The properties or rights would appear to be three in number, viz :
1st. The Seigniory of the Isles and Islets of Mingan.
2nd. The fishing and other rights along the Coast, in front of and extending beyond the Northeasterly limits of the Seigniory.
3rd. The property at Esquimaux Bay on the Labrador Coast.
1.The Seigniory of the Isles and Islets of Mingan.
This was originally conceded on the tenth of March, 1679, by the Intendant representing the Crown of France to two persons named Jacques De la Lande and Louis Jolliet, and the grant is in the following terms :
“ The said Isles and Islands of Mingan, which are on the North shore, and which continue as far as the Bay called L'Ance aux Espagnols, to enjoy by themselves their heirs and assigns for the future, en titre di fief, Seignieurie Haute Moyenne et Basse Justice, with the charge of faith and homage which they, the said Sieurs De la Lande and Jolliet, their said heirs and assigns shall be obliged to render at the Castle of St. Lewis at Quebec, which they shall perform according to the rights and services customary and in accordance with the Coutume de la prevote et vicomte de Paris, which shall be followed in this respect until otherwise ordained by His Majesty. ”
We have traced the intermediate titles from this grant down to the Hudson's Bay Company, who acquired it on the eighth of February, 1836, from the heirs of the late John Richardson and others by deed executed on that day before Griffin, Notary Public at Montreal. This title is acknowledged by the Crown, and is enregistered in Newfoundland, and we think no reasonable doubt can be thrown on the validity of the Company's rights to the property. The only difficulty which arises is as regards the Boundaries & extent. It will be observed that there is no point of departure at the Westerly limit, but we think the grant includes all the islands in front of the Seigniory of the same name on the Mainland. The Westerly boundary of which begins at the Eastern limits of the King's Posts or Cape Cormorant. The Eastern boundary of the Seigniory is by no means so clear. According to the maps and reports of Mr. Bouchette the Surveyor General the Easterly limit is at Natasliquin1 harbour in the Longitude while the Proprietors claim that it extends to Salmon Bay on Esquimaux River now Anse a Blanc Sablon, near longitude
The description by which the Company acquired it is :
“ The whole and entire Fief and Seigniory of the Isles et Islets of Mingan, situated and being on the Coast of Labrador in the said district of Quebec and Province aforesaid, the said Fief and Seigniory consisting of the Isles and Islets which belong on the North shore, follow in continuation to the Bay called “ L'Anse aux Espagnols ” in such
manner as the said Seigniory with its rights is more amply conceded and designated by the title of Concession granted to Jacques De la Lande and Louis Jolliet, of date the tenth day of March in the year 1679, with the rights, honors and prerogatives annexed to the said Isles et Islets hereby sold without reserve, subject to the exploitations of the fisheries agreeably to the ancient regulations and usages of the Province and as the same are now held and possessed by the said vendors.”
2nd. Fishing posts or establishments, and the rights of fishing or Royalty on Fishing Rights on the Coast of Labrador.
The original claim in respect of these rights or properties would seem to have arisen from the mere possession of William Grant and Charles William Grant, anterior to 1808—at least we can find no deed or trace of writing conferring on them any of the rights which are hereinafter recited. Having been taken in execution as belonging to the two Grants, they were sold on the thirtieth of April, 1808, by Sheriff's sale, to John Richardson, Patrick Langan, and others, and in the Indenture executed by the Sheriff they are described as follows :—
“ All such Right, estate, title interest, property, claim and demand whatsoever, as the said William Grant and the said Charles William Grant or either of them had or have or ought to have in and to all the Fishing posts and Establishments on the Coast of Labrador, District of Quebec, Province of Lower Canada, occupied and possessed by the said William Grant and Charles William Grant for the purpose of carrying on Sedentary Seal and Salmon fisheries and other exploitations extending along the said coast at and from the River and Post of Itamamionx inclusive, down to the Post and Bay of L'Anse St. Clair and dependencies inclusive in the straits of Belleisle, particularly all such right, estate, title, interest, property, claim and demand whatsoever, as the said William Grant and Charles William Grant or either of them had or have or ought to have in and to the posts of Little Mecatina, Great Mecatina with large Island Kecapoui, St. Augustin, and Chicataca with all their dependencies, which are sedentary Seal fisheries, and which together with their Sedentary Salmon Fishing Posts of Lake Sally and Big Island, adjoining the River St. Augustin all situated within the Bounds of the Seigniory of the Isles and Islands of Mingan. Also in and to the Sedentary Salmon Fishing Posts of Itamamioux and St. Augustin on the respective Rivers so called with all their dependencies which are situated on the Main Land. Also and lastly in and at the following posts situated at or near the Straits of Belleisle, that is to say the Establishment of Posts of Brador or Labrador with Bay and harbour of that name, and Islands in such manner and with all the rights as now held by said William Grant and Charles William Grant or as have been held heretofore by those from whom they derive, with the Seal fishing carried on there and all its dependencies likewise the
sedentary seal Fishing Posts at L'Anse aux Dunes Blanc Sablons and L'Anse St. Clair, with all their several dependencies. All which sedentary Seal and Salmon Fishing Posts are now held and have been held for a long series of years by past uninterruptedly by constant and exclusive right of possession and occupancy by the said William Grant and Charles William Grant and their predecessors in the fisheries as well of the particular posts as of a space of sundry leagues around each post requisite for their due exploitation, agreeable to the ancient regulations and usages of the Province, free of all rents and burthens, saving a rent of three per cent due to the Seigniors of the Seigniory of the Isles and Islands of Mongan on the gross produce of the Seal Fisheries situated within the bounds of that Seigniory. And further all such Right, estate, title, interest, property, claim and demand whatsoever of the said William Grant and Charles William Grant or either of them had or have or ought to have in and to all other posts and places not enumerated within the aforesaid limits on the said coast, where the said William Grant and Charles William Grant may have possession or effect as well as in and to all the Houses, stores and buildings erected on and at all and each of the aforesaid Posts and Places with all the fixtures, utensils, effects and implements thereunto appertaining.”
We can find no conveyances from the purchaser under this deed to the Hudson's Bay Company, but we are informed that they may be in the possession of the Company in England. We cannot however trace to any better foundation than the interests which the several partners seem to have as between themselves, assumed they possessed the various rights in or incidental to the different properties described in the Sheriff's Sale. And under these Circumstances we do not think the Hudson's Bay Company could validly enforce them.
3. The third property would appear to be at Esquimaux Bay or as it is more properly known—Hamilton Inlet or Ivoctoke, on the Easterly coast of Labrador. We have traced the titles bearing on this as far back as 1823 to one Jacob Pozer. We can find no valid conveyance to him nor are we inclined to think that his rights rested on any better foundation than that of many years possession. On the 9th September, 1823, Pozer's representative (one Claude Duchesneau) sells to one Flavien Dufresne. The seller declares that he owned the property in virtue of Titles (without specifying them as is customary), and by actual possession and enjoyment during fifty years and upwards. On the 28th of March, 1828, Dufresne sells to J. O. Brunet—and on the 3rd of February 1829 Brunet sells to Mr. W. Lampson. The Property is thus described :—
“ All the estate, right, title, interest, property, possession, rights of possession, enjoyment, jouissance, benefit, claim and demand, and all other rights of what kind or description soever at Law and in Equity which he the said David Ramsay Stewart now hath, can, or ought to
have or claim in and to all the large tract of land and premises, fisheries with fishing, and hunting establishments situate lying and being in the Bay commonly called La Baie Des Esquimaux, Esquimaux Bay, together with the stock in trade, implements, commodities, appurtenances and premises thereunto belonging consisting of fishing and hunting establishments, houses, buildings, stores, hangards, boats, chaloupes, nets and other fishing apparatus, furniture and hunting materials and articles belonging or in any wise appertaining ; with all the estate, right, title, interest, property, claim, and demand whatsoever of him the said David Ramsay Stewart, of, in and unto the said premises or any part thereof, as heretofore possessed and enjoyed by William Lampson of Quebec, merchant, under the title derived by him from Jean Olivier Brunet, by deed bearing date the third day of February one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine and as subsequently enjoyed by Nathaniel Jones of the City of Montreal in the district of Montreal in the said Province Esquire under and by virtue of a certain transfer and assignment from the said William Lampson to the said Nathaniel Jones at Quebec aforesaid, bearing date the seventh day of January one thousand eight hundred and thirty two and as now enjoyed by the said David Ramsay Stewart in virtue of a transfer or assignment from him the said Nathaniel Jones to him the said David Ramsay Stewart bearing date at Quebec aforesaid the fourth day of February one thousand eight hundred and thirty five and all the goods, property, effects, produce, provisions, merchandise, firs, skins, peltries, fish-oil, household furniture, Indians' debts, planters' debts, returns, claims and demands stock of goods, utensils and implements, whatsoever, due, owing, or in any wise belong or appertaining to the said David Ramsay Stewart at or on the Shores of the Indian Country on the said Esquimaux Bay, or in any part of the Country, situate lying and being to the Northward of Mingan Seigniory, likewise any prescriptive right of trade he may have or claim, either by purchase, enjoyment, possession, or occupation by himself, his agents, clerks or servants.”
We have caused diligent examination to be made in the Public Archives, and have exhausted all the other information accessible to us, but can find no trace of any direct grants from the Crown of France or England of these two properties (nos. 1 & 2) or of the rights purporting to be conveyed other than that of the Isles and Islands of Mingan under date of the tenth of March 1679.
Though recited in the various deeds to which we have referred we fear the rights rest on no legal foundation and that the various conveyances were only operative to settle the interests of the different copartners or adventures among themselves.
Your Obt. Serts.
THOS. W. RITCHIE.