Alexander Isbister to Frederick Chesson, 1 June 1857, C138/230

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Isbister, Alexander


Indigenous person







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Bodleian Libraries

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C138-230


6 Marlborough Road
Halleford St 1st June

My dear Sir,

In your letter to the Globe your might say in reference to the line proposed by Mr Draper, as the interior northern boundary of Canada (viz from Cape Perdoux in Labrador … through lake Mistising and thence S.W. to the parallel 2 49) that it would entirely cut off the Red River Settlement and considering that the claims which Canada is now proceeding were first brought forward (in a letter from me to the Kingston Chronicle and News and afterwards in Mr Fitzgerald’s work) by those very Red River Settlers whom Mr Draper is desirous of throwing overboard after sucking their brains the proposal is as unenevous as it is ungrateful. The Red River people are living within 50 miles of the United States, who are making the most strenuous efforts to being them over to their side of the line … however my evidence and won’t be … well in … way. Mr Christy sent me yesterday the legal argument which Mr Draper put in on behalf of Canada. It very ably drawn up; but manifests an amazing want of familiarity with the early French claims to Hudson’s Bay. I do not know it as a fact, but I have a strong suspicion that Mr Draper is either ignorant of the French language or is shy of meddling with French documents from a fear of making some blunder. There is but one allusion in the whole course of his argument to the claims put forward by French, and in looking over the documents in the state paper office on what Mr Draper’s statement is based I find that the French ambassador’s claim to which he refers is accompanied by an English translation.

Mr Gladstone who is well up in the subject from reading Fitzgerald’s book has expressed his dissatisfaction (when the room was cleared) with the course taken by Mr Draper in assuming as the basis of the argument against the Company the frontier line and the claims put forward by themselves.

Mr Grogan and Mr Roebuck are to meet me at Mr Christy’s on Tuesday and they mean to propose that I shall be examined again, in order to bring out the French claims. They anticipate a strong opposition from Labouchere on the ground that it may give offence to Mr Draper, and so here is this important question sacrificed to a punctilio!

There is no doubt of Mr Draper being a very able man; but the more I see him the more I am convinced that the Government of Canada have acted most unwisely in sending over here as their Commissioner, a man who is not only ignorant of the country (having been by his own confession never nearer to it than the Eastern Extremity of Lake Superior about 1000 miles from Red River) but ignorant of his subject to which he had probably never turned his attention until he was sent over here. Think of the representative of Canada stating to the Committee that for his knowledge of the Hudson’s Bay Territory he is indebted to Mr McDonald a man upwards of 80 years of age who left the country in the … of the North West Company about 100 years ago! It will not do to bring out all these names and details in your public letter but I think that either in it or your private letter some allusion should be made to it. It will materially strengthen the reasons for his immediate recall.

I am writing in great haste and do not know whether you will be able to make out this scrawl.

Truly yours
A.K. Isbister