One is a draft letter from Lord Melville, First Lord of the Admiralty. Dated June 22, 1812 - just a few days after the United States Congress declared war on Britain - it turns down a request to protect settlers from the 'press gang' and for a naval escort for their ship. Despite Lord Melville's refusal to help the settlers, they made it safely across the Atlantic. The other document is an account of the notorious Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816 by Angus Shaw of the North West Company - a rival fur trading company to the Hudson's Bay Company in which Lord Selkirk was a majority shareholder. Lord Selkirk was criticised for his conduct following a violent confrontation and was not able to fully vindicate himself within his own lifetime.
Letter from Viscount Melville, 1812, (NRS GD51/2/1045).
The Culture Secretary said "For generations Scots have ventured to Canada's shores, playing an enormous part in building and making Canada what it is today. The settlement at Red River shaped the history of both our nations and its bicentenary is a significant milestone in our shared culture and heritage. These letters bring to light the challenges and difficulties of that time and the ambition and determination of the settlers who left their homeland to begin a new life. This discovery is a timely reminder of the enormous importance and value of the many archival treasures held by the National Records of Scotland."
for Culture and
Affairs and George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of
with one of the documents (NRS GD45/3/17).
Mr George MacKenzie, Keeper of the Records of Scotland, said "These two
letters confirm the importance of the Dalhousie and Melville archives to the national collections, and to the history of the Scottish influence on the development of Canada and the wider world. The account of events at Red River in 1816, written by one of Selkirk's enemies, contains fascinating details and shows how records can connect us directly to the controversies and emotions of the past. It is also remarkable because many of those involved in this story of Canada's modern development were Scots".
Read transcriptions of the letters - NRS reference GD51/2/1045 and GD45/3/17- Rich Text Format 584KB, new window.
Read transcriptions of the letters - NRS reference GD51/2/1045 and GD45/3/17 - Acrobat PDF 39KB, new window.
The Melville papers can be viewed at the NRS search rooms in Edinburgh and searched via the online catalogue. More information on the NRS search rooms and how to conduct research remotely or on site can be found in our Doing research section.