Extract from APPENDICES TO THE REPORT FROM THE SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY, 1857.
LETTER H. MERIVALE, ESQ., TO THE ATTORNEY–GENERAL AND SOLICITOR–GENERAL
Downing–street, 9 June 1857.
I AM directed by Mr. Secretary Labouchere to transmit to you, jointly with the (Solicitor–General—Attorney–General,) copies of two despatches from the Governor of Canada, enclosing the copy of a minute of his Executive Council, and extract from another minute of the same, in reference to the questions respecting the affairs of the Hudson's Bay Company, now under investigation by a Committee of the House of Commons.
You will observe from the former of these minutes that the Executive Council suggest, on the part of Canada, a territorial claim over a considerable extent of country, which is also claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company, as owners of the soil, and with rights of government and exclusive trade under their charter.
You will observe by the annexed Parliamentary Papers of 12th July 1850, that the “ Statement ” of the Hudson's Bay Company's rights as to territory, trade, taxation, and government, made by them to Earl Grey, as Secretary for the Colonies, on the 13th September 1849, was submitted to the then law officers of the Crown, who reported that they were of opinion that the rights so claimed by the Company properly belonged to them ; but suggested, at the same time, a mode of testing those claims by petition to Her Majesty, which might be referred to the Judicial Committee.
I am further to annex a Parliamentary Return made in 1842, containing the charter of the Company, and documents relating thereto ; and another of 23d April 1849, containing amongst other papers an Act of 2d William and Mary, " for confirming to the Governor and Company trading to Hudson's Bay their privileges and trade."
The rights so claimed by the Company have been repeatedly questioned since 1850, by private persons in correspondence with the Secretary of State, and are now questioned to a certain extent, as appears by these despatches, by the present local government of Canada.
I am to request that you will, jointly with (Solicitor–General—Attorney–General.) take these papers into your consideration, and
Whether you think that the Crown can lawfully and constitutionally raise, for legal decision, all or either of the following questions :—
The validity at the present day of the charter itself.
The validity of the several claims of territorial right, of government, exclusive trade, and taxation, insisted on by the Company.
The geographical extent of this territorial claim (supposing it to be well founded, to any extent).
If you are of opinion that the Crown can do so, you are requested further to state the proper steps to be taken, in your opinion, by the Crown, and the proper tribunal to be resorted to ; and whether the Crown should act on behalf of the local government of Canada, as exercising a delegated share of the Royal authority, or in any other way.
And, lastly, if you should be opinion that the Crown cannot properly so act, whether you see any objection to the questions being raised by the local government of Canada acting independently of the Crown ; or whether they can be raised by some private party in the manner suggested by the law advisers in 1850, the Crown undertaking to bear the expense of the proceedings.
I am, &c.
The Attorney–General. (signed) H. Merivale