The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume VIII


French Memoirs relating to Hudson's Bay, 1750-61. Galissonière on French Colonies, 1750.

Memoir April, 1755.

Private Instructions to M. Vaudreuil, 1 April, 1755.

Private Instructions to M. Vaudreuil, 1 April, 1755.

p. 4089

No. 1546.



Having treated of Canada in general, we consider ourselves bound to enter into some details respecting its different parts, and shall commence with those of the north.
Hudson's Bay, which was one of its most lucrative establishments, has on French been ceded to the English by the Treaty of Utrecht, under the denomination or title of restitution. They carry on a profitable trade there, but the excessive cold and the difficulty of subsistence, will never permit them to form establishments there, capable of affording any uneasiness to Canada ; and if the strength of the latter country be augmented, as proposed, it will possibly be in a condition, in the first war, to wrest Hudson's Bay from the English.
The Treaty of Utrecht had provided for the appointment of Commissioners to regulate the boundaries of Hudson's Bay ; but nothing has been done in that matter. The term restitution, which has been used in the Treaty, conveys the idea clearly, that the English can claim only what they have possessed, and as they never had but a few establishments on the sea coast, it is evident that the interior of the country is considered as belonging to France.


(Copy obtained from the Archives of the Marine, Paris.)

The 10th Article of the Treaty of Utrecht has stipulated in favour of England, the restitution of the Bay and Strait of Hudson, with the lands, seas, coasts, rivers and places which appertain to them.
As the English have never occupied more than the lower part and mouth

1 Reprinted from Joint Appendix of Documents, Ontario-Manitoba Boundary Case, (P.C.) pp. 514-516.
2 N.Y. Hist. Col., Vol. X, pp. 224-5.

p. 4090

of the rivers, it is to that portion that the restitution which has been made to them has been limited. There are no indications that the English Commissaries who have been named to receive this restitution, have demanded or required that the French should abandon the upper part of the rivers and the lakes which they have occupied of old, or of those more recently occupied, and whose waters, nevertheless flow into Hudson's Bay.
The French have therefore preserved the settlements which they had there, and which have always been regarded as forming part of Canada. It seems that, among others, they have some actually on the Lake of the Abbitibis, and on that of the Mistassins, the waters of which are shewn on some maps as falling into Hudson's Bay.


By Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht, it had been agreed that Commissioners should be named on both sides, to settle the boundaries between the French and British American colonies.
On occasion of an expedition that the English fitted out in 1718, against the fishing posts which the French had in the Islands of Canso, the two Courts did, in fact, nominate Commissioners to decide the property of these islands. The Commissioners met at Paris. At the very first conference, those of the King of England, who claimed that the Islands of Canso were dependent on Acadia, which was ceded to the English by the Treaty of Utrecht, were convinced, on inspecting the map which they presented them-selves, that those islands were, on the contrary, included in the reserves expressed in the Article of the Treaty of Utrecht containing the cession of Acadia, and that, consequently, France had retained the property thereof. They withdrew, saying they required new instructions from their Court, and did not again make their appearance. Although there had been question on different occasions that since presented themselves, of naming other Commissioners in execution of the Treaty, the English had always eluded it until the last war ; and Sieur de Vaudreuil is better informed than any person how they abused the moderation which had always governed his Majesty's proceedings and views, since he has been a witness of their unceasing usurpations, on the Territory of Canada, during the long peace which followed the Treaty of Utrecht.
His Majesty did flatter himself that he should eventually succeed in placing bounds to their enterprises, and securing tranquillity to his colonies, by a definite fixation of the respective limits.
In consequence of the last Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, whereby that of Utrecht has been renewed Commissioners have been named on both sides,

* N.Y. Hist. Col., Vol. 10, pp, 290-3.

p. 4091

and did meet at Paris, to regulate all the disputes concerning the French and British possessions.
But whatever earnestness and facilities His Majesty had lent to this settlement, the success of the labour of these Commissaries is far from corresponding, up to the present time, to the hopes he had entertained thereof, from the dispositions his Britannic Majesty had caused to be evinced in that regard.
As yet the Commissioners have not entered upon the limits of Canada, further than what regards Acadia.***
They [the English] have not yet explained themselves respecting the extent they propose giving their Hudson Bay boundaries. But it is to be expected that they will wish to stretch them to the centre of the Colony of Canada, in order to enclose it on all sides.
However that be, His Majesty is firmly resolved to maintain his rights and his possessions against pretensions so excessive and so unjust ; and whatever be his love for peace, will not make for its preservation any sacrifices, but those which will accord with the dignity of his Crown, and the protection he owes to his subjects.
Such is the principle on which his Ambassador at the Court of England has orders to labour in a negotiation that has been entered into with that Court, for the termination of all those differences, by a provisional or definitive treaty ; and it is also on that principle that His Majesty wills that Sieur de Vaudreuil do regulate his conduct, in relation to these objects, until the issue of that negotiation, whereof His Majesty will have him informed.
He is, in consequence, to be on his guard against all attempts the English might make against His Majesty's possessions ; carefully to avoid affording them any just cause of complaint ; to act on occasions wherein there may possibly be acts of violence, in such a manner that he might not appear the aggressor ; and to confine himself to the adoption of all possible measures to enable him to repel force by force.
His Majesty's intention is, in fact, that he confine himself to a strict defensive, so long as the English will not make any attack, which is to be regarded as a rupture on their part.
If, to ensure this defensive, he considers it necessary to make the Indians act offensively against the English, he will be at liberty to have recourse to that expedient.
But His Majesty desires that he do not determine on that course, except so far as the conduct of the English will render it indispensable for the safety and tranquillity of his government.
Supposing, in the mean time, that, notwithstanding what ought to be naturally expected from the equitable and pacific dispositions whereof the King of Great Britain does not cease to give assurances hostilities on the part of England should reach the point that they must be regarded as a rupture he should not, in that case, confine himself to a simple defensive, and His Majesty wills that, in such contingency, he makes use of all the powers that have been confided in him, for the operations which will be best adapted to the good of his service and the glory of his arms.

p. 4092

As these operations must depend on circumstances, His Majesty relies on Sieur de Vaudreuil's zeal prudence, and experience for undertaking those that will appear to him the most advantageous and the most honourable. He recommends only to him to observe, in the selection of those that he will think he can undertake, to give the preference to such as will have for object the English posts that can be wholly destroyed—such as that of Choueguen, and even Fort Beaubassin ; or will deserve to be preserved, after he shall have become master of them, either for the purpose of increasing the colony of Canada, as would be the case with Acadia ; or of being used for exchange, according to the circumstances which will possibly occur or happen, whenever there will be question of a peace, and such would be the capture of Hudson's Bay.
But before coming thus to operations of an open war, His Majesty desires that Sieur de Vaudreuil do assure himself that the English will have in fact committed absolute hostilities either against the French settlements or forts of Canada, or against some other colonies, or at sea.
In this category may be regarded the usurpations they will possibly attempt on the unsettled lands of Canada, and on which they have undertaken to set up unfounded pretensions. His Majesty's intention meanwhile is, that so long as they will confine themselves to operations of that sort, Sieur de Vaudreuil do content himself with opposing them, and even employ force for that purpose, only after he has protested and made the summons which time and circumstances will have possibly permitted And in this regard, His Majesty is very glad to enter into a fuller explanation of the pretensions of the English, in order to enable Sieur de Vaudreuil to act more understandingly, on occasions relative thereto.
Independent of the Hudson Bay boundary, of which there has, as yet, been no question with the English, their pretensions, as has been already observed, have for object, to extend the limits of Acadia, on one side as far as the south shore of the River St. Lawrence, and, on the other, as far as the frontiers of New England ; to include in those of Virginia the lands that reach to Lake Erie, and those of the Beautiful River [Ohio], and to penetrate into the Lakes of Canada : so that in this system they would wrest from the French all the posts the latter possess south of the River St. Lawrence; and the colony of Canada would find itself reduced to those they have on the north of that river, and wherein it would be soon crippled, in consequence of the extension the English will not fail to desire to give the Hudson's Bay boundary.

[THE DUC DE CHOISEUL, in 1761, referring to the same boundaries of Hudson's Bay, says “ Nothing was done.”]


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