Shedding Light on Canadian History

By Ford, Jenny | Winnipeg Free Press, September 5, 2012 | Go to article overview

Shedding Light on Canadian History


Ford, Jenny, Winnipeg Free Press


Letters in Scottish archives discuss settlers, battle

The Scottish archives has uncovered two letters shedding light on the Selkirk settlers' journey to Canada and the Battle of Seven Oaks.

"These (documents) possibly throw further light on the settlement and on the background to it," George MacKenzie, registrar general and keeper of the records for the National Records of Scotland, said Tuesday.

The rediscovered letters' significance and connection to the Selkirk settlers' bicentenary only surfaced a few weeks ago, MacKenzie said.

"What you're getting is a direct connection to the past in a way that, really, no object can connect you," he said. "You're right into the minds of people here."

Copies of the letters will be presented to the Manitoba's Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee by the current Lord Selkirk, the Rt. Hon. James Douglas-Hamilton, sometime this week in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Selkirk settlers' arrival in Manitoba.

The first letter is a draft written by Lord Melville, who commanded the Royal Navy, turning down Lord Selkirk's request for a naval escort to protect the settlers' journey to Canada. The 1812 letter is written days after the United States declared war on Britain, and there were concerns about the British navy kidnapping people to serve in the unpopular job.

"The danger is not just making that voyage and setting up, you've got the potential that your own navy might intercept you," said MacKenzie.

The letter, although denying protection, shows Lord Selkirk was important enough to be granted a response, said Jack Bumsted, author of Lord Selkirk: A Life. …

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