Transcript: Re: ‘The North-West Papers’ (Mair’s Letter to Macdougall)

New Nation (22 April 1870), page 2 columns 3-4.

Mair’s Letter to Hon. W. Macdougall

In the early part of the present session of the Dominion Parliament, an order was made for the production to the House of all papers and correspondence relating to our North West. So far as Mr. McDougall was concerned, that gentleman could not very well produce all his; but through incidents in the ups and downs of a revolutionary time, and in the interest of the public, we are glad to be able to furnish an important deficiency in the North West Papers—at any rate important to us, in so far as showing clearly the intimacy existing between that very egotistical young man Charles Mair, and the would-be Governor. How exquisitely the ring was formed for our destruction! How many more of such a sort had McDougall about him, in the shape of proteges who were to be set over us, to be fed at our expense, fill our offices, represent us in Parliament, and pocket our money! The lengthy production which we publish elsewhere, is one of the most egotistical pieces of assurances it was ever our fortune to encounter; and in briefly reviewing the letter, we trust that those who were disposed to quarrel with their neighbors on account of McDougall and Co., will now see the folly of their ways.

We pass over the first part, which must be extremely humiliating to a young man of Mr. Mair’s pretensions; but the apology of “consequent hard official or literary work,” is refreshingly cool and amusing. It must be gratifying to Governor Mactavish to know the “whirlgig of time” has not yet brought the revenge so much desired by Mr. Mair—and that he is not included among those of the Company who are gentlemen, and desire to see “British power consolidated and extended!” And how very much flattered our people must feel to know that “there is not a native of Assiniboia who knows what a vote or representative government means!” Bothe Mr. Mair and his master must have by this time discovered that mistake.

The Hudson Bay Company’s officers are respectfully notified that if they had done certain things more agreeable to the taste of that young gentleman, he would have condescended “to praise and honor them”—with a slight, but modest allusion to his literary training! But how is the Company to get over his severe censure, that it has “dishonored humanity by ignoring it for the sake of fur“having practically delayed the extension of Canada for 25 years,” and that they “deserve the wrath and contempt of every true Canadian?” List! Oh list! what ye have to answer for, H.B.Co., at the wrathful kicks of Mair. This amusing portion of the letter is counteracted by the insolent remarks towards a gentleman whom we all know to be a gentleman in the true sense of the word, and one who has so long commanded respect and popularity throughout this Settlement, excepting among the few of the class to whom Mair belonged, and we hope we may never see again. Throughout his whole letter the interests of the present inhabitants of the country are completely ignored to make way for himself and the crowd he hopes to represent in the Dominion Parliament a few years hence—modest youth! He is particularly alarmed that the Company’s influence may monopolize office and control government by any means, that an end to that would as surely come, as it came to the “Family Compact” of Canada, which was broken up by the last rebellion there. Now, fortunately for us, we have quietly and without bloodshed, succeeded in completely breaking up another “Family Compact” which, Mr. Mair, and a few of his select friends here, hoped to be able to establish under the immediate patronage of their adored master, the Hon. Wm. McDougall, who, no doubt, would have shared in the plunder. Now then, free and independent people of Red River, this young confidànt of McDougall’s quietly informs him that “the Company has influence over probably two-thirds of the Settlement. Of this number 100 are shrewd and cunning, and the balance plastic.” “Is this a great thing?” says he to his master; they can all be bought. Further on he warns him of putting the leaders of the poor ignorant half-breeds into trusts which will affect the welfare of intelligent incoming whitemen. Now, ponder over this, some of you intelligent halfbreeds, who allowed yourselves to be influenced by strangers under sham promises—and now understand that you were made the victims of misplaced confidence. For those people some of you were ready to sacrifice your lives; where now does the credit lie, that bloodshed has been prevented?

Our loyalty is called into question because we did not make a celebration on Dominion day. It is only a wonder he did not write to the Secretary of State censuring him, for not ordering a public holiday throughout England on that day of such importance to Mr. Mair. He feels very jealous that on the 4th July guns were fired and the Stars and Stripes floated over the Hotel. The foreign but good and law abiding citizens we have amongst us he styles as “Yankee, Irish and German trash.” We may mention that the hotel alluded to was the headquarters of the American residents here, a dinner was given by them in honor of the day, which is generally the case in the commercial cities of Canada. His allusion to his and Schultz’s flag with “Canada” on it, will give amusement to those here familiar with the farce and their Dominion bonfire.

His reference to the jail-breaking propensities of half-breeds is a pure fabrication as not a single instance has occurred. On the contrary they have always been depended upon for their loyalty to enforce the law of the Government they lived under. Those who have defied the laws and influenced poor “ignorant half-breeds” to assist them in breaking jail, have been strangers.

The allusion to the Indian pow-wow which “ended in a request for prog [sic: grog]” being somewhat slang requires explanation. Old Big Ears, referred to, was the Chief on whom Snow and Mair dispensed their favors in the shape of rum and brandy, and a feed of Government pork and flour to the extent of £50 worth, for the purchase of a large tract of valuable land on the line of road which Snow was employed by the Government to conduct; but he carefully omits to give the particulars of this transaction to his employer.

We regret we have not more space to Mr. Mair, but as a series of official papers, not yet come to light, have to be published, it involves upon us as a public journalist, and in the interest of the people, to make the necessary explanations however unpleasant the task of dealing with personalities.

We shall have to return to this letter again, but for the present, in conclusion, we would observe that the statement that “Bishop Tache disbelieves in this country, but has taken the precaution to survey 25 square miles of territory for mother church,” is like several other statements, and quite as reliable. The facts are that the tract referred to is a grant of five square miles, made by the late Lord Selkirk, who was very desirous to have the French voyageurs join in his settlement, and as a greater inducement agreed to provide for them a Priest. The deed of this land was handed over to Bishop Tache by his predecessor, but was unfortunately destroyed at the burning of the old Cathedral and buildings.

We recommend our readers of all creeds and classes to give this precious letter a careful reading. Many, we doubt not, after doing so, will become wiser and better men.

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