p. 1848                                  C



No. 763.

EXTRACT FROM A REPRESENTATION OF THE LORDS OF TRADE TO HIS MAJESTY,

RELATING TO THE NEWFOUNDLAND TRADE AND FISHERY.



C.O. 195.   VOL. 9, p. 397.

To the King's most excellent Majesty.
        May it please Your Majesty,
                  As the Fisheries of Newfoundland and of the Territories dependent thereupon, which have been added to Your Majesty's Dominion by the definitive Treaty of Paris, are of the greatest Importance to the Commerce and Navigation of these Kingdoms, We thought it our Duty the last Year, upon Your Majesty's Appointment of Captain Pallisser to be Governor of that Island, and of the said Territories, to form his Instructions in such manner as, joined to the Confidence we had in that Gentleman's Ability, gave us reasonable Ground to hope for the fullest Information of the true State of the said Fisheries, in the carrying on of which it appeared, that many great Irregularities and Disorders had prevailed ; nor have we been disappointed in the Expectations we had entertained by the Conduct of Your Majesty's Governor on this Occasion, whose Attention to the due Execution of those Parts of his Instructions, which regard immediately the State of the Island and of the Fishery of Your Majesty's Subjects, is no less deserving of Your Majesty's favourable Notice, than that which he has shown to the more delicate and difficult Parts of those Instructions, for his Proceedings on which We humbly beg Leave to refer to our Representations of the 11th of Decemr last and of the 16th instant.
        It would be mispending Your Majesty's Time to trouble Your Majesty with a Recital of all the Facts mentioned, and the Observations suggested in the Letters we have received from Captain Pallisser, and in his Answers to the several Queries contained in his Instructions ; and therefore we shall content ourselves for the present with representing to Your Majesty, what appears to be the general State of this important Branch of the Commerce of Your Majesty's Kingdoms, resulting from those Facts and Observations, which have been Collected with greater Exactness, and are stated with more Accuracy and Precision, than, will, we conceive, be found in former Returns.
        It would be equally unnecessary to enter at present into a minute Detail of the Newfoundland Fishery in the early Times of its Establishment, and

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in its progressive State, as Your Majesty will find every Circumstance relative thereto, already fully set forth and enlarged upon by our Predecessors in Office in a Representation made to His Majesty King George the first in the Year 1718: in which Representation many Facts are stated and Arguments deduced therefrom, and several Propositions submitted, which we apprehend will be very worthy of Attention, whenever it shall be found necessary to go into a Consideration of those Measures, which it may be ultimately proper to pursue in Respect to this Fishery in every part of it.
        It may however be necessary briefly to premise, that for more than a Century after the first Discovery of Newfoundland and the Establishment of its Fisheries, the Opinions of Government as to the most advantageous Plan of carrying it on for the national Benefit, appear to have been very unsettled ; wavering between two different and in some Measure adverse Propositions vizt either the planting the Island and establishing a civil Government, and thereby encouraging a promiscuous Fishery ; or the discouraging Inhabitancy, and thereby confining the Fishery entirely to Ships fitted out from these Kingdoms : and thus by some times adopting and pursuing the one, and some times the other, as different Interests prevailed, the Nation lost many Advantages, which would have been derived to it, had either one or the other of the Propositions been firmly and uniformly pursued.
        The Attention, which was given after the happy Revolution to those Measures, which might most effectually promote and extend the Commerce of Great Britain, necessarily introduced an Examination into the State of this important Branch of that Commerce ; and, after a full Discussion of the two different Propositions, which had been before alternately pursued, in respect to the Mode of carrying on the Fishery, the latter was, though not without great Difference of Opinion, adopted; and those Regulations for the Management of it, which had been in former Reigns prescribed by Charters from the Crown, were, with some small Alterations, enacted into Law by the Statute of the 10th and 11th of William the third.
        As that Act was however soon followed by a War between England and France, it was difficult to judge with Precision of the Effect of it under such a Circumstance of accidental Discouragement to the Trade : But it is evident from the Returns of the number of Ships employed in the Fishery from Great Britain, not only during the War but for several Years after the Peace of Utrecht, that the Act had not the Effect to restore the Ship-Fishery, which we conceive to have been the principal Object of it ; This is nevertheless not to be wondered at, seeing that, however perfect and complete the Regulations of the Act may be as to many Points, yet the Observance of them is not enforced by any Penalty or Mode of Prosecution ; nor, if it were, do any of them directly operate to the restraining that Inhabitancy, which had, for many Years, been gradually increasing to the Prejudice of the Ship-Fishery, and which Inhabitancy does in its Consequences contradict and counteract those Principles upon which the Act appears to have been formed ; But the Circumstance relative to this Act which has of all others most directly tended to defeat the intention of it, and subvert the System it means to

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encourage, is that Proviso in it, by which it is enacted, “that all such Persons, as since the Year 1685 have built, cut out, or made, or shall at any Time thereafter build, cut out or make any Houses, Stages, Cook-rooms, Train-Fats or other Conveniences for fishing there, that did not belong to fishing Ships since the said Year 1685 shall and may peaceably and quitely enjoy the same to his or their own Use without any Disturbance of or from any Person or Persons whatsoever ;” which Proviso will we conceive upon a View of the other Regulations of the Act appear to be a direct Contradiction of them.
        It is true indeed, that as long so the Fishery of the British. Subjects was confined to that small Part of the Island, which was in the Possession of Your Majesty's Royal Predecessors antecedent to the Treaty of Utrecht, this Proviso neither had nor could have any great Effect to the Prejudice of the Ship Fishery ; because in that Part of the Island most of the Places in the several Harbours, which afforded Conveniencies of Beach and Flake for the Fishery, were and actually had been for many Years prior to the enacting of that Regulation, occupied by the Owners of the fishing Ships from England under the former Establishment ;—But when the Fishery, by the Cession of the whole Island of Newfoundland at the Treaty of Utrecht, came to be extended to Placentia, and all the Southern Parts of the Island, and might have been, though it was not till after the Commencement of the last War, extended to every Part, it was evident, admitting, as it is contended by some Persons, that the Act does extend to the whole Island, what the Effect of this Proviso must be in Places where no fishing Ships from England had any such Possession as the Act supposes, and consequently where all the Places most convenient for the Fishery, would be, as they actually have been, in many Parts, engrossed and claimed by Inhabitants and By-boat-Keepers to the Exclusion of the Ship Fishery, not only of Your Majesty's Subjects, but also of those of France intitled under the Treaties of Utrecht and Paris to a concurrent Fishery between Bonavista and Point Riche ; such Inhabitants or By-boat-Keepers pretending a Right to acquire unlimited Property, not only under the Proviso of the Act, but also under Grants from preceding Governors of the Island.
        It appears however to be the Opinion of your Majesty's Servants in the Law, which Opinion is hereunto annexed, that the Act of King William was not meant to extend to those parts of the Island that were not in Possession of the Crown of Great Britain at the Time the Act was made ; if therefore Your Majesty shall think proper to adopt this Opinion, it is our Duty, in order not only to avoid Disputes between Your Majesty's Subjects and those of France in carrying on the concurrent Fishery ; but to prevent vexatious and expensive Litigations among your Majesty's Subjects, several Instances of which already appear in Westminster Hall, most humbly to recommend, that Your Majesty's Governor should be instructed not to allow any exclusive Possession to be taken of any Lands, Rivers or Islands, as private Property, in the northern Parts of Newfoundland, upon Pretence of the aforesaid Proviso in the Act of Parliament, or of Grants from Governors, who never had any

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Authority by their Commission to make such Grants ; and that he take Care, that the fishing Ships do choose their Stations as they respectively arrive, and do take up, subject to his Controul, such Space only of Beach as shall be proportioned to the .number of their Boats ; conformable to the Directions of the Act of King William in respect to those Parts of the Coast, which were in Possession of the Crown of Great Britain at the Time the Act was passed, and to which Your Majesty's Servants in the Law seem to confine the Extent of it in the before mentioned Opinion.
        We most humbly desire however, that it may not be understood from what we have said on this Subject, that we mean to declare an Opinion, or take upon us to decide, that this Act of King William is, either in its general Principles or particular Regulations, adapted to the present State of the whole Island of Newfoundland and the Territories dependent upon it, we have been induced to recommend this Instruction to Your Majesty for the present, as it appears to us necessary to prevent the Inconveniences, which might result from the before mentioned Proviso in the Act applying itself to a particular part of the Fishery under particular Circumstances.
        The Consideration of what may be ultimately proper to be done for establishing the whole of this valuable Branch of the national Commerce arid Possessions upon such a Basis, and under such Regulations, as that Your Majesty's Subjects may derive all the Advantages they are capable of affording, is of very great Extent, and depends upon a great Variety of Facts and Circumstances, which have as yet been but little known or understood ; and therefore it will be our Duty to proceed to lay before your Majesty as briefly as possible, what appears to be in general the present State of the Island of Newfoundland, of the Territories lately annexed thereto, and of the Fisheries belonging to each respectively, according to such Returns and Informations as we have received from Your Majesty's Governor ; to the End that Your Majesty may be the better enabled to form a Judgement upon the whole.
        It will already have appeared to Your Majesty from what we have before stated, that, antecedent to the passing the Act of the 10th and 11th of William the third, the Fishery of Newfoundland had by a gradual Increase of Inhabitants begun to vary from the Plan upon which it had been originally established, and was become in part a sedentary Fishery ; and though it is evident, that this Act was intended to check this Deviation, and to restore the antient System ; yet it is as evident, that partly from the Impropriety of some of the Regulations, partly from the Want of Penalties to enforce them, and partly from the Ignorance, Neglect and Inattention of those, to whom the Execution of them and the Superintendency of the Fishery were entrusted, it had little or no Effect ; few or none of the Rules and Regulations were observed ; and, the Masters of Ships, which carried out Passengers from this Kingdom and from Ireland, either not having Power to oblige them to return, or perhaps not finding it their Interest to bring them back when the fishing Season was over, the Practice of their remaining there began, and has continued, and gradually encreased to the Extent at which it is at present arrived.

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        It is difficult to ascertain with Precision the present Number of Inhabitants having constant Residence in Newfoundland : but from the best Accounts we have been able to collect it cannot be less than fifteen thousand, including Men Women and Children ; and from the Report made to us by Your Majesty's Governor of the State of the Island, and of the Condition and Employment of these People, it appears, “That the greatest Part of them are Roman
Catholicks ;”
        “That they are under no Controul of any regular civil Government, except what arises from the ineffectual Establishment of Justices of the Peace, who oftener use their Authority for their own private Interest than the publick Welfare.
        “That, except at St. John's, they have not any where the necessary Offices of Religion administred to them ; but live in the most Savage State, abandoning themselves to every Species of Debauchery and Extravagance, which such a Condition must necessarily introduce.
        “That for seven Months in the Year there is not Employment for a tenth Part of these Inhabitants ; and that consequently they spend that Time in Idleness, and subsist for the greatest Part by Robbery, Theft, and every Species of Violence and Wickedness.
        “That they burn and destroy great Quantities of Wood growing near the several Harbours, which ought to be preserved for Building, and repairing Boats, Storehouses, Stages, Cookrooms, and other Structures essentially necessary to the Fishery.
        “That they are principally, if not altogether, supplied with Provisions, (Beef, Pork and Butter excepted, which are supplied from Ireland,) and also with Rum, Sugar, Molasses, and many other Articles of necessary Consumption from the other Plantations, to the Amount of more than double in Value what they take from this Kingdom ;
        “That these as well as all other Articles of Importation are engrossed by a few opulent Merchants, Store Keepers, and considerable Boat Keepers, who retail them to the rest of the Inhabitants, and to those they employ under them in the Fishery at exorbitant Prices ; by which means they keep them poor and in Debt, and dependent upon them ; and that these Merchants, Storekeepers and Boat Keepers, in Order to secure the Produce of the Labour of the poor Inhabitants to themselves, press their Goods upon them in advance for that Produce, so that they contract Debts without a Possibility of paying them ; and thus mortgaging the Fish before it is caught, their only Study is how to defraud their Creditors, contract fresh Debts with other Merchants, and so become indifferent about prosecuting their Fishery ; and if they do prosecute it, it is only to sell their Fish clandestinely to others for immediate Supplies or to the French.
        “That the Inhabitants under these Circumstances of Oppression, and deprived of every View of bettering their Condition, become abandoned to

[1927lab]




 

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