The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume I


Page 71
sponsored by
Tanya Saunders,
Conception Bay South, NL

Page 72
sponsored by
Dr. David Graham,
St. John's, NL

Page 73
sponsored by
the Labrador Institute,
Happy Valley - Goose Bay, NL

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under which these exclusive possessions were claimed, and determined to remove all the settlers under them. Such of them as were within his reach he did dispossess. His proceedings caused many complaints to be brought before the Lords of Trade and led to a very long inquiry, extending over several years.

   11. The transactions of the home authorities show, in the same striking manner as the Governor's proceedings, that they considered and dealt with the coast of Labrador solely as a fishery. In 1765 and again in 1766, the Lords of Trade took occasion to consider the state of the coast of Labrador. They seemed to have been unable at this time, for want of full information, to form a definite opinion as to what plan of commercial regulations it might be proper finally to adopt for securing to the Kingdom every advantage that could be derived from this coast. It appeared, however, to the Board in 1765, from the best information they had been able to collect, that the fisheries on that coast would require a separate consideration and could not properly fall under regulations approved for the Island of Newfoundland, for, although an advantageous cod fishery might be established on some parts of the coast of Labrador, more especially in the northward, yet it was certain that the whale, seal and sea-cow fishery had been, theretofore, and would most probably continue to be, the principal objects of attention and pursuit in those parts of His Majesty's dominions.

   On the other hand, it appeared, as the Board in 1766 pointed out, to be the opinion of His Majesty's Governor that the greatest commercial benefit to be derived from this coast was that of a cod fishery, and that the seal an sea-cow fishery neither had been nor ever could be other than a secondary object of attention, confined to particular parts of the coast, and carried on at a season when it would not interfere with the other more important fishery for cod. Although they submitted to His Majesty's termination the question of how far the Governor's regulations were correct in point of policy or in any other respect proper and expedient, they considered at the only difficulty affecting the consideration

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of the question was the nature of the tenure under which the exclusive posts on the coast were held and claimed, as these regulations did, in their opinion, point out a method by which the Kingdom might avail itself of the benefits of an oil fishery, without the continuance of exclusive possessions in the hands of Americans, operating as monopolies and to the establishment of an illicit trade in foreign products.

   12. A short time later, the Lords of Trade considered the complaints of the Quebec merchants and settlers on the coast. With regard to the exclusion of His Majesty's American subjects from the fishery on the Labrador coast, they were of the opinion that the design of the statute of 10 & 11 William, III., c.25, was only to encourage His Majesty's British subjects in preference to all others, but not (as Governor Palliser seemed to have understood) to exclude from the fishery ships fitted out from America. The Secretary of State approved of this construction of the statute, and, by his direction, the Lords of the Admiralty on the 2nd of June, 1766, issued an additional instruction to Palliser, requiring him "not to interrupt His Majesty's said American subjects in fishing, provided they conform to the established rules of fishing."

   Pursuant to this instruction, Palliser, on the 1st August 1766, published an order giving notice that all vessels from the Plantations would be admitted to the Labrador coast on the same footing as they ever had been admitted at Newfoundland, "the ancient practices and customs established in Newfoundland respecting the cod fishery under the Act of Parliament passed in the 10 & 11 William III., commonly called the Fishing Act, always to be observed."

   Under the authority of the same instruction, Palliser, during this season erected and garrisoned a blockhouse, which was called York Fort, at Pitt's Harbour in Chateau Bay, "for the security and encouragement of the adventurers to that coast." This fort, which was the only one ever erected on the coast, was maintained until August 1775, when, on a report that British ship fishers did not consider this establishment essential to the extension of

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their interests in the fishery or for the security of their possessions, Commodore Duff caused it to be closed.

   13. On the 10th August, 1767, Palliser published further regulations for the encouragement of the ship fishery on the coast. These regulations permitted the ship adventurers (but no one else) who might first clear and make new fishing places and erect new stages and other works on the coast, to enjoy the same so long as they continued to resort to and use them from year to year successively, with fishing ships fitted out from Britain, and no longer, the same to become common and public on the first builders thereof once ceasing to use them during one season. The regulations further declared that, for better securing the ship fishers' works from being destroyed in their absence, no person could be permitted to stay on the coast in the winter, except that, as a reward and encouragement to the most adventurous and industrious ship fishers, the masters of three of the first arriving fishing ships at or within the limits of each principal harbour might choose to leave each a crew of twelve men for the winter's seal fishery.

   14. On the 3rd March, 1768, the Lords of Trade reported to the King that, having referred certain claims of the inhabitants of the province of Quebec to the exclusive possession of land and fishing posts on the coast of Labrador to the Attorney and Solicitor General for their advice, they were clearly of the opinion that these claims, standing as they did then, could not in any judicial inquiry be allowed as valid and effectual, and ought not, therefore, to stand in the way of any regulations and arrangements His Majesty might make in the government and direction of that coast. They were, moreover, of the opinion that the establishment of such private rights and possessions should not be allowed upon principles of policy and prudence, as they would not only deter adventurers from Britain from carrying on the fisheries on that coast, but would most probably be applied to the introduction of illicit trade and commerce.

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   15. Subsequently, the Lords of Trade were required to consider an elaborate memorial on behalf of the land holders in Canada, who were proprietors of seal fisheries on the coast of Labrador, and their lessees, complaining of the great loss and detriment which had ensued in consequence of those fisheries being made subject to the regulations of the Governor of Newfoundland. On the 24th June, 1772, they reported to the King that these regulations, which were designed to encourage the fisheries for cod and whales by laying the coast open to the first arrivers, had been found absolutely incompatible with the principles upon which the seal fisheries could alone be conducted, and that to subject the latter fisheries to those regulations was, in effect, to destroy them. Although His Majesty, from such information as was before him when the Proclamation of 7th October, 1763, was published, did, upon the gracious motives therein set forth and with the advice of his Privy Council, think fit to put the coast of Labrador under the care and inspection of the Governor of Newfoundland, yet the experience of succeeding times and the various inconveniences which had since occurred, and which could not at that period be foreseen, had, as their Lordships humbly conceived, reversed the policy of that measure and made it for His Majesty's service and the welfare of his subjects that such part of the coast of Labrador as was situated between the River St. John and the Strait of Belle Isle, together with the islands of Anticosti and Madelaine and all other smaller islands lying upon the said coast, should be re-annexed to the Government of Quebec, leaving, for the present at least, that part of the coast between the Strait of Belle Isle and Hudson Strait, and where they conceived there were very valuable cod fisheries, under the Government of Newfoundland.

   16. This report was referred back to the Lords of Trade and they were ordered to confer with the Governor of Newfoundland and report how far the seal fisheries might be relieved from the detriment of their being made subject to the rules and regulations of the Government of Newfoundland for the cod and whale fisheries without prejudice to those

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considerations of policy which had induced His Majesty, by His Royal Proclamation in 1763, to put all the coast of Labrador under the care and inspection of the Governor of Newfoundland.

   On the 2nd March, 1773, the Lords of Trade made a report on petitions from certain adventurers to be secured in their seal and salmon fishery establishments on that coast. They recommended as proper for securing the possessions of persons concerned in these fisheries, a regulation protecting such of His Majesty's subjects of Great Britain who had formed, or should thereafter form, establishments on the Labrador coast for the purpose of carrying on the seal and salmon fisheries, in the possession of such posts, provided they annually fitted out from Great Britain one or more ships to be employed in the cod fishery on the said coast. The proposed regulation was approved by the King and transmitted to the Governor of Newfoundland, who issued a proclamation setting forth the terms of the regulation.

   17. On the same day the foregoing report was made, the Lords of Trade, having conferred with the Governor of Newfoundland, reported to the King, re-affirming their opinion that the regulations which had been made for the encouragement of the fisheries for cod and whales were incompatible with that permanent residence and continued possession which were essential to the seal and salmon fisheries, and that these fisheries could not be relieved from the loss and detriment which the proprietors of the different posts upon that coast complained of, whilst the regulations aforesaid were continued in force. It was not, however, upon this ground altogether that they recommended the re-annexing to Quebec of that part of the coast described in their previous representation; for when it appeared, upon examination, that a great part of it was claimed as private property under grants from the French Government of Canada and that His Majesty was bound by treaty to admit those claims, the consideration of policy was out of the question, and His Majesty could not, in justice, enforce regulations that were subversive of those rights. As those



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