The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

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5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

The Lord Chancellor.

Mr. Geoffrion.

5 Nov., 1926.

Mr. Geoffrion.

Lord Warrington.

Mr. Geoffrion.

Lord Warrington.

Mr. Geoffrion.

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be overlooked, while if the hinterland goes with the rest extending to Hudson's Bay boundary, then, of course, it is quite different. I have another answer, this drags me into another argument, I am following the objections rather than my own plan. It is this, that is a clear case illustrative of the case we are treating with, the Hudson's Bay problem. This brings me on to the Hudson's Bay question. I suppose I can start with this, nothing is clearer than this, there could be no intention to affect the Hudson's Bay Company's rights ; the Hudson's Bay Company's rights were both Governmental and proprietory, it was a proprietory Government, therefore while the King might more easily be persuaded to restrict the commission to a Governor he could not be so easily persuaded to curtail the proprietary rights of a Company. If it was necessary I would show your Lordships how careful he is as regards the Hudson's Bay Company in this very paragraph I am dealing with. I could show your Lordships how the Government was always careful in other instances of the Hudson's Bay Company, when they give a grant to Agnew, I will not refer your Lordships to the documents, your Lordships probably remember them, when a, grant was made to Agnew a few years after, the Hudson's Bay Company is excepted, when these traders in 1752 tried to get all the Atlantic lands between Cape Chidley and Belle Isle Straits and though they got a favourable report from the Lords of Trade they never got the grant. There was a good deal of reading by my learned friend, Sir John Simon, of the Report of the Lords of Trade favourable to the grant, but the grant was never made for some reason or another. There again the Lords of Trade in recommending the grant reserved the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company. I can give your Lordships the reference, but I will assume your Lordships will not doubt, unless it is argued against it, there could be no intention of affecting the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company. I hate to talk to your Lordships of precedents where they have always done it, but it is a very significant point here there is no reservation in the grant to Newfoundland of the Hudson's Bay Company's rights. I want to emphasise the point made by my learned friend, Mr. Macmillan, that at that time there was no suggestion of the heights of land being the limits of the Hudson's Bay Company's rights. It is worse for my learned friend, Sir John Simon's argument, there was a definite persistent suggestion of another line, the suggestion of Grimmington Island, a line to be drawn from there south westward to Lake Miscosinke clown to the 49th parallel, and then going west along the 49th parallel, a line essentially different from the height of land line, in every way ignoring it, which was first macle by the Hudson's Bay Company to the Government after the Treaty of Utrecht in view of the delimitation that look place between the French and the Hudson Bay Company's interests under that Treaty and was renewed in 1759 in view of this Treaty. If your Lordships will look at Volume VIII, page 4104, the letter begins at page 4103, it is a memorial of the Hudson's Bay Company of the 6th December, 1759. Your Lordships know the Battle of the Plains
4 T 2

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of Abraham between Wolfe and Montcalm had been fought then. The letter is addressed to the Lords of Trade it opens : “ May it please your Lordships. In prospect of an approaching Treaty of Peace between this nation and France.” Then at line 23 on page 4104 they say : “ That the papers which were laid before the said Commissarys and the Minutes of their proceedings as also a Memorial relative to this matter which in the year 1750 after the Conclusion of the last war was presented to your Lordships remaining as your Memorialists believe in your Lordships Office it is conceived from thence will appear the best state of the rights of both Crowns and of the Territories and claims of the said Company that can be laid before your Lordships, whereto your Memorialists beg leave to refer.” Now the Memorial is at page 4093, it is the 1750 Memorial as they call it, and it begins by quoting the grant. Then the last line of the page : “ Comprised as your Memorialists conceive ”—they are going to give the definition—“ in the said Grant are as follows, that is to say—all the lands lying on the East side or coast of the said Bay, and extending from the Bay eastward to the Atlantick ocean,” and so on and so on. “ And towards the North all the lands that lye at the northend or on the north side or coast of the said Bay and extending from the Bay northward to the utmost limits of the land there towards the North Pole but where or how those lands terminated is hitherto unknown—And towards the west all the lands that lye on the West side or coast of the said Bay,” and towards the south, line 13, this is where I wanted. Lord Sumner may remember he asked during the argument, what was meant by the south boundary of the Hudson's Bay Company, “ And towards the south all the lands that lye at the south end or south side of coast of the said Bay the extent of which lands towards the south to be limited and divided from the places appertaining to the French in those ports by a line to be drawn for that purpose to begin from the Atlantic Ocean on the east side at an island called Grimington's Island otherwise Cape Perdrix in the latitude of 59½° on the Labrador coast and to be drawn from thence Southwestward to the great Lake Miscosinke otherwise called Mistiness, and through the same dividing that Lake into two parts down to the 49th Degree of North Latitude, as described in the said map or plan delivered herewith, and from thence to be continued by a meridian line of the said latitude of 49° Westwards.”

Viscount HALDANE : Where is Mistoseny ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : It is the great lake Miscosinke which is now known as lake Mistoseny.

Viscount HALDANE : On the general map is Mistassini then the same lake ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : Yes, exactly, if you will look at this map you will find Grimmington then a straight line to Mistassini, the

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middle of it. Any map will do, because this map is geographically accurate.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : It was never more than a proposed line, as it is called on that map.

Mr. GEOFFRION : My argument is that it is a proposed line that was never accepted, but it was semi–endorsed,—I use the word advisedly,—by being made the basis of the negotiations by the Plenipotentiaries of England after the Treaty of Utrecht for a settlement. I am leaving aside the line further south, the Davis Inlet, of which your Lordships have heard, which was proposed as the trading line, but the line these Plenipotentiaries were told to propose was the Grimmington Island line. There is this in it, while it was not binding on the Crown, it has certainly not been condemned by the Crown. It had a sort of quasi endorsement because if the Crown had obtained it under the Treaty of Utrecht, it would automatically have been the Hudson's Bay Company's land. The Crown could never have argued that what they could get from France after the Treaty of Utrecht was not Hudson's Bay Company's, since the Treaty of Utrecht provided there will be a line between the Hudson's Bay lands and the French lands, and therefore, everything England claimed under the Treaty of Utrecht was to be Hudson's Bay lands, it was only Hudson's Bay lands claimed.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : Is this after the Treaty ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : Yes, I am saying this land, therefore, got a semi–official endorsement from England by being taken as the land they were to get. It is only semi–official, it is not binding, I admit, but it shows this, there was a line which is consistent, it was the only claim of the Hudson's Bay Company from 1712 clown to 1763, and it apparently remained, as far as we can see, its claims until 1814. I will explain to your Lordships why, in 1814, they thought of a new line. The Northwest had been discovered, and the new line went to the Rocky Mountains, that is why, it was an idea of genius to suggest the height of land, but in 1759, 1763 and after 1763, since 1712, there had never been a suggestion of the heights of land as the boundary of the Hudson's Bay Company by the Government or by the Hudson's Bay Company. The only suggestion made and consistently made from 1712 to 1759 was this line from Cape Grimmington, persisted in consistently, and apparently not abandoned until we reach 1814, when the discovery was made that the water–shed of Hudson's Bay went to the Rocky Mountains, which put new ideas into the heads of the Hudson's Bay Company. At that time your Lordships will note the Westward boundary was insignificant ; they said 49 degrees westwards, they did not care where that stopped. That line is not a line which the King in dealing with Newfoundland for a fishery purpose would have treated as certainly preposterous and condemned. I do not say he admitted

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it, but he would not have condemned it. It was no function of his nor any desire of his to decide ; I throw that line to the winds and I choose own accord Cape Chidley.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : What are you arguing, are you arguing that nothing was granted to Newfoundland north of that line ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : No, nothing could really affect even the trading right of the Hudson's Bay Company, nothing was granted to Newfoundland that could really be construed as affecting the substantial trading rights of the Hudson's Bay Company by going to Cape Chidley, although it was going north of what was a known claim and a not disallowed claim of the Hudson's Bay Company.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : The Hudson's Bay Company had more than trading rights, they had the land, they had a grant of the land within their territory.

Mr. GEOFFRION : Certainly.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : It is difficult to conceive if the Crown had considered that the Hudson's Bay Company's rights came down to Grimmington Island they could have granted to Newfoundland the whole coast up to Cape Chidley ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : Quite.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : You are not asking us to say that Newfoundland has nothing ?

Mr. GEOFFRION : No, I am simply suggesting it throws tremendous light on the suggestion that what they were given was something which really could not prejudice the Hudson's Bay Company. There is no other way out, because I do not think it can be suggested that they intended to condemn the Grimmington line irrevocably. There is nothing to suggest it, not a word, they were not dealing with that. They do not show any evidence of wanting to do that even in 1774, when Agnew in 1774 asked for a grant up to Cape Chidley but adding 60 miles deep for hunting and mining, they say that means mining rights have been granted to Newfoundland. I think it is useful to refer to that in Volume III at page 1080; if you will look at pages 1080 and 1081, your Lordships will see that what was done there with the Agnew grant. It has been referred to, your Lordships, and your Lordships have noted it before ; it has been referred to several times. Would your Lordships note about line 25, on page 1080 : “ so, on the other hand, by extending the Grant Northward to Hudson's Streights, they will take in a very large part of what has been already granted to the Hudson's Bay Company, who are entitled by their Charter to all Alines and Minerals, within the Territories granted to them.” It was a claim for mining rights 60 miles from the coast by extending it northward, not by

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extending it in depth 60 miles, and then if your Lordships look at page 1081, line 27, the Grant is : “ and upon the coast of Labrador, between the River St. John's, and the southern limits of the territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company.” Your Lordships will notice they are dealing with the coast line there between the River St. John and the southern limits of the territory.

Lord WARRINGTON : Mr. Geoffrion, surely if there is one thing clear it is that on the east coast of Labrador up to that top point from Hudson's Bay Straits, the Hudson's Bay Company had no interest in the coast from Hudson's Bay Straits southwards. It there is one thing clear it is that.

Mr. GEOFFRION : It is clear on the words of to–day.

Lord WARRINGTON : No, it is clear on the Commission, the Proclamation, and everything else.


Lord WARRINGTON : From Hudson's Straits, there was no interest of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Mr. GEOFFRION : I am suggesting that was not the view then. I am not concerned with what is the considered view of Judges or lawyers to–day, I am considering what was the expressed view then and that is why I am emphasising the claims of the Hudson's Bay Company at the time, and the way they were dealt with.

Lord WARRINGTON : But surely what was included in Captain Graves' Commission was all the coasts of Labrador, whatever “ coasts ” means, from the entrance of Hudson's Straits to the River St. John.

Mr. GEOFFRION : Yes, I did not put my argument clearly.

Lord WARRINGTON : It was not intended to interfere in any way with the Hudson's Bay Company.

Mr. GEOFFRION : I am suggesting that if it only means the fishing coast there is no interference, or such a very insignificant, unsubstantial one, since the Hudson's Bay Company were not in the fishing business, that it may be conceived the King would not have bothered, but that whenever there was a suggestion of a grant up to Cape Chidley, which clearly did involve going inland, the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company were expressly protected.
My argument is this, that whenever there has been a grant suggested or a grant made that went up to Cape Chidley and that went inland, the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company have always been expressly protected. Therefore, if there had been an intent to grant any–


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