The Period from 1855-1895. (continued)

  67. A sum of money was voted for a preliminary survey, and the work was completed during the summer by a party of Canadian surveyors under the superintendence of a distinguished Canadian engineer. The survey showed that a suitable line could be constructed without serious difficulty, but the scheme was found on examination to be too costly to permit of its adoption. It was not until six years later that a beginning was actually made with railway construction, and by that time the potentialities of railway development had been carefully thought out and the Island given a clearly defined policy.

  68. The fisheries in this year were only partially successful, but increased prices compensated for the loss of catch. Greater attention was now being paid to agriculture and in 1876 Sir Stephen Hill was able to announce that, although the potato crop had been visited by blight, the damage was offset by the exceptionally large yield.* With a view to reviving the cod fishery on the Banks (see Map No. 5), the Government determined on a measure for granting bounties to fishermen for a period of five years. This step appears to have fully justified by results.

  69. Sir John Glover, who had had a distinguished naval career, succeeded Sir Stephen Hill as Governor in 1876. In the following year a Commission met at Halifax, in accordance with the terms of the Treaty of Washington of the 8th May, 1871, to determine the amount of compensation to be paid by the Government of the United States for fishery rights which had been extended to the citizens of the United States under that Treaty on the principle of free fishing and free sailing. The case of Newfoundland was prepared and presented by Mr. (afterwards Sir) William Whiteway. The issue is best explained in his own words:--

  "A treaty has been entered into between Great Britain and the United States, by which the United States had conceded to Great Britain the right of fishing upon a certain part of the American coast and a free market in the United States for Canadian and Newfoundland caught fish and produce, and in return Great Britain had conceded to the United States the right of fishing in Canadian and Newfoundland waters in common with British subjects. We alleged that the value of our concession was greater than that made by the United States. This Commission, appointed by virtue of the Treaty, was to try that question, and to award the difference in value, if any, to Great Britain. Now, the United States counsel candidly admitted, first that the concession to us to fish in American waters was of no value to us, as we could never use it; and secondly, it was our argument at the trial and clearly proved that for us to have the right of importing into the United States our fish and fish produce duty free was an advantage to the United States as a nation; it gave them a cheaper article ...therefore the concession of a right of fishing on the American coast was admitted to be valueless, and the right of free market was shown to be a benefit to the United States and no additional value to us. On the other hand Newfoundland conceded to the United States a free right of fishing on the coast from Ramea Islands by Cape Ray to Cape John. What was the value of this concession? ...It has been decided after a most rigid investigation that the right to fish along a portion of our coast for 12 years, under the facts given in evidence, is worth one million dollars."†

  The sum received by the United Kingdom under this Arbitration was duly paid over to Newfoundland.

  70. Fears had been entertained in the Colony that the compensation to be paid would be assessed at a nominal figure, in which event the Government might have been placed at a serious disadvantage in resisting French claims. The announcement of so substantial an award was therefore received with gratification and special resolutions of thanks to Mr. Whiteway were passed by both Houses of the Legislature.‡ It is necessary, for the full significance of Mr. Whiteway's achievement to be appreciated, for a brief reference to be made here to the long and complicated story of French fishing rights in the Island. Under Article XIII of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, French subjects were granted the privilege of catching and curing fish on certain parts of the coast of Newfoundland.§ This privilege was renewed and confirmed first by the Treaty of Paris, 1763, under which Labrador passed into British possession, and later by the Treaty of Versailles, 1783; under the latter instrument the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, only 10 miles off the southern coast of Newfoundland, were ceded to France "to serve as a shelter to the French fishermen." It was the policy of England at the time of the Treaty of Utrecht to regard Newfoundland as a training ground for the Navy and a place to trade, and to discourage colonisation. When, however, recognition was at length given to the claims of the Island as a place for permanent settlement, the concessions granted by treaty to French nationals assumed a more serious aspect and for over a century proved a constant source of vexation to the Colony. It was not until 1904 that the United Kingdom was able to secure for the benefit of Newfoundland the renunciation by France of the privileges originating with the Treaty of Utrecht; until that date the Government of Newfoundland were engaged in an almost continuous struggle to free themselves from what they regarded as unjustifiable encroachments on their territorial and maritime rights. This running fight, and the excitement, irritation, jealousy and bitterness to which it repeatedly gave rise, form the background to the history of the period.

  71. In the meantime thoughts had again been turned to the desirability of opening up the country by means of a railway, and in 1860 a Joint Committee of the Legislative Council and the House of Assembly was specially appointed to consider the problem. The report of this Committee, which is printed in full in Appendix D, is of particular interest as containing a reasoned appreciation of conditions in the Island. The Committee observed in the first place that, while the fishery was the main resource of the country, it was not capable of indefinite expansion. Moreover, the partial failures which were inevitable from time to time were apt to lead to periodical visitations of pauperism for which the only remedy lay in widening the activities of the people. They further pointed out that the great success of the mining industry in Notre Dame Bayº encouraged the hope that similar development could take place in other parts of the Island; that lands suitable for agricultural purposes were known to exist on the north-east and west coasts and that these "needed only the employment of well-directed labour to convert them into means of independent support for thousands of the population"; and finally that conditions of fertility in the Avalon Peninsula were far below those which existed in the interior, and that grazing lands were available which were admirably suited to the production of livestock, not only for home consumption, but also for export to the English market.

  72. They accordingly reached the conclusion that it was to the Island's advantage that these sources of wealth should be tapped, and they recommended that for this purpose a railway should be constructed, which, after passing through the Avalon Peninsula, the principal towns and settlements in Conception Bay and the agricultural and timber lands on the North-East coast, would finally connect St. John's with the mining district in Notre Dame Bay. The Committee recognized that such a railway would not be a paying proposition per se, but they regarded it "as the work of the country" and they recorded their belief that, from the standpoint of its bearing on the promotion of the well-being of the people, in which the returns were alone sought and would be found, it would, in time, amply pay its cost and that the consequent advance in the comfort and independence of the people would fully attest the wisdom of its establishment.

Twillingate Coast Scenery near Twillingate, n.d.
Photo by Holloway. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
Larger Version (38 kb)

  * Speech at the opening of the session of the Legislature, 1876: "The Newfoundlander," St. John's, 4th February, 1876.
  † Speech in the House of Assembly, 1878; Prowse, op. cit., pp. 505-506.
  ‡ Journal of House of Assembly, 1878, p. 43; App. pp. 309-310.
  § i.e., from Cape Bonavista to the northern point of the Island and thence to Point Riche on the west coast. Under the Treaty of Versailles of 1783, these limits were altered so as to extend from Cape St. John on the east coast to Cape Ray on the west. This stretch of coast is still referred to colloquially as the "French shore."
  º See paragraphs 37, 59 and 456.

Image description updated May, 2004.

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