p. 1055 C
REPRESENTATION OF LORDS OF TRADE TO THE KING
RECOMMENDING ANNEXATION TO THE PROVINCE OF QUEBEC OF LABRADOR COAST BETWEEN RIVER ST. JOHN AND STRAITS OF BELLE ISLE, WITH ADJACENT ISLANDS.
B.T. NEWFOUNDLAND. VOL. 33.
To the King's Most Excellent Majesty.
May it please Your Majesty,
We have had under our consideration a paper communicated to us by the Merchants of Great Britain interested in the Trade to Quebec, intitled, The case of Landholders in Canada, proprietors of Seal-fisheries on the Coast of Labrador, and their Leasees*; as also of the possessors of certain SealFisheries on that Coast under grants from the Governor of Quebec, describing the particular nature and circumstances of those fisheries, and setting forth the great loss and detriment which have ensued by those fisheries being made subject to such rules and regulations, as the Governor of Newfoundland has thought necessary to be laid down for the fisheries of Cod and Whale, since the said Coast of Labrador has been annexed to that Government: we have likewise taken into our consideration a memorial presented to Guy Carleton Esquire Your Majesty's Governor of Quebec and signed by Sundry Inhabitants thereof, Subjects of Your Majesty, to the like effect, whereupon we beg leave humbly to represent to Your Majesty,
That while Canada remained in the hands of The French, and the Coast of Labrador was considered as a dependancy thereupon, a fishery for Seals was, amongst other objects of national concern, attempted and brought to a degree of perfection, and the returns from this branch of the exports of Canada amounted annually to about ten thousand pounds sterling. In consequence of these attempts, Grants of several Islands in the River and Gulph of Saint Lawrence, and some tracts on the main land, with the exclusive privilege of Seal-Fisheries &ca were made in times past by the Crown of France to certain persons, and the rights of property thereby vested in them have passed as Inheritances, and been sold and leased to Tenants at pleasure Various other species of claims have been exhibited as derived from French tenures, which it is needless now to enumerate, and which have passed by succession through different hands; And since the cession of Canada, these fisheries have been again taken up, and sundry of Your Majesty's Subjects have possessed themselves of Posts and Settlements, either in virtue of Leases
from proprietors under French titles or by grants from Your Majesty's Governor of Quebec for a term certain, or 'till such time as Your Majesty's Pleasure should be known: In confidence of the validity of these tenures, it is stated that many adventurers have followed the established practice of Canada, by purchasing from the former Grantees, the whole of their dwelling Houses, fishing implements, utensils and warehouses appropriated to particular posts or passes, and large sums are said to have been employed in reestablishing these fisheries.
The fishery for Seals it is asserted, cannot be prosecuted in the open Seas and made general like those for Cod and Whales, but it is practised in a manner widely different from any other fishery in the Gulph or River Saint Lawrence, and requires much judgement and circumspection; it is chiefly formed by the contiguity of small Islands or Rocks to the main land, which occasion strong currents called Passes, where only such fisheries can be exercised, and to which the make and contexture of the Netts must be particularly fitted; it is chiefly followed in the Winter Season, and the immediate operation of catching these animals commences in December, and lasts only about fifteen days; but the fishers employed in the business must be at their station in the course of the Month of September, and cannot get away from it before the end of May.
This, it may please Your Majesty, is in brief, the nature of the fishery for Seals, and these the circumstances of the people engaged in that business, as described and explained in the papers under consideration, copies whereof we beg leave hereunto to annex. By Your Majesty's Royal Proclamation of the 7th of October 1763, Your Majesty thought fit to put all the Coast of Labrador, from the River Saint John's to Hudson's Straits, together with the Islands of Anticosti and Madelaine, and all other smaller Islands lying upon the said Coast, under the care and inspection of your Governor of Newfoundland to the end, as Your Majesty therein graciously declares, that the open and free fishery of Your Majesty's Subjects might be extended to, and carried on upon the said Coast of Labrador and the adjacent Islands; And from this period, the Posts and Settlements on the above Coast, and the fisheries thereupon depending, were detached from the Government of Quebec, and became subject to the Ordinances and Regulations of Your Majesty's Governor of Newfoundland.
From the foregoing account of the nature and circumstances of these Posts, and the Fisheries depending thereon, it will, as we humbly conceive, appear, that to subject them to the same Rules and Regulations, as may be well adapted to the fisheries for Cod and Whales, is, in effect, to destroy them: that the Seal-fishery being of necessity a sedentary fishery, requiring great expence, Nets of a particular quality and construction immediately fitted for the Pass they belong to, employing materials of a bulky nature and requiring Houses for wintering the fishers, cannot be made open and general in the manner of the fisheries above mentioned, nor can the Posts occupied by Adventurers, in this business, be quitted at pleasure, or transferred to first comers, as is practised in the Newfoundland fishery; And accordingly
we find, not only from the papers under present consideration, but from various other documents in Our Office, that many and great complaints have been preferred against the Rules and Regulations, which have been extended to this Coast, since it has been annexed to the Government of Newfoundland; and which Rules being calculated with a view to encourage the two great fisheries for Cod and Whales, and contrived to quicken the activity and emulation of Adventurers from Great Britain, by laying the several Posts and Passes open to the first arrivers, have been found absolutely incompatible with the principles on which the Seal-fishery can alone be conducted. To prevent therefore any further disturbance to Individuals in their private claims and possessions, and to save to the Mother Country the advantages to be drawn from this Branch of Commerce, which seems to be no inconsiderable object, we do humbly submit to Your Majesty, whether it may not be adviseable for Your Majesty to cause to be reannexed to Your Government of Quebec such parts of the said Coast of Labrador, as are situated between the River Saint John's and the Streights of Bellisle, together with the Islands of Anticosti and Madelaine, and all other smaller Islands lying upon the said Coast; for although Your Majesty, from such information, as was before Your Majesty when the Proclamation of the 7th of October 1763 was published, did, upon the gracious motives therein set forth, and with the advice of Your Privy Council, think fit to put that part of the Coast of Labrador under the care and inspection of Your Governor of Newfoundland, yet the experience of succeeding times, and the various inconveniences which have since occurred, and which could not at that period be foreseen, have, as we humbly conceive, reversed the policy of that measure, and made it for your Majesty's Service, and the welfare of Your Subjects to restore the said Coast as far as the Streights of Bellisle, to it's dependency on the Government of Quebec, leaving for the present at least, that part of the Coast of Labrador, which lies between the Streights of Bellisle and Hudson's Streights, and where, we conceive, there are very valuable Cod fisheries under the Government of Newfoundland.
All which is most humbly submitted.
June 24th 1772.