A candid and critical account of the management of HBC by a disaffected employee who rails against the abuses of natives, ignorance of architecture, and the petty self-interest of both the factors and the proprietors in London.
p. 38, on the Company’s distorted reports of its conduct of affairs: … indeed from such trifling paragraphs as were produced before the [London] Committee, it appears plainly, that they made known only those things that set their conduct in a favourable light; for they were sensible that their original books and papers would have opened a very different scene, and disproved the false representations they have given of the country, climate, and trade of Hudson’s-Bay.
p. 72: When Kelsey was afterwards made governor of York-fort, I was told that he wrote a vocabulary of the Indian language, and that the Company had ordered it to be suppressed.
p. 75-77, on the treatment of employees and the neglect and abuse of the natives: The absolute authority over all other servants, which is invested in the governor, who is indulged in the most malicious gratification of his own private resentments, and directed to exercise the severest cruelties upon every man who seems desirous to pry into the Company’s affairs, to cultivate a friendship with the natives, or to discover the country; and the silent allowance also of his gross impositions upon the natives, …could only take place from the necessity of trusting somebody, and the dangerous evidence which these men, when trusted, are capable of giving upon any inquiry into the Company’s management. A bricklayer at York-fort, with whom I was well acquainted, being desirous to perfect himself in writing, once inadvertently took down from the place where it was fixed, a well-written bill of orders, in order to copy it. This was deemed so heinous an offence, that the poor bricklayer was immediately sent home incapacitated for all future employment in the Company’s service; and the captain who had charge of him, took care in their passage to England, to get him pressed on board a man of war.
The instances of neglect and abuse of the natives are so gross, that they would scarcely gain credit, even among civilized barbarians, who never heard of the mild precepts of Christianity…: An Indian boy at Moose-factory, being taught to read and write, through the humanity and indulgence of a governor there, wrote over to the Company for leave to come to England, in order that he might be baptized; but upon the receipt of this request, which any men who had the least sense of religious, and the least regard for the spiritual happiness of a fellow creature, would with joy have complied with; an order was sent to the governor to take the boy’s books from him, and turn him out of the factory, with an express prohibition against any Indians being instructed for the future. This was the source of much affliction to the poor boy, who died soon after, with a penitence and devotion that would have done honour to his masters. But from whence can such preposterous and unnatural behavior take its rise, unless from the apprehension, that if the natives were properly instructed and made converts to Christianity, they would all claim the privileges of British subjects, and apply to Britain to be supported in them?
p. 80: How dangerous is security when built upon the conduct of selfish men! The act for confirming the Company’s charter expired above fifty years ago; they have not had the assurance to apply for a renewal, and yet have been mean enough to keep the absolute possession of what they knew was become the property of the nation.
p. 82: “During the long time in which the Company have been in possession, they have not once attempted to civilize the manners or inform the understandings of the natives; neither instructed them in the great principles and duties of piety, nor in the common arts of secular life….”
Appendix, p. 55: critical passage on neglect of natives.