REMARKS BY JAS. IRVINE OF QUEBEC
ON ACT 49 GEO. III. CAP. 27.
C.O. RECORD 42/189. LOWER CANADA, 1821.
PUBLIC OFFICE AND MISCELLANEOUS.
Memoranda humbly submitted, and referred to, by Mr. Irvine, in his letter to Henry Goulburn Esquire, of the 1st of February 1821.
By An Act of the Imperial Parliament, the Coast of Labradore, from the River St. John's to Hudson's Straits, together with the Island of Anticosti, and other smaller Islands along that Extensive Coast, are annexed to the Government of Newfoundland and all crimes and Misdemeanors, as well as civil Suits, originating on the said Coast or Islands, are made cognizable in this Courts of Newfoundland.
This Enactment, it is believed, originated from an application made on behalf of the Merchants of Newfoundland, setting forth that the Courts in that Island could not take cognizance of any Crime or Misdemeanor committed by their people who were employed in the Fisheries upon the said Coast of Labrador and the adjacent Islands and praying that Jurisdiction might be given to the Courts in Newfoundland for the hearing of, and adjudging upon, all Crimes and Misdemeanors Committed by their people upon the Coast and Islands aforesaid.
It must be manifest, how much greater and more serious injury has been created by the Enactment that followed that application, to the Proprietors and Lessees of the Soil, lying within the said Coast and Islands, who are all Residenters in Lower Canada, and from whence they carry on their Trade and fisheries in those parts, than could possibly have given rise to the said application from Newfoundland.
Prior to the Conquest of Canada, His most Christian Majesty had made grants and “Concessions,” of all the Coast, (or the greater part thereof) And of the Islands, in question, to divers of his Canadian Subjects, who established Fisheries and Trading Posts thereon:—Without perhaps, adverting to this Circumstance, His Britannic Majesty thought fit on the Cession of Canada, to annex these Territories, to the Government of Newfoundland, by His Royal Proclamation bearing date on the 7th day of October 1763.
His Majesty's Canadian Subjects, then felt, as they do now; the hardship of having their property separated from the Government under which they lived, and put under another Jurisdiction, thereby subjecting them to Laws and Regulations incompatible with their Tenures and Usages,—And, upon
a representation of their call the said Coast and Islands were re-annexed by a subsequent Act of Parliament, to the then Province of Quebec.
These Lands and Islands were originally granted “en Fief” or “Seigneurie” and have passed by sale and otherwise, from one possessor to Another, to this day: the Proprietors still residing in Lower Canada. The Seigniory of Mingan, extending perhaps fifty Leagues along the Labradors Coast, is at present held on Lease from the Crown (of this Seigneurie about the two thirds of the front fall on the Newfdld. side of the R. St. John) by the Company Commonly called the North West Company of Montreal, who carry on the Fisheries and Fur Trade on that Coast and the interior; Many other Fisheries and trading posts are Established and carried on by the people of Canada as well on the Main Land, as on the Islands, and as far as Esquimaux Bay on the outside, North of the Straits of Bellisle, and on the Island of Anticosti, some Families, (two I think) are supported and paid by the Government of Canada, and furnished with Provisions and other Articles for the relief of Shipwrecked Mariners and others, when unfortunately cast upon that Island.
A number of Vessels and Boats, with their Crews and equipments, belonging to Quebec, are necessarily employed in these Establishments all their “outfits,” in goods and provisions, go from Quebec: the Returns are made to Quebec, and the men employed belong to, and are paid in Quebec:—
In short, the Territories in question are so dependent upon Lower Canada for everything, that whenever an Embargo has been laid up, on the exportation of Provisions from the Province, since the Act first before mentioned was passed, it has always been found necessary to insert a proviso in favor of the Labradore Coast and Islands, to save them from Starving.¹
¹ During the War of 1812-1814 between Great Britain and the United States, several embargoes were laid on the exportation from Canada of wheat and other exportations, but on all those embargoes an exception was made permitting the supply of such articles to “those parts of the Coast of Labrador which are occupied as Trading Posts and Fisheries, and have recently been annexed to our Government of Newfoundland.” The following is a copy of the proclamation which laid the first embargo.
(Can. Arch. Rep. 1921, pp. 168-9.)
| Province of
GEORGE the THIRD of the Grace of GOD, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith: To all our loving subjects, and to all others to whom these presents may concern, Greeting:—Whereas War has been declared and now exists, between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the Dependencies thereof, and the United States of America and their Territories;—And the exportation of Grain and Provisions of any description whatsoever, from our Province of Lower Canada, may at this time prove highly injurious to the interest of Our Empire, and to the welfare of our loving subjects in the said Province. We have thought fit, by and with the advice of Our Executive Council of Our said Province of Lower Canada, to issue this Our Royal Proclamation, and to order, and we do hereby order, that an Embargo be forthwith laid on all Wheat, Flour, and Meal of every kind, Barley, Rye, Oats, Pease, Potatoes, Biscuit, Salted Pork and
Under such circumstances, it may naturally be supposed that many Crimes go unpunished: and, many who suffer by trespass, and other Wrongs, cannot obtain redress, the seat of Justice in Newfoundland being so very remote, that no Man from Canada will think of resorting to it, and the former Jurisdiction of our Canadian Courts, in such cases, is now unfortunately taken from them. And in matters of Civil Actions, relative to the Lands situated on the said Coast and Islands, it is a Query, how far the Courts in Newfoundland would be competent to hear and determine questions arising on these Lands held “En Fief” the proprietors of which, in Common with their fellow Subjects of Canada, have from His Majesty's benevolence, the guarantee of the French Law, so far as these Laws existed in Canada at the time of the Conquest, as the Rule of trial in all such cases.
It has already been observed, that these Lands and Islands are held, “En Fief” or, by Seigniorial Tenure, wherefore upon a change of property by sale or any transaction equivalent to a sale, a mutation Fine, styled a “Quint” is payable to the Crown. And, to complete his Title, the new Proprietor, is bound under the said Laws to perform “Fealty and Homage” to the King, or to His Majesty's Representative administering the Government: to pay this Fine and perform this Homage, and thereby to be duly and legally put into possession, the parties must now go near one thousand
Beef, from any port or place, in and within Our said Province of Lower Canada, to any Country, place, Kingdom, Dominion, or Territory whatsoever: And we do hereby strictly prohibit and forbid the sailing or departure of any ship or ships, vessel or vessels, having on board any of the before mentioned articles, from any port or place aforesaid, in and within our said Province of Lower Canada, to any such place, Country, Kingdom, Dominion or Territory aforesaid, save and except such vessels having on board so much of the before recited articles, as may be necessary only for the supply of those parts of the coast of Labrador, which are occupied as Trading Posts and Fisheries, and have recently been annexed to our Government of Newfoundland, and also in like manner necessary for the supply of the settlements of our Island of Anticosti; in the Gulph of St. Lawrence. And it is our will and pleasure, and we do hereby order, that the said Embargo do continue and remain from the date of these presents; until the TENTH day of SEPTEMBER next ensuing, of all which our loving subjects, and all others concerned, are to take due notice and govern themselves accordingly; we by the tenor of these presents firmly enjoining and commanding them, and all and every our officers and ministers whatsoever, to be in all things, and to the utmost of their power, aiding and assisting in the due execution of this Our Royal Proclamation.—In Testimony whereof, we have caused these our letters to be made patent, and the Great Seal of our said Province of Lower Canada to be hereunto affixed Witness our trusty and well beloved Sir George Prevost, Baronet, Captain General and Governor in Chief, in and over our Provinces of Lower Canada, Upper Canada, Nova-Scotia and New-Brunswick, and their several Dependencies, Vice Admiral of the same, General and Commander of all our Forces in the said Provinces, and in the Islands of Newfoundland, Prince Edward, Cape Breton and the Bermudas, &c. &c. &c. at our Castle of Saint Lewis, in our City of Quebec, in our said Province, the Thirty-first Day of March, in the Year of Our Lord, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirteen, and of Our Reign the Fifty-third.
Jno. TAYLOR, Depy. Secy.
Quebec Gazette, April 1, 1813.
Similar Proclamations containing the like exception respecting the coast of Labrador were issued on the 8th of September, 1813; the 15th of October, 1813; the 4th of April, 1814, and the 21st of September, 1814. Vide, Can. Arch Rep. for 1921, pp. 172-173, 176-177, 183-184; 188-189.
miles by Sea to Newfoundland, the proprietor being no longer under the Government of Canada; the hardship of which is self evident:
Here another question may possibly arise, how far the Governor of Newfoundland under those Laws which Govern that Island, could legally receive such fealty and homage, and duly invest the purchaser in the property under the Rules prescribed by the French Law, as in force in Canada?
For the reasons herein set forth, and others that might possibly be urged, it is hoped that the said Act, in so far as relates to the Coast and Islands in question may be repealed, and the said Territories re-annexed to the Province of Lower Canada, to which they appear naturally, and of right, to belong.
All which is most humbly submitted by
A Member of His Majesty's Executive Council for
the Province of Lower Canada; And, of the
Legislative Council, of that Province.
4, George Street
1st February 1821.
[¹ 1/5 of the purchase Money or valued amount less, usually granted to the Purchaser, for prompt paymt. 1/3d of that fifth.—Q. 159, pt. 2, pp. 297-305.]