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136   HISTORY OF CANADA.

CHAPTER NXIII.

FUR TRADE AND THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE.

The Hudson's Bay Company.—For nearly one hundred years after securing their charter in 1670, the Hudson's Bay Company had been content to let the Indians bring their furs to the company's trading posts on the shores of the great bay, and had done nothing toward the exploration of the vast region which lay to the west. The French had done battle with them on the shores and waters of the bay for a share in the fur trade ; and the encroachment of Frenchmen upon their rear, the cutting off of their traffic at its fountain-heads by V rendrye and his successors, at length drove the company to penetrate the interior in order to preserve their monopoly. Complaint, too, was made in England that the company were allowing the French to secure the region covered by their charter. A parliamentary investigation was had (1749) and, although the company's charter was not revoked, the outcry evidently stirred them to increased activity.

The Nor'-Westers.—The loss of Canada by France did not cut off rivalry. Only once again, indeed, were the company molested upon Hudson Bay. During the American War of Independence, when France came to the assistance of the revolted colonies, a French fleet, under La Perouse, entered the bay and committed havoc upon some of the company's forts (1782). But even before that time the fur trade which the French had carried on from Montreal had been taken up by Scotch merchants there, who, about 1786, joined to form the North-West Company, or, as they were commonly called, the " Nor'-Westers." These new rivals of the Hudson's Bay Company were, equally with the "adventurers" of that company, British subjects, and, therefore, resort could not be had to force of arms to expel the intruders. The charter of the Hudson's Bay Company gave them exclusive jurisdiction (subject only to their allegiance to the British Crown) over all the country watered by streams flowing into Hudson Bay. What was really covered by this description was at this time largely a matter for conjecture. The Nor'-Westers, all the while, vigorously pushed their operations north and west of Lake Superior, and the older company were compelled to act with equal energy, not only to hold

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