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Published: An equitable property tax, a financial speculation, and a fair rate of wages to the labouring poor by: Loyal Briton. Published: A plan for reducing the poor's-rate, by giving permanent employment to the labouring classes with some observations on the cultivation of flax and hemp Women made clothing and moccasins and helped to supply the fur trade posts. Most importantly, they fostered kinship ties between Europeans and Indigenous peoples, linking the two groups in more than just trade and economy.
By the s the Domaine de l'Occident Company of the Farm , which had been obliged to take over the beaver trade in from the defunct Compagnie des Indes occidentales, was complaining of a huge glut. The order to abandon the western trading posts to slow the migration of men into the beaver trade, and to reduce the glut of pelts was given while England and France were at war and the Canadians were engaged in a desperate struggle with the English colonies and their Haudenosaunee allies.
The French feared that these peoples would become allies of the English. New France would be doomed. In addition, the English had been established since at posts on the sub-Arctic coast of Hudson Bay see Hudson's Bay Company [HBC] , and the western posts were essential to fend off that competition. The minister of marine was obliged to rescind his drastic orders and the beaver trade resumed in spite of the over-supply, for purely political reasons. In , on the eve of new hostilities, Louis XIV ordered the establishment of the new colony of Louisiana on the lower Mississippi River, plus settlements in the Illinois country and a garrisoned post at Detroit.
The aim was to hem in the English colonies between the Allegheny Mountains and the Atlantic. This imperialist policy depended on the support of the First Nations. This effectively ended the Beaver Wars over the fur trade. By that time, however, the wars had already resulted in the permanent dispersal or destruction of several First Nations in the Eastern Woodlands , including the Huron-Wendat.
In , it was discovered that rodents and insects had consumed the glut of beaver fur in French warehouses. The market immediately revived. As an item on the balance sheet of French external trade, furs were minuscule, and their share was shrinking proportionately as trade in tropical produce and manufactured goods increased; however, the fur trade was the backbone of the Canadian economy.
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Unlike the HBC with its monolithic structure staffed by paid servants, in New France the trade was carried on into the early 18th century by scores of small partnerships. As costs rose with distance, the trade came to be controlled by a small number of bourgeois , who hired hundreds of wage-earning voyageurs. Most companies consisted of three or four men who obtained from the authorities the lease on the trade at a specific post for three years; all members shared profits or losses proportional to the capital subscribed.
The voyageurs' wages varied from to livres if they wintered in the West. For those who paddled the canoes westward in the spring and returned with the autumn convoy, the usual wage was livres plus their keep about double what a labourer or artisan would earn in the colony. Between and the Seven Years' War the fur trade expanded greatly and served a variety of purposes — economic, political and scientific. Educated Frenchmen were keenly interested in scientific inquiry, and government members, eager to discover the extent of North America, wished a Frenchman to be the first to find an overland route to the western sea see Northwest Passage.
They were given command of vast western regions some of which overlapped territory claimed by the British , with sole right to the fur trade. Out of their profits they had to pay the expenses of maintaining their posts and sending exploration parties west along the Missouri and Saskatchewan rivers. The Crown thereby made the fur trade pay the costs of its pursuit of science, and also maintained control over both its subjects in the wilderness and its alliances with the First Nations in order to exclude the English.
By , when war with England put a stop to exploration , the French had reached the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
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Warfare between the Blackfoot and Cree prevented further advances. Throughout this period there was keen competition between the French Canadian traders and the HBC, with the Canadians taking the lion's share of the trade. They had many advantages: they controlled the main waterways throughout the West; they had a sure supply of the birch bark needed for canoes something that the Anglo-Americans and the HBC men both lacked ; many of their trade goods were preferred by the Indigenous people; and they had good relations with the First Nations, with whom they had developed extensive kinship ties.
Attempts by the English of the Thirteen Colonies to obtain more land for settlement angered the Indigenous people.
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The French did not covet Indigenous lands, but were determined to deny them to the English. The HBC traders made no real attempt to push their trade inland. Instead, they waited in their posts for Indigenous people to come to them. The First Nations were astute enough to play the English and French against each other by trading with both. The French dared not try to prevent Indigenous people from taking some furs to the Bay, but made sure to obtain the choice furs, leaving only the bulky, poor-quality ones to their rivals.
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In this way the Canadians obtained a good supply of strouds coarse English woollen cloth , a favourite English trade item. The First Nations people had to be kept supplied, but the volume of exported furs steadily declined. The Rupert's Land trading system, by contrast, had not evolved in the same manner; in the HBC's employees still followed the practice of remaining in their coastal "factories" major trading posts , awaiting the arrival of Indigenous people to trade.
The new "pedlars" forged a new commercial link with London. The resulting upsurge in activity in Montreal disturbed the HBC's "sleep by the frozen sea": the success of its new rivals forced the company to alter its coast-factory trading policy, and in the HBC penetrated inland from the Bay to found Cumberland House , close to the Saskatchewan River.
For their part, the pedlars learned that co-operation among themselves, rather than competition, was the road to commercial success. The resulting North West Company NWC rose rapidly to a position of dominance by gaining a de facto monopoly of the trade in the fur-rich area around Lake Athabasca. Staple fur beaver and fancy furs mink, marten, fisher, etc , unsurpassed in quality and number, assured handsome profits in spite of the high costs of the necessarily labour-intensive transportation system, the canoe brigade.
The annual dash of brigades from Fort Chipewyan to Grand Portage later to Fort William on Lake Superior created much of the romantic image of the fur trade. On the North Saskatchewan River, the rival companies leapfrogged westward past each other's posts in an attempt to gain a commercial advantage with First Nations. In all regions, small trading parties journeyed with supplies of trade goods to waylay Indigenous people traveling to rivals' posts and, when necessary, to force them to trade. The HBC lacked personnel and equipment equal to the tasks of inland travel and trade.
Even then, improved equipment and personnel were not sufficient to turn the commercial tide in the company's favour. Wintering partners participated in decision making and enjoyed the profits of the trade. The signing of Jay's Treaty in ended the southwest trade, and a new rival, the XY Company , appeared in But the NWC met its challenge and in absorbed this upstart. That year, the Earl of Selkirk 's decision to establish a settlement in HBC territory led him to purchase sufficient stock to place four friends on the HBC's seven-man governing committee.
These men, new to the company, emphasized efficiency in the trading process as the means to reduce costs and turn from loss to profit. Success in this endeavour led the company to attempt to invade the Athabasca country in Poor planning by the expedition's leader and the NWC's influence with the Indigenous people in the region caused as many as 15 men to die of starvation. The governing committee gave Selkirk's Red River Colony assistance and co-operation, although officers in the region were unenthusiastic.
Such occurrences led the British government to demand that the competing fur companies resolve their differences. To this end the government passed legislation enabling it to offer an exclusive licence to trade for 21 years in those areas of British North America beyond settlement and outside Rupert's Land.
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In the two companies created the "Deed Poll," a document which outlined the terms of a coalition between them, detailed the sharing of the profits of the trade between the shareholders and individual officers in the field, and explained their relationship in the management of the trade.
It was in this manner as well as in the sharing of profits that elements of the NWC survived in the new HBC, although what was a coalition in name became absorption by the HBC in fact when, in , the board of management was eliminated. Commercial agreements between the two separate companies and the support given by government legislation and proclamation could not hide the NWC's defeat. The victorious HBC once again sought to increase its efficiency. But such profits required a constant monitoring of costs and a constant search for savings, as well as a policy of sharp competition with rivals in border areas.
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Through the company's policies and the actions of its personnel, the inhabitants of the old North-West were exposed to the influence of changes wrought in Britain by the Industrial Revolution, including the creation of workforces dependent on company employment. Simpson clearly saw the importance of providing support to Indigenous people's hunting and trapping — which supplied the furs that sustained the HBC's fortunes.
In times of adversity the company offered medical services and sufficient supplies and provisions for the trapper and his family to survive. Yet in systematizing these services Simpson's policies led Indigenous people into an increasingly dependent relationship with the HBC. The Plains Indigenous people, while the buffalo hunt was still possible, could be independent of the company's services, but for others the new reality was increasingly economic dependence.
Simpson's reforms allowed HBC expansion along the Pacific coast, northward to the Arctic, and into the interior of Labrador, which had been largely ignored until then. Such a vast fur domain attracted rivals.
Simpson's fundamental strategy was to meet competition in the frontier areas to preserve the trade of the interior for the HBC. On the Pacific coast he reached an agreement with the Russian Fur Company permitting the HBC to pursue the maritime trade and successfully challenge the pre-eminence of the Americans. South and east of the Columbia River, he encouraged expeditions to trap the region clean in a "scorched-earth" policy that left no animals to attract American "mountain men" or trappers.
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Farther east, the opponents were more difficult to dislodge. The King's Posts , a series of posts north of the St Lawrence originally belonging to the French king, had been granted in to a Mr. Yet the company vigorously pursued its competitors in all the frontier areas, sustaining its monopoly of the trade in Rupert's Land and in the licensed territories to the north and west. Even when, in the s, silk replaced felt as the favoured raw material in the manufacture of hats and beaver lost its value as a staple fur, the company maintained a profitable trade emphasizing fancy fur.
Instead, it was settlement, not commercial rivals, that presented the biggest challenge to the company. West of the Rocky Mountains, American settlers succeeded where their predecessors, the mountain men and the ships' captains, had failed. Although the company won a legal victory in the courtroom, the community believed that the free traders had been exonerated. In Lower Canada the company acquired the lease for the King's Posts in , but the northward march of lumbermen signalled the lessening importance of the fur trade in this region. Simpson countered brilliantly by making his company an important supplier of goods needed by the lumber crews.
When the geographical isolation of the West was breached in the s, forces other than the fur interests became involved in opening the "Great Lone Land. They were followed by adventurers and government expeditions see the Palliser Expedition seeking resources other than fur: timber, territory, and scientific knowledge.
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