The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume III

[23 July 1752]
Report of the Lords of Trade upon the Petition of Several Merchants of London containing proposals for opening a new Trade and making settlements upon the Coast of Labrador.
C.O. 5/6

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sponsored by
Violet Moores,
Mount Pearl,

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sponsored by
Sandi & Ken Tulk,

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P A R T   V I I .


No. 198.

       To their Excellencies the Lord Justices.

May it please your Excellencies.
    In obedience to your Excellencies commands signified to us by a letter from Mr. Anyand, your Excellencies Secretary, dated the 11th of May last we have taken into our consideration a Petition presented to your Excellencies by several Merchants of London, containing Proposals for opening a new Trade and making Settlements upon the Coast of Labrador or New Britain in North America, between 52 and 60 Degrees of Northern Latitude, and praying that the said Grant of Land may be granted to them and their Associates in perpetuity with the sole Privilege in exclusion of all other His Majesty's Subjects, of carrying on a Trade and Commerce to this Country for any Term or number of years not less than sixty three.
    We have also been attended by the Petitioners, and have heard what they had to offer in support of their Petition and by other Persons who appeared to us to be interested or concerned in the subject matter of it, or who might be able to give us any information relative thereto; whereupon we beg leave humbly to represent.
    That the Questions arising upon a Consideration of this Petition are, First how far the making a Grant to the Petitioners of this Country, may or may not interfere with any claims either of Right or Possession, which have been made to it by any other Prince or State, or by any of His Majesty's Subjects by virtue of former Grants or Concessions. Secondly How far the End and Object of the undertaking, considered in a commercial Light, may be of national advantage or disadvantage, and Thirdly, whether, supposing it

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should be thought advisable to comply with this request, the Terms and Conditions proposed by the Petitioners are proper and reasonable.
    As these three Questions appear to Us to take in every Circumstance necessary for your Excellencies Consideration, We shall in the course of Our Representation confine ourselves to them, and shall state to your Excellencies in the most full and explicit manner We are able, whatever appears upon the Books of Our Office, or hath occurred to us relative thereto.
    As to the first Question, we beg leave humbly to represent: That the country called Nova Brittannia or Terra Labrador, and by some ancient Geographers Estoitland and Terra Corterealis, lies on the North side of the Gulf and River of St Lawrence, extending North and North West to Hudson's Streights and Bay, and bounded on the East by the Atlantic Ocean: Some Geographers indeed, particularly the French, make the Southern Boundary of that Region to be a Line drawn from the Streights of Belle Isle, which divide Newfoundland from the Continent, due west across the said Continent, in order to separate it from the Settlements which that Nation has upon the Northern Banks of the Gulph and River of St. Lawrence.
    It does not appear that any permanent Settlement has hitherto ever been made by any Nation in the Eastern Parts of this Country; for as on the one hand the English, who were the earliest navigators to that part of the World were led by the Hopes of discovering a Passage to the East Indies to pursue their Voyages and Searches still further to the Westward, and to which We owe the discovery and Settlement of Hudson's Bay, so on the other hand, the French arrived, and restrained by the Inhospitality and implacable Enmity of the Natives, have not as yet had any Settlements to the Northward of the Streights of Belle Isle.
    The first Discovery of this Country is said to have been made by some Danes from Friezeland many ages before Columbus's Discovery of America; that these Danes gave it the name of Estoitland, and that it was afterwards visited in the year 1390 by Nicholas and Antonio Zeni, two Venetians, who in a Voyage to the North were driven by Tempest upon this Coast.
    This account is given by Hackluyt in the first Volume of his collection of Voyages; but as he cites no other authority for it than Hearsay, except the simple Testimony of Abraham Ortelius who published a Book of Cosmography called Theatrum Orleis in the year 1520; and as the Account itself and the manner in which it is related carries evident marks of Invention, there is great Room to doubt its Veracity, and indeed it seems to be rejected by all late historians, and particularly by Pere Charlevoix in his History of New France. As little credit ought for the same Reason to be given to what is related by some other Writers of a Discovery of this Country by Francis Scanlon a Pole in the year 1477.
    The first authentic account we have of a Discovery of this Country was of that made by Sebastian Cabot in the year 1497, who had a Commission from Henry the Seventh to make Discoveries to the Westward. In the first Voyage he made in consequence of this Commission he fell in with the Land in Latitude 67 North, from whence he continued his course southward along

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the Coast of Labrador to Newfoundland and the Baccalaos Islands, and from thence down to Florida. At his Return to England he brought with him three savages whom it is said he took in Newfoundland; but as that Island is only visited by the Natives from the Continent at certain Seasons of the year, and then only on the Western Coast, it is most probable that he brought them from some part of the Coast of Labrador, and there is the greater Reason to believe this, as Gaslar Corterealis who is said to have visited this Coast in the year 1500, and from whence it has the name of Terra Corterealis, brought from thence a piece of a gilded Sword, and saw amongst the Natives several Toys, and other evident Vestiges of Europeans having been lately amongst them.
    After this several Voyages were made by the English to these Northern Parts of America, particularly by Martin Frobisher, John Davis, George Weymouth and James Hill in the years 1576, 1577, 1585, 1586, 1587, 1588, 1602 and 1605; but as the Object of these Navigators was merely to discover a Passage to the Westward, it does not appear that any of them visited the Coast of Labrador, except John Davis who in 1586 landed in a Harbour in Latitude 56, where he stayed trafficking with the Natives for several Days; and this is the first authentic Account we have of any actual Possession being taken of that Country on the Eastern side. The rest of these Navigators pursued their course still further to the Westward giving English names to several Places at which they touched.
    In 1610 Henry Hudson sailed thro' Davis Streights into the Bay which has since been called by all Geographers of all Nations Hudson's Bay, of which he took possession in the name of the Crown of England, and stayed there a whole Winter. Possession was again taken in the name of the Crown of England of this Bay by Sir Thomas Button, who also wintered there in 1612 in a River since called Nelson's River in Remembrance of his Captain who died there.
    In 1631 Captain Luke Fox by command of King Charles the First made a voyage to Hudson's Bay, and amongst other places entered Port Nelson, and finding there a Cross which had been erected by Sir Thomas Button with the Inscription almost defaced and worn out, he erected it again with a new Inscription declaring the Right and Possession of His then Majesty King Charles the First, and named the adjacent Country New North Wales.
    The Troubles and Civil War, which broke out soon after this, put a stop to any further Undertakings of this sort, nor does it appear that any Voyages were made to this Country from the year 1631 until the year 1667, when Zachary Gilman being fitted out by the Merchants of London sailed thro' Hudson's Streights to the Bottom of the Bay and settled a Trade and built a Fort there, which he called Rupert's Fort in Honour to Prince Rupert who joined with the Merchants in the Adventure.
    In 1669 another Voyage was undertaken by the same Adventurers, and one Captain Newland entered there making a publick Declaration of His Majesty's Right, and affixing up the Arms of England as a mark of Sovereignty.

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    In 1670 the Adventurers in the aforementioned Voyages were incorporated into a Company by Letters Patents, by which Letters Patents the sole Trade and Commerce of all those Seas, Streights, Bays, Rivers, Lakes, Creeks, and Sounds, in whatsoever Latitude they shall be, that lye within the Entrance of the Streights commonly called Hudson's Streights, together with all the Lands and Territories upon the Countries, Coasts, and Confines of the Seas, Bays, Lakes, Rivers, Creeks and Sounds aforesaid, that are not already actually possessed or granted to any of His Majesty's Subjects or possessed by the Subjects of any other Christian Prince or State, with the Fishing of all sorts of Fish, Whales, Sturgeons and all other Royal Fishes in the Seas, Bays, Islets and Rivers within the Premisses and the Fish therein taken, together with the Royalty of the Sea upon the Coasts within the Limits aforesaid, was granted to the said Company and their Heirs for ever.
    In consequence of this Grant the Company in 1672 appointed William Bayley to be Governor of all their Forts and Factories, who established a Trade with the Natives and made Settlements at Port Nelson and other Places.
    In the year 1682 in time of profound Peace the French sent two Ships from Quebec into Hudson's Bay and dispossessed the English of the Fort and Settlements in Nelson's River. They continued to make further Depredations, until the year 1686, when all the Company's Factories and Settlements at the Bottom of the Bay were surprised and taken by a Party of French sent over land from Canada.
    Upon these repeated injuries and depredations several memorials were presented by the Company to King James 2nd and Complaints having been made to the Court of France they were referred to Commissaries appointed on both sides to meet in London in order to settle such Points as were then in dispute between the Crowns relative to America.
    This Negociation however was of very short Duration and the Conferences, the chief object of which was the Redress of the Damages done in Hudson's Bay, were broke off by the happy Revolution, which took place soon after, and before any satisfaction could be obtained or the Points in Dispute adjusted.
    During the War which broke out a few years after between the two Nations the French took York Fort from the Company to which they then gave the name of Bourbon; the Company however recovered this Fort again in 1696, but it was soon after re-taken by the French, and the Peace which was made in 1697 put an End to all further Hostilities.
    By the 8th Article of the Treaty concluded at Ryswick, it is stipulated, that Commissaries should be appointed on both sides to examine and determine the Rights and Pretensions which either Crown hath to the Places in Hudson's Bay, but that the Possession of those Places which were taken by the French during the Peace that preceded the late War and were retaken by the English during the said War should be left to the French by Virtue of the foregoing Article. That the Capitulation made by the English on the 5th of

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September, 1696, (relating to Fort York) should be observed and the Merchandize therein mentioned restored and that the Differences arisen concerning the Execution of the said Capitulation and the Value of Goods there lost, should be adjudged and determined by the said Commissaries to be appointed for that and other Purposes in Pursuance of the said Treaty.
    In Consequence of these Stipulatons, Commissaries did meet at London, but the Peace was of so short a Duration as to prevent their coming to a final Determination upon any of the Points which were the subject of their Conference.
    It appears upon an Examination of the Memorials and other authentick Papers which were delivered by the Commissaries in support of their respective claims to Hudson's Bay as well in the Conferences in 1687 as those in 1699, that the English Commissaries insisted, that all that part of North America, which comprehended Hudson's Bay, was discovered by Sebastian Cabot in 1497, that this Discovery conveyed a Right to the Crown of England to that Country, that that Right was afterwards established by the Discovery made and the actual Possession taken by the subsequent Navigators at times when no other Christian Princes or States had any Possession or even Knowledge of those Parts, the French in particular not having any Settlements in Hudson's Bay until 1682, and that this Right was further confirmed by the Treaty of Neutrality in 1686, by which it is stipulated that both Nations shall retain all the Dominion, Rights, and Preeminencies in the American Seas, Roads and Waters in as full and ample manner as of Right belonged to them.
    In answer to this it is alleg'd by the French that this part of North America is call'd in all ancient Geography the Coast of Labrador, and was so named by the Spaniards who discovered it long before the English. That the Voyages mentioned to have been made by the English were merely the Discovery of a Passage to the South Seas, whereas they could prove an infinite number of Voyages to have been made at that time to the Coast of Labrador by the Normans and Basques, that the Possession taken of Hudson's Bay in 1612, was at a time when the French were in actual Possession of the Country, that the English did not know the Northern Country from the year 1497. That the several Authors who write of Canada give it no Bounds to the North; That all the Northern Bay was comprehended in the Limits set down in a Grant made in the year 1628, by which a Canada Company was established and that if the English had had any knowledge of the Bay, or any Pretention to it, they would not have failed to have reserved their Right in the Treaty of 1632, which restored Canada to France.
    That altho' the French had not at that time nor for a long time after any Forts in this Country, yet they traded with the Indians and had Settlements upon the Rivers which fall into Hudson's Bay, and they produced several Acts to prove the Indians acknowledged the Sovereignty of France before the English ever thought of going thither.
    The said Commissaries also referred to several Grants, Edicts and


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