The Labrador Boundary

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25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Lord Sumner.

Sir John Simon.

Lord Sumner.

The Lord Chancellor.

Viscount Haldane.

25 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Lord Sumner.

25 Oct., 1926.

Lord Sumner.

Sir John Simon.

Lord Sumner.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Finlay.

p. 190

the extended Commission for the Governor of Newfoundland, which was going to appear in another month. That would have tended to clearness. Just as you defined the southern boundary by using the expression “the River St. John,” which was a perfectly defined thing, so you would define the northern limit by saying “Cape Chidley.”

Lord SUMNER: Of course the difficulty is “C. H.” would not know much about it; he is only the Secretary of the Hudson's Bay Company who has got some information from this gentleman, who says it may be in a letter which is not forthcoming.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I agree it is very imperfect. You do, not unreasonably, infer this—that the Secretary of State in March, 1763, would have been glad to know what was the place where the Hudson's Bay boundary touched the seashore at the Hudson's Straits entrance, and if he could have got that, he could have drawn a Commission for Governor Graves which would not only have spoken of the River St. John as being the point drawn this way, but he could have spoken of something with a name as the northern limit.

Lord SUMNER: As far as that goes, it would have been equally appropriate whether it extended to the strip of seashore or whether you go back to the height of land.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I quite agree.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Mr. Rivers, I suppose writing by command of the Secretary of State, had asked the Company to say what were the limits upon the coast, that is, upon the seashore, between the Hudson's Bay Company, that means the territories of the Hudson's Bay Company, and the Coast of Labrador. It is odd that the word “coast” there does appear to be used as meaning the territory of Labrador.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think so.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: It must be, as Lord Sumner said just now, the word “coast” there is used in two senses.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think so.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Then, of course, evidently they were preparing the Commission of April, 1763?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think so, yes.

Viscount HALDANE: The matter was in the hands of the Admiralty at this time for the specific purpose of helping the fishermen and seamen. This is more a geographical than a political question.

p. 191

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is quite true. As a matter of fact, it was not the Admiralty who took the main part in 1763, it was the Secretary of State and the Lords of Trade. There are quite a lot of documents, if your Lordships would remind yourselves by looking at map No. 17. I use it merely because it is convenient for this purpose. You can see exactly what sort of enquiry was suggested. I am not suggesting this map was before Lord Egremont; it was not, but it illustrates the point exactly. There you get the thing labelled “Labrador Coast.” I am not entitled to use this, of course, as though it was any interpretation on the document, but it shows what it may be supposed they meant.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Those words run along by the sea; it does not come to very much.

Sir JOHN SIMON: No, but it means a substantial area; it does not mean the seashore. On the other hand, there was the Hudson's Bay area, which was known by the terms of the Charter to start from the entrance to Hudson's Straits. Now comes the question: What was the entrance to Hudson's Straits?

The LORD CHANCELLOR: Map No. 17 is obviously drawn after the Commission of 1763.


The LORD CHANCELLOR: Is there a map drawn just before which was in use?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Certainly. Take, for example, a map like No. 12, that is a map of 1755. If we conceive Lord Egremont looking at that, you can well understand he was a little doubtful, because you notice the yellow colour is treated as running along the Detroit of Hudson as far as Cape Chidley, but the boundary half yellow and half green strikes Hudson's Bay rather to the west of it. On the other hand, if he compared that with such a map as the Hudson's Bay Company had provided the Government with when they were negotiating, or, rather, settling the details consequent upon the Treaty of Utrecht, he would have found a boundary which ran, not to the west, but to the east of Cape Chidley, so, not unnaturally, he examines the Charter of the Hudson's Bay Company and says: I see by the terms of your Charter that you are entitled to—you are granted all those seas, straits, bays, rivers, lakes, creeks, and so on, that lie within the entrance of Hudson's Straits. Now he is going to frame a Commission to Governor Graves, and one can quite understand for practical purposes, if you could do it, especially on the sea–border, it would be a very convenient thing to have got a fixed point.

Lord SUMNER: I suppose, on the Canadian argument, it might similarly be necessary to say: Can you tell me where the Labrador coast

p. 192

ends and Hudson's Bay begins, because clearly when you do get to Cape Chidley the Labrador coast stops, and it goes on again on the other side.

Viscount HALDANE : That is the Canadian case.

Lord SUMNER: It illustrates some of the practical difficulties which arise on both sides.

Sir JOHN SIMON: It does. I am only saying it is an interesting thing that just at that time, in 1763, this question should have been asked. As a matter of fact, they did not get a very illuminating answer. I should infer it might be said the Hudson's Bay people would not give up anything; on the other hand, the Government were not going to make a mistake. It is again a significant thing which helps me. The language used in the extended Commission to Governor Graves is an exact copy, or practically a copy, of the language used in the Hudson's Bay Charter, that is to say, the northern boundary is said to be the entrance to the Hudson's Straits, while in the case of the southern boundary you are able to use the much more definite expression “River St. John.”

Viscount HALDANE: In other words, they solve nothing.

Sir JOHN SIMON: In other words, they got out of the difficulty by repeating the ambiguity.

Lord SUMNER: I should think when Sir William Baker, the Governor of the Company, waited on his Lordship, he brought a copy of his Charter with him and said: Up to that point it is all ours.

Sir JOHN SIMON: The Lords of Trade knew the Charter very well. We have been reading an elaborate document which shows that they had been examining the document in detail just before.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: It shows what the Hudson's Bay Company meant by the entrance to the Straits.

Sir JOHN SIMON: They did not get an answer which resulted in complete agreement. The consequence is, when you look at the extended Commission to Governor Graves, instead of fixing on a curious little point like Cape Chidley, or something of the kind, they repeat the expression “Entrance to Hudson's Straits.”

Viscount FINLAY: You observe, of course, the longish account given in the prefatory note to No, 17 of this mountain range delineated with some little hesitation in the map itself.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, I have.

(Adjourned for a short time.)


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