The development of trade along the north west coast of Hudson Bay, 1717-1790
Chartered companies in the eighteenth century were plagued by a jealous public and a critical parliament. The Hudson's Bay Company, one of the smallest of these foreign trading concerns was not immune to attacks from merchants desirous of any chance to reap the riches of the fur trade. Within the first few years of the Company's establishment its monopoly was challenged by Americans, Frenchmen and fellow Englishmen. Such threats to the Company's monopoly affected the character and progress of the development of trade along the north west coast of Hudson Bay in the eighteenth century. The first real step towards the development of this northern trade came with the successful establishment at Churchill River in 1717. However, James Knight's ill-fated voyage in search of valuable minerals and the elusive Northwest Passage resulted in the suspension of expeditions for trade or exploration for the next twenty years. Only after the persistentproddings of Arthur Dobbs into the Company's affairs did the London Committee resume expeditions in search of the Northwest Passage. The Parliamentary Inquiry of 1749, although reaffirming the Company's chartered rights, helped to spur the London Committee to engage in regular trade voyages northward from Prince of Wales's Fort at the mouth of the Churchill River. The need to develop new avenues of trade became increasingly important in the latter half of the century as the French and later, English traders from Canada, pushed deeper into the Company's chartered territory. From 1750 to 1790 the Company pursued trade with the Inuit with little monetary success. Even the attempt at a Black Whale Fishery at Marble Island from 1766 to 1772 was a dismal failure. Why the London Committee insisted on developing a sea approach to the fur rich areas of the interior in spite of consistent low returns is examined with respect to the economic and political factors of the period.