The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

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25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Mr. Geoffrion.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Haldane.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

p. 193


Sir JOHN SIMON:Lord Finlay asked me what was supposed to be the origin or meaning of the word “Hochelaga.” My Lord, a gentleman here who is kindly attending from the British Museum Map Department, Mr. de Villiers, has shown me an entry from the British Museum Catalogue from which it would seem that there is an early map, a map of Canada of 1609, a French map, in which there is a small circular enclosure marked “Hochelaga,” and that is one of the earliest representations of what is now the town of Montreal.

Viscount HALDANE: Yes, it is the old name for Montreal. The great bank of Hochelaga exists to–day.

Mr. GEOFFRION: It has changed its name because in the United States it could not be understood what they were, so they take a more civilised name.

Viscount HALDANE: It is not wound up.


Viscount HALDANE: Is it amalgamated?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I understand the suspicious citizens of the United States were not sure whether a bank with a name like that could be trusted, and the bank changed its name.

Viscount HALDANE: The Hochelaga Bank is a bank of very long standing: I have heard about it for the last forty years.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think I am right in saying, subject to correction by my learned friend Mr. Geoffrion, that the French Canadians in the old days sometimes used the word “Hochelaga” as referring to the St. Lawrence.

Mr. GEOFFRION: Very early.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It was an Indian name, or was believed to be an Indian name, for the St. Lawrence, but apparently, if you ask where is the place called Hochelaga, the answer is, it was a name given apparently to some settlement or enclosure on the site or near the site of what is now Montreal.

p. 194

Mr. GEOFFRION: It was Jaques Cartier found when he came to Montreal.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That explains it.
I am going to mention Hudson's Bay in a moment again, but since chronology is really the safest guide here, I will ask leave to make a small departure from strictly Hudson's Bay matters and pass from the year 1763, ten years later, to the year 1773. I now want your Lordships please to turn to Volume III at page 1079. You will find there that a gentleman named Mr. Agnew and some other petitioners—I think they were Scotsmen—appealed to the King's Most Excellent Majesty in Council for a grant on the coast of Labrador. As the petition is quite short, I think it is worth looking at, partly because it illustrates what you mean by the coast of Labrador, but partly also for another and perhaps more important purpose. It is signed, you see, by Alexander Dun for John Agnew and others. Mr. Dun, I see by the documents, in fact, had been out there, and I think he was probably the person who moved his friends, who came, or most of them came, from Wigtownshire in the south of Scotland. “The humble Petition of John Agnew of Sheuchan and Associates in the County of Wigtown, North Britain. Sheweth That your petitioners have particular information that there are several places in the Island of Newfoundland and Coast or Country of Labrador”—you will notice it says “coast or country”—“between the River St. Lawrence and Hudsons Streights where Copper, Copper Ores, and other valuable metals and minerals may be procured which your petitioners conceive will be highly advantageous to Your Majesty's Kingdom if in the hands of proper persons. That your petitioners are willing to hazard a share of their private property in working such mines as now are or hereafter shall be discovered in the Island of Newfoundland and the said Country of Labrador”—they change it, it is simply “the said Country”—“at a certain limited distance not exceeding sixty miles from the sea or flowing of the sea water on any part of the said Coast of Labrador.” That illustrates the relation between these conceptions which I submit is relevant in construing the documents ten years earlier—they treat the Coast of Labrador as a substantial territorial area.

Viscount HALDANE: Yes, but not exceeding sixty miles from the sea.

Sir JOHN SIMON: He is limiting himself to a request for a grant to that extent. It is rather like when the pink oblong was cut out of a greater whole which was called the coast of Labrador in 1825. “Your Petitioners therefore most humbly pray”—

Viscount HALDANE: It is “Labrador within the limits aforesaid.”

Sir JOHN SIMON: Then on the Petition having been presented, the matter, on the next page, came before the Lords of Trade, who were invited to report on it, and the Lords of Trade report to the Privy Council

p. 195

upon it on page 1080: “My Lords, Pursuant to your Lordships Order of the 19th of May 1773, we have taken into our consideration the humble Petition of John Agnew of Sheuchan and Associates in the County of Wigtown in North Britain, humbly praying, that His Majesty would be graciously pleased to grant unto them all mines, minerals, and metals already discovered in the Island of Newfoundland, and on the coast or country of Labrador, between the River St. Lawrence and Hudson's Streights, at a certain limited distance not exceeding sixty miles from the sea, or flowing of the sea–water.”
Then they go on to say: “Whereupon we beg leave to report to Your Lordships, That the proposition contained in the petition, which your Lordships have referred to our consideration, does not in the general view of it appeal liable to objection; we beg leave, however, to observe to your Lordships, that the description of the limits, within which the petitioners propose the Grant to be made to them, appears to us, so far as it regards the Labrador Coast, to be attended with some difficulty”—observe what the difficulties are—“for, as on the one hand the proposing the River Saint Lawrence as the boundary to the south is not sufficiently precise”—it might have carried them right up to Quebec or to Montreal—“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 intitled by their Charter to all mines and minerals within the territories granted to them: But we see no objection to your Lordships advising His Majesty to grant to the Petitioners all mines and minerals, which either have been or shall hereafter be discovered by them or their Associates within the Island of Newfoundland, and upon the Coast of Labrador between the River Saint John's and the southern limits of the territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company.” Your Lordship sees that entirely fits with my construction of the document ten years before, which is the document which extends the jurisdiction of the Governor of Newfoundland to the mainland of Labrador.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: What are the southern limits?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think what is meant is this. I hardly like to trouble your Lordship to look at a map for the purpose. They meant it might be that if you travel near Cape Chidley sixty miles inland you will get over into the Hudson's Bay territory, and so they say that is not a good way to define it. We do not see any reason why you should, and you must not treat our grant as giving you any portion of the Hudson's Bay territory.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: I quite follow that. But my difficulty is the word “southern.”

Sir JOHN SIMON: Would the word “south-eastern” be better?

p. 196

Viscount FINLAY: Surely “southern” in a general way indicates the side of the Hudson's Bay territory with which they were concerned.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I thought that was what it was. I agree that the description “southern” is not quite right, taking it as a point of the compass, but I took it to mean that if you regarded yourself as standing on the divide, you would have an area which was north–west which would be Hudson's Bay territory.

Viscount HALDANE: They did not agree with the idea of the sixty miles.

Sir JOHN SIMON: They give that up. They say sixty miles may be too much in some cases, and, for all we know, it may be too little elsewhere, but so long as we are quite certain that there is no trenching upon the Hudson's Bay horse–shoe, if I may so describe it, they say that is all right. And the other thing that is important is that they say we ought to limit it to the southern boundary, namely, to the River St. John.

Viscount HALDANE: It says “within the Island of Newfoundland, and upon the Coast of Labrador between the River Saint John and the southern limits of the territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company.”

Sir JOHN SIMON: May I give your Lordship a reference to a map which I think will show what is meant?

The LORD CHANCELLOR: They must mean the point at Davis Inlet or just about that.


Viscount HALDANE: They start in the preamble by saying the Petition is for “a certain limited distance not exceeding sixty miles from the sea.” It may be all right so long as it is east of the River St. John.


Viscount FINLAY: They follow the coast round from St. John's River until you come to the southern boundary.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think that is the meaning of it.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: It may mean the extreme north of that peninsula.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Might I just refer to map No. 26 with reference to this? I understand the observation made to be this. They say the

p. 197

terms of the Petition are for a grant of land on the Labrador Coast which runs sixty miles inland. It is conceivable there may be places where that would run into the green. Sixty miles from the sea is, therefore, not a good way of talking about it. Neither is it a good thing to say that they want the grant bounded by the St. Lawrence, because how far is the St. Lawrence treated as running up? But they say, if you make the one limit the River St. John, which ten years before they had made the lateral boundary of the enlarged Newfoundland, and if you will say that they are not to go beyond the southern limit of the Hudson's Bay territory, then you are dealing with an area which is not already pre–occupied.

Viscount HALDANE: Yes, but they are dealing also with a limited distance not exceeding sixty miles from the sea.

Sir JOHN SIMON: The Petition asked for that, and the Lords of Trade say the Petition is in an objectionable form. They say they think the Petition might very well be acceded to, provided its terms are such that you secure there is no overlap in the two directions they indicate.

Viscount HALDANE: But only on the Coast of Labrador.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Only on the Coast of Labrador.

Viscount HALDANE: Not exceeding sixty miles from the sea.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is perfectly true. I am not for a moment saying that this document shows affirmatively that the Coast of Labrador does go into the height of land. I could not say that. But I think I am entitled to say this is an application to carve out of the total which is called the Coast of Labrador something which is sixty miles deep, and that the only comment which has to be made on that application is: “That is all right; you can perfectly well cut sixty miles off the Coast of Labrador, but we must be quite clear you do not go further than the River St. John in one direction and do not trench on the Hudson's Bay territory in the other direction.”

You will find that the Lords of Trade having made that comment, the grant is made. The grant is to be found in Volume III, page 1154.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: There was an Order of the Privy Council.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I am obliged to your Lordship. The Privy Council Order is worth noting. It is shown on page 1081. At line 28 you will see they recommend “a draft of a proper instrument to be passed under the Great Seal of Great Britain, containing a grant to the petitioners, their heirs and assigns, of all mines and minerals which either have or shall hereafter be discovered by them or their associates within the Island of Newfoundland, and upon the Coast of Labrador,


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