The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume VII

1 Lafontaine to
23 October, 1763.

2 Murray to Halifax,
24 April, 1764.

1 Deed executed
before Panet, at
13 August, 1761.

2 Proclamation by
Hugh Palliser
8 April, 1765.

3 Declaration
executed before
Saillant, at Quebec,
2 November, 1765.

1 Declaration
executed before
Saillant, at Quebec,
4 October, 1766.

2 Cugnet and Taché
to Carleton,
10 October, 1766.

3 Declaration
before Saillant, at
5 November, 1766.

4 Recapitulation
of proofs concerning
the seigniory; by
Attorney General
17 December, 1766.

1 Carleton to Lords of Trade,
17 January, 1767.

2 Heirs Bissot and
Jolliet to Shelburne,
24 February, 1767.

3 Petition by Cugnet,
at Quebec,
12 November, 1767.

1 Carleton to
24 November, 1767.

2 Petition by Taché,
at Quebec,
12 November, 1767.

3 Opinion of De
Grey and Willes,
5 January, 1768.

p. 3149

(2) That it extended eastward to the “Bale des Espagnols, appelée aujord'huy la Baye Phillippeaux ou la Brador”.
(3) That the concession had been developed by Jolliet and Lalande and their heirs.
(4) That no question respecting their ownership of the islands had arisen until Pommereau, in 1739, obtained a grant of Gros-Mecatina concession. That, owing to their ignorance that the islands opposite Gros-Mecatina were included in Isles de Mingan seigniory, Beauharnois and Hocquart included said islands in the Pommereau grant.
(5) That, in ordinances of later date, fixing the rent payable to the seigniors of the Isles et Islets de Mingan, Hocquart had acknowledged the heirs Jolliet and Lalande to be the proprietors of said islands and had ordered the concessionnaires of the mainland to pay rental for the islands opposite their concessions.
(6) That, since 1743, the widow Pommereau and her successors in title to Gros-Mecatina, had paid three per cent per annum as rental for the islands opposite Gros-Mecatina.
(7) That, as John Gray had acquired Gros-Mecatina, he was unquestionably subject to the payment of said rental.
(8) That Lafontaine, as donee of the Sieur Lalande and of an heiress of Jolliet, had established fisheries thirty years earlier (1733) on such islands as seemed to him suitable.

Ile d' Anticosti Seigniory.

Lafontaine, in 1763, stated that:1

(1) Anticosti island was granted to Jolliet in 1680.
(2) That Lafontaine held an interest as donee of an heiress of Jolliet.
(3) That this year (1763) General Murray had refused him a permit to send a vessel to Anticosti to make timber and take seals.

Respecting the various charges made by Lafontaine, Murray says that:2

(1) As to the charge that he hindered the heirs Bissot and Jolliet operating Mingan in 1761, that he does not remember any application of this nature, and that the few heirs present in Quebec would have been unable to finance it and that he would have refused such permission as the situation of the British was such that they could allow no one to “frequent those parts but such as we could confide in.”

p. 3150

(2) Respecting the charge that he forced Lafontaine and Taché to give a lease of Mingan to Isbister, Murray states that he understood that Lafontaine “was well pleased with the bargain;” that he had proposed it himself and that it was a most advantageous bargain for the lessors.
(3) Respecting the charge that he deprived Lafontaine of Gros-Mecatina, Murray says that, as he was assured that the grant of Gros–Mecatina to Hocquart was illegal, in 1761, he gave it to Lafontaine for one year only, and then only “out of pure Charity”; that he would have renewed the grant had he not found that Lafontaine was assisting “Privateers and Pirates”; that, consequently it “became expedient to take” Gros–Mecatina from him and give it to “Gray, in whom I could confide”; that Gray's partner, Wm. Grant, held Lafontaine's receipt for the three per cent rental and that the payment thereof had been ordered by Murray.

Terre Ferme de Mingan, Isles Et Islets de Mingan and Ile d'Anticosti Seigniories.

1761, Lafontaine de Belcour and Jean Taché, as part-owners of Terre Ferme de Mingan and also acting for their co-proprietors, leased Mingan for nine years (1761 to 1770) to Joseph Isbister.1
1765, Hugh Palliser, Governor of Newfoundland, issued a proclamation stating that the “property of all the Land on the said Coast of Labradore and the Islands of Anticosty and Madaline, is in the Crown, and since the Conquest thereof no part of it has been lawfully given or granted away; and no Power being vested in me, to give or grant any exclusive Possession or Privilege to any Persons whatever. . . . In order to invite Adventurers into that extensive field for Fishery and Trade—I hereby Order and direct, That the whole shall be publick and free to all the King's British Subjects in Preference to all others.”2
1765, Cugnet, as having married Marie-Josephe Bissot de la Fontaine, Guillaume Guillemin, as guardian of the heirs of Charlotte Bissot, in her lifetime wife of Jacques Bellecourt de la Fontaine, and other co-proprietors of the Terre Ferme de Mingan, Isles de Mingan and Anticosti appeared before notary Saillant, with ten “Bourgeois et anciens notables” of Quebec. These persons signed a notarial declaration that the heirs Bissot, Jolliet and Anticosti were owners of and had, for time immemorial, enjoyed peaceable and continuous possession of “la terre forme du Poste de Minguan,” and of the “Isles et Islets appellés Minguan et de l'Isle d'anticosty and that they had always kept “feu et lieu” in said posts.2
1766, Cugnet and Tache, acting on their own behalf and as representatives of other proprietors of the “Poste, fief et seigneurie de la terre ferme de Mingand,” with twelve “anciens Bourgeois et notables” of Quebec signed

p. 3151

a notarial declaration that “les heritiers Joliet Mingand sont réellement proprietaire de la dite terre ferme appellée communément la seigneurie et poste de Mingand;” that they had enjoyed peaceable possession from time immemorial; that they had always kept “feu et lieu” and had fished, hunted and traded with the Indians in virtue of the deeds of concession which Cugnet and Taché declared to have been destroyed by fire in 1713.1

1766, Cugnet and Taché petitioned in their own names and on behalf of their respective wives, and of 26 of their co-heirs, that they be confirmed in the possession of the “Terre Ferme de Mingan, de l'Isle d'Anticosty et des Isles et Islets de Mingan.” They complained that, although they had had peaceable possession of these seigniories for 104 years, the Government of Newfoundland had, by “Placards et des Menaces continuelles,” disturbed them in their possession; that said Government had compelled their lessee to take refuge within the limits of the province of Quebec, and that such actions destroyed the value of their seigniories and fisheries.2

1766, in November, Cugnet, with fourteen “anciens Bourgeois et Notables” of Quebec, declared that the heirs Jolliet were undoubtedly proprietors of Anticosti seigniory.3

1766, at the request of Cugnet and Taché, Francois Maseres, Attorney General of Quebec, recapitulated the evidence they had adduced. Maseres stated that:4
(1) The Act of Notoriety by “the twelve antient Burgesses of Quebec” proves that the heirs Bissot and Jolliet had enjoyed “the post or settlement, called Mingan,” for an immemorial length of time but that this did not prove that it extended eastward beyond the “Ourammane”(Olomanoshibo) river.
(2) That, as the Isles et Islets de Mingan seigniory extended to Bradore bay, it afforded a presumption that the Terre Ferme de Mingan extended eastward to the same point.
(3) The ordinance of 1743 ordering the widow Pommereau to pay three per cent rental to the heirs of Jolliet and Lalande proves that the Terre Ferme extends at least as far as the eastern boundary of Gros-Mecatina.
(4) The grant of St. Modet to Taché in lieu of Gros-Mecatina is an acknowledgement of Taché's claim to Gros-Mecatina, that is, of the claim of the heirs Bissot and Jolliet,” in whose name and by whose consent, Taché desired to be put in possession of it.
(5) That proofs (3) and (4) concerning Gros-Mecatina “relate equally to both the Seigniories of Mingan, that of the Mainland and that of the Isles and Islets.”
(6) “Cape Cormorant is now, and has been for these thirty years, the Western Boundary” of the Terre Ferme and Islets de Mingan seigniories.
p. 3152

1767, Carleton transmitted the petition of Cugnet and Taché and the Opinion of Maseres. He points out that “the Canadians of all Men seem to be best calculated for carrying on the Winter Seal Fishery,” the season extending from the middle to the end of December, a season when the inclemency of the weather necessitates permanent establishments to house and protect the fishermen; that the winter fishery would not interfere with the cod fishery or the taking of whales; he feared that debarring them from it will result in “a total Loss of that valuable Branch of Commerce to the Mother Country;” that, owing to the custom of the country, the grants were “divided every Descent, so that what at first was solely held by two or three Grantees, is now parcelled out among thirty families all British subjects resident in the province of Quebec.1
Carleton also transmitted a petition of some of the principal merchants of Quebec relative to these fisheries, “which are considered here as a Matter of most important concern to this Province.”

1767, the heirs Bissot and Jolliet, claiming to be Seigneurs of Terre Ferme de Mingan, Isles et Islets de Mingan and Anticosti “depuis plus d'un siecle,” and Jean Taché, owner of St. Modet concession, petitioned the King that they be maintained in possession of their respective properties. They stated that the Proclamation of 1763 placed the greater portion of their seigniories under the Government of Newfoundland; that, in 1765, the vessels sent with supplies for their posts were ordered back to Quebec by a frigate, although said vessels were provided with passports; that the lessee of Mingan seigniory had been forced to take refuge in the province of Quebec to the considerable prejudice of said heirs; that over 500 French-Canadians had thus been deprived of their usual occupation and that considerable loss had been sustained by the people of Quebec province through the loss of their fisheries. They petitioned for peaceable enjoyment.2

1767, Cugnet and Taché, as attorneys for the owners of Terre Ferme de Mingan, Isle de Mingan and Anticosti, state that Jean Lymburner, who had leased part of these seigniories—though he had not paid any rent for three years—had seized two posts not included in his lease on the ground that his vessel, coming from London, had arrived first.3

1767, Carleton transmitted to Shelburne the petitions of Cugnet and Taché. He states that they consider it a particular hardship that “a British merchant of this Place, availing himself of the present Regulations, merely by the Arrival of his Vessell from Europe first upon that coast should reap all the advantages of the Winter Fishery, at the same time that, in order to be enabled so to do, he is under a necessity to hire Canadians, employ Craft, and send down Provisions from hence.
“They consider, that whether these Winter Fisheries are carried on by the Grantees, their Lessees or ships arriving from Europe, the Equipments are British and the Returns sent to Britain. It is therefore not a little grating to the Canadian Grantees, to be debarred from what their Ancestors

p. 3153

uninterruptedly possessed from Generation to Generation for near one hundred years past, while Britain can reap no greater advantage therefrom, than if they continued in peaceable Possession of the same . . . If matters remain upon the present Footing, several decent Families of this Province will be . . . reduced to the Greatest Poverty and Distress.”1

1767, Taché states that John Ord, the lessee of Taché's concession of St. Modet, had seized this post in collusion with the officers of the government of Newfoundland (“s'est approprié le dit Poste de Saint-Modet, d'intelligence avec les Officiers du Gouvernement de Terre Neuve”) who, under a pretence of maintaining order, were ruining him.2
Taché requests that he be maintained in peaceable possession of St. Modet and that other former subjects of France who held concessions on the “cote du Nord” be also protected.

1768, Attorney General De Grey and Solicitor General Willes rendered an Opinion to the Lords of Trade respecting the claims of the seigniors of Terre Ferme de Mingan, Isles et Islets de Mingan and Anticosti.3
They criticise Maseres' statements as appearing to be “a plea in favour of the requests of Messrs. Cugnet and Taché, on their behalf,” and not a report that “he has made in his capacity as Advocate General.” They conclude that the evidence adduced does not constitute a clear title.
Respecting the Terre Ferme de Mingan, they state that, if the original title was burned in 1662, and the registers and archives were burned in 1713, the claimants should obtain a copy from the Chambre des Comptes, in Paris, and that the limits of the seigniory would appear to be from the river St. John to the L'ouramand (Olomanoshibo).
Respecting the Isles de Mingan, they say that the only title fyled is a copy of the declaration registered at Quebec in 1738.
Respecting Anticosti, they say that the evidence consists of an “old parchment, which is supposed to be a copy of the register of Quebec, signed by the chief clerk of the Superior Council, 60 years ago,” but that it does not appear that the grant was ratified by the King and they enquire: “Why has not the investigation been made at Paris, so as to ascertain the title thereof and the confirmation?”
Taché died in April, 1768, and there is a note attached to the Opinion to the effect that, therefore, the question of the ownership of Saint-Modet is no longer in question.
The seigniors replied that they had had peaceable possession of the Terre Ferme de Mingan for more than a century, whereas 40 years' possession was sufficient to give them a title; that possession could readily be verified by the registers of passports of the Admiralty, granted, in remote times, to Bissot and Mingan for their seigniories, also several arrets of the Conseil Superieur, sentences of the Prevoté, etc.
As to the Isles de Mingan, they stated that the title had recently been found duly registered in the register of the Insinuations du Conseil Superieur.


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