The Labrador Boundary

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21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.


Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Finlay.

Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.


Sir John Simon.

21 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.


Sir John Simon.

Sir Thomas

p. 21

Viscount HALDANE: Sebastian?

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Whichever it was.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I am much to blame for having said by a slip July, because the 24th June is St. John the Baptist's Day; the Bay was therefore called the Bay of St. John. I do not mean to say that nobody had ever any idea that there was any such place before, it goes back far before that, in a fragmentary and almost legendary history. For instance, as early as the year 1500, a Portuguese, his name I think was Gaspard de Corte Real, was supposed to have discovered it, whatever that means, for the King of Portugal.


Sir JOHN SIMON: 1500.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: That was not before.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It was just after, quite right.

Viscount HALDANE: All he did was to discover it. Did the King make any grant at the time?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Not for a little time. I am going to call attention to the nature of the settlement. In 1583 rather a famous and rather a tragic incident occurred. That was the year when Sir Humphrey Gilbert, the famous Elizabethan explorer, and I may say buccaneer, took possession of some portion of it for Queen Elizabeth. You may remember the very tragic story because Gilbert was drowned (I think his ship was called the “Squirrill”) on the way home. In 1608 a man called Guy, also of Bristol, first colonised the Bay of Conception, which is one of the bays there; at any rate, it is a very very ancient British interest, the interest in Newfoundland. At the same time, on the American Continent, you had discovery going on mostly on the part of the French. For instance, the actual discovery of this immense river, the St. Lawrence, is usually attributed to Jacques Cartier, whose statue one has seen in various places in Canada. Jacques Cartier discovered the St. Lawrence in the early part of the sixteenth century, between 1524 and 1534. The gradual pushing in of the enterprising French explorers and traders and captains, of course, went on all through that century, and, as Lord Haldane observed, and, of course, most justly, in the early days especially when the geography of the whole region was of a nebulous character, you cannot very well, or at any rate, they could not at the moment, have drawn a very definite boundary, because very few people had a correct notion really of the lie of the land, apart from all other difficulties. I am anxious not to waste any time unnecessarily in this case on matters which do not matter. I do not myself really think that the very early history is important.

p. 22

It is important, of course, to appreciate that the Island of Newfoundland was British, and was being administered by Governors—we will look at the terms of their Commission in a moment—before the Treaty of Paris, but when you get the French Empire in North America withdrawn, and the immense concessions which then took place, a new problem arises which we now have to deal with.

Viscount HALDANE: You must remember the French obtained very very important rights long after that, long after the date you just referred to, the date of the Treaty of Paris.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Your Lordship means the fishing rights?

Viscount HALDANE: Yes, the fishing rights. It was a good deal more than that, they kept ships there, etcetera.

Sir JOHN SIMON: They had a right to land and dry their fish. There was a good deal of most lucrative controversy on subjects of that sort for a long time.
The point I have reached is this, I go off now to Hudson Bay and show the Board as well as I can how in the common understanding the Hudson's Bay Company, when it got Hudson's Bay, to use a convenient expression, was really becoming the authority that administered and almost the Sovereign of this great horse-shoe, which is limited by the height of land.
On the other hand, you have the discovery of the St. Lawrence by the French, you had the pushing up of the French north of the St. Lawrence, and you had collisions and constant collisions between the Hudson's Bay Company on the one hand and these enterprising French explorers on the other. If I may give one example, which it is useful just to bear in mind as a land mark, as early as 1627, which is before the Hudson's Bay Company's Charter, Cardinal Richelieu on behalf of Louis XIV. had established by Decree a French Company which was called the Compagnie de Canada.

Viscount HALDANE: Was that the great Cardinal Richelieu?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord the Company is sometimes called I think the Compagnie des Cent Associés, because there were a hundred of them associated together for settling New France as it was called, and that or other French Companies or Quebec Companies were most vigorously pushing north, and there were a series of collisions, as it were, between the parties; sometimes the British succeeded, sometimes the French succeeded. Consequently, you get in two Treaties before the victory of Wolfe, references to the adjustment of the boundary between Britain and France; one is the Treaty of Ryswick, which was in the year 1697, the other a more important one, in the Treaty of Utrecht, just at the end of the reign of Queen Anne, 1713.
Would your Lordships just turn in this volume, the red volume, to page 328, where you will see that amongst other provisions of the

p. 23

Treaty of 1697, there is a stipulation that: “The Most Christian King”—that means the King of France—“shall restore to the said King of Great Britain all countries, islands, forts and colonies wheresoever situated which the English did possess before the Declaration of this present war, and in like manner the King of Great Britain shall restore to the Most Christian King all countries, islands, forts and colonies wheresoever situated which the French did possess before the said Declaration of War.” Then in the next paragraph, paragraph 8, there is a reference to Hudson's Bay. “Commissioners shall be appointed on both sides to examine and determine the rights and pretensions which either of the said Kings hath to the places situated in Hudson's Bay, but the possession of those places which were taken by the French during the peace that preceded this present War and were retaken by the English during this War shall be left to the French by virtue of the foregoing Article.” Then, my Lord, the same paragraph at line 31 of that page: “And to this end the Commissioners so appointed”—you see Commissioners referred to just above—“shall within the space of three months from the time of the ratification of the present Treaty meet in the City of London and within six months to be reckoned from their first meeting shall determine all differences and disputes which may arise concerning this matter.” The idea was, therefore, that there would be Commissioners appointed who, amongst other things, would determine what were the respective stretches of land belonging on the one hand to Great Britain and on the other hand to France in this Hudson's Bay region.

Viscount FINLAY: I see in your Map No. 1 in that atlas which you referred to, you have got the Mer Christiane. Is that name anything to do with the title?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I do not think so.

Viscount FINLAY: How came that name to be put in?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I have noticed it on two or three of the maps. I have no doubt I can find out, but I do not think it had any such connection. I will ascertain and let your Lordship know. Your Lordship sees the idea; as the result of the Treaty in 1697 there were Commissioners who were going to find out the boundary.

Viscount FINLAY: That was only up in Hudson's Bay?

Sir JOHN SIMON: That was only up in Hudson's Bay, the district not very far from where I am interested. Under that Treaty, in spite of these precise stipulations about three and six months I do not understand, and I think it is not suggested, anything was done, but if your Lordship will take the Treaty of Utrecht on the opposite page, on page 329, you get a very similar provision, and you do get something done; moreover, the language which is used is of you interest I think.

p. 24

“The said most Christian King shall restore to the kingdom and Queen of Great Britain”—that is Queen Anne—“to be possessed in full right for ever, the Bay and Streights of Hudson, together with all lands, seas, seacoasts, rivers and places situate in the said Bay and Streights.” There is no boundary by latitude and longitude, it is interesting to see what people thought that meant—“and which belong there-unto, no tracts of land or of sea being excepted, which are at present possessed by the subjects of France.” Then there are some interesting provisions about returning munitions of war and things of that sort. Then at line 19: “It is however provided, that it may be entirely free for the Company of Quebec, and all other the subjects of the Most Christian King whatsoever, to go by land or by sea, whithersoever they please out of the lands of the said Bay, together with all their goods, merchandises, arms and effects of what nature and condition soever, except such things as are above reserved in this article.” The Company of Quebec, my Lord, the Compagnie de Quebec, was a Company rather like La Compagnie de Canada which Richelieu established; I think it was a subordinate Company which, as a matter of fact, was due to a creation by the Intendant of Quebec, but it was a French trading corporation which was one of those French enterprises which had pushed north and had actually established itself at certain posts which were in Hudson's Bay territory.

Viscount HALDANE: At this time Canada or Acadie was just a name for the whole of the French territory.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is right.

Viscount HALDANE: And Hudson's Bay practically was the whole of the British territory.

Sir JOHN SIMON: With the exception, of course, of Newfoundland, leaving out Newfoundland.

Viscount HALDANE: Yes.
Sir JOHN SIMON: And to a certain extent some area which is difficult to define in Labrador, that is entirely correct.

Viscount HALDANE: Labrador has not become prominent.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Not in the least prominent, it was known, and there were certain things done. Your Lordship sees it is important for my argument that one should pick out the words as I go along. You notice that this Company of Quebec is, of course, given liberty to withdraw out of the lands of the said “Bay”—they actually call the whole area really Hudson's Bay—and in the same way, of course, in the third line of the extract I have just been calling attention to, you get

p. 25

a reference to the land, seas, seacoasts, rivers and places situate in the said Bay and Streights which belong thereunto.”
Now, of course, the question again arose how far back does that extend, and you will see that the article concludes by saying at line 24: “But it is agreed on both sides to determine within a year, by Commissarys to be forthwith named by each party, the limits which are to be fixed by the said Bay of Hudson and the places appertaining to the French, which limits both the British and French subjects shall be wholly forbid to pass over or thereby to go to either by sea or by land. The same Commissarys shall also have orders to describe and settle in like manner the boundaries between the other British and French Colonies in those parts.”

Viscount HALDANE: It rather suggests to me that there were no defined boundaries.

Sir JOHN SIMON: There is not the slightest doubt there were lots of cases where both sovereigns claimed the same place. Of course there were. The interesting thing is that something was done under that, and in some of these maps in the early places in the Newfoundland Atlas, the one you have already opened, you will find traced a line which is the line which was laid down by the British Commissioners. As far as we have been able to discover, it does not appear that the French Commissioners and the British Commissioners actually agreed on the line, but the importance of it for my purpose is that it at any rate shows what was the view that was taken on the British side, and to give your Lordships one example of that, many might be given, if you will just again open this Newfoundland Atlas and take one example only. Will you take No. 14?
Please do not trouble about the other things which you see here, but for the moment observe that upon that, and you will find upon many other maps, you get it indicated. It is just at the top of the various colours, and where you are approaching the white. You see Hudson's Bay, and then do your Lordships see the words: “Southern Boundary of Hudson's Bay Company's territories settled by commissaries after Treaty of Utrecht?”

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: I do not see “settled by,” but I see the “Southern Boundary.”

Sir JOHN SIMON: If you will just look a little bit to the right, you will see the words “settled by,” and then you get “commissaries after the Treaty of Utrecht.”

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: Yes, and it runs right up to the yellow boundary of Labrador.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord, and indeed across it. I only indicate that, as showing that that, which occurs on quite a lot of maps,


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