The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume XII


9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Finlay

Sir John Simon.

9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

The Lord

Sir John Simon.

9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.


Sir John Simon.

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French thoroughly squeezed, and when the time comes for the Commissioners to draw our line, what we should like on the Atlantic side would be to have a line which would go up to Cape Grimmington, somewhere here.” I have not disputed for a moment that that was going beyond the proper interpretation of the Hudson's Bay Charter.

Lord WARRINGTON: Because it is outside Hudson's Streights.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Because it is outside Hudson's Streights, yes, my Lord ; and the only possible excuse would be this : we must not, of course, attribute to the Hudson's Bay Company or to the statesmen of the early years of the eighteenth century, so accurate a knowledge of geography in the neighbourhood of Cape Chidley as we have to–day; and when you look at the maps which existed at the end of the seventeenth century and the beginning of the eighteenth century, it is fair to say that the maps did not indicate with the same precision exactly the boundary. Indeed, they showed this knob or elbow on the northern border, in various and rather inaccurate outlines.
I venture to think, therefore, that I have absolutely made good my point that so far as regards this map of John Mitchell–which is admittedly a map of the first authority in this age–it is perfectly obvious that the Hudson's Bay Company was regarded as having a boundary which was governed by the watershed.
Now I am afraid that I must put the Board to the trouble of looking at the Newfoundland Atlas, for the purpose of examining the other maps. But, my Lord Chancellor, if it is convenient, I will try to save your patience and trouble by also at the same time making one or two other observations upon the maps in question.
Will your Lordships now be good enough to see how these matters are treated by the cartographers before 1763, in the Newfoundland Atlas. The members of the Court will appreciate that I may be making one or two comments which are not upon the Hudson's Bay point : but I am doing so in order to save your Lordships the trouble of turning to these maps again. I think that the earliest maps in the atlas are of very small importance, but still, I think perhaps we had better look at them.
If you take the first one of all, Map No. 1, I will then go through each of them until I have come to the Treaty. Map No. 1 is Sanson's, and it is dated 1656. Will your Lordships kindly notice that, early as this map is–long before the expulsion of the French from Canada–in 1656, a whole century before the victory of General Wolfe on the Heights of Abraham–even here you have indicated as between the Terre de Labrador on the one hand, which is edged green, and le Canada ou Nouvelle France, which is edged yellow–even here you have a rudimentary watershed or height of land indicated. The notion that this is some new–fangled and far–fetched geographical boundary is really quite contrary to the evidence of all the early maps.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : Does that Bay Sauvage correspond to anything ?

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Sir JOHN SIMON : I do not see that at the moment, my Lord.

Mr. BARRINGTON–WARD : I think it is where the yellow meets the green.

Sir JOHN SIMON : I can tell the Lord Chancellor about that. It is as I thought. “ Bay Sauvage ” is an expression which is used in some of the early accounts for what we call Esquimaux Bay.

Lord WARRINGTON : Hamilton Inlet.

Sir JOHN SIMON : “ Savage ” probably meant “ Esquimaux,” and so they called it Bay Sauvage. I am not saying that it is right, but the point is that if you look at every early map, you will observe in fact that the notion of geographical boundaries being found by reference to watersheds is written not only between Labrador and Canada, but it is written all over it. Will your Lordships kindly observe, for example, the cartographer's notion of how Florida is divided from New France. You can see there all these rivers which are running down to the Bay of Mexico, and it is quite obvious that they are depicted as rising in an extremely mountainous region which is the watershed throwing the water into the Bay of Mexico instead of allowing it to flow northward or eastward. Exactly the same thing appears to be true of Virginia, and there is plenty of independent evidence that that was the view about the coastal colony of Virginia.
So that I start with this, that even when I begin with so early a map as that of Sanson, I get a sort of recognition that this is a proper boundary to take. Now, I am repeating myself, but may I remind your Lordships, before we turn away from this map, of an observation which seemed to me to be worth making once, and which therefore I hope I may be excused for making in reply, in regard to the legend of the map. Will your Lordships observe the inscription, the legend, which is rather striking. This is Sanson's map : “ Le Canada ou Nouvelle France ”– then he is dividing the thing into two, as regards the sources –“Ce qui est le plus advancé vers le Septentrion ”–that is the northern part of the map–“ est tiré de diverses Relations des Anglois, &c.”–that is his material for Labrador–“ Vers le Midy des Costes ”–that is the southern part of the map. Will your Lordships kindly notice the use of the French words “ les Costes ”–“ les Costes de Virginie, Nouvelle Suede, Nouveau Pays Bas, et Nouvelle Angleterre, Sont tirées de celles des Anglois, Hollandois, &c.” They are drawn from accounts given by Englishmen and Dutchmen. He does not mean a boundary between the salt water and the sea shore ; he means “ les Costes ” in the sense in which “ the coasts ” is constantly used in this period both in English and in French.

Viscount FINLAY : It is the old English.

Sr JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord, it is the old use of it, both in

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English and in French ; and, as I pointed out to your Lordships before, when you actually read the treatises of the geographers, you see it. I put before your Lordships a copy from the British Museum of Bellin's remarks on his map, where he actually divides America into six compartments, one of which he describes as “Les Costes Orientales,” between certain termini ; and when you inspect the map, it is quite plain that by that description he is indicating a series of colonies which go back to the height of land. So I think, in every one of these early maps, it is a curious fact that you will find some incidental support for one or other of the propositions, either that the height of land or the watershed is a boundary which you would look for, or that the word “ coasts ” indicates a substantial tract of territory.

Viscount FINLAY : Of course, it cannot be confined to a case where it goes back to the height of the land. The word “ coasts ” is used so constantly as denoting a certain portion of land.

Sir JOHN SIMON : I am not at all disputing that, my Lord ; but, of course, in the present case, there is a strong inference to be drawn that the words “ all the coasts of Labrador” have got a definite content, if you can find it, because the area in question is one which is to be located and delimited in fact, and is not to be settled by speculation.

Viscount HALDANE : Where do you get a delimitation in fact which you say is contemplated ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : I get that in the submission which I make that “ all the coasts of Labrador” will be found to mean an area like my green area, which is limited by the watershed.

Viscount HALDANE : Ah, yes, but that is argument. There is nothing in the documents which speaks of delimitation.

Sir JOHN SIMON : No, my Lord. If there was, I imagine that your Lordships would not have been given all this trouble.

Viscount HALDANE : Yes, I know ; we have to interpret the word “ coasts,” as used in 1763.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes ; and that is what I am endeavouring to help your Lordships to do ; and therefore, to see the early maps, as the Lord Chancellor suggested yesterday probably may give us a little help or light.
Then I think probably you would wish to take the next map, would you not, my Lord Chancellor ?


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Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord. Taking the next one, we have now reached a map of 1689, and, of course, a very imperfect or inaccurate map it is. It is a very interesting map to study, although I do wish that the printing upon it was not so small, because it contains all sorts of notes on the face of it which are worth reading.

Lord SUMNER : The original is larger.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord, and they are all available if your Lordships care to look at then. Again, may I invite attention to the fact–it is all that I say, and all that I am invited to say on this point, I think–that if you look at this map it is quite plain that, whether it be accurately or inaccurately drawn, the dividing line between the green, which is called “ Estotilande, on The New Bretagne et Tierra de Labborador,” and the yellow, which is marked “ Saguenay,” and so on, there is no doubt about it that that dividing line is–I will be modest and say–at least entirely consistent with the notion that you find the dividing line by tracing the watershed which throws the water into the St. Lawrence. You see all these rivers running down, and I do not think it can be doubted by any reasonable person that that is what the geographer is doing.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : This is rather a better map for you than the last one, because instead of carrying the line to Bay Sauvage, which I daresay is Hamilton Inlet, it brings it further down.

Sir JOHN SIMON : It does, my Lord.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : And more in accordance with the facts of to–day.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord. Of course, I am not relying on these early maps as if they gave a picture of what in fact existed. I am relying on them merely for the purpose of seeing what is the method of division which is adopted. If a map is entirely imaginary, and yet the division adopted is a watershed, it would apparently have some value for me.
May I also point out in the same way that at any rate for the most part–there are one or two cases which are a little difficult to reconcile with this ; but for the most part–the same thing seems to be true of the Atlantic seaboard. Therefore, again I have the fact that in the year 1689 (when, of course. I quite recognise, was my Lord Haldanc I thing is rather suggesting, that people had the vaguest ideas about boundaries) the fact remains that, just as in the case of the Hudson's Bay map which is up there on the stand, people who were dealing with areas of this sort, having no other boundaries which were available, constantly drew boundaries by reference to the watershed. Lord Sumner observed that the map in its full size was available, and I do not know whether your Lordships would wish to see it for the

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purpose of this further point. Would your Lordships observe that the word “ coast ” again occurs on this map, as it happens. It occurs in a place near the bottom of the map on the left hand side.

Viscount FINLAY : Is that where it begins: “ Les Anglais ” ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord. May I just read it. It says : “ Les Anglais possèdent sur la Coste de l'Amérique Septentrionale les pays on provinces de Nouvelle Escosse.” I am not stressing that too much, but it does show again–and indeed I can establish it abundantly from the documents as well as from the maps–that “ the coast ” is, amongst other things, an area within which you will find the thirteen ancient Colonies of Britain. And again and again you will find that this is described as “ les Costes Orientales de 1'Amerique.” On this map there are all sorts of other notes which are quite interesting from the historical point of view. For instance, there is a note as to the early discovery of Newfoundland, and again as to the early establishments of New France, and so on ; but I confine myself to the matters on the map which seem to me to be directly relevant.

Viscount FINLAY : It says that the river of Canada or St. Lawrence was called Hochelaga by Jacques Quartier.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord, who first discovered it. Your Lordship remembers that “ Hochelaga ” was found to be an Indian word for some settlement close to Montreal, I think.

Lord WARRINGTON : The distinction between the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the River St. Lawrence was shown as we have always supposed that it was.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord, it comes again and again.

Lord WARRINGTON : It comes into the western end of Anticosti, which is the end of the river, or thereabouts.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord ; and I think that the more common practice is to take the Cape at the end of Gaspé as being the extreme point of the river. I do not think that much can be made of it, because I should have thought for my purposes that you were in the gulf before that. But if we are dealing with nomenclature, I think my learned friend Mr. Macmillan was making a fair claim when he said that they used the word “ River ” instead of “ Gulf ” as far as that. I agree about that.
Now if your Lordships will take the third map, it is a Dutch map, and the Dutch, of course, were very vigorous explorers at this period.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : The second one was a Venetian map, was it not ?


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