The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume III

Page 889
sponsored by
Sandi & Ken Tulk,

p. 888

Letters Patent of the Crown of France in the years 1540, 1598 and 1627, by which all that part of North America including the Coast of Labrador and the Bay since called Hudson's Bay is granted to Certain Companies and private Adventurers.
    The said Commissaries also refer to several subsequent Grants and Letters Patent of the like Nature, from whence they argue an uninterrupted Possession and therefore alledge that the Treaty of Breda in 1667 and that of Neutrality in 1686 favor their claim.
    The English Commissaries in their Reply to the French Memorials, insist upon the Right of the Crown of Great Britain founded upon prior Discovery and Possession and although the Discovery and Possession upon which that Right is founded might be made in search of a north West Passage, yet that did not hinder that a Discovery made and Possession taken in such Pursuit was rightfull and proper. They further alledged that the Grants and Letters Patent cited by the French are of no Force, there never having been any actual Possession taken, and that in Effect all the other Letters Patent can signify nothing in Prejudice to His Majesty's Right, seeing no Prince whatsoever can be hindered from giving to his Governors, Agents and Companies such Titles as he shall think best; but nobody is so weak as to think anything passed by these Grants, but what the King is truly and rightfully possess'd of, for nil dat quod non habet, and that it was much more just and reasonable to rely upon actual Discovery and Possession taken in view of all the World.
    That as to what has been alleged of Canada having no Bounds to the northward it is plain by all Maps that Terra Labrador and Estoitland are in the North of Canada lying northward between Canada and Hudson's Bay, and they did never hear that the French had laid claim to these two Countries. That as to what had been urg'd with respect to this Country not being reserved in the Treaty of 1632, there was no need of reserving that which was so remote and not so much as known to the French, and that the Treaty of Breda favoured the English who were in actual Possession before the 1st of January 1665.
    That as to what had been alledged by the French that the Normans and Basques made voyages to Labrador at the time of the first Discovery of this Country by the English, it was not disputed, but that this Country was three or four Hundred Leagues distant from the Bay.
    It does not appear that any considerable alteration was made in the state of things with respect to any part of this Country during Queen Ann's War at the Conclusion of which, Hudson's Bay was ceded to the Crown of Great Britain by the 10th Article of the Treaty of Utrecht which stipulates, that
    “The said most Christian King shall restore to the Kingdom and Queen of Great Britain, to be possessed in full Right for ever, the Bay and Streights of Hudson's together with all Lands, Sea, Coasts, Rivers and Places, situate in the said Bay and Streights, and which belong thereunto, no Tracts of Land or of Sea being excepted, which are at present possessed

p. 889

by the Subjects of France all which as well as any Buildings there made, in the Condition they now are and likewise all Fortresses there erected either before or since the French seized the same, shall within six months from the Ratification of the present Treaty, or sooner if possible, be well and truly delivered to the British Subjects having Commission from the Queen of Great Britain to demand and receive the same entire and undemolished, together with all the Canon and Canon-Ball which are therein, as also with the Quantity of Powder, if it be there found, in Proportion to the Canon-Ball and with the other Provisions of War usually belonging to Canon; it is however provided that it may be entirely free for the Company of Quebeck, and all other the Subjects of the most Christian King whatsoever to go by Land or by Sea whithersoever they please out of the Lands of the said Bay, together with all their Goods, Merchandise, Arms and Effects of what nature or Condition soever except reserved in this Article. But is agreed on both sides to determine within a year, by Commissaries to be forthwith named by each Party, the Limits which are to be fixed between the said Bay of Hudson and the Places appertaining to the French, which Limits both the British and French subjects shall be wholly forbid to pass over or thereby to go over to each other by Sea or by Land. The same Commissaries shall also have Orders to describe and settle in like manner the Boundaries between the other British and French Colonies in those Parts.”
    In 1719, Commissaries were appointed by both Crowns in order to settle and adjust the several Points in Dispute relative to America, which were referred to Commissaries by the foregoing Article, and by the Instructions given to His Majesty's Commissaries they were directed to endeavour to get the Limits and Boundaries between Hudson's Bay and the Places appertaining to the French settled in the following manner, vizt :—“That the same begin from the Island called Grimmington's Island or Cape Perdrix in the Latitude of 58 ½ North, which the Company desire may be the Boundary between the British and French Subjects on the Coast of Labrador towards Rupert's Land on the East main and Nova Brittania on the French side, and that no French Ship, Barque, Boat or Vessel whatsoever shall pass to the North-westward of Cape Perdrix or Grimmington's Streights or Bay of Hudson on any Pretence whatsoever, and further that the southwestward of the Island of Grimmington or Cape Perdrix (so as to include the same within the Limits of the Bay) to the great Lake Miscosinke, alias Mistrovenny, dividing the Lake into two parts, and that where the said Line shall cut the 49th degree of Northern Latitude another Line shall begin and be extended westward from the said Lake upon the 49th degree of Northern Latitude over which said Line so to be described as above mentioned. The French and all persons by them employed shall be prohibited to pass to the Northward of the said 49th Degree of Latitude and to the North or Northwestward of the said lake or supposed line by Land or Water, on or through any Rivers, Lakes, or Countries, to trade or erect any Forts or Settlements, and the British

p. 890

Subjects shall like be forbid to pass the supposed Line either to the Southward or Eastward. But they were to take especial care in wording such Articles as should be agreed on with the Commissary or Commissaries of His Most Christian Majesty upon this head, that the said Boundaries be understood to regard the Trade of the Hudson's Bay Company only, that His Majesty did not thereby recede from his Right to any Lands in America not comprized within the said Boundaries and that no Pretension be thereby given to the French to claim any Tracts of Land in America Southward or Southwest of the said Boundaries.”
    Memorial agreeable to the foregoing Instruction was accordingly presented by the British Commissaries, but it does not appear that anything was done in consequence of it.
    From the foregoing state it will appear to your Excellencies, that the Right to the Eastern Parts of Terra Labrador where the Petitioners propose to make a Settlement, had never been an object of particular Dispute or Discussion, with any other Prince or State, the Disputes with the Crown of France in the years 1687, 1699, and 1719 being solely confined to Hudson's Bay and the Territory dependent thereon, but it does appear however that many of the arguments urged and the Proofs offered on both sides in these Disputes, do from the nature of them imply more extensive claims, and tend to affect the Right to the whole of that part of North America, and it does not appear that these disputes have at any time been finally adjusted or a Boundary Line fixed between his Majesty's Dominions and those of His Most Christian Majesty in these Parts.
    As to that part of the Question which has a relation to any claims of Right to this Country by any of His Majesty's Subjects, we must beg leave humbly to represent.
    That the only Persons which appeared to us to have any Interest or concern therein are the Hudson's Bay Company. We therefore thought it proper to call upon them to inform us whether they claimed any or what Right to the Tract of Land desired by the Petitioners. In consequence of which we have received from them a Memorial, a copy whereof is hereunto annexed, and to which we beg leave humble to refer.
    Upon Consideration of this Memorial it appears to us, that the Hudson's Bay Company seem to admit that the Eastern part of this Country cannot be construed to be within the limits of their Charter, and their chief objection to this Undertaking seems to arise from an apprehension that it may in its Consequences interfere with and prejudice their Trade.
    As to the Advantages or Disadvantages attending the Proposals of the Merchants considered in a commercial light, we are humbly of opinion that the Discovery and opening of any new Sources of Trade and Commerce to this Country will be of great National Advantage, more especially in the present case from the Nature and Design of the Trade itself, the chief Object of which is to increase the Importation of Beaver and other Furs, the scarcity whereof has been severely felt in a very important though declining manufacture, which We have Hopes may by the opening of a new

p. 891

Channel of Trade be revived, and those Advantages which other Nations have got over us in this Trade be recovered; and we have that Confidence in the known Characters and Abilities of the Gentlemen concerned in this Undertaking that we doubt not but they will attempt the Execution of it with Zeal and judgment.
    With respect to the Terms of the Proposal, it appears upon the face of the Petition that the Petitioners desire a Grant of the Lands in Perpetuity, and upon observing that in that part of the Petition which proposes that the Trade shall be laid open at the End of Sixty three years, a Reservation is made to the Petitioners of the sole exclusive Propriety in all the Bays, Inlets, Lakes, Rivers, Island, Ports and Places included within the Limits set forth in their Petition. We expressed our Opinion to the Petitioners that such an exclusive Propriety would be inconsistent with the open Trade designed and might be made in effect the very Monopoly intended to be guarded against, upon which the Petitioners made the strongest Professions of their willingness to have any provisions inserted in their Grant which may be thought necessary for the security of a full Trade at the Expiration of their Term, and therefore care must be taken in preparing the said Grant, in case your Excellencies shall think it advisable to give one, that the said Bays, Inlets, Rivers, &c. be given in such a manner and under such Regulations as they cannot be made use of to the Prejudice of a free Trade in Exclusion of His Majesty's Subjects after the expiration of the Term for which the Petitioners desire an exclusive Trade.
    As to any other Regulations, as well with respect to Cultivation as all other necessary Restrictions, they will become objects of further consideration in case your Excellencies shall think it advisable to comply with the Prayer of the Petitioners.
    Upon the whole We cannot but be of Opinion that this Proposal is the most reasonable and least interested of any usually made in cases of this kind, for altho' the Petitioners do desire an exclusive Trade for Sixty Three years, yet some such Encouragement is absolutely necessary, not only as a Recompense for the great Expence and Risque which must attend such an Undertaking in its Infancy, but also in consideration of the great Delay of the Returns upon this Trade arising from the nature of the Trade itself and the Difficulty's attending an Establishment of it in a savage, inhospitable Country, where everything must be begun from the very foundation; and We are and be rather of this opinion as the Petitioners profess themselves ready to submit to any Terms or Conditions which shall be thought proper to be inserted in the Grant obliging them to cultivate the Land, to build necessary Forts and to promote and establish a civil Correspondence and Amity with the Natives, the Benefit of all which Labour, Expence and Improvement will devolve to the Publick at the Expiration of this exclusive Trade, and His Majesty's Subjects will accede to an established Trade with many additional advantages.
    We cannot conclude this Representation without observing to your Excellencies that the Petitioners have not assigned any Western Limit to the

p. 892

territory of which they desire a Grant, and therefore as the Hudson's Bay Company do by virtue of their Charter, claim the Coasts, and Confines of the Bay, it will be necessary, if any Grant should be made agreeable to the Prayer of the Petition, that such Grant should have a Western Limit appointed, which will not break in upon the Charter and Property of that Company.
    All of which is most humbly submitted.

DUNK HALIFAX,                
ANDREW STONE,               
JAMES OSWALD.               
   July 23rd, 1752.



Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home