p. 999 C
PALLISER TO THE EARL OF SHELBURNE
IN DEFENCE OF HIS REGULATIONS AND PROCEEDINGS ON COAST OF
C. O. 194 VOL. 27.
MY LORDS,—In the year 1765 on a Visit I made to the Southern parts of my Government, in the Neighbourhood of St Pierres and Miquelon, I found great numbers of French from those Islands encroaching on His Majesty's Territories and on the Fisheries belonging to His Subjects, our People engaged in all sorts of Clandestine Trade with them, our Inhabitants of Newfoundland and vast numbers of Vessels from the Plantations all employ'd in fishing for ye French, with several French Ships of War on the Coast to countenance and force this Clandestine Trade and Encroachments; I immediately put a stop to all this, and oblig'd the French Ships of War to quit the Coast; In the Execution of this Service, I discover'd that several People from Quebec, had settled themselves on the Coast of Labrador within my Government, for the conveniency of carrying on Clandestine Trade with the French both from St Pierres and directly from France; After I had put things into good Order in the Southern parts of my Government, and station'd Cruizers, and issued the necessary Orders to the Commanders, I proceeded to the Northward to do the same there, and in August I arrived in Labrador with several British Adventurers Ships under my Protection for carrying on the Fisheries there.
On my arrival I was inform'd of all ye best Harbours and convenient Places along that Coast being possess'd in the Name of a few People belonging to the Province of Quebec, by Grants or Charters from General Murray His Majesty's Governor of Quebec, made when he was only Military Governor of that Place, each Grant including vast Tracts of Sea Coast with all the Islands Adjacent.—
I also found that those Settlers did not use those Places for carrying on the Fishery, but for the conveniency of carrying on a most Infamous and extensive Clandestine Trade with France, for supplying Canada with French Commodities, and other dealings with the French to the great Advantage of their Fishery, Commerce & Navigation, and without which the French cannot carry on the Fishery in those parts; those People were also in a State of War with ye Natives of the Country, as well as with the many Lawless Crews resorting thither from the different Colonies.—
Such exclusive Possessions of the Fishing Coast held under Grants or Charters from a Governor of any of the Colonies, I consider'd no other than as partial and unjust Monopolies, restraining into ye Hands of a few (and those Colonists) enormous Tracts of Land and Sea Coast, with all the Trade and the rich Fisheries within those Districts, to the obstruction of all Measures
for extending and improving the Fisheries, and to the utter exclusion of our Adventurers Ships from Britain, contrary to the special Priviledges which by ye Fishing Laws they have a right to; also to the exclusion of all other the King's Subjects even from Quebec, and the other Colonies—therefore—
I consider'd such exclusive Possessions respecting the Fishery, as contrary and repugnant to the plain Words, Sense and Meaning, as well as to the Policy of every part of the Act of the 10th & 11th of William 3d, and to every Rule and Regulation ordain'd thereby.—
I also consider such Settlers and Possessions (in that Country in particular) as contrary to the Kings Proclamation of the 7th October 1763.—
Thus applying the Effect of these Monopolies to the intent and meaning of the Fishing Laws, they appear'd to me exceeding Prejudicial to the Trade, Shipping and Navigation of this Kingdom, for I saw they must operate to subvert the very principles of the Fishing Act, and prove destructive of the great National object and advantage arrising from the Fishery, for when once such a practice is allow'd in favour of the Colonies, or of any one of them, the Fishery will immediately become merely an American Fishery, the French reap the greatest share of the profits, and the whole be conducted by Men and Ships that will never see this Country; In that Case, all our British Ships and Men now employ'd in the Fishery, being above 300 Ships and 17,000 Men, must very soon be laid up, and that Grand Nursery for Seamen remain in America instead of this Kingdom, out of reach and where they may be withheld (under the Sanction of the Statute of 6 Ann. C37. S9) from ever being of Service for defence of the Nation, especially in such times of sudden danger as lately have, and in ye natural course of things will often happen, and this will immediately be the case if I am not justified in having put a stop to so new & dangerous a Practice.—
Considering those Charters in this light, I conceiv'd it became my indispensable Duty to put an immediate stop to a practice of so exceeding dangerous a tendancy.—
The whole matter appear'd to me reduceable to one Question, (vizt) whether Settlers under Charters from a Governor of any of the Colonies, or on any other pretence whatever, shall take possession of, & constantly hold, exclusively, on the Fishing Coasts, either the Land and Coast with any Branch of the Fishery for Cod, Seal, or Salmon, together or seperately, or whether the whole shall remain open and free to our British Adventurers to enjoy their Priviledge of the first choice of Places Yearly for the Fisheries, according to the Rules prescribed by the Fishing Act, and the constant usage under that Act, For when the Colonists are once allow'd to come and take possession of, and constantly hold places, and enjoy exclusively under any pretence whatever, either the Coast or any Branch of the Fishery, or to have the first choice of places yearly, our British Adventurers will be robbed of all the necessary Encouragements and Preferences that are granted to them by the Fishing Act, which if not preserv'd to them, they are not on a Par with the Colonists, nor can we have any Fishery from Britain; upon this view of the case.—
After duly considering the trust repos'd in me, I consulted my Commission
under the great Seal, and my Instructions under His Majesty's Sign Manual for Authority to dispossess those monopolizing, smugling Settlers, and to annul those extraordinary grants, and for establishing Peace and good Order on that Coast.—
By both I found myself refer'd in all things respecting the Fishery, to the Act of the 10th & 11th of Willm 3d, without any exception or distinction respecting any part of my Government,—
I found myself strictly commanded not to do anything, nor to suffer anything to be done contrary or repugnant to the said Act.—
I likewise found myself authoriz'd in all things, not particularly provided for in my Commission and Instructions, to take present Order therein, and to report for His Majesty's Information my Proceedings, in order to receive His Ratification if Approv'd of.—
Hence I thought myself fully authoriz'd to annul all such charters, and to remove all Settlers under them, for it appear'd to me that nothing could possibly be more contrary or repugnant to the Act refer'd to, and to the
Priviledges thereby granted to British Fishers, and no Person but myself was authoriz'd to take present Order in such matters.—
How those Grants were originally obtain'd, and whether at any Expence to the Grantees I know not,—but relying on this Authority, on the rectitude of the Measures for the Benefit of the Publick, for fulfilling the intent of the Fishing Act, and on the receiv'd usage under the said Act, as well as the Customs of the Fishery for One Hundred Years before the passing that Act; I did annul those Charters and Grants, and determin'd to remove all the Settlers under them, and such of them as were within my reach, I did dispossess; I studied how to do this without damage or loss to them, and it was done to their real Profit instead of Loss, for they having no ship or Vessel there, I consulted with their Agent upon the Spot, and gave him my Opinion and Advice on everything he propos'd, and every possible Assistance was given him in doing what he thought best, and which was for the real profit, instead of loss to the Owners.—
As soon as it was known at Quebec, that I had dispossess* the Grantees of their Lands, they complain'd to Governor Murray, who had never recall'd those Grants; He told them, that he had reported for His Majesty's Information, an Account of his having issued them, and no disapproval thereof had ever been signified to him, and therefore in support of them he took Cognizance of their Complaint, and with his Council of that Province proceeded to examine into, and to adjust their Accounts in order to obtain Damages from me, and attested their Proceedings under their hands, so that I must consider this as a Suit of the Governor and Council of Quebec, with a few more Monopolists, against the Governor of Labrador and all British Fishers; it also appears that some of the Council of Quebec, were concern'd in those extraordinary
Grants; the Object of such a proceeding cannot be the benefit of the Trading part of His Majs Subjects, but it may answer some private purposes and be intended to intimidate me in the execution of my Duty, and to remove me from the King's Service, but His Majesty's Pleasure in this respect is the Law.—
Here I cannot avoid pointing out one flagrant inconsistency in this matter; The People who complain against me, are complainants also with many others in the Name of all the People of the Province of Quebec, against restraints on Trade, Monopolies & exclusive grants of tracts of Coasts and Islands to the prejudice of a free Fishery within Mr Murrays present Government, and yet they prosecute me for annulling such pernicious Grants made by him, within the Limits of my Government; and the Validity of them seem still to be supported at Quebec, the Complainants encouraged & assisted by the Proceedings of the Governor end Council there, to prosecute me for removing the Settlers under them from Their Possessions, and for putting those few Grantees on the same excluded footing (with respect to that Coast) as Governor Murray's Grants had before put all the rest of the People of his own Province and this was only for a very short time (vizt) from the end of one Season to the beginning of the other, that is till the Kings Pleasure could be known, and which was also a temporary and absolutely necessary expedient for establishing Peace and Order in a Country where no Government, Law or Regulation had yet taken place, and where War Repine, Robbery all sorts of Crimes and Enormities and the utmost Disorder and Confusion reign'd by mixt multitudes of Lawless Crews from all the neighbouring Colonies.
On my return to England in 1765, I found some of those Grantees arrived from Quebec Encouraged as aforementioned to prosecute me; They first represented to me that great damage had been done them in Labrador; I told them over and over again, that if by being dispossess'd of the Lands the smallest thing belonging to them on the Coast, had been embezzled or lost, or not accounted for to their satisfaction, I would see it made good, if they would let me know whet it was, but nothing would satisfy them without consequential damages for being remov'd from the Possessions granted to them by Governor Murray, and which they still continue to demand.—
After I left England in 1766 to return to my Government, they presented a Memorial of Complaint to His Majesty against me, which before my return to England His Majesty was pleas'd to dismiss, and the Complainants were refer'd by the Lord President to their Action at Law; Had it pleas'd His Majesty to have caus'd the matter to have been enquir'd into in Council,
I should most cheerfully have submitted to whatever might have been Judged proper, and it may be presumed the Complainants would have acquiesed; as they had chosen that method by way of appeal from my decision in a Matter relative to a Claim to Land and exclusive Priviledges within my Government, and upon which no Person but myself had Authority to decide in that Country, And the Complainants still say they wish it had been so decided, rather then by a long expensive Law Suit, but under the Circumstance of being already dismiss'd I know not how far it may be proper for me to apply for it. Yet if in strictness of Law it should be determined that those People are intitled to any damages, I will hope His Majesty will determine whether Mr Murray or I ought to Pay it, since he tho' Ignorant of the Nature of the Fisheries, of the Laws relating to them, and without the least shadow of Authority made those extraordinary and unlawfull grants, which was the occasion of, and made all my proceedings respecting the Coast of Labrador necessary, had
it not been for those grants the Fishery ther would have gone on in the proper and usual way, without any difficulty or troubld to me in the Execution of my duty—
When I return'd to England in December last, I found myself giving up to Vexatious and expensive Law suits in Westminister Hall, ye expence of which I can but ill afford to support, if it had pleas'd His Majesty to have indulged me with hearing in Answer to the Complaints before the Complainants had been advised to seek their remedy at Law, I trust I should havemade it appear that I have done nothing but what is agreeable to myInstructions, to the Fishery Laws, and consistant with the Duty of my Office for His Majesty's Service, and the benefit of his Subjects.—
I understand I am the first of His Majesty's Governors that has ever appear'd in Westminster Hall on such an occasion, therefore I must appear there insuch a light, as it will not be to His Majesty's Honour to continue me in his employ, however, if a total change in the mode of carrying on the Fisheries is to take place, and thereby the whole put into the Hands of the Colonists (which must be the consequence of my not being justified for putting a stop to this new Practice begun and Encouraged by ye Governor and Council of Quebec) I had rather it should be done under the sanction of an English Judge and Jury, than by an act, neglect or connivance in me.
I wish, not only on my own Account, but also on Account of Government (seeing that not only the Measures of Government and the Kings Instructions must be brought into Question) that the matter might have been heard at ye Council Board, conformable to what I am inform'd has been the constant Practice in the like cases, and comformable to the wishes of the complainants themselves, but since I am precluded from that usual mode of Proceeding, and that this matter which is more of a Political than Personal nature, must be submitted to the decision of a Court of Law, I must beg the favour of your Lordship to lay this my humlbe representation of my situation before the King, and to move His Majesty for leave to produce in Court my Commission and His Majesty's Instructions and (if I don't stand in a light unworthy of it) that he will be Graciously Pleas'd to order that I may have such Assistance from the Law Servants of the Crown, as shall appear to be necessary in a case in which the Publick Interest is no less concern'd, than my character and Conductas an Officer and Servant of the Crown.—
I am with the utmost respect
Most Obedient & most
London, 9th Feby 1767. L.S.
To The Right Honble the Earl of Shelburn, &ca &ca./
Endorsed:—London, Febry 9th 1767.