p. 1050 C
[Translation of No. 264.]
B.T. NEWFOUNDLAND. VOL. 20, p. 259. 1770. 9th July.
To His Excellency Guy Carleton, Commander and Governor in Chief of the Province of Quebec, Rear- Admiral of the said Province & Brigadier General of His Majesty's Forces &c &c &c
Whereas His Majesty's subjects in this Province, whom you have been pleased to honour with your protection, find themselves (following the Orders and Regulations made by the Governor of Newfoundland) barred from carrying on, as was done by them at all times since the early settlement of Canada, sedentary seal fisheries, in winter time, on the coasts of Mingan and la Brador, in the river and gulf of St. Lawrence, which coasts, as a result of the new boundaries of the said Province, are under the Government of Newfoundland;
Your petitioners have the honour most respectfully to apply to Your Excellency and most humbly pray that you may be pleased favourably to consider and support their application to His Most Gracious Majesty for the reunion of the said coasts to this Province, as they form a part thereof that is necessary to His Majesty's commerce.
Their request is all the more justified by the fact that should such posts as they formed on the said coasts for sedentary seal-fishing and which, through the profits made from them, were the chief sources of their trade, not be restored to them, they would be unable to pay the large sums of money they owe to the merchants in London. How could they possibly do so when this Province is deprived of a line of commerce that naturally belongs to it on account of being carried on in a contiguous territory, at all times, and that is of an absolute necessity? The said sedentary seal-fisheries are only in operation in winter time, between the fifteenth of December and the third or fourth of January, and, therefore, could be of no prejudice whatever to the freedom of whale and cod fishing which only takes place in summer time. Those engaged in seal fishing return to Quebec during the month of May, at which time the whale and the cod-fishing vessels have not yet reached the Gulf, and they never leave again until October for their winter fishing season. Therefore, throughout the continent, the fishermen have the free use of the beaches both for the reducing of the whale blubber and drying cod-fish. Under the old government the said whale and cod
fishries in the river and gulf of St. Lawrence were free to all of the subjects and the owners of sedentary seal-fishing posts, although they had been granted the ownership of the beaches, could claim no indemnity for any loss resulting to their trade through the use of said beaches.
What would become of so many Canadian mariners and sailors, who having no other occupation or other training, would be compelled, when no longer abl to earn their living from the said fisheries, to leave their native land for other kingdoms? What a large number of workers of every description, now engaged in and required for sedentary seal-fishing would be thrown out of employment! Such men are in no way trained for the tilling of the soil. Furthermore what would make us the loss of this Province of the export duties on the stave-wood, hoop-iron and provisions for which such undertakings provide a market.
The winter operation of sedentary seal-fishing can only be successfully carried out by the Canadians, who first discovered them. Born as they are in cold climes, they are the best suited men for the hardships of winter in this region. This fishery is carried on in icy waters and at the most severe season of the year so that the Canadians alone can withstand the hardships it entails. No former subjects could engage in such fisheries and be successful, and the Europeans never could stand it. To deprive the Province of said fisheries would mean the loss of all benefits obtainable only through the the Canadians who are accustomed to them from their very childhood. The fishing season over, these same Canadians who are also skilled trappers, go hunting in the woods, and when they return from their winter expedition are still in a position to assist their family in developing their lands.
Your petitioners are satisfied that the reason why the Governor of Newfoundland was induced to bar them from the operation of their posts is due to his fear that, under the pretense of fishing, they might carry on illicit trading with the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon and other points in Newfoundland frequented by French fishing vessels. They venture to hope that your Excellency may be pleased to give positive assurance in this connection and to state in their behalf that no consideration could induce the Canadians to engage in anything contrary to the prohibitions made by their Sovereign.
They view with great regret the fact that the Province, at its entrance from the North side, was bounded by the river St. John, evidently because His Most Gracious Majesty had not been informed at the time that the whole of Côte du Nord, as far as Cape St. Charles, below the Strait of Belisle, and even as far as the Bay of Kitche Katchou, had partly been granted by His Most Christian Majesty to Canadians for the purposes of sedentary seal fishing; that all such concessions, both en fiefs forever and en rôtures for a limited time were made, as to the fiefs, subject to fealty and homage, and as to the rôtures (soccage), subject to the payment of rents at the Castle of St. Louis under the dependency of which they were, and that the said coasts formed part of this Province as Your Excellency must have ascertained from the extracts you caused to be taken from the Records of the Superior Council and of the Intendance where such titles are registered.
The new boundaries of the Province were settled without the Canadians being informed of the matter. Had they been made aware of it, they could have anticipated such a settlement and would have taken the liberty of submitting their most humble representations to His Majesty and informed him that, if this mainland were detached from its territory and the province practically deprived of the revenue obtained therefrom, it could not subsist, and would never be in a position to pay the Mother Country for the necessary commodities supplied from that source. Not only would the Province be deprived of this mainland, but it's inhabitants would be barred from fishing and killing seals in the posts which they established and are their own property, through an ordinance made by the government of Newfoundland, which ordinance is all the less fair and just as it is contrary to common law to prevent the natives of a country from enjoying, on their own territory, a fishery meant to be theirs by Providence and which they have carried on for a hundred years back.
Your petitioners, believing in the fairness of their request and in His Most Gracious Majesty's generosity, venture to hope that, during your stay in London, Your Excellency may be pleased to support their caue, that they shall be granted their request for the return and reunion of this mainland on the Côte du Nord, as far as the Bay Kitchekatchou, to this Province, to be made a dependancy thereof, and also the free operation of their said fisheries as they have always had in the past.
And so in duty bound your petitioners will ever pray for the preservation of Your Excellency.
Quebec, 9 July 1770.
JAMES JOHNSTON HY MRIN LE CTE DUPRÉ
F. RABY LA NAUDIERE PERRAULT
the fishing posts on the
coast of Labradore
Read June 12.