British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

4
LORD SELKIRK TO J. Q. ADAMS, 22. December 18171

[ Baltimore.]

. . . In the present circumstances of the settlement at Red River, it is particularly desirable to open this intercourse without delay, so as to afford an opportunity to my settlers to obtain a supply of cattle and sheep, to replace those which have been destroyed by the lawless partisans of the North West Company. But besides the obstacles which I have already mentioned, I understand there is a peculiar difficulty on the subject of cattle, arising from a clause in an Act of Congress, by which all citizens are debarred from pasturing or driving their cattle on any lands belonging to Indians. It is evident however from the tenor of the enactment, that the purpose of this regulation was to obviate the quarrels, which had frequently arisen from the trespasses of the back settlers;--a danger which is not to be apprehended from the mere passage of a few cattle, on their way to a foreign country.

As my settlement on Red River has been formed entirely on the principles of agricultural improvement, and for the establishment of a civilized population, it cannot be likely to excite any jealousy on the part of the American Government. With respect to the Hudson's Bay Company, from whom I derive my title to these lands, and in whose concerns I am materially interested, I beg leave to observe, that they have always acted on very different principles from the Canadian merchants, who have engaged in the fur trade. They are not mere traders; but as they also hold a valuable grant of lands, their conduct as merchants is naturally influenced by their interest as proprietors. The permanent interest they have in the country, as well as the responsibility of their situation as a chartered body, must always restrain them from the exceptionable proceedings, to which ordinary traders may be tempted by the prospect of immediate gain. The Hudson's Bay Company have always been disposed to promote the progress of the Indians in the arts of civilized life; and have exerted themselves to maintain peace among them. They have never had any intercourse with the tribes within the United States; and it is not their policy to extend their trade beyond the territory which legally belongs to them. The limits which their charter assigns are sufficiently ample; and if the Company be allowed to enjoy their rights in peace within these limits, they will not be disposed to trespass on those of others. As soon therefore, as the boundaries of the British and American dominions in that quarter shall be ascertain [sic], I do not apprehend that any cause of collision can remain, between the Hudson's Bay Company, and the traders who may be authorized by your Government to carry on the fur trade within the United States . . .

____________________
I

State Papers, Washington: Misc. letters, pp. 179-80. Printed in Canadian Hist. Rev., vol. xvii, pp. 421-3.

-482-

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