« ForrigeFortsett »
and on June 3, 1668, Grosseilliers sailed from the Thames in the ' Nonsuch,' a ketch of fifty tons, under the command of Captain Zachary Gillam, a mariner experienced on the Atlantic. Radisson sailed about the same time in the * Eaglet,' crossed the Atlantic, but owing to the fears of the master returned home. Such was the beginning of the Hudson's Bay Company.
It was August before the 'Nonsuch' sighted Resolution Island, at the entrance of Hudson's Straits. On September 29 Gillam cast anchor in James's Bay, at the mouth of what was well named Rupert's River. Here the adventurers quickly erected a fort, and were soon in communication with the Indians, who returned in spring bringing the pelts, the proceeds of the winter's hunting. With a full cargo Gillam sailed in June 1669 for England, leaving Grosseilliers and a few others at Fort Charles. The history of the young enterprise, for the time being, has two distinct divisions -the progress of the company in England and in Canada.
The Nonsuch'arrived in the Thames in August. Rupert and his friends were overjoyed at the success of their adventure. Radisson and Grosseilliers had not been too sanguine, and Canadian furs promised more profit than Spanish gold. The Prince and his friends decided to obtain a monopoly of the trade. There was not about it quite the uncertainty and the romance which captivated the imagination and sent men to fruitless toil in the Spanish Main, but there was surer gain if there were courage and
perseverance in those entrusted with the trade in the North. Rupert had little difficulty in obtaining from the King a charter which, on May 2, 1670, he received from Charles II.'s own hand at Whitehall. It granted to Prince Rupert, the Duke of Albemarle, Earls Craven and Arlington, and Lord Ashley, in all seventeen noblemen and gentlemen and their heirs, under the name of The Governor and Company of Merchant • Adventurers trading with Hudson's Bay,' the power of holding and selling lands and the sole right of trading in Hudson's Straits, and in the territories on the coasts thereof. The sovereignty over a huge and undefined territory was given to the company, the regions whose rivers and streams Aowed into Hudson's Bay, under the name of Rupert's Land, came under the dominion of the Merchant Adventurers. They had absolute authority, and were within their dominions supreme, and could declare and make war with any of the aboriginal inhabitants. The capital of the company was only 10,5001., each adventurer contributed
3001., and the whole sum was divided into thirty-four shares. Prince Rupert was paid sundry charges, sums apparently incurred in obtaining the charter, and was given a single share; "he having graciously signified his acceptance thereof,
credit was given him for 3001. Such was the entry in the minute book. In the dashing and princely commander by land and sea we see also the modern company-promoter. Rupert was in fact greatly in advance of his age. We are apt to think of him only as a brave cavalry leader during the Civil War-a typical cavalier; we are inclined to forget his ingenuity and mechanical skill, and his interest in the promotion of English commerce. Rupert had been before Grosseilliers approached him a partner in the African Company, but his recognition of the feasibility of Grosseilliers' plans is, perhaps, his most enduring monument. It showed sagacity and boldness of idea. Once a company such as this was securely established, there were plenty of English merchants able to manage it with success. But it required a mind of uncommon order at once to grasp the idea and work out the initial steps of the scheme. Had Rupert not seized the opportunity, the future of Canada might have been different. At the very moment when the English merchants were, by the aid of their able and courageous agents, beginning to establish the sovereignty of England in those northern regions, Frenchmen, actuated sometimes by the desire of spreading the Roman Catholic religion, sometimes by patriotism and love of power, were exploring and, in a sense, annexing the North-West. It was on a day of June 1671 that Saint-Lusson raised the banner of France on the strip of land which, broken by the Falls of St. Mary, divides the great waters of Superior and Huron. Here in high-sounding words he took possession of all the lands around in the name of the King of France, surrounded by the Indians gathered to this frequent meeting-place. To-day, where Saint-Lusson assumed this sovereignty for the French Monarchy, the United States and Canada meet, an immense shipping traffic passes through huge locks from one inland sea to another, and a great American company on Canadian soil personifies modern manufacture and cominerce on the ground where French traders and the aboriginal inhabitants more than two centuries ago carried on their primitive trade. It was in 1673 that the Jesuit priest Marquette, with Louis Joliet for his companion, left the South and discovered the upper waters of the Mississippi. It was six years later when the bold La Salle sailed in the • Griffin' from Erie to Huron, mingling in one personality the qualities of the Continental soldier of fortune and the sagacious trader. It is well to bear these facts in mind, for this extension of French dominion was occurring just as Englishmen were consolidating the new commercial power in the far North. The Hudson's Bay Company introduced to the North-West of French Canada an English colony which secured for the Anglo-Saxon race the vast unexplored lands not only about the great lakes, but to the shores of the Pacific and to the ice of the Arctic Ocean. They placed a barrier to French progress.
Ву the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the whole of Hudson's Bay became the possession of Great Britain without any clear delimitation of boundaries, thus ending once for all the local warfare and the disputes which had hitherto kept occurring year by year. For from the forts round the shores of the Bay the English fur traders spread west, south, and east, while from Montreal and Quebec and the adjacent country came the Frenchmen and the coureurs de bois, claiming that the vast lands in the region of the great lakes were within a French sphere of influence. Without that nucleus of English trade, and consequently of English sovereignty, on the desolate shores of Hudson's Bay which was created partly by the adventurous spirit of the two Breton fur traders, partly by the colonising and commercial sense of Rupert and his friends, French trade and French dominion might well have spread and remained over the whole of Canada.
We must turn back, however, to Grosseilliers and his little company, and see what happened to them after they were left by Gillam in the summer of 1669. Grosseilliers was well fitted by nature for the part he had to play. He mingled the temperament of the explorer and the man of business, the soldier of fortune and the diplomatist. He was skilled by years of hard wanderings in all the resources of the woodman, and he was undaunted by any difficulties.
He spent the summer and autumn and part of the ensuing winter in making excursions into the interior. He made treaties with the Nodwayes, the Kilistineaux, the Ottawas, and other detachments of the Algonquin race. Solemn conclaves were held, in which the bushranger dwelt with that rude eloquence of which he was master, and which both he and Radisson had borrowed from the Indians on the superior advantages of trade with the English. Nor did his zeal here pause. Knowing the Indian character as he did, he concocted stories about the English King and Prince Rupert. Many a confiding
savage that year enriched his paleface vocabulary by adding to it “ Charles” and “Rupert," epithets which denoted that superlative twain to whom the bushranger had transferred his labours and his allegiance.'
Another winter was passed, and then, in July 1670,f the sloop · Eaglet,' with Radisson on board, arrived. Together they pressed on the operations of the company with characteristic energy and courage. But though the French officials at Quebec had refused to take part in Grosseilliers' schemes, they had during the years of the inception of the Hudson's Bay Company been showing more vigour in the extension of the fur trade. The two hostile peoples and traders came into indirect conflict in 1673, for in that year the Indians, influenced by the French traders, became unfriendly to the English. The results were singular. The governor of the post appointed by the company, one Governor Bailey, seems to have been a rough, surly man, disliking the French, and suspicious of Grosseilliers and Radisson. The ill-feeling between these men grew; in 1674 a Jesuit priest appeared at Fort Charles, increasing the suspicions of Bailey. The antagonism culminated in a personal conflict and blows between the governor and Grosseilliers, and the departure of the French adventurers from the service of the English company. We lose sight of them for a time; Grosseilliers seems to have remained inactive at Three Rivers ; Radisson, taking service in the French navy, was shipwrecked, reappearing in Paris in 1679. He soon began to try to interest Colbert in a scheme for driving the English from Hudson's Bay ; but a man who had already served both French and English masters was naturally regarded with suspicion by the French minister. Then, without avail, he tried his luck in England, hoping to be reinstated in the service of the company. Presently there arrived in Paris M. de la Chesnaye, the head in Canada of the Compagnie du Nord. More alive than those who were engaged with European politics and the internal affairs of France to the important advance of the English in North America, La Chesnaye agreed to accept the services of Radisson and Grosseilliers in order to establish a trade in hostility to that of the
• The Great Company, vol. i. p. 43.
+ Mr. Willson speaks of July 1669 as the date of the arrival of the vessel
, but as the 'Nonsuch' did not return till August 1669, the above date does not appear correct,
Hudson's Bay Company. Obtaining a sum of 500 crowns from the Jesuits, ever ready to enlarge the area of the Catholic religion, Radisson arrived at Quebec at the end of September 1681.*
The English traders being securely established on the shores of Hudson's Bay, it is unnecessary to narrate at length the further adventures of Radisson and his brotherin-law. But the occurrences which immediately followed are so illustrative of the mixture of warfare, trade, and adventure which marked the early history of the Hudson's Bay Company that they may be shortly sketched. The French officials in Canada would not countenance an expedition against the English traders, and so various fictions were resorted to to justify its departure. At length, however, in August 1682 Radisson and his brother-in-law, in two small ships-the.St.-Pierre and the Ste.-Anne'-arrived on the west coast of Hudson's Bay. Grosseilliers was left to build a fort, while Radisson penetrated into the interior to establish trade communication with the Indians. Returning in September, accompanied by a number of Indians, he had scarcely reached the fort before he was surprised by the sound of cannon. Stealthily reconnoitring the mouth of the river in the darkness, Radisson discovered another European settlement. It was as illegal as his own. an expedition from Boston, under the command of Gillam's son-a purely private enterprise, in opposition to the Hudson's Bay Company. Making himself known to those in charge, Radisson quickly intimated that he was in those regions to maintain the sovereignty of France, adding, with rare effrontery, that he was supported by a powerful force. Scarcely had the interview ended, with complete satisfaction to Radisson, whose confidence never deserted him, when, with something of a dramatic effect, a ship under full sail was perceived to be entering the river. It was the ‘Prince * Rupert,' commanded by Captain Zachary Gillam, having on board John Bridgar, commissioned as agent of Fort Nelson, whose appointment had been one of Prince Rupert's last acts as governor of the company. Radisson adopted as bold a course with the Englishmen as with the colonials; he asserted that the country was already in the possession of the King of France, and that its trade
• The summary of Radisson's life with dates in the appendix to Professor Bryce's work is much to be commended, as is the list of apthorities bearing on the history of the Hudson's Bay Company,