MEMORIAL OF CHAMBER OF COMMERCE, ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND,
OPPOSING PROPOSAL TO RE-ANNEX COAST OF LABRADOR TO GOVERNMENT OF LOWER CANADA.
C.O. 194. VOL. 71.
in JAS. CROSS.
Received June 20, 1825.
To The Right Honorable Earl Bathurst K.G. His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Colonial Department, &a &a &a
The Memarial* of the Chamber of Commerce of Saint Johns Newfoundland.
That your Lordships Memorialists having observed by the public Newspapers that leave has been granted to bring a Bill into Parliament to annex part of the Coast of Labrador to the Government of Canada, and not knowing how much of the said Coast it may be intended to comprehend in such Bill, beg leave to state to Your Lordship the very great importance to these Fisheries of continuing under the Government of Newfoundland all such parts of that Coast as are resorted to from hence
That between Sixty and Seventy Vessels are annually fitted out from the Port of Saint Johns alone, and nearly two hundred from Conception Bay employing together nearly Five thousand Men in the Labrador Fishery, besides which others proceed thither from other parts of the Island-and that of late Years, the Bank Fishery having been less productive than formerly the Vessels employed therein are for the most part sent to the Labrador in the Summer Season.
That since the cession to France of the North part of this Island (usually denominated the French Shore) nearly all the Vessels employed in the Seal Fishery are afterwards sent to the Labrador, and that the Seal Fishery has lately assumed a degree of importance which entitles it to the highest consideration, having this Spring yielded employment to Five Thousand Men at a Season during which this Climate would afford them no other means of support.
That the Fishery at Labrador commences at a later period of the Season than on the Shores of this Island now occupied by the British, and affords time for the Seal Fishery to be fully compleated, as that to the French Shore
formerly did, and that the Labrador and Seal Fisheries are thereby well adapted to each other: and that moreover the Vessels which are necessary for the Seal Fishery would now be absolutely useless in any other branch of the Cod Fishery than that to Labrador, and so remain unemployed except during the continuance of the Seal Fishery which is but two Months in the Year and for the single use of which their Owners could not afford to keep them—whence it will appear to Your Lordship that every impediment to the Labrador Fishery path a direct tendency to reduce the Seal Fishery.
That the whole business of supplying these Fisheries is involved in a course of Settlement to be made in the fall of the Year, the supplies being advanced in the Spring by the Merchants to the Fishermen on credit, and for the most part entirely on the faith of the Voyage; that it would therefore be absolutely impossible to continue this Fishery in any place beyond the reach of our Supreme Court of Judicature; which has moreover by a long course of decisions become the depositary* of all its customs and usages; and that the several Laws made for the protection of the Fisheries, being engrafted on those customs and usages, are, and only can be applied or properly understood within the Government of Newfoundland.
That the annexation to Canada of any part of the Coast of Labrador usually resorted to from hence would oppose such difficulties to the settlement of Accounts as necessarily to lessen the confidence and ultimately destroy the Credit upon which the Fisheries are carried on and without which they could not subsist, and that this evil could not be remedied, even by the establishment/of Courts of Judicature on that Coast, because the greater number of Causes should originate in the Courts here where the transactions have taken place and because the Appeal from Labrador Courts it is apprehended would after such annexation lie to Quebec, whither it would be equally impossible for Plaintiff or Defendant to repair.
That every event of a Criminal Prosecution would also be attended not only with great inconvenience but with absolute ruin to many individuals should they be carried from their Fisheries on the Labrador to Quebec for the purpose of giving evidence on such prosecutions; whereas they always return here in the regular course of their business at that Season of the Year in which it is usual for our Supreme Court to hold its sittings of Oyer and Terminer.
Your Lordship's Memorialists therefore humbly pray that
Coast of Labrador may be continued under the
Government of Newfoundland as settled by the Act
49 Geo. 3 Cap 27
And your Memorialists will ever pray
President of the Chamber of Commerce of
St John's Newfoundland.
St Johns Newfoundland
May 20th 1825