in ye Gulph (that is Richmond Gulf) he is persuaded it will turn out to great advantage.” *
The relations between the Governments, first of France, afterwards of Great Britain, with the Labrador Indians, in matters concerning trade have now to be considered. In 1653 during the period when Canada was under the government of the Company of New France (or the Company of One Hundred Associates), the Government took into its own exclusive possession an extensive tract of land, which became known as the King's Domain. This domain was described by Hocquart the Intendant in his memorandum of 1733 as follows1 :—“ On the north shore of the St. Lawrence from Isle aux Coudres to a point two leagues below Seven Islands, within which limits were comprised the posts of Tadoussac, Malbaie, Bondesir, Papinachois, Islets-de-Jeremie and Pointe-des-Betsiamites, Chekoutimi, Lac Saint Jean, Nekoubau, Chomonthouane, Mistassins, and beyond the Mistassins as far as Hudson's Bay and in the lower river the domain will be limited by our said ordinance of the 12th of the present month by Cape Cormorant up to the height of land in which territory will be comprised the Moisie river, the Lac des Kichestigaux, the Lac des Naskapis and other lakes and rivers, which empty therein.” Within these limits, the persons having the authority of the King to carry on trading operations, had the exclusive right to such trade.
This King's Domain with the exclusive right to trade within its borders subsisted throughout the French regime, and was carried into the English period until 1860.2
It is to be regretted that no document has so far been discovered, in which is set forth the purpose of the King in thus withholding this territory from public use. But if obvious consequences of a policy can be taken as an indication of its purpose, then the purpose is fairly clear. To begin with, the solicitude of the Government that no intoxicating liquors should be sold or given to Indians is well known. It was difficult to make the laws preventing the sale of intoxicating liquors effective even in the settled communities. But what was difficult in these communities would have been impossible in those wild, inaccessible regions. In no way could this be in any measure effected except by limiting the intercourse of the Indians to persons in whom the Government had confidence, and whose self-interest would restrain them from debauching the people on whose wellbeing their own prosperity depended. Then it provided the Indians of the Labrador with the only substitute for the reputable merchant to be found in Quebec, Montreal or Trois Rivières, to whom the more westerly Indians disposed of their furs. Again, the scheme provided the means by which the Indians could be furnished with the necessities of life, while carrying on their hunting, and be taken care of when ill. This provision was not confined to Indians
* Cartwright in 1774 observed that Nascopies were found at Sandwich Bay, that they spoke broken French, and had traded with the Canadians many years. (Letter to Lord Dartmouth, Sept. 12, 1774.)
residing in the King's Domain but was extended to Indians from all parts of the Peninsula, who resorted thereto, for the sale of their furs.*
That the Government was not unmindful of its duties towards those distant peoples is shown by the ordinance of 1733, appointing Lafontaine de Belcourt as a special officer to prevent the importation of intoxicating liquors into Mingan, which was beyond the King's Domain, from Louisburg and Quebec.1 As regards maintenance while engaged in the chase, it was the practice for the holder of the King's Posts to give the Indians such supplies as were necessary for them and their families on credit, to be paid for when the Indians brought in their furs in the early summer.
The King's Posts were leased to individuals from 1653 until 1733, and while it is true that among the lessees there were some so avaricious and short-sighted as to disregard the welfare of the Indians in their own pursuit of wealth, there were others who accepted the obligations, while seeking the advantages of their position. In the Jesuit Relation of 1667-8, the thanks of the Church are proferred to “ the Gentlemen of the Company of the West Indies (the Company to which the country was for the time conceded) for the obligation it is under to them for having entrusted the commerce of those regions to persons so faithful to God and man.”
But on the whole the leasing system did not work well. Hocquart in his memorandum, points out certain weaknesses inherent in the leasing system, and recommended that the management of the posts be taken directly into the hands of the Government. He pointed out that the primary objects to be kept in view—the preservation of the Indians, and of the fur bearing animals—could never be attained while the posts were left in the hands of private merchants. The temptation to neglect the welfare of the Indians, and ruthlessly to destroy the moose and the beaver would be too great with men absorbed in their profit and loss accounts. A serious disadvantage under which the lessee suffered was the competition of interlopers, who had no scruples about using the strongest allurement to which the Indians were susceptible—brandy. In the King's Posts, the regulations permitted the distribution of intoxicating liquors once a year ; and liquor was not allowed on these occasions until trade with the Indians was completed.
The Government took over the conduct of the business of the posts in 1733, placing M. Cugnet in charge. Three years later, the posts were leased to Cugnet, but under restrictions that safeguarded the essential interests to be conserved.
When Montreal was surrendered to the British arms on September 8, 1760, the Articles of Capitulation which included the whole of Canada or New France, make express provision for “ the savages or Indian allies of his most Christian Majesty.” Article 40 stipulates that they “ shall be maintained in the Lands they inhabit, if they choose to remain there; they shall
* Article 5 (of the Agreement for the lease of the Kings' Posts of June 21, 1786, reads :—“ And whereas the said lessees in possession have also stated that there remains due to themselves sums of money or quantities of skins and pelleteries by the Indians residing in or resorting to the said posts and domain for goods and merchandise sold and furnished to the said Indians,” &c.
not be molested on any pretence whatsoever, for having carried arms, and having served His most Christian Majesty ; they shall have, as well as the French, liberty of religion and shall keep their missionaries.”1
Mindful of the Indians, who were in a peculiar sense the objects of the care of the French King, Governor Murray applied himself to making provision for those who were dependent upon the King's Posts. He first took the management of these posts into his own hands, employing agents to carry on their affairs for the King's use.2
In 1762, however, he reverted to the French system, and granted a lease to Messrs. Dunn and Gray, two Quebec merchants, the conditions as to Governors exclusive rights being the same as those in the French leases.
That his action in this case was dictated solely by consideration for the welfare of the Indians is shown by the terms of his communication to General Amherst, Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in North America, under whose orders Murray was performing his duties at this time.
In his report, made in 1767, on “ The State of the King's Posts in Canada,” Murray says:—
“ After the reduction of Canada in 1760, the Indians of the Domain deputed their chief and missionary to address General Murray in their favor, and represent to him that they might be taken under the protection of His Britannic Majesty, and supplied and maintained in the same manner they had been in the time of the French.”
The Proclamation of October 1763 had not then informed Murray of the King's intention that “the trade with the said Indians shall be free and open to all our subjects whatever, provided that every person who may incline to trade with the said Indians do take out a licence for carrying on such trade from the Governor or Commander in Chief of any of our Colonies respectively
where such person shall reside.” 3
The lease which was given in 1762, was for one year certain, and thereafter for fourteen years, if the King did not disapprove.4
The question whether the Indians of the Labrador should not be withheld from the application of the order respecting freedom of trade with Indians in general was considered by the British Government. At the expiration of the first year of the lease held by Dunn and Gray, these gentlemen presented a memorial to the Lords of the Treasury, setting forth the peculiar conditions existing among the Labrador Indians, and their own reasons for asking for a continuation of the lease of the King's Posts. The statement could not be bettered as a description of conditions among, and a justification for the special treatment of, the Labrador Indians.5 It follows :—“ Your Memorialists being Residenters in Canada, have for some time farmed the Posts of the King's Domain, situated on the north side of the River St. Lawrence, commonly known by the names of Tadoussac, Chicoutimy, Jeremies and Seven Islands which are places of Rendezvous for some Tribes of Indians inhabiting the northern parts of lower Canada, whither they resort to trade for European Commodities and provisions ; for which Your Memorialists pay at the rate of four hundred Pounds p annum, being the
highest offer. The Country these Indians inhabit being altogether incapable of Cultivation, and the hunting Season lasting but for about Six months in the year, they are reduced to an entire dependance for support, the rest of the time, upon the supplys brought them by the Traders.”
“ They are naturally a very inconsiderate people, and were they indulged with Spirituous Liquors and other superfluitys, to which they are unconquerably addicted, they would in a few weeks, consume the whole produce of their years labour, and on the approach of the rigorous winter find themselves naked and exposed to the utmost misery, and wreck their vengeance indiscriminately on the first Europeans or other white people they met with, as the immediate authors of their misfortune. On this Account the Persons farming these Posts, are obliged by the tenor of their Lease to furnish them with necessaries and provisions, in proportion to their real wants and circumstances and as they are often sick or unsuccessful, to give them credit, and support their Familys, until Fortune puts it in their power to pay, and in case of death, to maintain their Widows and Orphans, till they are capable of providing for themselves. But should these Posts be laid open, numbers of people void of principle and who have no Characters to Lose, would crowd in among them, with a view to take advantage of their simplicity, and deprive them of those Resources they are now often obliged to have recourse to, for one half of the year.”
“ The French who more than any other Nation, seem to have study'd the nature and genius of the Indians were sensible of these disadvantages, and therefore established Factors, or obliged the Farmers to do so, at the Posts above mentioned, to supply the Savages abundantly with what their necessitys reasonably Required, Common rates were fixed and agreed upon, for the exchange of every Commoditie, so that the Indian knew the Standard value of whatever he brought to market. The leasees were restricted as to the quantity of Spirits, they were allowed to distribute among them. All others were excluded from a Commerce in these Posts, for the better maintenance of Good order, and Securing their affections, for by this means the Offenders could be immediately detected, in case any injury or injustice were offered to this ignorant, unwary but vindictive people.”
“ The present Governor General Murray sensible of the propriety of this method of managing the Indians, in that quarter of the Country, and in consequence of their own solicitations, as well as to prevent abuses, which might have had dangerous effects, thought proper hitherto, to continue them on the same footing as formerly. He has by this means, conciliated the minds of the Savages to his Government, in so much, that when an universal revolt appears to have been entered into, by all the other Indian nations in North America (they refer here to the uprising known as the Pontiac Rebellion) those immediately under his jurisdiction, have not only remained faithful and peaceable, but when earnestly solicited to join the disaffected Tribes, they firmly declared they had no wish to change their Masters, as they had at no time before, met with better treatment or more Justice, than since the English have been in possession of Canada,”
The apparent conflict between the policy of free trade announced by the Proclamation, and the terms of the lease of the King's Posts produced a temporary vacillation on the part of the British Government. Certain traders appealed to the Government to be supported in the right given under the proclamation, to trade with the Indians on the territories of the King's Posts. The appeal was heard favourably, and during the years 1765, 1766 and 1767, the lessees were subject to the competition of traders operating under general licences.1 The question was not allowed to rest, however, and on a report of the Lords of the Committee for Plantation Affairs, that His Majesty's rights in the King's Posts “ ought to be considered as excluded from the general right of Free Trader, granted by the said Proclamation and ought to be carried on only by Your Majesty's lessees, under your particular licence for that purpose,” an Order in Council was adopted on June 26, 1767, accepting this view, and the buildings which had been erected at the posts were ordered to be demolished, and the goods sent there by merchants not associated with the lessors, returned to them.2 Thereafter, the rights of the lessees of the King's Posts remained unchallenged.
In 1785, as the lease mentioned was about to expire, the lessees presented a memorial for its renewal. Among the pleas set forth were the following: “ That at their sole expense, they have carefully attended to, supported and maintained the aged and infirm, the widows and orphans; the distressed Indians residing on the King's Domain have been relieved and supported by your memorialists, without becoming a burden or expense to the Government.”3 The lessees were not so fortunate as to secure a renewal of their lease, but Governor Hope, in acquainting them of the fact stated that “ the regrets of the Indians, with whom, by virtue of your lease, you have been connected, at losing the good offices they have so long experienced from your friendship and care, are natural, and, I doubt not, perfectly just. These cannot, however, you must be sensible, prove a bar against a new lease to other persons to whom His Majesty has been pleased to order the same to be granted, who, enjoying this mark of the Royal favour, must be bound by every tie to treat favourably the Indians thus entrusted in some measure to their protection, and it shall be my busines to state to them in the strongest terms the force of this obligation.4
On the expiration in 1801 of the contract of 1786, the question of the terms of the contract about to be made was considered by the Executive Council on August 21, 1801. A contingency for which provision was necessary, was the safeguarding of the Indians during the period between the termination of the old contract and the commencement of the operation of the new one. On this point the Council, addressing the Governor, say :
“ With a view of following up Your Excellency's known Intentions to provide effectually for the Necessities Comforts and Tranquility of the Indians resorting to the said Posts after the Expiration of the present Lease when a possible change of Lessees might interrupt their regular yearly Supplies in Provisions and Merchandize in case the necessary facilities for that purpose should be in the Summer 1802 be withheld from the new Lessees.