The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume IV

[18 Dec.,

For confirm-
ing and
securing all
lawful Claims
to Property
in Fishing

For encoura-
ging and
the Ship

p. 1858                          JOINT

No. 765.

[Enclosure in No. 763.]




         The first and most important National Object from the Fishery, as set forth in the Preamble to the said Act, is the raising and maintaining a Number of Seamen for speedy manning our Fleets in Times of Danger ; it therefore in the First Place provides for preserving, extending, and improving the Ship Fishery in Preference to all others, that being the ancient and by far the most if not the only advantageous Method to the Nation, therefore it grants to the Ship Fishers, and from Britain only, many and great exclusive Privileges; and in every Part of the Act relating to Inhabitants and Bye Boat Keepers, is a Clause for preserving inviolable to the Ship Fishers those Rights and Priveleges ; notwithstanding which the Ship Fishery is now wholly dropt and excluded by Encroachers and Monopolizers, the Inhabitants under Merchant Suppliers, by which every Rule and Order ordained by that excellent Act, for the Prosperity of the Fishery, is rendered ineffectual for the Purpose intended by it ; One Consequence of which is, the French employ more Ships, raise Ten Times the Number of Seamen, catch more Fish, and the Yearly Return of Men directly to England, from our exclusive and extensive Fishery, without Bounds, is scarce One Eighth Part of the Number that Yearly return directly to France from their Fishery, though limited to the worst Parts. This appears by the compared State of this Year's Accounts of Ships and Men employed by both, hereto annexed.
        We have, according to the Accounts I have collected, 16,000 People remaining in that Country during the Winter, but I am satisfied they are 20,000 of which 10,000 are Men who are all totally lost, for they (a very few excepted) have no Employment during the Winter, but live a most savage, detestable, wicked Life, spending their Time in Idleness, Debaucheries, and Excesses, and running in Debt on their next Year's Wages.

p. 1859

        As the Value of the Labour of Seamen is undoubtedly the greatest of all labouring Men, for Defence of the State or for bringing in Wealth from abroad, so Ten Thousand of them being lost to this Nation for either of those Purposes, during Six or Seven Months every Year, is alone a Matter deserving serious Consideration.
        These Inhabitants never become either good Fishermen or good Seamen; or if they were so, they are always out of Reach to be of Use for manning our Fleets on any Occasion, as effectually so as if they were taken and carried to a French Prison before a Declaration of War.
        Inhabitants such as above described are no Security to the Country, but the contrary ; for they always have and always will join an invading Enemy, as well from Necessity as Inclination, on such Occasions, and Three Fourths of them are Roman Catholicks.
        Those Inhabitants, besides being a Loss to this Country, are a Nuisance to that, particularly by their great Consumption of Wood for Fuel, causing a Scarcity thereof at Hand for the Use of the Fishery, and this lays the Country more and more open to an invading Enemy.
        By an Inhabitant Fishery, the Regulations in the Act for employing Green Men for the Increase of Fishermen and Seamen, is totally defeated ; nor have we such Increase, though the Public supposes it is our best Nursery ; nor can there be any Fishing Admirals of Harbours, consequently the Law, and all the Rules and Regulations, together with the Power of executing them, are in Effect superseded, and every National Good intended by the Law is defeated ; they are the unfittest People to be employed in the Fishery, being habituated to Idleness, Debaucheries, and Wickedness ; they are Strangers to the Mother Country, to Government, Religion, and good Order, which is the Mother of Labour and Industry, therefore they are neither laborious nor industrious, they have no Motive to be so, for they are no better than the Property or Slaves of the Merchant Suppliers, to whom, by exorbitant high Prices of their Goods, they are all largely in Debt, more than they can ever work out during Life ; they have hitherto had no Means of freeing themselves from that State of perpetual Servitude, therefore the Fishery still went on, though universally allowed to be Yearly declining. People doomed to perpetual Servitude are ever wishing for change of Masters, so when Men find an Opportunity of becoming free and independent, they will certainly embrace it ; therefore, now that the French have a Territory in the Midst of the Fishery, there is no Doubt but these People will fly there, as many have already done, with their Boats, Tackle, Fish and all, or become Fishers for them, beginning a fresh Score for Supplies with them, which great Numbers have already done ; thus the Fishery and Men also are on the Point of being lost, who will hereafter be wholly employed for the French both in Fishing and clandestine Trade, to the utter Ruin of our Trade and Fishery.
        The next most important National Object from the Fishery, as set forth in the Preamble to the Act, is to increase the Consumption of the Produce and Manufactories of this Kingdom, and for promoting Trade and Navigation.

p. 1860

How an Inhabitant Fishery operates in this Respect may be judged of from the following Facts :

        These 16 or 20 Thousand Inhabitants, as well as others employed in Fishery, are subsisted and supplied as follows :
From England      .      .

With a very small Quantity of     Provisions of any Kind, scarce     sufficient to victual the Men that     navigate the Ships for their Passage     out.

From Ireland       .      .

With almost all their Beef, Pork,     Butter, Linen, and some Manu-     factories clandestinely brought in.

From the Plantations   .

With all their Bread, Flour, Rum,     Sugar, Melasses, some Beef, Pork,     Pease, and sundry other Articles,     amounting the last Year to     £.102,304. 3s. full Nine Tenths of     which is immediately paid for in Bills     of Exchange upon England.

From Foreign Countries

A considerable Quantity of every     Kind of Goods and Manufactories     used in the Fisheries, as well from     the French as from other Countries,     brought by the Salt Ships ; besides     many Foreigners are concerned     with our People in the Shipping so     employed.

        The present Managers of the Fishery pay Wages, &c. with these Provisions, Necessaries, and Cloaths, at most exorbitant Rates ; thus the Wages, though nominally high, is reduced very low, the Men become their Property, and cannot get out of the Country, nor afford to wear but little Cloaths, especially as they are idle, and drink such immense Quantities of Rum, and thus they become averse to and unfit for Labour ; but were they to return to England Yearly, they would get all Necessaries and Cloaths from 1 to 500 per Cent. cheaper, as they would not be idle or running in Debt during Six or Seven Months ; but on the contrary, earning more Money, they would certainly become good industrious People, and expend more of the Produce and Manufactories of this Country ; besides 30,000 such Men passing and re-passing every Year, that alone would employ above 200 Ships more, which would also create an Increase of the Consumption of our Manufactories, and be an immense Encouragement to Shipping, Trade, and Navigation.
        The other great National Object from the Fishery, as set forth in the Preamble to the said Act, is by Returns for the Fifth from Foreign Countries, of great Quantities of sundry useful Commodities to the Increase of His Majesty's Revenues ; this Object is equally injured by an Inhabitant Fishery, they, for afore-mentioned Reasons, being neither laborious, industrious, nor

p. 1861

able Fishermen, there is not Half the Quantity of Fish taken as would be, it is not so well cured as it ought to be, which is the Cause of such great Quantities of bad Fish going to Market, which spoils the credit of English Fish, keeps the Prices low—consequently the Return, and the King's Revenue, is thereby proportionably lessened.
        Upon the Whole, if no Inhabitants were allowed, but the Fishery to be laid open and free to all the King's Subjects, and carried on by Ship Fishers, or even if the Ship Fishery was only restored to the original Footing, as directed by the Act of the 10th and 11th of William the Third, it most certainly would occasion double the Quantity of Fish to be taken, a Yearly Return of more Men to England than now returns to France; instead of Two or Three thousand Men, as at present, we should have, in Time of Danger, a Yearly Return of 30,000 always ready for our Fleets ; this Addition of Wealth and Strength to the State would always be increasing.
        The Fishery would certainly thereby be effectually secured, and so extended and improved, as would provide Employment for all our Men, and none need be seeking Employment in Foreign Countries : By this Method only all illicit Trade and Dealings of our People with the French and other Foreigners can be effectually prevented.
        The Consumption of the Produce and Manufactories of this Country, also Shipping Trade, and Navigation, would be greatly increased.
        More than double the Quantity of Fish would be taken, be better cured, carried to Market at a cheaper Rate, in better Condition, and fetch a better Price, to the great Increase of the Importation of useful Commodities, and of the King's Revenue.
        By encouraging our Ship Fishery to the Northward, the French Fishery there would be greatly lessened, as our People would share with them the exceeding fine Conveniences ready made (which they will not do, whilst they have Expectations of getting Property) ; and a Ship Fishery there, in common with the French, is agreeable to our own Laws, most for the Benefit of the Nation, and strictly agreeable to Treaty ; but to allow only an Inhabitant Fishery there, and our People to hold and possess as Property the Fishing Conveniences (which they are contending for, to the Exclusion of all Ship Fishers, as they have done in all other Parts of Newfoundland) will be contrary to our own Laws, contrary to the National Interest, and directly contrary to the Privileges granted by Treaty to the French; for Inhabitants will, in the Absence of the Ships, destroy all their Works, both English and French, then build new ones, and call them their own Property, and claim a Right to be protected therein.
        A few Monopolizers, whose particular Interests are incompatible with the true Interest and Security of the State, endeavour to have it believed, that to restore the Fishery to the State it ought to be, and as is provided by the Act of the 10th and 11th of William III. is impracticable ; but the following Proposals being duly considered, and improved by abler Heads, will provide effectual Cures for some, if not all the present Evils, without the least Injustice to any One.

p. 1862

        As the ancient and constant Custom by which an Person gained an exclusive Right of possessing any Fishing Conveniency ever was by a Certificate from the Governor or Commodore of the Convoy, that such Person had performed the Conditions required by the Proviso in the Act of the 10th and 11th of William III. to entitle him to such exclusive Possession, and those Certificates described the Situation and Dimensions of the Places for which they were granted, and set forth that due Proof had been laid before him by the Fishing Admirals of the Port (who by Law are the Guardians of their own Rights and Privileges) that the Place had never been a Ship's Room since the Year 1685, let it be ordered that all Persons holding Possession of any Place by virtue of such Certificates, shall, on or before the             Day of              produce such Certificates to the Governor, to be by him examined, and he, being satisfied of the Authenticness thereof, to enter them in a Book of Record, to be carefully kept for that Purpose in the Fort at St. John's, and a Copy with the Board of Trade ; and all Persons now possessing Places by virtue of such Certificates so produced and registered, to be confirmed in their Possessions, with all Works and Buildings thereon, according to the true Intent and Meaning of the Act.

        1st.    All Places whatever, that are not held by Certificates of a Right to possess them as above mentioned, should remain public and free for all British Fishing Ships, and be deemed Ships Rooms, according to the true Intent and Meaning of the Act, after the Death of the present Possessors, the present pretended Owners.

        2nd.    Whereas all the Land is in the Crown, and no Governor has ever been vested with Power to give or grant it away, it is necessary that the Proviso in the Act that says, “Provided always, that all such Persons as since the 21st of March 1685 has built, cut out, or made,” &c. should be farther explained as to the Nature of the Tenure by which Possession of a Fishing Conveniency is to be held under that Proviso of the Act ; (that is to say) whether such exclusive Possessions are to be only for Life of the original Proprietors, or whether they are to be considered as Real or Personal Estates, different Governors having determined Causes various Ways, which produces infinite Numbers of Disputes, to the great Obstruction of the Fishery ; causing great Expence and Loss of Time to those concerned, and to the Public, by a vast Number of good Places lying Waste because of such disputed and obsolete Claims.

        3rd.    That nothing but a Ship Fishery be permitted in that Part of Newfoundland lying between Cape Bonavista and Point Riche, or on any other Part of the Coast of Newfoundland that was not actually in the Possession of the English when the said Act was made, nor on the Coast of all the conquered Lands and Islands now annexed to the Government of Newfoundland; but that the Whole of the Act of the 10th and 11th of William III. be hereafter in full Force in those Lands and Islands, except



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