The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

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26 Oct., 1926.

Mr. Macmillan.

Sir John Simon.

Sir Thomas Warrington.

The Lord Chancellor.

26 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

26 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Haldane.

Sir John Simon.

26 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

26 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

p. 229

Viscount HALDANE: Never a word to say about the Labrador side of the height of land.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Not a bit.

Mr. MACMILLAN: My Lord, I have asked my learned friend to let me have these papers to–night (I have not seen them before), and he has been good enough to agree.


Sir JOHN SIMON: I did not trouble your Lordship with them, but we have got them all here. Here is Mr. Holroyd's opinion with his signature upon it, and this is the one from Mr. Scarlett. I think I have got them all. There are some rather interesting marks of a financial character upon each of them.

Viscount HALDANE: It would be interesting to know what they paid to Mr. Scarlett.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I can only say (I regret it very much, it is a long time ago). I see here is one: “To peruse, Mr. Scarlett, four guineas.”

Viscount HALDANE: Times have changed since then.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I do not know, my Lord. I think it would be easy to spend time in elaborating it, but all that I am concerned to say is that it does appear that really this Hudson's Bay area which was, not unnaturally, a thing about which there might have been some doubt, was most carefully considered both from the Hudson Bay Company's point of view and from the point of view of the Officers of the Crown; and the reason why, when you come to 1857, the House of Commons Committee produces this map, without question or doubt is because they have before them two sets of opinions which, taken together, may be thought to be conclusive.

Sir THOMAS WARRINGTON: It comes to this. The House of Commons in 1857 accepted the claim made by the Hudson's Bay Company in the letter of the 8th June, 1850.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes; and they say they did so having before them the opinion of the Law Officers.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: These claims were founded upon the fact that in the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company there is a grant of the rivers and the land upon the rivers.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Certainly, my Lord.
2 I 2

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The LORD CHANCELLOR: That is what carries you up to the height of land in that case.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I think so too, my Lord.

The LORD CHANCELLOR: You have not quite the same words.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I have some words which I will call attention to now. Now I have finished in rather a fragmentary and disjointed form what I have to say on that branch. I have now two other matters upon which I want to address the Board, and then I have finished what I think is necessary. I think it would be possible, forming the best estimate I can, to reach the conclusion of these two matters to–day—I hope so—and if that is the case, if your Lordship will be good enough to give me a short time when you resume for the purpose of submitting some propositions which 1 have reduced to writing, I shall have finished all I think it my duty to lay before the Board at this stage.
The next compartment which I was going to deal with—and it is a very important one—is the compartment which examined what in fact was done and how the Lords of Trade acted in 1763, as the result of which you get the grant of all the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland on the one hand and you get the carving out of this lozenge, the Province of Quebec, on the other. I am sure my learned friend will agree with me, because I know that he attaches importance to this too; the documents of 1763 dealing with this matter I think must be admitted by everybody to be of very considerable importance. They do not alter the construction of the grant, but they throw a very close light. The other point which will be found cropping up when we read these same documents—but it is a separate point—is this: it becomes material to consider what was the area which passed by the name of “the Indian country,” which was quite a well–known phrase. I will at once tell your Lordships why it is material. My submission is that when you examine the maps and the documents you will find that the Indian country really means an area, not perhaps very precisely defined, which was round the Great Lakes; that, undoubtedly it was, and it may be also that it included the area which is represented as yellow on my sketch map; that is to say, a certain amount of territory which may have lain beyond the northern boundary of the Quebec of 1763, and which was unorganised. Your Lordships have noticed at any rate on some of the maps there did appear to be such a strip left. My submission is that there is really no ground at all for suggesting that the Indian country, in respect of which some special provision is made, is an area which would invade mine. I quite agree that you cannot draw an exact line, but there is nothing whatever to show that that is what was in the minds of those who dealt with the matter. The importance of it is that there were two views as to what should be done in 1763. Whether His Majesty King George III expressed a personal preference I do not know, the documents speak as though he had been consulted, but his

p. 231

view at first was that it would be a good thing to throw the Indian country into this new Province of Quebec and make it all a sort of British Canada straight off. The other view was that it would be better to have the Province of Quebec a much more limited area, as your Lordships know it was in the end; that there should be an area in which these French Canadians would naturally be found, and that the Indian country which lay round the Great Lakes and the back of the old coast colony, should not be part of Quebec. There were various arguments of a political kind, pro and con, and ultimately the view prevailed that Quebec should be the smaller rather than the larger area, and the Indian country was therefore left outside Quebec.

Viscount HALDANE: Did the alternative to that adopted involve the sheering of Hudson's Bay?

Sir JOHN SIMON: No; it did not touch Hudson's Bay. The thing to remember is that we must put ourselves back in the position, interest and knowledge of the middle of the 18th century in this matter. Of course, the Indian country was a vastly important region from the point of view of the colonists and planters of the middle of the 18th century. They were the people who lived at the back of places like Virginia, Florida, and New England.

Viscount HALDANE: At that time the relations with the Indians were very important.


Viscount HALDANE: If they went against the French they were an enormous accession to our strength; if they went against us it might have been very serious.

Sir JOHN SIMON: That is exactly what I had in mind when I said we must put ourselves back in the atmosphere and the knowledge of the 18th century. The idea that this Indian country had to do with a few Esquimaux up here in Labrador is really quite unhistoric and fantastic. The thing they had in mind was the six nations of the Iroquois and they had treaties with these people, and some of the maps, for instance, the great map of 1755, indicate this Indian country. When George III, in 1763, and his advisers were debating whether he should throw the Indian country into Quebec or not, they were not talking about these frozen areas at all; they were talking about the immensely important areas which in those days were inhabited by Red Indians and are now inhabited by citizens of the United States. That being so, I am going to ask attention to a number of documents in the year 1763. I am afraid it will be necessary to turn to several. Would your Lordship first of all remind yourself, without troubling to turn back to it, that the Treaty of Paris itself became the definitive Treaty quite early in that year, on the 10th of February, and the

p. 232

consequence is that alterations are made in the instructions and commissions in respect of Newfoundland.

Viscount HALDANE: Who was Governor of Canada then—Sir George Murray?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes. my Lord; succeeded by Sir Guy Carleton very soon afterwards. Murray was the Brigadier, of course. If you take the second volume and turn to page 339, there is a letter from the Secretary of State, Lord Egremont (he was Secretary of State for the Southern Board and he had British North America under his supervision) and it is addressed to the Board of Trade from Whitehall on the 24th March, 1763: “My Lords, The King having judged it proper, that all the Coast of Labradore, from the Entrance of Hudson's Streights, to the River of St. John's, which discharges itself into the Sea, nearly opposite to the West End of the Island of Anticosti, including that Island, with any other small Islands on the said Coast of Labradore, and also the Islands of Madelaine in the Gulph of St. Lawrence, should be included in the Government of Newfoundland, I am commanded to signify His Majesty's Pleasure to your Lordships, that you do forthwith prepare, to be laid before the King for His Royal Approbation the Draught of a New Commission for Captain Thomas Graves, to be Governor of the Island of Newfoundland, and of the Coast of Labradore with the several Islands as above described: And I herewith return to your Lordships the draught of instructions,” and so on. Your Lordships may be interested to notice that the 24th of March, 1763, the date of that document, is the day after that letter which you saw yesterday afternoon, the letter on page 4110 of Vol. VIII, which shows that Lord Egremont had asked for an interview with the Hudson Bay Governor in order to get more precise information as to how, as between Hudson's Bay and Labrador, the coast should be regarded as divided.

Viscount HALDANE: Was Lord Egremont at this time the Southern Secretary?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, it was the more important one, as your Lordship knows. So that having done that, as you will see in Vol. VIII, on page 4110, on the 23rd of March, you get this which is very close to the language of the Commission ultimately drawn up, and this is the first thing which happens as the result of the Treaty of Paris. That being so, Graves's Commission is drawn up and passed under the Great Seal. Graves's Commission was dated the 25th April, 1763, and that is to be found in the red volume at page 149.

Viscount HALDANE: What sort of island is Anticosti? Is it an inhabited island?

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes, my Lord.

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Viscount HALDANE: And the Island of Madelaine I would not find on the map.

Sir JOHN SIMON: You will find it in my sketch map at the very bottom, uncoloured.

Viscount HALDANE: A good way from Anticosti, which is further up.


The LORD CHANCELLOR: I do not think Anticosti had a large population.

Sir JOHN SIMON: I do not suppose much. I thought you were asking about now. May I ask if your Lordship is asking how it stood in 1763?

Viscount HALDANE: I would like to know now.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Perhaps I might tell your Lordship that a very well known chocolate manufacturer of France, Monsieur Meunier, acquired the Island of Anticosti.

Viscount HALDANE: Does he make chocolates there?

Sir JOHN SIMON: He acquired it and subsequently sold it again.

Viscount HALDANE: Madelaine you cannot tell us about?

Sir JOHN SIMON: I do not imagine at the time it was anything other than a fishing station.

Mr. MACMILLAN: It is a little fishing station now.

Viscount HALDANE: And probably was even less in 1763.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Quite; I am not suggesting that this area was a very populous place. Your Lordships have already had before you the Commission to Governor Graves at page 149 in Volume I. I am afraid we shall have to make a few references to it. Would it be convenient if I gave your Lordships the reference to the instructions? The instructions which accompanied that Commission (they are instructions under the Sign Manual) are rather more detailed instructions and are to be found in Volume II at page 391, and beyond any question those two documents are very important documents in the case.

(Adjourned for a short time.)


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