MoboReader> Literature > Canada and the States

   Chapter 13 No.13

Canada and the States By Sir E. W. Watkin Characters: 45774

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

"Governor Dallas."

I should do injustice to my own loving memory of the man, if I did not publish some letters from the late Governor Dallas, which are, to my mind, especially interesting. Though some of his views, in 1863, as to the value of the Hudson's Bay lands, and their settlement, did not accord with my own, yet his experience should plead against mine. No one was more pleased than he to find that the country was in process- after many delays, over which he and I used to groan in concert-of successful colonization.

"MONTREAL, "17th August, 1863.


"With reference to our late conversations upon various matters connected with the past and future of the Hudson's Bay Company, I take the liberty of calling your attention to several points of the business requiring immediate attention, in a more explicit manner than I may have done in desultory conversation.

"The government of the territory is come almost to a dead-lock in the Red River Settlement, and nothing short of direct administration under the authority of the Crown will, in my opinion, remedy the evil. Two prisoners have been, in separate instances, forcibly rescued from jail, and they, with about thirty to fifty others implicated in the riots, are still at large, fostering discontent, and creating great disquiet. Their secret instigator controls the only paper published in the settlement, and its continued attacks upon the Company find a greedy ear with the public at large, both in the settlement and in Canada. The position of those in authority is so disagreeable that I have had great difficulty in persuading the magistrates to continue to act. Mr. William Mactavish, Governor of Assiniboin, has resigned his post, and I have only been restrained from following his example, for a short time, in the hope that a remedy would speedily be applied, and that I should be relieved from the unfair position in which I find myself placed, with all the responsibility, and the semblance of authority over a vast territory, but unsupported, if not ignored, by the Crown. In the absence of a just grievance, the cry of 'the Company' is quite a sufficient watchword amongst the ignorant and discontented.

"The open malcontents are few in number, and I had ample volunteer force at my back to protect the jail and support my authority, but, as I have already explained to you, I could exercise but little control over my friends, who were keen for what would have ended in a free fight, with the certain death of the sheriff and ringleaders on both sides, and led to endless animosities. It required more resolution on my part to follow the course I did, than to have resisted the rioters. For details of the transactions I refer you to my official letters to the Board, which you will find in the Hudson's Bay House.

"Of the settlers, the greater number, including the French Canadians, are our staunch personal friends, while the openly disaffected are but few. There is still, however, a considerable portion of the people who, though taking no open part, are yet dissatisfied. Some of these last named have real or imaginary grievances, of long standing to complain of, and nothing but the extinction of the governing powers of the Company will satisfy them. I came amongst them as free from prejudice as you can be, and determined to redress every grievance and meet their wishes in every reasonable way, but to no avail. I have already transmitted to the Board evidence in the 'Nor' Wester,' that our unpopularity arises entirely from the system of government, and not from any faults in its administrators.

"A continuance of this state of matters may lead to the formation of a provisional government by the people themselves, and to annexation to the United States, as have been threatened. With the opening up of the St. Paul's route, there has been a large increase of the 'American' element in the settlement; and in the enclosed copy of the 'Nor' Wester' of the 22nd July, you will observe that the United States Government is quietly recruiting for its army in British territory. This matter, I trust, may be in the meantime brought to the notice of the proper authorities pending further information upon my return to Red River.

"The trust which the Board has placed in my hands, and the confidence reposed in my ability to guide you in forming your plans for the future, impose on me no little responsibility and anxiety. I must relieve my shoulders of this weight by stating plainly my belief that the opening up of the country by waggon road and telegraph, and by the encouragement of settlement, must prove so far detrimental to the current commercial business of the Company as to render it difficult, if not impossible, to provide a fair dividend upon the portion of its capital embarked in the trade. I do not, however, the less recognize the necessity of opening up the country and its communications. It is not at all clear to my mind how you are to secure a remunerative dividend upon the extra sum to be embarked in the erection of the telegraph, formation of roads, &c., &c. In a commercial point of view, I do not consider it safe to enter upon these extended operations till secure of a sufficient subsidy from the different Governments interested.

"Upon a mature consideration of the whole subject, I entirely concur in the views expressed by Mr. Johnstone in his letter, of which I have already sent only an extract to Sir Edmund Head, viz., that with the government of the country the territorial right should also revert to the Crown, upon whatever terms might be arranged. Anything short of a full measure of this sort would fail to satisfy the settlers and the public at large, who seem inclined to view with distrust the present position of Her Majesty's Government in its supposed alliance with the new Board of Direction.

"It is a question for consideration whether the northern region of the country beyond the limits of probable settlement should not still remain under the control of the Company, with such a monopoly of trade as would induce them to undertake the responsibility of managing the Indian tribes, and excluding the introduction of ardent spirits. I make this suggestion solely on behalf of the Indians, upon whom free intercourse with white men will, in my opinion, be ultimately destructive.

"Having already impressed upon you the necessity of procuring from Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies such instructions to the Governors of Vancouver's Island and British Columbia as may put an end to all proceedings against us in the local courts, and place us in possession of proper titles to our lands, I have now, in reminding you of the importance of the matter, to hand you the enclosed extract of a private letter which I received yesterday from Mr. D. Mactavish, senior member of our Board of Management in Victoria, which speaks for itself.

"Though I have marked this communication 'private,' I shall be obliged by your laying it before Sir Edmund Head, as I am so very hurried that I have not time at present to write officially to the Board.

"I remain, dear Sir, yours faithfully,


"E. WATKIN, Esq., London.

"P.S.-The undoubted discoveries of gold diggings in the Saskatchewan and other portions of the territory is another strong reason why the land should revert to and be administered by the Crown. Large grants to the Company would be looked upon with great disfavour by the public.

"A. G. D."

Extract private letter from D. Mactavish, Esq., to A. G. Dallas, dated

Victoria, Vancouver's Island, 13th July, 1863:-

"We hear nothing of our land question from the Governor, and there is no getting him to give titles for the Company's lands at Hope, Yale, and Langley. Orders have come out for the Royal Engineers to go to England immediately after the new year, so that Colonel Moodie and his staff of surveyors will do no more work, their time being so nearly up-this is worrying, but cannot be helped. The Governor has so much to do, making roads and so forth in British Columbia, that there is no drawing his attention to our matters, and when we do call on him to act, his invariable answer is, that he cannot get Moodie to do anything, and I daresay there is some truth in it, as it is shrewdly surmised that His Excellency has had more to do with the recall of the Engineers home than anyone else, and they all feel that they are leaving under a cloud."

"MONTREAL, "17_th Augt._ 1863.


"Along with this I send you a letter which, though marked private, treats only of our affairs, in such a manner that it may be laid before the Duke of Newcastle. It ought, I think, also to be laid before Sir Edmund Head, and I shall refer him to it for my views. It is very important that the whole of Johnstone's letter, and of my account of affairs at Red River, in regard to the Corbett riots, addressed to the Board, should be read along with the above letter. I do not think that we can ever make anything out of our lands, [Footnote: Experience has shown that this was an error.] and I am therefore strongly of opinion that they should be transferred to the Government upon certain terms, excepting only such lands around our forts as may be necessary for our business, and our farms, &c. in actual occupation.

"Although a great outcry has been raised against us on account of our being a 'stop in the way,' and enjoying a monopoly of trade, the cry is groundless. It may, therefore, be well for you to know that for a number of years past we have enjoyed no monopoly of trade whatever, and that there is no impediment to the settlement of the country by any one who pleases. A settler may squat wherever he thinks fit, without question, or being called upon to pay for lands yet unsurveyed, and of which the Indian titles are not yet extinguished. The small portion of surveyed land in the district of Assiniboin has been all long since occupied, though not paid for. With a recognized Government, there would be no difficulty in obtaining payment for these lands from the occupiers.

"In erecting the telegraph, the Indian titles to the land ought to be extinguished by annual payments; but the absence of a recognized and respected Government will be of itself a great bar to the successful erection of the apparatus, and the preserving it and the various stations in good order. Though, by increased energy and supervision, the fur trade may for a time be maintained, yet you must not count upon increased profits, as with the opening up of the country the furs are costing us more, and many of our posts are so distant that they cannot, from that and a variety of causes, be placed all at once upon a proper footing, and it is very difficult to exercise a proper supervision over them. It behoves the Company, therefore, to look out for other sources of profit. One of these is that of banking operations, both here and at Red River, and probably also at Victoria and at St. Paul, or other suitable locality in the U. S. On this head I may again address you from Red River, and Mr. Hopkins will afford you every information in regard to the prospects at this place, which are represented to be very great, when you come out in September.

"I am just about starting for Lake St. John's on the Saguenay River, and shall be absent about ten days. Upon my return I shall be ready to return to Red River-say, about the 1st September.

"Hoping you have had a pleasant passage, believe me,

"Yours very truly,

"E. WATKIN, Esq., London.


"P.S.-I do not see how the Company can make anything out of placer gold diggings in such a country. The miners must be encouraged, and mining licences cannot be expected to do more than pay the cost of collection, magistracy, police, &c. The surrender of all this territory to the Crown, however, is a question to be dealt with by the Board. My aim is to disabuse you of the idea that the Company can of itself turn the territory to profit by sale of lands, mining rights, making roads, telegraph, &c.

"A. G. D."

"MONTREAL, "18_th August,_ 1863.


"I left New York the evening of the day I parted from you, and reached this place on the Saturday night, via Boston and Portland, quite done up, having travelled two nights without undressing. The crowds were such as they were on the Hudson, and my mind often reverted to the good things I left at the door of the steward's pantry in the 'Scotia,'

"Brydges is not yet back from Quebec, and Hopkins and I start to-morrow for the Saguenay and St. John's Lake, where affairs require to be looked after.

"I have a letter to-day from St. Paul, in which Kittson says that the railroad gentry were anxiously expecting you, and making much capital out of the expected visit. He adds, 'The people of the State will not be so blind to their own interest as to decline to undertake to complete the portion of telegraph required. I have no doubt that a company could immediately be formed to accomplish the object.'

"Reverting to my grievance against the old Board, I wish to state what I complain of, viz., that I am charged with my passage across the Atlantic, and with a sum of L50, drawn to cover travelling expenses to Montreal. These were charged against me in February, 1862, and have borne interest against me since then.

"2ndly. I complain that I am charged interest on all sums drawn by me in each year-though within the amount of that year's salary. I surely am entitled to draw my pay from time to time to cover my expenditure? Officers in this country manage under the existing system of accounts to get the benefit of funds, even in excess of their pay, for two years without interest.

"3rdly. I had charge of the Puget Sound Company's affairs, which, with great labour, I placed upon a satisfactory footing-including the recovery of large sums from Government, and the terminating complicated and ruinous engagements with bailiffs or tenants and partners. I paid my expenses to Vancouver's Island, and devoted my whole time to the above matters, from 1st January, 1857, to the period of my leaving the Island in 1861, without having received one shilling of recompense. For the latter portion of the time I was paid by the H. B. Co., when I had the sole charge of its affairs during a most anxious and harassing period-constantly involved with all around me defending the rights of both companies.

"I say nothing as to my scale of pay under the old Board, but in making the changes which they did I think they ought not to have assumed that I should continue to act for the same remuneration.

"The pay was not my inducement to come to the country, but when overtures were first made to me, nothing being said to the contrary, I expected that I should at least receive the same pay and be placed on an equally good footing with the late Sir George Simpson, who for a number of years past lived at his ease at Lachine, and attended more, apparently, to his own affairs than to those of the Company. The latter bear evidence in every district of having been left entirely to themselves, while extreme discontent prevails in consequence of favouritism having regulated the promotions.

"Though not a ground of complaint, or a matter requiring redress-yet I may call attention to the inadequacy of my pay hitherto, when it is taken into account, that, from the unsettled life I have led in the Company's service, I have been obliged to neglect my private affairs. I have never received anything for outfit, and I was unlucky enough on my way out to have the most of our traps burnt the night before we embarked at Liverpool, in the Adelphi Hotel. The clothes ordered to replace these have all gone to the bottom in the 'Anglo Saxon.'

"I do not allude to these matters now with the view of obtaining higher pay for the future, as you know my intention is to return to England in the spring, and with the business in fair working order I can be of more avail there.

"It so happens that the fruits of my labours in America, both as regards the Hudson's Bay and Puget Sound Companies, will be reaped mainly by the present proprietors. At the same time, all such claims as the above ought to have been settled up to 31st May last by the old Board.

"A grumbling fellow is, I know, looked upon with great disfavour, especially when there is nothing more to be got out of him. This, therefore, is intended for your own eye alone. The substance of my complaint you may make use of as you see fit.

"Excuse this scrawl, and believe me in haste,

"Very truly yours,


"E. WATKIN, Esq., London."

"FORT GARRY, RED RIVER, "16th October, 1863.


"I arrived here on the 9th instant, after a wet, cold, and very miserable ride on horseback, of 520 miles, from St. Cloud, and was not sorry to get home again.

"After parting from you I went to the Saguenay River and Lake St. John's, where I need say no more than that my presence was very much wanted. No practical supervision had ever been exercised over the posts in that district, so far as I could learn.

"Brydges accompanied me to St. Paul; but I could not induce him to come any further, as he said he had a wife, eleven hundred children, and six miles of railway (more or less of either) to look after.

"You will doubtless have seen what I have written to the Board in regard to the telegraph across the Continent. The more I consider the subject the more satisfied I am that next year's operations ought to be confined to a survey of the line, and to bring the material to Fort Garry. In addition to sending a practical man, I would recommend that Mr. Wood himself come to Fort Carry. By following the 'Crow Wing' route he will get a perfect idea of the difficulties to be encountered along the whole line, as perfectly as a pinch of flour would represent the contents of the whole sack.

"I wish to call your particular attention to a letter which I have this day addressed to the Board, upon the subject of Indian claims to lands, and the officious part taken by the editor of the 'Nor' Wester,' in the hope that you may be able to exercise some influence over the Duke of Newcastle in prevailing upon him to discourage such men in some marked manner. As my residence in that country will now be a very short one, and as I have no pecuniary interest in the Company or the country, I write disinterestedly, and this knowledge may induce his Grace to pay some attention to my warnings. There will be serious trouble hereafter with the Indians and half-breeds, unless the local government is better supported, and such men as Ross and others are discountenanced.

"My interest in the old Company was a nominal one, merely sufficient to qualify myself for a seat on the Direction. That interest I sold out on accepting my present appointment. During my residence at Vancouver Island and on this side, I have been working for honorary occupation-my pay having formed no inducement, and being quite inadequate in countries where, in matters of expenditure, a dollar passes for little more than a shilling in England, and liable, as I was, from my wandering life, and with a family-to the losses incurred by a frequent breaking up of establishment. I allude to these matters, not for the purpose of complaint, but in support of the position that, as a disinterested and impartial administrator of the affairs entrusted to my charge, I was actuated by no selfish or pecuniary motives.

"The formation of the colony of British Columbia could not have been carried on as it was but for the assistance rendered by the H. B. Co., and I considered I was acting as much for the Government as for the Company, in the services then rendered, which, being unofficial, have not been in any way recognized. The unscrupulous way in which Douglas wished to saddle all expenses on the Company, and his attempts to deprive us of the lands which he himself made over to me as Company's property, led to serious differences between him and me, and which may have caused me to be looked on with probably a hostile eye by the Government, when I was actuated by the most impartial motives, and did at the same time everything I could to help the local government in its elections and other views, where our influence was overwhelming.

"Since assuming office on this side, I have been thoroughly disheartened, in the midst of very trying and difficult circumstances, between the Americans, Sioux Indians, and local disturbances on one hand, and the want of any encouragement or support by Government on the other hand. We have been not only ignored, but the worst enemies of the country have direct access to the Colonial Office, and though, probably, not attended to, are yet encouraged, from the fact of their petitions being received. No temptation would induce me to continue longer in office, even were it considered desirable that I should continue to hold my appointment, which for the good of the country I ought not. At the same time. Her Majesty's Government cannot continue much longer to ignore this territory. By such a course they are only sowing the seeds of further trouble, which I shall not be sorry to escape.

"I am afraid I have let my pen run away with me; but in our isolation local matters absorb our whole energies, and we look upon the affairs of Europe, or even the fall of Charleston, as of minor importance.

"Believe me, yours very truly,


"EDWARD WATKIN, Esq., London."

The extract from the "Grit" paper, the "Nor 'Wester" was as follows:-


["From the 'Nor' Wester.']


"A few weeks ago, the venerable Chief of the Red River Indians, William King, or 'Pegowis,' left his home at the Indian Settlement-a most unusual thing for him-and came up to Fort Carry to make a formal statement, once for all, of the arrangement made by the late Earl of Selkirk with the Indians of this region in regard to their land. This statement, which he made voluntarily and deliberately, for the benefit of all whom it may concern, and for future reference if necessary, he desired to be published in this journal, and a copy thereof to be forwarded to the Duke of Newcastle. His immediate reason for doing this at present, is, he says, because he is now the only surviving Chief of the five who treated with Lord Selkirk, and as there have been many misrepresentations, he desires to see the facts placed on record before he passes off the earthly stage.

"The following is his account, taken down at his own request, by one of the editors of this journal:-

"'This transaction happened a long long time ago. I am now a very old man

-I was then in the prime and vigour of manhood. We were taken by surprise when, all of a sudden, those who came before, disembarked. We had not been apprised of the coming of the foreigners-when they landed, we were greatly surprised and wondered what they meant. We were in this neighbourhood at the time. They only spoke among themselves, while the agents of the North-west Company were here. We did not know what it meant, when they asked the North-westers into the plain. As soon as they were done speaking among themselves the cannons were fired. We said, "What can it mean? It must be some great affair." The apparent harmony of the two Companies did not last long. The same summer differences arose which led to fighting: they fought twice that summer. We wondered at their proceedings-meeting in friendly council together, and then, immediately after, taking each others' lives!

"'As soon as the fighting was over, the report came that Lord Selkirk had arrived at Fort William. The ensuing winter, I called together all the Indians round here-those at Red Lake, at the Manitobah, and at the mouth of the Red River; I also invited the Crees on the Upper Assiniboine. "Come," said I-"assemble here-come and listen-this great man cannot be coming for nothing." A large multitude had gathered here early in the spring, when the Earl arrived with 30 canoes.

"'The day after he arrived, about noon, he sent for us. There were many of us, and we all left our tents at his call, and marched to the place of conference. There lay before us six kegs. He said-"Friends, I salute you." Immediately after the salutations, a day was fixed for a Council. Two personages were appointed to meet us. On the day named, one gentleman arrived, the other did not. He said-"Let us do without him who did not come." But the other soon came.

"'As soon as we had taken our seats, he said-"Friends, I have come to ask you about the lands, if you will give them to me. I do not want much-give what you choose. Will you give me as far from the river as you can distinguish the belly of a horse? It is to put settlers here- people far off, who have misery in their own country. This is why I want it. They will not trespass upon or spoil your lands that you retain outside of the limits I have named. I wish to put inhabitants upon it to cultivate the soil. I will endeavour to make the country like my own country. If I succeed in accomplishing what I intend, there will be merchants and traders from one end of the Settlement to the other, who will furnish you with goods. They will be at a little distance from each other, and you will have a chance of seeking out the best places for trading. All this I will do, if we can arrange about the land."

"'We were five Chiefs. I represented this district, the other Chiefs, other districts. The Earl said to me-"Speak you first-how much land will you give me?" I said-"I will speak last: let the others speak before me." KITCHE OTTAWA (Grand Courte-Oreille) spoke first. He mentioned Riviere aux Rose Aux. The Earl made no reply to this; whereupon the Chief mentioned as far as Pembina. The Earl said-Yes. Then he appealed to Mahkatayihkoonaya, Le Grand Noir, and asked what he would give. He said, from Pembina to Red Lake. Then he turned to La Robe Noir, who said as far as Portage Laprairie. At this the gentlemen hummed among themselves for a little, and the end was a question from the Earl. Is there no stream about there which you could mention as a limit? Mahkatayihkoonayai replied-Yes, there is la Riviere Champignon, a little beyond. The Earl said-There, that will be the limit. Then he asked Senna the Cree Chief, who said-No, I do not want agriculturists, I only want traders! The Earl said-Do you think you will ever see your trader again? (referring to the North-West Company). Never: he (the N. W. Co.) has done a bad thing-he has killed people. The Earl added-Then you do not wish to get a load of powder, a knife or a steel from settlers? Well, work diligently at the furs, and you will find a trader (meaning the H. B. Co.). The nobleman then said to me-Your turn, speak. I said-This is my place. How much will you give me for the part between this and the Rapids? I will then go below that. He said-a little further down, if you will. I replied- Yes, I will give you to the bend of the river above Sugar Point. That point I like very much-I cannot part with it-it is for my children. This satisfied the Earl, and he said further-Fear not: the people I plant here will not trouble your wild animals-they will merely work the soil. If they pass beyond the two-miles limit, do not allow them: they have no right there. At present we cannot conclude the arrangement, for I have nothing to pay you with. Let us leave the matter as it stands. I will come back, and then we will close the negociations. I am in a hurry, and cannot remain longer, but I will be sure to return. I want to go to the States and get cattle, that we may eat. That is the meat we eat. Perhaps even you may desire to get some of our cattle when you see them with the inhabitants here. But before I leave, I would like to give you something in consideration of the arrangement, which is to be made when I come back. What would you like to have? I said-Powder is useful to Indians, and tobacco they like-rum, too, they would fain have. We got what we asked. When we were done speaking, the Earl said-I want you to put your names to a paper, to show in England what we propose to do. We all said, No-wait till you come back. He asked us again to sign, but we refused, saying it would be time enough when the arrangement was completed. The Earl said-If your names were down, it would be easier for me to conclude the affair when I get back; besides, your young men would see, in the event of your deaths, what you had proposed to do. So we consented. Our names and marks were put down. We did not see why he pressed us to sign; but I now think it was in order to have us in his power, should he not do what he promised. He did not tell us what was in the paper, and I regret to say we did not even ask him what was in it. That was our ignorance. It was a great mistake, as after events showed; Lord Selkirk never came back, and never completed the arrangements about the lands. Our lands have not been bought from us-we have not received payment for them. We got some things from time to time-small supplies-but less and less as time rolled along, until we got nothing. These little presents we looked upon as a consideration for the use of our land until a bargain should be properly made. Besides, we were friendly to the settlers, and often saved them from harm. We thought this also a reason why we got things. For my part, there was a great reason why I should receive something, irrespective of the land. I was the means one time of saving Lord Selkirk's life. When he was going off, some half- breeds wished to kill him-they asked us to take pemican to an ambush ahead. I refused, and prevented them doing it. The Earl thanked me for this. The things we got, I repeat, were not in payment for our lands. We never sold them. We only proposed to do so; but the proposal was never carried out, as Lord Selkirk never came back. At the time we held council with him, there was no mention of the Hudson's Bay Company. They were not spoken of, or taken into account at all. All of a sudden, some years afterwards, it turned out that they were claiming to be masters here.

"'And now I wish this statement to go across the waters to my great and good Mother, and I pray her to cause a proper settlement to be made with us for our lands, so that our children, and our children's children, whose lands are being taken possession of by foreigners, may receive what is just and fair for the loss of their lands. I am old and feeble. I am the only surviving Chief of those who spoke to Lord Selkirk. I pray the great Mother, whose medal I have, to feel for us and help us.



I should like here to add a very interesting letter from the agent of the Hudson's Bay Company in the United States:-

"52, CEDAR STREET, NEW YORK, "24th August, 1863.


"If in addressing you, and expressing a sincere hope that you had a pleasant voyage to Liverpool per the steamer 'Scotia,' I seem to take too much liberty, I beg your pardon, as it is not my nature to be intrusive'.

"A friend, knowing that I am interested in the fur and skin trade, handed me, to-day, a copy of the (London) 'Economist' of 4th ulto., calling my attention to the article headed 'The Hudson's Bay Company.' As you are interested in the 'International Financial Society,' I thought it proper, even at this late date, to call your attention to the ignorance, if not malice, displayed by the editor.

"He says: 'Civilization destroys wild animals, we all know. An eager trade destroys them, too. The moment they become either valuable to man, or disagreeable to man, they cease to live.' This sounds very like Dr. Johnson, without Dr. Johnson: for any farmer, trapper, or trader knows, that as the United States territory becomes settled, furred animals increase, because the refuse of civilization-the hen-roosts, the corn-fields, &c.-feed, directly and indirectly, the smaller animals, such as musquash, minks, foxes, racoons, opossums, skunks, and others; but the larger animals, such as buffaloes, bears, wolves, deer, elk, and others, would suffer from civilization were it not that they retire to the deserts, of which there will be enough for hundreds of years. Germany (it is said) produces more red-foxes than all America; and wolves are plentiful in France. As to an 'eager trade,' or excessive hunting, destroying wild animals, it is impossible. If the 'catch' is excessive this year, the supply will exceed the demand, and prices will fall; the hunt will be less eager next year, and the animals will increase. In the March sales in London this year, there were only 3,094 skunks, and the demand was greater than the supply, so that the price was as high as 7s. 2d., which stimulated the United States collectors so much that very likely C. M. Lampson & Co. will have about 100,000 in their September sale, and prices will very likely fall to 1s., or lower. The result will be, that the skunks will live in peace, and increase and multiply for some years to come. The skunk is the most 'disagreeable' of animals to man; but it is not, therefore, destroyed. I have a catalogue (Row, Row, Goad & Reece, brokers) of a fur sale (by the candle) at the London Commercial Sale Room, Mincing Lane, on the 21st and 22nd March, 1821, which I compare below with catalogues of fur sales in London on 27th and 28th January, and 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 9th, and 11th March, 1863. I include January, because musquash and beaver are sold in that month. This statement does not embrace many other, but lesser, sales, which take place about the same time. A vast quantity goes direct from here to Germany, which, in past years, went to London.

1821 1863 -- --

300 Musquash 1,289,773

6,380 Bears 3,962

None Beaver 95,557

8,290 Otter 12,933

3,280 Fisher 5,485

108,850 Martens 66,827

10,340 Minks 25,989

8,190 Foxes 28,369

2,500 Wolves 3,322

370 Wolverines 918

57,100 Racoons 204,888

None Skunks 3,094

None Opossums 560

None Badgers 1,370

23,000 Rabbits 46,151

5,631 Lynx 4,276

2,285 Cats 100

"Do the above data of forty-two years prove his assertion, that 'the fur trade, by which old profits were made, is a peculiar trade, tending to disappear' or do they prove the reverse? The value or price of furs has steadily advanced also.

"Again: 'The hunters in the Hudson's Bay Company are as perishable a race as the animals hunted.' Any trader knows this is false, except in the sense that we are all perishable. Applied to the United States Indians, it is true, from the cause assigned-rum-and worse causes- the vices of civilization. The cost of transportation to any portion of the Hudson's Bay territory heretofore has been so great that the rum used there must, to be profitable, be the purest that can be found, as there is water enough in Prince Rupert's Land with which to dilute it: so that what the Indian gets will not hurt him. The rivers in the United States (the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Yellowstone, the Arkansas, the Platte, and others) easily and cheaply carry 'rot- gut' and death to the United States Indian. It seems to be the aim, and will be the gain, of the United States to exterminate the Indian; it ought to be the aim, and would be the gain, of the 'International Financial Society' to preserve him.

"Again: 'The climate forbids effectual fertility, and the distance from more habitable regions forbids effectual transit. The regions to be colonized are mostly very cold and very barren.' If such is the case, of what value, applied to the new Company, are his assertions: 'Civilization destroys wild animals,' &c., and 'The hunters are as perishable,' &c.? The shareholders of the International Financial Society need have no fears of a failure of the fur trade, whatever may become of the 'sale of lands to new settlements, and the communication with British Columbia.'

"Again: 'In fact, the whole of the Red River region, such as it is, is best accessible from the United States, and, in case of war, would be exposed to an inroad from Minnesota, which adjoins it, without the possibility of aid from England.' If the editor would undertake to travel from St. Paul to Pembina (about 600 miles), and also read the accounts of expeditions in pursuit of hostile Indians in Minnesota, he would quickly get rid of his fear of the Americans ever invading the British North Western Territory. One of my correspondents, an old Indian trader, writes me on the 30th ult. that he had just reached Pembina, after a 'dirty and disagreeable trip' of 25 days from St. Paul. So long as the British Indians are treated as they have been, they could, and they would, sweep Minnesota clean of any army, even although as invincible as the 'army of the Potomac.' Even if the redskins did not want help, the United States Indians would unite with the British Indians, in order to be revenged on the pale faces.

"To my mind, the worst feature in the new Company is that of allowing a foreigner (American) to hold office. He owes allegiance to the United States, and his position gives him, knowledge which no American should possess. 'Blood is thicker than water,' says the proverb. Besides, he has his own fur trade to attend to, and it is as true now, as it was in old times, that 'no man can serve two masters.' Although he should withdraw from his own firm, still 'blood is thicker than water.' As to the idea that, being in the fur trade, his experience and influence will benefit the new Company, will any furrier believe that? If the new Company will sell all the furs they may have in their warehouse at the time of their regular sales, HOLDING BACK NONE TO RAISE PRICES, they will always have the confidence of the buyers, always get full value, and never require the influence or experience of any man. I am, unfortunately for myself, not a shareholder in either the old or the new Company, but if I were, I would never rest satisfied while an American was in the management.

"Should you ever visit this city, I will feel honoured if you call on me, and be glad to hear from you, or be of service to you, at any time.

"With great respect, yours truly,


"E. W. Watkin, Esquire,

"Care Hon. Hudson's Bay Co., London."

"Dunean, Inverness,

"29th October, 1872. Midnight.

"My dear Sir Edward,

"Your letter reached me to-night, just in the nick of tune, and I enclose a letter which I was just about to send to the Editor of the London 'Standard.' Please send it to that or any other paper you like, barring the 'Times,' 'Saturday Review,' or 'Pall Mall Gazette.' I wrote another letter to the 'Times,' by which they corrected the discrepancy between their statement of the 18th Oct. and that of the 26th, that the Emperor had three channels to consider, but they never published or acknowledged my letter. I suppose because it exposed their blunder, and attacked the Government. I had written both to the 'Pall Mall' and 'Saturday Review' in summer, pointing out that we had virtually surrendered our position by departing from the words of the Treaty of 1846, on the American demand; but for certain reasons they would not publish the letter, and you will observe that they now refrain from laying the blame on our Government. You must read carefully the articles in the 'Times' of 18, 25 and 26 October, and in the 'Standard' of Saturday last. The 'Standard' attacks our Government fairly and ably. You may give my name as the writer of the enclosed letter, but not for publication, as I do not wish to make an enemy of the 'Times.' Send me a copy of the paper in which it may appear, or make any use you may like of it.

"I send you Tuckerman's Report. It is very satisfactory and re- assuring.

"I and some others here were much pleased at your expose of Fowler. He tried to set up here as the cock of all our railways, but he got the worst of it, and now he has got his quietus (that is, if you intend to let him rest), and has lost what he was very ambitious of, viz., high social position in the North. The Duke of Sutherland and others with whom he had gained a footing, have given him the cold shoulder, and I hope you will, by some means or other, enlighten his friends at the Egyptian Embassy. I may write a few lines to you tomorrow-being now in great haste,

"Yours truly,


"P.S.-I have not kept a copy of my San Juan letter, which I have only just hurriedly written."

"Dunean, Inverness, N.B.

"30 October, 1872.

"My dear Sir Edward,

"I wrote you a few hurried lines last night, with an enclosure, for publication, on the subject of the San Juan Arbitration.

"In the 'Times' of yesterday there is a letter signed 'The Ghost,' which, like all that the 'Times' permits to appear in its columns, is intended to throw dust in the eyes of the public, and direct attention from the real authors of the calamity, viz., the present Government, to that of Lord Aberdeen, or the German Emperor. The letter says, 'It is difficult to understand how an arbitrator could have accepted the task imposed upon him,' &c., alluding to his being debarred from deciding on the middle channel. An arbitrator will, of course, decide upon any conditions laid down; but is it not much more difficult to understand why we should have imposed such conditions on the arbitrator, on the demand of America, when we had the simple words of the Treaty to go by?

"The same letter, in alluding to Harney's invasion, says, 'It is pleasant to remember how promptly the American Government disavowed the act of their officer.' They never did so practically. They never withdrew the offensive troops, and forced us to maintain an equal number of men there since that date, at who can tell what cost to this country, and for what good end?

"In considering the main question, I all along held that we erred in claiming the Rosario Channel; for the reason that although I have no doubt whatever it was the channel intended in the Treaty (as against the Haro Channel, and excluding consideration of the middle channel), we cannot prove to demonstration that it was so. In getting up a grievance it is now doubly dangerous to claim it, as we know that, comparing it with the Haro Channel, it is decided against us, on what we must suppose to be good reasons. On the above contention, too, we absolve our Government of their blunder, and make a scape-goat of the Emperor of Germany. The words of the Treaty define the boundary to be a line drawn southerly through the centre of the channel from the centre of the channel separating Vancouver's Island from the mainland. Had the existence of three channels been then known, one of them-the one meant-would certainly have been named. Only one channel, Rosario, was known at the time, and the presumption is that it was meant. Making too sure of this we claimed it. It is, however, clear to my mind that the whole space between the Continent and Vancouver Island was treated as one channel. The Douglas, or middle channel, would then fulfil to the letter the words of the Treaty, and give us all we wanted, and still leave a channel free to the Americans. It was, I contend, a fatal error to abandon this position. Having done so and departed from the words of the Treaty, it was really a toss up which of the two other channels was selected by the umpire. Though we argued that Rosario was the only channel known at the time of the Treaty, the Americans argue (as you know how) that it was not so, and moreover that there was no intention to give us more than Vancouver Island. Why such a red herring as this was allowed to decoy us from the straight path of the words of the Treaty is what, in the words of Dundreary, 'No fellah can understand.'

"I hope I have made myself clear to you, and that you will ventilate the subject in Canada (through the press), where and in British Columbia there must be a deep feeling of disappointment and disgust, without a just appreciation of how we came to be so befooled.

"Don't forget to send me any paper that may be published on the subject through you. I feel as if I had been personally swindled and insulted, and have lost all confidence in our present ministry. I am writing this again at midnight, having been from home all day.

"Yours truly,


"P.S.-Laing passed through Inverness to-day, on his way to canvass the


At Victoria, Vancouver's Island, in a fine position fronting the sea, there is a granite pedestal to record the services of Sir James Douglas, K.C.B., the father-in-law of Governor Dallas. The services of Sir James, were rendered to the great benefit, not only of the island, but of British Columbia generally. The colonist roads along the great mountain sides, across rivers, and, through the forests, are of his doing, with the practical co-operation of ex-Governor Trutch, a very able engineer; and to Douglas, Trutch, Sir Mathew Begbie, Mr. Dunsmuir, and a few others, the order, obedience to the law, and progress of the country must be mainly attributed. But no stone marks the services of Governor Dallas; no honour was offered him by our Government at home; and he received scant reward from the Governor and Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company sitting in London. Surely those who have profited by his self-denying labours might consider whether his great services should be allowed to fall into oblivion for want of some adequate monument to his memory.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top