HC Deb 29 July 1859 vol 155 cc671-4

said, he wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, whether any new instructions were sent to Captain Palliser on receipt of his Report of October 7, 1858, in regard to his further explorations along the American boundary line and in the Rocky Mountains; and whether Captain Palliser's Journal has been received and will be printed. The expedition had been ordered by the Government two years ago to examine the country between Lake Superior and the Rocky Mountains, within British territory. The evidence before the Hudson's Bay Committee had been so contradictory in regard to the agricultural value of that country, that Government had, very properly, determined to institute an impartial examination. The duty had been intrusted to Captain Palliser, and the papers narrating that officer's proceedings had been lately laid before them. There were two points more especially urged against the likelihood of future settlement—inaccessibility and severity of climate. The first of these had been practically set at rest by the fact that a weekly mail had now been established between St. Paul's and Red River, and a steamer was now regularly plying on its waters. The journey, which formerly occupied four to six weeks, was now accomplished in eight days. And should railway accommodation be carried out, as was contemplated, the journey from St. Paul's to the Red River Settlements might, before long, be performed in little more than forty-eight hours. The question of inaccessibility had thus already received a practical solution. The country within British territory thus opened up was of vast extent, the fertility of the soil was confirmed by the explorations of Captain Palliser, and by the fact that a settlement, now of nearly 7,000 people had, notwithstanding every disadvantage, maintained itself for forty years. At a point still further west, on the vast prairies, Captain Palliser came on a scene which he thus described:—"The whole region, as far as the eye could reach, was covered with buffaloes, in bands varying from hundreds to thousands." A day's journey further brought him to the banks of the south branch of the Saskatchewan, which at this point, 400 miles west of Lake Winnipeg, he described as "a magnificent river, navigable for craft of any size." He mentioned the existence of coal at several points, and, though his report was, in some respects, not so full as might be wished, it confirmed the opinion of those who urged upon the Government the great capabilities of this vast region. It would seem, indeed, likely to prove for Canada an addition to its territory of a great and fertile prairie country, capable of competing with the rich prairies of the valley of the Mississippi. Captain Palliser had likewise discovered a pass across the Rocky Mountains which would connect the prairies of the Saskatchewan with British Columbia. But in his last despatch of the 7th of October, 1858, he requested that further instruction might be sent to him, which would enable him to complete his survey of the boundary line and of the Rocky Mountains. He (Mr. Caird) had referred to the question of climate. There was no detailed information in the printed papers on that point, and, as Captain Palliser had sent home a journal in which all such details were embraced, he hoped that the journal would be printed for the public information. He trusted that no undue economy would be practised which might hinder the satisfactory prosecution of this interesting inquiry. When it was considered that the Canadas were our nearest colony, that they had already a line of railway nearly 1,000 miles in length, carrying communication at all seasons of the year from the Atlantic to Lake Huron, and that the result of this exploration might add to them an almost boundless extent of accessible and fertile soil in a healthy climate, which might yet be peopled from this country, he thought the House would not grudge the cost of a full and careful examination.

MR. ELLICE (Coventry)

said, he had some knowledge of that country, and he had lately seen an able officer of the Engineers who had returned from exploring it, because, as he said, he would not waste his own time and the public money in such an unprofitable enterprise. He believed the picture the hon. Gentleman had drawn of the country was greatly exaggerated. The only way in which it could be reached was through the United States; there was no practicable route through Canada. The money spent on the expedition of Captain Palliser was, he thought, entirely wasted, as no additional information to that already possessed by the Hudson's Bay Company for the last forty years was gained. He trusted, therefore, the House would not authorize any further expenditure.


said, he entirely differed from the right hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) in his view of Captain Palliser's expedition; and he would ask the right hon. Gentleman, as an influential member of the Hudson's Bay Company, why, if that company had possessed all this information for forty years, they had never communicated it to the public? He (Mr. Seymour) thought the discoveries of Captain Palliser were very important. One-half of the country visited by him was now opened by steam. Every product of a temperate climate could be grown in that country, even where it was most unfruitful; the soil went on improving all the way to the Rocky Mountains, and became more prolific as it approached the Pacific. Perhaps the most important service of Captain Palliser was that which he accomplished during the last year, when he discovered four passes through the Rocky Mountains—one of them adapted for wheel carriages; and he (Mr. Seymour) hoped that now, since steam communication had been opened on the Red River, the Government would establish a mail between the Red River and Vancouver's Island.


said, he had been one of a Committee that investigated this subject two years ago, and he agreed much more with the right hon. Member for Co- ventry (Mr. Ellice) than with the other hon. Members who had spoken on this subject. This sort of proposition was like the letting out of waters. We had established a colony on Vancouver's Island, at a yearly cost to us of £40,000, and, as sure as we began with another, there would be another demand of £50,000 upon this country. Let people settle if they chose, and where they chose, but he protested against any attempt to saddle this country with more expense.


said, he believed the House was not at that moment disposed to enter upon a discussion of the large questions involved in the settlement of the region referred to; but with regard to the information received from Captain Palliser, he had to state that all that the Government had received had been published. That information had no doubt led to an increased hope that the day would come when that region would be filled up with English colonies. There was a mistake committed, however, on this subject which was wholly a mistake of dates; and if that were borne in mind, the language used by both sides might be true; at all events there need be no alarm that there might be an intention on the part of the Government to establish a British colony where as yet no colonist had gone. No journal had been received from Captain Palliser; but a report, despatched on the 7th October last, was received on the 5th of January by the Government; he then made a demand, which was small, for a sum of money, and that was sent out to him immediately afterwards. It was believed that Captain Palliser would cross the Rocky Mountains, and would reach home this autumn by Panama.