p. 982 C
PROPOSALS FOR ENCOURAGING THE FISHERIES ON THE COAST OF LABRADORE,
AND FOR IMPROVING THAT AT NEWFOUNDLAND
COL. COR. NFD. VOL. 2.
The following Proposals are founded on a knowledge of the Valuable Fisheries that may be carried on upon the Coast of Labradore, and suggested by taking a view of and reflecting upon, a compared State of ours and the french Fisheries in Newfoundland, and the great disproportion of the Advantages arising therefrom to each Nation respectively; also on a Conclusion, that Fisheries (abstracted from pecuniary Advantages) are of the utmost Importance to all Maritime Nations, and more particularly to this, they being the greatest and most certain Nurseries for Seamen; yet observing that, by Neglects, Abuses, and the want of proper Regulations, the Advantages, that are absolutely necessary for the Safety of the State, may be lost, as is verified by the present State and management of our Newfoundland Fishery, which, instead of being a Nursery for, is the true Cause of the often-experienced Scarcity of Seamen for manning our Fleets on sudden & dangerous Occasions, and is an effectual Bar to all such increase of Seamen as is provided for by the Laws of this and all Nations relating to Fisheries.
My poor and humble Opinion here offer'd for establishing a new British Fishery, & towards recovering the most important Advantages of an old One, is most humbly submitted to Consideration.
First, as to the New-one
If Regulations are made for the Coast of Labradore, calculated to encourage Adventurers from His Majesty's Dominions in Europe, it will in a short time prove a great Source of Wealth and Naval Strength to this Kingdom; but in order to secure these Advantages to the State, the Regulations that may be made, should in my humble Opinion, above all things first provide against the Existence of any pretensions whatever to Property or exclusive Right, or Possessions, or Monopolies on that Coast, which should be declared Publick and Free to all the King's Subjects with all proper Preferences and Advantages to those from His Majesty's Dominions in Europe—and next
In order to put a Stop to the horrid Massacres, and many other Mischiefs committed on the poor Natives of that Country by Numbers of lawless People
from all Parts resorting thither, no Residents whatever (as yet) should be permitted during the Winter, and the absence of the King's Ships, except what may be particularly mention'd in the Regulations, till a farther knowledge can be obtain'd concerning the nature of the Country, the Indian Inhabitants, &ca &ca, in order to make such farther Regulations as may hereafter be judged best for the Benefit of the Fisheries, and the Trade of His Majesty's Subjects.
That to encourage Adventurers to begin this Fishery in the proper way, a Bounty be immediately offer'd to British Ships resorting thither, directly from His Majesty's Dominions in Europe, properly equip'd for both the Whale and Cod Fishery; Such a Bounty to depend on the number of men actually going out from, and returning directly to His Majesty's Dominions in Europe with a Proportion of new Men, vizt every fifth Man to be a New or Green Man, that is to say, not a Seaman, or having ever been at Sea before, with such other Restrictions, and Conditions as may effectually guard against Abuses and fully answer the main Objects of bringing home and increasing of Seamen. If part of this Bounty was to be paid on the Ships sailing, first giving proper Security for performing the Conditions prescribed for the Voyage, (as is the practice in France,) it would send out great Numbers of new Adventurers of industrious Fishermen, independent of rich Merchants; and this will prevent the Fishery being a Monopoly to a few.
Such a Bounty would produce to the Nation all the Advantages proposed by that now given to the Greenland Ships; but in a far greater Degree, both as to the number of Men to be employ'd, and thereby secured in constant readiness for defence of the State, as by the great Profits that will arise from the labour of such increas'd Number of Men; for the Bounty now paid, on an Average of the three last Years, to the Greenland Ships is not less than £26,000 p. Annum for not more than 1800 Men employ'd therein, which amounts to £14 8s.—p. Man; if a Bounty is given as above propos'd at £3 a Head, which I think would be proper to begin with, when it amounts to that Sum, it will provide 8,666 Men in constant readiness for manning our Fleets, besides a Yearly Increase of 1733 such Men.
Whatever Bounty is at first given to this Fishery, in a few years it may be lessen'd, after it is once set on foot; and that the Blockhouses hereafter proposed are finished upon that Coast.
It must be observed, that the two principal Branches of this Fishery is for Whales and Cod; the others for Seals and Salmon, also the Indian Truck are very inconsiderable Objects compar'd with the two first; therefore the Regulations with respect to them, should consider them only as Articles to be bestow'd as Rewards to the most adventurous and industrious in the other two; This seems proper for raising an useful Spirit of Emulation, and is what I studied to do by my Regulations for that Coast the last year, by granting certain Privileges respecting those Articles, to the 1st 2d & 3d arriving Ships in each Port from Europe; for it must also be observ'd, that the Ports, that admit of proper Situations for Sealing, or Rivers for Salmon, or Places resorted to by Indians, are but few.
As a farther Encouragement and Security to British Adventurers upon that Coast, as well during the fishing Season, as for such Winter's Crews, as, by the Regulations to be made, they may be permitted to leave, I would propose,
That the Coast be divided into 3 Districts, Vizt the North, the South, and the West, each containing about 100 Leagues of Sea Coast; that a King's Ship be stationed on each during the fishing Season; as well for Protection of the Fishery as for regulating Disputes and Disorders amongst the Fishers; that at some of the principal Ports in each District be erected a strong Blockhouse for the Security of such Winter's Crews, and of the Boats, &ca left on the Coast by the Fishers: such Block-houses to be in such Situations as may be found best for these purposes; this will also be establishing the possessory Right to the whole Country.
The Block-houses here proposed are of a new Construction, far stronger than any other hitherto used, affording (from the Improvements made in those projected by the Earl of Egmont) double the Defence and Conveniences of any other hitherto constructed of the same Dimensions, yet not more expensive.
Besides the Bounty above propos'd for setting on foot the new Whale and Cod Fishery on the Labradore Coast, if a Bounty was to be given, for a few years only, to all ships bringing home not less than 21 Men directly from the Fisheries of Newfoundland., at the rate of 30 Shillings a head, that being the present Price of a Man's passage home, it would prove a great encouragement to the Trade, greatly contribute to restore the Ship Fishery there, prevent our Men running to America, lessen the Number of Residents in Newfoundland, draw from thence many thousands of Men, who remain there only for want of the Means of returning; and this, together with what may be expected from the Labradore Fishery, will soon provide such a Number of Men, always at hand in this Country for manning our Fleets as would be in effect be* a register'd Marine Guard, for security of the Nation against all sudden Dangers, without distressing other Branches of Trade, and prove a real Nursery for Seamen.
Scheme for executing what is here proposed, for establishing the Blockhouses.
The Commanders of the King's Ships on that Coast to be directed this Year to look out for, and make Report of Places within their Districts fit for such Posts; each of the stationed Ships the next Year to carry out all Materials, that can't be had there, with proper Workmen for erecting one of these Block-houses in their respective Districts; and this Method to be observed yearly, till as many are erected as may be thought necessary.
I have visited and examined York or Chateaux Bay, with all its contained Harbours; and as this will always be the principal Port on that Coast, if I am empower'd, I will undertake myself to see one of these useful Block-houses finished at that Place this Year; this will be an immediate Encouragement to the Adventurers, and establishing the possessory Right to the Country at a Place in the Center of the whole Coast.
I would propose to leave in these Block-houses, either a Sea Officer with a Party of Seamen or a Marine Officer with the like Number of Marines belonging to the station'd Ship, or a Detachment from the Garrison of St Johns; such Officers and Men to be relieved every Year.
Such part of these Block-houses as are to be of Wood, may either be framed and prepared here, carryed out and immediately set up there, or a proper number of Workmen may be sent out in each Frigate; and build them with the Timber there, carrying such other Materials as may be wanted; either of these ways, I apprehend the Expence will not be great, may be exactly estimated, and the precise time of their execution ascertained. If they are to be wholly of Stone, the Expence I apprehend will be considerable; besides the uncertainty of meeting proper Stone there; but this may be better judged of hereafter; I would therefore recommend, that one Block-house on the aforementioned Plan, this Year be first erected of Wood, at York Bay, in case of a disappointment of Stone.
It will greatly facilitate the establishment of the Fisheries, and procure a safe and peaceable Access for His Majesty's Subjects to the Coast of Labradore, if the Brethren of the Unitas Fratrum are encouraged to settle amongst the Indians, as Missionaries, (which they are very solicitous to do) I would therefore propose to grant them any Priviledges, that may not be inconsistent with the Prosperity and Freedom of the Fisheries, and to give them one of the aforemention'd Block-houses to themselves to live in, at any Place they may pitch upon.
The French now give a great Bounty to their Newfoundland Fishery; their particular Regulations I have not yet been able to get; but the Object thereof is to secure the return of their Men to France, with a certain yearly Increase of such Men; from the best Account I have been able to get, the Bounty, which their Merchants actually received the last Year, amounted to between 3 and 4 Pounds p. Man, upon 13,362 Men, which they had employ'd the last Year.
Now if the Court of France finds her Account in paying 40 or 50 thousand Pounds p. annum for the return of 13,362 Men, from her Fisheries, with a yearly Increase of one in every five on that number, it becomes a matter of consideration, whether an equal Sum would not be well laid out by Britain, for providing double that Number, to give us the Superiority over France in that important Article of Men fit for and always ready to man our Fleet, which we are now absolutely robbed of by the present Method of the Fisheries being carried on; the Men remaining there, therefore never to be had for that Service; nor have we such yearly Increase as France has, but on the contrary a loss of great Numbers that yearly run to America.
Endorsed. *Representation of the Board of Trade to the King. 13th March 1766. In the Board of Trade's Letter to Mr Secry Conway, of the same date.