Back In the Year

In the year 2020, of the reign of Elizabeth II, Queen of England and Canada, we Isabel, commander of a detachment (comprising my various selves) sent by whatever powers-that-be to do whatever-it-is that these selves do, have buried this Piece of Paper at the intersection of Solera Circle and Dunston Terrace this 11th day of June, near Hunt Club Drive, otherwise Irritatingly Overloaded Arterial Road…

as a monument of the renewal of the possession we have taken of said Arterial Road and of all which connect to it, and of all the lands on both sides as far as the sources of the said roads, as enjoyed or ought to have been enjoyed by the queens of England and Canada preceding and as they have there maintained themselves by arms and by treaties, especially those of Cahill, Albion, and Bank.

So there. Don’t say I didn’t give you fair, albeit slightly obscure, notice.  This land is no longer your land, it’s my land. Well, mine and the Queen’s. They’re gonna have to make a new video.

I was inspired by some guy named Céloron who, 271 years ago, buried a plate of lead (I beg your pardon, a Plate of Lead) with the rough equivalent of my proclamation inscribed on it. His purpose? To claim a whack of New-World territory for France.

In the year 1749, of the reign of Louis the 15th, King of France, we Céloron, commander of a detachment sent by Monsieur the Marquis de la Galissoniere, Governor General of New France, to reestablish tranquility in some Indian villages of these cantons, have buried this Plate of Lead at the confluence of the Ohio and the Chataqua, this 29th day of July, near the river Ohio, otherwise Belle Riviere, as a monument of the renewal of the possession we have taken of said river Ohio and of all those which empty into it, and of all the lands on both sides as far as the sources of the said rivers, as enjoyed or ought to have been enjoyed by the kings of France preceding and as they have there maintained themselves by arms and by treaties, especially those of Ryswick, Utrecht and Aix la Chapelle. – Pierre-Joseph de Céloron de Blainville (translated by Orsamus Holmes Marshall, 1877; quoted in “The Men Who United the States”, by Simon Winchester)

I figure if it worked for Céloron, maybe it would work for me. Regrettably, it did not — for me or for him, turns out.

Plus ça change,
plus c’est la même chose.

Even back in the day this sort of grandiose proclamation was ineffectual. No self-respecting English settler cared whether some guy buried a Plate of Lead claiming the land they were living on, unless he showed up with an army.

If you want it, here it is, come and get it

No, the question of possession and enjoyment of the land would all be settled by arms — the French and Indian War, or the Seven Years’ War, depending on the geographical scope of your perspective — and, eventually, by treaties.

As for this day, I can’t imagine any self-respecting Ottawan caring whether I bury anything claiming the land they’re living on. Tough luck on the Queen, who enjoyed or ought to have enjoyed these lands, but I suppose she’ll cope.

 

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8 Responses to Back In the Year

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    A trail through the woods that I (and who knows how many others) have walked for lo, these last 25 years, has been taken over by a couple who have a piece of paper that says they own that land, and they’re therefore entitled to cut down all the trees and put up a fence and build a house on it. Some pieces of paper are apparently more important than others.
    Jim T

  2. Tom Watson says:

    Isabel
    It’s interesting historically. What piece of paper, or whatever, gave either the Queen of England or the King of France the prerogative to decide that they could lay claim to this piece of land?
    Tom

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – I seem to remember reading about explorers/adventurers being given commissions from the applicable monarch. Who, in turn, just assumed they had a right to dispose of lands elsewhere. At base, it all comes back to being able to enforce your claims with arms.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    To the mighty belong the spoils, I guess.
    Tom

  4. Dave Jobson says:

    Thinking more locally of all the Canadian land that was awarded to individuals by the Government of Canada: to settlers, to the railroad, to influential people and those who could bribe etc. Land should have been leased as in National Parks. Could have been leased to Provinces, to cities etc. The renter class contributes naught to society. Today land ownership is a significant source of inequality. Just sayin’ …

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Dave – And on the flip side, broad-based land ownership builds what I see as a healthy stability in society. We’re a ways from that as well, although we do better than many places I guess.

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