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The Story of Manitoba
Chapter XXVI The Proposed Union with Canada


From the first the history of Manitoba was closely connected with that of Canada. This was almost inevitable. The western country was first penetrated by the fur traders of Three Rivers and Montreal, and in the minds of the Canadian people the pays d'en haut was an appanage of their own country. This feeling did not pass with the sovereignty of Prance. "With a slight interruption, the fur trade went on after 1763 much as it had done before that date, although it had passed out of the hands of the French traders into the hands of the Scotch merchants of Montreal; and more than once it was claimed that the exploration and occupation of the prairie by Canadian traders gave Canada a stronger claim to it than that of the Hudson's I5av Company.

This feeling among the Canadian people was fostered to some extent by the action of the imperial government in asking the governor general of Canada to make reports now and then on affairs in the Indian Territories, as well as a part of Rupert's Land, and by passing certain vague legislation, already referred to, which seemed to make Canada partly responsible for the maintenance of law and order in its vast hinterland west of the Great Lakes. This legislation was not wholly good, for it resulted in the overlapping of the jurisdictions of the imperial government, the Canadian government, and the government of the Hudson's Bay Company and came near leaving the Red River Settlement without efficient government from any source, as was illustrated again and again during the struggles between the rival fur companies and their partisans. The imperial government also seemed to recognize Canada's partial suzerainty over the Red River country by requesting its government to appoint a commission to inquire into the affairs of the little colony, and it was this request which led to the appointment of Colonel Coltman and Major Fletcher in 1817.

There may have been good reasons for this implied recognition of the right of Canada to exercise some control over the Red River Settlement. There may have been some shadowy doubt of the absolute right of the Hudson's Bay Company to govern the territory granted to it by Charles II; and there may have been much more doubt about its right to govern the territory which it held under license merely. It may have been considered wiser to deal with affairs in the Red River Settlement through a regularly organized government comparatively near to the new colony than to do so directly through the office of the colonial secretary. Finally, the action of the British government in this matter may have been to some extent a result of its remissness in the past. It had never carried out the provision of the Treaty of Utrecht which called for a delimitation of the boundary between the territory of the Hudson's Bay Company and the French province of Canada, although the company had often pressed it to do so. Fifty years passed, and then Canada was transferred to Britain; but this did not eliminate the boundary problem, for the government of Canada continued to maintain that the Hudson's Bay Company was occupying and exercising authority over territory which had not been granted to it by its charter and which really formed a part of Canada.

While the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company gave it perpetual rights in the territory granted to it by King Charles, its rights over the remainder of the great territory in which it. operated were conferred by a license granted by the imperial government for a period of twenty-one years. This license, having been renewed in 1838, naturally expired in 1859; but when the company applied for its renewal in 1857, the opposition to the company's monopoly, which had shown itself at intervals for more than a hundred years, manifested itself more strongly than ever. Mr. Isbister, who represented the discontented settlers of Red River, found the occasion opportune for reviving their agitation against the company; and so many influential members of the parliament were opposed to a renewal of the company's powers and privileges that the government felt impelled to make an exhaustive inquiry into its affairs and the conditions existing in its territories. A select committee of the House of Commons was appointed to consider ''the state of those British possessions in North America which are under the administration of the Hudson's Bay Company, or over which it possesses a license to trade."

The committee was composed of nineteen prominent members of the House of Commons, including Right Honorable Henry Labouchere, Sir John Pakington, Lord John Russell, Mr. Gladstone, Lord Stanley, and Mr. Roebuck. The committee began to take evidence on February 20, 1857, and the investigation seems to have been very wide and thorough. The examination of witnesses was not completed until the 23rd of June, and the gentlemen who gave evidence were among the highest authorities upon matters connected with the North-West. Such men as Sir John Richardson, Rear Admiral Sir George Back, Dr. Rae, Sir George Simpson, Hon. John Ross, Lieut.-Colonel Lefroy, Lieut.-Colonel Caldwell, Bishop Anderson, Hon. Charles Fitzwilliam, Dr. King, Right Hon. Edward Ellice, Colonel Crofton, Mr. Alexander Isbister, Dr. King, Mr. John McLaughlin, and Chief Justice Draper of Canada furnished the committee with a mass of pertinent and first-hand information of the utmost value.

Recognizing Canada's interest in the matter to be investigated, the secretary of state for the colonies notified the government of Canada of the purpose and scope of the investigation in order that it might be represented before the select committee. The Canadian government sent Chief Justice Draper to London for this purpose, and his instructions are contained in the following letter:

"Secretary's Office, Toronto,

20th February, 1857. "Sir—I have the honor, by command of His Excellency the Governor-General, to communicate to you, hereby, His Excellency's instructions for your guidance, in connection with your mission to England as the special agent appointed to represent Canadian rights and interests before the proposed Committee of the House of Commons, on the subject of the Hudson's Bay Territory.

"I am to premise, however, that as it is impossible to anticipate the nature


WINNIPEG IN 1869


OLD COURTHOUSE WITH SOUTHWEST FIRST AND ONLY PUBLIC SCHOOL IN BASTION, OF FORT GARRY WINNIPEG IN 1871


FIRST NEWSPAPER OFFICE OF WINNIPEG, 1860

of the evidence that may be taken, or the conclusion that may be arrived at by the Committee, or the course which Parliament or Her Majesty's Government may think proper to adopt on the report of the Committee, it is not in His Excellency's power to convey to you at present any instructions of a precise or definite character.

"His Excellency has, however, entire confidence in your knowledge and discretion, and he has the more readily intrusted this important mission to you, inasmuch as your high position in the colony removes yon from the ordinary influence of local or party consideration.

'Immediately on your arrival in London, you will place yourself in communication with the Eight Honorable the Secretary of State for the Colonies (to whom these instructions have been communicated), and as soon as any parliamentary committee on the subject of the Hudson's Bay Company or territory is constituted, you will take steps for offering to afford all information in your power relating to the interest or claims of Canada.

"You will consider it a part of your duty to watch over those interests by correcting any erroneous impressions, and by bringing forward any claims of a legal or equitable kind which this province may possess on account of its territorial position or past history.

"You will not consider yourself as authorized to conclude any negotiation, or to assent to any definite plan of settlement affecting Canada, without reporting the particulars of the same, and your own views thereon, to His Excellency in Council.

"His Excellency has full and complete confidence in the justice and consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and he is sure that the interests and feelings of Canada will be consulted so far as is consistent with right and justice. The people of Canada desire nothing more.

"His Excellency feels it particularly necessary that the importance of securing the North-West territory against the sudden and unauthorized influx of immigration from the United States should be strongly pressed. He fears that the continued vacancy of this great tract, with a boundary not marked on the soil itself, may lead to future loss and injury both to England and Canada He wishes you to urge the expediency of making out the limits, and so protecting the frontier of the lands above Lake Superior, about the Red River, and from thence to the Pacific, as effectually to secure them against violent seizure, or irregular settlement, until the advancing tide of immigrants from Canada and the United Kingdom may fairly flow into them, and occupy them as subjects of the Queen, on behalf of the British Empire.

"With these objects in view, it is especially important that Her Majesty's Government should guard any renewal of a license of occupation (should such be determined on), or any recognition of rights by the company, by such stipulations as will cause such license, or such rights, not to interfere with the fair and legitimate occupation of tracts adapted for settlement.

It is unnecessary, of course, to urge in any way the future importance of Vancouver's Island as the key to all British North America on the side of the Pacific, situated as it is between the extensive seaboard of Russian America and the vast territory in the hands of the United States.

"His Excellency cannot foresee the course which a committee of the House of Commons may see fit to pursue in the proposed enquiry, or determine beforehand on what points evidence may be required.

"At. any moment, however, His Excellency will be ready 1o attend to your suggestions, and supply such information, either by documentary evidence or by witnesses from Canada, as you may think necessary, and he may be able to send over.

"You will, of course, act upon such further instructions as may from time to time be conveyed to you by His Excellency's directions.

"I have, etc.,

(Signed) E. A. Meredith,

Assistant Secretary."

The attitude of many of the people of Canada towards the claims of the Hudson's Bay Company is fairly well set forth in the following petition, sent by the board of trade of Toronto to the Legislative Council of Canada on April 20, 1857:

"That an association of traders, under the title of the 'Honorable Hudson's Bay Company,' during a long period of time, has claimed and exercises a sovereignty in the soil, together with the exclusive trade over a large portion of the province of Canada, and that the exercise of such claim is subversive of all those rights and privileges which were guaranteed to the inhabitants of Canada by Royal proclamation immediately after the conquest of the country, and subsequently secured to them by those Acts of the British Parliament which gave to Canada a constitutional government;

"Your petitioners further show that up to the year 1763, when by the Treaty of Fontainebleau, Canada was ceded to the British Crown, the whole region of country, extending westward to the Pacific Ocean and northward to the shore of the Hudson's Bay, had continued in the undisputed possession of the. Crown of France for a period of two centuries, and was known as La Nouvelle France, or Canada ;

"That during the half century succeeding the treaty above alluded to, an extensive trade and traffic was continued to be carried on throughout the country, described by commercial companies and traders, who had established themselves there under authority of the Crown of France, and that a trade was likewise, and at the same period, carried on by other traders of British origin, who had entered into that country and formed establishments there, consequent upon its cession to the British Crown;

"That such trade and traffic was carried on freely and independent of any restrictions upon commercial freedom, either as originally enacted by the Crown of France, or promulgated by that of Great Britain;

"That in 1783 nearly all the aforesaid traders and companies united and formed an association, under the name of the 'North-West Company of Montreal,' which said company made many important discoveries, and extended its establishments throughout the interior of North America, and to within the Arctic Circle and to the Pacific Ocean;

"That in the year 1821 the said North-West Company united with the so-called Hudson's Bay Company, a company to all intents and purposes foreign to the interests of Canada and owing no responsibility to her;

"That under the name of the Honorable Hudson's Bay Company, they advance claims and assume rights in virtue of an old charter of Charles II, granted in 1669, that bearing a date nearly one hundred years before this country had ceased to be an appendage to the Crown of France, or it pertained to that of Great Britain;

"That under such pretended authority said Hudson's Bay Company assumes a power to grant away and sell the lands of the Crown, acquired by conquest and ceded to it by the Treaty of 1763;

"That said company has assumed the power to enact tariffs, collect customs dues, and levy taxes against British subjects, and has enforced unjust and arbitrary laws, in defiance of every principle of right and justice.

"Your petitioners more especially pray the attention of your Honorable House to that region of the country, designated as the Chartered Territory, over which said company exercises a sovereignty in the soil as well as a monopoly in the trade, and which said company claims as a right that insures to it inperpetuo, in contradistinction to that portion of the country over which it claims an exclusive right of trade, but for a limited period only.

""While your petitioners believe that this latter claim is founded upon a legal right, they humbly submit that a renewal of such license of exclusive trade is injurious to the interests of the country so monopolized and in contravention of the rights of the inhabitants of Canada.

"Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your Honorable House will take into consideration the subject of how far the assumption of power on the part of the Hudson's Bay Company interferes with Canadian rights, and as to the necessity of more particularly declaring the boundaries of Canada on the westward and on the northward, and of extending throughout the protection of Canadian laws and the benefits of Canadian institutions.

"And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.

Thomas Clarkfon, President, Chaeleb Robektson, Secretary."

The Canadian government asked the legislature to appoint a committee to gather information in regard to the quantity of tillable land in the North-West, routes of access to it, the claims of Canada to a portion of the country, etc. Hon. J. E. Cauchon, afterwards lieutenant-governor of Manitoba, was chairman of this committee. It examined a number of witnesses, and its report, when completed, was sent to the committee of the British parliament for consideration.

Chief Justice Draper, speaking before the committee, held that Canada had a threefold interest in the inquiry. She was deeply interested in having the boundary settled; it was important that the country under discussion should be kept as a British possession; and it was very desirable that the people of Canada should be able to extend their settlements into it. He was of the opinion that the country should be ultimately transferred to Canada, but that it could not carry on the government efficiently until better means of communication were established. In the meantime, some temporary provision for its government could be made, probably under the Hudson's Bay Company, and Canada could commence to develop the resources of the country and open routes to it. Among other things, he said, "I hope you will not laugh at me as very visionary, but I hope to see the time, or that my children may see the time, when there is a railway going all across that country and ending at the Pacific; and so far as individual opinion goes, I entertain 110 doubt that the time will arrive when that will be accomplished.''

That the Hudson's Bay Company was not averse to the settlement of the Red River country is evident from the testimony which Hon. Edward Ellice gave before the committee. He said, "The Hudson's Bay Company would be glad to make a cession of any part of that territory for the purpose of settlement upon one condition, that Canada shall be at the expense of governing it and maintaining a good police, and preventing the introduction, as far as it can, of competition with the fur trade. The company has a great mass of property there (at Red River) which it repurchased from Lord Selkirk in 1636 for a considerable sum of money. My opinion is that a fur company has very little to do with colonization and that the Hudson's Bay Company would have done much better if it hail never had anything to do with colonization on the Red River.

In regard to the government of the country, in case a colony independent of the company were established, Mr. Ellice said. "The Crown has the power, under the act establishing the right to grant the license, to establish magistrates in any part of the territory it pleases for the administration of justice and for the protection of all Her Majesty's subjects; no new power is required.''

There is other evidence that the Hudson's Bay Company was quite ready to give up the task of governing the country, if some other efficient method could be devised. Governor Dallas said that "he found himself with all the responsibility and semblance of authority over a vast territory, but unsupported, if not ignored, by the Crown. He thought that the people of Red River did not object to the personnel of the Hudson's Bay Company, but to the system of government. He feared the formation of a provisional government, lest it might not be able to check a movement toward annexation to the United States, which had been threatened; and he believed that the territorial rights of the company should revert to the Crown.

The mass of information collected by the select committee was most carefully analyzed, but the members were not unanimous in their conclusions from it. Mr. Gladstone proposed a set of resolutions to be embodied in the committee's report, which would have been adverse to the company had they been adopted ; but they w-ere defeated by the casting vote of the chairman. Mr. Christy proposed another set, but they were negatived. Finally a report was agreed to and presented to the House of Commons on July 31st. As nearly all the clauses in it have a bearing on the history of Manitoba, the report may be given in full. It is as follows:

The near approach of the period when the license of exclusive trade, granted in 1838 for twenty-one years, to the Hudson's Bay Company over that northwestern portion of British America, which goes by the name of the Indian Territory, must expire, would alone make it necessary that the condition of the whole of the vast regions which are under the administration of the company should be carefully considered; but there are other circumstances, which, in the opinion of your committee, would have rendered such a course the duty of the Parliament and Government of this country.

"Among these, your committee would specially enumerate, the growing desire of our Canadian fellow-subjects that the means of extension and regular


Methodist Episcopal Church Entrance to River Park
Front Street SCENES IN MELITA
Anglican Church High School

settlement should be afforded to them, over a portion of this territory; the necessity of providing suitably for the administration of the affairs of Vancouver Island, and the present condition of the settlement which has been formed on the Red River.

"Your committee have received much valuable evidence 011 these and other subjects connected with the inquiry which has been entrusted to them, and especially have had the advantage of hearing the statements of Chief Justice Draper, who was commissioned by the government of Canada to watch this inquiry. In addition to this, your committee have received the evidence taken before a committee of the Legislative Assembly, appointed to investigate this subject, containing much valuable information in reference to the interests and feelings of that important colony, which are entitled to the greatest weight on this occasion.

"Your committee have also had the opinion of the law officers of the Crown communicated to them, on various points connected with the charter of the Hudson's Bay Company.

"The territory over which the company now exercise rights is of three descriptions:—1st. The land held by charter, or Rupert's Land; 2nd. The land held by license, or the Indian Territory; 3rd. Vancouver's Island.

"For the nature of the tenure by which these countries are severally connected with the company, your committee would refer to the evidence they have received and the documents appended to their report.

"Among the various objects of imperial policy, which it is important to attain, your committee consider that it is essential to meet the just and reasonable wishes of Canada to be enabled to annex to her territory such portion of the land in her neighborhood as may be available to her for the purposes of settlement, with which lands she is willing to open and maintain communications, and for which she will provide the means of local administration. Your committee apprehend that the districts on the Red River and the Saskatchewan are among those likely to be desired for early occupation. It is of great importance that the peace and good order of those districts should be effectually secured. Your committee trust that there will be no difficulty in effecting arrangements as between Her Majesty's Government and the Hudson's Bay Company, by which these districts may be ceded to Canada on equitable principles, and within the districts thus annexed to her, the authority of the Hudson's Bay Company would of course entirely cease,

"Your committee think it best to content themselves with indicating the outlines of such a scheme, leaving it to Her Majesty's Government to consider its details more maturely before the Act of Parliament is prepared, which will probably be necessary to carry it into effect.

"In case, however, Canada should not be willing, at a very early period, to undertake the government of the Red River District, it may be proper to consider whether some temporary provision for its administration may not be advisable.

"Your committee are of opinion that it will be proper to terminate the connection of the Hudson's Bay Company with Vancouver's Island as soon as it can conveniently be done, as the best means of favoring the development of the great natural advantages of that important colony. Means should also be provided for the ultimate extension of the colony over any portion of the adjoining continent, to the west of the Rocky -Mountains, on which permanent settlement may he found practicable.

"As to those extensive regions, whether in Rupert's Land or in the Indian Territory, in which for the present, at least, there can be no prospect of permanent settlement, to any extent, by the European race, for the purposes of colonization, the opinion at which your committee have arrived is mainly founded on the following considerations: 1st. 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 infallibly 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; and 3rd. The probability of the indiscriminate destruction of the more valuable fur-bearing animals in the course of a few years.

"For these reasons, your committee are of opinion that whatever may be the validity or otherwise of the rights claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company under the charter, it is desirable that they should continue to enjoy the privilege of exclusive trade, which they now possess, except so far as those privileges are limited by the foregoing recommendations.

"Your committee have now specified the principal objects which they think it would be desirable to attain. How far the chartered rights claimed by the Hudson's Bay Company may prove an obstacle to their attainment, they are not able, with any certainty, to say. If this difficulty is to be solved by amicable adjustment, such a course will be best promoted by the Government, after communication with the company, as well as with the Government of Canada, rather than by detailed suggestions emanating from this committee.

"Your committee cannot doubt but that, when such grave interests are at stake, all the parties concerned will approach the subject in a spirit of conciliation and justice, and they therefore indulge a confident hope that the Government will be enabled, in the next session of Parliament, to present a Bill which shall lay the foundation of an equitable and satisfactory arrangement, in the event, which they consider probable, of legislation being found necessary for that purpose."

The report possesses some remarkable features. It recommends the continuation of the monopoly of the Hudson's Bay Company and recognizes the service of the company to the empire in controlling the Indian population of the North-West; but it tacitly admits the complaint of the Red River settlers that the company's government of the colony was inefficient, and suggests that a new form of government is needed. It also forecasts the union of the Hudson's Bay Territories with Canada, which was accomplished some twelve years later. The committee probably exaggerated the danger of the annexation of parts of these territories to the United States; and, in spite of all the evidence before it, the members probably failed to appreciate the great resources of the country which they were considering as well as the rapidity with which it would be settled when the questions of its ownership and government had been definitely settled.

In Canada the effect of the report was to strengthen the feeling that the west naturally belonged to her and that its annexation would not be long delayed. This feeling probably lay behind the determination of the government of Canada to send Mr. S. J. Dawson and Professor Henry Youle Hind to the west in 1857 to conduct investigations in regard to the resources of the country. The work of these men has been referred to in an earlier chapter. The same feeling may have lain behind the attempt of the Canadian government to establish regular mail service between Canada and the Red River, which was made in 1858 and abandoned after two years. It also showed itself later in attempts to make a road along the line of travel afterwards known as the "Dawson Route."

In the Red River Settlement the report tended to lessen the influence of the Hudson's Bay Company and to make its moribund government more ineffectual than before, and it probably increased the disorder in various parts of the colony, of which some account has already been given. It was evident to all that the company's governing power must soon be taken from it.


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