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in the country, formed a capital stock of £.400,000 on which 4 per cent. dividend was paid in the years 1821 to 1824, and from that time to the present, half-yearly dividends of 5 per cent., with a bonus of 10 per cent. from the year 1828 to 1832, and since that an average bonus of 6 per cent. until last year, when none was paid.
• When your Lordships come to consider the very hazardous nature of the trade, requiring a degree of enterprise unknown to almost any other business, together with the heavy losses to which the parties interested therein were subjected for a long series of years, from the want of protection and support, which they had a right to expect from his Majesty's Government, I feel assured your Lordships will join me in opinion that the profits now arising from the business are no more than a fair return for the capital employed, and the services the Hudson's Bay Company are rendering the mother country in securing to it a branch of commerce which they are at present wresting out of the hands of foreigners, subjects of Russia and the United States of America, but which the Company would have been unable to prosecute, had they not been protected by the licence of exclusive trade they now hold.
• In looking at these profits, however, it should be borne in mind that Hudson's Bay stock, in like manner as in all other stocks, changes hands very frequently, and that the price of the stock is entirely regulated by the return it produces, thereby affording to the bulk of the present proprietors little more than 6 per cent. for their money.'
It is stated in the papers laid before Parliament, 8th August, 1842, in an enclosure, dated 1st February, 1837, that the Company then had 136 establishments, besides hunting expeditions and shipping—affording employment to twenty-five chief factors, twenty-seven chief traders, 152 clerks, and about 1,200 regular servants, besides the occasional labour in boating, and other services of a great nuinber of the natives.
In a public letter to Lord Glenelg, dated 10th February, 1837,
(see Parlimentary Papers of 8th August, 1842), it is mentioned, that the Hudson's Bay Company had then fully occupied the country between the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific, by six permanent establishments on the coasts, and sixteen in the interior; besides several migratory and hunting parties; and they possessed on the coast a marine of six armed vessels, one of them a steam vessel.
The Company maintain several medical officers for different forts, and at every trading establishment there is in fact an Indian hospital, from which the natives derive the greatest benefit, as they resort thither in great numbers, when suffering from age, infirmities, or other causes.
In order to remove misconception as to the internal trade and working of the Hudson's Bay Company, the following explanatory statement is taken from the report of Commodore Wilkes, who was an impartial eye-witness of that which he describes :
* All the imported goods are divided into three classes, viz.articles of gratuity, those of trade, and those intended to pay for small services, labour, and provisions. The first consists of knives and tobacco; the second, of blankets, guns, cloth, powder, and shot; the third, of shirts, handkerchiefs, ribands, beads, &c. These articles are bartered at seemingly great profits, and many persons imagine that large gain must be the result from the Indian trade; but this is seldom the case. The Indians and settlers understand well the worth of each article, and were not inclined to give for it more than its real value, besides getting a present or 'potlach' to boot. The Company are obliged to make advances to all their trappers, if they wish to be sure of their services; and from such a reckless set, there is little certainty of getting returns, even if the trapper has it in his power. In fact, he will not return with his season's acquisitions, unless he is constrained to pursue the same course of life for another year, when he requires a new advance. In order to avoid losses by the departure of their men, the parties, some thirty or forty in number, are placed under an officer who has charge of the whole.
These are allowed to take their wives, and even families, with them; and places, where they are to trap during the season, on some favourable ground, are assigned to them. These parties leave Vancouver in October, and return by May or June. They usually trap on shares, and the portion they are. to receive is defined by an agreement, the conditions of which depend very much upon their skill.
' All the profits of the Company depend upon economical management, for the quantity of peltry in this section of the country, and indeed, it may be said, the fur trade on this side of the mountains has fallen off fifty per cent. within the last few years.' [Vol. iv. p. 333, “Narrative of the United States' Exploring Expedition, during the years 1838, 39, 40, 41, and 1842. London, Wiley and Putnam, 1845).
The Americans have found to their cost that as individual traders they cannot derive any advantage by traffic with the Indians, for even when successful in the purchase of furs, they are liable to be plundered and murdered, as exemplified in the following account of the massacre of twenty-one Americans on the Umqua River :
' A trapper of the name of Smith, a remarkably shrewd and intelligent man, had encamped on the left bank of the lastmentioned river with twenty followers, and had ascended the stream in a canoe with two companions of his own party, and a native of the neighbourhood, to find a convenient place for crossing. On his return, his Indian was hailed by another from the shore, who spoke to him in his own language, which was unknown alike to Smith and to his people. A sufficiently intelligible interpretation, however, soon followed; for Smith's savage upset the canoe by a jerk, thereby pitching the guns of the white men, as well as the white men themselves, into the current. Under a heavy fire, Smith and one of his men found their way to the bank, the other man having fallen a victim either to the enemies shot, or to the depths of the Umqua. On reaching the banks of the river opposite to his camp, the trapper found his
men murdered, and all his property rifled. Smith, after encountering many dangers, and enduring many hardships, reached one of our forts; and, at a great inconvenience to our own business, we compelled the savages, by a demonstration of force, to surrender to him their booty.' [Sir G. Simpson's l’oyage round the World, vol. i.]
The operations of the Hudson's Bay Company, and those of the Russians in the north, have almost excluded the Americans from the fur trade, as there are few animals now found south of the parallel of 49o.
Several detached bodies of American trappers range the country, south of 49. north latitude; but, as Mr. Greenhow justly says, the hunters have no settlement of any kind, and, as is shown in the case just quoted, are liable at any moment to be massacred. A single hint from the chief officer of the Fort Vancouver settlement to the Indians would have been followed by the destruction of every American in the Oregon region. In fact, the American settlers at the Willamette would have perished of famine, but for the Hudson's Bay Company. It is a matter of surprise and congratulation, therefore, that for nearly 200 years England, through the instrumentality of an effectually organized association, has not only maintained a position in North America, but extended her power, and held in check, if not to some extent civilized or subdued thousands of savages, who have found that an English Company were their only friends.
The trade indeed is one of much hardship and privation.
Commodore Wilkes observes, 'that the Company's servants at the north posts suffer almost as much as the Indians at times, although they are provided for and attended to by the officers: they live mostly upon salmon. The difficulty of getting provisions to posts in the interior, is very great; all that is consumed at the north, is carried twenty-four days' journey on pack-horses, and eighteen days in barges before it reaches its destination; and the amount transported is not more than enough to supply the officers, whose allowance is very limited. The servants of
the Company receive an increased pay, as some récompence for their privations.'
Referring to the dangers and risks the officers and servants of the Hudson's Bay Company have to encounter from Indians, descending rapids, when an entire boat's crew are sometimes instantly destroyed, and to the toil and privation endured by the voyageurs, the Commodore says, at p. 391, the most experienced voyageur is taken as a pilot for the brigade, and he is the bowman of the leading boat, which is looked upon as a station of great trust and honour. Each boat has also its bowman, who is considered the first officer and responsible man; the safety of the boat, in descending rapids particularly, depends upon him and the padroon who steers the boat. They both use long and large bladepaddles; and it is surprising how much power the two can exert over the direction of the boat. These men, from long training, become very expert, and acquire a coolness and disregard of danger that claim admiration, and astonishes those who are unused to such scenes. To all appearance, there is seldom to be found a more laborious set of men; nor one so willing, particularly when their remuneration of no more than seventeen pounds sterling a-year, and the fare they receive, are considered. Very few of those who embark or join this Company's service, ever leave the part of the country they have been employed in ; for after the expiration of five years, they usually enlist for three
This service of eight years in a life of so much adventure and hazard, attaches them to it, and they generally continue until they become old men; when, being married, and having families by Indian women, they retire, under the auspices of the Company, to some small farm, either on the Red or Columbia Rivers. There is no allowance stipulated for their wives or children; but one is usually made, if they have been useful. If a man dies, leaving a family, although the Company is not under any obligation to provide for them, they are generally taken care of. The officers of the Company are particularly strict in preventing its servants from deserting their wives ; and none can abandon them without much secresy and cunning. In cases of