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The Romantic Settlement of Lord Selkirk's Colonists
Chapter 13 English Lion and Canadian Bear Lie Down Together

That such violence and bloodshed as that about Fort Douglas, should be seen by British subjects under the flag which stands for justice and equal rights made sober-minded Britons blush. While Lord Selkirk's agents on the banks of the Red River may have been aggressive in pushing their rights, yet to the Canadians was chargeable the greater part of the bloodshed. This was but natural. To the hunter, the trapper, and the frontiersman the use of firearms is familiar. The fur trader protects himself thus from the bear and the panther. The hot blood of the Metis as he careered over the prairie on his steed boiled up at the least provocation.

But the disheartening law suits through which Lord Selkirk passed in Sandwich, Toronto, and Montreal, reflected more dishonor on the Canadians than did even the bloody violence of the Bois-Brulés. The chicanery employed by the Canadian courts, the procuringof special legislation to adapt the law to Lord Selkirk's case, and the invocation of the highest social and even clerical influence in Upper Canada for the purpose of injuring his Lordship will ever remain a blot on earlier Canadian jurisprudence. Fortunately the rights of man, whether native or foreigner, are now better understood and more fully protected in Canada than they were in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Col. Coltman's report, as already stated, was a model of truthfulness, fair play and freedom from prejudice, and Coltman was a Canadian appointee.

So grave, however, were the rumours of these events happening on the plains of Rupert's Land, as they reached Britain that the House of Commons named a committee to enquire into the troubles. This committee sat in 1819, and the result is a blue-book of considerable size which exposes the injustice most fully. The violence and bloodshed which the fur traders now heard of far and near paralyzed the fur trade carried on by both fur companies, and brought the financial affairs of both companies to the verge of destruction. Two startling events of the next year produced a great shock. These were sudden and untimely deaths of the two great opponents—Lord Selkirk at an early age in France, and Sir Alexander Mackenzie, at his estate in Scotland, he having been seizedwith sudden illness on his way from London. The two men died within a month of one another in the spring of 1820. Their passing away was surely impressive. It seemed like an offering to the god of peace in order that the vast region with its scattered and thunderstruck inhabitants from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean might be saved from the horrors of a cruel war of brother against brother, and a war which might involve even the cautious but hot-blooded Indian tribes.

Though the two parties were made up of daring and head-strong men, yet adversity is a hard but effective teacher.

The Hudson's Bay Company was represented by Andrew Colville, a warm friend of the house of Selkirk, the opponents by Edward Ellice, a Nor'-Wester. It seemed, indeed, the very irony of fate that Ellice should be a negotiator for peace. He and his sons the writer heard spoken of by the late Earl of Selkirk—the son of the founder—as the bear and cubs. On the other hand the burly directors of the Hudson's Bay Company possessed with all the confidence of the British Lion, and with their motto of "Skin for skin" were only brought to a state of peace by the loss of dividends. Much correspondence passed between the offices of Leadenhall Street and Suffolk Lane in London, which the two companies occupied, but articles of agreement were not sufficient to make a union.

All such coalitions to be successful must circle around a single man.

This man was a young Scottish clerk, who had spent a year only in the far Athabasca district. He had not depended on birth or influence for his advancement, was not yet wholly immersed in the traditions or prejudices of either company, and had consequently nothing to unlearn. Montreal became the Canadian headquarters of the company, but now the annual meeting of the traders where he as Governor presided, was held at Norway House. The offices in London were united, and thus the affairs of the fur trade were provided for and outward peace at least was guaranteed. We are, however, chiefly dealing with the affairs of Assiniboia as Lord Selkirk called it, or with what was more commonly called Red River Settlement. This belonged to Lord Selkirk's heirs. The executors were, of course, Hudson's Bay Company grandees. They were Sir James Montgomery, Mr. Halkett, Andrew Colville, and his brother the Solicitor-general of Scotland. When the news came of the death of Lord Selkirk, the mishaps and disturbances of the Colony had been so many, that Hudson's Bay Company, Nor'-Westers, Settlers, and Freemen all said, "That will end the Colonynow!" To the surprise of everyone the first message from the executors was one of courage, and the announcement was made that their first aim would be to send six hundred new settlers to the banks of Red River.

On Kildonan Road near Winnipeg.

The angry passions which had been roused led the English directors to take the very wise step of sending out two representatives—one from each of the old companies to rearrange all matters and settle all disputes. The two delegates were Nicholas Garry, the Vice-Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, and Simon McGillivray, who bore one of the most influential names of the Nor'-Wester traders. They were not, however, equally well liked. Garry was a courteous, fair, and kindly gentleman. He won golden opinions among officers and settlers alike. McGillivray was suspicious and selfish, so the records of the time state. They came to the Red River in 1821, and Garry entered particularly into the arrangement of the Forts at the Forks. The old Fort Douglas was retained as Colony Fort, and the small Hudson's Bay Company trading house as well as Fort Gibraltar were absorbed into the new fort which was erected on the banks of the Assiniboine between Main Street and the bank of the Red River. All the letters and documents of the time speak of Governor Garry's visits as carrying a gleam of sunshine wherever he went and it was appropriate that the new fort built in the following year should bear the name Fort Garry. This was the wooden fort, which still remained in existence though superseded as a fort in 1850.

At the time of Governor Garry's visit the population of the settlement may be considered to have been about five hundred. These were made up of somewhat less than two hundred Selkirk Colonists, about one hundred De Meurons, a considerable number of French Voyageurs and Freemen, Swiss Colonists perhaps eighty, and the remainder Orkney, employees of the Hudson's Bay Company. The Colony was, however, beginning to organize itself. The accounts of the French settlers are very vague, an occasional name flitting across the page of history. One family still found on Red River banks, gains celebrity as possessing the first white woman who came to Rupert's Land. With her husband she had gone to Edmonton in ——, and had wandered over the prairies. In 1811, with her husband, she first saw the Forks of Red River and wintered in 1811-12 at Pembina, the winter which the first band of Colonists spent at York Factory. Lajimoniere became a fast adherent of Lord Selkirk, and made a famous and most dangerous winter journey through the wilds alone, carrying letters from Red River to Montreal, delivered them personally to Lord Selkirk in 1815.

The Lajimonieres received with great delight in 1818 the first Roman Catholic missionaries who reached Red River. These were sent through Lord Selkirk's influence, and the large gift of land known as the Seigniory lying east of St. Boniface was the reward given to the early pioneer missionaries—Provencher and Dumoulin, men of great stature and manly bearing. In the year of their arrival James Sutherland, the Presbyterian chaplain of the Selkirk Colonists, was taken by the Nor'-Westers to Upper Canada, whither his son, Haman Sutherland, had gone in 1815 with Duncan Cameron. The Earl of Selkirk had promised to send to his Scottish Colonists a minister of their own faith. On his death in France his agent in London was Mr. John Pritchard. Seventeen days after the death of Lord Selkirk, Rev. John West was appointed to come as chaplain to the Colonists and the other Protestants of Red River. Pritchard arrived by Hudson's Bay ship at York Factory 15 Aug., 1820, having Mr. West in company with him.

And now Colville wrote to Alexander Macdonell, the Governor of the Settlement: "Mr. West goes out and takes with him persons acquainted with making bricks and pottery." Macdonell was a Roman Catholic, but Colville wrote: "I trust also that by your example and advice you will encourage all the Protestants, Presbyterians as well as others to attend divine service as performed by Mr. West. He will also open schools." As to Mr. West's support a curiosity occurs in one of Mr. West's letters written in the following year from York Factory. He speaks of an agreement between Lord Selkirk and the Selkirk Settlers.

"That the Settlers will use their endeavours for the benefit and support of the clergyman and shall be chargeable therewith as follows (that is to say): each settler shall employ himself, his servants, his horses, cattle, carts, carriages and other things necessary to the purpose on every day and at every place to be appointed by the clergyman to whom, or whose flock he shall belong, not exceeding at and after the rate of three days in the spring and three days in the autumn of each year."

This is a gem of ecclesiasticism.

Mr. West says: "I find that it is impracticable to carry the same into effect. This is attributable to the distance of most of the settlers and the reluctance of the Scotch Settlers."

Mr. West had made mention of this to Governor Garry.

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