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Lord Selkirk, and the North-west Company. Oct. to do it; be set about devising the means of rescuing some of the best parts of it from so unprofitable a condition. For this purpose, it is said, and we believe truly, his lordship purchased, at a price far beyond its value, about one-third part of the stock of the Hudson's Bay Company ;-the whole of which is only £100,000. A proprietor to such an extent could not well be refused a favour from the Governors of the Company; and they granted bim, what me rather think the Law Officers of the Crown have decided they had no power to grant, a wide extent of country held, or supposed to be held, under their Charter, of which he proceeded to take possession.
• He was called away from England,' he says, 'to a remote part of the British dominions for the purpose, not only of defending his rights of property from threatened infringement, but also to give his personal support to a considerable body of individuals who, in a great degree, Jooked up to him for protection, and against whom a train of premeditated and violent aggression has been committed by their fellow sub: jects.
On his arrival in Canada he found the territory which he was about to settle, and indeed the whole of America from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and from the Lakes of Canada to the extreme North, overrun by the servants of an Association of Merchants in London .and Montreal calling itself the North-west Company, between which and the Hudson's Bay Company there had long subsisted a deadly feud. At Montreal, we presume, he writes his
Sketch of the Fur Trade,' which is well calculated to bring down public indignation on the heads of those who conduct, or who are concerned in it. The pains that appear to be taken, and the plans that are laid, to seduce the inoffensive savages into habits of vice, in order that the traders' may the more easily exercise a brutal tyranny over them; and the ferocious and unfeeling conduct of the Canadian rivals in the fur trade towards each other, setting at de-. fiance all religion, morality and law, are stated in such terms and on such evidence, that they are not only deserving the early attention of the public, but will command it, and, we doubt not, call forth the immediate interference of the legislature.
It would seem, however, that Lord Selkirk has not thought fit to await the decision of the legislature or the executive government. The. details of the extraordinary and atrocious transactions which have urged his lordship to the strange steps he has taken are not yet fairly before the public, Private letters, however, from interested india viduals say, that Mr. Semple, recently appointed Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company, while on a journey to inspect its forts and establishments in the Indian territories,' fell in with a party of natives carrying provisions to some of the trading establishments of the
North-west Company; that Mr. Semple, through a mistaketi zeal for the interests of his employers, hesitated to let them pass; that a scuffle ensued, in which the unfortunate governor and about twenty of his people were put to death. Mr. Semple could scarcely have denied the right of a passage to the natives through their own territo ries. The account given in the Montreal Herald of the 12th October, evidently from one of the few persons who survived the massacre, is probably the true one. From this it appears, that a regular expedition was fitted out by the North-west Company, to drive away,
for the second time, the people belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, who had re-possessed themselves of their establishment on the Red-river. Mr. Semple, observing their approach from the fort, said. We must go and meet those people-let twenty men follow me. They had only proceeded a few hundred yards, when several colonists came running towards them in great dismay, crying out, * The North-west Company--the “half breeds !"' Having advanced about half a mile from Fort Douglas, a numerous body of cavalry appeared from behind a wood, and surrounded the Governor and his people, when one Bouché, a Canadian, rode up to Mr. Semple, demanding their fort.' The Governor answered, 'Go to your fort.'
You,' retorted Bouché,“ have destroyed our fort, you damned rascal.' * Scoundrel,' said Semple, laying his hand upon Bouché's bridle,“ dare you call me so' Bouché sprang from his horse, and a shot was immediately fired, by which Lieut. Holt fell. The next shot wounded the Goveroor, who called out to his men, ' Do what you can to take care of yourselves ;' but he was so much beloved that they affectionately gathered round him to learn what injury he had suffered; when a volley of musketry was poured into the group, which killed several and wounded the greater part of them.
'The cavalry galloped towards the survivors, who took off their bats and called for mercy. But this address for mercy was made to the servants of the North-west Company, and at their hands was immediately received by what must be presumed the accustomed measure of their compassion-a speedy termination of earthly calamities. The knife, the axe, or the ball, in able and willing hands, soon placed in lasting repose, those whom pain or terror had rendered clamorous. One only was spared, through the exertions of a Canadian to whom he had been intimately known-two others were providentially saved by escaping to a canoe, and two more, by swimming, in the tumult, to the other side of the river.'
Thus fell Governor Semple, a man of amiable and modest manners, and of a most humane and benevolent disposition,--his private secretary, the surgeon, two officers, and fifteen settlers. Their bodies are stated to have been barbarously mangled to gratify the savage rancour of their murderers, commanded by a Mr. Cuthbert
Grant, who told the survivor, if the remainder in the fort shewed the least resistance, neither man, woman, nor child, should be saved.' The distress and horror of those who had been left in the fort, and of others who had Aed thither for safety, is thus described by the prisoner sent to sumınion it:
. 'The wives, children, and relatives of the slain, were there collected, mourning for the dead, despairing for the living, and in agonies of horror, such as can be expressed in no language, nor even imagined, but by the minds of those on whom the Almighty may have permitted an equal visitation.'
The writer further states, that death was not the worst they had to dread, as one M‘Donald had encouraged his people, by promising them, in addition to the plunder they had to expect, the wives and daughters of the settlers, for the gratification of their brutal desires.
When the account of this horrid transaction reached Montreal, Lord Selkirk, it seems, determined at once to secure the culprits or their employers, and for this purpose proceeded up the country, taking with him a considerable number of people, consisting chiefly of disbanded men from Meuron's regiment; marched them, as his enemies say, directly against Fort William, (the principal post of the North-west Company on Lake Superior,) and, having summoned the garrison in a true military style, which is said to have surrendered at discretion, sent the whole of the North-westers, including the Mac Gillivrays, the Mac Leods, Mac Kenzies, Frazers, and
Scottish northern chiefs
Of high and warlike name, as prisoners of war to Montreal, where they were released from their parole, or, in other words, admitted to bail.
His lordship’s friends, however, say that he took possession by the more peaceable process of a warrant issued by himself in bis capacity of magistrate. Indeed we hardly can persuade ourselves that Lord Selkirk would venture to exercise, under any authority, such a stretch of power as is here imputed to him; at least his avowed political principles lead us to think otherwise. But we hasten to his pamphlet, which fully prepares us—not only for transactions like that just mentioned, but-for almost any species of outrage and aggression.
When Canada was a province of France, the fur trade was carried on under a system of exclusive privileges. The governor granted licenses to individuals to trade with the Indians, within certain prescribed limits; the persons who obtained these privileges being generally officers of the army or others of respectable familyconnexion; and this system, Lord Selkirk observes, established and
extended the political influence of the French government in its transactions with the Indian nations of America. The privileged traders were geverally men of education, and it was their interest, as well as duty, to promote the general objects expected from them; knowing that, on failure, their exclusive rights would be withdrawn. Their conduct besides was closely watched by the missionaries, whose attention was particularly directed to the prevention of abuses arising from the sale of spirituous liquors among the savages. This system had the best effect in improving the character and increasing the comforts of the natives; ' as a proof of which,' says Lord Selkirk,' we need only compare the present state of the Indians in Canada, with that in which they stood immediately after the conquest of that province by Great Britain, at which period populous villages existed in many districts where, at present, we meet only two or three wandering families, and these addicted to the most brutal excesses, and a prey to want and misery.'
This system of traffic, however, being inconsistent with the received principles of freedom of trade' under the English government, was speedily abolished, and the trade thrown open; the first adventurers made large profits; and this encouraged others to embark in the same concern; a keen commercial competition arose, which, if confined to innocent barter, might have been advantageous to the Indians by supplying them with better goods ou more reasonable terms: but it was soon discovered that, of all the goods offered for sale, a profuse supply of spirituous liquors was the shortest and most ready mode of obtaining a preference in the market. The propensity of the Indians to intoxication was fostered by unbounded temptation ; and disorders of all kinds were the result: the rival traders, scattered over a country of immense extent, and removed to a distance from all civil authority, believed, and were confirmed in the belief, that the commission of almost every crime would pass with impunity. Every art,' says Lord Selkirk, which malice could devise, was exerted without restraint, and the intercourse of the traders with each other partook more of the style of the savages by whom they were surrounded, than of the country from which they had sprung.' His lordship quotes Mr. Henry and Sir Alexander M-Kenzie to prove the reciprocal hostility of the traders,— each pursuing his own interests in such a mamer as might most injure his neighbour,'—and the baneful effects of such conduct on the morals of the Indians. The agents principally employed in the distant parts of the country were French Canadians, kuown by the name of Coureurs des bois, a set of men who, by accompanying the natives on their hunting and trading excursions, had become
attached to the Indian mode of life, that they had lost all relish for their former habits and pative homes. The missionaries com
plained of the licentious manners of these men, whom they represented as a disgrace to the Christian religion; while the Indians, Josing all respect for them, laid them under frequent contributions: the merchants who had embarked in the trade were disgusted with their ill success, and refused to continue their advances. Sir Alexander states, that in the year 1780, as some of these traders were about to depart from the Eagle Hills, where a large band of Indians were engaged in drinking near their houses, a Canadian,
to ease himself of the troublesome importunities of a native, gave him a dose of laudanum in a glass of grog, which effectually prevented him from giving further trouble to any one, by setting him asleep for ever. The consequence of this was a fray, in which one of the traders and several of the men were killed, and the rest saved themselves by flight. About the same time two of the establishments on the Assineboin River were attacked, when several white men and a greater number of Indians were killed. In short, it appeared that the natives had come to the resolution of extirpating the traders, and that they were only saved from their indignation by the ravages of the smallpox, which, at this moment, spread among the Indians like a pestilence, and almost depopulated the country. By this calamity the traders, though rescued from personal danger, found the source of their profits cut off; no furs were brought to them; and those natives who had escaped the contagion, fled their approach, and hunted only for their own subsistence.
In this forlorn situation of the fur trade, the merchants of Canada thought it best to form an association under the name of the Northwest Company, and throw their separate capitals into one cammon stock; but a few individuals, not satisfied with the arrangement, continued to carry on a separate trade. This retarded a general union, which, when effected, was again dissolved; in 1798 a great secession from the North-west Company took place, and a new one was formed, known by the name of the X. Y. Company. A coalition, however, was at length effected between these rival bodies in the year 1805, at which time the North-West Company took its present form and character-a character so curious, that we shall briefly describe it from Lord Sel.
The whole concern is divided into a hundred shares; seventy-five of which belong to the Old, and twenty-five to the New Company; of the former, thirty are held by one house at Montreal; of the latter, eighteen or nineteen are appropriated to different houses in Montreal and London; the remaining shares are held by individuals, who are termed wintering partners, and who take upon themselves the charge of managing the affairs of the Company in the interior. These partners hold a general meeting every summer at the rendez