p. 1059 JOINT
MEMORIAL OF GEO. CARTWRIGHT
PRAYING FOR GRANT OF LANDS ON THE COAST OF LABRADOR, ETC.
p. 321. 1773. Jan 6th.
To the Right Honourable Earl of Dartmouth, His Majesty's Secretary of State for the American Department, First Lord of Trade and Plantations, &c &c &c
The Memorial of Geoge Cartwright Esqr Mercht
That, in the Spring of the Year 1770, when no British Subject in Labrador would venture to reside farther northward than Chatteau Bay and the islands immediately adjacent, your Lordships' Memorialist, at great hazard and expence settled himself in the River Charles on the said Coast, in order to establish Seal and Salmon Fisheries; to fish for Cod; to carry on the Furring Business; to open a friendly and Commercial intercourse with the Eskimaux Indians with whom we were then upon very bad terms; and to commence, if possible a Shore Whale-fishery.
That Your Lordship's Memorialist has had nothing but a series of difficulties to encounter, and has sustained a variety of heavy losses in these his undertakings; partly from the rigour of the climate; partly from the inexperience common in all new enterprizes; and partly from the unjust and malicious interruption of later adventurers; one of whom, Mr Pinson of Dartmouth, forcibly dispossessed this Memorialist of, and, to his great detriment, detained from him a considerable time, his Salmon fishery in the said River Charles.
That your Lordship's Memorialist seeing no security from the repetition of such like proceedings, there being at this time seated in the posts he furnished with the requisite buildings and erections for the Sealing business, other Crews of the said Pinson, who has not scrupled to declare, as this Memorialist is credibly informed, his fixed resolution of persecuting him by superiour force, until he shall have hunted him off the coast: and this Memorialist thinking it by no means equitable that he should be driven in quest of new discoveries and into fresh difficulties, while another, without toil or risk, shall thus step in and reap the harvest of his past labours, finds himself under the necessity of applying to your Lordship for protection and
encouragement: But, at the same time that the above facts are related, this Memorialist begs to be understood that he has no cause whatever to be dissatisfied with the Governor's Officer upon that Coast for not affording him redress: He does not complain of the breach of any positive law; but of a violation of natural justice in Pinson: and this Memorialist flatters himself that, the following representation of the nature of each distinct branch of the Labradore business, will throw so much light upon it as to dispose your Lordship to believe that, what he has to solicit will be only a reasonable encouragement to every adventurer; of general benefit to Trade; and no way detrimental or injurious to other persons having an inclination to become adventurers on that coast.
The Seal Fishery is of the first importance; and may become extremely valuable if an undisturbed enjoyment can be granted to the discoverer and first occupier; but, if he be open to the invasion of anyone more powerful than himself as soon as he have learnt the advantages of his situation, he will ever be discouraged from embarking in it with spirit, and prevented from bringing it to any degree of perfection. The whole coast of Labrador abounds with Seals, and most so, there is reason to believe, to the northward: as may be inferred from the situations chosen by the several tribes of the native Eskimaux, who depend chiefly upon the seal fishery for their subsistence. But, it is to be observed that, every particular part of the coast requires that the nets be of particular forms and dimensions, according to the depths of water, the width of passes, the confined or extended track of the Seals; that the shore apparatus be likewise contrived differently for different posts; and in short, that the whole business in a great measure, be conducted on principles adapted to the peculiarities of each distinct post: so that nets made for one place cannot be fitted for another without very great loss and inconvenience, & a quantity sufficient for one post may not be half enow for another; and in several other particulars an adventurer, not having a certainty where he shall fix himself, will labour under very great disadvantages. There is so little dependence to be had, from previous observation, of the rout the Seals will take along the shore, that nothing but the experience of several seasons can ascertain the most advantageous mode of intercepting them within any particular tract of the coast, though but of a few miles in extent: so that much labour, fruitless expence and disappointment, must necessarily attend the Seal-fishery in its commencement to those who are real adventurers: but to those indeed, who watch their opportunity of seizing upon posts already prepared to their hands, the case is widely different. These inconveniences have been felt most severely by your Lordship's Memorialist who has spared no cost or pains, having as he verily believes, besides all his own time and trouble since the spring of the year 1770, sunk at least four fifth parts of his capital in trade. This branch, being a winter & spring employment, must be carried on by residents, and not by men carried out annually from Europe, as to the Cod fishery: and therefore, admitting the force of the foregoing reasons, it would be the ruin of it to make the occupancy of the posts to depend on priority of possession taken by ships arriving on the coast. Here, it may
be necessary to attend to these material distinctions. When the Fishing Act introduced into the Newfoundland Codfishery that Regulation, it was a very proper one; because the intent of it was to give a stimulus to the Adventurer in an infant fishery, as well as to increase the number of British Seamen: in the Labradore Seal-fishery it is evidently a discouragement; and the inuring the fishermen to Voyages on the ocean is not the object here, as they must remain in the country; but not without adding to the shipping & seamen of these Kingdoms, for they thereby increase very considerably both our exports and imports. In the Cod-fishery, this Regulation extends no farther than to give the first comer his choice of a room on the shore, for the curing of his Voyage, which is almost a matter of indifference; but, at Labradore it would extend to determine where he should Kill his voyage, to the exclusion of all others. There, it does not put the excluded person to any kind of difficulty in Catching his fish, as the fishing ground is still open & free to all alike: here, it subjects him to all the disadvantages of being driven in quest of a new Sealery, as pointed out above. Hence it is plain there is no similarity in the two cases. And even in Newfoundland, the right of occupancy for the season, from the priority of taking possession, is very far from universal: nay, throughout that country, the number of Ships' Rooms bears but a small proportion to that of those held, enjoyed and inherited as private property.
The Salmon Fishereies of Labradore are extremely numerous; but the difficulty in approaching the coast for ice all the early part of the summer, and the short continuance of that season, make an essential difference between them and those of Newfoundland. There, the fishing ships from Europe can always take possession early enough in the season: here, they cannot. 'Tis very precarious even in the southern parts, and when the rivers come to be occupied northwards, towards Hudson's Streights, it will be still more so. It may possibly be proper in Newfoundland, where Cod fishing is the grand employment of the people, that the Salmon-fishing should be dependent thereupon (although that may well be disputed), and that it should there fall under like regulations: but, in Labradore, it will in general be found most beneficial that the Cod-fishery be made subservient to the other more certain and important objects; and therefore the present laws of Newfoundland will not, it is apprehended, be found to promote the interests of the Labradore Salmon-fishery, whose natural and necessary connection with the Sealing and Furring, will best point out the proper regulations for its encouragement. It appears, from the best observations which this Memorialist hath been able to make, that a permanent possession is equally necessary in the Salmon-fisheries as in the Sealing Posts; for the nets in this, as well as in the other, must be made for each particular place; otherwise the advenventurer would be exposed to all the inconveniences above described in the case of the Seal-nets. Dwelling houses, Store houses, Salmon houses, Cooperages, Wharfs, Stages and other erections must be provided in each River; besides boats Stores, Provisions, Craft, &c: hence it is easy to imagine the distress that an Adventurer upon a small capital, or indeed any adventurer,
must suffer, if he be frequently obliged to quit his station and resign the fruits of his industry to a new comer, while he himself is forced to seek another River, to lose great part of the fishing season in erecting all his buildings afresh, and in removing thither his effects ; taking, after all, but the chance of finding it a place proper for his purpose. And the necessity of an exclusive property in the Salmon Streams will be farther manifest, when the close connection or rather union of this fishery with the Sealing Whaling and Furring is duely considered. The Sealing and Whaling must be on the same spot; and the others within their vicinity; in order to yield the mutual assistance which they require one from another. The hands are frequently shifted from one post to another during the course of the year, as the successive employments of consequence, which fall out in different seasons, and the requisite preparations for the same, demand attention: so that to leave them to the perpetual chance of being widely separated would, alone, be an effectual bar to their prosperity and increase.
The Furring Business requires a thorough knowledge of the interiour part of the country which, on account of the deep snows and the rigour of the furring season, is only to be acquired by slow degrees. The country furnishes no other subsistence to the furrier than what his traps provide him, and these require a wide extent of ground to have any tollerable success. In order to penetrate to any distance, each furrier (for they all separate and hunt singly) must, at short distances one from another, build himself huts to live in, proof against bad weather, so that he shall never be far from shelter in case of storms. Hence, it is easy to conceive that, to fur that country properly, each adventurer should have an exclusive right: and otherwise that it never will be practiced, except in a very insignificant manner just around the Sealing Posts, by way of something to do at idle times.
The Shore Whale-fishery is an object of great expectation; though it has not as yet been carried on by any native of Great Britain. The Americans have however shewn its practicability and advantages to the westward of Chatteau, and there is no reason to doubt but that it may, with proper encouragement, be extended along the north-east and north coast to a great distance, as it is from thence the Whales come. We purchase much Whalebone from the Eskimaux, particularly from the tribe to which the people now under the care of your Lordship's Memorialist belong; and they have frequently intimated that they kill as many whales as they think proper. As we have not yet got sufficient insight into the nature of this fishery, it is not attempted independently: and, until further experience, can only be made an appendage to the Sealery. The proposed mode of practicing it for the present is to provide Whale-boats and Lines at the Sealing Posts, and to employ in the Sealing Crews a proportionable number of Harpooners, Steersmen and Whale-boat men, who have all extra pay. When a Whale shall appear they are to quit the Seal Nets, man the Whale boats and pursue it. But the Sealeries must first be made exclusive property, or else this very desirable appendage cannot be added to them:. for it would be only from some particular Sealing Posts that we should have the opportunity of watching
for, or the power of killing, Whales: so that who ever should be subject to be dispossessed of any such Post, and driven to another where there would not be these advantages, could not think of engaging American Whalers in his service, or of being at the expence of boats and geer. If it be asked why it answers to the Americans themselves who do not carry on any Sealeries, it is because they make this Shore-fishery an appendage as it were to their general whaling voyage at sea. Early in the season, and before the Whales are to be found at sea, they are seen to pass along the shore in the Gulf of St Lawrence and the Straights of Belleisle. During this time the Whalers lie with their Vessels in the harbours, & keeping their boats in readiness, look out from the shore for the approach of the Fish, in like manner as is proposed to be done from the Sealing Posts. The Fish being regularly found in the Streights, at the only part of the Whaling Season in which they are not to be met with at sea, is a sufficient reason why the Shore-fishery has not, by these Whalers been extended beyond the Streights to the northward of Chatteau, but from the observation of this Memorialist, from very good intelligence and from the proof to be gathered from our trade with the Eskimaux, it is to be presumed this fishery will be found to attend the progress of our Sealeries, as fast as they shall advance along the coast towards Hudson's Streights.
The Indian Trade with the Eskimaux, could it be brought to any degree of regularity and certainty, would be valuable to this Country, in opening a vent for its Woolens, Hardware & other Manufactures, in exchange for Whalebone, Oil and Furs. It is of great consequence too that it should be so; in order to free our Adventurers in Labradore from the dread of these Savages, which has hitherto been so great a discouragement to all our undertakings in that Country. It totally prevented till lately, and still does prevent in a great measure, the settling of English Sealing & Salmon-fishing Crews; and must continue to operate to the same effect, until a thorough and sincere reconciliation be effected between us, and we have established with them a free commercial intercourse. This your Lordship's Memorialist hopes he shall be principally instrumental in bringing about, by the pains he takes to conciliate the affection of the Indians: and, next to such means, he apprehends that it will be best effected by making the Sealing and Salmon Posts private property; whereby the proprietors will be induced to settle upon them with powerful crews and will be enabled to strengthen themselves by erecting for their dwellings such houses as will answer the end of Block houses, in case of any alarm from the the Savages. Our fishers, thus protected, will venture to settle where they dare not at present; and the savages will be awed from renewing those attacks, which they have heretofore made with too much success, upon the defenceless huts of the fishermen. Mutual injuries may thus in time be worn out of the memories of both parties: the hope of profit restraining the European, and the fear of punishment the Indian, from taking up arms.
Your Lordship's Memorialist, having drawn this Account within a much narrower compass than a subject of so much importance may possibly require,