The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume I

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Volume VI

Volume VII

Volume VIII

Volume IX

Volume X

Volume XI

Volume XII

25 Oct., 1926.

Viscount Finlay.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Finlay.

Viscount Haldane.

Sir John Simon.

The Lord Chancellor.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

The Lord Chancellor.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

John Simon.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

p. 175

Viscount FINLAY: It is an expression which is very familiar in connection with the history of the buccaneers—“the Spanish Main.” Their operations were conducted there.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I read carefully through the article in Sir James Murray's dictionary about it, and I am sure that I am right in this. “Main” is, of course, used, in another connection, for the sea; but in the case of “ the Spanish Main,” or in the case of “ East Main,” or in the case of “West Main,” it is used really for a piece of mainland. In the case of the Hudson's Bay Company, as in the case of the Spanish Main, the contrast may be said to be between islands on the one hand and the mainland on the other hand. In the case of the Spanish Main there were the West Indian Islands, for example Cuba, and then there was the main, and it is the same in the case of Hudson's Bay. Hudson's Bay had a grant of islands in the Hudson's Bay, but the use of the word “Main,” in contradistinction to the word “Islands,” means the mainland.

Viscount FINLAY: We do not seem to have the Oxford Dictionary here. We have got what is called “The Concise Oxford Dictionary,” which you could put into your pocket.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Every Oxford man, I am sure, will deeply resent this.

Viscount HALDANE: I do not know that it would help us very much in this case. Above all, you must consider the purpose with which these words were used.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord. Now I want your Lordships to have two documents available together: one is in Volume VIII and the other in Volume III. This has to do with the Petition of Merchants which I mentioned, who wished to get a grant from the Crown in the year 1752 in respect of a proposed enterprise on the Atlantic Coast. In Volume III it is the first document, and it is on page 883.

The Lord CHANCELLOR: The document in Volume VIII comes three days earlier in point of date than the one in Volume III.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It does, my Lord.

Viscount HALDANE: Which one shall we take first?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I will take whichever one your Lordships have got conveniently. Shall we take Volume III first, although I know that it is three days out of date?

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The LORD CHANCELLOR: I do not know really why you should do that, because the document in Volume VIII is the protest of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the document in Volume III is the action taken by the Lords upon the Petition and the protest.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think your Lordship's order is the better.

Viscount HALDANE: Which document are we to look at?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I must apologise for changing my mind; it was only in an endeavour to help some members of the Court. Will your Lordships kindly look at Volume VIII, page 4098? That will be the first of the two documents, if we take them in order of chronology. It is rather necessary that this should be read, and read in connection with the other document, the reference to which I have given.
First of all, taking the document on page 4098, it is a “Memorial of the Hudson's Bay Company to the Lords Commissioners of Trade, 20th July, 1752,” and it runs thus: “May it please your Lordships In obedience to your Lordships Orders of the 9th of July Instant signifying unto your Memorialists, that your Lordships have under your Consideration a Petition of several Merchants of London, Praying for a Grant of all that part of America lying upon the Atlantick Ocean on the East part, Extending South and North from 52 Degrees of Northern Latitude from the Equinoctial Line to 60 Degrees of the same Northern Latitude, called Laboradore, or New Britain, not at this time actually possessed by any of his Majesty's Subjects, or the Subjects of any Christian Prince or State; and requiring your Memorialists to inform your Lordships whether they claim any or what Right to the said Tract of Land. Your Memorialists represent to your Lordships that his late Majesty King Charles the Second”—

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Then they quote that.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord, using the word “Coasts” and so on. Then it goes on: “That the said Tract of Land called the Labradore throughout its whole Extent, on the North and West sides thereof”—“North and West sides thereof,” your Lordships will notice—“from the said 60th Degree of Northern Latitude down to the 52nd Degree lyes on Hudsons Streights and Bay, and forms the Coast thereof”—of course, that is right, the West—“from the first Entrance into the said Streights running all along the South sides of the said Streights, to the Opening into the Bay, and from thence all along the East side of Hudson's Bay down to the Bottom or South End thereof”—that is what we may call the East Main—“and as all the land and territories upon the Coasts and Confines of the said Streights and Bay, together with the sole Trade and Commerce thereof are by the said Letters Patent Granted to the said Governor and Company, your Memorialists Conceive they have a just Right and Claim under the said Letters Patent to the

p. 177

said Tract of Laud called the Laboradore and the Trade thereof”—your Lordships will see that the moment this comes before the Lords Commissioners of Trade, they say, “that is bad reasoning.”

The LORD CHANCELLOR: That is stretching it.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord, and they say so at once. They draw the distinction immediately.
Then it goes on: “That your Memorialists have made and do maintain several Settlements on the said Labrador on the East side of the Bay”—that is true, just as the Hudson's Bay Company to-day has a great store at Winnipeg, but that has nothing to do with sovereign rights.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: No; it is “on the East side of the Bay.” That is right.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord, I beg your pardon; so far it is quite right—“and by means thereof, as well as by their Shipping carry on Trade and Commerce with the Natives there, and who come down the Rivers and other Ways”—your Lordships will notice the words “come down the Rivers”—“and other Ways, many days Journey from within the Land to Trade with the Company and your Memorialists have been at very great Expence to Establish and Encrease a Trade there, and particularly within these few years have Expended £10,000 Sterling and upwards in making a new Settlement on the Eastern side of the Bay near the middle of the said Laboradore which they Expect will Command the whole Trade of the said Laboradore, even to the East part”—observe the phrase that is used, my Lords—“even to the East part or Coast thereof.” That is using the expression “East coast” and “East part.” It is going on to the other side. Then it goes on: “and are at a continual great Expence in Supporting the same and have ordered Persons to be sent up into the country to Encourage the Trade thither from persons within the Land, and are in hopes of having some return from thence to Answer such their great Expence, tho' as yet they have Reaped little or no Benefit therefrom. And your Memorialists beg leave to represent to your Lordships that the Laboradore is a most Barren Tract of Land, has few Inhabitants, is Productive of little or no Beavers and of very few other Furrs or Merchandize of Value, Insomuch that your Memorialists cannot but be of Opinion, That whoever Petition for a Grant of Land there, must do it with a view of having an opportunity by means of the footing they will thereby Gain to draw from the said Hudsons Bay Company some of their Trade in those Parts and the Neighbourhood thereof, which it is humbly Hoped will not be Pemitted to be done, but that your Memorialists Rights shall be Preserved to them.”
Now, my Lords, that being the protest made by the Hudson's Bay Company—who, you will observe, are not saying anything which is

p. 178

inconsistent with my view, but are saying: “Our rights, as defined by the Charter, are given to us up from the East Main, and we do get into touch with the people on the other side”—just see how it is dealt with.

Viscount HALDANE: I do not know how far their claim would not have carried them.

Sir JOHN SIMON: No, my Lord, I do not, indeed.

Viscount HALDANE: Certainly the whole of what is to-day called Labrador would have come in.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord, it would. But just see how it is dealt with by the Lords Commissioners of Trade, who, having thus enquired if the Hudson's Bay Company have got any objection, proceed to put the point exactly. This is the first document any objection, proceed to put the point exactly. This is the first document in Volume III, and it is on page 883.

Viscount HALDANE: That is a reply, from whom?

Sir JOHN SIMON: It is not a reply, my Lord; it is the report made by the Lords of Trade, who have now got before them the Petition of Merchants, that is to say, the Petition of these London Merchants, and also the attempt of the Hudson's Bay Company to stop them.

Viscount HALDANE: It is a report on both documents.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord.

Viscount HALDANE: Who makes it?

Sir JOHN SIMON : The report is made by the Lords of Trade, and it is signed by Halifax, Townshend, Stone, and James Oswald, at Whitehall, 23rd July, 1752.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: They did not take long, because the Memorial was only dated the 20th July.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is right, my Lord; it is an excellent example of despatch. But, of course, they had the Petition long before that. They say this: “In obedience to your Excellencies commands signified to us by a letter from Mr. Anyand,” and so on, “we have taken into our consideration a Petition presented to your Excellencies by several Merchants of London, containing Proposals for opening a new Trade and making Settlements upon the Coast of Labrador or New Britain”—“upon the Coast,” your Lordships will see—“in North America, between 52 and 60 Degrees of Northern Latitude, and praying that the said Grant of Land may be granted to them and

p. 179

their Associates in perpetuity with the sole Privilege in exclusion of all other His Majesty's Subjects, of carrying on a Trade and Commerce to this Country for any Term or number of years not less than sixty-three. We have also been attended by the Petitioners, and have heard what they had to offer in support of their Petition and by other Persons who appeared to us to be interested or concerned in the subject matter of it, or who might be able to give us any information relative thereto; whereupon we beg leave humbly to represent. That the Questions arising upon a Consideration of this Petition are, First how far the making of a Grant to the Petitioners of this Country, may or may not interfere with any claims either of Right or Possession, which has been made to it by any other Prince or State, or by any of His Majesty's Subjects by virtue of former Grants or Concessions. Secondly How far the End and Object of the undertaking, considered in a commercial Light, may be of national advantage or disadvantage, and Thirdly, whether, supposing it should be thought advisable to comply with this request, the Terms and Conditions proposed by the Petitioners are proper and reasonable. As these three questions appear to us to take in every Circumstance necessary for your Excellencies Consideration, We shall in the course of Our Representation confine ourselves to them, and shall state to your Excellencies in the most full and explicit manner We are able, whatever appears upon the Books of Our Office, or hath occurred to us relative thereto. As to the first Question we beg leave humbly to represent”—this is a very interesting piece of contemporary statement—“That the country called Nova Britannia or Terra Labrador, and by some ancient Geographers Estoitland and Terra Corteraelis, lies on the North side of the Gulf and River of St. Lawrence, extending North and North West to Hudson's Streights and Bay, and bounded on the East by the Atlantic Ocean: Some Geographers, indeed, particularly the French, make the Southern Boundary of that Region to be a Line drawn from the Streights of Belle Isle, which divide Newfoundland from the Continent, due west across the said Continent, in order to separate it from the Settlements which that Nation has upon the Northern Banks of the Gulph and River of St. Lawrence. It does not appear that any permanent settlement has hitherto ever been made by any Nation in the Eastern Parts of this Country”—“Eastern Parts,” your Lordships will see—“for as on the one hand the English, who were the earliest navigators to that part of the World were led by the Hopes of discovering a Passage to the East Indies to pursue their Voyages and Searches still further to the Westward, and to which We owe the discovery and Settlement of Hudson's Bay, so on the other hand, the French arrived, and restrained by the Inhospitality and implacable Enmity of the Natives, has not as yet had any settlements to the Northward of the Streights of Belle Isle. The first discovery of this country is said to have been made by some Danes from Friezeland many ages before Columbus's Discovery of America”—I think I have remarked to your Lordships before that on a very early map there are, as a matter of fact, Danish names, so that that seems to be very probable—“these Danes gave it the name of Estoitland, and that it was afterwards visited


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