The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume XII


9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Finlay.

Sir John Simon.

Lord Sumner.

9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Lord Sumner.

Sir John Simon.

9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Mr. Macmillan.

Sir John Simon.

9 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

Viscount Finlay.

Sir John Simon.

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added to Newfoundland, one of the things he is particularly told is this, that he is to make his best endeavours “ to procureaccurate Draughts or Maps of the several Harbours, Bays and Coasts Sir John Simon. of Newfoundland, and other Islands and Territories under your Government.” I have already proved to your Lordships that “ territory ” there is a new word and refers to Labrador–“ and you are more particularly to direct the Officer of any Vessel under your Command, which may be appointed to visit that part of the Coast of Labrador which lyes between Hudson's Streights and the Streights of Bellisle, to search and explore the great Inlet commonly known by the name of Davis's Inlet, in order to discover, whether the same has or has not any passage to Hudson's Bay, or any other inclosed Sea.” Now your Lordships see the position would have been a curious one if it turned out to be true, because the Hudson's Bay Company had got an area which we know is to begin at the entrance of the Hudson's Straits. But here we are dealing with a more southerly aperture, as we see in map after map that sort of inscription. 1 venture to think it is very difficult to suppose that the people who drew up the document of 1763 can ever have meant to accept the view of the Dominion of Canada so persuasively presented by my learned friend that when you came to Hamilton Inlet you are to skip across from one headland to the other and leave the 30 leagues of water inside this invisible line as a land–locked or at any rate a juristically locked area of water.

Viscount FINLAY : It is clear they knew very little about the conformation of the land. Look at the delineation of that Inlet ; it is widely separated.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Very widely.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : What do you say about these maps, because they do not seem to me to bear very much on the point.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Would your Lordship bear with me while I suggest one thing it does. Your Lordships see “ Canada ou Nouvelle France ” in big letters across the map. Would you kindly carry your eye about one–third of an inch below the letter “ E,” the final letter in “ Nouvelle,” and there you will find a dotted line which is marked “ Hauteur des Terres.”

Lord SUMNER : A dotted line which strides across streams.

Sir JOHN SIMON : I still think, however inaccurate it is, it indicates an intention—

Lord SUMNER : The point, to my mind, is that the person who drew that line and marked it across the waters did not understand what the height of land was, or did not think it mattered.

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Sir JOHN SIMON : If your Lordship pleases, I can save your Lordships' time. The next map, No. 9, is an English map ; it is produced by a man called Senex. It is really, I think, very largely based upon de L'Isle. Your Lordships will now read very easily the corresponding inscription in the opening : “ An entry discovered by Davis in 1586 into which he sailed 30 Leagues and trafficked with the natives.” It is not quite correctly translated ; it was not Davis who sailed there ; it was Weymouth who sailed, otherwise it is much the same. In the same way I do not wish to make small points ; there are some small points I could make on it, but it does not matter. No. 10 is the first of a number of Bellin's maps. Your Lordship remembers the name of this man ; I desire to save your Lordships' time in the same way. No. 10, No. 11 and No. 12 are all maps by Bellin, and if your Lordships think it adequate I should propose to take the last of them, just as I did in the case of de L'Isle's maps.
Now, again, my Lord, I do not wish, I am sure, to make more of the point than it will fairly justify, but I cannot help noticing that the Bay of Hudson in this map which is edged in yellow undoubtedly is indicated as an area–it is thought to be an area where you get the watershed. Your Lordship remembers, of course, that the expression “ The Bay of Hudson ” or “ Hudson's Bay ” without using the expression “ territories ” is an expression often used for the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company ; it is so even in documents passing between Britain and France. Would your Lordships notice, you see the boundary which is edged yellow on the one side and green on the other, would you kindly perambulate it with me for a moment, starting on the western side where, of course, the country was extremely little known, and you will find that you come twice over to a crossing place where you might be disposed to say, as Lord Sumner said just now, this geographer most cheerfully goes walking across the Rivers. Well, in this case he does not, he indicates with arrows that there is water which is running down to Hudson's Bay to the right and there is water which is running, say the River Bourbon, to the left. If your eye catches the arrow which is just in front of the “ R ” of “ River Bourbon,” would your Lordship then carry your eye past the description “ Grande etendue de Pays entierement Inconnue.” You will see first “ Hauteur des Terres” ; then still carrying your eye along the boundary, when you get at the lowest point below James's Bay you will find again “ Hauteur des Terres,” and if you will then continue to carry your eye up you will see that the general scheme of the thing is throughout to indicate that sort of boundary.

Lord WARRINGTON : There are arrows here again ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, whether such things existed as frequently as this gentleman thought is not the point. There cannot be the slightest doubt I venture to think that in 1755 which is a very important year for me—

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Lord WARRINGTON : This was 1755.

Sir JOHN SIMON : This was 1755.

Lord WARRINGTON : The earlier one was 1743.

Sir JOHN SIMON : It is becoming so critical. Here we are on the eve of the outbreak of the Seven Years' War ; here are the expeditions being fitted out, one of which, under the command of General Wolfe and Admiral Saunders, won the great victory at Quebec. Here we have the stage set for a great fight between the French Empire and the British Empire in British North America. Is it to be supposed that the most authoritative French map of the moment, when it colours the “ Baye de Hudson,” an expression which occurs again and again in the French documents for 50 years as meaning Hudson's Bay Territory–is it to be supposed that he was not really indicating the contemporary view, as far as this very authoritative man was concerned, that you really had to find these boundaries by reference to the watershed.

Lord SUMNER : I think his little black arrow routes are useful on this map because what he is doing is to say “ From Janssen, whom I consulted, I find you go from James's Bay up a river and then down another river, and then there is a part which leads to somewhere. That is what I am told. Then I know that there is a height of land somewhere, I can more or less indicate the stream from Janssen, but exactly where the water stops and the land appears I cannot say, so I will draw my colour to that point.” Its importance is it is a boundary of the Hudson's Bay country.

Sir JOHN SIMON : That is exactly the point. Might I tell Lord Sumner an incidental confirmation which occurs to me as he has taken that point ? I can put my hand on the page I think, I know there is a document, and a document which was shortly before this time, where the French Traders in French Canada were saying it was quite impossible to accept the view of the Hudson's Bay Company that they were entitled to everything–to all the land which you could get at from Hudson's Bay by water because at that time it was believed there really was a water connection between the St. Lawrence and Hudson's Bay. They give that actual reason, they say it is quite impossible for us to admit that the Hudson's Bay Company has got this territory which includes all the land which you can reach by water from Hudson's Bay because they say if that is the case they would have the St. Lawrence and the whole thing. I think I am justified in saying in 1755 at any rate on the French side–you will see the English side in a moment–in the very same year that was the view. Would your Lordships, while the map is before you, please observe exactly the same principle appears to be indicated in other parts of the map, for instance, take what are commonly called the ancient colonies which are bounded in yellow on the Atlantic shore. Your Lordship sees what I mean by that yellow area.

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You have already had the point, my Lord. If you read Bellin's Commentary–you will remember I had the book from the British Museum–you will find he says with reference to this identical map that one of the vast compartments of North America is “ Les côtes orientales,” and he identifies that as being this yellow area containing, for instance, Virginia and Georgia, and North and South Carolina. He in terms describes that in his contemporary document as “ Les côtes orientales de l'Amerique.”

Mr. MACMILLAN : I wonder whether I might draw attention to one matter. At the end of the legend the geographer says : “Note qu'on n'a point marqué de limites.”

Sir JOHN SIMON : I think that is rather like an inscription which you read on an ordnance survey. You must not take the fact that a right of way is marked on the map as conclusive proof that it is.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : Perhaps this refers to the western boundary, where the line breaks.

Mr. MACMILLAN : I do not know, my Lord.

Sir JOHN SIMON : I think my friend is quite justified in raising the point. I think he really means that if you take the green line which bounds Louisiana, or again, the yellow and green line bounding Hudson's Bay, you reach a point west where you do not get on the limits.

Lord SUMNER : I fancy he means he does not know whether it is land or sea. It is absolutely unknown.

Sir JOHN SIMON: Yes. Would your Lordships turn now to Volume VIII. I have a reference in that volume which bears I think directly on this point, and then I think I have finished all I wish to say about these maps. The reference is Volume VIII, page 3774. That is a part of the book which contains some extracts from that commentary which M. Bellin invites us to buy so attractively in his map. It is headed “ Extracts from ‘Remarques sur la carte de l'Amerique Septentrionale.’” That is this very Map No. 12. This is the handbook to it. In those days when you bought a map you bought a handbook with it, and you looked at the map and looked at the handbook and found out from the handbook more about what was on the map. After the preliminary self–advertisement of a rather striking character, he says the early geographers were always writing down things that they did not know, but he is adopting a better plan. He criticises remorselessly some people's maps, and having done that, he says, at page 3775, line 28:–I will endeavour to translate as I go along–“ Such are the rules that I have imposed on myself, and now it is for the public to judge if I have departed

p. 825

from them.“ Then he goes on to say : “ After these preliminary reflections which have seemed to me essential in the present circumstances, I am going to enter upon the geographical discussion”–of what ?–“of the principales Parties de l'Amerique Septentrionale,renfermées entre le 28 and le 72 dégré de latitude.” He does not deal exactly with the Isthmus of Panama, neither is he dealing with the North Pole. Then he says : “To do it in some sort of order I have divided this great stretch of country into six principal parts beginning in the north and following towards the south, which is the natural order in geography ”–and these form a number of different articles or sections. Here they are : “The Bay of Hudson and the surrounding country.” Your Lordships will observe that the label on his map is: “ Bay of Hudson ” edged in yellow. The next one is “ New France, or Canada.” The third is: “ Les Côtes Orientales de l'Amerique, depuis l'Acadie ”–which is Nova Scotia–“ jusqu'a la Floride, contenant les Pays possédés par les Anglois, entre les Montagnes des Apalaches et l'Ocean.” So that you have in 1755 at the very outbreak of the Seven Years' War, a contemporary assertion on the French side that the “ parties,” the solid territory, are properly to be called “ Coasts ” if they go back to the watershed. There you have it in express terms illustrated by the map.

Viscount HALDANE : What are the Apalaches ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : They are the continuation of the Alleghany Mountains. The Alleghany Mountains are the boundary in the upper half, and the continuation was known as the Apalaches. What I am saying is that anyone who studies the treatment of this subject on the French side at the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, I venture to submit, is driven to the conclusion first that “ Les Côtes” was at the time constantly used to indicate the band of territory which you would measure laterally by going back to the watershed, and secondly that the height of land, or the watershed, or whatever the expression may be, was at the time regarded and treated as the boundary which would divide competing and adjoining territories.

Viscount FINLAY : It was an elementary fact with regard to these colonies that they were all between the range nearest the Atlantic Coast, that is to say the Alleghanies with their continuation, and the sea.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Your Lordship is perfectly right. In that respect his geography is correct, but, of course, what is important for me is not whether he made a correct picture, but taking his assumptions, how he uses his language. I have made my point absolutely good on the French side, your Lordships see. Now if once again your Lordships will remind yourselves of the map on the stand, your Lordships will appreciate that that map—

Viscount FINLAY : That is Mitchell's map.


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