RELATIONS WITH WESTERN CANADA
Minnesota History Bulletin, Volume 2 by Theodore Christian Blegen, Minnesota Historical Society, 1917-1918 – Transcribed by AFOFG TK
The discovery of the papers of Consul James W. Taylor and the publication of a sketch of his career in the BULLETIN for November, 1915, threw a new light upon certain phases of the relations between the United States and western Canada. The following address of the Pioneers of Rupert's Land to Consul General Jones, on the occasion of his departure from Winnipeg in 1913, tells of the close connections and friendly relations between the pioneers of the old Hudson's Bay territories and those of Minnesota, and shows the interlocking of the economic development of the two regions. It was prepared by Mr. Isaac Cowie of Winnipeg, secretary of the association, who came to western Canada in 1867 as an apprentice clerk of the Hudson's Bay Company. Mr. Cowie is well versed in the history of the western country and has written a narrative of his seven years' service with the Hudson's Bay Company at Fort Qu'Appelle, from 1867 to 1874, entitled The Company of Adventurers (Toronto, 1913). Dr. John Edward Jones, to whom the address was delivered, entered the United States consular service in 1905 with an appointment as consul at Dalny, Manchuria. From 1907 to 1913 he represented the United States at Winnipeg, being transferred in September of the latter year to Genoa, Italy. Since June, 1915, he has held the post of consul at Lyon, France.
WINNIPEG, September 9, 1913
DR. J. E. JONES, American Consul General,
DEAR CONSUL GENERAL:
We, the Pioneers of Rupert's Land, an association of the white settlers who came to the Hudson's Bay territories prior to their union with the Dominion of Canada, have heard with regret that you are about to be removed by your government to a sphere of more importance to your country, but to the great loss of the hosts of friends you have made here in western Canada. We can not therefore let the occasion pass without expressing our feelings towards our neighbors in your country and towards yourself.
The Pioneers of Rupert's Land owe a very old debt of gratitude to their brother pioneers of the old northwestern territory of Minnesota, for until they advanced the frontiers of civilization we had to rely upon the annual ships coming to Hudson Bay and birch-bark canoes coming from Montreal for the necessities of existence which our country itself did not produce. Even our mails came but once in summer by canoe and once in winter by dog train from Sault Sainte Marie. To obtain the live stock needed for the formation of a prosperous settlement on the Red River the Hudson's Bay Company sent men from Fort Garry to purchase sheep in far-off Kentucky, and herds of cattle were bought in American frontier settlements and brought in by the early colonists to Red River, while others were driven in for sale by adventurous Americans themselves.
Free traders from Red River began to go to St. Louis with their furs, and travelers found their way to the east in their company. Later St. Peter's, near the present site of St. Paul, became the terminus. As the embryo town of St. Paul obtained better steamboat facilities on the Mississippi, its trade with the settlers increased, and larger and larger "brigades" of their quaint wooden carts resorted thereto yearly. To supplement the services of these carts, enterprising Americans drew the machinery of the steamboat "Anson Northup" across the watershed from the Mississippi and placed it on her hull on the Red River. Next, in May, 1862, the Hudson's Bay steamboat "International," built at Georgetown, 133 1/2 tons register, began to ply on the international waters of the Red River, and inaugurated the period of steam and flatboating before railways reached the frontier and finally St. Boniface, when the whole country, except the Hudson's Bay posts on or near the bay itself, depended for passenger and freight traffic entirely upon the facilities afforded by our good friends and neighbors in Minnesota and Dakota.
Concurrently with these continually improving means of traffic the postal system of the United States was extended, and gladly taken advantage of by the isolated settlement north of the boundary. In 1853 a regular monthly mail service was begun between Fort Garry and Fort Ripley, then the farthest advanced United States post-office. In 1857 Pembina became an American postoffice, at which the monthly and afterwards the bimonthly mail accommodation was received or dispatched by the Red River couriers. In 1862 the United States gave Pembina a biweekly service, and a weekly one to Fort Garry immediately followed. The courier who carried this weekly mail traveled on horseback in summer, and in winter with a train of dogs, receiving for the round trip (seventy miles each way) the sum of six dollars and twenty-five cents, while the postmaster at Fort Garry enjoyed a salary of one hundred dollars a year. To defray the expense of the service between Fort Garry and Pembina a charge was made of two cents for a letter under one-half ounce, one cent for each newspaper, and four cents for each magazine, payable in cash, in addition to the American postage. Advantage was obtained also of the American telegraphic system as it advanced.
Under these circumstances the mutually beneficial trade and traffic between the Red River settlement and St. Paul increased and multiplied annually. And this trade was practically free, being restricted by a customs duty of only four per cent on the net invoice of dutiable goods entering the settlement, while books, supplies for missions, agricultural implements and seeds, stoves, and several other things entered free. At the same time the American government permitted imports to Red River from other countries to come through in bond.
The friendly feelings fostered by this free intercourse found material expression when, in the winter of 1868-69, the Red River colony found itself face to face with famine, caused by the devastations of locusts, which destroyed every green thing, simultaneously with the failure of the buffalo hunt, all other game, and the fisheries. A relief fund was raised amounting to $32,500, exclusive of $8,000 voted by the government of the colony, and of the former amount England contributed $15,000, Canada $13,000, while the United States sent $4,500. And it was from St. Paul that the flour and seed grain, upon which the contributions were chiefly expended, could be and were obtained.
Such, then, are the obligations of the people of Rupert's Land to the United States, and no one who has not been a pioneer in the wilderness can, in these days of railways everywhere, appreciate the benefits so received. Besides these, there were the hearty hospitality and fair dealing with which the people of St. Paul met the visitors from Red River, resulting in life-long personal friendships, which still endure among the few survivors of those happy days of yore.
But not content with giving us the free benefit of their trade and traffic facilities, the American people sent into our midst to represent them a man who was an apostle of peace and good will, and a prophet of progress, who saw, with eyes undimmed with prejudice and in the light of science, a vision of the wonders of the Canadian West which have been revealed to its inhabitants and to the world at large only during the present generation. Versed in the science of botany, gifted with eloquent tongue and a pen which proved mightier than any other individual influence in dispelling the clouds of calumny which had enveloped the prairies now known as the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, and had hidden their possibilities for producing the superabundance of cereals now being witnessed, was your remarkable predecessor, United States Consul James W. Taylor.
A lover of wild flowers, he himself was one of the finest flowers of the culture and intelligence of the United States. The affable and approachable friend of high and low, rich and poor, mingling with our joy and sharing in our sorrow, equally zealous in all good works for the benefit of the great country he represented and the great unknown country in which he then took up his abode, Consul Taylor still further strengthened the bonds of friendship and good will between the people of Manitoba and Minnesota. And when the hour of danger came by the menace on our frontiers, it was he who influenced the authorities at Washington to order the troops under the gallant Colonel Wheaton to disperse and capture the raiders.
We regarded the premature passing away of our good old friend Consul Taylor as a public calamity; but fortunately for western Canada the American government again sent us of her best, and in you, who have trodden in the footsteps of your brilliant predecessor and, amid the ever quickly changing circumstance of the day, have been an ambassador of progress, peace, and good will, we recognize a worthy successor to our honored friend.
While unwilling to part with one who has publicly and socially and personally, apart from the Taylor tradition, won for himself our lasting respect and friendship, we hope and trust that your next step in the service of your great and mighty nation may be one to which the brilliant talents you have displayed as consul general in Winnipeg point you out as eminently fitted to fill with advantage to the country to which you may go as well as that from which you are sent.
Our very heartiest and best wishes will follow you and your family wherever you may go, and in memory we will couple the friendship we have enjoyed with you with that of our never forgotten friend Consul Taylor.
We remain, dear Consul General, your sincere friends,
THE PIONEERS OF RUPERT'S LAND per
Wm. Clark, Vice-President
Retired Chief Factor, Hudson's Bay Company
R. MacFarlane, Retired Chief Factor
W. J. McLean, Retired Chief Trader
T. H. Smith
Ex-member, Manitoba Legislative Assembly
Isaac Cowie, Secretary
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