The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume X

Nfld. Additional Documents

Canada Additional Documents

Chronological Index

Appendix No. 5

Appendix No. 5

Appendix No. 5


Appendix No. 5

[p. 78]

whereby to invite the Indian nations (who lived like savages many hundred leagues up in the country) down to their factories.”
In August 1719 the Hudson's Bay Company acknowledges the surrender by the French of the straits and bay, in such manner that they had nothing to object or desire further on that head. But they urged the settlement of the limits between the English and French territories without delay, since the French subsequently to the conclusion of the peace (in 1715) made a settlement at the head of Albany River, upon which the Company's principal factory was settled, whereby they interrupted the Indian trade from coming to the Company's factories. It was therefore proposed and desired, " that a boundary or dividend line may be drawn so as to exclude the French from coming anywhere to the northward of the latitude of 49°, except on the coast of Labrador ; unless this be done, the Company's factories at the bottom of Hudson's Bay cannot be secure, or their trade preserved."
Even in October 1750, they entertained the same views, while at that time they were pushing their pretensions, both to the northward and westward, to the utmost limits. They state that the limits of the lands and countries lying round the bay, comprised, as they conceived, within their grant, were as follow : All the land lying on the east side or coast of the said bay, eastward to the Atlantic Ocean and Davis' Straits, and the line hereafter mentioned as the east and south-east-ward boundaries of the said Company's territories, and towards the north, all the lands that lie on “ the north end, or on the north side, or coast, of the said bay, and extending from the bay northwards to the utmost limits of the lands there towards the North Pole ; but where or how these lands terminate, is at present unknown. And towards the west, all the lands that lie on the west side or coast of the said bay, and extending from the bay westward to the utmost limits of those lands, but where or how these lands terminate to the westward is also unknown, though probably it will be found they terminate on the Great South Sea. And towards the south, all the lands that lie on the south end, or south side of the coast of the said bay, the extent of which lands to the south to be limited and divided from the places appertaining to the French in those parts by a line,” &c., describing the line from Cape Perdrix to the 49th parallel, and along that parallel westward, as in their proposals of August 1719, excepting that they state the starting

[p. 79]

point to be in latitude 59½ N. They add, with regard to this boundary, that “ to avoid as much as possible, any just grounds for differing with the French in agreeing on those boundaries which lie nearest their settlements, it is laid down so as to leave the French in possession of as much, or more land than they can make any just pretensions to ; and at the same time leaves your memorialists but a very small district of land from the south end of the said bay necessary for a frontier.” It is worthy of remark, that this line would have given to France the southerly portion of the Lake of the Woods, Rainy River, and Rainy Lake, which are now claimed as within the Company's territories.
The foregoing extracts are deemed sufficient to establish that the Company considered their territorial rights in reference to their connexion with and proximity to Hudson's Bay itself. where they had planted their factories and desired to attract the Indian trade. They certainly show that neither after the treaty of Ryswick, nor that of Utrecht, when they stated the boundaries, they were either willing to submit to or were desirous of obtaining ; nor yet in 1750, when they set forth what they thought themselves entitled to claim under their charter, did they ever think of asserting a right to all the countries the waters of which flow into Hudson's Bay. Their claims to lands lying both northward and westward of the bay are entirely at variance with any such idea. Sir J. Pelly, before a Committee of the House of Commons in March 1837, seems to have adhered to the views expressed in 1750, when he said, “ the power of the Company extends all the way from the boundaries of Upper and Lower Canada away to the North Pole, as far as the land goes, and from the Labrador coast all the way to the Pacific Ocean,” though he afterwards explains that the Company claimed in fee-simple all the lands the water from which ran into Hudson's Bay.
It is submitted, that if this latter claim were well founded, the further grant in the charter of exclusive trade beyond the limits of the territories granted in fee-simple, would give colour to the assertion of the “ power ” of the Company extending to the Pacific ; assuming that the word “ power ” was used to designate the exclusive right of trade, and not the ownership of the territory. For if the charter gives the fee-simple of the lands to the Rocky Mountains, the Pacific is a “ Sea,” and Fraser's and M'Kenzie's are “ rivers,” into which “ entry or passage by water or land out of the territories ” actually granted may be found ; though in such case the application for a licence for the exclusive trade would, if the charter be in this respect valid, have been unnecessary.
The French Government, it appears, would not agree to the proposal which would have limited them to the 49th parallel. Colonel Bladen, one of the British Commissioners under the Treaty of Utrecht, wrote from Paris in 1719 in reference thereto, “ I already see some difficulty in the execution of this affair, there being at least the difference of two degrees between the best French maps and that which the Company delivered us.” No settlement of the boundary could be arrived at.

[p. 80]

If the later claim of territorial limits had been advanced during this negotiation, there can be no doubt it would have been resisted even more strenuously than the effort to make the 49th parallel the boundary was, not merely by contending that the territory so claimed formed part of Canada, and had been treated as such by the French long before 1670, but also that the French king had exercised an act of disposition of them, of the same nature as that under which the Hudson's Bay Company claim, by making them the subject of a charter to a company under the Sieur de Caen's name, and after the dissolution of that company had, in 1627, organised a new company, to which he conceded the entire country called Canada. And this was before the Treaty of St. Germain en Laye, by which the English restored Canada to the French. In 1663 this company surrendered their charter, and the king, by an edict of March in that year, established a council for the administration of affairs in the colony, and nominated a governor ; and, about 1665, Monsieur Talon, the intendant of Canada, despatched parties to penetrate into and explore the country to the west and north-west, and in 1671 he reported from Quebec that the " Sieur de Lusson is returned, after having advanced as far as 500 leagues from here, and planted the cross, and set up the king's arms, in presence of 17 Indian nations assembled on the occasion from all parts, all of whom voluntarily submitted them-selves to the dominion of his Majesty, whom alone they regard as their sovereign protector."
The French kept continually advancing forts and trading posts in the country, which they claimed to be part of Canada ; not merely up the Saguenay River towards James Bay, but towards and into the territory now in question ; in parts and places to which the Hudson's Bay Company had not penetrated when Canada was ceded to Great Britain in 1763, nor for many years afterwards.* They had posts at Lake St. Anne, called by the older geographers Alenimipigou ; at the Lake of the Woods ; Lake Winnipeg, and two, it is believed, on the Saskatchewan, which are referred to by Sir Alexander M'Kenzie in his account of his discoveries.
Enough, it is hoped, has been stated to show that the limits of the Hudson's Bay Company's territory are as open to question now as they have ever been, and that when called upon to define them in the last century, they did not advance the claim now set up by them ; and that even when they were defining the boundary which they desired to obtain under the Treaty of Utrecht, at a period most favourable for them, they designated one inconsistent with their present pretensions, and which, if it had been accepted by France, would have left no trifling portion of the territory as part of the province of Canada.

* In the evidence given by the honourable Wm. M'Gillivray, on one of the North-west trials at York (now Toronto), in 1818, he stated that there were no Hudson's Bay traders established in the Indian country about lake Winnipeg or the Red River, for eight or nine years after he had been used (as a partner) in the North-west Company) to trade in that country.

[p. 81]

So far as has been ascertained, the claim to all the country the waters of which ran into Hudson's Bay, was not advanced until the time that the Company took the opinions of the late Sir Samuel Romilly, Messrs. Cruise, Holroyd, Scarlett, and Bell. Without presuming in the slightest degree to question the high authority of the eminent men above-named, it may be observed that Sir Arthur Pigott, Serjeant Spankie, Sir Vicary Gibbs, Mr. Bearcroft, and Mr. (now Lord) Brougham took a widely different view of the legal validity of the charter, as well as regards the indefinite nature of the territorial grant, as in other important particulars.
Of the very serious bearing of this question on the interests of Canada, there can be no doubt. By the Act of 1774, the province of Quebec is to " extend westward to the banks of the Mississipi, and northward to the southern boundary of the territory granted to the merchants adventurers of England trading to Hudson's Bay."
And in the division of the Provinces under the statute of 1791, the line was declared to run due north from Lake Temiscamary " to the boundary line of Hudson's Bay ; “ and the Upper Province is declared to consist ” of or include all that part of Canada lying to the westward and southward of the said line."
The union of the Provinces has given to Canada the boundaries which the two separate Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada had ; the northern boundary being the territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company.
It is now becoming of infinite importance to the Province of Canada, to know accurately where that boundary is. Plans for internal communication connected with schemes for agricultural settlements, and for opening new fields for commercial enterprise, are all, more or less, dependent upon or affected by this question ; and it is to Her Majesty's Government alone that the people of Canada can look for a solution of it. The rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, whatever they may be, are derived from the Crown ; the Province of Canada has its boundaries assigned by the same authority ; and now that it appears to be indispensable that those boundaries should be settled, and the true limits of Canada ascertained, it is to Her Majesty's Government that the Province appeals to take such steps as in its wisdom are deemed fitting and necessary, to have this important question set at rest.


Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home