The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

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25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Sir Thomas Warrington.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Finlay.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

p. 198

between the River St. Johns, and the southern limits of the territory granted to the Hudson's Bay Company.”

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: That means the mines and minerals contained in an area of dry land described as the “Coast of Labrador.”


Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: And undefined in width.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Whether undefined I am not sure.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: Not in terms defined.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I quite agree—not marked out by metes and bounds. Then, if your Lordships will kindly turn to page 1154, you will find there is a report in respect of the grant, followed on page 1156 by the grant itself. Lord Haldane will see that the point he made just now is made good on page 1156. The thing is carved out of a total piece of territory which is known as the Coast of Labrador, but it is to be sixty miles measured from the margin of the sea.

Viscount HALDANE: That is incorporated in the Order of the Privy Council.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is right. It reads: “Whereas there was this day read at the Board, a report from a Committee of the Lords of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council for Plantation affairs dated this day, upon considering the draft of a grant prepared by His Majesty's Attorney and Solicitor–General of all mines, minerals, metals and ores whatsoever within the Island of Newfoundland or upon such part of the sea coasts of Labrador, as lie within sixty miles of low water mark of the open sea, between the river St. John and the southern limits of the territory granted to the Hudson Bay Company unto John Agnew of Sheuchan in the county of Wigtown in Scotland, George Stewart of the county of Wighton and Alexander Dunn, collector of the customs of the Island of Newfoundland Esqre, their executors, administrators and assigns, for the term of nine hundred and ninty nine years, under the reservations and upon the conditions therein expressed and contained.” Alexander Dunn, you will observe, was a Scotsman who had gone into the New World and was collecting customs there, and while pursuing his professional and official avocations he noted that this was not a bad place for him and his friends from Wigtownshire, and he thereupon moved Mr. Agnew and others to join him, and they got the grant.

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Sir JOHN SIMON: I do not think so. That is a little instructive, I think, as showing what is meant. In the same way, slightly diverging from the strict Hudson's Bay matter, though having a hearing on it. I ask your Lordships to take one or two references to the enterprise of the Moravian Missionaries, very good people who devoted themselves to trying to Christianise the Eskimos in that area, and who combined, as of course was quite proper, the business of preaching the Gospel with the carrying on of a certain amount of trade. It is a very interesting and striking fact that the Moravians—I think it was called the Unitas Fratrum—on the recommendation of Governor Palliser in the first instance, who was the successor of Graves, and later by other grants, got four separate grants of land, together making the very enormous amount of 400,000 acres. These were grants of land upon the Coast of Labrador, and what is extremely significant is that nobody ever doubted that those grants were grants which were effected within the jurisdiction of the Governor of Newfoundland. If you are going to say that the Coast of Labrador, so far as it is annexed to Newfoundland, is a mere strip, then, of course, these grants to the Moravians become perfectly impossible. It is not left as a matter of inference; it is by the express provision in the documents in reference to the grants to the Moravian Missionaries that these things are done through the Governor of Newfoundland. I venture to think that is a very significant thing as showing the way in which the Coast of Labrador, so far as that description is applied to the area administered by Newfoundland, is to be understood.

The references are these. I could give you many more, but I have picked out the ones really significant. In Volume III, page 932, you will find Governor Palliser—who, as I told your Lordships, was the successor of Governor Graves, succeeding to the governorship in the year following Graves's extended Commission—addresses the Lords of Trade and gives an account of his proceedings to establish friendly relations with the Eskimo Indians. He is reporting in these terms in 1764: “In obedience to the 13th and 14th Article of His Majesty's instructions”—perhaps your Lordships might like to note in the margin that those instructions will be found in Volume II, page 422; they are explicit instructions to Governor Palliser that he is to get, on to the mainland and do these things—“in obedience to the 13th and 14th Article of His Majesty's instructions for endeavouring to conciliate the affections of the Esquemeaux savages on the Coast of Labrador”—the very thing,in my view, which the Newfoundland Governor had to deal with—“ without the Streights of Bell Isle, and to introduce a commerce with them; before I left London meeting with a man named Hans Harven one of the Brothers of the Moravian sect who has lived some years amongst the savages of Greenland, and talks their language, which very probably is the same with the Esquemeauxs, and finding in him a strong disposition (to a degree of enthusiasm) to undertake to introduce some knowledge of religion amongst those savages,” etc. I rather fancy that in the eighteenth century enthusiasm in connection with religious fervour had not an altogether good meaning. Your Lordships remember the eighteenth–century tombstone of an old lady who was described as having

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filled her life with works of piety “without the slightest touch of enthusiasm,” meaning without frenzy or without too much excitement.

Viscount FINLAY: I think the Duke of Wellington recommended the Institution of Chaplains in his army in the Peninsula to attempt to keep down enthusiasm.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord. In the eighteenth century enthusiasm in a religious connection had undoubtedly a rather bad sense. Governor Palliser says that this gentleman, Hans Harven, exhibited a degree of enthusiasm, and I might say that the documents which follow, which are not relevant, rather show that he did. The report of Governor Palliser goes on to say: “and finding in him a strong disposition (to a degree of enthusiasm) to undertake to introduce some knowledge of religion amongst those savages I encouraged him in it, and to come out here, where I have also encouraged some merchants to send a vessel with him to that Coast (having none of the Kings to spare this season) and in case he should be able to converse with those savages,” etc. That was the beginning.

Viscount HALDANE: So far there is no grant of land.

Sir JOHN SIMON: No, my Lord, but it is coming. This gentleman, Hans Harven, went out, and as the result, after about six months, there comes a petition (page 1311) from the Society of the Moravians to the Lords of Trade. It is a petition of the 23rd February, 1765. The petition is in the following terms:—“Sheweth, That the said Unitas Fratrum, desiring to the utmost of their power to propagate the Gospel of Our Lord . . . And that to the same end Jens Haven”—that is the same man as Hans Harven—“one of the above mentioned Petitioners, was sent last summer to Terra Labrador, in order if possible to find out whether the language of the so–called Eskimaux be the same with that of our Indian brethren in Davis's Straits, in which undertaking of his by the favour of the Lords of the Admiralty, and the kindness of Governor Palliser, he was enabled to make some progress, and found to our great satisfaction, that the language was the same, and met with an unusually kind treatment from those savages he came to the speech of. The endeavours of the said Jens Haven having met with so much success, the Unitas Fratrum also perceiving that this undertaking has been agreeable to the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations (who were pleased to express a desire that the Brethren would settle in those parts) have after mature deliberation resolved in the name of God, and Our Lord Jesus Christ, to do everything in their power towards the conversion and civilizing the savage natives of that inhospitable country . . . But seeing the Esquimaux are not only a savage nation but even provoked by the former behaviour of the Europeans in general to such a degree, that even killing as well robbing and stealing is become their ordinary custom . . . Therefore, it is humbly hoped, that the English nation if they on their side ever

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wish to see the Fishery on that Coast secure from the depredations of those barbarous people by their becoming civilized will not only do all in their power to prevent our Mission among them from being disturbed or molested in any wise, but will also in all respects be inclined to wish well to the same, and readily grant us all needful and proper protection and assistance . . . Your Petitioners beg leave to make the following proposals.” They then propose that a vessel should be sent out, and there are one or two more proposals at the top of the next page. Then on page 1312, line 12, they make this proposal—a modest proposal. “That four different tracts of land on the Coast of Labrador for the use of the Mission be now beforehand allotted and secured to us by the Government . . . And as Terra Labrador is a country where hardly any other Europeans will make a fixed settlement . . . We desire that these four tracts of land in four different parts making altogether 400,000 acres may be granted to us in the above manner.” Of course 400,000 acres is a very substantial amount.

Viscount HALDANE: But you observe it does not follow that these were within the Coast of Labrador. They are petitioning the Crown.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I have observed that, my Lord. I am reading it because I am coming to that answer of the Crown which directs the Governor of Newfoundland to give them what they want. That is the point I want to make. It shows when you have a Governor with a Commission for the Coast of Labrador, it is quite plain that he is the person who is supposed to be able to deal with very large areas of territory. It is enough to read that at the moment.
Now would your Lordship go to page 1298, the second page of the report, which shows that a little later, April of the same year, Hugh Palliser, the Governor, is making an order reciting that “many and great advantages would arise to His Majesty by establishing a friendly intercourse,” and so on. Then at the bottom of page 1297 there is “and whereas I am endeavouring to establish a friendly communication between His Majesty's subjects and the said natives on the Coast of Labrador, and to remove these prejudices that have hitherto proved obstacles to it. I have invited Interpreters and Missionaries to go amongst them to instruct them in the principles of religion, to improve their minds, and remove their prejudices against us.” He is giving orders that everybody is to treat these people fairly, and, above all, not to supply them with strong liquor, the people being the natives. Skipping over one or two unimportant pages, on page 1314, almost at the same date, April, 1765, the Admiralty is directing “that a passage may be ordered in one of the ships of Commodore Palliser's Squadron, for the four Persons therein named, who are appointed by the Society of the United Fratrum, to establish a Mission on the coast of Terra Labrador, and that the Commander of such ship as may be appointed to visit that Coast, may have Orders to give them such Protection and Assistance.” The grant is on page 961.

p. 202

Viscount HALDANE: All that page 1314 says is that a ship shall take them out, and that they shall establish a mission on the coast.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is all. I have not got to the grant yet, but I am coming to it now on page 961, in the year 1766. I venture to think that there is a passage in this document which is really striking.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: There is a great deal which you can pass over.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord; I am going to do that.

Viscount FINLAY: The point of it is that they thought this enormous quantity of territory could be found on the coast of Labrador.

Sir JOHN SIMON: And the Governor of Newfoundland was the person to give it to them. It is said so in terms now. I will not read all this long document on page 961. It is a report. I would like your Lordship to note, to save going back to it, though it is for another purpose, that on page 962, at line 10, there is the definite assertion that it is not merely the cod fishery, but that it is the seal and sea cow fishery, which is also important there. Then on page 963, at line 32, there is: “It is unnecessary for us to trouble Your Majesty with every Circumstance relating to the Mission of the Society of the Unitas Fratrum; it will be sufficient to say, that the Object of it is so commendable in itself and the Conduct of those who went out last Year upon this difficult and Hazardous Service appears by the Report of Your Majesty's Governor to have been so meritorious and prudent, that, independent of Public advantage arising from the Discovery of a Coast hitherto unknown and unexplored”—people knew the littoral, the sea coast, quite well, but they did not know what was inland—“does seem to us to recommend them to Your Majesty's further favour and Protection; and therefore we submit to Your Majesty whether it may not be advisable”—that is the Governor of Newfoundland; I can show it in terms in a moment, but it is, anyhow—“that Your Majesty's Governor should be instructed to allow this Society to occupy such a District of Land not exceeding one hundred thousand acres upon the Coast of Labrador as they shall think best situated.” The first grant they got, therefore, was a grant of 100,000 acres. The Order in Council itself followed upon that, and is on page 1321. This is the Order that is made upon that Report. I must just read the first recital: “Your Majesty having been pleased by your Order in Council of the 20th February last to refer unto this Committee a represtation from the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations seting forth that they have had under their consideration a memorial presented by the Earl of Hillsborough, one of Your Majesty's Principal Secretaries of State, on behalf of the Society of Unitas Fratrum, stating”—see how it runs—“that the said Society are desirous of prosecuting their intention or establishing a Mission on the Northern Coast of Labrador for the purpose of civilizing and instructing


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