The Labrador Boundary

Privy Council Documents

Volume IV

Of the
or Superin-
of the

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what relates to exclusive Possessions under the afore-mentioned Proviso in that Act.

        4th.    For preventing any Fishing Conveniences being lost (as great Numbers now are) whether from Obsolete Claims, long Suits depending about the Rights and Titles, or from Idleness of some, or Inability or Obstinacy in others, let it be ordered, that notwithstanding any Right or Title that have or may be acquired to such Places under the abovementioned Proviso in the said Act, if any of those Places hereafter lie unoccupied or unused for the Fishery during One or Two Fishing Seasons, the same to be become public and free for the Use of all British Fishing Ships, and be deemed Ships Rooms.

        5th.    Conformable to the aforesaid Act, and according to ancient Custom, no Ship shall be deemed a Ship Fisher, or enjoy the Privileges thereto belonging, nor the Master exercise the Authority of an Admiral of a Harbour, except such as arrive from Britain, cleared out at the Custom House as such that Same Year, and employeth at least Twenty-one Men and Boys actually brought with her that Season, and who are engaged to return after the Fishery is over; and that occupieth and useth a public Ships Room, and not a hired One, or that is held and possessed as private Property.

        6th.    Whereas by sundry unlawful Practices of Inhabitants destroying the Stages, Flakes, and other Conveniences belonging to the Ship Fishers, during the Absence of the Ships in the Winter, the Ship Fishers have been ruined, and excluded from the Fishery, and those inhabitants become unlawful Possessors of all the old and best Fishing Conveniences, which by Law ought to be preserved for the Use of Ship Fishers only—let it be ordered, that in all Harbours where there are, or hereafter may be, any Ships Rooms, the same shall be inviolably preserved for the Use of Ship Fishers only ; and if any Damage is done to any such Stages, or other Conveniences thereto belonging, in the Winter during the Absence of the Ships, all the Inhabitants of that Place shall be obliged to make good such Damages immediately on the Arrival of the Fishing Ships ; and the Fishing Admirals of the respective Harbours to be authorised by Law to compel such Inhabitants to restore such Ships Rooms, and the Fishing Conveniences thereto belonging, into the same State and Condition in which they were left the preceding Season ; and till such Damages are so repaired, the Masters of such Fishing Ships to be authorized to occupy and use any Stage or Room possessed by any Inhabitant in that Harbour, that he pleases to make Choice of ; for the Ship Fishers, according to the above-mentioned Act, must never be disappointed of their Voyage, where there is or ever was any lawful Ships Rooms.

        7th.    All Admirals transmitting to the Governor or Commodore a Report of the State of their Fisheries in their respective Harbours, as directed by the Act of the 10th and 11th of William III. on producing from

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the Governor or the Captain of any of the King's Ships a Certificate of the Receipt thereof, such Admiral Ships should be entitled to some Privilege or Reward ; printed Forms for such Reports to be delivered gratis to every Fishing Ship when she clears out at the Custom House in Britain.

        No Laws, Rules, or Regulations that ever have or can be made for such People as the present Inhabitant Fishers of Newfoundland are, will ever be of any Use, without Pains and Penalties being annexed to Offences against those Laws.
        The encouraging and obliging the Men to return Yearly to England.

        1st.    The greatest Part of the Fishermen now residing in the Country, called Planters or Master Boat Keepers, are a Kind of Prisoners or Slaves to their Suppliers, who, to prevent their Return, threatened them with a Gaol for Debt ; which Debts have been contracted by shameful Impositions and Oppressions, for the Purpose of keeping them there. Those Creditors know it is not possible ever to be paid those debts in Newfoundland ; nor are those Debts, if they were to be strictly examined into, either lawful or just. Suppose it should be enacted, that all such Fishermen so in Debt at this Time, contracted there, who may hereafter return from Newfoundland to Britain, should be exempt from Arrest for such Debts so long as they continue to go to and return from Newfoundland Yearly to Britain.

        2nd.    No Debt whatever contracted in that Country by any Fisherman, or Servant serving for Wages, should be recoverable.

        3rd.    It is the Practice of Inhabitants to engage men to serve Two Summers and a Winter : It should not be lawful for any Men to bind themselves to serve in that Country for more than Six Months, or for One Fishing Season.

        4th.    It is the general Practice of Masters to credit their Fishermen Servants to the Amount of their whole Wages, above Half of which is most commonly Rum : Thus, when their Time is out, they are distressed, and necessitated to stay, having nothing to pay their Passage ; they must steal for their Subsistence, or sell themselves to the Plantations, which Thousands do from this Cause.

        5th.    For Remedy of these Evils, no Deductions from any Servants Wages for Liquor should be lawful, nor for Supplies of any other Kind in Newfoundland exceeding            Shillings.

        6th.    Every Master should by Law be obliged to pay, out of the Wages of each Man he employs, the Passage Money for the Man's Passage Home to the Master of a Passage Ship, in the same Manner as by Custom they now pay for the Passage out of any Man they hire on his Arrival. This Encouragement to Ships will make a certain Provision of a sufficient Number of Ships to carry all the Men Home ; but now from the Uncertainty of getting such Freights very few Ships put up for Passengers Home.

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        7th.    No Dietors, or People who entertain Fishermen or Servants in the Country in the Winter, on the Credit of their Wages, should be allowed in Newfoundland ; all such Men, as well as their Entertainers, being Idlers, and a Public Loss.

        8th.    As farther Encouragement for Shipping to bring Home Men from the Fisheries, suppose that every Ship bringing Home at the least Men Passengers from the Fisheries was to be entitled to some Privileges ; such as, in Times of Press, such Ships to be allowed a certain Number of Men free from Press, in the same Manner, and for the same good Purposes, as the Greenland Ships have now by Act of Parliament, for the Encouragement of that Trade, a Protection for a certain Number of Men. Masters of Ships to be entitled to such Protections, on producing what may be judged a proper Certificate of the exact Number of Men he has actually landed in Britain, or in His Majesty's Dominions in Europe : Thus the exact Number returning will be nearly known.

        9th.    As a farther Security for the Return of the Men, let it be unlawful to pay any Servant's Wages in Newfoundland otherways than by Bills of Exchange for the Balance due, such Bills to be drawn payable to the Man only; but to make such Bills negociable, they may be payable to the Man's Order, provided he indorses it after landing in the King's Dominions in Europe, in the Presence of a Justice of the Peace, such Justice attesting such Indorsement: A Form of the Bills to be used for this Purpose to be annexed to the Act.

         The Prosperity of the Fishery requires, in all Disputes and Differences, short, speedy, and unexpensive Issues; and the Act of the 10th and 11th of William III. directs, that certain Disputes and Differences shall be determined on the Spot, in a summary Way, by the Admirals, appealable to the Captains of the King's Ships. But under the present Management of the Fisheries there are no Admirals for hearing and determining such Matters; which is the Occasion of many endless Disputes, to the great Obstruction of the Fishery, and Loss to the Public. It is therefore absolutely necessary to restore the Ship Fishery, to renew, support, and extend the Admirals Powers ; but no Admirals, no Captains of King's Ships, no Commodore nor Governor, should meddle in any Matters but what are purely relative to the Fishery, for preventing Obstructions thereto, for preserving the Peace, keeping good Order amongst the Fishermen, and for immediate Trial of Capital Offences; but all Matters of Disputes amongst Merchants concerning their Accounts, or Matter relative to Trade, should be heard and determined only in Britain. This will prevent People staying in the Country ; also remedy such incredible Practices of Knavery and unfair Dealings as no Trade whatever can prosper under, and which cannot otherways be remedied.
        When the Fishing Admiral's lawful Authority is restored and supported, and the Country cleared of a Number of idle Men in the Winter, there will be

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no Want of Justices of the Peace. It is they that have put an End to the Ship Fishery, by not suffering the Fishing Admirals to act in the respective Harbours ; and such Justices being all People concerned in Trade, they use their Authority for no other Purpose but to favour Monopoly, and are guilty of the most shameful Partialities and Injustices, to the very great 'Prejudice of the Fishery.
        To prevent the great Loss to the Fishery and to the Public by so many Men running from that Country to the Plantations every Year, let it be ordered that no Vessels belonging to, or bound to or arriving from any of the Plantations, shall be allowed to stay in any Part of the Government of Newfoundland after the 10th Day of October, on which Day the Fishermen are usually discharged ; nor any such Vessel be permitted at any Time to take on Board any Men Passengers without a Permit in Writing from the Governor only, on Forfeiture of such Vessels having on Board more Men than for their Navigation, at the Rate of        Men per Hundred Tons. This will also prevent any People from the Colonies coming to Newfoundland to carry on the Fisheries, to the Prejudice of the British Merchants and Shipping, contrary to the Meaning of the Fishing Act.

                      *                 *                 *                 *

        Notwithstanding far the greatest and best Parts of the Fishing Coast belongs exclusively to the English, and the French are limited, and to the worst Parts, whilst ours is without Bounds.
        That France has a certain Yearly Increase of 2,670 Seafaring Men from their Fishery, whilst we lose One or Two thousand that run away every Year to America, and no Rule observed for increasing our Seamen, or preventing the Fishermen and Seamen running to America.
        That the French Fishermen kill as much Fish per Man as our Inhabitants, notwithstanding our boasted Advantage of carrying it on by Inhabitants. It must also be noted, that in the Limits to which the French are confined between Cape Bonavista and Point Riche, they have scarce Half the Time for catching Fish that our People have to the Southward, where the Fish is equally abundant during that double Time for catching and curing.
        That great Part of the Fishing Conveniencies on the prime Part of the Coast for Fishing is lost, by the Inhabitants possessing them, as Property ; few or none of them employing Half the Number of Boats and Men as Ship Fishers would on the same Places, besides the many Conveniencies that lie Waste, because of the infinite Number of disputed Claims to Places which none of them can make out a Right to, being originally Ships Rooms ; yet they exclude the Ships.
        That in those Harbours to the Northward, where we have this Year had a few Fishing Ships, those Ships who brought out their own Men killed Two Thirds as much more Fish as our Inhabitant Fishers in the same Harbours : This Gain in the Quantity of Fish is, I apprehend, greater and more certain Profit to those concerned and to the Public, than what is got by peddling

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monopolizing Trade of supplying a few slothful miserable Wretches for the Winter's Subsistence, and in Idleness ; besides, the Employers of the Men in Ships would always likewise have the Benefit of supplying them at Home, by which the Men will get their Necessaries cheaper, consequently Wages then will fall, and they will expend no Foreign Manufactories.
        Thus it appears the Public would be a very great Gainer, though no more Men than at present should be employed ; but if the Fishery was to be laid open and free to all His Majesty's Subjects, as by Law it ought to be, the Ship Fishers encouraged, supported, and restored to their Privileges, there would be so many more Places, so much more Time, and so many more and better Men employed, as would, without the least Doubt, cause double the Quantity of Fish to be taken ; consequently the Public Gain, and the King's Revenue, would be doubled, besides the far more important Acquisition of 30,000 Men, in constant Readiness to Man our Fleets for Security of the State ; and give us such a noble Superiority over our Enemies or Rivals, as would be a certain Means of preventing War : But whilst the French manage their Fishery so well, and we ours so ill, they will always be able to harass us with fresh Wars every Four or Five Years.
        On the Fishery on the Coast of Labrador, within the Gulph of St. Lawrence only, was employed 117 Sloops and Schooners, with 1,563 Men, who killed 104 Whales, which yielded on an Average 140 Barrels of Oil, and 2,000 Weights of good Bone, all killed within a Space of 30 Leagues, and between 14th May and 10th July. The Winter Seal Fishery on the same Coast, carried on by 107 Men, yielded 500 Tons of Oil, besides Fur ; and the Furs from the Indians was very considerable ; so that the Value of the Whale, Seal, Cod, Salmon, and Furs, upon that Part of the Coast only, was at a moderate Computation £.100,000, and not One Old England Ship or Seaman employed therein, nor a Seaman raised thereby for the Service of the Fleet— Such is the Effect of letting the Newfoundland Fishery run into Monopoly, that the rest of our Merchants, if they cannot have a Monopoly likewise, will let the New England Men, or Frenchmen, or any Body run away with it.
        The New England Men sell the Fish, Oil, and Bone to the French at Petit Nord : The Settlers from Canada all deal with the French at Newfoundland, St. Pierre's, and directly with France.

                                             (Signed) HUGH PALLISER
                                                      18th Decemr 1765.
         Office of Committee of
         Privy Council for Trade,        A true Copy.
      Whitehall, 11th March 1793.
                                                           GEO. CHALMERS,                                                                         Chf Ck Com. Cl Trade.



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