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- Canada and the States - 20/71 -
Land Commissioners at once, and see you (after getting their report) on Wednesday next, or any day after it, except Friday.
"Pray let me hear by return.
"Yours very sincerely, "NEWCASTLE."
"DOWNING STREET, "6 _May_, 1863.
"MY DEAR MR. WATKIN,
"I hope and believe that the despatches in their final shape, as they went out to N. Columbia on Friday last, and to Canada on Saturday, were quite what you and the proposed 'N. W. Transit Company' would wish.
"I added words which (without dictation) will be understood as implying 'No Intercolonial, no Transit.'
"If you happen to be in this neighbourhood any day between 3 and 4.30, I shall be glad to see you, though I have nothing at all pressing to say.
"Yours very sincerely, "NEWCASTLE."
_The Right Honorable Edward Ellice, M.P._
I have alluded to this remarkable man under the soubriquet attached to him for a generation--"the old Bear." I assume that when his son, who for many years represented the Scotch constituency of the St. Andrews Burghs, grew up, the father became the "old" and the son the "young" Bear. Mr. Ellice was the son of Mr. Alexander Ellice, an eminent merchant in the City of London. Born, if the "Annual Register" be accurate, in 1789, he died at the end of 1863. It is strange that he began life by uniting the Canadian fur trade with that of the Hudson's Bay Company, and just lived long enough to witness the sale and transfer of the interests he had, by a bold and masterly policy, combined in 1820. Leaving Canada, Mr. Ellice joined the Whig party, and was returned to Parliament for Coventry in 1818; and, with the exception of the period from 1826 to 1830, he retained his seat till the day of his death. Marrying the youngest sister of Earl Grey, of the Reform Bill--the widow of Captain Bettesworth, R.N.--who died in 1832, leaving him an only son; and, in 1843, the widow of Mr. Coke, of Norfolk, he became intimately connected with the Whig aristocracy.
In Mr. Ellice's evidence before the Parliamentary Committee of 1857, on the Hudson's Bay Company, I find that, in answer to a question put by Mr. Christy, M.P., as to the probability of a "settlement being made within what you consider to be the Southern territories of the Hudson's Bay Company?"--he replied, "None, in the lifetime of the youngest man now alive." Events have proved his error. Mr. Ellice was a man of commanding stature and presence, but, to my mind, had always the demeanour of a colonist who had had to wrestle with the hardships of nature, and his cast of countenance was Jewish. According to his own account, he went out to Canada in 1803, when he must have been a mere youth, and then personally associated himself with the fur trade, a trade which attracted the attention of almost the whole Canadian society. It was, in fact, at that time, the great trade of the country. The traders had inherited the skill and organization of the old French voyageurs, who, working from Quebec and Montreal as bases of their operations, were the doughty competitors of the Hudson's Bay Company, many of whose posts were only separated by distances of a hundred miles from those of the French. When Canada became the possession of our country, in the last century, Scotch and English capital and energy reinforced the trade; and, as time went on, a powerful organization, called the "North-West Company," arose, and extended its operations right across to the Pacific.
At the end of the last century, or the beginning of this, Mr. Ellice's father, as Mr. Ellice stated, "had supplied a great part of the capital by which the whole north-west trade was conducted." Profitable trading brought division of interests; and, in addition to smaller swarms from the parent hive, a new organization, called the "X. Y. Company," or "Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Company," carried on trade in competition with the original "North-West Company of Canada." Mr. Ellice became connected with this "X. Y. Company" in 1805. The leading spirit of the North-West Company was Mr. McGillivray: and Mr. McGillivray and Mr. Ellice were, as a rule, cordial allies. Two leading firms engaged in the fur trade were McTavish, Fraser & Co., and Inglis, Ellice & Co.
Competition raged amongst these Canadian interests, and between them and the Hudson's Bay Company, whose affairs were administered from England. The business was carried on, therefore, with great extravagance. The Indians were tempted and corrupted by strong drink. Frequent collisions took place between the Indians and the whites, and everything grew worse till 1811. In 1811 Lord Selkirk joined the Hudson's Bay Company. He became not only a stockholder in the Company, but took great interest in the trade; and he was the proprietor of a large tract of territory on the Red River, acquired from the Hudson's Bay Company under a deed dated 12th June, 1811. In this territory, he made settlements for the purposes of agriculture.
The conflict of interests between the Canadian fur traders and the Hudson's Bay Company became more and more violent, and ended in bloodshed. Finally Lord Selkirk, in virtue of his assumed powers as a magistrate, seized Mr. McGillivray, of the North-West Company, at Fort William, at the head of Lake Superior, and the whole of his property. The confusion and outrage became so great that Canada became alarmed, and a Mr. Coltman was sent up as Commissioner. Mr. Coltman reported, and made a recommendation that, to restore peace and order, some attempt should be made to unite the interests of the various fur traders in the country. In the meantime the Hudson's Bay Company ceased to pay dividends, and the other companies were almost bankrupt. At this moment Mr. Ellice, by great tact, and force of will, succeeded in uniting all the conflicting combinations; and from that time onwards the fur trade has been carried on under the Charter of the Hudson's Bay Company, extended by licenses, from time to time renewed, of exclusive trade in the North-West and in the Pacific States, including Vancouver's Island. Out of these fusions arose the Puget Sound Company, created to utilise, cultivate, and colonise the Pacific territories, over which licenses to trade had been given to the Hudson's Bay Company.
The vigorous action of the united interests soon told upon the trade and discipline of the vast area hunted and traded over. The Indians were brought back to tea and water in place of rum and brandy; and peace was restored, everywhere, between the white man and the red. The epidemics of small pox, which had at times decimated whole tribes of Indians, were got rid of by the introduction of vaccination. Settlement, if only on a small scale, was encouraged by the security of life and property. The enlargement of their action, as issuers of notes and as bankers aided the trade and the colonists; and so good was a Hudson's Bay Company's note that it was taken everywhere over the northern continent, when the "Shin Plasters" of banks in the United States and Canada were refused. When, for a short time, in 1865 and 1866, I held the office of shareholders' auditor of the Hudson's Bay Company, I cancelled many of these notes, which had become defaced, mainly owing to the fingering of Indians and others, who left behind on the thick yellow paper coatings of "Pemmican,"--the pounded flesh and fat of the buffalo, done up in skins like sausages--a food eminently nutritious and lasting long, but fearfully odorous and nasty.
Mr. Ellice supplied much of the political energy inside the old Reform party, displayed in the Reform Bill struggle of 1830-1832. He became one of the Secretaries of the Treasury; and, in 1831, had to organize the eventful election of that year. His great powers and never-failing energy, devoted in early life to the fur trade and its conflicts, became of infinite value to the country, in many momentous struggles, at home, for liberty and progress. It amused me much when, by chance, meeting Mr. Ellice, after we had bought and paid for his Hudson's Bay property, to see the kind of astonished stare with which he regarded me. I think the purchase of the Hudson's Bay Company was a mystery to him. I remember meeting him at the Royal Academy a few months before his death. He stopped opposite to me, as if to study my features. He did not speak a word, nor did I. He seemed in a state of abstraction, like that of a man endeavouring to recollect a long history of difficulty, and to realize how strangely it had all ended,--by the negociation I had brought to a head.
_The Select Committee, on Hudson's Bay Affairs, of_ 1857.
This Committee was appointed "to consider the state of those British possessions in North America which are under the administration of the Hudson's Bay Company, or over which they possess a licence to trade." Lord John Russell, Mr. Gladstone, the present Lord Derby, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Labouchere, Mr. Lowe, and Mr. Edward Ellice, were of the nineteen members of which the Committee originally consisted. Later on, the names of Mr. Alexander Matheson and Viscount Goderich were substituted for those of Mr. Adderley and Mr. Bell; and Mr. Christy was added to the Committee. The evidence before the Committee much resembled that taken by the Committee of 1749. There were the same disaffected, and discharged, officials; the same disappointed merchants and rivals; the same desire, in varied quarters, as before, to depreciate and despoil a somewhat prosperous undertaking. The rival views were those of the majority of the Committee, on the one hand, and of Mr. Gladstone, on the other. The claims of Canada to annex territory useful, in her opinion, to her inhabitants, was solidly urged. But the Honorable John Ross, then President of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, who was the first witness examined, said, "It is complained that the Hudson's Bay Company occupy that territory and prevent the extension of settlement and civilization in that part of the Continent of America. I do not think they ought to be permitted to do that; but I think it would be a very great calamity if their control and power in that part of America were entirely to cease. My reason for forming that opinion is this: during all the time that I have been able to observe their proceedings there, there has been peace within the whole territory. The operations of the Company seem to have been carried on, at all events, in such a way as to prevent the Indian tribes within their borders from molesting the Canadian frontier; while, on the other hand, those who have turned their attention to that quarter of the world must have seen that, from Oregon to Florida, for these last thirty years or more, there has been a constant Indian war going on between the natives of American territory, on the one side, and the Indian tribes on the other. Now, I
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