“to the banks of the river Ohio, westward to the banks of Mississippi, and northward to the southern boundary of the territory granted to the merchants adventurers of England trading to Hudson's Bay, and which said territories, islands, and countries, are not within the limits of some other British colony, as allowed and confirmed by the Crown, or, which have since the 10th of February 1763, been made part of the government of Newfoundland, be, and they are hereby, during his Majesty's pleasure, annexed to, and made part and parcel of the province of Quebec, as created and established by the said royal proclamation of the 7th of October, 1763—”
Lord NORTH.—There are great difficulties, as to the mode of proceeding. I apprehend the alteration I am about to propose will save every right where there is a right. I will explain the amendment I intend to make; if that
should not give satisfaction, gentlemen will state what it is they propose to substitute in its stead. We shall then ascertain how far we shall be able to make anything more precise. The question is an extremely difficult one. It is usual to have different boundaries laid down indifferent manners. Where the King is master of the country, there they are drawn by his Majesty's officers only; where there has been any grant or charter, and it has been necessary to draw a boundary line, then, not only his Majesty's officers but commissioners have been appointed, and together they draw a line, subject afterwards to an appeal to the privy council; therefore, that distinction is made here. It is intended, immediately after the passing of this act, to go on with the project of running the boundary line between Quebec and New York and Pennsylvania, &c., belonging to the Crown. This is made to prevent the province of Quebec from encroaching on the limits of any of those grants, where no boundary has been settled. I find many gentlemen are desirous of having something still more precise, if possible. To this I have no objection; but we are so much in the dark as to the situation of this country, that it is not possible to do anything more safe, than saving the rights of the other
colonies, leaving them to be settled on the spot by commissioners. Persons
possessing local knowledge can act better than we can. For that reason, I propose to leave out the words, “heretofore part of the territory of Canada,” and insert “extent of country;” and also to leave out the words “said country,” and insert “territory of Canada.”
Mr. EDMUND BURKE.—We are now settling the clause that is to give limits to the excellent system of government about to be provided for the Canadians by this bill. But, in order to ascertain more precisely what those limits are, I should be glad to get some further information, and I shall move you, that Mr. Pownall be called to this committee: no man is more able, no man more willing to give that information. I move, “That John Pownall, esq., under secretary for the American colonies, do attend this committee.”
Lord NORTH.—I do not exactly see what the honourable gentleman's object is in calling Mr. Pownall; but if the limits can be rendered more clear
and distinct by so doing, it is possible I shall be very willing to have him before us. To what point does the honourable gentleman mean to examine him?
Mr. EDMUND BURKE.—I will give the noble lord all the satisfaction in my power. I wish the attention of the committee, as I distrust my powers of explanation, when applied to such an object. The impropriety of the bill has taken its course already. If we had originated this measure above stairs, where maps might have been laid upon the table, no doubt the whole dispute of this day would have been avoided. I shall ask for the attention of the committee; partly that they may understand me; partly that I may understand myself. In the first place, when I heard that this bill was to be brought in on the principle that parliament were to draw a line of circumvallation about our colonies, and to establish a siege of arbitrary power, by bringing round about Canada the control of other people, different in manners, language, and laws, from those of the inhabitants of this colony,—I thought it of the highest importance that we should endeavour to make this boundary as clear as possible.
I conceived it necessary for the security of those who are to be besieged in this manner; and also necessary for the British subject, who should be restricted within the limits to which he was meant to be restricted, and not be allowed to venture unknowingly into the colony to disturb its possessors. I wish these limits to be ascertained and fixed with precision, for the sake of both parties. Having this object in my view, I shall first consider the line drawn in the proclamation of 1763. It was drawn from a point taken in the lake called Nipissim: that lake stands to the north of this point. I entreat the attention of the committee; for the escape of a word is the escape of a whole argument. Sir, this boundary was fixed by a line drawn obliquely from lake Nipissim, which line crossing the river St. Lawrence and the lake Champlain, formed an angle in the latitude of forty-five degrees. This constituted the south-west boundary of Canada: Beyond that the province was to extend no further; and, confined within this limit, it remained from the year 1763 to this time. That was then the boundary of Canada; and when that boundary was formed, that was the boundary of the government; and that boundary was fixed there, because it was the boundary of the possession. There was then no considerable settlement to the southwest of that line. This line the people of Canada acquiesced in. They have since come before his Majesty's government, and have laid before it a complaint in which they state, that this was a line drawn especially for the purpose of territorial jurisdiction, and the security of property; but they represent that it is a line ill suited for a growing country. They do not complain that they have not the legal limits, but they complain of the climate to which they are restricted.
“The province,” they say, “as it is now bounded, by a line passing through the forty-fifth degree of north latitude, is confined within too narrow limits; this line is only fifteen leagues distant from Montreal: and yet it is only on this side that the lands of the province are fertile, and that agriculture can be cultivated to much advantage.” Sir, if no injustice will thereby be done to any one, I don't know a more reasonable request, than that their complaint
should be attended to. I am not one who opposes the principle of the bill throughout: if I opposed the principle throughout, I should not oppose it in this stage; it would be irregular. So far as this bill conveys to the natives of that country every right, civil and religious, held either by the great charter of nature, or by the treaty of 1763, or by the King's proclamation, or by what above all it ought to be held by, the lenity, the equity, the justice of good government—I would give the enjoyment of those rights in the largest and most beneficial manner; but the very same line of justice which I would extend to the subjects of Great Britain ought not, in my opinion, to be conceded to the old Canadians.
Having drawn the line that best becomes the regulation of right, the question comes now—whether what they ask is a favour which can be granted them, without doing a material injury to the most substantial rights of others?—whether the effect of the power given by this clause may not be to reduce British free subjects to French slaves? Now, if the line drawn from lake Nipissim is to be altered, at whose expense will it be altered? The colony of New York claims all the country south of that line, till it meets with some other British colonies of known boundaries; and these are claims which ought at least to be heard, before the people of that colony are handed over to the French government.
However, after this line had been settled to forty-five degrees, it was found that the French and English maps differed very considerably as to the position of this degree; and this difference occasioned a great deal of confusion, so that the colony of New York, which bounds next to Canada, had perpetual controversy about the limitary line. Though they agreed that the line should be settled to forty-five degrees, they never agreed where the forty-fifth degree of latitude was. To remedy this confusion, in 1767, the colonies by a very provident order of the Crown, determined to hold a meeting on the frontiers, at which they took an actual observation, and fixed the latitude of forty-five degrees to the head of the northern part of lake Champlain. When they had fixed this limit, the colony of New York gave up all that part included in the triangle, the base of which was a line drawn through the angle of forty-five degrees. All this was given up for the sake of peace. A definition of that line so settled was brought home and submitted to the board of trade; who examined it, and reported that they thought it a proper line to be drawn; which report was confirmed by his Majesty in council. Having got that line drawn, a parallel was to be run from east to west, till stopped by some other colony; but when the line was fixed of forty-five degrees, the line itself was not drawn, but only the point settled from whence it should be drawn. The east line, however, is actually drawn on the map; but the line on the north-west part was left totally undefined—the point being fixed simply to the head of lake Champlain. The consequence was, that the whole west boundary of New York extending about two hundred miles, a little more or less, including all the best settled part of that province, and inhabited by various persons, civil and military—all this has been supposed to go under that description to the province of Quebec, by the provisions of
this bill. To those who objected to so frightful a conclusion, it was said, it was in the power of the Crown, after this act, to adjudge to this province what belonged to it, on the other side of the line. The first thing that occurred to me, after hearing this declaration was, that a law-suit would be the beginning of this happy settlement; and that the claim between Canada and New York, which cost so much blood formerly, would now give rise to an interminable series of law-suits.
With very uneasy sensations on this head I came down to the House. The noble lord showed me the amendment, which by no means relieved my apprehensions. The reason why I feel so anxious is, that the line proposed is not a line of geographical distinction merely; it is not a line between New York and some other English settlement; it is not a question whether you shall receive English law and English government upon the side of New York, or whether you shall receive a more advantageous government upon the side of Connecticut; or whether you are restrained upon the side of New Jersey. In all these you still find English laws, English customs, English juries, and English assemblies, wherever you go. But this is a line which is to separate a man from the right of an Englishman. First, the clause provides nothing at all for the territorial jurisdiction of the province. The Crown has the power of carrying the greatest portion of the actually settled part of the province of New York into Canada. It provides for individuals, that they may hold their property; but they must hold it subject to the French laws, subject to French judges, without the benefit of the trial by jury. Whether the English mode of descent is better than the French, or whether a trial by a judge is better than a trial by a jury, it is not for me to decide: but an Englishman has a privilege that makes him think it is better; and there is, Sir, as much reason to indulge an Englishman in favour of his prejudice for liberty, as there is to indulge a Frenchman in favour of his prejudice for slavery. The bill turns freedom itself into slavery. These are the reasons that compel me not to acquiesce by any means, either in the proposition originally in the bill, or in the amendment. Nay, the proposition in the amendment is a great deal worse; because you therein make a saving of the right of interference with, and may fix your boundary line at the very gates of New York, perhaps in the very town itself, and subject that colony to the liability of becoming a province of France. It was this state of things, Sir, that made me wish to establish a boundary of certainty. The noble lord has spoken upon the occasion with a great deal of fairness. He says, that if any gentleman will find a boundary of certainty, he will accept it. Whether, if we shall be able to find such a boundary, the colony of New York will be satisfied with it, I know not; but, speaking here as a member of parliament, I do think the colony had better have a boundary much less in extent, yet reduced to such a certainty, that they may exactly know when and where they cease to be English subjects. The boundary originally settled between Canada and New York, by Governor Murray and General Carleton, gave a very considerable part of what New York was entitled to contest with the Crown, under the first proclamation. That was given up. I am glad the noble
lord has got a map before him. They gave up a vast extent of country. I recommended them to give up for peace all that part which lies between that country and the river St. Lawrence, and to take their departure from a line drawn through Lake Champlain in forty-five degrees of latitude, as far as the river St. Lawrence, then following the course of that river through lake Ontario and lake Erie to make it the western bound of the colony of Pennsylvania. These limits and bounds would give New York a territory sufficient to enable it to meet every exigency of government: it would give it a territory saleable and valuable; it would give the Crown a boundary of certainty; it would give the people of Canada a certainty of knowing upon what side of the water their territory began; and it would give the subjects of Great Britain a power of knowing where they can be free. If the noble lord gives me this boundary, he takes off the northern part of the objection; and, in that case, I shall not call upon Mr. Pownall. If the noble lord does not admit this description to be clearly expressed, there are persons enough able to do it; for it is ridiculous to imagine, that any sense can be conceived, and not expressed in parliamentary words.
In the next place, Sir, having explained myself as well as I can, without having a map in every gentleman's hands who hears me, I shall now only say one word to the noble lord's objection. He does not know enough of the state of that country to be able to adopt the line which he has drawn whereas nothing can be more geographically distinguished than water and land. This boundary is physically distinguished; it is astronomically distinguished. It has been fixed by actual observation, and agreed upon by the surveyors. We have everything that geography, astronomy, and general convenience stronger sometimes than either can give, to make this boundary definite.
I shall, therefore, now move the boundary which I have proposed, viz., “by a line drawn from a point on the east side of Lake Champlain, in 45° north latitude, and by a line drawn in that parallel west to the river St. Lawrence, and up that river to Lake Ontario, and across that lake to the river Niagara, and from Niagara across Lake Erie, to the north-west point of the boundary of Pennsylvania, and down the west boundary of that province, by a line drawn from thence till it strikes the Ohio.” If the noble lord admits this proposition, the committee will, no doubt, be able to express it in proper words; if not, I must beg that we may receive information from a gentleman who can abundantly inform the House, who has a greater knowledge of the subject than any gentleman within this House, and who is as ready to communicate it as any man I ever knew.
Lord NORTH.—What has passed between us, the honourable gentleman has stated fairly. We agree in principle, and I hope we shall succeed in drawing a clear boundary line; but I am doubtful whether a clear boundary line can be drawn by parliament. It strikes me, that the only method is to leave it to be drawn after the passing of the act—leaving it in such a manner, that the line when drawn shall actually form a clear line between the province