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GOVERNOR COCHRANE TO SECRETARY OF STATE,
TRANSMITTING RETURNS OF ACTIONS IN NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR.
LETTERS DESPATCH, ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND. Volume 3.
No. 11. St. John's, Newfoundland,
13 December, 1828.
As it was not in my power when in England to comply with the wishes of Mr. Hay, and in obedience to the order of the Honourable House of Commons to furnish a return on the spot, of the number of Civil and criminal actions tried in the several Courts of Newfld. since the passing of the Act 5th Geo. 4 Cap. 67, I have availed myself of the earliest opportunity since my arrival, and on the return of the Judges from their respective Circuits to cause the documents to be prepared which I now have the honor to transmit to you, and trust they will be found to have been framed with such care and accuracy as will fully meet the object of the Honorable House of Commons.
I have nothing further to remark upon the Returns now submitted to you, with the exception of that for Labrador, to which I think it right to draw your attention; as I understand it is the object of the Merchants in England connected with Newfoundland to do away with that Court altogether on the ground, first,—That the cases which have come before it are so few in number, and secondly,—That all the persons who resort there for the purpose of fishing, return either to St. John's, or Conception Bay where their differences can ultimately be decided with.
With reference to the first reason,—It will I am persuaded be unnecessary for me to comment upon an argument which would go to say that because there were no offences for a given time, there should be no law, and with equal propriety would a Criminal Circuit Court be dispensed with in any County in England because there happened occasionally to be an empty Callender.
As respects the second reason,—although it is true that a large portion of those concerned in the Labrador Fishery do return to this Port, and Conception Bay, yet a considerable number do not, and to them it would infallibly be a denial of Justice altogether to prevent their receiving it on the spot, as, however much aggrieved or injured they could obtain no redress without
following the aggressor through the Court at this place, which even if practicable, might involve an expense and loss of time more grievous that the original injury.
There are, as you no doubt are aware Sir, a considerable number of persons who resort to the Labrador Coast during the Summer months, and which being at a distance of nearly five hundred miles from this place, there is no check upon the lawless ill-disposed, but the certainty of the arrival of a Court to call them to account; for the little restraint imposed upon them by the fear of retribution on their happening to meet the injured party within the Courts of the Island of Newfoundland cannot operate as such. It has as far as I can learn been an invariable custom for a vessel of War to proceed to that Coast to Surrogate, until the institution of the present Court, and at an expence far beyond that now incurred, and unquestionably the advance of time does not render it less necessary that there should still be a power to administer Justice there. At the same time that I entertain this opinion I by no means intend it to he inferred that upon the introduction of a new Judicatory Act, arrangments may not be made for the attainment of the object in question at a less expence than is at present incurred.
I have the honor to be, Sir,
(Signed) THOS. COCHRANE.
Right Honble. Sir Geo. Murray, G.E.B.