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take time to enjoy life. Thatched shanties have
given place to big, spacious, comfortable houses;
dog sleighs to gay carioles with horses decked in
ribbons. Horse racing is the passion and the pas-
time. Schools and embryo college and churches
have been established by the missionaries of the
different denominations, whose pioneer labors are
a book in themselves. It is a happy primitive life,
with neither wealth nor poverty, of almost Arcadian
simplicity, and cloudless but for that shadow — illicit
trade, monopoly. Could the life but have lasted, I

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doubt if American history could show its parallel for
quiet, care-free, happy-go-lucky, thoughtless-of-the-
morrow contentment. The French of Acadia^ per-
haps, somewhat resembled Red River colony, but
we have grown to view Acadia through Longfellow's
eyes. Beneath the calm surface there was interna-
tional intrigue. Military life gave a dash of color
to Red River that Longfellow's Acadians never
possessed; but beneath the calm of Red River, too,
was intrigue.

Resentment against search for furs grew to anger.
The explosion came over a poor French Plain Ranger,
William Sayer, and three friends, arrested for accept-
ing furs from Indians in May, 1849. Judge Thom,
the Company's recorder, was to preside in court.
Thom was noted for hatred for the French in his old
journalistic days in Montreal. The arrest suddenly
became a social question — the French Plain Rangers
of the old Nor'Westers against the English Company,
with the Scotch settlers looking on only too glad of
a test case against the Company. Louis Rid, an
old miller of the Seine near St. Boniface, father of
the Riel to become notorious later, harangued the
Plain Rangers and French settlers like a French revo-
lutionist discoursing freedom. The day of the trial,
May 17th, Plain Rangers were seen riding from all
directiona to the Fort Garry Court House. At 10

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A. M. they had stacked four hundred guns against the
outer wall and entered the court in a body. Not till
I p. M. did the court dare to call for the prisoner,
William Sayer. As he walked to the bar of justice,
the Plain Rangers took up their guns and followed
him in. Boldly, Sayer pleaded guilty to the charge
of- trading furs. It was to be a test case, but test
cases are the one thing on earth the Hudson^s Bay
Company avoided. The excuse was instantly un-
earthed or invented that a man connected with the
Hudson's Bay Company had given Sayer permission;
perhaps, verbal license to trade. So the case was
compromised — a verdict of guilty, but the prisoner
honorably discharged by the court. The Plain
Rangers took no heed of legal quibbles. To them,
the trial meant that henceforth trade was free. With
howls of jubilation, they dashed from the court
carrying Sayer and shouting, " Vive la liberU — com-
merce is free — trade is free"; and spent the night
discharging volleys of triumph and celebrating vic-
tory.

Isbister, the young lawyer, forwards to the Sec-
retary of State for the Colonies petition after petition
against the Company's monopoly. The settlers, who
now number five thousand, demanded liberty of
commerce and British laws. The petitions are
ignored. Isbister vows they are shelved through the

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intrigue of the Hudson's Bay Company in London.
Then five hundred settlers petition the Legislature
of Canada* The Toronto. Board of Trade takes the
matter up in 1857, ^^nd Canadian surveyors are sent
west to open roads to Red River. " It is plain," aver
the various petitions and memorials of 1857-59,
"that Red River settlement is being driven to one of
two destinies. Either she must be permitted to join
the other Canadian colonies, or she will be absorbed
by a provisional American government such as
captured Oregon." Sir George Simpson, prince of
tacticians, dies. Both the British Government and
the Hudson's Bay Company are at sea. There is no
denying what happened to Oregon when the Com-
pany held on too long. They drove Oregon into
Congress. May not the same thing happen in Red
River — in which case the Company's compensation
will be nil. Then — there is untold history here — a
story that must be carried on where I leave ofif and
which will probably never be fully told till the
leading actors in it have passed away. There
are ugly rumors of a big fund among the Minne-
sota traders, as much as a million dollars, to be
used for secret service money to swing Red River
Settlement into the American Union. Was it a
Fenian fund? Who held the fund? Who set the
scheme going?

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The Hudson's Bay Company knows nothing. It
only fears. The British Government knows nothing;
except that in such a way did it lose Oregon; and
the United States is now buying Alaska from Russia.
With its policy of matchless foresight, the Hudson's
Bay Company realizes it is wiser to retire early with
the laurels and rewards than to retreat too late
stripped. The question of renewing the license on
Vancouver Island is on the carpet. The Hudson's
Bay Company welcomes a Parliamentary Enquiry
into every branch of its operations. "We would be
glad to get rid of the enormous burden of governing
these territories, if it can he done equitably as to our
possessory rights, ^^ the Company informs the as*
tonished Parliamentary Committee.

How stand those possessory rights under the terms
of union in 182 1? It will be remembered the charter
rights were not then tested. They were merged
with the Northwest Company rights, and without
any test a license of exclusive trade granted for
twenty-one years. That license was renewed in 1838
for another twenty-one years. This term is just ex-
piring when the Company declares it would be glad
to be rid of its burden, and welcomes a Parliamen*
tary Enquiry. At that inquiry, friends and foes alike
testify. Old officers like Ellice give evidence. So
do Sir George Simpson, and Blanchard of Van-

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couver Island, and Isbister as representative of the
Red River colonists, and Chief justice Draper as
representative of Canada. It is brought out the
Company rules under three distinct licenses:

(i) Over Rupert's Land or the territory of the bay
proper by right of its first charter.

(2) Over Vancouver Island by special grant of
1849.

(3) Over all the Indian Territory between the
bay and Vancouver Island by the license of 182 1
since renewed.

The Parliamentary committee recommend on
July 31, 1857, that Vancouver Island be given up;
that just as soon as Canada is ready to take over the
government of the Indian Territory this, too, shall be
ceded; but that for the present in order to avoid the
demoralization of Indians by rival traders, Rupert's
Land be left in the exclusive control of the Hudson's
Bay Company. This is the condition of affairs
when unrest arises in Red River.

The committee also bring out the fact that the
capital has been increased since the union of 1821 to
£500,000. Of the one hundred shares into which
this is divided, forty have been set aside for the win-
tering partners or chief factors and chief traders.
These forty shares are again subdivided into eighty-
five parts. Two eighty-fifths of the profits equal to

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$3,000 a year and a retiring fund of $20,000 are the
share of a chief factor; one eighty-fifth, the share
of a chief trader. This is what is known as "the
deed poll."

Meanwhile, out in Red River, gold seekers bound
for Cariboo, prospectors for the bad lands of Mon-
tana, settlers for the farms of Minnesota — roll past
in a tide. Trade increases in jumps. A steamer
runs on Red River connecting by stage for St. Paul.
Among the hosts of new comers to Red River is one
Doctor Schultz, who helps to establish the newspaper,
NorWester, which paper has the amazing temerity,
in 1867, to advocate that in the Council of Assiniboia
there should be some representative of the people
independent of the Hudson's Bay Company. A
vacancy occurs in the council. The NorWester
advocates that Dr. John Schultz would be an excel-
lent representative to fill that vacancy. A great many
of the settlers think so, too; for among other new-
comers to the colony is one Thomas Spence, of
Portage la Prairie, who is for setting up a provisional
government of Manitoba. A government inde-
pendent of British connection means only one thing
— ^annexation. The settlers want to see Schultz on
the Council of Assiniboia to counteract domination
by the Hudson's Bay and to steer away from annex-

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atioh. Not so the Hudson's Bay Company. Schultz's
paper has attacked them from the first, and the little
store of which he is part proprietor, has been defiant
opposition under their very noses. But this council
business is too much. They will squelch Schultz,
and do it l^ally, too. In all new countries, the
majority of pioneers are at some stage of the game
in debt. Against Schultz's firm stood a debt of a
few hundred dollars. Schultz swore he had dis-
charged the debt by paying the money to his partner.
Owing to his partner's absence in England, his evi-
dence could neither be proved nor disproved. The
Company did not wait. Judgment was entered
against Schultz and the sheriff sent to seize his goods.
Moral resistance failing, Schultz resisted somewhat
vigorously with the poker. This was misdemeanor
with a vengeance — ^probably the very thing his ene-
mies hoped, for he was quickly overpowered, tied
round the arms with ropes, and whisked off in a
cariole to prison. But his opponents had not
counted on his wife — ^the future Lady Schultz, Ufe
partner of the man who was governor of Manitoba
for eight years. That very night the wife of the
future Sir John led fifteen men across to the prison,
ordered the guides knocked aside, the doors battered
open, and her husband liberated. His arrest was
not again attempted, and at a later trial for the debt,

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Schultz was vindicated. His party emerged from
the fracas ten times stronger.

Here, then, were three parties all at daggers drawn
— the Hudson's Bay Company standing stiffly for
the oH order of things and marking time till the
negotiations in England gave some cue for a new
policy; the colonists asking for a representative gov-
ernment, which meant union with Canada, waiting
tin negotiations for Confederation g^ive them some
cue; the independents, furtive, almost nameless,
working in the dark, hand in hand with that million
dollar fund, watching for their opportunity. And
there was a fourth party more inflammable than
these — the descendants of the old Nor'Westers — the
Plain Rangers, French Metis all of them, led by
Louis Riel, son of the old miller, wondering rest-
lessly what their part was to be in the reorgani^tion.
Were their lands to be taken away by these sur-
veyors coming from Canada? Were they to be
whistled by the independents under the Stars and
Stripes? They and their fathers had found this
land and explored it and ranged its prairies from
time immemorial. Who had better right than the
French Half-breeds to this country. Compared
to them, the Scotch settlers were as newcomers.
Of them, the other three parties were taking
small thought. The Metis rallied to Loub Riel's

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standard to protect their rights, whichever of the
other three parties came uppermost in the struggle.
Poor children of the wilds, of a free wilderness life
forever past! Theit leadet was unworthy, and their
stand a vain breakwater against the inward rolling
tide of events resistless as destiny!

The Company had told the Parliamentary Com-
mittee of '57 that it would willingly remit the burden
of governing its enormous territory if adequate re-
turns were made for its possessory rights. Without
going into the question of these rights, a syndicate
of capitalists, called the International Financial As-
sociation, jumped at the chance to buy out the old
Hudson's Bay. Chief negotiator was Edward Wat-
kins, who was planning telegraph and railroad
schemes for British America. "About what would
the price be?" he had casually asked EUice, now an
old man — the same Ellice who had negotiated the
union of Hudson's Bay and Nor' Westers in *2i.
''Oh, perhaps a million-and-a-half," ruminated
Ellice; but Berens, whose family had held Hudson's
Bay stock for generations, was of a different mind.
"What?" he roared in a manner the quintessence
of insult, " sequester our lands? Let settlers go in on
our hunting ground?" But the cooler heads proved
the wiser heads. It was "take what you can get

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now, or risk losing all later! Whether you will or
not, charter or no charter, settlers are coming and
can't be stopped. Canadian politicians are talking
of your charter as an outrage, as spoliation! Their
surveyors are already on the ground! Judge for
yourselves whether it is worth while to risk the repe-
tition of Oregon; or attempt resisting settlement."

Members of the International Financial Asso-
ciation met Berens, Colville — representative of the
Selkirk interests — and two other Hudson's Bay
directors in the dark old office of the Board Room,
Fenchurch Street, on the ist of February, in 1862.
Watkins describes the room as dingy with faded
green cover on the long table and worn dust-grimed
chairs. Berens continued to storm lik6 a fishwife;
but it was probably part of the game. On June i,
1863, the International Association bought out the
Hudson's Bay Company for £1,500,000. The Com-
pany that had begun in Radisson's day, two hundred
years before, with a capital of $50,000 (;£io,ooo) now
sold to the syndicate for $7,500,000, and the stock
was resold to new shareholders in a new Hudson's
Bay Company at a still larger capital. The ques-
tion was what to do about the forty shares belong-
ing to the chief factors and traders. When word of
the sale came to them in Canada, they naturally felt
as the minority shareholder always feels — that they

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had been sold out without any compensation, and the
indignation in the service was universal. But this
injustice was avoided by another unexpected move
in the game.

While financiers were dickering for Hudson^s Bay
stock, Canadian politicians brought about confede-
ration of all the Canadian colonies in 1867, and a
clause had been introduced in the British North
America Act that it should "be lawful to admit
Rupert's Land and the Northwest Territories into
the Union." The Hon. William McDougall had
introduced resolutions in the Canadian House pray-
ing that Rupert's Land be united in the Confwlera-
tion. With this end in view, Sir George Cartier and
Mr. McDougall proceeded to England to negotiate
with the Company. In October, 1869, the new Hud-
son's Bay Company relinquished all charter and ex-
clusive rights to the Dominion. The Dominion in
turn paid over to the Company £300,000; granted it
one-twentieth of the arable land in Its territory, and
ceded to it rights to the land on which its forts were
built. From the £300,000, paid by Canada, £157,055
were set aside to buy out the rights of the wintering
partners. How valuable one-twentieth of the arable
land was to prove, the Company, itself, did not
realize till recent days, and what wealth it gained
from the cession of land where its forts stood, may be

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guessed from the fact that at Fort Garry (Winnipeg)
this land comprised five hundred acres of what are
now city lots at metropolitan values. Where its
forts stood, it had surely won its laurels, for the
ground was literally baptized with the blood of its
early traders; just as the tax-free sites of rich reli-
gious orders in Quebec were long ago won by the
blood of Catholic mart)n's of whom newcomers knew
nothing. Whether the rest of the bargain — ^the pay-
ment of £300,000 for charter rights, which Canadians
repudiated, and the cession of one-twentieth of the
country's arable land — ^were as good a bargain for
Canada as for the Hudson's Bay Company, I nmst
leave to be discussed by the writer who takes up the
story where I leave oflf. Certainly both sides have
made tremendous gains from the bargain.

A year later. Red River Settlement came into
Confederation under the name which Spence had
given the country of his Provisional Government —
Manitoba, "the country of the people of the lakes."

So passed the Company as an empire builder. In
Oregon, its passing was marked by the terrible con-
flagration of Indian massacres. In Britfeh Colum-
bia, the old order gave place to the new in a wfld
gold stampede. In Manitoba, the monopoly had
not been surrendered before Rid put a match to the

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inflammable passions of his wild Plain Rangers,
that set the country in a flame.

As for the Company, it had played its part, and its
day was done. On that part, I have no verdict. Its
history is its verdict, and it is only fair to judge it by
the codes of feudalism rather than democracy.
Judging by the codes of feudalism, there are few
baronial or royal houses of two hundred years'
reign with as little to blush for or hide away among
family skeletons as the "Gentlemen Adventurers
Trading to Hudson's Bay." Trickery? To be sure ;
but then, it was an old order fighting a new, an old
fencer trying to parry the fancy thrusts of an enemy
with a new style of sword play. The old order was
' Feudalism. The new was Democracy.

The Company's ships still ply the waters of the
North. Its canoe brigades still bring in the furs to the
far fur posts. Its mid-winter dog trains still set
the bells tinkling over the lonely wastes of Northern
snows and it still sells as much fur at its great annual
sales as in its palmiest days. But the Hudson's Bay
Company is no longer a gay Adventurer setting sail
over the seas of the Unknown. It is no longer a
Soldier of Fortune, with laugh for life or death carv-
ing a path through the wilderness. It is now but a
commercial organization with methods similar to
other money-getting companies. Free traders over-

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run its hunting grounds. Rivals as powerful as itself
are now on the field fighting the battle of competition
according to modem methods of business rivalry.
Three-quarters of its old hunting fields are already
carved up in the checkerboard squares of new
provinces and fenced farm patches. The glories
of the days of its empire as Adventiurer, as Soldier of
Fortune, as Pathfinder, as Fighter, as Gamester of
the Wilderness — ^have gone forever to that mellow
Golden Age of the Heroic Past.

Nates to Chapter XXXIV, — ^The authorities for this chapter
are H. B. C. Archives; the Pari. "Report of 1857; Canadian Han-
sard, and local data gathered on the spot when I lived in Winni-
peg. Dr. George Bryce is the only writer who has ever at-
tempted to tell the true inward story of the first Riel Rebellion.
I do not refer to his hints of '* priestly plots." These had best
been given in full or left unsaid, but I do refer to his reference to
the danger of Red River going as Oregon had gone — over to a
Provisional Government, which would have meant war; and 1
cannot sufficiently regret that this story is not given in full.
In another generation, there will be no one living who can tell
that story; and yet one can understand why it may have to
remain untold as long as the leading actors are alive.

I do not touch on the Riel Rebellion in this chapter, as it
belongs to the history of the colony rather than the company;
and if I gave it, I should also have to give the Whitman Massa-
cres of Oregon and the Gold Stampede of B. C, which I do not
consider inside the scope of the history of the company as
empire builder. Much of thrilling interest in the lives of the
colonists I have been compelled to omit for the same reason;
for instance, the Sioux massacres in Minnesota, the adventures
of the buffalo hunters, such heroism as that of Hesse, the flood
in Red River, the splendid work of the different missionaries as
thev came, the comical half garrison life of the old pensioners,
including the terrible suicide of an officer at Fort Doufi^las over
a love affair. Whoever tells the story where I have Im off will
have these pegs to hang his chapters on; and I envy him the
pleasure of his work, whether the story be swung along as a



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fecord of the pioneer, or of Lord Strathcona — the Prcmtenao
of the West— or of the great Western missionaries.

Two or three discrepancies bother me in this chapter, which
the wise may worry over, and the innocent leave alone. In
Pari. Inquiry, 1857, EUice gives the united capital of H. B. C.
and N. W. C. in i8di, as £400,000. As I made transcripts of
the minutes in H. B. C. House, London, I made it ij^ 50.000.
In any case, it was increased to five before the Int. Fin. Asso-
ciation took hold.

Another point, the new company paid £1,^00,000 for the
stock. The stock sold to the public totalled a larger capital —
much larger. I do not give this total, though I have it, because
at a subsequent period the company retired part of its capital
by returning it to the shareholders, it you like to put it that way;
or paying a dividend which practically ataounted to a retire-
ment. That comes so late in the Company*s history, I feel it
has no place here» Therefore, to name the former large capital
would probably only mislead the reader.

It was in the days of Alex MacDonell, the grasshopper goy-
erftof, that the traders used to turn a whiskey bottle upside
down filled with sand, neck to neck on another whiskey bottle,
making an hour-glass, and drink till all the sand ran from the
upper bottle, when if the thirst was not quenched, both bottles
were reversed to begin the revels over again. If tradition is to
be trusted, the same hour bottle was much to blame for the
failures of the experimental farms.

The widow of John Clarke, who came a bride to the West in
1822, and lived in the palmy Arcadian days of Red River, is
still living in Montreal, aged 105, and has just at this date (1907)
had her daughter issue a little booklet of the most charmingly
quaint reminiscences I have enjoyed in many a day.

Ross and Hargrave and Gunn are the great authorities for
the days between 1820 and 1870, with other special papers to
be found in the Manitoba Hist. Soc. Series.

In several places I use dollar terms. Down to 1870 all H.
B. C. calculations were in £, s., d.

One there is who owes the world her reminiscences of this
fascinating era; and that is Lady Schulta, but the people who
have lived adventure are not keen for the Hmelight of te^ng
it, and I fear this story will not be given to the world.

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It may be interesting to admirers of that campaigner of the
Conservative Party, Sir John MacDonald, to know that the
terms ** spoliation and outrage" as applied to the H. B. C. charters
originated in a speech of Sir John's,

The adventures of the Swiss, who moved from Red River
down to Fort Snelling, at St. Paul, will be found very fully
given in the Minnesota Hist. Society's Collections and in the
Alacalester College Collections of St. Paul. Mrs. Charlotte
Ouisconsin Van Cleve's Memoirs of Fort Snelling tell the tragic
tale of the Tully murder in i823t when the little boy, John, of
Red River, was brought into Fort Snelling half scalped, and
Andrew was adopted mto her own family, v



THE END



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Online LibraryAgnes Christina LautThe conquest of the great Northwest: being the story of the ..., Volumes 1-2 → online text (page 50 of 50)