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PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.
COLONIAL OFFICE RECORDS 325/7.
Undated, Circa 1792.
The Committee appointed to enquire into the state of the Trade to Newfoundland, and to report the same, as it shall appear to them, to the House; and who were impowered to report their proceedings, from time to time, to the House;
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John Reeves Esqre., Chief Justice of the Island of Newfoundland being called on was asked if he had any information to give to the Committee respecting the government and the administration of justice of the Island of Newfoundland. He desired to be permitted to deliver in the following paper of remarks.
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Another point to which I beg leave to draw the attention of the Committee is the perfect condition of those who carry on the fishery on the coast of Labrador. Although this is not within the commission of the Governor of Newfoundland, yet it so happens that he is the only person who is in the way of knowing anything about it. The ship which is sent round the French limits never fails of looking in on some part of the Labrador coast; and it appears from the representations of the captains who command those ships, that there is great need of some authority to interpose, and see justice done between master and servant, at least as much need as there ever was at Newfoundland. The employment and relation of persons is the same; the abuses and grievances are the same; amongst these is that old one of keeping servants on the coast from year to year; all which is more uniform and insurmountable, in proportion as the merchants are few, and can therefore combine to keep all their people in a more absolute state of dependence.
The coast of Labrador is under the government of Canada; but the influence it feels from a center so far removed is very small; in truth, there is no government whatsoever on the coast of Labrador, as I am informed by those who have been there.
This coast was, after the Peace 1763, put under the Governor of Newfoundland, it being very properly thought that, as a fishery, it would make a natural appendage to this government. But the Governor, having set about
applying to the seal fishery on that coast the system of laws made for Newfoundland, which upon consideration, were thoaght not adapted to the fishery on that coast; it was judged proper to disjoin it from the Newfoundland government; and this was accordingly done by Stat, 14 Geo. III. for new modelling the Government of Quebec; and in the same Act, power was given to His Majesty to re-annex it again to the government of Newfoundland, when he should so please.
It may perhaps be doubted, whether this was the only or best way of cufng the evil; and it is very much to be wished, that this measure was reconsidered, and some plan devised for affording to that deserted coast, something like the effect of a civil government.