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The case of the Hudson's Bay Company. In a letter to Lord Palmerston Freeport, Andrew 1857

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My Lord,
It is generally a thankless office to direct the
attention of Governments to subjects that are not in
accordance with their own views, and more particularly
so to call the attention of the First Minister of the
Crown to national evils, if the expose do not coincide
with his own political sentiments. But when the rights
of the Nation are assailed, the means of redress are in the
power of the People, who have a constitutional claim on
Parliament to relieve their grievances.
It is this privilege that induces me to address your
How did it happen, my Lord, that the principal
Members of the Government seemed so passive, when
the late discussions took place in the House of Commons,
on the renewal of the Charter of the Hudson's Bay
Company ? Did it not occur to you that the renewal
of it would be an infringement of the rights of the
people, or were you silent in deference to the opinions
entertained by Mr. Labouchere?
It cannot be that Mr. Labouchere is seeking to obtain
private or political influence by acquiescing in, or giving
a partial advocacy to, the interests of the Company, for
such a course is derogatory to the general opinion entertained of his political views, although his late remarks
ai t&?
on this subject wpuld lead to that conclusion. Surely he
does not imagine that Lord Grey's Colonial administration in 1849 was so pre-eminent in virtue as to deserve
imitation, neither *can he be ignorant that, the renewal
of an obsolete Charter, to the detriment of the Nation,
would be an act of injustice.
This question should not be considered one of faction,
or of party, or of individual right, neither should it be
hurried unnecessarily through Parliament, for the
Common Right of the Nation is interested in it.
It cannot be said, that British territories occupying
an area one-third larger than the whole of Europe, are
too insignificant for the calm and mature deliberation
of Government; neither should the rights of the Crown
again be allowed to succumb to the benefit of a few
private individuals.
The country is at length cognisant of the injustice
done in 1849, and the people are not again disposed to
suffer an invasion of their rights, even though their
resieiance lead to the fall of a Mi&istry.
I trust it is only necessary to call the attention o£
your Lordship to this Subject, so that whentit is again
introduced to Parliament, it may derive that support,
which is consistent with the'fights of $ie Crown, the
cldfons of the Nation, and the freedom of Commerce,
I am,
My Lord,
Your Lordship's well-wisher,
LONDON, 18xh-May, 1857. KC^I&y&tf
nfv-il^ ^usw fr«-^*'H'k   r;■?
The discussions that lately took Parliament
on the propriety of renewing a Charter granted to the
Hudson's Bay Company by King Charles the Second, in
the year 1670, seemed to develop facts and give rise to
startling apprehensions, with which the public mind was not
familiar. Few persons appeared to know that such a Charter
was even in existence, and nearly all who have read the
debates on the subject seem at a loss to^ imagine how Government, acting upon the constitutional politics of the day, could
justify the supposition that the renewal of a Charter would
be tolerated, that is so diametrically opposed to the interest of
eveigf British subject.
The Charter granted by King Charles to the Hudso|$|
Bay Company is one of those old obsolete Charters, which
gives them .fights and imnuifiities that are incompatible with
the policy and feelings of the present day, aiwl in direct contravention to all the principles of independent Commerce and
Free Trade.
It appears that the Directors of the Hudson's Bay
Company are endeavouring to cajole the Government, into
granting them a renewal of this Charter, which expires in 1859,
and for that purpose a Committee of the House of Commons
was lately appointed to enquire into the facts relating thereto.
But as this subject, which is one of great importance to the
British nation,   must  shortly  be  brought  again  before the
ff*flWWfr<i a
House of Commons, the folk^wjfig statements and observations
have been put together, with the hope of shewing, wlnat are
the points rea^y deserving of attention and cQnsideration, in
relation to the que^ion of how tjie Hudson's Bay Company
oug^t to be dealt with by Parliament.
Now, amongst the practic^Uy important questions, surely
that* wh*<s|i it seems is to be referred to the judicial Committee
of the Privy Council, is not$>ne. It cannot be worth the time
or attention of any one to discuss whether the Crown has a
right to delegate, by a Charter, to a body of its subjects, the
soil and freehold in^sonie mictions of square miles of territory,
with power to make laws, to levy war and make peace with all
nations, not being Christians, and to exclude all persons from
trading w^hin such territory, at pleasure.
Are the Ministry ignorant tb$t Charles the Second's Charter
to the East India Company, purported to convey to them just
the same tremendous powers—powers which Parliament long
ago began to mould into a more moderate and national form,
casting away all idle speculations on the prerogative. Suppose
the lawyers to have settled, ever so satisfactorily to themselves,
the power of the Crown, that is, of the Minister of the day,
to grant in perpetuity any portion of the ]$a$enal territory,
with jurisdiction, &c, and all other rights o£ sovereignty, with
exclusive trade, stijl, for the nation, the real question to be
decjded is, shall this be law any longer ? Surely any enquiry
iato the valjcU^p of this Charter musjt needs.£urn out as unprofitable, exj^ept for the purpose of diverging attention from the
reality, as would be an enquiry, whether the ordinance of
ijdward the Third ill the year 1837, that none should wear
furs who had not an income of £100 a year, was legal or not.
&In the society of every-day life, with its frivolity, etc.,
perhaps- the most soporific of subjects for conversation is the
Colonies. But so ill-informed, and so little desirous of
information are people in general, respecting the vast territories in Nogth America which bear the British name, of
which some three milMons of square miles are under the rule
of this Company, that any person who in private seeks to attach •<nw»B*
an interest, or even to arrest attention to such topics, may well
But in Me Great Council, on whose wisdom and prudence
depends so deeply, the^weal or woe of the^dependencies of
England, there should prevail far other views. A lively sense df
then* arduous duty and unspeakable responsibility shdtfld be
felt by each member of the body—the pie%ed men oP twenty-
sfeven millions ! Th%re should be an earnest desire to become
acquainted with the facts, a full knowledge and profound consideration of which can alone fit them, for the conscientious
discharge of those high duties, which they have sought the
opportunity, and the charge, and honor of performing.
Alas>sfor public vMue! When, in 1849, Lord Hmcoln
pressed this subject on the House 6T Commons, shewing from
our early colonial history how Virginia, Massachusetts,
New England, indeed all Our early possessions in North
Ameriea^had languished so long as thelfc' affairs were managed
by absentee proj&ietory bodies, springing up and flouMshing
only when those Companies were dissolved; shewing, too, that
of all the Coinpanfes tha&had ever exercised territorial power, the
Hudson's Bay Company was the worst qualified to develop
the resources of a country, and had in fact done the least, for
it had done nothing towards performing, or even commencing
the performance of, the great duty with which it was charged,
viziy of enlightening, civilizing, and ameliorating the condition
of the numerous tribes, whose destinies are in its hands; shewing
lis powers of governfitte^t to be absolute, unfettered by a provision for the liberty of the subject; that it was despotic,
secret, irresponsible :—all failed to stir the lazy apatfiy of
the men whom England trusted with the guardianship of her
interests and honor—Her Majesty's faithful Commons were
counted out. But thts was not all, for shortly afterwards l$>rd
Grey, being then Colonial Ministe^y found no difficulty in
getting the assent of Parliament to an arrangement, by wHich
the valuable possession of Vancouver's Island was added,
With large powers, to the then existing territories of the
Company. W-.
mmmmm *\
*l *
This thing, it is hoped, will not happen again, although the
Honorable Edward Ellice (who is Lord Grey's brother-in-law)
is still reported to be a large proprietor, deeply interested in
the concerns of the Company 5 and, strange to say, his son
(who is a Director of the Company) has again been appointed a
member of the Committee, to whom the House of Commons
has referrea the investigation of the conduct and proceedings of
the Company, tnus being at once judge and party in the
But a new Parliament is assembled, and it is to be hoped
that few honorable Members will be found ready to sanction^
by their votes, a repetition or imitation of the measures of
1849, provided only that they can be awakened to the merits
of the question.
This Company trades in Furs and Peltries of all kinds,
obtained from the Indian tribes; who, to the number, Mr.
Ellice states, of about 300,000, roam over their immense
territories. The mode of traffic is this. At points in the
rivers throughout the country are established Posts, as they
are called, which are more or less fortified places, all provided
with ample munitions of war, some with cannon, whereto the
natives bring the skins for sale. On these a value is fixed by
the " gentleman in charge" of the place, and the price is paid
in wooden counters, no coined money being allowed to circulate. In another room are exposed for sale a stock of
blankets, cloth, guns, knives, pots, &c. &c„ and for such of
these things as he desires the simple savage pays hfs counters, *
until they are exhausted, the result being a profit on the goods
thus bartered of at least two hundred per cent, to the Company, as appears from the evidence of an old employe of theirs,
given before the late Committee. A more effective device for
securing an absolute grinding monopoly was never invented.
Have the Company during the 180 years of their sway,
formed any plan, or taken any steps to induce these wretched
people, the instruments of their enormous gains, to adopt a
more settled and comfortable mode of life ? Have they sought
to introduce some knowledge of agriculture, supplied seeds, tools, or animals ?     Above all, has anyv one measure been
adopted for improving their moral condition, or for educating
their children in any one instance?    To all this they give no
answer.    The Company indeed talk a good deal of the Missionaries whom they have " introduced" among the  Salteaux
Indians, but this curiously vague phrase must not be understood as though the  Company paid or provided  these men.
They were sent out and supported by the  Church Missionary
society, and the Wesleyan Missionary society.    Even at the
colony of Red River, originally founded by Lord Selkirk, who
Jjjought over a body of  Highlanders and Orkney men  to
people it, and where the Company's old  and retired servants
mostly settle with  their  families;   forming,   with   the   half
castes, a population  of about  5000  persons,   consisting  of
Roman  Catholics  and  Protestants;   the  Company,  though
liberal enough to make | an allowance" to the  Romish ecclesiastics, are not liberal enough to enable them to dispense with
the necessity of exacting tithes,U amounting to the 26th bushel
of all kinds of grain."
As to the charges of the Prostestant worship, " they are
defrayed partly by the  Company and partly by the Church
Missionary society."    The charges of education, these are the
statements of Sir George Simpson we are quoting: "as to
four-fifths of them fall upon the Church Missionary society,
the remaining fifth is borne by such individual parents, as are
able and willing to spare fifteen shillings a year for the moral
and intellectual culture of the child."   It was to the exertions,
not of the Company, but of Dr.  Mountain, the Bishop of
Quebec, that the scattered inhabitants of the Hudson's Bay
territories are  indebted,  for  the  appointment  of a Bishop.
Hearing of the increasing number of the inhabitants of the
settlement, and of their spiritual destitution, he undertook the
long and adventurous journey to Red River, and the appointment of Dr. Anderson was the result.
Then Mr. Labouchere tells us " the Company has at its head
gentlemen of the highest character and sagacity residing in
London."    In 1821, when, with the sanction of Parliament,
Jfefflte^g£* Ill
the Company obtained a lease for 21 years (renewed for a like
period in 1842), of an additional |te$ritory, did they or did they
not hind themselves " to make due provision for the civilization
and moral and religious improvement of the natives ?" Now
there is no evidence to be found of more having been done by
the Company or its Directors during 36 years to redeem the
above-stated pledge—there is evidence to the contrary, and
notwithstanding the honeysuckle phrases of Mr. Labouchere,
there are persons Who are beginning to doubt the high character
of a Director, who, as such, sanctions breaches of duty and
obligation, which, if committed .in private life, would earn no- -
thing Hit reprobation and contempt.
It appears to be an old habit of this body to slip the yoke of
obligation. The Charter of 1670 they loudly declare is valid
and legal: in that case its obligations are binding on them.
Now, the principal condition on which the Charter was originally
granted bound them to make exertions for the discovery of
the North-West Passage. And Mr. Gladstone-plainly declared,
"All those expeditions which have been made by the adventurous navigators of England during the nineteenth
century, at an enormous cost to the country, ought by
right to have been paid out of the revenues of the Hudson's
Bay Company."
But the real questions are incomparably more weighty than
the character and sagacity of any,knot of money makers. The
character really involved, is the character of the people of
England for justice and humanity; the sagacity required, is
that of the imperial policy, which shall administer these vast
regions for the best advantage of ourselves, i. e. of the nation at
large, and of mankind in general. Is the whole upper section
of the American Continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, to
be left in the hands of these men, locked up from access to the
energy and capital of English colonists, in order that fur animals
may increase and multiply, and until the Americans, who are
now crowding into the adjoining territory of Minnesota, may by
and by swarm over the boundary line, and without impediment
occupy, and   annex,   the  vacant  domain   at their pleasure ? •2*35$:
No doubt the Company'Intone at present is to represent the
couttftjj* as being unfitf Sbr colonization, much of the land being
(as they say) incapable of cultivation, and the climate such as
no one would encounter who was not paid for iw Whilst this
far their language of to-day, it is interesting tcT notice the
difference of expression that exists m the same mind, when it
narrates for l*isti§fccal information in 1847, and when it speaks
for an interested object in 1857.
In t$41 Sir George Simpson, (who is the Governor-in-
Chief of the Hudson's Bay Company,) travelled across their
dominions, and in his "Journey round the World," published
in 1847, whilst describing his journey from Montreal to Red
River, he frequently breaks out in admiration of the splendid
country through which he passed, '-ffirvbl. I, page 36, he
speaks of the river being studded with isles not less fertile
and lovely f%han its banks, and many a spot reminded them
of the rich and quiet scenery of England—with violets, roses,
and many other wild flowers spangling the paths, while the
currant, gooseberry, raspberry, plum, cherry, and even the
vine grew in abundance. And it would be difficult to describe
a country in mor#Tglowing colors than is given in his narrative
at pages 45 and 46, where he states " the river which
empties Lac la Pluie into4 the lake of the woods, is| in more
than one respect, decidedly the finest stream on the whole
route. From Fort Frances downward, a stretch of ^nearly
one hundred miles, it is not interrupted by a single impediment, while yet the current is not strong enough
ma$$lally to retard an ascending traveller. Nor are the
banks less favourable* to agriculture than the waters themselves
to navigation, resembling, in some measure, those of the
Thames near Richmond. From the very brink of the river
there rises a geiille slope of green sward, crowned in many
places with a plentiful growth of birch, poplar, beech, elm,
and oak."
So beautiful is the scenery in the vicinity of Lac la Pluie,
that Sir George breaks forth in prophetic extacy, and writes:
M Is it too much for the eye of philanthropy to discern, through Mr
thv vista of futurity, this noble stream, connecting, as it does,
the fertile shores of two spae*&us lakes, with crowded steam-
boat$ in its bosom, and populous towns on iti borders V
Speaking afterwards of the Lake of the Woods, he says :
" though the shores of this sheet of water are more rocky
than those of Lac la Pluie, yet they are very fertile, producing the rice already mentioned in abundance, and
bringing maize to perfeefaon. The lake is also literally
studded with woody islands, from which it has doubtless
derived its name ; and these islands, being exempted from
nocturnal frosts, which exist chiefly in the neighbourhood
of swamps, are better adapted than the main land for
At page 53, spo&kiag of the Colony at Red River settlement, he says, " the soil proved lich and productive, and the
plough met with no obstruction; the usual American step
necessarily taken for clearing away the forest previous to
tilling the land, was not required. At page 55, it is stated,
P the soil at Red River settlement is a black mould of considerable depth, which, when first tilled, produces extraordinary
crops, as much on some occasions as forty returns of wheat;
and, even after twenty successive years of cultivation,
without the relief of manure, or of fallow, or of green crop, it
still yields from fifteen to twenty-five bushels per acre. The
wheat produced is plump and heavy; there are alsai large
quantities of grain of all kinds, besides beef, mutton, pork,
butter, cheese, and wool in abundance."
Although subject to heavy snow falls and occasional
spring floodings, it does not seem more inclement than some of
the counties in the North of England.
•At page 84, he speaks of the Saskatchewan being a quarter
of a mile wide, and navigable for boats upwards of 700 miles
in a direct line ; and at page 85, he describes aniinal food so
abundant as to be wasted by the Indians from mere wantonness. At page 86, "their route lay over a hiily country, so
picturesque in its character, that almost every commanding
position presented the elements of an interesting panorama." /22I8S&.
At page 90, he speaks of seeing buffaloes to the number of
5000, and at page 91, says •' provisions were so abundant Hiat
after taking the tongues they left the carcases to the mercy of
the wolves." At page 101, speaking of Edmonton, he says
" the vicinity is rich in mineral productions ; a seam of coalf
about ten feet in depth, can be traced for a very considerable
distance along both sides of the river. At page 102 theftribes
$f the Saskatchewan District are given as numbering 16,730
souls, and §ir George goes on to say, " Small as this census is
for a territory at least as,large as England, the force of the
Company's servants is infinitely smaller;" and then he relates
how cleverly one of their people, with the quickness of thought,
sheathed a dagger in the heart of an Indian.
At page 174, speaking of the Company's dairy at Willamette,
he says "this beautiful Island is fifteen miles in length by seven
at its greatest breadth, covered with abundance of timber and
the richest pasturage;" and at page 178 he describes their
dairy on the Cowlitz Farm ass^bllows: " On the Cowlitz
Farm there were already abou&flOOO acres of land under
the plough, besides a large dairy, an extensive park for horses,
etc., and the crops of the season had amounted to 8 or 9000
bushels of wheat#4000 of oats, and due proportions of barley,
potatoes, etc. The other farm was on the shores of Puget
Sound; and as its soil was found to be better fitted for pasturage than tillage, it had been appropriated almost exclusively to
the flocks and herds, so that now, with only 200 acres of
cultivated land, it possessed 6000 sheep, 1200 cattle, besides
horses, pigs, etc. In addition to these two farms there was a
Catholic Mission, vdifch about 160 acres under the plough"
"The climate is propitious, while the seasons are remarkably regular. Between the beginning of April and the end of
September there is a continuance of dry weather, generally
warm, and often hot, the mercuay having this year (1841) risen
at Nisqually to 107° in the shade. March and October are
unsettled andotshowery, and during the four months of winter
there is almost constant rain, while the temperature is so mild
that the sheep and cattle not only remain out of doors, but 10
even find fresh grass for themselves from day to day." At
page 181, they arrive at ibrt Nisqually, on the evening-of the
fourth day from Fort Vancouver, and there, it is stated, " The
Sound yields plenty of fish, such as salmon, rock cod, halibut,
flounders, etc.;" and at page 182 Sir Gfeorge writes, "The
neighbouring country, comprising the southern end of Vancouver's Island, is well adapted for cultivation ;*for in addition
to a tolerable soil and a moderate climate, it possesses excellent
harbours and abundance of timber. It will doubtless become,
in time, the most valuable section of the whole coast above
Sir George Simpson, saysf»(Vol. I. page 47) that in 1844^
with a company of forty persons, and many cart loads of stores
and heavy goods, he travelled from Montreal to Red River in
thirty-eight days, being about two thousand miles. The fact
is, that the extraordinary number of rivers, navigable like the
Ottawa, with boats, for hundreds of miles at a stretch, notwithstanding that in places the rapids and waterfalls render
portages necessary, are adapted most materially to facilitate
transport and traffic, and render possible such speed as above.
But there is a material difference in the mode of transit now/
through the different States, from what there was in 1841.
Railroads have, and are making giant strides through the
Continent of America : within about twelve months from this
time a railway will be completed to Fond du Lac, the extreme
north-west point of Lake Superior, which is in a direct line
from New York and Montreal to Red River settlement; and
about one hundred and fifty miles more of railway through the
State of Minnesota, (whieh is sure ifr be opened in the course
of a fewi^ars), will connect Red River settlement by rail with
the whole of the Atlantic sea boardW
But, independent of railways, it is not meant to say, that
emigrants could command all the resources that Sir George
Simpson had at his disposal, but only that where nature has
done so much, it is impossible to believe, but that plenty of
colonizable $and is to be had w^th less than the average difficulty of access in the Far West of America.    However, it is
I telllii£
sufficiently clear the colonists are not happy under the
Company's rule, else why did a large body of the Scotch
whom Lord Selkirk brought over, quit the settlement at Red
River, after a sufficient trial, in order to begimathe world
again in America ?
Enough has been quoted to shew the high estimation
in which Sir George held those various tracts of land
over which he travelled. But after carrying the imagination
to those large districts which Mr. a*Labouchere said " were
admirably suited to the use and enjoyment of civilized man,
some being rich in soil and minerals, and others, foom situation being extremely valuable to commerce" let us see what
Sir George Simpson stated in his evidence the other day before
the committee of the house of Commons. Sir George is
reported to have said, on the 26th February last, " in
reference to the cultivation and colonization of the territory
of the Hudson''s Bay Company, he had no hesitation in expressing his opinion that no part of it was fit for settlers."
How does this comport with his previously written assertions,
when neither the title, nor the renewal of the charter, was in
immediate jeopardy ?
A much more lengthened account of Sir George Simpson's
work is here quoted than ^uld have# been deemed necessary,
had he not been the principal Director and Governor-in-chief
of the Hudson's Bay Company's possessions, and the witness in
whom they placed their chief reliance.—He is reported to be
the only Director who isLfamiliar with all the internal workings
of their machinery, and there is not a station on their territories
that is not governed by his influence, nor any^ai§iness conducted
without his control. Therefore, he may be said to represent
the Hudson's Bay Company, for all the other Directors are
ciphers compared with him, as regards the business details,
though they are equally cognizant of the principles on which
that business is conducted.
But in addition to this narrative, written ajt a period when
(little dreaming the time would arrive that the Charter of
the Company would be discontinued) Sj^ George was desirous *th
of gjfving to the world a faithful description of the territory
over which he presided, there is another account, very enlightening as regards the manner in whietPtlie Obmpafcy conduct
their afFairtffnftftat unobserved region.
Mr. Wm. G. N. Kingston, in his " Western Wanderings;
or, a Pleasure Tour in the Canadas," published in 1856, by
Chapman and Hall, alluding to the Hudson's Bay Company,
gives the following account in Vol. II, pages 86 and 87.
" Amongst other subjects the Hudson's Bay Company
and their principles of action came on the tapisyr Their policy
seems to be of the most illiberal and short-sighted character.
Afraid of losing the services of the half-caste and Indian
population, who now form a very considerable community in
the territory given up to their sway, should they discover the
high rate of wages they would be able to obtain in Canada,
they jealously close, to the utmost of 4heir power, all communication with the British provinces ; nor will>4;hey allow any
goods to be brought in from thence for general use, having
them instead sent round in their own ships to their settlements
in Hudson's Bay. Once a-year only their bateaux come from
Montreal up the Ottawa laden with stores for their ports; but
no general merchandise is conveyed by them, while their crews
are trusty old voyageurs, employed always in the same service,
who, from their peculiar habits, are not likely to gain any
infdrmation as to the true state of affairs in the colony, or if
they do, to communicate it to the population at 3&rge. The
American traders of Minnesota, the new State of the Union
bordering on the Hudson Bay territory, have, however, very
wisely taken advantage of this anti-rfree-irade system of the
Company, itad, by pushing forward their own trading posts,
have induced the inhabitants of the southern districts to come
to them for all^the goods they may require*, The advantage
of this irade, which has now become very considerable* has
thus been entirely lost to Canada. It appears to be the belief
of the officers of the Hudson's Bay Company, that it is
necessary for the maintenance of their monopoly, to keep the
rest  of the  world  ignorant of the  real  condition   of their country ; but several of >$ieir writers, whjSe broadly asserting
v »its inhospitable and stesfcje nature, have let out facts, which
prove that those regions over whigh their hunters and trappers
roam, are very far from being so unattractive as they would
have the world suppose. Among other facts it is stated, that
the buffalo bring forth their young in their territories,at a late
period of the year, while corn of various descriptions grows
therein abundance ; and Sir George Simpson describes many
spots as rich and fertile, and abounding in game which only
exists in temperate regions. I have i^ot his book at hand,
but the point is worth looking into."
There is also a report current,  and  generally believed,
that the Hudson's Bay Company oppose every attempt made
to establish fishing stations in the excellent harbours along
the British coasts  of Lake Superior, which  are  admirably
fitted for such stations, and that their agents instigate the
Indians to destroy the nets, huts, boats, and barrels of the
fishermen, and offer every annoyance in their power.    If this
be not so, who or what is it that prevents the development of
the copper and iron wealth of the Canadian shore of the lake
to the same extent, asiboth have been for some time on the
Ameriaan side ?    This copper seems to be admitted to be
some of the finest in the world.    The Directors of the Com*-
pany, one might have thought, would have gladly taken every
means to make known this fact;  to attract thither British
cap||al and enterprise ; to facilitate the working of the mines,
and to take care their agents offered every assistance, which
their experience of the country, and influence with the native
tribes could suggest.    Have they done this, or any part of it ?
Then, it is said to be impossible to see how the trade with
the Indians is to be managed, if #ie mode to which they have
been accustomed for so long a period  be  abolished.    But
exactly the same argument was advanced when it was proposed
to put an end to the great leviathan monopoly that Parliament
destroyed,  viz.  the  exclusive tea trade  of the East India
Company with China.    Having succeeded in putting down
that, shall we allow to remain standing this,  the last,  and
not the least odious of all the monopolies 1 BSesHeseiv™:
If there is nothing to* conceal, why the rigid secrecy which
the Company exact from all their subordinates and officers ?
If there Is no opposition to colonization, why is the Company
now insisting upon the general unfitness for colonization, and
the great difficulty of reaching the Red River settlement,
where no clearing of forest is necessary, where the pasturage
is rich and the climate salubrious, where wheat, barley, and
Indian corn grow abundantly, where the rivers abound with
excellent fish, and the unreclaimed lands swarm with game
of all descriptions ?
If, as Mr. Labouchere says, he feels bound to state, the
Company are not neglectful of their duty, as | Trustees for the
British people and also for the Indian population;" how is it
ftiat in the Colonial office a memorial has been lying unheeded since 1847, from a number of settlers and half castes
at Red River, bitterly complaining of the injustice, avarice,
and extortion practiced by the Company, and of their total
neglect of all attempts to educate, or in any way to civilize
the Indian population ? &S&ch is their notion of what their
Governor, Sir George Simpson, calls " the divine task of
shedding on the natives theMight of the Gospel." It is unnecessary to say more, their own words condemn them, and
surely they are not fit persons to be trusted with power, or
to be compensated when deprived of it.
On perusing the different worls written by various Authors,
in which allusion is made to the Hudson's Bay Company, it is
curious to observe that all, except those written under the
auspices ofi'the Company, agree in the injustice of ^ieir proceedings, and all arrive at a condemnatory conclusion. There
is, however, a work published by a Mr. Fitzgerald, which
particularly arrested my attention, and, for the sake of Justice
and Humanity, I trust that all that is therein stated is not true ;
else the curse of God as well as man, must rest upon this
Company, for the perusal of it makes the heart bleed with
grief, whilst the blood boils with indignation. This work,
published by Saunders, of Charing Cross, ought to be perused
by every Member of Parliament, before he can be deemed
competent to give a fair and just opinion on the subject. »K^
But, independent of these, there is a work just published,
called, "A Personal Narrative ofJShe Discovery of the Nor$i-
West Passage," by Alexander Armstrong, M.D., R.N., 1857,
in whkh the author, who cannot have any interest in speaking
against the Company, makes allusion to it in such a way as to
deserve attention. At page 151, speaking of an Esquimaux
tribe they met, that did not trade with the Hudson's Bay
Company, in consequence of their people having introduced
spirits amongst them, he says : " Ifhrough this channel all
their trade is carried on with the Russians and not with the
Company, in whose territory they reside. Therfreason they
assigned for not doing so when questioned was, that some of
the Indians had been killed by fire-water (spirits)* which some
traders had given them to drink, and they feared they might
be treated in the same way. This statement is given as nearly
as possible in the words in which it was uttered ; and, if such
a practice exist, it is reprehensible in the highest degree."
At page 163, allusion is again made to the introduction of
spirits, and he states : % This was the second time we had
heard a similar story, since entering the Hudson's Bay Company's territories," At page 177, speaking of another tribe
they met, he says : " They repeated the accusation of the firewater having been given in barter, and its fatal results. On
enquiring as to the value of a Silver Fox Skin, and the amount
it realised in barter, they confirmed a storfy we had heard from
the women the day previous, that for three of those precious
Skins, they had got from the traders cooking utensils, which
we estimated at eight shillings and sixpence.*   I may mention
* On enquiry, it appears that the Hudson's Bay Company have two
Public Sales of Furs in London every year, during the Spring and
Autumn months, and at their Sale last March they sold 909 Black or
Silver Fox Skins, at an average price of £\*J 2s. Id. ; some of them
brought as high as jg49 10s. each. Assuming, therefore, that Dr.
Armstrong's account is correct; at that Sale they obtained £51 6s. 3d.
for some trumpery cooking utensils, which only cost them 8s. 6d.!—this
il a profit of 11,973J per cent., or nearly 120 times more than the first
cost. The total amount of that Sale al$he, came to fully jg242,900. This
statement the Company cannot deny.^iii
/AerlSUW'fifcxfcisw '1
that the Skin of the Silver Fox is one of the most valuable Furs,
and at the annual sale of the Hudson's Bay Company, varies
in price, sometimes bringing as high as twenty-five or thirty
guineas, so that an idea of their profits may be formed when
we consider the amount of their original cost. How much
the condition of these poor creatures might be improved under
the influence of free trade."
At page 198, speaking of the Esquimaux westward of the
Mackenzie River, he says—" I trust the day is not far distant
when the light ^of cfjrilisatipn will dawn upon this poor,
benighted, but intelligent race of beings; for it is deplorable
to think that there exists in the Queen's dominions people, so
utterly neglected as they have been, without an effort having
ever been made, by the rulers of t^eir land (Hudson's Bay
Company) to ameliorate their condition, or remove them from
a state of heathen darkness. But where monopoly exists,
progress is arrested ; and it is to be hoped the wisdom of our
legislature will, ere long, destroy the^ne and promote the
other, and thus develop the resources of their country to
the permanent advancement and happiness of its inhabitants."
At page 341, he continues—"It is quite deplorable to
think of so fine a race as they were represented to be, being
so utterly neglected, and existing in a state of such abjecfr
heathenism ; more particularly when we find the southern
boundary of their country within twenty-five miles of the
Northern limit of the extensive territories of that Company
(Hudson's Bay^, who obtained, and still hold, a charter granted
to them, that they might be the means of promoting commerce
and advancing civilization amongst these wild, but interesting
people. How far they have succeeded in the former, they probably
can tell; but how they have neglected the latter, we have seen."
Now, after what has been stated of some of the proceedings of this Company, what i3 the result ?—Finding their
plea for a renewal of the Charter untenable, they now
talk of compensation!—Compensation for what?—Is it for
allowing them the undisturbed possession of a Charter that
was not only illegal from the first, but the conditions of which BKv^
they have violated up to the present time ? Is it to reward their
Governor4n-chief for indecently falsifying himself before the
Senators of his Country ? Is it for jeopardising the character
of a Colonial Minister, by inducing him to make grants, that were
derogatory to the interests of his Sovereign and his Country ? Is
it for entailing misery and destruction upon thousands throughout the country, which is withering under its curse ? Is it for
shutting up the earth from the knowledge of man, and man
from .the knowledge of God? Is it for starving the poor
Natives and then never deviating from what is stated to be
their "invariable rule of avenging the murder by Indians of any
of their servants. Blood for blood without trial of any kind?*''
Is it for forcing whole tribes of benighted British subjects (for
so they are), by famine, to cannabalism, and eventually to destruction ?
England had better pause, before she entertains the renewal
of such a Charter, or grants compensation for Blood.
There are many to whom even the name of the Hudson's
Bay Company is scarcely known, much less its proceedings.
The management of their affairs is inscrutable, for they never
publish any accounts, and refuse to give to their proprietary
any information-~*»it is like a commercial tomb closed with the
key of death to all, except a favored few. It is, in fact, a
monopoly as injurious as it is unjust-—its councils are'unfathomable and its secrets unknown. With all the assumption of a self
constituted authority, it has defied Parliamentary interference
and Public scrutiny—it oppresses for power and demoralizes
for gain—its revenues are acquired in secret and it distributes
in silence.
The late debates in the House of Commons on the renewal
of the Charter to the Company, which expires in 1859, call
forth the serious reflection of every right thinking man. Without much political sagacity, or any extraordinary depth of
observation, the mind was led to a foregone conclusion on the
part of Government; and though we are bound to give credit
to the assertion of Mr. Labouchere that such was not the case,
yet it  was  difficult   to  comprehend   the  lukewarmness  of
v.* 18
Government on a question of such vital importance to the
nation, both as regards the loss or retention of those immense
territories, and also as regards the future well-being of
thousands yet unborn. If no other plea than that of humanity
were urged, surely the cries of an oppressed race are sufficient
to arouse the sympathies of Christianity.
The time, however, has now arrived, when the nation
expects the Commons of England will not any longer permit
Power to thwart Justice. The people of England demand
the restitution of their possessions, and the right of maintaining them.
LONDON, 18th May, 1857.
Subsequently to the above being placed in the hands of the printer, a
curious document has been sent to me, which, my informant says, has just
been issued, as customary, from the Hudson's Bay Company's House in the
City, to those persons who are in the habit of buying their Furs. It
shews the number of each kind of Skins the Company expects from
Vancouver's Island this year, (to be sold in their Public Sale next
Autumn) and at the estimated value given me, the total amount appears
to be upwards of ^44,500, supposing they bring the same prices at which
they* sold last Autumn, as shewn below.
Does Lord Grey call a grant that produces £44,500 a year for one article,
nothing ?—If Furs to such an amount can be obtained, how much more
may be reasonably expected from other articles produced there?—Is itv
nothing to deprive the Nation of all right of trading there?    The value of
such nothings is very important, in a national point of view.
Expected 1857.
Beaver   15,500.
Badger        95..
Bear      4050.
fisher .....,.>....     615.,
Fox silver          105.,
,,   cross       358.,
„  red      326.
Lynx and cat...    4760.,
Value last
.   9/3 each
1/8 „
. 34/ „
. 2#8 „
.153/5 ,,
• 46/2 „
• 11/     ,,
. 10/8    ,,
Marten  20,400  13/11
Value last
Skins Autumn.
Mink  18,870    4/5 each
Musquash.. 13,450 llfd   „
Otter     2178     7/9    „
„   sea      178 373/7   „
Raccoon...   1470    2/7   ,,
Seal, Hair    7780    3/11 ,,
Wolf       662    5/8   ,,
Wolverin       285....'.. 12/6    „ /MBSS&; Lf»  


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