Confederation
1864-1949



The Labrador Boundary


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Volume XII








28 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

28 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

28 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

28 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

28 Oct., 1926.

Sir John Simon.




p. 270

phrase “ two countries.” “ On the Order of the Day, for the second Reading of the Bill ‘ for making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebec in North America.’ ” The situation was that there had been a small area, what I call my lozenge–shaped Quebec, which had existed ever since 1763. I may add that after hearing evidence, as appears from the Annual Register, Lord North (the Prime Minister) is recommending this Bill in the Session of 1774 to the House of Commons. As he had people like Mr. Edmund Burke watching what he was doing, he was explaining why it was that they proposed to enlarge Quebec as they did. See what he said : “ The first thing objected to by the honourable gentleman ”—that, as a matter of fact, was Mr. Townshend, junior—“ is the very great extent of territory given to the Province. Why, he asks, is it so extensive ? There are added, undoubtedly, to it ”—that is my original lozenge of Quebec—“ two countries which were not in the original limits of Canada, as settled in the proclamation of 1763 ; one, the Labrador coast, the other, the country westward of the Ohio and the Mississippi ”—that must be “ the country between the Ohio and the Mississippi ”—“ and a few scattered posts to the west.” If I may again use the pointer, though I do not want to expatiate on the obvious, Lord North is saying this, though with a much less accurate knowledge of geography than we have to–day : The province of Quebec is a province of a lozenge shape, the bounds of which may be described as running up the River St. John to its head waters, then across to Lake St. John, then across to Lake Nipissing, then down across the St. John to Lake Champlain, and so on up along this line here, to Gaspe Point. Here is the House of Commons considering a Bill which the Government has carried through the House of Lords, which is going greatly to enlarge the boundaries of Quebec. The boundary in the new Bill started there, then carried along the same bounary for a time, then got down to Pennsylvania then ran down until it reached the Mississippi, then went up the Mississippi until it struck Hudson's Bay, and they say that is the new province. The effect of that was to do two things : to add to the original lozenge–shaped Province of Quebec two countries ; one of them is my coast of Labrador, and the other is this immense area away down to the junction of Ohio and Mississippi, a large part of which is now to be found in the United States of America. The case against me is : Not at all ; what was added was this great area down in the northwest. No doubt, but the other main thing that was added was something which was not the coast of Labrador, but was a thing which had never been under the government of Newfoundland, under that denomination. In so far as Newfoundland lost anything under the terms of the Quebec Act, 1774, it lost what was no doubt a strip. In substance, what was thrown into Quebec was something which never belonged to Newfoundland before, and therefore was never given back to Newfoundland afterwards. What I find is this, and, I can repeat, after careful inquiry, because they had Governor Carleton there and a number of other people whom they consulted, Lord North after this Bill had been

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expounded and explained in the House of Lords is saying in the House of Commons “ we are adding two countries.” It is interesting to remember that the phrase “coast or country ” is a phrase we have had more than once already in this very connection. I do submit if Parliamentary exposition counts for anything, and I know sometimes it does not count for much, that at any rate is the strongest possible example of it I was asking your Lordships' attention on Tuesday to a document which seemed so extremely important, the document of the Lords of Trade which you will remember was to be found in Volume III, the same volume that is now before you, at page 903.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : The vigorous opposition to this Bill I suppose related to the large area towards the west, not to its coast.

Sir JOHN SIMON : The main point of contest had nothing to do with that area ; it is about the other. Mr. Townshend and others took objection; but the main contest, your Lordship recollects, was because the Quebec Act was an Act which provided that in this immense area there should be a new system of judicature ; that there should be the French law applied in civil matters, that there should be the English law applied in criminal matters, and that you should set up what was practically a French civilisation.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : Why did the Earl of Chatham call it “ a cruel, oppressive and odious measure? ”

Sir JOHN SIMON : That was nothing to do with area. I think what he meant was : As a matter of fact you are imposing upon a number of people in this immense area, who are really of British stock, a system which is essentially French. We have to remember that the Quebec Act was an Act which dealt with immensely important matters, nothing to do with area. That is the connection in which it is usually discussed by historians, and indeed by lawyers. It is the Act under which the Province of Quebec, whatever its geographical extent may be, acquired a very peculiar position so far as regards its system of law in the British Empire. What I think, therefore, that most eminent Parliamentary critic was commenting on was the fact that you would as a matter of fact be imposing upon people of British stock what was to them a foreign system.
There is an interesting book quite recently published by Professor Coupland, on the Quebec Act, but I do not think the subject of area is very precisely dealt with. I have had some inquiries made and I do not think that aspect of the matter was very prominent. It is a very interesting book.

Viscount HALDANE : I have read it. There is nothing about areas in it.

Sir JOHN SIMON: From the point of view of the historian and the student of institutions, the really important thing undoubtedly is

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this remarkable provision for most extensive jurisdiction. quite French in character, over a very large area of British America. I am not for a moment saying that the geographical point was the main point.
Will your Lordships allow me to read a very short extract from the Annual Register, which I looked at this morning to inform my mind. It is at page 75. Your Lordships know that the Annual Register has this peculiarity, that its paging begins over and over again when you come to a different topic. This is the paging beginning from the beginning of the book in the Annual Register for the year 1774. May I read this passage at page 75 right through ; “ The Session was drawing near to the usual time of recess, and the greatest number of the Members, fatigued with a long attendance on the American Bills, were retired into the country. In this situation a Bill which has engaged a great deal of the public attention was brought into the House of Lords ; ‘ A Bill for the making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebec in North America.’ This passed through that House with very little if any observation. But when it came down to the House of Commons, it met with a very different response. A disposition immediately appeared in that House to criticise it with unusual severity. The party for the Ministry seemed to be a little alarmed at this spirit, partly because, from it easy passage through the House of Lords ; it was not to be expected ; but, particularly, because they apprehended it would create more uneasiness among the people out of doors than any of the former Bills. In this case the passions which had been excited by the disorders in America, did not operate in their favour.” Of course, you see the Boston Tea Party had naturally caused a consolidation of public opinion in this country, but the good people of Quebec had been so well behaved that nobody felt much sympathy with what was said. “ In this case the passions which had been excited by the disorders in America, did not operate in their favour, and as the Act had for a part of its objects establishments touching religion, it was far more likely to give occasion for popular complaint. The Ministry, therefore, found it necessary not to carry things with so high a hand as in the preceding Bills. They admitted that this Bill came down to the House of Commons in a very imperfect state ; and that they would be open to any reasonable alterations and amendments. This plan might be discussed more at leisure than that for regulating the Colony of Massachusetts Bay ; it[sic] that case it was necessary to show a degree of vigour and decision, or all government might be lost and all order confounded. But here they were not so much pressed : for though that Government wanted regulation extremely, yet the people were disposed to peace and obedience. A good deal of time was spent in going through this affair ; great altercations arose in the Committee ; many witnesses were examined. Among these were General Carleton, Governor of Canada ; Mr. Hay, Chief .Justice of that Province ; Mr. Mazeres, Cursitor Baron of the Exchequer, late Attorney–General there, and Agent to the English inhabitants of Canada ”—of course, people of British stock were very

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unwilling to see French institutions put upon them, and that was the real subject of Parliamentary Debate—“ Dr. Marriot, the King's Advocate–General in England ; Mons. Lolbiniere, a French gentleman of considerable property in Canada. The principal objects of the Quebec Bill were to ascertain the limits of that Province, which were extended far beyond what had been settled as such by the King's Proclamation of 1763 ; to form a legislative Council for all the affairs of the Province, except taxation, which Council shall be appointed by the Crown, the office to be held during pleasure (and His Majesty's Canadian Roman Catholic subjects were entitled to a place in it) ; to establish the French laws and a trial without jury in civil cases, and English laws, with a trial by jury, in criminal ; to secure to the Roman Catholic Clergy, except the Regulars, the legal enjoyment of their estates, and of their tithes from all who are of their own religion. These were the chief objects of the Act. It was said in favour of them, that the French, who were a very great majority of the inhabitants of that country, having been used to live under an absolute government, were not anxious for the forms of a free one, which they little understood or valued. That they even abhorred the idea of popular representation, observing the mischiefs which it introduced in their neighbouring countries. Besides these considerations, it would be unreasonable to have a representative body, out of which all the natives should be excluded ; and perhaps dangerous to trust such an instrument in the hands of a people but newly taken into the British Empire ; ” that does not mean Indians, of course ; it means the orginal population from Europe : “ they were not yet ripe for English government. That their landed property had been all granted and their family settlements made on the ideas of French law. The laws concerning contracts and personal property were nearly the same in France and England. That trial by juries was strange and disgustful to them. That as to religion, it had been stipulated to allow them perfect freedom in that respect by the Treaty of Paris, as far as the laws of England permitted.”
Then the following passages go on to describe the arguments on one side. Then lower down it says ; “ To this it was replied, that a form of arbitrary government established by Act of Parliament, for any part of the British Dominions, as a thing new to the history of England. That it was of a most dangerous example, and wholly unnecessary. For either the then present form, such as it was, might be suffered to remain merely as a temporary arrangement, tolerated from the necessity which first gave rise to it, or an assembly might be formed on the principles of the British Constitution, in which the natives might have such a share as should be thought convenient.” And they proceeded on that line.
Your Lordships see, therefore, that the Debates on the Quebec Bill were primarily concerned with two questions of whether it was right or not that in an immense area such as this the people of British stock should be put, so far as civil rights were concerned, under the French law, and, secondly, whether the provisions of the Bill touching matters
2 P

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of religion were appropriate. Therefore, I am not suggesting that the main debate was as to areas. What I am pointing out is that one of the objects being that this immense Province was thus being carved out, Lord North, the head of the Government, defending the Bill, says : What we are doing is this. We are making it very big. Why? Because we are adding to what I have ventured to call the lozenge Province of Quebec two countries, one the coast of Labrador, the other the area lying between the Ohio and the Mississippi.
Now, my Lords, I was asking attention on Tuesday to the very important document at page 903 of Volume III, which is a long report of the Lords of Trade ; and I ask leave very briefly, as I have very nearly finished what I wish to say to the Board at this stage, to direct attention to two or three references to the Indian Country in order that I may, I hope, dispose of the idea which I venture to think is quite unhistoric and rather fantastic, that the reservation in respect of the Indian Country had anything to do with my green area here, which is practically uninhabited and which contains a few Eskimos, and a few Indians, who very largely came from across the River St. Lawrence. and had some trade in these parts. “ The Indian country,” as I think one of your Lordships observed on Tuesday, is a phrase which in the middle of the Eighteenth Century was a very familiar phrase. It had reference to an immense and extremely important area. It was used in reference to what was a fixed policy of this country, the policy, namely, of endeavouring to keep on the best possible terms with what were in those days extremely powerful and important Indian tribes. The Indian Country, as your Lordships saw in the map which I asked your attention to in the Canadian Atlas just before the Board rose on Tuesday, was, as a matter of fact, the country round the Great Lakes, and it may be to some extent running up in the area which I have called the yellow area.
Now, my Lords, the passages are these, if I may keep to the point about the Indian Country and give one or two more references on the same very important topic. Your Lordships have already noticed that there is a passage on page 906, at line 27. I am picking these out simply as passages and putting them, together without any argument now. “ This trade was acquired—”

The LORD CHANCELLOR : What trade is he speaking of ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : He is speaking of the fur trade. He is saying : “ This trade was acquired in virtue of the possession which they ”—that is the French—“ had taken (contrary to the stipulations of the Treaty of Utrecht) of all the Lakes in North America ”—by which he meant the Great Lakes, Lake Superior, Lake Erie, and so forth—“ communicating with the River St. Laurence, though the circumjacent territory avowedly belonged to the six Nations of Indians, acknowledged by the French to be your Majesty's Subjects in that Treaty.” I really am satisfied that I can establish to your Lordships that that is the area which is primarily known as the Indian Country. You will see it

[1927lab]




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