Alexander Isbister to Frederick Chesson, 5 July 1871, C138/234

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Isbister, Alexander


Indigenous person







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Bodleian Libraries

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MSS. Brit. Emp. S. 18 / C138-234


Stationers School
Bold Court, Fleet Street, E.C.
5th July 1871

My Dear Chesson,

You took some interest in the question of Hudson’s Bay Company versus the Chief Factor and Chief Trader and will be glad to learn that there is some prospect of a settlement of that longstanding dispute. You will remember a printed circular I sent out to the Chief Factor and Chief Trader with the opinion of the attorney general and Mr Jessel. This had the effect I anticipated in inducing them to make a stand for their rights and they accordingly on accordance with a recommendation I made to them, selected one of their own body to come over here, fully armed with the necessary powers to act for them and if need be bring the question before a court of law. Mr Donald Smith was accordingly selected and has been here for some few weeks in London busily engaged in negotiations with the Company, which ended on the Directors coming round to the view I enunciated in my circular that there had been a breach of contract with the wintering partners, the effect of which was to abrogate the deed poll and render a new one with a complete re-organization of the trade necessary. The sum of £120,000 which I put down their claims at in my letter to Sir Stafford Northcote, has been cut down to £100,000, but in other respects the Directors have practically conceded all that we contended for. But then came the great difficulty, to persuade the shareholders to agree to so large a sum being paid. A most determined opposition was organized among the shareholders who had got word of the proposal by means of circular pamphlets and private meetings, which broke out at the half yearly general court in a perfect storm of which you can form some faint notion by the report of the meeting which I enclose. It was arranged that Sir Stafford Northcote should bring the proposal before the meeting and that I should follow with a statement of the legal claims of the Factors and Traders, and it was hoped that Mr Smith as their direct representative would be allowed a hearing. Sir Stafford was listened to fairly well and notwithstanding repeated interruptions I managed to get a tolerable hearing too, but my sitting down was the signal for a perfect tumult of disorder and confusion and Mr Smith if he even attempted to speak at all … I do not know was never heard.

You will see from the report that the Directors got a small majority out for reasons then explained the final decision is adjourned to Wednesday next, when I shall let you know the result.

Yours very truly
A.K. Isbister

If we are finally successful, the company officers will owe much to you for your kind interest on their behalf from the time when you inserted the letter in the Star to the present time.