The Labrador Boundary


Privy Council Documents


Volume XII


Contents








12 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

12 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

12 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

The Lord
Chancellor.

Sir John Simon.

12 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.

12 Nov., 1926.

Sir John Simon.




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were. For example, in the year 1822, the report of Jedediah Morse, a special United States Indian Commissioner, stated that there were 471,417 of them. That is a precision in enumeration which is really quite surprising. I really do not think that when one looks at this United States Census, there is anything in it which will help my learned friend.
Then some reference has been made to the Hudson's Bay Committee report or map which immediately followed the Arrowsmith map to which I have made some reference, namely, the Aborigines Map. My learned friend, Mr. Macmillan, urged that there was a strange oversight on my part in having referred to the one without having referred to the next ; but the two documents have very different degrees of authority. I do not know whether my learned friend has traced — he could hardly be supposed to have omitted to have traced—where this map of the aborigines comes from. It is due to the fact that a most praiseworthy society, with which the family of Buxton will always be honourably associated, namely the Aborigines Protection Society, was anxious to take the opportunity in the year 1867, as it is upon all such occasions, to do its best to protect the interest of the Aborigines, a most admirable object. The consequence is that apparently this map was enclosed in a sort of petition or memorandum which was sent to the Committee and printed in the Appendix, from Sir Fowell Buxton and other gentlemen associated with him. They produced this map in order to put forward their view of where the different aborigines were to be found. No doubt it is, from that point of view, ethnologically speaking as well as speaking from the point of view of Christian humanity, a very interesting document ; but it has no further authority than that.
I think the Lord Chancellor has his own copy before him, and if I look at it, it is to be observed that when I look at the list of nations, I find that amongst other things the Esquimaux are. called " Indian nations." I find that all around what I think is admittedly my Labrador I have Esquimaux marked ; and, therefore, if the proposition is that whatever is shown on this Aborigines Map is holy ground, which no European Government can safely trench upon, there seems to be no spot of earth in this part of the world upon which any Government of any British Colony could safely stand.
This, of course, is not a picture of land which is reserved as a hunting ground for Indians ; it is a picture of the supposed ethnological distribution of a number of native tribes. No doubt the Algonquins in that sense, as my Lord Sumner stated, are really a great branch of the human race, and they are properly depicted as the exclusive occupants of an area which runs down to the junction of the Ohio and the Mississippi, almost, and runs up to nearly the top of Hudson's Bay. But with great respect it does not prove anything, once it is understood that the map is a humanitarian map, put forward from the ethnological point of view, in which these distinguished gentlemen were urging the Committee in dealing with the Hudson's Bay Company to think of the poor Indian,

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which is, of course, a very proper thing to do. Other people did so too. Alexander Pope, I think, has an excellent couplet :
"Lo, the poor Indian, whose untutored mind
Sees God in clouds, or hears Him in the wind."
But I do not apprehend that those considerations decide any subject of any political boundary whatever.
Now, my Lords, I think that the only other point that I want to deal with for a moment is the suggestion that I have not been definite as regards the southern boundary of my green area. My learned friend Mr. Macmillan has kindly said that I have made the matter clear to him as regards the suggested boundary between what might be Hudson's Bay and the green, but he was not quite so clear as to my view about the southern boundary. At any rate, let it be quite clear. Whether it is right or not it is not for me to say, but my submission is this, that if you read the Statute of 1825 you are driven to the conclusion, and there is no way out of it, that that Statute of 1825, which is cutting off that pink, is cutting off a piece of the coast. The side note of the Statute says so ; the language of the Statute says so ; and nobody reading it without the map in front of them could question that that is what it is doing. It is therefore, a rather valuable parliamentary exposition of what " coast " means, because " the coast " at certain places is 120 to 130 miles deep.
I submit, therefore, that if that is right, I am confirmed in my view that before 1825 the coast of Labrador, which was annexed to Newfoundland, is at any rate a stretch of territory running back from the sea water, which goes as far as an area such as that. My learned friend says, and says quite justly : " Of course, the height of land, the watershed, is not and cannot be a mathematically straight line running for a distance of from 100 miles to 200 miles." Of course, that is quite true. I apprehend that it was arrived at as an approximision, and though I quite agree that the maps are not entirely consistent, I imagine that the people of 1825 who examined them knew that they could not be treated as if they were really as accurate as a portion perhaps of the Survey of the mother country, and they knew that it was done generally. Still I think it is fair to say this : inspect the maps ; inspect the Mitchell map and other maps of authority, and you get very strong indications that if you went up to the 52nd Degree of North Latitude, you would not at any rate be going over the tops of the mountains, but you would in fact, be going very close to what was then believed to be the head waters.
That being so, I think that this question of the situation of the pink, as such, is only interesting because it throws light upon the original conception ; and I conceive that it shows this, that the parties were dealing—and in this sense accurately dealing—upon this basis, that if you did travel down from the North from Cape Chidley and along the height of land, you would in fact reach a height where you would be looking, as it were, down to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and they were satisfied that you could continue to travel along the watershed between

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the waters that run into the Hudson's Bay and the waters that run into the Atlantic, until you would at any rate come upon the 52nd parallel. And you do in fact ; Low's survey shows it. That gives me all that I want. I come down till I hit the 52nd parallel, and then I turn to the East and travel along it to the end.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : Of course, the interval which Mr. Macmillan dwelt upon between the 52nd parallel and the height of land, you still claim ?

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes, my Lord ; I put forward that claim, and I ask the Board to consider whether it is not right.

The LORD CHANCELLOR : You had both sides of the water- shed there. You had the watershed looking up from the Atlantic and you had the watershed looking up from the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Sir JOHN SIMON : Yes. Of course, your Lordships appreciate perfectly well how one arrives at a conclusion logically and argumentatively. It would be reached, of course, in this way. Imagine yourself to be without the pink, for a moment, and ask yourself, upon my view of it, what then would be the coast of Labrador between Cape Chidley and the River St. John. Well, you would then get this dotted line which the Lord Chancellor has just pointed to. Now, what has happened since ? In my submission nothing has happened since except that Parliament, being minded to take a pair of shears and shear out from my coasts of Labrador a portion, has done it by taking shears which first of all chop at Blanc Sablon thirty miles back, and then chop along the 52nd parallel, and finally take out the piece bounded by the River St. John. If that is so, the result would be, as a mere matter of construction, that I should be left with what I think my learned friend referred to as the two humps.
On the other hand, it may be that the true view of the matter is that as soon as ever, in travelling to the West along the 52nd parallel, I impinge upon the height of land, thereafter I am at once put upon that line of rails, rather than the other. That is a matter for your Lordships to determine. I do not recognise anything which is either illogical or obscure in the view which is being presented by the Government of Newfoundland. It seems to me to be quite clear, and I trust that the logic of it is intelligible ; but of course, whether it is right, or not, is a matter which I have not to determine.
Then there was one incidental observation which my learned friend made on the subject of the River St. John. He said : Now, notice, when you read the way in which in the Commission of Governor Graves the coast of Labrador is limited laterally at one end and the other ; the way in which they dealt with the River St. Johns is not to say that it was bounded by the River St. Johns, but to say that it is bounded—this is page 149—by "the River St. Johns, which discharges itself into the sea nearly opposite the west end of the Island of Anticosti." My learned friend Mr. Macmillan said on page 396 of the Shorthand Note :

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" Now observe, that is indicating a point. It is not indicating a line," he said. " It is indicating a point, namely the point of discharge."
Unfortunately for my learned friend, the real explanation is quite plain the moment that you investigate any map of the period. Mitchell's map will do very well. I do not know how it came about, but there are a great many places called " St. John " in this part of the world. St. John's day, is I think, the 24th of June, and that is the day, so we are told, when Cabot first sighted the Island of Newfoundland, and that is why the Capital of Newfoundland is called St. John's to this day. But if you examined the map, you would find that there was a River St. John's on the same map, which was flowing into the Bay of Fundy, which is just on the other side of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. I think the thing to do in reference to the phrase " the River St. Johns which discharges itself into the sea nearly opposite the west end of the Island of Anticosti " is to make quite certain that we know which River St. John you are talking about. If my learned friend is concerned to rely on the precise language of the Commission, no doubt he will be pleased to notice that the Commission described the River St. John not as flowing into the River St. Lawrence, but as flowing into the sea.
There are many other things upon which one might occupy your Lordships' time, and I am far from thinking that I have dealt with everything. But I have done my best to obey the injunction of my learned friend, Mr. Geoffrion, and not to introduce too large a percentage of irrelevant matter. I hope I have dealt with the main points of the case.
I will not ask leave to repeat the ten propositions which your Lordships have, of course ; but I humbly submit that the case for Newfoundland may still be regarded as standing upon that ground, and it has not really been dislodged.
Now, my Lords, what I would like to say in conclusion is this : this is one of those cases where there is such a mass of detail that it is perhaps not always easy, even for the very best and the most trained minds, to get the essential facts ; and so I am going to try to conclude by stating the essential fact, as we regard it, in as uncontroversial terms as I can.
This, I suggest, is the true conclusion ; the true conclusion I suggest is that 160 years ago, or a little more, the area which is now in dispute, this green area, was on all hands regarded as practically worthless. That is the key to the case : it was regarded as practically worthless by everybody. It was, therefore, quite natural, when annexing a portion of Labrador to Newfoundland—this is my submission—to act with a generous hand. And the only internal physical boundary which was available or which would suggest itself was the height of land, the watershed, the sort of boundary which contemporary maps again and again indicated as the limits of the Hudson's Bay, and which geographers and statesmen in the eighteenth century constantly regarded as the internal limits of a coast.
As against that, this comment is made, and one or two of your Lordships one or twice have pointed it out as a serious consideration,
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and no doubt it is. It is said : "Well, but surely, to treat the prerogative grant, the executive distribution, as giving you an area that runs back to a watershed, is to contemplate, possibly, an almost illimitable extent of territory." Now, my Lords, I think, and I suggest, that the answer is this : The peninsula of Labrador—I am not speaking of my green territory now, but of the peninsula itself—the peninsula of Labrador was not, so far as its outline was concerned, a terra incognita. It was not like tropical Africa ; it was not like the Far West ; and if you told men that they were to have a jurisdiction which started at the salt water and went back to the watershed you were not, by using such language, giving them a perfectly indefinite and possibly inexhaustible march. The peninsula of Labrador was known at the time. It was known to be bounded on the one side by Hudson's Straits, and surveyors, traders and other people had marked that out by this time very definitely. There is, in fact, an interesting document in this case in which you may read how the coast of Labrador was surveyed by Captain Cook. Captain Cook is the circumnavigator ; and he was present, or at any rate was on the scene, at the time of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham. It was Captain Cook who was in the boat with James Wolfe, together with Mr. Robison, the Glasgow student, whom the history books describe as the Young Lieutenant. Captain Cook was there, and he was interested in this part of the world, and there is a document in the case which shows that Captain Cook was surveying in this part of the world. So you had Hudson's Bay perfectly well marked as a boundary. You had a fringe which was quite well ascertained and known, although not explored in its inner recesses, and you had the other boundary from Belleisle running up from the shore of the St. Lawrence, both from French and English sources.
Having got, therefore, a peninsula which turned out to be something like 500,000 square miles in extent, the position was this, that the thickness of the isthmus, 300 miles, was known pretty accurately, because John Mitchell had got all these latitudes and longitudes carefully fixed. Therefore it is not true that they were dealing with a terra incognita. What they were doing was, that they were dealing with a country, the value of the interior of which was believed to be quite negligible, but the boundaries of which were known. And although therefore the value of the interior was never ascertained, and although its actual contours, mountains and hills and so on, were unsurveyed, there was really nothing extravagant or illimitable in allotting the . Atlantic coast, in this wide sense, to Newfoundland. And, of course, although this is quite a subordinate consideration, Canada never questioned the allocation until it became worth Canada's while to do so. On the contrary, Canada affirmed it in a series of official maps, Nos. 35 in my atlas, 39 in my atlas, and 41 in my atlas ; and when they were asked about it on an occasion when the Secretary of State for the United States, Mr. Fish, was anxious to know how things stood, the Privy Council expressly so informed Lord Dufferin, and the Colonial Office so agreed ; and right down to the time when it was discovered

[1927lab]




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