority invested in me, I placed a military command upon the
Island of San Juan to protect the American citizens residing on
that island from the insults and indignities which the British authorities of Vancouver Island, and the establishment of the Hudson's Bay Company have recently offered them, by sending a British ship' of war from Vancouver Island, to convey the chief factor
of the Hudson's Bay Company to San Juan, for the purpose of
seizing an American citizen and forcibly transporting him to Vancouver Island to be tried by British laws.
I have reported this attempted outrage to my government, and
they will doubtless seek the proper redress from the British government. In the meantime, I have the honor to inform your Excellency, I shall not permit a repetition of the insult, and shall
retain a command on San Juan Island to protect its citizens in the
name of the United States, until I receive further orders from my
I have the honor to be very resp'v, your ob'dt serv't,
W. S. HARNEY,      \
Brig-Gen. U. S. Army, Commanding.
Government House, Victoria,     )
A^ancouver's Island, 13th Aug. 1859. j
Brigadier-General Wm.  S. Harney, Commanding the  Troops in
the Department of Oregon—
Sir: On the evening of the 10th inst., I had the honor of receiving your Dispatch dated Fort Vancouver, August 6th, 1859.
In reply thereto, I must thank you for the frank and straightforward manner in which you communicate to me your reasons for
occupying the Island of San Juan in the Haro Archipelago with a
portion of the military forces of the United States under your
I am glad to find that you have done so under your general instructions from the President of the United States as Military Commander of the Department of Oregon, and not by direct authority
emanating from the Cabinet at Washington.
You state that the reasons which induced you to take that course
are the "insults and indignities which the British authorities of
Vancouver's Island, and the Establishment of the Hudson's Bay
Company have recently offered to ; American citizens residing on
the Island of San Juan/ by sending a British ship of Avar from
Vancouver's Island to convey  the Chief Factor of the Hudson's
Bay Company to San Juan, for the purpose of seizing an America!
citizen, and forcibly transporting him to Vancouver's Island to be
tried by British Laws."
I will explain for your information that the Agents of the Hudson's Bay Co. hold no official position in Vancouver's Island, nor
exercise any official power or authority, and are as entirely distinct
from the officers of the Executive Government as are any of the
other inhabitants of Vancouver's Island.
To the reported outrage on an American citizen, I beg to give
the most unhesitating and unqualified denial. None of Her Majesty's ships have ever been sent to convey the Chief Factor or any
officer of the Hudson's Bay Company to San Juan for the purpose
of seizing an American citizen, nor has any attempt ever been
made to seize any American citizen and to transport him forcibly
to Vancouver's Island for trial as represented by you.
Up to a very recent period but one American citizen has been
resident on San Juan. About the commencement of the present
year a few American citizens began to " squat" upon the Island
and upon one occasion a complaint was made to me by a British
subject of some wrong committed against his property by an American citizen, but no attention was paid to that complaint, out of
consideration and respect to the friendly government to which the
alleged offender belonged, and whose citizens, I think it cannot be
denied, have always been treated with marked attention by all the
British authorities in these parts. With reference to San Juan in
particular, I have always acted with the utmost caution to prevent,
so far as might lie in my power, any ill feelings arising from collisions between British subjects and American citizens, and have
in that respect cordially endeavored to carry out the views of the
United States Government as expressed in a dispatch from Mr.
Marcy, dated 17th July, 1855, to Her Majesty's Minister at Washington, a copy of which I herewith enclose for your information, as
I presume that the document cannot be in your possession.
Following the dignified policy recommended by that dispatch, I  -I
should in any well grounded case of complaint against an American citizen have referred the  matter to the Federal  authorities in
Washington Territory, well assured that if wrong had been committed reparation would have followed.
I deeply regret that you did not communicate with me for information upon the subject of the alleged grievance, you would then
have learned how unfounded was the complaint, and the grave action you have adopted might have been avoided. I also deeply
regret that you did not mention the matter verbally to me when I
had the pleasure of seeing you at A'ictoria last month, for a few
words from me would, I am sure, have removed from your mind
any erroneous impressions, and you would have ascertained personally from me how anxious I have ever been to co-operate to the
utmost of my power with the officers of the United States Government in any measures which might be mutually beneficial to the
citizens of the two countries.
Having given you a distinct and emphatic denial to the circumstances which you allege induced you to occupy the Island of
San Juan with United States troops; having shown you that the
reasons you assign do not exist, and having endeavored to assure
you of my readiness on all occasions to act for the protection of
American citizens, and for the promotion of their welfare, I must
call upon you, sir, if not as a matter of right, at least as a matter
of justice and of humanity, to withdraw the troops now quartered
upon the Island of San Juan ; for those troops are not required for
the protection of American citizens against British authorities, and
the continuance of these troops upon an Island, the sovereignty of
which is in dispute, not only is a marked discourtesy to a friendly
Government, but complicates to an undue degree the settlement in
an amicable manner of the question of sovereignty, and is also calculated to provoke a collision between the military forces of two
friendly Nations, in a distant part of the world.
I have the honor to be, sir, your Most Ob't Serv't


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