§ Orders of the Day read, and, on Motion of the CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER, postponed till after the Notices of Motions relative to the Hudson's Bay Company and Bothina.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
rose to move the Resolutions of which he had given notice respecting the territory and privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that at this late period of the Session, he should feel it an unpardonable act on his part if he sought the attention of the House to anything that was not really important; but, as he believed that our interests as an em- 1789 pire were deeply involved in the question which he was about to propound, and as he knew that the Government desired some information as to the opinions of the House, he thought he had sufficient reasons for asking hon. Members to attend to the suggestions which he wished to make. The present state of the North American continent was a matter of great interest to England. That continent, as was well known, was divided among three possessors. The southern and most important portion belonged to the United States of America, which ran up to the northward until they met the dominions of England, which stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific. England possessed the larger part of the continent, and her territory proceeded northward until it reached upon its western frontier the territory belonging to Russia, which formed a small portion in the north-west corner. In former days we planted colonies in that portion of the continent which he had first named. We originally planted thirteen colonies in that country. Those colonies declared their independence, and had since increased to the number of thirty-five or thirty-six independent States. We had created a power there which, if something were not done by England as a counterpoise to the United States of America, would overshadow not only England but the whole earth. He believed that in the northern part of the continent we had the means of establishing the counterpoise which he sought. If England would carry out a systematic plan of colonization upon that portion of the continent which now belonged to her she would enable the world to resist what he believed would otherwise be the predominant power of the Anglo-Saxon race now established in the United States. It was on this ground that he solicited the attention of the House to the few words which he wished to address to them. The English possessed that portion of the American continent which stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific, north of the great lakes. Prince Edward's Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Lower and Upper Canada, were colonies when the English became possessed of the country, and since that time they had not created one new colony there, preferring to leave that portion of the continent, as we found it, in the distribution of the old colonies. In the meantime the Americans had increased from thirteen to thirty-six independent States, and. from 3,000,000 population to 1790 very nearly 30,000,000; while all this time the English had remained idle, and though they had seen the Americans become one of the greatest nations, they, notwithstanding that they had the means, had effected nothing as a counterpoise to the Americans. He wished to see this state of things ended; but he was met by a curious observation. Canada—and with Canada he would alone deal—with a strip of land along the shores of the St. Lawrence, and in the reign of Charles II. certain persons asked and obtained from the Crown powers over certain portions of territory which they called the Hudson's Bay territory. At that time Canada belonged to France, and France was supposed to have dominion to the North Pole; but, with that curious habit which then belonged to all the nations of the earth with respect to wild lands, Charles II. dealt with these wild lands as if they belonged to nobody, and gave the Hudson's Bay Company power with respect to that territory and those wild lands. The Hudson's Bay Company applied to Charles II., in 1670, for a charter, and in the very words of the request the King granted their desire "to have the sole trade and commerce of all those rivers, creeks, straits, and sounds lying within the straits called Hudson's Straits, that are not actually possessed by any of our subjects or by the subjects of any other State." After this the history of the Hudson's Bay Company was very curious. For many years they did nothing; but an Act was passed giving them those lands and powers which were granted in the charter, but only for a definite term—thereby clearly imputing that when the Act of Parliament expired all power on the part of the Company over those lands would expire also. When Canada came into the possession of the English the energy of the English race stretched from Montreal, and carried a trade in furs and peltries up the river St. Lawrence to the wild territory west of Canada. This led to great opposition on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company, and great wars actually took place between the two Companies—the Hudson's Bay Company and the North-West Company—which no doubt would have shed glory on the belligerents if they had been known to historians. Then an astute and clear-headed man interfered, the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice), and he told the Companies that they were fighting a useless 1791 battle, and advised them to unite. They did unite, and by so doing they cheated the public. From that time to the present day they depended on the charter, declaring that they would do all they could to enforce the rights conferred on them. He (Mr. Roebuck) would at once say that he meant to bring no charge against the Hudson's Bay Company. They had done what by their nature, as a Company, they were called on to do; but he asked the House to consider the circumstances under which the Company acted. It was a fur company, and a fur company by its very nature was opposed to colonization. Where wild animals congregated, there man could not live; and the introduction of man as a colonist drove away the fur-bearing animals, and put an end to all fur companies. Therefore the Hudson's Bay Company, following up their own interest, had maintained the territory in its wildest state, and had kept out colonization. In this state of things he appealed to the House of Commons, and said that they had the means in their hands to advance civilization over an uncultivated territory, and to carry there all the arts and happiness and all the improvement in manners, laws, and religion which attend civilization, making the territory, what God intended it to be, a happy home for many millions of people. All this the House of Commons had in their power; but to such a consummation the Hudson's Bay Company, having a narrow interest, was opposed. He was told that the Hudson's Bay Company had certain rights which they derived under the charter granted by Charles II. He maintained that the Company had no such rights, and it was the duty of the Government to determine whether they had or no. If the Company had no such rights, Parliament would know how to deal with them; and if they had, Parliament would also know how to deal with them—by purchasing them out immediately. If they had rights, the Government ought to buy them out immediately, and if they had none, they had been illegally enjoying the territory for many years, and the sooner they were ousted the better. The first Resolution he should move was—That the privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company, about to expire, ought not to be renewed.He ought to explain to the House that the privileges about to expire were not privileges claimed under the charter of the Company, but belonged to them by a grant 1792 from the Crown, which grant expired early next year; and he said to the Ministerial bench that these privileges ought not to be renewed. But, in order that the country might derive all possible benefit from the non-renewal of those privileges, he thought it proper that the rights of the Company under their charter should be ascertained, so that the whole of the land should be converted to the purposes of civilization, and the dominion of England be carried from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Bulwer Lytton) had brought in a Bill in the present Session to enable him to create a colony west of the Rocky Mountains. Perhaps the House were not aware of the fact that goods could be shipped in London, and carried without transshipment to the western shore of Lake Superior. This had been effected by rendering, among other things, the St. Lawrence navigable by great ships, and the English were now further across the great Continent of America than the Americans themselves. Although America had established a State on the Pacific called Oregon, he believed the line of route from Halifax to Lake Superior exceeded in extent any possessed by America. Taking the western side of Lake Superior to the Rocky Mountains, they would cut the new colony which the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies proposed to establish, and he believed plans had been laid before the right hon. Baronet for carrying a railway completely across the continent, so that a direct communication would be established between England and Vancouver's Island, by way of Halifax. This was a magnificent scheme. He believed the right hon. Secretary for the Colonies was ambitious of renown; indeed, he had already given to the world pledges of that ambition; and he would tell the right hon. Baronet that the man who carried out this scheme would have achieved greater things than even he (Sir Bulwer Lytton) had done for literature, and his name would be handed down to posterity as a great Colonial Minister. The accomplishment of such a scheme would unite England with Vancouver's Island and with China, and they would be enabled widely to extend the civilization of England. When he referred to the civilization of England, be wished it to be compared with the civilization of America, and he would boldly assert—here, in the House of Commons, where every word that was said travelled round the whole world—that the civiliza- 1793 tion of England was far above that of America. Why did he say this? Because the English were a free people; they were not contaminated by the infernal blot of slavery; and they would, as a free people, carry England's name, and England's laws, and England's literature across the whole continent of America. They afforded a refuge to the slave, and they exhibited to the populations they had planted in the more favoured portion of America a most striking example of greatness, goodness, and happiness. He maintained, then, that it was the duty of every man who wished well to mankind to promote to the utmost of his power this great project. He hoped the right hon. Baronet would take immediate steps to ascertain the legal rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, for when those rights were ascertained they would be enabled to compensate the Company. The next measure should be to plant a colony from the western shore of Lake Superior to the Rocky Mountains. And he entreated the right hon. Gentleman to carry out this object without delay. If that were not done, Minnesota would send her cohorts into the territory, and they would have to fight over again a boundary question similar to that which had arisen between this country and America some years ago. He therefore entreated the right hon. Baronet at once to bring in a Bill which would enable the Government to apply to the formation of a colony as much of the land now belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company as was suitable for such a purpose. His belief was, that if this country really fulfilled the great mission intrusted to her, she would establish English nations in Australasia, in South Africa, and over the whole of North America. It was formerly said that the language of Spain was spoken over a greater portion of the world than any other language; but if the scheme he pressed upon the Government were adopted, the English tongue, English laws, the English religion, and English literature would be predominant in the world. He believed this result would lead to the happiness of mankind; for he would venture to say without fear of contradiction that the English nation, as a nation, was the great nation of the earth, and that by spreading their language, their institutions, and their literature over the various countries of the earth, they would render an invaluable benefit to mankind, and would fulfil the purpose for which they had been placed in 1794 such a high position. He could not imagine what opposition would be offered to the Resolutions of which he had given notice. He had been told that the "Previous Question" was to be moved, but that was always a cowardly mode of proceeding. It was saying in effect, "We admit the truth of the proposition, but this is not the time for considering it." His first proposition was that the privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company ought not to be renewed. Did the Government intend to renew those privileges, which would expire next May? If not, why should not the House of Commons now declare that it was expedient at once to put an end to such privileges? He warned the right hon. Baronet that if he intended to renew the privileges of the Company strong opposition would be offered to the measure; but if he did not entertain such an intention, on what ground could he object to the Motion? If the right hon. Baronet declined to express any opinion on the subject at present, the Hudson's Bay Company would only regard him as a cowardly Minister, who dared not declare what his intentions were. He (Mr. Roebuck) had brought no charge against the Hudson's Bay Company; he did not intend to bring any charge against them; but he believed it would be for the interests of England that the Rosulutions of which he had given notice should be adopted, and he hoped they would receive the assent of the House.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company, about to expire, ought not to be renewed."
§ VISCOUNT BURY
, in seconding the Resolutions said, this question was one which possessed a double interest, inasmuch as it involved not only the welfare of some of our important colonial possessions, but, to a very great degree, the Imperial interests also. He thought the House ought to be informed what were the intentions of the Government on this subject, because the time was getting very short, as the exclusive license of trade possessed by the Hudson's Bay Company would expire early next year. He could only hope that the opinions of the present Government would not coincide with those of the late Government on this subject. He had in his hand a letter addressed by Mr. Merivale, while Secretary for the Colonies, to Captain Shepherd, which evinced a disposition on the part of the late Government to renew the license of 1795 trade upon certain conditions; but Mr. Merivale stated that he did not think it incumbent upon the Government to investigate the legality of the rights claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company, and that he considered it no part of his duty to moot that point. He said that if persons in Canada wished to contest the legal rights of the Company the Government must leave them to take that course on their own responsibility. Now, he (Viscount Bury) thought that when a question was certain to arise as to whether a large amount of compensation for these rights, or supposed rights, was to be given to the Company, it was a matter which very much concerned both that House and the Government to examine into those rights before they talked about compensation. Then the Government went on to say that, if no such proceedings were taken, they were prepared to propose, as a condition of the renewal of the license, that the Company should surrender such portions of the territory as were required by Canada for the purpose of settlements. Now, this begged the whole question. In the first place, why should all this land be reserved to the Company when neither the Government nor the House knew whether they had any right to it? Again, the question was treated as exclusively one between Canada and the Hudson's Bay Company, though it seemed to him that the matter concerned the whole empire. If Canada were placed in possession of this vast territory to-morrow she would not be able to govern it; she could not colonize it, for the country she already possessed was not filled up. The real point at issue was whether the Company should continue their monopoly, should keep closed doors, should put up a "no thoroughfare" board at every inlet into this country, or whether it should be thrown open to the enterprise of all Her Majesty's subjects. In the same correspondence them followed a letter from Mr. Shepherd, in which he said that the territory mentioned as likely to be taken by Canada was not only of value to the Hudson's Bay Company in connection with the fur trade, but because from it the Company's store of provisions was drawn, and he added that their expenditure would be largely increased if this district were taken away. Here was another assumption on the part of the Company that their rights and claims were quite unapproachable. They chose to assume this, and then assigned as a reason for not throwing open this route to the West—through which he 1796 believed our intercourse with India and China would at no distant day be carried on—that they would be at fault for want of pemmican, and would have to go into the United States or Canada to make their markets. In consequence of the statement made that it was not the part of the Government to investigate these claims, the task seemed to devolve upon anybody who had an interest in that portion of Her Majesty's dominions. Connected as he was, therefore, by all sorts of ties with these colonies, he had endeavoured, to the best of his ability, to inquire into the subject for himself, and to ascertain how far the Company's rights were founded on truth and justice. Before, however, stating the result of his investigation, he should like to say a few words upon the nature of the territory claimed by the Company. Out of the House he seldom heard that territory mentioned without being more or less associated with the terms "barren," "sterile," "ice-bound," "unfit for colonization and the support of human beings." But that was an entirely erroneous supposition. It might be true that comparatively only a small portion of this vast territory was fitted for colonization, but it was no less true that that comparatively small portion consisted of something like 500,000 square miles, and would afford occupation and means of subsistence to, he believed, every person of full age in Her Majesty's dominions, both in the Colonies and at home. Eastward from the Rocky Mountains, and as far south as Peace River and Lake Athabasca, the country was barren and unfit for settlement; but southward from that point, as far down as the boundary line, the 49th parallel of latitude, it was magnificent, consisting of the same fine prairie land as that in which the Ohio and Mississippi sprung—well watered, very fertile, stocked with wild animals and fish of every description. Another part of the country consisted of impenetrable forests, the soil of which, like that of the Canadian forests when reclaimed, would be found well suited for agricultural purposes; but the prairie lands were those most susceptible of cultivation, and upon which the development of the country and its future prosperity would chiefly depend. His right hon. and learned Friend had alluded to the possibility of forming a communication by railway from the head of Lake Superior to the Pacific, but he had made no allusion to the water communication which might be opened. 1797 It was only within the last few years that the United States had, by very great exertions, formed a ship-canal to over-come a fall of eighty feet called Sault St. Marie, by which ships were able to pass from Lake Michigan to Lake Superior. He thought that the system adopted by the United States in the formation of a certain ship canal might be very easily applied. In that case 180,000 acres of land were set aside in the State of Michigan, and were given in trust for the persons who made the canal on condition that they finished it; and as it advanced and they wanted money part of the land was sold, and supplied funds for prosecuting the work. It was found that the sale of these lands, made infinitely more valuable by the canal itself, fully remunerated the shareholders for their under-taking; and he thought it would not be at all difficult to set aside reserves of land along the line from Lake Superior to the Pacific, and apply the proceeds of the lands sold to defray the expense of constructing the communication between those two points. With the exception of a single rapid (which might be avoided by a canal) the navigation of the Saskatchewan offered no difficulty. With this one exception you could take a vessel of considerable size up to the foot of the Rocky Mountains; and at this point there was a gap in the mountains which would interpose no great obstacle in the way of a junction between the Columbia and the Saskatchewan, whose sources were but a little distance apart. In fact, there were very great facilities for the completion, not only of a railway, but of a water-communication with the Pacific, and he hoped some day to see this great work accomplished. As regarded the claims of the Company he apprehended it would be conceded that no grant could be valid unless the land were absolutely and de facto in the possession of the grantor at the time the grant was made. Now, he believed it might be proved that this country did not belong to England when Charles II. gave it to the Hudson's Bay Company. For some time prior to the date of the charter it was, he believed, the property of another Christian king, and as such, by the terms of the charter itself, it was expressly excluded from the grant. Further, he thought he could show that, supposing all these difficulties overcome and the charter to have been originally valid, the Treaty of Ryswick at once and for ever upset it, In 1598, many 1798 years before the date of the charter, Henry IV. of France made the Sieur de la Roche Lieutenant Governor of lands the boundaries of which were described by the French geographer, L'Escarbot, in his edition of 1611, and which were sufficiently wide to include a large part of the Hudson's Bay territories. Subsequently, in 1627, the Cardinal Richelieu granted to the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France seignorial and territorial rights such as were usually given in feudal times, over a tract of country extending from Labrador to the Pacific. It would, therefore, appear that under the terms of their charter the Hudson's Bay Company were for the second time debarred from setting up any just claims to the territory which had thus been disposed of. In 1629, a few years after Charles I. came to the throne, Quebec, as well as the towns of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were taken by the English, who held possession of them during the war; but when peace was concluded by the Treaty of St. Germains, the whole of Canada was relinquished to France, all the conquered territory was given back to her, and the British forces were withdrawn from the positions which they had taken and occupied. There was, therefore, an international treaty by which the charter of the Company was barred. That charter was granted in 1670, but it was not for some years afterwards that any attempt was made upon the part of the inhabitants of this country to establish themselves in that portion of North America to which the charter related. The cause which led to the granting of the privileges which the Hudson's Bay Company enjoyed were to be found in the fact that two French Canadians, named Grozelier and Radisson, who in 1668 applied to the French Government for powers something similar to those which had been conferred upon the Compagnie de la Nouvelle France, had their application refused, and in consequence came over to this country and gave a most glowing account of those districts which were now under the control of the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1668, they fitted out an expedition to that country, and it was so successful that Charles II. was induced to grant that Charter to the Hudson's Bay Company, of which they now heard so much. The Company proceeded to establish forts and factories on the territory thus ceded to them. Now, for the first time, the British established themselves on the coast 1799 of Hudson's Bay; but no sooner had they done so than France took measures to oust them. Those measures, however, were insufficient for the purpose, and the English for a few years held their position, although they lived in a miserable way, on the shores of the country. England and France were then at peace, and if the Hudson's Bay Company had then a right to the territory, the attempts made by France to oust the English might have been treated as a casus belli; and it seemed strange they had not been so treated, unless indeed, it was then tacitly admitted that the rights of the Company were very slender. Then came the Treaty of Ryswick, of 1697, one of the articles of which was, that the forts taken by the English in a time of profound peace should be given up to France. Surely if the Hudson's Bay Company had at that time a leg to stand upon, or if the British had the slightest claim to the shores of Hudson's Bay, they would not have tamely submitted to such a treaty. Through some oversight one of these forts was not given up to France. In 1713 came the Treaty of Utrecht, when England became possessed idisputably, for the first time, of the Hudson's Bay territory, and they returned into the possession of their forts, which they held ever since; but that Treaty conferred nothing on the Hudson's Bay Company which had not been conferred by the Treaty of Ryswick, and the Treaty of Ryswick conferred nothing which they had not had before, and what they had before was absolutely nothing. When Canada was ceded to Great Britain, the Hudson's Bay Company were only in possession of one fort. Canada had been infinitely more successful than their rivals of Hudson's Bay; but as soon as the country came into the possession of Great Britain, the Hudson's Bay Company began to oppose in the interior the French Company of Montreal. Previously that part of the country was in the undisputed possession of the French. Now he came to 1812. At that time the stock of the Company had become greatly depreciated by mismanagement and ill success. But there rose up at this time one who would be a great man in any age, a man of the most iron nerve and determined resolution—Lord Selkirk, who soon acquired a predominant influence in their councils. He saw the French Company trading up Lake Superior, and that they were obliged to carry up supplies a long distance, and that it was impossible they could carry on their trade 1800 in Canada in any other way. It was at this time Lord Selkirk formed the Red River Settlement, which had been instanced as a proof of our colonizing power; but it was not owing to our colonizing power, or to the Hudson's Bay Company, or to anything but the adventurous and military spirit of Lord Selkirk. Its object was not colonization, but was due to the prompting of a military and strategic spirit. The object of Lord Selkirk was to cut off the supplies of the French Canadian Company. If the Montreal Company were unable to reach the interior and bring supplies, it was easy to see what would be the result. A few years after this Lord Selkirk went down to Quebec, and soon after became possessed of great power. He became a magistrate of Canada, and was invested with considerable authority. Lord Selkirk enlisted a body of disbanded soldiers, set off and took Fort William, which was not within the bounds of what the Hudson's Bay Company claimed under their charter, but belonged to Canada. Attempts were made to oust him from the fort; the force sent to do so was defeated, and the constables imprisoned; and when the sheriff was sent to levy a fine of £500, he imprisoned the sheriff also. Now Fort William was on the extreme verge of civilization, and tidings such as these were a long time in reaching England. In 1821, however, the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) pointed out that both parties were fighting an up-hill game, that litigation would exhaust their funds, and especially warned the Hudson's Bay Company that their charter would not hold water if contested; but, said that Company, let us trade under your charter and we will hold your monopoly against all the world. The rights claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company were of a twofold nature. One was the monopoly of trade over Rupert's Land, granted by charter, and the other was a license of occupation for twenty-one years, which would expire next year. With respect to the license now on the eve of expiration he had nothing to say, that being strictly within the power of Parliament to grant or withhold as it might think proper; but as to the monopoly of trade over Rupert's Land, even if the charter was valid, there were legal objections to it. He found that Blackstone, in his Commentaries, laid it down that, in a newly-discovered country, having no laws of its own, the laws of England came into force as soon as we took possession of the land, 1801 and remained in force until others were made by competent authority. The charter of 1670 declared the Hudson's Bay territory to be one of His Majesty's plantations or colonies of America, and therefore it was liable to the same laws which governed the other dominions of the King of England. One of these laws declared that all monopolies were illegal and bad, and Lord Coke, a contemporary authority, had said that monopolies of traffic were opposed to the liberties of the people. It followed, then, that King Charles, by the charter, granted what he had no power to grant. There was an Act of the reign of James I. which made all monopolies void, and two knights who were found guilty of being concerned in a monopoly of the sale of gold lace were exposed in the pillory and made to ride through the streets with their faces to the horses' tails. He did not advocate such strong measures towards the Hudson's Bay Company, but he thought it time their exclusive privileges should cease. The license of exclusive trade was, in fact, a complete and exclusive power over the lives, the liberties, and the labour of the Indians. If, by the charter, the Indians were compelled to sell to the Hudson's Bay Company alone, at any prices which the Company might choose to give, those Indians were completely at the mercy of the Hudson's Bay Company, through whom alone they could obtain the ammunition that was necessary to enable them to kill those animals from which they derived the means of subsistence. If the prices given by the Hudson's Bay Company were not as high as could be obtained in an open market, then the charter simply granted them a monopoly of power over the lives, the liberties, and the property of a large body of Her Majesty's subjects. Much had been said about the colonizing tendencies of the Hudson's Bay Company; but he would invite the House to consider what was the fact. There was an astronomical boundary, south of which was to be found a teeming population, while north of that line the country was in respect of population a perfect desert. Every year the population of the United States advanced northwards, and very soon would overstep the astronomical boundary which marked the commencement of British territory. When that happened the hard-headed American farmer would not stop to inquire whether he was on British or American soil, but he would miss the protection of American laws, and would 1802 demand to be placed under their safeguard. He believed that there was far more danger of difficulty arising from that source than from any Central American question. In conclusion, he would quote the words of a Canadian legislator, one who occupied a prominent position in that country, who declared:—This was the very madness of monopoly. Surely the Hudson's Bay Company could not expect by their effete and stupid charter to shut up for ever the route to the great West?He (Viscount Bury) agreed with that sentiment. It was utterly impossible that this monopoly should be permitted to endure after public attention had been called to the subject, and he trusted the discussion which would take place that evening would open the eyes of the nation to the importance of the matter, and that Her Majesty's Ministers would not be backward in acting upon the suggestions that would be made.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
Sir, I am sure I only express the unanimous feeling of the House when I say that I have listened with great interest to this discussion as far as it has gone. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Roebuck) is a veteran in these matters. It is a fact upon which the hon. and learned Gentleman has a right to reflect with gratification, that upon this subject and other questions relating to our policy in British North America he has frequently been the expositor of truths at an early date, which although not at once acknowledged have subsequently obtained complete recognition. I believe the exposition he has now made is one in which he is so far fortunate that it is not even now unpopular; and I am convinced that the history he has given us and the opinions he has expressed are so sound and just that they must become the basis of our future policy in respect of that country. Although a veteran in the cause, I am sure my hon. and learned Friend has hailed with joy and satisfaction the accession he has received to-night in the person of one who is a novice indeed in years, but who in knowledge and accomplishments has shown himself a thorough master of the subject. If I do not say more of the speech of the noble Viscount it is because I feel that he has so completely possessed himself of the matter, in all its facts and bearings, that it would be presumptuous in me to comment upon it. As to the question that is immediately before us, my hon. and learned Friend has laid down 1803 three propositions. Of these, the first is that that portion of the privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company which are now about to expire ought not to be renewed; next, that the legal validity of the exclusive rights of the Company under their charter should be determined by force of law; and, thirdly, that arrangements should be made with the Hudson's Bay Company for extricating from their possession, whether rightly held or not, but upon the mere ground of policy, so much of the territory as might be needed for the purposes of colonization. Of these propositions the most important is the second, and upon that I wish to address a few observations to the House. No one can have listened to the speech of the noble Viscount without being convinced that this is a most serious matter. Here is a large portion of the surface of the earth with regard to the character of which we have been systematically kept in darkness; for those who had information to give have also had an interest directly opposed to their imparting it. I am at liberty to say so because I refer only to public documents; and as an illustration of the truth of what I have said I need only direct attention to the interesting and important work of Governor Simpson, his Voyage Round the World —he will find in that work that Governor Simpson, who, when he had a pen in his hand, was not dreaming of any controversy about the Hudson's Bay Company, giving a glowing description of the agricultural capabilities and fitness for colonization of a very considerable and important portion of the territories of the Hudson's Bay Company. Last year my right hon. Friend the then Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Labouchere), moved for, and the House granted a Committee to inquire into the affairs of the Hudson's Bay Company. Before that Committee questions were raised seriously involving all their rights. Governor Simpson was examined before it, and the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield and other hon. Gentlemen questioned him upon the agricultural and colonizing capabilities of the territory of the Company. An entire change had come over the spirit of his dream. He represented that these territories were bound up by frost and banked in fog, and that woe would betide any unfortunate individuals who might by a reckless spirit of adventure be so far diverted from the path of prudence as to endeavour to settle in those parts. And, when some Member of 1804 the Committee, with inconvenient curiosity, ferreted out the book of Governor Simpson and made quotations from it, the Governor, with all his ingenuity, which is not small, was greatly puzzled, and indeed entirely failed to reconcile the account of the country which he had given as an author, and that which he gave as Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, when the object was to prove to the Committee of the House of Commons, that it was useless to pluck and feather the Company because they had got nothing which was worth having. Now, the truth is beyond question, that a great part of this country is highly valuable for colonizing purposes, and it is impossible to state in too strong, language the proposition, that the Hudson's Bay Company is, by its very existence and its character the enemy of colonization. All its traditions, all its habits, all its establishments—the fruit of generations —all its purposes and arrangements, are not only not directed to colonization, but are directed to purposes the attainment of which requires that colonization should be absolutely excluded. If it be necessary for a gentleman who makes a deer forest in Scotland to remove the sheep and the shepherd's but from its range, still more necessary is it that from the whole of the Hudson's Bay territory which is to be used for the purposes of the fur trade, colonization should be excluded with the utmost and most unyielding rigour. The noble Viscount (Viscount Bury) has pointed out to the House many of the reasons which lead us to suppose that the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company in that country are extremely doubtful. He has shown that it is very questionable whether the country which was purported to be given did not at that time belong to France. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield has pointed out that it is at least very doubtful whether it was not admitted in the reign of William III., in the year 1689, that the validity of the charter hung upon an Act of Parliament which expired seven years afterwards. There is another point which is extremely doubtful, and a most proper subject for legal argument—but which has not been mentioned to-night. The charter, if I recollect rightly, while it purports to give the privilege of exclusive trade—a privilege which it is very questionable whether the Crown could confer, as against British subjects—gives that exclusive trade only with the Indians; but the policy of the Hudson's Bay Company 1805 has been to prevent parties carrying on any trade or any enterprise whatever within its territories. Yet, when the charter was granted it was not trade with the Indians alone which was contemplated; on the contrary, those who refer to that charter will see that it was then anticipated that trades of other kinds might be carried on in this territory, and in particular that mining enterprise would there prove highly successful. My noble Friend, if I may call him so, says, taking up the expression, that the Hudson's Bay Company have written up "No thoroughfare." The usual mode of prohibiting entrance is to put up a board bearing the words "No admittance except on business;" but this Company have done worse—they have refused admittance, especially when it is upon business. Admittance for the purpose of carrying on business is what they will on no account permit; and my hon. and learned Friend is right when he says that from the nature of their undertaking it can only be carried on upon the assumption that all human enterprise is to be excluded from the country, which is to be left solely to the Indians and to those agents of the Company who deal with them. This is a most interesting question. Although it concerns a vast tract of country much of which is a hopeless and inhospitable waste, there is a colouring of romance over the whole history of this territory; and although romance and law are not usually associated, yet I will venture to say that, turning from the wild life of these regions and the pursuits of the people connected with the objects of the Company to the legal points concerning its condition and status, there never were presented for the exercise of human ingenuity and intelligence a more interesting or more curious set of questions than are involved in the consideration of this matter. Let me, in showing that there are fair and probable grounds for raising these questions, refer to another point connected with the validity of the Company's charter, and it shall be the last which I will notice. At present the Hudson's Bay Company are in possession, by virtue, as they consider, of their charter, of the whole country reaching from the source of the Saskatchewan, in the Rocky Mountains, for some thousands of miles across the country, to Hudson's Bay. Now, even if you admit the rights of the Crown over this territory—if you admit its right to grant the charter, and to give an exclusive 1806 privilege of trading, as against all other British subjects, to these favoured parties, it still remains extremely doubtful, upon the language of the charter, whether it did give, or was ever intended to give, to the Hudson's Bay Company that vast range of territory, and whether the true legal interpretation of it is not that the lands intended to be given were those upon the shores of the Bay, and upon the shores of the lakes and rivers in its immediate neighbourhood. And in conformity with that was the state of facts, because the Company did not at first possess themselves of this vast territory reaching to the Rocky Mountains. On the contrary, for a hundred years and more after the granting of the charter, they departed, but by comparatively small and trifling distances, from the shores of the Bay, and the time at which they extended themselves over this vast range of country was the more recent date at which they formed their fortunate coalition with my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry. It would, therefore, I think, appear, without endeavouring to make the House responsible for the arguments which have been addressed to it, that there are very serious reasons in law for questioning the powers at present possessed and exercised by the Hudson's Bay Company. I dare say that it is in the knowledge of many hon. Members that there are upon record the opinions of very high legal authorities—counsel not Judges—including Lord Brougham, Mr. Serjeant Spankey, and Sir A. Pigott, which to the full bear out the opinions that have been expressed in the course of this debate. There is, however, an impression that there would be great hardship in raising this question at the present time. It is said that the Company have been in possession for nearly two centuries, and that, even supposing that the grant was originally wrong, yet by some peculiar process that wrong has gradually been enured and hardened into right. Let the House briefly examine that view of the question. In the first place, it is not a view which the House of Commons has ever yet consented to recognize; because in the year 1849 this House unanimously adopted an Address praying that the Crown would be pleased to take legal steps for the purpose of testing and ascertaining the validity of the rights of the Company. I had the honour of moving that Address, and I certainly thought that "legal steps" meant a process in a court of law according to the good old 1807 constitutional fashion, dating from 200 and more years back, under which, when powerful companies were found exercising rights which were considered hostile to those of the public, it was usual to try those rights by a suit in a court of law, such companies being perfectly competent to defend themselves, and a legal issue being the fairest mode of ascertaining the rights of all parties. The noble Earl who was then Colonial Secretary (Earl Grey) understood that Address in a different sense, and, instead of causing any judicial decision to be taken, he obtained, I think, from the Company an ex parte statement of their claims, that ex parte statement he submitted to the law officers of the Crown, and upon it obtained their opinion that they saw no reason to question the charter upon the case stated to them. His last step was to inform a young gentleman named Isbister, a most meritorious man but in humble circumstances, who was struggling to pay for his own education at the University of Aberdeen, and assisting in the work of teaching there, that it was open to him as a private individual to try the question on behalf of the public at his own cost and charge. The Company agreed to this, and I must say that they have never in any improper manner endeavoured to shirk the raising of this issue. I only refer to this because it is a proof that the House of Commons has not recognized any principle averse to the Motion of the hon. and learned Gentleman, but on the contrary has been of opinion that the ascertaining by legal process the rights of the Company was the proper and justifiable course to take. There is also, I think, a great deal of error in the impression that the possession of the Company is consecrated by time. It is quite a mistake to suppose that the flourishing monopoly which we now see is the creation of the charter of Charles II. For 150 years from the date of that charter the Company dragged on a feeble and inert existence, and the present flourishing and powerful monopoly is a child, not of the charter of Charles II., but of somebody who understood his business much better than the drawers of that charter—namely, of the right hon. Member for Coventry, whose absence this evening we most deeply regret, for here he ought to have been to receive the honours due to his industry, sagacity, and skill. At the same time, while we place the saddle upon the right horse, or rather the chaplet upon the right brow, it is not to be denied 1808 that in admitting that truth we strip the case of the Company of the character of venerable antiquity which the friends of the Company are rather fond of claiming, and give it, on the contrary, a character of what may be called something like modernism. The possession of the Company as it now stands is recent; but, at the same time, I would be the last person to maintain that any harshness ought to be shown towards the Company on that account. If the Company has rights, then, as my hon. and learned Friend says, the case is clear, it is entitled to the full and absolute enjoyment of them, and cannot be deprived of them except upon that ample compensation which it may claim on the ground of justice. It might, on the other hand, appear that although the Company have not very great rights in law, yet that in point of equity and fairness there are reasons for a liberal entertainment of their claims. That is an intermediate course which it might probably be expedient to pursue. I do not attempt to prejudge the question, but we should not assume that those who think the legal rights of the Company ought to be tested by an investigation are therefore of opinion that the Company should be harshly and severely dealt with. When those who have entered upon such an enterprise have staked their lives, their fortunes, their industry and energy in the undertaking, it cannot be a question that they should be treated by Parliament upon liberal principles. I feel strongly, however, that the British public have rights in this matter as well as the Company. I shall not now enter into the question, which is an important and difficult one, whether the colonization of the territory now possessed by the Company ought to be conducted by a direct agency from hence, or whether it would not be better to leave Canada to undertake the work; but I do say, that the rights of the British public and the necessity of opening new fields for the enterprise of British adventurers impose a duty upon us which we must not neglect. Whatever we may think with regard to the Company, however we may be disposed to deal with them, we ought not to allow this enormous obstruction to cover over a large space of the surface of the earth, with great capabilities for the exercise of human industry and enterprise, until we are certain that strict law and right stand in our way. Justice to the British public demands that steps should 1809 be taken such as those which the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield indicates by his Motion. I now come to the last point the course to be taken on the present occasion. The mover and seconder of the Resolutions must be satisfied, from the reception their speeches have met with from the House, that they have greatly advanced by this discussion the general views and principles which they seek to establish. They have no reason, as far as I am aware, to anticipate any hostile feeling on the part of the Government, and I shall not he suspected of any want of sympathy if I venture respectfully to submit to them whether they would not do well to leave the further treatment of the question for the present in the hands of Her Majesty's Ministers. The Government have heard from the mover and seconder of the Resolutions much that will be useful to them, and that will assist them materially in determining their course. Were we to proceed upon the present occasion I know not what might be done by the Government; but I think it probable that any division which might take place would tend to create a false impression out of doors. I hope, therefore, that the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield will listen to the statements that will doubtless be made by the Ministers of the Crown, and, unless these statements are of a character entirely hostile in principle to his views, he will then be prepared to leave the subject in the hands of the Executive Government.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, the subject before the House was of the highest interest and importance, and one which might fairly be discussed in view of the near approach of the termination of the license enjoyed by the Company. He did not agree with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Gladstone), that the real question was whether the charter of the Company was valid or not. The real question, in his opinion, was whether, while giving up to colonization all those portions of the territory now possessed by the Company which were adapted for it, we should not maintain, for Imperial purposes and the preservation of law and order, the existing monopoly in those immense tracts which were unfitted for colonization. He believed that every Member of the Committee which inquired into this subject a few years ago, including the right hon. Gentleman himself, was of opinion that—setting aside the question of charter or no 1810 charter as merely a secondary one—those vast tracts ought not to be left to chance, but should, for Imperial purposes, be intrusted to the care of some body or other, the general feeling being that the preference should be given to the existing Company, which was already in occupation of the territory. If the country to which he had referred were thrown open, without limitation or restriction, to adventurers from all parts of the world, the consequences would be very serious. For a few years there would be a lucrative fur trade carried on; but the fur-bearing animals, as a necessary result of being hunted in and out of season, would soon be destroyed and the Indians would doubtless share the same fate. For this reason, among others, he recommended that, whatever else might be done with that portion of North America which was capable of settlement, that part which was incapable of colonization and settlement should not be thrown open to indiscriminate occupation, but should, for the sake of civilization and humanity itself, be left in the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company. If he mistook not, the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield himself had expressed such an opinion; but on this occasion he had not told them how he proposed to deal with those portions of the territory which he proposed to take from the Hudson's Bay Company, and how he would prevent the bloodshed and anarchy among the natives which were likely to ensue if they were left to themselves. But he (Mr. Labouchere) thought that was a view of the subject which the House should not lose sight of. With regard to the validity of the charter, he agreed with those who held that it was desirable that its validity should be ascertained by a legal process. He could assure the House that, when he was in office, he looked most anxiously to see if there was any way of having its validity tested. But the question was not new. More than a hundred years ago the Government of that day were anxious to obtain information on the same point, and referred the propriety of raising this question to their law officers, men so eminent in their profession as Lord Mansfield, who was then Attorney General, and Sir Dudley Ryder, who was Solicitor General. Their answer was, that considering how long the Hudson's Bay Company had enjoyed and acted under their charter, without the slightest interruption, they did not think it was advisable that the Government should try the question of its 1811 validity in the Courts of law, but should await some implied or express declaration of a Court of law against it. Well, when he was in office he raised the subject again, and referred it to the law officers—Sir Richard Bethell and Sir Henry Keating. Sir Richard Bothell soon afterwards told him, in conversation, that he never could recommend the bringing of a quo warranto against a charter of that description; that he thought it a tyrannical and high handed proceeding which no Government ought to undertake. The two law officers afterwards gave their opinion, in writing, that the Crown ought not, in justice, to raise this question as to the general validity of the charter; but that, on every legal principle, the Company's territorial ownership of the land, and the privileges and rights incidental thereto—as, for example, the right of excluding persons acting in violation of their regulations—ought to be deemed valid. He did not pretend to give any legal opinion of his own; but, from conversations he had held upon this subject with the most eminent lawyers, both of this country and of Canada, he believed what could be affirmed on the matter was, that so far as a right to the territory was concerned the charter was good, but that so far as an exclusive trade was concerned, the Crown had acted ultra vires in granting it. He did not think, however, that much would be gained by the affirmation of that principle, because, if the Company had an undoubted right to the territory, they would be sure to make such use of it as would be most suitable to their own interests, and would prevent any competitors from entering into the market with them as rival traders. This had reference to the territory held under charter; but, with respect to the territory held under license, there the Crown had power to revoke its license at pleasure; and this latter land had a better soil than the other, was nearer to the sea, and was more fitted for the purposes of colonization. The country held under license was never given to the Company, except with the distinct reservation on the part of the Crown of the right to establish colonies. At the present moment the Government might erect in that part of the territory a colony without asking the leave of the Company, and the Bill before the House in reference to New Caledonia was a proof of the correctness of his statement. He was not so sanguine as some other gentlemen appeared to be as to the results 1812 of this system of colonization; but he was willing that the experiment should be tried. He was anxious that justice should be done to the Hudson's Bay Company, for it was his duty to declare that in dealing with them he had not found them unwilling to listen to him when he impressed on them the necessity of attending to the general interests of the country, and he had no doubt that the right hon. Baronet opposite had also heard the Company express the same desire to meet the wishes of the Government and the interests of the country as far as they could do consistently with a fair regard to the interests of the members of the Company. With regard to the Indians, he believed that on the whole the Hudson's Bay Company had acted humanely towards that people. This he knew, that they had managed to keep peace between the Indian and the white man in their territory, while across their border there were too often exhibited scenes of anarchy and bloodshed. The other day he read in a book giving an account of four years sojourn in Oregon, written by an American unfriendly to the Company, a statement to the effect that, in respect to the Indians, they had acted not only with more humanity, but with more good sense than the Americans; that they had gone on a policy, perhaps for the first time ever adopted towards the red man—they had employed and paid him; made him useful, and given him a value in his own eyes, while at the same time they attached them to the whites by the tie of a common interest. He (Mr. Labouchere) admitted that there was truth in the assertion that a fur trade company must be essentially adverse to colonization. Let the Government take such portion of the territory as they might for colonization, but let them not throw open the whole of those vast lands without having first secured the means for preserving peace and order. With respect to the Resolutions which had been moved, he could not advise the House to concur in them. It was premature to attempt to cut those knots, which required careful untying, by such Resolutions. As for the first Resolution it was his opinion, that it was for the public interest that the privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company should, on proper conditions and with proper arrangements, be renewed; but of this he was sure, that his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Roebuck) had entirely failed to tell the House what he would do with the territory if those privileges were not 1813 renewed. Lord Grey, when Colonial Minister, referred the question as to the validity of the rights claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company to the law officers of the Crown, who came to the deliberate conclusion—to which he had himself subsequently arrived —that it would not be becoming or consistent with precedent for the Government to institute proceedings with a view to try the validity of a charter granted by the Crown. He should therefore object to the Resolution now proposed in relation to that point; but, if the law advisers of the present Ministry entertained a different opinion from that of their predecessors, and thought that this charter could be fairly discussed, no doubt a great impediment to the final settlement of these questions might thereby be removed. The third Resolution, declaring that such of the lands under the Hudson's Bay Company as were needed for purposes of colonization ought without delay to be resumed by the Crown was a mere truism in which all must concur; and the Company was perfectly willing, upon fair terms, to surrender any part of its land for such an object. Under these circumstances he thought the House had better leave the matter in the hands of the Executive Government, whose views would doubtless be explained by the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir Bulwer Lytton). An unfavourable contrast bad been drawn by the hon. and learned Member between the Colonies of the United States and our own North American possessions. He must say he was greatly surprised to hear that comparison. He had watched with great interest the progress of that noble colony of Canada, and he believed that in all points of material prosperity, in true freedom, in all that constituted true happiness, the inhabitants of British Canada need not envy their neighbours. The care of the Ministers and of the Parliament of England should be to maintain that feeling in the colony. The true defence of Canada—the link which bound her people to the mother country lay in the fact that they could look across their own frontier and see nothing in the condition of their American neighbours which they had any reason to envy. The colonists of Canada were deeply sensible of this, and fully conscious of the blessings they enjoyed under British sway, and they were as thoroughly loyal and attached to the Crown of England as any portion of Her Majesty's subjects. He trusted, therefore, that nothing would be done which was 1814 calculated to offend their just susceptibilities. He had, himself, when in office, intimated to the Government of Canada that the Crown would not drag the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company before a judicial tribunal, although it was open to them or to any other subjects of the Queen to take that course if they thought proper; and that if the people of Canada desired to extend their territory into this region, they would have the assistance of the Home Government in doing so upon an equitable arrangement with the Company. He knew not whether any answer had been received to that proposal, but perhaps the right hon. Baronet opposite could afford the House some information on the subject. He could not agree with those who said that the people of Canada had no other right to any part of this territory except that possessed by all the rest of Her Majesty's subjects, because he regarded the prosperity and the loyalty of Canada as the keystone of the arch which kept together that portion of our colonial empire, and he therefore thought that nothing ought to be done which trenched upon their rights or wounded their just feelings.
§ SIR BULWER LYTTON
Sir, it is with some reserve that I approach the great and difficult questions involved in the Resolutions of my hon. and learned Friend. The Government, as yet, are in the condition of negotiators. Certain distinct propositions, as the right hon. Gentleman who spoke last told us, were made to Canada by the late Government with regard to any districts now covered by the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company which she might desire for the purposes of settlement; and, whatever cause there may be to suppose that the Canadian Government will reject those proposals, still every motive of policy as well as of respect to that great colony would make us desire that any scheme for colonization in that region may have her sympathy and concurrence. To those propositions we have had no official answer — still, Sir, I own that the probability that they will not be accepted is so notorious, and the interests involved in this question are so great, that I cannot hesitate to state, at least, the general views by which I venture to think that we ought to be guided. In glancing over the vast regions devoted to the fur trade, which are loosely said to be as large as Europe, the first thought of every intelligent Englishman must be that of humiliation and amaze. 1815 Is it possible that so great a segment of the earth, under the English sceptre, can have so long been abandoned as a desolate hunting ground for wandering savages and wild animals? I put aside, for a moment, excuses of soil and climate; it is always presumptuous to decide hastily between man and nature—to say what man may or may not do to conquer those obstacles of soil and climate which nature may raise against him. It is enough for us to cling to the grand principle that civilization should be left to find its own voluntary channels; that we should not force it, but should take care not to obstruct it. No one can deny that a trade which preserves wild animals and has a direct interest in excluding civilized men does obstruct civilization if it claims territorial rights in any district which civilized men are disposed to cultivate and inhabit. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) summed up the general evidence before our Committee in the first two of a series of Resolutions which he proposed to that Committee: first, that the country capable of colonization should be withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Hudson's Bay Company; secondly, that the country incapable of colonization should be left to that jurisdiction. In the two abstract principles involved in these propositions lies the readiest solution of the gravest difficulties that beset the question; it is the attempt of a practised statesman to effect a compromise by which civilization may gain all it asks at present, and humanity may not only preserve to the savages scattered over frozen deserts, inaccessible to regular government, the trade on which they depend for existence, but guard them from the terrible demoralization produced by rival bribes of ardent spirits, and the strife and bloodshed among themselves, or between themselves and the whites, which might follow if the administrative machinery which it is the interest of a trading company to establish were destroyed before any effective substitute could be found. These are the reasons which will weigh upon the Government in considering the renewal of the license. The Government will certainly not renew the license over any part of the Indian territory which promises early settlement; but they reserve for further deliberation whether they will renew it for a limited period over the more remote and northern regions, taking care that the Crown shall have always the power to withdraw from that li- 1816 cense any land that may be required for the uses of civilized life; that it shall retain all the imperial rights to fisheries and mines, and whatever may call forth human industry and enterprise in pursuits more congenial to our age than that gloomy trade in the skins of animals which seems to carry us back to a date before the annals of history. Now, although the renewal of the license may possibly form a part of any fresh negotiations with the Hudson's Bay Company for arrangements respecting the Red River Settlement; yet it ought in principle to be considered apart from such arrangements, and on its own merits—in lands held as yet only by the Indians does the exclusive license, or does it, not work well for the Indians? The license is a question wholly distinct from that of the charter; the license gives none of the territorial rights which the charter assumes—it involves no principle of compensation in case of any lands which colonists may require, and it ought to be regarded simply as an instrument by which the Government can effect that safeguard from broil and disorder which in so vast and profitless a wilderness the Government is not able of itself to establish. But, whatever doubts may be entertained as to the second proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford, namely, that land incapable of colonization should be left to the jurisdiction of the Hudson's Bay Company, no one can dispute the soundness of the first proposition, that the country capable of colonization should be withdrawn from that jurisdiction; and turning our eyes from a trade which, unlike all other commerce, rests its profits, not on the redemption, but on the maintenance of the wilderness, it must cheer us to see already, in the great border lands of this hitherto inhospitable region, the opening prospect of civilized life. Already, by the Pacific, Vancouver's Island has been added to the social communities of mankind. Already, in the large territory which extends west of the Rocky Mountains, from the American frontier up to the skirts of the Russian domains, we are laying the foundations of what may become, hereafter, a magnificent abode for the human race; and now, eastward of the Rocky Mountains, we are invited to see, in the settlement of the Red River, the nucleus of a new colony, a rampart against any hostile inroads from the American frontier, and an essential arch, as it were, to that great viaduct by which we hope one day to connect the harbours of Vancouver with the 1817 Gulf of St. Lawrence. This is the district offered to Canada, and I think my hon. and learned Friend has good reason to presume that Canada will decline the task of forming it into a colony at her own responsibility and charge. If the answer from Canada be unfavourable, we have two options—either to leave the district, as now, under the jurisdiction of the Hudson's Bay Company, which nothing but absolute necessity would justify, or to take it into our own hands and form a colony, which will, no doubt, one day constitute a confederate part of a great Canadian system, and which might meanwhile, perhaps, be administered by a Government in concurrence with Canada. To this there have been two objections. The first is the presumed expense. This I do not at present anticipate. All heathful colonies should be self-supporting, and I agree with my hon. and learned Friend in the general theory he advances with so much eloquence and wisdom. Colonies will be self-supporting in proportion as you leave them to raise their own revenues under free institutions. The second objection is, that such a colony would not be peopled by Canadians; that, owing to the easier access from the American frontier, the majority of immigrants would be Americans. This objection does not alarm me. In the first place, though the immigrants come from the American territory as the readiest access, it does not follow that they should all be Americans. Probably large numbers of our own countrymen, especially the Scotch, would flock there, as well as Americans; and as for Americans, once settled as British colonists, it is probable that they would soon identify their national feelings and interests with the land in which they lived, and the conditions of the Imperial Government. It has been so already in Canada; it would be so at Red River; because all history tells us how soon men, if at all of kindred race, take, as it were, the stamp and colour of the land in which they settle. We, in this country, are an instance of that truth. No less than sixteen counties in this kingdom were given up to the immigration of the Danes, and probably the great mass of the population in those counties, more particularly in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Norfolk, are of Danish origin to this day; yet in a very short time they became as heartily English and as hostile to the Danes of the Baltic as the Anglo-Saxons of Kent. Nay, even the Normans, despite their pride as a con- 1818 quering race, despite the difference of language, became in the third generation as intensely English and anti-French in their national feelings as if they had been Saxon Thegns. In short, no matter where men come from, place them in ground covered by the British flag, overshadowed, though at a distance, by the mild British sceptre, and they will soon be British in sentiment and feeling. All that I say on this score is, do not, on account of such jealousies and fears, obstruct civilization. Here is land fit for settlement; if civilized men will settle in it, let them. Never let us mind the difficulties of access, soil, or climate, Leave the difficulties to them. Nature and man will fight their own battle and make their own peace. With regard to the fitness of the place itself for colonization, I an contented to take the opinion of the Hudson's Bay Company themselves; for, in a letter from the Company to Lord Glenelg, February 10th, 1837, when asking for a renewal of the license, I find it said,—The soil and climate of the country of the Red River settlement are favourable to colonization; that it was intended that this settlement should be peopled by emigrants from Britain, and that the Company hoped to establish in time a valuable export trade from thence to the mother country, in wool, flax, tallow, and other agricultural produce.Sanguine hopes, not realized since 1837 under the auspices of the Company, but which may be more rapidly fulfilled when the Company withdraws from the place the shadow of its chilling protection. With regard to the safety of a settlement at the Red River from all ordinary attacks that might be made on it from the American quarter, I have a most satisfactory Report from Sir William Eyre, the Lieutenant General commanding the forces in British North America. He states that—The Red River settlement consists of about 8,000 persons, of whom 2,000 are Irish, English, and Scotch; the remaining 6,000 all mostly half-breeds. They are generally good shots, skilled in the use of fire-arms, and good horsemen. A local force or militia, of at least 1,000 men, could be easily organized and embodied. …. The barracks are perfectly habitable, and the post defensible, except against heavy ordnance, which it would be difficult to bring up against it. Norway House is the chief depot of the Company—the position might be made impregnable. All communication between Lake Superior and the Red River is now, according to Sir George Simpson, impracticable for any body of troops. … A few individuals might go, but not any force. There is abundance of provisions in the country; no want need be apprehended; water is good— 1819 wood abundant. The climate is severe in winter, but healthy at all seasons.These few extracts may suffice to show that a settlement once established would be safe from danger from without. As regards the fur trade in this district, I need scarcely say, that if you take the land from the Hudson's Bay Company, the monopoly that goes with the land will expire. To attempt to maintain the monopoly there would be impossible, and only give rise to perpetual feuds. In fact, I must be pardoned if I say that there is good reason to believe that that monopoly has practically, in a great measure, ceased to exist in those parts. Major Setoff reports from Fort Garry itself:—The Hudson's Bay Company have long since abandoned in practice their pretensions to exclusive trade in this district and far beyond it.Captain Pallisser writes word:—That monopoly there is unattainable now and for evermore; that the people engaged in the illicit trade are inhabitants of the Indian land, and born on its soil. Most of thorn are half-breeds; they are British subjects; and whatever the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company under the charter, they think it a very hard case that they should be debarred from trading in the land of their birth. There appears to be a shadow of justice in this complaint; but, just or not, the opposition exists, and nothing short of extirpating the people engaged in it can ever stop it.Indeed, this Report is so far confirmed by Captain Shepherd himself, on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company, that he states, in a letter to the Colonial Office:—That the diversion of the fur trade is carried on by the inhabitants of the Red River Settlement, who, regardless of the Hudson's Bay Company, conduct an illicit trade in spirituous liquors and furs in various parts of the country.I think, therefore, there can be no doubt that, where the Company yields the land, it must resign the monopoly. It will be an after-consideration by what regulations the trade should in that case be carried on, so as to maintain order and peace, and respect that considerate humanity which is due to the Indians. But now comes the difficulty. The land we would thus dispose of for colonization is within the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company, and if that charter be valid, the land belongs to the Company, but not the monopoly of the trade, except as includes the right of ownership to keep others off the land. The law officers of the late Government, men of very high distinction, consider—That the Crown cannot now, with justice, 1820 raise the question of the general validity of the charter; but that, on every legal principle, the Company's territorial ownership of the lands granted, and the rights incident thereto—as, for example, the right of excluding from their country persons acting in violation of their regulations—ought to be deemed valid.While this opinion of the late law officers remains before us, unexamined by our own law officers, it would be presumptuous in me to express any opinion of mine. It is our intention to submit the question to the most careful and deliberate consideration of our law officers, and ascertain from them whether, in equity and justice, we could advise the Crown, or recommend to Parliament any mode by which to facilitate a judicial decision upon this venerable title-deed. But I am bound, in justice to the Company, to say that, though it might be very desirable to try the validity of the charter, it is not absolutely necessary to do so for any immediate objects of colonization. It is but just to the Company to say that it has not hitherto shown itself stubborn or intractable. It does not say, "You shall not have the land which our charter covers." It says, on the contrary, "Take whatever land you please; Heaven forbid we should stand in the way of civilization. We are not the fit agents to colonize; we have not the means for it; we tried it at Vancouver's, and are glad to get rid of the experiment; take, then, whatever land you desire within the range of the charter. But"—here comes the critical but!—"we rely on your honesty." In other words, "If you take from us that which we actually possess, without proving that we have not the right to possess it—we are human beings, and we expect some kind of compensation." Seeing all the embarrassments of this dilemma, I cannot but admire the skill with which, in pursuance of the report of our Committee, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tannton (Mr. Labouchere), devised a scheme which was intended to unite the objects we have in view with a temperate conciliation towards the claims of the Company. He proposed to cede this territory to Canada if she would agree to open a line of communication to it, and give satisfactory evidence of her intention to take steps for laying out townships and settling and administering the affairs of these districts; and as to the Hudson's Bay Company, he proposed to renew its trading license for twenty-one years over the wilderness not fitted for colonization; and that three Commissioners—one chosen by 1821 Canada, one by the Imperial Government, and one by the Company,—should consider and report what, under all the circumstances of the case, might be justly payable to the Company in consequence of such contemplated annexation, and in respect of property which they might be required to surrender. Well, if Canada reject these proposals, our hands are free for fresh negotiations and unfettered action. Meanwhile, to sum up my answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman, first, I think the license ought not to be renewed except where civilization has no requirements and law no other machinery but that of the Company. Secondly, with regard to raising the question of the validity of the charter, it will be submitted to our law officers, and we can obviously say nothing one way or the other till their opinion is received. Thirdly, I grant the expediency of strengthening our empire in North America by substituting, and in one connected frontier line, the colonies of Great Britain for the hunting grounds of a trading company. It is my sincere wish and hope that arrangements for that object may be effected in a spirit of reasonable conciliation to all parties concerned, and that we may thus lay the foundation of a civilized community, upon those principles of humanity towards the red man, and of honour and honesty towards the white, which our civilization should carry along with it wherever it extends, as the colonizers of old carried along with them a fragment of their native earth, and a light from the altar of their ancient council hall. The Company have assured us of their desire to meet the necessities of the case in a spirit of concession, and I do hope that early next Session we may propose to Parliament arrangements that will receive its approval. In the object before us we all have a common interest,—to fulfil the mission of the Anglo-Saxon race, in spreading intelligence, freedom, and Christian faith wherever Providence gives us the dominion of the soil, and industry and skill can build up cities in the desert. Sir, hoping that what I have said will satisfy my hon. and learned Friend at least as to the general views of the Government, I have only to thank the House for the indulgence with which it has heard me.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has a difficult task before him, and I am quite 1822 sure that this House will be inclined to give him whatever time he may think necessary in order to decide upon the course of policy which may seem most useful to the country and most beneficial to mankind. Having served, however, upon a Committee on this question, and having at various times had my attention called to it, I will venture to state to the House my impressions on the subject as it now stands. It appears to me there is one part of this question which is easy, or apparently easy; but we have no sooner settled that than we find ourselves in almost inextricable difficulties. The part of the question which I say is easy is that on which my right hon. Friends the Members for Oxford and Taunton, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Sheffield, and the Colonial Secretary, are all perfectly agreed. They say there is a portion of this territory which is fit for colonization, and ought to be so applied. So far we are sailing in smooth water; there are no rocks ahead. But directly we have settled this point, an infinite number of questions arise which cannot be easily settled. One is, how much of this territory is capable of colonization? We have heard a very able speech, and one full of information, from my noble Friend the Member for Norwich (Viscount Bury), but still that is a point which requires to be examined. We have next the question, by whom shall that territory be colonized? Shall it be by Canada? Shall it be from this country? We have then this further question—what are the rights of the Company? Now, coaling to this last point, which I think involves the greatest difficulty of all, it is right we should remember that the Company consider themselves, I believe, entirely mercantile in their constitution and character. You have not to deal with a body like the East India Company, which has a certain pride of dominion and possesses a certain power of patronage which it does riot like to abandon. As far as I have ever heard, the Company look upon theirs as a mercantile speculation which returns a certain amount of profit—a very high amount—on all the capital they advance; and, provided that profit is secured and that capital replaced, they take no further interest in the question than as they are morally bound to consider the state of the Indians with whom they have had to deal. Now, although that appears to make the question more easy of treatment, yet there remains a point which must be solved before we can 1823 go far in the projects we are asked to entertain—namely, what are the legal rights of this Company? The Company say— "Take the whole territory if you will; take any part of it you choose; leave us either a small or large portion; only don't let us be unjustly deprived of what we consider our property." Well, but what is their property, and what are their rights? Last year, when the subject was considered in Committee, I was willing to leave it in the hands of the Government of the day, and I confess I was rather sanguine that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) might find means of solving this question with the consent of Canada and of the Hudson's Bay Company. I was strengthened in that belief by a passage in Backstone's Commentaries, in which he says that all questions respecting the boundaries of colonies can be properly adjudicated upon by Her Majesty's Privy Council. But my right hon. Friend has made the attempt; nearly a year ago he forwarded a proposition to Canada, and he now tells us that no answer has been returned, and that therefore no effectual advance has been made. But we cannot wait year after year in this way, for if we do not make some advance towards a solution of the question, we may have disorder; we may have the United States encroaching on our territory; we may have every kind of anarchy prevailing there. Well, then, I confess it appears to me now, that notwithstanding the opinions of the law officers of the Crown, you must have some legal decision on this question. If it should be found that the Hudson's Bay Company possess no right whatever to that of which my hon. and learned Friend near me proposes to deprive them, then they would have no valid claim to compensation; but if, upon the other hand, it should be found that they do possess such a right, and that you think it necessary for Imperial purposes to take away from them privileges which they now enjoy, then, I think they must be held to have a claim to compensation which you cannot resist. But be that as it may, I cannot help feeling that until you have ascertained in what the rights of the Company consist, you will be unable to arrive at any satisfactory solution of the important question under discussion. Mr. Murray, afterwards Lord Mansfield, and Sir Dudley Ryder, who filled the offices of Attorney and Solicitor General in 1749, gave, with respect to this subject, what to me appears to have been a very wise opinion at that day. "Here," 1824 they said, "is a charter granted by the Crown. There are no particular State reasons why that charter should be disturbed. It would, therefore, be an ungracious act upon the part of the Crown to raise the question whether the privileges which it confers are or are not good in law. We, for these reasons, beg to be excused from pronouncing any opinion on the matter." Now that, I repeat, was a very wise mode of dealing with the subject at the period to which I have referred. It was very much in accordance with the maxim of Sir Robert Walpole Quieta non movere, and no doubt answered its purpose very well. But we have fallen upon different times. This question is no longer in a state of quietude. Everything with respect to it, on the contrary, is disturbed and in motion. I, therefore, maintain that you cannot now rest satisfied until you have obtained in reference to it the opinions of the law officers of the Crown. You must at all events have some decision upon which to proceed, whether that decision be obtained through the medium of the Privy Council or in our courts of law by means of a writ of quo warranto.
But now, to refer more particularly to the Resolutions of my hon. and learned Friend near me, let us see what it is which he proposes. The third of those Resolutions says:—That so much of the territory hitherto held by the Hudson's Bay Company as may be needed for the purposes of colonization ought without delay to be resumed by the Government of this country.Well, in asking the House to assent to that Resolution, he does not ask us to pledge ourselves to the opinion that the whole of the territories of the company should be taken out of their possession. He seeks to deprive them only of so much of those territories as is needed for the purposes of colonization. It seems to be admitted that there are certain districts which cannot be employed for that purpose—in which fur-bearing animals and a few scattered Indians are alone to be found, and in which colonization could have no place. What that portion of the territories of the Company is which would be required for the promotion of the objects which my hon. and learned Friend has in view neither he nor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford undertakes to state. They have very properly abstained from fixing any particular boundaries. 1825 That is a matter with which it is the duty of the Executive Government to deal, and for my own part I have no doubt that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies will enter upon its consideration with an enlarged view of the general interests of the country, and also with that strict regard to justice by which our proceedings should always be characterized. With respect to the first Resolution which has to-night been submitted to our notice by my hon. and learned Friend—namely, "that the privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company ought not to be renewed," I can only say that I am perfectly satisfied with the declaration which the right hon. Baronet has made. I think that declaration is quite adequate to all the purposes of the present day. I trust, however, that the right hon. Baronet, in carrying his views into operation, will ask the law officers of the Crown in what manner a judicial decision upon this question is to be arrived at, rather than again submit to them the question whether it is expedient that there should be any such decision at all. It has become a matter of necessity that the question should be decided. The prospect before us is one of immense magnitude. We have to deal with the important subject of the colonization of that country which stretches from Vancouver's Island to the banks of the St. Lawrence. The habitation of that vast territory, its being traversed by railroads and canals, all are questions which depend very much on the decision which within the next twelve months may be arrived at. The subject is one well-worthy of occupying the attention of the right hon. Baronet between this and the next Session of Parliament. For my own part, I believe with the right hon. Gentleman that we shall have in the territory with which we are called upon to deal colonists attached to the institutions of this country—attached even to her name. We shall have there none of those difficulties to encounter which arise from the endeavour to assimilate different races. We shall not be called upon to blend the Norman with the Dane. Those who are destined to be the future occupants of that country will be men speaking our own language, conversant with the language, accustomed to the habits and ways of England. I am, however, disposed to concur with my hon. and learned Friend near me, that in order to accomplish those great results, we should proceed to establish separate colonies rather 1826 than attach the whole of this vast territory together. I am also of opinion that those colonies should be established under the protection of this country, inasmuch as neither they themselves nor Canada could be expected to be in a position to bear for some time the expense of maintaining the necessary military force for their defence. With the exception of some outlay at the commencement they would require no further assistance. That I think is a result which it is most desirable to attain, for I have no confidence in those sickly colonies which owe their safety to State support. I believe it is the nature of the people of this country to struggle with difficulties, to fix themselves upon the soil on which they happen to be planted, and to overcome all those difficulties which circumstances may happen to throw in their way. That great empire which now exists upon the other side of the Atlantic—that great American Union—has been created by the force of qualities such as these, and I entertain no doubt that, by the exhibition of similar qualities, those colonies which may hereafter be established upon the American continent will rapidly increase in prosperity and power.
§ MR. A. MILLS
was understood to say, that on the more fertile portions of the Hudson's Bay territory, there need be no apprehension of a war of races, for there would be none but the whites in those portions of the Company's territory. But if we withdrew or discontinued the Hudson's Bay Company, we ought to be also prepared to place some power in their stead; for it was impossible to expect that either Canada or the Imperial Government could undertake the administration of a country in which colonization was impossible. He wished some machinery could be devised for protecting the native Indians, who in North America were fast becoming extinct through the rifle and the poisonous stuff they obtained from the whites, and it was the duty of the Imperial Government to delay, if it could not altogether prevent, the extinction of that unfortunate portion of its subjects. He certainly agreed in the spirit of the three Resolutions proposed by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he cordially hoped the day was not far distant when the important question alluded to by the noble Lord would be settled in a manner satisfactory to the people of Great Britain.
§ MR. LOWE
said, he did not think there would be any difficulty in dealing with the 1827 Hudson's Bay Company in case their territory should be required for colonization, or that it should be wished to open the fur trade to all the world. The Company were possessed of two functions—as a governing body and as a commercial association. He held that so far as related to the exercise of the delegated functions of Government, conferred upon the Company by Parliament, there could be no claim for compensation in case Parliament should think fit to relieve the Company of those functions; but as a commercial body, he thought, upon the clearest principles of justice and the invariable practice of Parliament, that they were entitled to fair and reasonable compensation if for the public benefit it was found necessary to put an end to their existence. The capital of the Company was only half-a-million, so that there was no enormous amount to deal with, even if that sum should be doubled on account of the high rate of interest which the Company now received. If compensation was given the Government would soon reimburse themselves from the proceeds of sales of land which would take place if emigrants could be induced to settle in these territories. Therefore, he did not see that the Hudson's Bay Company stood in the way of any great object of Imperial policy. There was one course which, notwithstanding the high authority of those who urged it, and the general feeling there seemed to be to support it, he could not look upon with the slightest favour—that was the course of submitting the validity of the existing charter to the judgment of a court of law. If a private person let to another a piece of land which at the time he had not in his possession, and if he subsequently came into possession of that land, the law would not allow him to set up the fact of non-possession at the time of the contract as against the grantee. He put the matter, not as one of legal technicality, but of the first principles of justice. The British Government in the time of Charles II. granted the land in question—whether they then had it or not was no matter—to the Hudson's Bay Company. Since then the land then granted had been acquired, the existence of the charter had been recognized in treaties, Act of Parliament, and other State documents, and he (Mr. Lowe) held that it would be derogatory to the dignity of the Government, derogatory to the dignity and good faith of the House, if they were now to turn round on the Company, and say, "we have 1828 permitted you to occupy this territory for 200 years, we have recognized your existence in all kinds of public documents, but now we wish to get rid of you, and we will not even repay you the capital you have invested in posts and buildings for your trading operations; we will raise a question of law, and we will chicane you out of the rights which our own charter gave you." No authority, however high, could induce him to sanction such a step. It would be disreputable in a private individual—it would be disreputable and infamous on the part of a Government. There was no practical difficulty in dealing with the license of the Company. As he understood the matter it was quite indifferent as regarded colonization whether the right hon. Baronet granted or withheld the license, for in that license he believed there was a special exception of land required for colonization. He had been sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Bulwer Lytton) state that, anticipating a refusal from Canada to take the charge of the new territory, he was prepared to take the country at once out of the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company and form a separate colony. He earnestly hoped the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider that determination, for he was thoroughly convinced by the evidence given before the Committee last year that if a separate colony was established it would involve the Government of this country in inextricable difficulty and confusion. This was eminently a practical question, and lie begged to call the attention of the House to the position of the territory they were now considering. He might lay down the proposition that no country would do wisely in forming colonies which they could not defend, which she could only reach through foreign countries in time of peace, and which were practically cut off from all communication with her in time of war. And such be thought would be the position of any colony formed in the territory in question. It would not be consulting the dignity or the safety of this country to place her in the position of deserting those of her subjects who most needed protection. He asked the House to consider what would be the means of access to this new colony, and in recapitulating them he would rely only upon the evidence given before the Committee by witnesses who were most thoroughly and practically acquainted with the subject. Now, how did the goods of the Hudson's Bay Com- 1829 pany reach the Red River Settlement, and how were the furs and peltries which they bought sent to England? The trade was carried on through Hudson's Bay. Ships had to sail through the stormy waves of the North Atlantic to beyond 60 degrees North latitude, which was a very severe climate. Hudson's Strait, the opening to the Bay, was only open for about two months in the year, and even then was very much encumbered with ice. The goods, after reaching Yorktown, were sent by portage to Lake Winnipeg, and thence to Red River, a distance of 700 miles, in the course of which there were no less than thirty-four different portages—that was the goods were transferred from canoes and conveyed certain distances upon men's backs no less than thirty-four times. Sir John Richardson stated that a canoe with fourteen men, which could carry sixty pieces of goods of 901bs. each, cost from £300 to £500 for the season. That was the mode of access adopted by the Hudson's Bay Company. There was another way of reaching Red River, starting from Montreal up the valley of the Ottawa, which was almost unexplored, and thence by Lakes Nipissing and Superior, through a country described by Sir John Richardson as a series of hills and valleys, to the Red River. Those were the only practicable routes by which the country could be reached through British territory. The third route, which was through American territory, and would therefore be closed to us by a war, was by the canal Sault St. Marie to the entrance of Lake Superior, and thence to Fort William, between which and the Red River there was a navigation of 700 miles with sixty portages. These were all the routes by which the Red River Settlement could be approached from England without going entirely through American territory. A fourth route, which passed altogether through that territory, but was comparatively easy, was to go from New York to Chicago, from Chicago across to Dubuque, and up the Mississippi to the Falls of St. Anthony; thence to the Red River was a distance of 700 miles, 450 of which were uninhabited; but the road ran over a flat plain, which could in summer time be easily traversed by light waggons. Therefore, in forming a colony upon the Red River, we should be making ourselves responsible for a community which we could not reach in large numbers even in time of peace, without going through four or five States of the Ameri- 1830 can Union, all the imports and exports of which must pass through the United States, and from which a war with that country would entirely cut us off. Therefore, if there were no other objection, he should beg the right hon. Baronet well to consider this subject before he sanctioned a scheme which would, when war broke out, give into the hands of the Americans, bound hand and foot, any number of British subjects who might be foolish enough to go to this colony. He would, however, go further. He maintained that before we established a colony we ought to be satisfied that there was some reasonable prospect of success, and that success could only be secured by its being the interest of a number of persons to go and live there. Now, what possible inducement could there be for a bonâfide colonist to go to the Red River? He must either grow corn, or salt beef; he must produce something for exportation, and expect to live comfortably on the imports. How was he to get those imports except through the United States, stricken with the immense duties of their tariff? And how was he to pay for whit he wanted? If he grew wheat, he would have to carry it 700 miles in waggons to the Falls of St. Anthony, there to compete with the wheat of Minnesota, essentially a wheat-producing State, grown upon the spot. How could he live by such a trade as that? But it was said that the climate of the Red River territory was so delightful that it would induce people to settle there. He would not quote the evidence of the Hudson's Bay people, but impartial military men and surveyors said that the ice in Lake Winnipeg did not melt until the 12th of June, and that it gathered again towards the end of October. That was the length of the summer: all the rest of the year was an exceedingly severe winter—it was as cold as the coldest inhabited parts of Siberia. Throughout the greater part of the Hudson's Bay territory the soil was even during the summer frozen to a depth of two to three feet, and the trees were frozen to the hearts, so as to require a particular sort of axe to hew them. This was the sort of country, so accessible, and blessed with such a climate, by opening which to the general resort of mankind we anticipated that we should be doing great things for civilization. Unless we founded a colony, and did not merely announce one—unless we tempted people to resort to it for purposes of colonization, we had much better leave things as they were. Every 1831 one agreed, and this Motion itself did not dispute, that it would be advisable to leave all the districts which could not be used for colonization in the hands of the Hudson's Bay Company, because if you introduced competition into the fur trade it would lead to the introduction of spirits, the demoralization of the Indians, and the indiscriminate slaughter of the fur-bearing animals at all seasons of the year. Therefore, it was quite clear that it would not be desirable to open that trade to competition. He thought that it was equally clear that you would not, in the present state of things, get a bonâ fide colony on the Red River. You might induce people to go there, nominally for purposes of legitimate colonization, but really to engage in the fur trade; but that would be all that you could accomplish. The reason why his right hon. Friend (Mr. Labouchere) proposed to annex this territory to Canada was, that if Canada would accept it she could also make a road to it through British territory, carrying forward settlements on each side, and thus making herself a connecting link between this country and the Red River. Canada was accessible from England, and the Red River settlement would be accessible from Canada. Such a colony we might hope to defend; but instead of making it a colony by itself, we had better, if they would be kind enough to take it, hand it over to the United States. A colony English in name, but consisting chiefly of Americans, would be the most fruitful source of differences between the two Governments which could possibly exist. As he had expressed opinions which were probably held by himself alone, he would conclude by thanking the House for the patience with which he had been heard.
§ MR. CHRISTY
said, the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had last spoken sounded very much like that of an advocate for the Company, and was founded upon the evidence taken before the Committee of last year, which was most favourable to them, and would have been received with much more favour ten years ago when the public were thoroughly impressed with the barrenness and inhospitable character of the country and the impossibility of raising any valuable produce from it. But it was now known that this was a magnificent territory, which ought no longer to remain shut up. He would beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that there was already a flourishing colony at the Red River, which was founded by Lord Selkirk, 1832 and which had reached a population of 8,000, notwithstanding the difficulties they had had to contend with under the sway of the Hudson's Bay Company. He believed that the access to it was easy—not by the old roundabout route by Hudson's Bay, but by the route annually taken by the Governor himself. The inquiries of the Committee of last year ended in the difficulty of attaining a solution of what has been so much questioned—the legality of the Company's rights. He had himself contended in that Committee that, unless the Hudson's Bay Company made large concessions steps should be taken to ascertain their rights. If the Company had no right in law, and it was so decided, it was a very simple question, and one merely of policy as to what should be done with this vast territory. The circumstance that an ex parte statement had been made by the law officers of the Crown, and that the Government had come thence to the conclusion not to try the question, might fairly be set against other opinions, including those of the late Attorney and Solicitor Generals, which had been given against the validity of the Hudson's Bay charter. But be that as it might, that need not prevent the House taking the course of giving over to the Hudson's Bay Company, for a limited period, that portion of the territory not suitable for colonization. Even if it was decided that the charter was not valid, provision might be made to enable them to carry on their traffic in furs in the northern and more inhospitable portions of their territory. The right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) had, before the Committee of last year, stated that even if the fur trade were thrown open the Company could prevent any other person trading with the Indians, on account of their long relations with those tribes and by means of posts now in possession of the Company. He believed that the Company could very much exclude other persons from a share in the fur trade even if this commerce was thrown open. But it was said that if the trade was thrown open it would lead to war, either with the Indians or even with the United States. He did not believe that there was any such danger. He had presented a petition from the Red River Settlement, in which it was stated that the apprehended danger to the Indians, from the abolition of the privileges of the Hudson's Bay Company, was entirely illusory, for that body had never laid down any regulations for their government, and 1833 that there was no reason why commerce should be carried on through the medium of spirits. He saw no reason why the legal rights of the Hudson's Bay Company should not be settled by a friendly suit, the crown paying the costs of both sides. He thought that the intention of the hon. Baronet at the head of the Colonial Department to consider whether it would not be desirable to found a new colony in the Hudson's Bay territory, governed under the mild auspices of the country, instead of under the rigorous rule of the Company, was a very valuable idea, and he hoped the Government would resolve to carry it out.
said, that after the very full and satisfactory discussion of the subject which had taken place, he would not have intruded on the attention of the House, but with the object of alluding to a feature of the subject which had not as yet been much alluded to, and yet which he thought one of the most important features of the whole question. He alluded to the interests of the Indian inhabitants of the territories of the Hudson's Bay Company. He had paid great attention to the monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company long before he had the honour of a seat in that House,—less, he must confess, as affecting the interests of that Company, or even the interests of the English colonist, than as involving the welfare of the natives of the soil, the protection of whom was put forward, somewhat ostentatiously, as one claim of the Company to the consideration of the House. For himself, he might acknowledge that if that claim could be substantiated, if the Hudson's Bay Company were indeed the protectors of the red man, he should find in this fact the strongest reason he had yet heard against the spirit of the Resolutions of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, which went to deprive them of their charter. He had intended to allude to the constitution of the Committee, whose Report had been so often quoted that evening to the House, to the fact that such Report had only been carried by six Members to five, showing the amount of difference of opinion existing in the Committee; but at that hour of the evening he would content himself with saying, that he regarded the recommendations of the Committee as wholly opposed to public, imperial, and colonial interests. If he sought for the basis of those recommendations, he found them in the following considerations:— 18341st. The great importance to the more peopled portions of British North America that law and order should, as far as possible, be maintained in these territories, 2nd. The fatal effects which they believe would infalliby result to the Indian population from a system of open competition in the fur trade, and the consequent introduction of spirits in a far greater degree than is the case at present. 3rd. The probability of the indiscriminate destruction of the more valuable furbearing animals in the course of a few years.First, as to "law and order." He believed that law and order would be better promoted by a well-ordered colony of British subjects than under the present system. He now came to the second consideration, which involved the claim of the Hudson's Bay Company to be considered the protectors of the Indians within their territory; and without desiring to import into the discussion any such element, he must say that such assumption savoured of hypocrisy, in the face of facts which could not be controverted, connected with the history of the Company. How had the Company treated the natives? How had they treated them commercially? He would only trouble the House with one extract on this point from a document he held in his band, issued under the high sanction of Mr. Robertson Gladstone, of Liverpool:—The Company's mode of dealing with the native hunters can scarcely be characterized as honest. It always keeps the Indians in debt. All the articles furnished to them are charged at most extortionate rates. Lieutenant Chapped estimates the profits of the Company in some instances as high as 2,000 per cont.—Voyage to Hudson's Bay, London, 1817, p. 221.The Rev. C. G. Nicholay says that—A fourpenny comb will barter for a bear's skin worth £2."—The Oregon Territory, London, 1846, p. 162.Dr. King says that—A coarse knife, worth, all expenses included, no more than sixpence, is bartered for three marten skins, worth in London five guineas; and that for the skin of the Black sea otter, worth fifty guineas, the natives obtain, in exchange only goods to the value of two shillings." — King's Narrative, vol. ii. p. 53.Where there is competition with the Americans or Canadians, the Indians obtain better value for the spoils of the chase, and are in a far less degraded condition than where the Company bears absolute sway. He would now quote an extract or two which would, he thought, in the judgment of the House, justify, and more than justify the position he had taken as to the humanity of the Company's treatment of the natives. Here is a specimen of atrocity 1835 not exceeded in the annals of the most savage of bucaneers — Spanish or English:—In that winter (1836–7) a party of men, led by two clerks, was sent to look for some horses that were grazing at a considerable distance from the post. As they approached the spot they perceived a band of Assineboine Indians, eight in number (if I remember rightly) on an adjacent hill, who immediately joined them, and, delivering up their arms, encamped with them for the night. Next morning a court-martial was held by the two clerks, and some of the men, to determine the punishment due to the Indians for having been found near the Company's horses, with the supposed intention of carrying them off. What was the decision of this mock court-martial? I shudder to relate that the whole band, after having given up their arms, and partaken of their hospitality, were condemned to death, and the sentence carried into execution on the spot; all were butchered in cold blood." — M'Lean's Notes, vol. xi. pp. 222–3.It does not appear that these ruffians were ever brought to justice. Once more, what had the Company done for the Indians?— When the "merchant adventurers" took possession of the red man's land, there were upwards of fifty powerful races of Indians inhabiting their own vast hunting grounds, many of the tribes numbering 10,000 souls each, even at the beginning of the present century. They were free, prosperous, and happy, according to their wants and knowledge; savages and heathens, indeed, and ignorant of all that the white man calls civilization, but also endowed with all the virtues of the savage, and untainted with the white man's vices. Heathens and savages, for the most part, they still remain, but they are also vitiated and degraded slaves, and but a miserable and scattered remnant of what they were. Entire races of them have been swept away by drunkenness, by diseases introduced from Europe, and by sheer starvation. Cannibalism, which was unknown amongst them until they made the white man's acquaintance, has been a thing of common occurrence. Having lost the use of their native weapons, the bow and spear, they are entirely dependant on the Company for those by which they have been superseded. Guns and ammunition are supplied to them at exorbitant rates of profit; and when withheld, as they are when the hunters become old or otherwise unfit for profitable employment, the Indians are reduced to a state of helpless destitution, and often left to perish of want, or to cat each other. This state of things, in a country possessed and ruled by people who pretend to be Christians, seems too horrible for belief; 1836 but the fact is stated on unquestionable authority. Dr. King says—When they (the Indians) become advanced in life, and no longer able to hunt, they are refused a supply of ammunition, which has become essential to their very existence, and they die consequently from absolute starvation. …. They have become cannibals by necessity; and scarcely a month passes but some horrible tale of cannibalism is brought to the different establishments."— King's Narrative, vol. ii. p. 52.As to the light in which Indians are regarded by the Company's servants, the Rev. Mr. Beaver, once the Company's chaplain on the Columbia River, makes this declaration—God knows that I speak the conviction of my mind, and may He forgive me if I speak unadvisedly, when I state my belief that the life of an Indian was never yet by a trapper put in competition with a beaver skin"—Parliamentary Paper, 227, Sess. 1849, p. 14.He thought these extracts (which he might have multiplied but for fear of wearying the House) would justify the position he took, that no claims of the Company on the ground of alleged humanity to the natives, of their vast territories, could be successfully pleaded as a reason for the continuance of their charter. As to the anticipated destruction of fur-bearing animals, which seemed to be regarded with such serious apprehensions by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, he confessed he had small misgivings on the subject: could it be shown that the interests of humanity required the opening of these vast countries to the energies and industry of mankind, he should not regard it as a very serious consequence if ladies had to exchange the skins of fur-bearing animals for the fine woollen manufactures in which our own countrymen excelled. He now came to the question of the charter itself, and without claiming to be a legal authority he thought he could interpret it on the principles of practical common sense. What was the charter? It was granted by Charles II., in 1680, to Prince Rupert and others:Never was such a gift as that made by King Charles to Prince Rupert and Co., and to their successors to the end of time. The charter confers upon them 'the sole trade and commerce of all those seas, straits, bays, rivers, lakes, creeks, and sounds, in whatsoever latitude they shall be, that lie within the entrance of the Straits, commonly called Hudson's Straits, together with all the lands and territories, coasts, and confines of the seas, bays, lakes, rivers, creeks, and sounds aforesaid, that are not already actually possessed by or granted to any of our subjects, or possessed by the subjects of any other Christian Prince or State.' This description seems vague and comprehensive enough, especially as its interpretation 1837 appears to have been left to the grantees, though there is one important exception, of which more anon. It did not, however, sufficiently correspond with his Majesty's magnificent spirit of generosity towards these highly favoured men, for in a subsequent part of the charter, the grant is ex- tended to 'all havens, bays, creeks, rivers, lakes, and seas, into which they (the Company) shall find entrance or passage, by water or land, out of the territories, limits, or places aforesaid,' which, taken literally, may mean not only the whole continent of America, but the whole world, or at least, such portions of both as were not 'possessed by the subjects of any other Christian Prince or State.' All the earth was clearly accessible by land or water, from Hudson's Bay. Coupled with the grant, there was the reservation that the territories thus handed over to private individuals, should 'be from henceforth reckoned and reputed as one of our plantations or colonies in America, called Rupert's Land;' but the Governor and Company for the time being, and in all time, were declared to be 'true and absolute lords and proprietors of the same territory,' holding it as of the 'manor of East Greenwich,' and paying for it yearly two elks and two black beavers, whensoever and as often as we, our heirs and successors, shall happen to enter' into the said countries, territories and regions hereby granted.He disputed altogether the validity of the charter. It was easy to say that this or that high legal authority had expressed an opinion that the charter should not be questioned, but he knew enough of the opinions of legal authorities to require to see the case submitted before he was guided by the opinion. Lord Brougham, Serjeant Spankie, and Sir A. Pigott, have given a most decided and conclusive opinion that the charter was illegal in its origin, and even that, if it had been legal, it had been voided by the violation of all its conditions. The King did not give, and could not give, and did not intend to give, the powers assumed by this Company. These powers were contrary to public policy and the express laws of England. The Company had assumed the power of taxing, of making laws, of imprisoning British subjects, and even of life and death. The inhabitants of those territories which England called her Colonies should be recognized and treated as British subjects, and not handed over to their responsible control and government of a Company like this. He thought that the question of the charter and its validity must be thoroughly investigated in the first instance. If, indeed, the Hudson's Bay Company were really as anxious for simple justice as they were represented to be by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster, the question would be materially simplified. In common, he believed, with every Member of the House, he only asked for justice 1838 —justice to the natives, justice to the colonists, and justice to the Company. But when the Company came to speak of compensation, let him quote the case of Vancouver's Island as an illustration of what sort of compensation would be, or ought to be, required. This island was rather larger than Scotland. [The hon. Gentleman here quoted several extracts from the blue-book, showing the climate and fertility of the island, and its suitability for producing all the necessaries of life.] Now, Earl Grey had actually transferred this island to the Hudson's Bay Company, for ten years, for 5s. per annum. An island the size of Scotland, with one of the most magnificent harbours in the Pacific. Well, setting aside improvements, let them take this rent at twenty-five or thirty years' purchase, and the strictest economist would scarcely object to the compensation. A petition had been sent ten years since from 1,000 British subjects in the Red River Settlement, containing the gravest charges against the Company—charging it with one continued policy of the grossest injustice and oppression to the British subjects generally, and to the natives, But Earl Grey had decided that there was no ground for requiring a stronger decision. He regarded this question as a question between England and the Colonies on the one hand, and the Company on the other. Europe's teeming millions seek an outlet for their energies, their industry, their subsistence. This Company held the key of a country which would provide food for the hungry and clothing for the naked, but they turn the lock against the world's wants, and a deaf ear to the necessities of millions. He had endeavoured to show that the original grant was that it was opposed to sound policy and public interest; and he earnestly hoped that the House would take its stand on the ground of simple justice, would abrogate unrighteous assumptions, and by the adoption of these Resolutions of his learned Friend the Member for Sheffield would declare to the world its determination to uphold against all selfish, private, and illegal claims, the interests of commerce, the extension of civilization, and above all, the rights of humanity.
§ MR. KINNAIRD
said, as a Member of the Committee, that if the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had studied with more attention the evidence given before the Committee, so often referred to, he would have come to quite a different conclusion. There was much force in the 1839 observations of the right hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe). The attempt to foster colonization unnaturally at the expense of the mother country was neither wise nor prudent; and in time of war it was almost impossible for her to defend the settlements thus created. Still he hoped that every facility would be given for the advantages of the Red River settlement, and he argued the best results from the foundation of New Caledonia. The evidence taken before the Committee negatived the charges of cruelty towards the natives which had been made against the Hudson's Bay Company. It was the obvious interest of the Company to promote the well-being of the Indians, on whom the success of their trade in furs so much depended, and the condition of the natives under their jurisdiction would bear favourable comparison with that of the native tribes under the authority of the United States. A number of red Indians had been settled under the auspices of the Hudson's Bay Company, and were carrying on farming operations very successfully. He must, however, express his concurrence in the opinion of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield that it was most desirable that the question, as to the validity of the Company's charter, should be determined.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, the hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Gilpin) was evidently the representative of the Aborigines' Protection Society, and he had been astonished at the course which the hon. Gentleman, as the professed friend of the Indian population of North America, had pursued. He must say he thought that course was not very likely to effect the object which the hon. Gentleman was desirous of attaining. It was clear, from the evidence given before the Committee, that, whatever might have been the effect of the Hudson's Bay Company's administration in other respects, they had at least carefully protected the interests of the native population. He did not mean to say that the native population of North America were now in a happier condition than before the white man reached their shores, but he would venture to assert that in no instance had the two races been brought into contact with less injurious results to the inferior and savage race. He thought it was proved to demonstration that not only was it the interest of the Company to promote the welfare of the natives, but, upon the evidence 1840 of parties entirely unconnected with the Company, it was shown that the Indians received the most kind and considerate treatment from their servants. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield bad treated the subject as an abstract question, without reference to climate, rivers, or other natural obstacles to civilization, and had maintained that monoply must be as great an evil within the Arctic Circle as it was in other regions. He (Mr. Fortescue) believed it was a most fortunate circumstance that there had existed in the distant and inhospitable territory under the control of the Hudson's Bay Company such a power as they had exercised, and he was satisfied that if their authority were destroyed the country would become absolutely valueless, and that it would be impossible to establish an efficient government in its place. He admitted that the time might arrive when certain portions of that territory might become settled and civilized, but he believed that until more desirable and valuable tracts of land had been occupied such a result could not be anticipated. He (Mr. Fortescue) agreed generally in the views which had been expressed by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London and by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe). In his opinion it would be an extremely rash measure on the part of Her Majesty's Government to undertake the establishment of a colony in the Red River district, in default of the action of Canada; for, if such a settlement could be successfully founded, it must certainly be the interest of Canada to undertake the task. He trusted the House would not forget the facts of the case, would not sacrifice the interests of justice, and would not allow themselves to be carried away by the abstract proposition of the hon. and learned Gentleman, which would be committing an act of pedantry instead of an act of statesmanship.
§ MR. C. W. FITZWILLIAM
was understood to say that the Hudson's Bay Company did not manage their territory so well as their Friends asserted, and that the opening up of the district would be a change considerably for the better.
§ MR. WYLD
said, that this discussion had been forced on the House by the circumstances of the times and the state of things which existed in connection with the frontier trade. The fact was that the system of emigration which was now going on to North America would virtually abrogate the exclusive trading rights of the 1841 Hudson's Bay Company over a large portion of its territory, and the few armed men at the disposal of the Company were quite inadequate to enforce proper police regulations. He thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies had prepared a satisfactory solution of the question; but he suggested, in the event of the arrangement with the Hudson's Bay Company being carried out, that the right of inland navigation should also be preserved. He believed that the proposed compromise would prove agreeable both to the Canadians and the people of this country.
§ MR. J. D. FITZGERALD
said, that in the few observations which he wished to address to the House he would confine himself to the second Resolution of his hon. and learned Friend—namely,That the validity of the exclusive rights claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company under their charter ought at once to be determined by process of law.The noble Lord the Member for the City of London had impressed upon the House and the Government, not the necessity of obtaining the opinion of the law officers of the Crown upon this point, but of a judicial decision upon the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company. But he (Mr. J. D. FitzGerald) thought it must be obvious that that was the very difficulty which met them on the threshold, and that they could not see their way until those rights had been ascertained. Now, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) said that he thought it would be infamous and disgraceful if proceedings were instituted by the Government to ascertain what the rights of the Hudson's Bay Company were. In this he entirely differed with the right hon. Gentleman; for, assuming that he and other hon. Members only desired that the Hudson's Bay Company should be treated with justice and liberality, he could not for his own part see how it was possible to proceed to deal with them in that spirit until their rights had been ascertained. Those rights, he contended, had never been properly decided upon, for he regarded the opinions given by the law officers of the Crown upon former occasions on the cases submitted to them as entirely valueless upon this important point. The charter of Charles II. to the Company granted them, in consideration of their endeavouring to find the longsought passage to the Indian Ocean, exclusive rights of trading over certain large dis- 1842 tricts, together with territorial dominion of an undefined and enormous extent. But he questioned, in the first place, whether that grant of exclusive rights of trading was not a direct infringement of the statutes previously passed condemning all monopolies; and if that were so, he need hardly add that the length of time during which it had been exercised could not sanction or remove its original invalidity. With regard to the territorial rights, he submitted that the opinion given in 1748 was not given upon a case submitted on the part of the public, but was called forth by the claims of rival adventurers. As regarded the colonizing powers of the Company, he reminded the House that Chief Justice Draper had stated, on evidence before the Committee, that for a period of forty years—from 1812 to 1852—the population of the district under the control of the Company had not increased by one individual, although in a neighbouring district a population of no less than 70,000 souls had been created in that time. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would feel it necessary, in accordance with the expressed wish of the majority of Members who had spoken, to put the matter in a train for discussion.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
, in reply said, that the interest which had been manifested by the House in the subject under discussion afforded a sufficient justification for his having introduced it to their notice, and he was happy to be able to add that in consequence of the frank and liberal spirit in which his Motion had been met by the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for the Colonies he should not trouble the House by pressing his Motion to a division. His first proposition was, that the privileges which had hitherto been enjoyed by the Hudson's Bay Company, and which were about to expire, ought not to be renewed. By that he intended to signify that they ought not to be renewed over such portions of the territory as were applicable to colonization; and in that proposition, as far as he could judge, the right hon. Baronet concurred. His third proposition was, that all the land which was applicable to colonization ought to be immediately resumed by the Government; and that proposition too received the concurrence of the right hon. Gentleman. But the second proposition he believed the right hon. Gentleman did not quite agree with, which was that the rights of the Company ought to be at once ascertained by legal process. The right hon. Baronet said that he 1843 thought the rights ought to be determined, and that he would apply his mind to the consideration of the best mode of determining them; but he did not say that he would do so by means of a legal process. He came, however, so near to his proposition, that he (Mr. Roebuck) felt that he had better leave the matter in the hands of the right hon. Baronet to be dealt with as he might deem best. He might, however, before he sat down be permitted to advert to the objections which had been raised against the adoption of the course which he proposed. The ball had been led off by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kidderminster, in opposition to his Resolutions, who had expressed the fears which he entertained of our being led into a war with America should they be adopted; who also objected to them upon the score that the territory in question was not worth being colonized; and upon the ground that the difficulties of reaching it for want of a road would be very considerable. Now, so far as the first objection was concerned, he would only say that he thought that there was much greater danger that such a calamity would arise from our quarrelling about the population which would cross the boundary from America than if we were to colonize from our own side down to the United States. Neither could he concur in the justice of the objection that the territory was not worth being colonized, and in support of his views upon that point he might refer to the authority of Governor Simpson before he had become Sir George Simpson, and had no interest in not telling the truth. Now he was, he must confess, very much surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's geography. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the only mode of reaching the Red River settlement would be by going up the Ottawa; but he must bear in mind that the line dividing the American from the British territories ran through Lakes Erie, Huron, and Superior, and that we might proceed altogether upon the waters of Great Britain upon the north side of Lake Superior. [Mr. LOWE: No!] The right hon. Gentleman might say "No," but he should answer him by saying "Yes." In reply to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Taunton (Mr. Labouchere) who had made an appeal to the House in favour of the native Indian population, he could only say that, whatever abstract notions of humanity might be involved in the 1844 question, it was an undoubted fact that where the white man appeared there the red man faded away. That such was the case was the result of the operation of Nature herself. There was in the Negro a buoyancy of nature which did not render association with the white man intolerable to him; but the red man was a being of a melancholy, a proud, and to a certain degree a noble nature, and it was that very nobility of nature which rendered the mental and physical superiority of the white race unendurable. He therefore disappeared before that superior race, and the only question to be considered was whether it was better for the interests of society and of the world that the red man should be allowed to wander uncontrolled, or that the civilization of the white man should be extended. That was a question with respect to which he thought no difference of opinion could prevail. Having made these observations he should, with the permission of the House, withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.