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North West Company

Formation

After the conquest of Canada by the British, which was formalized by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the French traders from Montreal and the coureurs de bois were gradually supplanted, more or less, in the fur trade by Scotsmen. Many of these new traders allied themselves with the French already in the country, and vigorous partnerships sprang up. The Montreal men contested control of the trade in the North with the Hudson's Bay Company, and they extended trade to the West rapidly and efficiently. There were, however, too many conflicting interests in the fields, and the competition not only took all profit out of the trade but also led to bloodshed.

The Montreal merchants who supplied the traders and the traders themselves sought to do away with some of the evils by forming in 1779 a company of sorts; this was later renewed, then abandoned. A new effort was made when a number of Montreal merchants under the leadership of Simon McTavish made an agreement in the winter of 1783–84 that created a company called the North West Company. There was some dissension, and the firm of Gregory and McLeod put up strong opposition. It was not until 1787 that a stable combination was reached. The stockholders were the trading companies of Montreal (which had many interests besides the fur trade and retained their separate existence) and the "wintering partners," the men who did all the actual trading for fur with the Native Americans.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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