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JUDGE PINSENT'S REPORT, 1869.
COLONIAL OFFICE RECORDS 197/49. JOURNAL OF THE
ASSEMBLY, NEWFOUNDLAND. Appendix.
Report of Robert J. Pinsent, Esq., Judge of the Court of Labrador to His Excellency Steven John Hill, Esq., C.B., Governor of Newfoundland, etc.
27th November, 1869.
I have the honour to make my report to your Excellency my proceedings and observations during my circuit at Labrador last summer. I sailed from St. John's on the 28th May.
We did not arrive at Labrador until the 18th June, from which time up to the 7th October, we were constantly cruising on the coast from Blanc Sablon, in the Straits of Belle Isle to the vicinity of Cape Harrison in the north, visiting all the principal harbors and stations within that circuit.
The revenue collected at Labrador this year exceeded that of any other year since the service was established.
The following particulars I learned from the father of the family, Edward Mercer, of Bay Roberts, Newfoundland. He informed me that he had been in the habit of fishing in the summer at Pack's Harbor, Labrador, for several years, and returning to Newfoundland in the fall; that last winter for the first time, he remained at Labrador, with his family, consisting in all of himself, his wife, five sons and one daughter; he had only three barrels of flour for his stock of provisions, but he hoped to catch game and seal for food during the winter. He removed from Pack's Harbor at the end of October and went into winter quarters up the North River in Sandwich Bay; his stock of food was exhausted by the middle of January, and he and his family then subsisted on what little game they could catch, and the scanty but kind aid they received from some neighbours, who were themselves straightened for food. There was no supply to be had at the merchants' stores in Sandwich Bay. They struggled on in their way until the latter part of February, when they
removed—being all in a week state of health—to Handy Harbor Island; about 6 miles to the northward of Pack's Harbor, hoping there to catch some seals and sea birds, and to get a supply of mussels.
When I saw the poor man at Pack's Harbor in August, he was debilitated and unable to work, his wife and surviving children had comparatively recovered their healths, their circumstances were very poor; I therefore, on the part of the Government, gave them some assistance.
This case is an extreme one, but I was told by several reliable persons that the conditions of many families last winter was nearly as necessitous as that of Edward Mercer, and that such sufferings for want of food, was perhaps, never before experienced on the coast of Labrador. I may mention that game of all kinds was unusually scarce.
I cannot but express my opinion that it is very illiberal or at least, very inconsiderate on the part of the merchants having establishments at Labrador, that they do not make some winter provision for the resident inhabitants who deal with them more or less during the summer. A stock of from 50 to 100 barrels of Indian meal, costing about as many pound would, at each establishment, be sufficient to guard against this danger of starvation. I deem it to be the absolute duty of these merchants to provide, to a reasonable extent, for the sustentation of the surrounding people, should there be any necessity for it during a long inclement Labrador winter.
The legal cases brought before me during the circuit, were:—
|3 of larceny,|
2 of assult and battery,
1 of damages for destroying a net,
4 of sureties of the peace,
1 of unlawful throwing ballast overboard,
1 of debt.
In two aggravated cases, viz.:—
|1 of larcency,|
the other of assult and battery,
I sentenced the offenders to six months' imprisonment with hard labour in H.M. Gaol at St. John's. They justly deserved that amount of punishment, and it was necessary to make a flagrant example of the consequences of violation of the law and show that even at Labrador it could not be done with impunity.
I brought these men from Labrador to St. John's in the circuit vessel; one of them was on board nearly two months, and the other about half that time; their custody was attended with considerable care and trouble, as
no proper lock-up room had been provided in the vessel. I would repeat what I have on former occasions represented, that it is necessary a suitable temporary prision should be providedin the circuit vessel.
The conduct of the people at Labrador, both residents and those coming in the summer only, is, on the whole, creditable to them. When it is considered how many thousands of fishermen are there engaged, it is remarkable that so few serious crimes are committed. During the past season I have heard very little complaint of violent behaviour even in the prosecution of the herring fishery in which, from its brief continuance and exciting character, such conduct is most likely to occur.
The salmon fishery was, on the whole, good. In addition to our own vessels there were, as usual, several Nova Scotia and Canadian vessels engaged in the fishery. I saw only one vessel from the United States, which I met with in St. Michael's Bay; she was a steamer called the “Monticello” from New York, engaged in the herring fishery, in which she had been unsuccessful at Labrador.
I am gratified to be able to state, and I have good reason to believe, that the condition of the resident inhabitants of Labrador, will next winter, be much better with respect to food than it was last winter. These residents, not having vessels and other means of leaving their own localities, were last summer, fortunately obliged to remain home, where they did much better in the fishery than if they had come to Cape Harrison and its neighbourhood; they have consequently been able, generally, to lay in a sufficient stock of provisions for the winter.
The census of the resident population of Labrador, from Blanc Sablon to Cape Harrison inclusive, has this summer been taken by order of the Government. The total number is 2,479, comprising
1803||belonging to the Church of England,|
483|| ,, ,, ,, Rome|
165|| ,, ,, Wesleyan Church,|
28|| ,, ,, Church of Scotland|
In this number about 300 Indians and half-breeds of the Esquimaux and Mountaineer races are included. They reside chiefly in the magnificent bay called Hamilton Inlet and that neighbourhood. Most of them are connected with the Hudson Bay Company. The half-breeds, who have sprung of Europeans and Indians, are docile, decent and intelligent, they speak good English and are fond of learning to read and write. They are employed in the salmon fishery in summer, and in furring in winter, catching only a little cod in the fall of the year, for their own consumption. On the whole they make out a tolerably comfortable living.
In the summer the coast of Labrador swarms with thousands of people from Newfoundland, who engage in the cod, herring and salmon fisheries during the season—and return in the Fall to their own country. They are of course, not included in the Labrador census.
SCHOOLS. — There were only 4 schools in operation this year at Labrador, viz.:—
|Battle Harbor.|| Rev. W.E. Wilson. || Summer and winter. || 233 summer.|
|Pinware.||Mrs. O'Dell.||do. do.||20 summer.|
|Cape Charles.||Mrs. Young.||Summer only.||25 summer.||24 |
| Matthew's Cove. ||Mrs. Tobin.||,, ,,|| 15 ,,||8 |
| || || || ||$92 |
I paid the above salaries out of the money placed in my hands by the Government and supplied the schools with books.
Labrador is not a favourable country for the establishment of schools, the people there are so scattered that, with a few exceptions, it is impracticable to get a suggicient number of them together for that purpose. The general and most effective mode of instruction is by supplying books to the isolated inhabitants and thus enabling them to learn at home by their own firesides, where they teach one another. I distributed the books furnished by the Government to a great many families, who have thankfully received them, and will, I am sure, make good use of them. The medicines which I took down with me and distributed among the inhabitants were very useful and much valued, for on this coast they are not, in most cases, to be procured in any other way.
The weather at Labrador last summer, was particularly wet, cold and backward; consequently the curing of fish was retarded, and the shipments for market were delayed much beyond the usual period.
I have the honour to be,
Your Excellency's most obedient servant,
ROBERT JOHN PINSENT,
Judge of the Court of Labrador.