The early fur trade of Western Europe, was conducted through the merchants on the south coast of the Baltic, who received goods from the ports of Livonia. In the sixteenth century, a direct trade was opened between the English and Russians; and a company of the former, protected by the Czar, established trading posts on the White Sea, and a warehouse at Moscow, whence they sent trading parties to Persia and the countries on the Caspian Sea. The Czar sent rich presents of beautiful furs, to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth; but the latter prohibited the wearing of any but native furs, and the trade soon declined and was abandoned. In the 17th century, Siberia was conquered by the Russians, and its tribute was paid in furs. Large quantities were also furnished to China, but the choicest kinds—the precious ermine, the brilliant, fiery foxes, and the best sables, were taken to Moscow, for the use of the princes and nobles of Russia, Turkey, and Persia.
In our own country, the early settlers of the Northern provinces, soon learned the value of the furs of the numerous animals which peopled the extensive rivers, lakes, and forests of these vast territories. They collected the skins in abundance, and found an increasing demand for them, with every new arrival of immigrants from the mother country. Trinkets, liquors, and other articles sought for by the native tribes, were shipped to Quebec, and from thence up the St. Lawrence to Montreal, which soon became the great trading post of the country. The various tribes of Indians were stimulated by trifling compensation, to pursue their only congenial and peaceful occupation; and the French settlers, readily assimilating to the Indian habits, became themselves expert hunters, trappers, and explorers.
The business prospered, and the English soon became interested and secured a share of the valuable trade. Many [Page 280] wealthy and influential parties, connected with the government of Great Britain,—Prince Rupert and Lord Ashley, among the number—became deeply interested in this source of revenue; and after a successful enterprise, they obtained from Charles II., a charter of incorporation, giving to them full possession of the territory within the entrance of Hudson’s Straits, not already granted to other subjects, or possessed by those of any other Christian prince or State. In this charter was included