§ Sir James Montgomery
rose to bring forward the motion of which he had given notice respecting the serious and active disputes that had taken place in British America between the North West and the Hudson's-bay company. He felt himself bound as much by public considerations as by his private relation to the noble lord immediately interested, to call the attention of parliament to the transactions which had taken place in that quarter of the globe. It had occurred to lord Selkirk, at an early period of his life, that a plan of emigration to that quarter might be usefully and beneficially formed; knowing that its situation afforded many advantages; and also being aware that there existed in Ireland and Scotland a discontented population, who would willingly emigrate to British America. To this project he was known to have devoted his most zealous efforts and his best days. A company had been constituted about a century ago, under the administration of lord Pelham, called the Hudson's-bay company. Under the royal charter then granted, a great space of territory, with more than ordinary powers of jurisdiction, was vested in the company. To that company lord Selkirk applied for a charter or grant, which he obtained, of a part of their territory called the Red River. He improved this country at great labour, and expense, and formed a settlement there; 1352 but the North-West company disputing the power of the company of Hudson's-bay to make the grant, his lordship obtained the opinions of some of the most eminent lawyers in England, amongst whom were the late sir Samuel Romilly, the present Mr. Justice Holroyd, Mr. Scarlett, and Mr. Bell, all of whom concurred in opinion that the company had the power of making the grant, and that his lordship had, under that grant, jurisdiction over the settlement of the Red River. His lordship fully rested his right, on those high legal authorities. His title, too, was recognised and confirmed by the act of the government of this country, on the breaking out of the American war in 1813; on that occasion he applied for protection to the colonial department against the attacks of the Indians, and a noble lord granted him 200 stand of arms, and two pieces of artillery. This settlement was viewed with a jealous eye by the North-West company, and every step was taken to prevent its advancement. Those steps were not very alarming at first, as they consisted in sending anonymous letters, and inserting paragraphs in the newspapers, pointing out to the Highlanders of Scotland the hardships they would undergo if they emigrated to lord Selkirk's settlement. These, however, had no effect. The only difficulty lord Selkirk had, was in preventing the Highlanders from coming out before proper provision could be made for them. It was next urged, that the Indians would massacre the whole settlement, but those machinations were as futile as the former, as the Indians were perfectly satisfied with the colony, and lived on the most friendly terms with them; they even came across the Red River, and lived close to the English settlement. The North-West company were still dissatisfied. He had been informed that several of the Indian chiefs had been requested to destroy the settlement. Whether this was true or not he would not then stop to inquire; but he held in his hand the affidavit of an Indian chief, which stated that the Indian people were applied to on the part of the North-West company, for the purpose of overturning the settlement. Certain it was, that treacherous measures were resorted to. It had been with the greatest pain that lord Selkirk discovered, in the year 1815, a design formed on the part of the North-West company, to invade and. destroy the infant settlement which he was 1353 endeavouring to establish. An attack was made, and the settlement was laid waste. In the following year a still more serious invasion took place, and numerous tribes, principally of what are called, half freedmen, who are in the service of the North-West company, assembled on the bank's of the Red River. The colonists received timely notice, and about 70 of them, headed by a gentleman named Semple, sallied out and encountered them. They were surrounded, defeated, and many of them slain. He did not scruple to charge the clerks and agents of the North-West company with the foul and premeditated murder of these persons. He was confident that such would be the inference under any judicial cognizance of' the transaction. It would be impossible for him to lay a sufficient ground for the production of those papers which it was the object of his motion to bring before the House, without characterising as he had done this strange and hostile proceeding. The mere fact of Mr. Semple's death would have called for inquiry under any system of civilized government. When he made these remarks, he could assure the House that he was not proceeding except on good evidence. He wished to press the case on its attention, not so much from his feelings as to what had passed, as from his apprehension that it might possibly recur. In the year 1812, the same in which the colony was established, a letter was written, of which he had a copy in his possession, by Mr. Macgillivrae, one of the company's agents, announcing the delight which he felt in having given some annoyance and obstruction to lord Selkirk; and stating that it would cost much trouble and expense to drive lord Selkirk from his schemes of colonization, but that he must be driven out, as his success would strike at the root of the North-West company. This letter was inserted in the Inverness Journal, and for the evident purpose of deterring the inhabitants of the Highlands of Scotland from emigrating to the other side of the Atlantic. In a letter from another agent of the North-Western company, an agent writing from the scene of action, it was remarked with expressions of exultation, that lord Selkirk's colony had been "knocked on the head." The letter went on to state, that another similar establishment was in contemplation, but that the example of lord Selkirk's colony would probably defeat and disappoint the 1354 views of its authors; adding, at the same time, that if necessary, the company were prepared to use main force in the prosecution of their objects. He had in his hand another important document written by Mr. Robert Henry, and dated 3rd June, 1816, which stated that a party of 50 men was about to start against the Red River settlement, and that it was feared it would be a serious business; and the writer added, that he expected some of the party would leave their bones there— "If I return," said Mr. Henry, "I am determined to quit the service of this rascally company altogether." Another letter stated that the party were too late, as the writer thanked God the battle was over before they arrived. A letter from another agent of the North-West company (a Mr. M'Lelland) observed, that if the noble lord (Selkirk) was furious at what had already taken place, how much more so must he be to find the colony destroyed. The writer added, "I believe a strong pull has already been made, and I do not doubt but if lord Selkirk continues stubborn, that a pull altogether will be easily accomplished." He would appeal to the House whether after this, he had used too strong a term in calling the attack of the North-West company foul and premeditated murder? It would be asked, what became of the settlers generally. A great part of them had their lives spared on two conditions: first, that they should surrender up their property; and secondly, that they should promise that they would leave the country, and never again return to it. The petitioner, Pritchard, was not so fortunate as some of the others; he was separated from his wife and family, and sent as a prisoner to Fort William, whither also a great part of the property taken from the Red River company was conveyed. When the settlement was destroyed, lord Selkirk was at Montreal; and on hearing that an attack was meditated, he prevailed on a hundred men of Meuron's Canadian regiment which had been disbanded, to accompany him for the purpose of protecting the settlers. His intention was, to go by the nearest road, which would not have brought him near Fort William, but before he had proceeded half way, he received intelligence that the settlement was destroyed, that a great part of the property had been taken to Fort William, and that many of the settlers were there. He accordingly went thither himself, and 1355 having had a conversation with Mr. Pritchard, and ascertained that this was a foul conspiracy on the part of the North-West company, he exercised that authority with which, as a magistrate, he conceived he was invested. What lord Selkirk did 600 miles from the place, and many months after the time of this outrage, was an inquiry into which he would not enter at present, nor would he follow those who might be disposed to enter into that question. If ever there was a case that called for strict and prompt inquiry, this was such a case; and he hoped the secretary for the colonial department would state why some of the parties had not been brought to this country for trial. He did believe, that at one time it was intended to bring the authors of those atrocities and violence to England under the statute of Henry 8th. What prevented it? If it was too much to expect that they should be brought over to this country to be tried, why had not a commission been sent out to America to try them, as had been done before in Scotland? Why had not a commission of oyer and terminer been granted, to prevent the case from lingering on in the manner which was usual in the courts of America, whose proceedings were certainly not likely to prevent the recurrence of crimes? The first objection which he had to the proceedings on this trial was, the great delay which had taken place. Although all the witnesses had been brought upwards of 1,000 miles at lord Selkirk's expense, and were supported at his expense while they remained at Quebec, yet the trial had been put off repeatedly from term to term. His next objection to this case being tried in America was, that all trials in Lower Canada must commence at Quebec, a small town, the inhabitants of which were under the influence of government, while in the present case Montreal, which was very populous, and where impartial and intelligent juries might be found, was a much fitter place. Indeed, there never was a case which demanded more that the trial should take place at Montreal; for the greater part of the witnesses speaking the French language only, it was most desirable that the trial should come on where that language was generally understood. It might be said that this difficulty could be obviated at Quebec by means of interpreters; but every gentleman experienced in legal proceedings would admit the inconvenience of that 1356 practice. There was another point which he thought it material to mention. The counsel for the Crown, according to the practice of these courts, would not allow any person, however interested in the trial, to interfere in any manner; they would not permit the counsel for lord Selkirk to put a single question to the witnesses. What would be the feeling excited by such proceeding in this country? In the case of lord Selkirk, it was peculiarly hard: he knew that his conduct was the subject of general remark, and that his character might be affected by the result of the trial; but yet he was not allowed, either directly or by counsel, to put a question to any of the witnesses. So strongly did he feel the injustice of this prohibition, that he made an application to the governor-general on the subject, but to no effect. Sir J. Sherbroke, in the answer which he returned to this application, said, that as it was customary for the crown officers to conduct every trial, they could not allow lord Selkirk's counsel to interfere, without his (sir J. Sherbroke's) permission, and he did not think himself called on to allow a deviation from the usual practice. The result was, as might have been expected under such a system, that the greatest of the criminals were acquitted. Among these was one Cuthbert Grant, the principal incendiary, and several others, of whose guilt no man entertained a doubt. These persons then sailed triumphantly home in the large boats of the North West Company, for the purpose, no doubt, of giving a colour of truth to that infamous doctrine which it was attempted to impress on the natives, that the North West company had power to screen any one from punishment. George Campbell, another of them, whose case was so bad that he could not be bailed, had nevertheless got out of prison on a certificate of bad health, signed by the gaoler! If the conduct of the crown officers towards the North West company was culpable, still more unjustifiable was the manner in which they acted against the settlers. They included the petitioner Pritchard in the indictment, for no other purpose, he firmly believed, than to prevent him from appearing as a witness on the trial. He was put on his trial, on two different occasions, for the alleged murder of one of the half-bred men who was killed in the attack on the settlement at the Red river. There was one part of the conduct of the attorney-general for 1357 the colonial government which particularly demanded investigation. When the indictment was brought before the grand jury, he insisted that he should remain with them during the examination of the witnesses; and he actually was closeted with the grand jury during three days. The law of Canada was the same as the law of England, and if the attorney-general there had legally this power, the attorney-general in this country must have the same. He now asked, had the attorney-general in this country such power; did he ever attempt to exercise it? It should also be recollected, that at the time the attorney-general of Canada did this, he was retained as counsel for the North West company. Though witnesses were brought a distance of three thousand miles at the noble lord's sole expense, not one-fourth of the persons, against whom bills of indictment were found, were yet tried. —What inference was to be drawn from such conduct, but that the counsel for the Crown were hostile to lord Selkirk's plan of colonization? He would ask the secretary for the colonies, whether, in all these proceedings, the crown officers in America had acted agreeably to the instructions sent from this country. Indeed, he could not suppose that they would presume to deviate from their instructions. On one of the trials, a number of papers were handed to lord Selkirk, one of which was a copy of a dispatch from the colonial office, dated February 1817, directing a trial to be instituted against lord Selkirk immediately; not leaving the conduct of the trial to the discretion of the crown officers in America, but containing peremptory orders as to the manner in which his lordship was to be apprehended; and the trial conducted, and above all, enjoining them not to allow the prisoner to escape. It was a question, whether the office was authorized to send such an order; in his opinion it was not; and it seemed the jury thought so too, for twice they acquitted lord Selkirk. He should, however, take another opportunity of ascertaining whether or not the order was right. Application had been made to the colonial department, so far back as the 1st of March, 1816, by the agents of the Hudson's Bay company, to define its limits, with the view of preventing those acts of depredation, with which, from the beginning, that company were threatened. —Had the colonial department performed their duty, the massacre which was so 1358 much to be deplored, and which did not take place for fourteen weeks subsequent to that application, might have been prevented. He thought he had made out a case that would warrant him to move for copies of the dispatches from the provincial government in Canada to the government in this country; but he should not press that motion at present: he should satisfy himself with moving an address to his royal highness the Prince Regent for copies of all official communications between the secretary of state for the colonial department and the provincial government of Upper or Lower Canada, respecting the destruction of the settlement on Red river, and respecting any legal proceedings thereon in the courts of Upper or Lower Canada.
§ Mr. Ellice
seconded the motion. He could assure the hon. baronet that no one lamented more than he did the atrocities which had taken place in North America, and which were now the subject of discussion. He had to regret that the hon. baronet had not, with the candour which characterized other parts of his statement, adverted to the causes of those unfortunate transactions. The hon. baronet had stated the proceedings of lord Selkirk, from the time at which he first went to America up to the present time. Before the noble lord had entered on this plan of colonization, he (Mr. Ellice) had the honour of being acquainted with his views; and although he was aware that colonization was his lordship's primary and principal object, yet he must be pardoned for saying that it had afterwards become connected with purposes of trade. The noble lord was a considerable proprietor in the Hudson's Bay company, and he could not help thinking, that if his lordship's only object was colonization, he should not have embarked in trade. He had differed at first, as he did still, from those who thought that great advantage would result from this plan; but it was unnecessary for him to trouble the House at present with the reason which induced him to do so. He was a share-holder in the Hudson's Bay company, as well as the hon. baronet opposite; and when the plan of colonization was first proposed, he at a meeting of the proprietors entered his protest against it. The hon. baronet had quoted the opinions of eminent lawyers in favour of the right which the company had, to make the grant of land to lord Selkirk; and he must; say, that he also had taken the best opi- 1359 nions that he could obtain: he had consulted and applied to all the eminent lawyers who had not been consulted by the opposite party, and their opinion was directly opposite to that which the advisers of the hon. baronet had given. The opinion of the late attorney-general, now chief baron of exchequer in Scotland, was, that government had no right to grant the land to the Hudson's Bay company, and consequently that the company could have no right to grant it to lord Selkirk. He had no doubt, that had the same information been laid before the learned gentlemen whom the hon. baronet had consulted, their opinion would have been the same as sir S. Shepherd's. At an interview with lord Selkirk, he denied his right of possession in that country, and gave him notice that he would not respect those rights, until a decision of a court of law was pronounced in their support. Surely those considerations ought to have induced the noble lord to hesitate before, on a disputed point, he hurried on proceedings which led to such a lamentable result. If lord Selkirk's claim was so well founded as the hon. baronet supposed, why had not lord Selkirk appealed to a court of law? He had now only stated the objections which he had urged against the grant to lord Selkirk long before any of the transactions in question had taken place. It was not possible to suppose human nature capable of such actions as the hon. baronet had described, unless there had been great previous provocations. The hon. baronet had read several letters written by agents of the North-west company; he regretted that those letters had been brought forward, and particularly one of the letters of an hon. gentleman; but he would read, in reply, a letter written by the noble earl, much earlier than those transactions, to a person going to establish a trading post on the Red river. From the statement of the hon. baronet, one might have supposed that the noble lord had not been at all connected with the proceedings; but his lordship thus wrote— "You must give them (the Canadians) solemn warning that the country belongs to the Hudson's-bay company, and you will, as far as you have physical means, prevent them from cutting timber or fishing, and treat all who fish with nets as poachers; if they resist, they must bear the consequences; but you are safe while you act in a reasonable and proper manner." The House would attend to the recommendation to 1360 prevent these things, "so far as physical means permitted." It would be seen how far these instructions were acted upon. In 1812, the colony was for the first time established. In the next season they opposed various obstructions to the fur trade. Mr. Cameron, the North-west company's agent, found it necessary to use the best means of self-defence in his power. He would here mention a particular act of Mr. Miles Macdonell, the governor of the colony. He wrote to Mr. Cameron in these terms:—"Take notice, I hereby give warning in the name of the right hon. Thomas earl of Selkirk, that no provisions are to be carried out of the territory of the colony." A proclamation was then sent forth by Mr. Miles M'Donnell, commanding the individuals, at one of the settlements of the North-west company to depart from thence, as lord Selkirk claimed the territory, under a grant from the Hudson's-bay company. This proclamation was distributed over the whole country; and thus individuals, who had been peaceably enjoying the immunities which they derived under the Canadian government, were directed to abandon their right. The next extraordinary step taken by Mr. M'Donnell was, as he had nor, from particular circumstances, the means of supporting the persons at the Red-river settlement, to order that the provisions laid up in the settlement of the North-west company, should be surrendered, on the ground that they were the produce of the soil belonging to lord Selkirk. If the Canadians could not carry provisions with them, they could neither carry on trade that year, nor bring in the supplies of next year. The first act of hostility, and which took place in 1814 or 1815, was the seizure of one of the posts of the Northwest company, with 500 bags of wheat, weighing 1 cwt. each, by a body of armed men sent for that purpose by governor Macdonell. The winter of 1814, or spring of 1815, Mr. Macdonell sent a company, who actually seized 500 bags of wheat, weighing 1 cwt. each. In that post the petitioner, Pritchard, was the clerk, and basely allowed the provisions to be seized. The hon. member would, if he had been there and had had arms, have defended himself to the utmost. Let the House see to what those proceedings led. This was the first step of violence, and hence all the succeeding steps could be traced. Arrangements were made by the North-west company to convey some provisions up 1361 the river. It became evident, that if lord Selkirk adopted such regulations as had been stated, and could enforce them, their trade was at an end. During the two succeeding winters various conflicts took place. Much violence and much injury were committed. They were crimes, he admitted; but the country was actually in a state of civil war, and the House must, when they viewed the actions, look to the feelings of irritation which had been mutually excited. He now came to that unfortunate conflict in which governor Semple, who was, he believed, an amiable man, and 17 associates, lost their lives. Such an outrage could not have been committed unless it had been preceded by a very different train of circumstances from what the hon. baronet had described. He would now state some of the preceding occurrences. On the 17th of March, 1817, at night, the operations of the Hudson's-bay company for obstructing the trade of the North-west company began. He said the Hudson's-bay company, for when the views and interests of the company and of the noble earl were almost joined, he could make no distinction between them. Mr. Cameron was taken prisoner, and sent down to the bay. A regular plan was formed, according to which a gun-boat was sent to intercept the canoes carrying provisions. There were two posts at the mouth of the Red-river, on which the Canadians depended in carrying on their trade. On the 17th of March one of these posts was attacked; all persons found in it were made prisoners, and the provisions were seized. On the 20th the other post was taken, the persons made prisoners, and the provisions seized. Both posts were burnt and razed to the ground. Lieutenant Holt, who conducted this affair, wrote an account of his success to lord Selkirk, of the 14th of April, and proceeded towards the only other post belonging to the North-west company on the Red-river. Mr. Alexander Macdonell, who commanded, refused to surrender it. To prove that the country was in a state of war, it was sufficient to state, that, in this case, there was a regular capitulation. The country being thus at open war, the aggressors being always the Hudson's-bay company and lord Selkirk, it became necessary for the North-west company to take measures to protect themselves from entire destruction. Those measures had been disingenuously described as 1362 having been adopted for the purpose of destroying the Hudson's-bay colony, and murdering major Semple. Never was there a more foul and gross and malicious calumny. They had no such object. Their sole purpose was self-defence. He admitted that for that purpose they collected the half-breeds of Indians. The posts belonging to the North-west company, by which their canoes had been furnished with provisions having been destroyed, it became necessary to supply them by carts, and a party of half-breed Indians were sent under Mr. Macdonald for that purpose, with strict orders to keep as much out of the way of the Hudson's-bay company's fort as they could. Governor Semple, however, naturally anxious for the fate of the colony, was on the look out, and seeing those half-breed Indians, and thinking probably that their intention was to attack him, sallied out with armed men in pursuit. In the irritated state of the parties the result was not surprising: but he repeated that it was in nowise an act of premeditation. That distinct feelings of hostility existed, in consequence of the steps which had been taken, the hon. member avowed. When it was considered that the party on the one side were Indians, and half-breed Indians, whom it was necessary to employ, it would be understood that it was impossible to restrain them by any ordinary discipline. He lamented the result. He admitted that Indians were introduced into Fort William at the same time, but this was in consequence of the destruction of the posts. That this was no unnecessary precaution was evident, since the noble lord afterwards made no scruple of seizing at Fort William 70,000l. or 80,000l. of property. He stated these facts to show that it had not been a wanton and unprovoked attack. Those whom the Indians met on their way they made prisoners, to prevent their carrying distorted reports; an instance of which had occurred in the case of a half-breed, who said, that they had knocked the colony on the head. Lord Selkirk had himself instructed Mr. Henry to bring Indians to prevent the North-west company from trading from Montreal. He mentioned this in the very mode of which he complained. The hon. member recollected to have heard the petitioner asked, who had fired the first shot, and his answer was, "I don't know." Lord Selkirk was, therefore, not the injured party; on the contrary, he had been uni- 1363 formly the aggressor, and, wherever he was personally concerned, the aggressor to an extent unprecedented in the history of the country.
, at the time of governor Semple's death, was at St. Mary's. He immediately proceeded thence to Fort William, with 200 soldiers, and arrested all whom he chose. He ought to have pone to York, which was not far from St. Mary's, and obtained regular officers to suppress this "nest of murderers," as he termed them; but no, he went himself, acting as a magistrate! he arrested all present, many of whom he knew to be innocent, and sent them away to Montreal, a distance of 1,500 miles: among them be sent Mr. William Macgillivray, as respectable a gentleman as any in that House, and one who had nothing whatever to do with the transaction complained of. What was the course then taken? Against Mr. Wm. Macgillivray a bill was never filed. But the noble earl not only arrested those persons—he seized their property, a part of which he applied to his own use. His agents (for he could not believe it possible that the noble earl himself would be guilty of such practices) kept a person addicted to drinking in a state of perpetual intoxication, until they practised upon and induced him to make a fraudulent transfer of the property that had been seized. The whole of the noble earl's proceedings had been most unwarrantable. After having obtained possession of Fort William, he sent to the next post, which he compelled to capitulate. He (Mr. E.) had had a good deal of expedience in the colony, and he had no hesitation in saying, that the complaint of the hon. baronet against the legal authorities was the first that had been made He allowed that on the ex parte statements of the hon. baronet, and unless satisfactory documents in contradiction of those statements could be produced, the conduct of the two judges in releasing Mr. Campbell was unaccountable; although there appeared to be no ground for charging them with intentional misconduct. With respect to the attorney general of Upper Canada, it was but justice to him to state, that as soon as he landed in Canada, he returned retainers which had been given him by the North-west company, as he found that they would interfere with his duty in the extensive legal proceedings which were on the point of being carried on. All the persons, however, sent up 1364 by the Hudson's-bay company—all the justices, sheriffs and juries, were interested parties. Major Semple was the only individual not in that condition. Mr. Macdonald was appointed chief judge. When he (Mr. E.) heard that, he predicted that the country would be the scene of contests, although he certainly did not anticipate the melancholy event that had occurred. He would not trespass longer on the House. What he had stated he had been at great pains to extract from evidence on all sides; although he had not had the advantage of which the noble earl had put himself in possession, by seizing at Fort William all the private; letters and papers, and by bribing a clerk to furnish copies of others. It was impossible that things could be allowed to go on in their present course. If lord Selkirk had a right to the property which he claimed, in God's name let him have it; if he had not, let it be taken from him. He (Mr. E.) had been anxious to bring the matter into a court of law. He could proceed only by a scire facias or a quo warranto; but he understood there was an objection on the part of the legal advisers of the Crown to submit the rights of the Crown to the decision of a court of common law. Since the noble earl had returned to England, he (Mr. E.) had commenced proceedings in Westminster hall, but he was apprehensive that he could not bring the rights in question to a decision. Some mode of ascertaining them must, however, be resorted to. The country was much indebted to government for the appointment of the special commission to inquire into the real situation of things. When that report came to be presented, it would be seen if he had overstated or misrepresented the facts; and he trusted that it would be presented as soon as possible, that the existing calumnies and misrepresentations might be effectually removed.
§ Mr. Scarlett
defended the conduct of lord Selkirk from the charge of violence, observing, that he was not in the country at the time the act was committed by Mr. Macdonald; and that as Mr. Macdonald himself had acted through mistake, he ought not to have been indicted for a felony. He then took a review of the charter granted to the Hudson's-bay company, and contended for the validity of that charter, according to the opinion he had originally given when consulted as counsel on the subject. The colony on 1365 the Red River was to have a certain jurisdiction—and, if the proper boundary had been overstepped, it was evidently through mistake. The grant to lord Selkirk gave him jurisdiction over certain territories, which were enumerated, and concluded with the words, "et cetera;" which were very important in this case. He observed that the great objection to the settlement of lord Selkirk seemed to be, that it was governed by laws, and had the advantage of magistrates, instead of being in a condition perfectly lawless and ungovernable, As to the intention imputed to the noble lord, of making trade the object of his establishment in that quarter, those who were acquainted with his almost romantic views would easily acquit him of such a design. Nor could the charge of resisting the legal authorities be made out against him—he had only acted in self-defence when he retired from violence threatening even his life, against which, if he had submitted, he could obtain no protection.
§ Mr. W. Smith
said, that lord Selkirk had, he firmly believed, entered on this project with no other view but that of establishing a colony, without intending to interfere with any set of men. He apprised his majesty's government—he apprised the colonial department—of his intention. He heard no kind of objection from them; but from that hour to the present, he was not informed by them of their opinion, as to the legality and validity of his proceeding, on which the prosperity of the speculation and the success of the enterprise altogether depended. Lord Selkirk, from a laudable purpose of establishing a colony in those parts, and of protecting it, had suffered more in health, in property, and even in character than any man alive who had undertaken to execute a great enterprise. His sole object was colonization, in the first instance, and not trade. This was not a question between lord Selkirk and any set of individuals. The question was this, whether Canada, a country much larger than England, and the soil of part of which was equally fertile with that of England, should remain an uncultivated waste, inhabited by savages, and half-breeds, or be advantageously employed by industrious men? The question was, whether opposition should be manifested against those who wished to dispossess the animals of the chase, and to introduce a spirit of civilization where savage life 1366 at present prevailed? Sir A. Mackenzie, who had resided in Canada, who might be considered the second founder of the North-west company, in his work on the fur-trade had described the situation of those who applied themselves entirely to such a traffic. He observed that it was less difficult to bring men back from civilization to a state of savage life, than to introduce the blessings of civilization amongst savages. This fact he proved by a recurrence to the situation of the half-breed Indians, who followed the fur-trade. The moment their traffic was at an end, they spent the produce of it, and then returned to the barbarous employments of the chase. The same author gave a succinct account of the establishment of the North-west company —in the course of which, it appeared, considerable violence was made use of. It had been asserted that no complaints had been made respecting the administration of justice in Canada, but to his own knowledge he could assert, that not three years had passed for the last 20 years in which some complaint of that nature had not been made. The violent character and conduct of the North-west company were exemplified by a circumstance narrated by Lieut. Hall, in his amusing travels in Canada, respecting an attack made by their agents upon a party of honest fishermen, who in no respect had merited this outrage, and who in no degree interfered with those "unchartered monopolists." He argued from various documents, that the grant made to the earl of Selkirk could in no degree interfere with the claims of the company, and that even this impression was originally entertained by the agents of the company themselves. Lord Selkirk was accused of having constituted himself judge in his own cause; but let the conduct of a man, named Norman M'Cleod, be examined, who acted in every respect as a magistrate, committing persons to prison, and performing other acts of power, and then signed himself "Agent to the North-west Company." Was such conduct to be permitted in him, and should lord Selkirk, so much above him in rank, and far above him, as far as the suspicion of performing an illegal act was considered, be charged with an improper exercise of authority, if he subsequently seized upon persons who had been guilty of the most atrocious proceedings? It appeared to him that the neglect of the colonial department 1367 to all the representations which had been made on behalf of either party, was the cause of all the misfortunes that had occurred.
§ Mr. Bennet
called upon the hon. gentleman opposite to give an answer to the speech of the hon. baronet, which was one of the most able and argumentative that had ever been delivered within the walls of parliament. The hon. member expressed his surprise at some of the arguments of his hon. friend (Mr. Ellice), and defended Mr. Pritchard, the petitioner, whom he described as one of the most honest and honourable men that breathed. The question was of great importance —whether we were to have peace in our settlement, or such scenes of fraud and violence? He called upon the hon. gentleman opposite to refute the serious charge made against the law officers of Upper Canada, and he particularly alluded to the trial of Mr. Macdonald, in 1816, in which the conduct of these officers had been represented as extremely culpable. If all the statements on this subject were true, he was satisfied that impartial justice could not have been administered. The hon. member who opened the debate had asserted, that the governor in the Upper Province (sir Peregrine Maitland) had been guilty of a dereliction of his duty. Of the facts of the case he (Mr. Bennet) knew but little; but this he would say, that there did not exist on the face of the earth, a more honest, virtuous, and amiable character than this gentleman, whose life bad been spent in the sacrifice of his own personal comforts, for the indulgence of all but himself. For no man was there so general an esteem, and no man ever enjoyed the confidence of all classes more than he did. He was possessed of a sound head and an excellent heart, and would do his duty with the utmost scrupulousness. He trusted that the stigma which had been thrown upon the law officers of the Crown in the colony in question, could be satisfactorily refuted.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, he felt himself called upon to address a few observations to the House in exculpation of the conduct of government during the whole of this transaction. He had reserved himself until that moment, because he wished to have the advantage of hearing the sentiments of those hon. members who felt an interest in the cause of lord Selkirk on the one hand, and of the North-west 1368 company on the other. He was glad that he had been induced to take this course, because he felt himself now relieved from making any particular references to the unfortunate disputes which had occurred between the two contending parties, Further than they appeared to have influenced the conduct of government. It was not for him to decide at the present moment, whether the North-west company or the Hudson's-bay company had shown the greater degree of violence in these transactions; nor was it his duty now to inquire, whether the fur trade was a beneficial branch of commerce, or one which ought to have been sacrificed to other interests. As to the first point, the reports which would be laid before the House would give ample information; and with respect to the latter, any one who had read these reports attentively would be able to determine the question. The principal charges which had been made against his majesty's government were, either that it had evinced an undue partiality to one of the parties concerned, or that it had been guilty of the crime (which in his opinion, was of a much more aggravated nature) of not having used every means in its power to prevent these outrages; and after the disturbances had arisen, of not having done all in its power to suppress them. For these accusations he believed he should be able to satisfy the House that there was not the slightest foundation; and in answer to the latter, he would briefly state to the House the nature of the transaction. It was unnecessary for him, for his present purposes, to detail the motives by which lord Selkirk was actuated in the first scheme of his emigration; but he would take up the subject at the time his lordship first made known to the colonial department his intention of going to North America, and of founding a settlement there. It had been very truly stated, that his lordship's intentions were communicated to the department, but there was contained in that communication no intimation whatever that the foundation of that settlement rested on grounds which were calculated to excite alarm in the minds of those who were already settled there. There was no conception at that time that this scheme could in any manner interfere with the then existing establishments, or that it could tend to disturb the general tranquillity or happiness of the natives of that country, in giving the encourage 1369 ment which the noble lord then received from government, it was offered under the idea that lord Selkirk would adopt the same course that had been pursued with respect to the emigration to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The noble lord in the year 1815 had represented the necessity of planting a military force on the settlement for the preservation of order and general tranquillity. He (Mr. Goulburn) had no difficulty in saying, that if a military force had been sent according to this recommendation, at that time, and could have been there maintained, there was every reason to believe that the disturbances and disasters which were now so deeply lamented would never have occurred. It was well known to hon. gentlemen who had taken a part in this discussion that there was no unwillingness on the part of government to furnish that military aid. An instruction was immediately given to the governor of Canada, to detach from the force under his command a certain number of men for this purpose, provided it did not interfere with other important arrangements. The reply made by sir Gordon Drummond on that occasion, at the end of the year 1815, stated the utter impossibility of fulfilling the commands of government. The governor was then perfectly aware of the state of parties in the settlement, and was satisfied that a military force being placed there would have been of great advantage, but it was found to be impracticable, and the idea was of course abandoned. It had been made a ground of complaint against the governor, that he had communicated his sentiments on this point to the North-west company. It was true that he had done so, but sir Gordon Drummond felt the necessity of apprising the company of the situation in which it was placed, and he looked to it as a means of preventing the impending disturbances. But in order to show the light in which the conduct of the governor was at that time viewed, he would read a letter written by the agents of lord Selkirk. In that letter was contained the following paragraph:—"We think it a plan which cannot be carried into effect, and we see no other course to be pursued, than that so judiciously adopted by sir Gordon Drummond." About this time, or shortly after, the news arrived, that a great portion of the settlement of the Red River had come down to the province: the reason assigned fur this step was, that 1370 the unfortunate individuals were exposed to the dreadful peril of starvation. The course then pursued by government was, that these persons, who had travelled over so large a tract of country, should be allowed to remain where they were, to obtain that subsistence which elsewhere they were unable to procure. He now came to the disastrous year of 1816, a year pregnant with events the most distressing in their nature: it was marked by the storming of forts, and by battles succeeded by an open civil war, throughout the whole of the country in which the influence of these two contending parties extended. The period at which these transactions became known was more distant than was generally supposed. However, upon the knowledge of these proceedings, the governor-general of Canada saw that the state of affairs was one of considerable alarm; but the military operations were not the only evils with which government had to contend. The individuals who conducted the war on the part of these two establishments, held the office of civil magistrates, and alternately laid down the sabre to fill the magisterial chair, and; to arrest one another. The course which government pursued was, to revoke every commission of all justices of the peace, and two well qualified gentlemen were appointed to proceed into that part of the country where these disputes had arisen, and to collect all the evidence which could be found regarding these disturbances. These gentlemen set out in 1816, at a time when, in ordinary cases, persons would be unwilling to make excursions into these frozen regions; and this was an answer to one charge which had been made—that these commissioners would not wait for the evidence of Mr. Pritchard, at Montreal. If they had not proceeded on the journey, they would have been unable to accomplish the purpose for which they set out; and as it was, they did not gain their object. From Lake Superior they returned into the province, the work being only half completed. In the ensuing year the commissioners again proceeded in the task, and went into a detailed examination of the whole question. When the House had an opportunity of perusing this detailed report, it would be seen that it was executed with the utmost impartiality. This report had been only received in this country at the close of the last year, and the House 1371 would therefore understand the reason why the measures of government to remedy these evils had not been sooner undertaken. To have proceeded to legislate, or to decide without the report, would have been an act of absurdity, and even of madness. It had been also a subject of complaint, that government had taken measures against lord Selkirk personally, and had selected him as a victim. This he could explain most satisfactorily. It was in the beginning of the year 1817 that a warrant was issued against his lordship. He resisted the warrant; and, not content with that, he imprisoned the officers who brought it. There was, therefore, but one course to pursue, viz. to put lord Selkirk upon his trial for this offence, and proceedings were accordingly instituted. Immediately after the affair of the Red River, to which he had referred, a party of the North-west company were taken up, and an order was issued, that these parties might be brought to England to be tried. This, however, was not complied with, on account of the inconvenience of transporting the witnesses across the Atlantic, and the prisoners were accordingly ordered to be tried at Montreal. Much delay arose in consequence of various alterations made in the indictment, by the advice of lord Selkirk's counsel; and the attorney-general found that there was such a temper and spirit existing between the two parties, that it was impossible to proceed to trial. Instead of releasing the prisoners, new indictments were preferred, and at Quebec the trials came on. It was but a few days since, that the report of these trials had been received; and he was satisfied that when hon. members had seen it, they would acquit all the law officers of partiality, and it would be seen that they had acted in a manner strictly consistent with their judicial characters. The result was, that many prisoners were convicted, but the principal part were acquitted. The hon. member next alluded to a document which had been drawn up by sir Peregrine Maitland, being a refutation of the charges made against him, and to a letter of lord Selkirk respecting this affair, expressive of his approbation of the conduct of the commissioners appointed by the governor of Canada. He was fully satisfied, that a perusal of these documents would satisfy the House of the injustice of these gross and calumnious charges. As to the opi- 1372 nions of the law officers of the Crown here not having been taken, he should observe, that they could be of no avail, as the cause upon which they might have been taken was pending in a court of justice. With lord Selkirk they could be of no value; for he might have said, if they were against his proceedings, that he had legal opinions of equally high authority. It was a decision by one of the law courts, either in this country or in Canada, which alone could have settled the point of dispute. As to any decision being come to by the privy council here, it was impossible that such a decision could be made until all the evidence upon the subject had reached this country. The act of the House of Representatives of Canada had been mentioned; and it seemed that blame was attached to sir Peregrine Maitland for his conduct with respect to it. He could assure the House, that the conduct of that governor had been most strictly just and impartial. The act was in the House the year before it was passed, and it was only prevented from being carried into a law by the hasty prorogation of the assembly. It could not, therefore, be called a party measure when passed early in the next session. The act had only arrived in this country within the last week, and might be put into the hands of any member who thought fit; but he submitted whether, until it had been laid before the king in council, who had yet to decide whether it should be law or not, whether it could properly be brought under the discussion of parliament. On these grounds he should oppose the motion for the production of the opinions of the law officers, and for the act passed in Canada. On the two other motions he should propose amendments, founded on the view which he had taken of those motions. The hon. member concluded by moving to leave out from the word "Copies" to the end of the question, in order to add the words, "or Extracts of the Official Communications which may have taken place between the Secretary of State and the Provincial Government of Upper or Lower Canada, relative to the destruction of the settlement on the Red River, to any legal; proceedings thereon in the courts of Upper or Lower Canada, or to any complaints made of those proceedings by, lord Selkirk, or the agents of the Hudson's-bay or the North-west companies," instead thereof.
§ After a short reply from sir J. Montgomery, the motion, as amended, was agreed to.