Finbar is approached by the Lord Sedgemoor, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and asked if he would like to join a cross-party enquiry looking into the Hudson Bay Company’s historic right to a trade monopoly of Canada. Sedgemoor and Finbar have become acquaintances and the cabinet minister has begun to respect Finbar’s views on Ireland. Sedgemoor points out that joining the Committee would stop Members of the House assuming Finbar was just an Irish firebrand. Finbar agrees to the post. The enquiry hears a considerable weight of evidence that demonstrates that the HBC franchise is an anachronism and should be done away with. Alexander Sinclair, who is leading the HBC delegation at the enquiry, is not putting up a particularly strong case to retain the 200 year-old arrangement. Finbar receives an invitation for drinks at Liam’s club where his friend introduces him to his client Edward Watkin. Watkin is fishing for information from the enquiry. Finbar tells him straight that the enquiry looks like deciding to open the vast areas of Canada to free trade. A few days later Watkins approaches Finbar, offering him an opportunity to invest in a company that has been set up make a takeover bid for HBC. Finbar politely declines.
13:London. October 1857
Sinclair is addressing a Board Meeting at the HBC London office. With the notable exception of Sinclair, the Board are all old men who have grown accustomed to sitting back and allowing Sir George to run the company as he sees fit while they reap the steady dividends from their shareholdings. Sinclair briefs them that the Parliamentary Enquiry is due to announce their findings in two weeks time. He fears the worst and feels that the Board should prepare themselves for having to put plans in place to cope with the flood of new trading companies that will seek to develop their Canadian markets. It will be a time of great change for them. Perhaps, he suggests, it maybe time to consider selling if a buyer of HBC stock were to come come forward to give them an exit route. Sinclair is surprised to hear from the Company Secretary that he has received word from Sir George who, given the seriousness of the situation, will be arriving in London at the end of the month. What Sinclair is also unaware of is that Sir George has requested that the Parliamentary Enquiry withhold their decision until he has had the opportunity of addressing it. Sir George has also requested an audience with Queen Victoria.