p. 1868 C
1775. IMPERIAL ACT, 15 GEO. III., CAP. 31
(SIR HUGH PALLISER'S ACT ).
Vide Vol. I, page 257.
No. 767. C
COPY OF THE REPORT OF THE LORDS OF THE COMMITTEE OF PRIVY COUNCIL FOR TRADE,
ON THE SUBJECT OF THE NEWFOUNDLAND FISHERY;
DATED 17 MARCH, 1786.
PAPERS RELATING TO NEWFOUNDLAND, 1718-1793.
Your Majesty having been pleased, by Your Order in Council, dated th 9th of December last, to refer unto the Committee the following Question : “Whether any of the Provisions or Regulations proposed in a Bill brought into the House of Commons, in the last Session of Parliament, for amending and rendering more effectual an Act made in the Fifteenth Year of His present Majesty, intituled, 'An Act for the Encouragement of the Fisheries carried on from Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Dominions in Europe, and for securing the Return of the Fishermen, Sailors, and others employed in the said Fisheries to the Ports thereof, at the End of the Fishing Season; and for repealing certain Provisions in the said Act relative to the said Fisheries,' will contribute to the Improvement and Encouragement of the Fisheries carried on by His Majesty's Subjects at Newfoundland?”
The Committee have taken this extensive Subjet under their Considerations, and have called for such Papers as appeared to them to be necessary for their Information; they have heard the principal Merchants of Poole and Dartmouth, being the Persons chiefly concerned in the Newfoundland Fishery ; and the Committee have examined several of Your Majesty's Officers, who have either commanded or served upon the Newfoundland Station, as well as Your Majesty's Naval and revenue Officers of the said Island, and such other Persons as, in the Judgement of the Committee, were likely to give any Information upon the Subject referred to their Consideration.— And the Committee having persued and considered a Representation of the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, made to his Majesty King George the First in 1718, which gives a very full Account of the State of the Newfoundland Fishery, previous to that Period, and of the Policy which
the Government and Legislature of this Kingdom had from the First Establishment of that Fishery adopted and pursued in respect to this great Object—do concur in general in the Opinions entertained by the said Lords Commissioners on the following Points :
FIRST. That the Newfoundland Fishery ought to be carried on as much as possible by Ships fitted out from Your Majesty's European Dominions ; that by the Yearly Return of the Sailors and Fishermen to the said Dominions, Your Majesty may have it in Your Power to avail Yourself of their Services for manning Your Royal Navy, when Occasion may require.
SECONDLY. That Your Majesty's Subjects who may from Time to Time reside in Newfoundland, ought never to be allowed to form themselves into a Colony, and with that view to possess in Fee any Landed Property there.
THIRDLY. That the Shores of Newfoundland, the Beaches, and other convenient Fishing Places, ought to be-carefully reserved for the Accommodation of Your Majesty's Subjects, resorting thither from Your Majesty's European Dominions, for the Purpose of carrying on the said Fishery.
And FOURTHLY. That Your Majesty's Subjects who so resort Annually to the said Island of Newfoundland should be induced and compelled, by every wise and proper Regulation, to return to Your Majesty's European Dominions at the End of every Fishing Season. But with respect to this last Point, the Committee think it proper to observe, that from a Change of Circumstances it may now be beneficial to the Fishery, that a certain Number of Persons shall be suffered to remain on the said Island after the Fishing Season, for the Purpose of taking Care of the Fishing Stages, Boats, and other Necessaries for the Fishery, and to make Preparations for the ensuing Season, as our Fishermen will be thereby enabled to commence their Fishery at a more early Period, and have in consequence thereof an Advantage over other Nations who are our Rivals the said Fishery ; but the Committee are of Opinion, that, in true Policy, the Number so suffered to remain should not exceed the Number absolute necessary for the above Purposes.
The Committee are, however, of Opinion, from the most satisfactory Proofs, that the Number of Persons who at present usually remain during the Winter in Newfoundland is much greater than sufficient for the useful Purposes before-mentioned, as appears by the Paper N° 1, hereunto annexed, as well as by other Information they have received ; and that if proper Measures are not taken to prevent it, they are likely to increase.
The Committee having premised these several Points, will now proceed to submit to Your Majesty their Opinion on the Clauses of the Bill proposed to Parliament in the last Session, and they will deliver their Opinion on the several Clauses, not in the Order in which they stand in the said Bill, but in such Order as best corresponds with the Principles before stated.
The SECOND, THIRD, and FOURTH CLAUSES of the proposed Bill are avowedly intended to vest Part of the Shores and Soil of Newfoundland in
the Present Occupiers, to be held in Fee Simple, and thereby to transfer to Individuals, for private Purposes, what ought to be reserved in common for a great National Good. The Shores and Soil of that Island would thus become subject to all the Rules of Ownership. The Proprietor might employ his Estate either in carrying on the Fishery, or in a Manner less beneficial to the Public. If very opulent, he might by Purchases engross many of the Fishing Places ; and by the Exclusion of others, obtain Advantages contrary to the general Interest of the Fishery ; or he might become insolvent, and incapable of carrying on a Fishery. The Shores so appropriated would immediately create Disputes, either about Boundaries or Titles, which would produce Law Suits, where there are no proper Judicatures for the Decision of them. The Number of Residents would be increased, and a Colony would be insensibly formed, which would by Degrees deprive Your Majesty's European Subjects of any Share in this Fishery. Upon this Question of Property, the Committee thought it right to consult Your Majesty's Law Officers, that the Committee might know how far Your Majesty's Subjects may have acquired any Right whatsoever, by Aquiescence or otherwise, in the Shores and Soil of Newfoundland ; and whether it might be safe for Your Majesty's Governor to order any Buildings or Fences that obstruct the carrying on the Fishery to be pulled down and removed; and also to order the Inhabitants of the said Island of Newfoundland to remove from any Spot which they now occupy or may claim for the Purpose of Residence, under any Pretence whatever, in case he shall be of Opinion that such Spot may be convenient for extending and carrying on the Fishery. And having received the Report of the said Law Officers upon the Questions so referred to them, the Committee have annexed the same in the Appendix, N° 2, to which they presume humbly to refer Your Majesty ; and they advise Your Majesty to give Your Governor of Newfoundland the following Instructions on this Subject :
FIRST. That the ancient Ship Rooms and Fishing Rooms should continue under the Provisions of the Act of Parliament passed in the 10th and 11th Years of the Reign of King William, Cap. 25, for the Encouragement of new Adventurers, that they may be sure of finding proper and convenient Places for curing, salting, drying, and husbanding their Fish, whenever they resort thither.
SECONDLY. That the remaining Shores of Newfoundland should be held by such of Your Majesty's Subjects, resorting thither from Your Majesty's European Dominions, as shall first take Possession of them, for the Purpose of carrying on the Fishery, in proportion to the Number of Ships and Boats they shall employ ; and that they shall continue to hold the same for the like Purposes, and in like Manner, so long as they shall carry on their Fishery there ; but that in case they shall neglect so to carry on their Fishery there for One entire Season, such Shores, or Parts thereof, as shall be so neglected or deserted, shall be held for the like Purpose and in like Manner, by any other of Your Majesty's Subjects resorting thither from Your Majesty's European Dominions, who shall first occupy the same for the Purpose of carrying on
the Fishery, and that the Governor should put and maintain such Person or Persons in Possession thereof.
THIRDLY. That the Governor should not suffer any Buildings to be erected (except Fishing Stages, Cook Rooms, Ship Rooms, and Flakes, or such Erections as shall be absolutely necessary for curing, salting, drying, and husbanding their Fish) within Six hundred Yards distance of High Water Mark, and that Care should be taken that no Right of Property be acknowledged in any Land or Building, even beyond that Distance.
FOURTHLY. That the Governor may suffer any Buildings, Erections Wharfs, Slips, or Fences already erected, to remain, provided they are not built or erected upon ancient Ship Rooms or Fishing Rooms, and provided they shall not in his Judgment be considered as Nuisances, and detrimental to the Interest of the Fishery in general ; and such as in his Judgment are Nuisances, and detrimental to the Interest of the Fishery in general, he shall cause to be removed, after due and reasonable Notice, and in a Manner to expose the Parties to as little Inconvenience as possible.
The SEVENTH CLAUSE of the Bill is avowedly intended to repeal those Parts of the Act, passed in the 15th Year of Your Majesty's Reign, which had wisely provided for the Return of the Fishermen at the End of every Season, by reserving the Payment of One Half of their Wages till after their Return. On this Regulation principally depends the Hope the Committee entertains of bringing back the Fishermen to Your Majesty's European Dominions at the End of each Season. If it be repealed, the Fishermen would not only lose this Inducement for their Return, but it would serve as an Encouragement to great Expence and dissolute Living during their Continuance in Newfoundland, to the manifest Detriment of the Fishery ; the Fishermen would thereby become liable to great Impositions, and might be made to pay exorbitant Prices for every Article they purchase there. In any other Trade but this, it is the Interest of the Master of a Vessel to advance to his Seamen as little during the Voyage as possible, for the better securing their Service in navigating the Vessel till her Return to Port. In that of Newfoundland, the Case is frequently the Reverse : It appears in Evidence, that in general the Half of a Fisherman's Wages is sufficient for his Expence during his Continuance at Newfoundland. It is true, however, that in the Case of Boys or Green Men, who may not receive above the sum of £ . 7. 10s. for their Voyage, the Half may not always be sufficient for their Cloathing. The Committee are therefore of Opinion, that the said Clause of the Bill may be so far amended, as to allow a Sum not exceeding £ . 5 . 10s. to be advanced to Green Men and Boys, though it amounts to more than Half their Wages ; provided the Master continues equally bound to bring back such Green Men and Boys at the End of the Season.
The EIGHTH CLAUSE of the Bill is evidently calculated to repeal another Part of the Act of the 15th Year of Your Majesty's Reign, which makes the Whole of the Fish and Oil taken liable to the Payment of the Wages of the
Seamen or Fishermen by whom it is taken or made. This Regulation only puts the Seamen and Fishermen employed in the Newfoundland Fishery upon the same Footing with all other Seamen employed in the British Commerce, for the Payment of whole Wages the Vessel and Cargo are in every Instance liable. The Fisherman of Newfoundland is doubly entitled to the same Security, as by his Labour and Industry the Whole of the Property made liable for his Wages is produced. By subjecting the Whole, as the Law now does, to the Payment of Wages, no Inconvenience can arise, either to the Employer or Fisherman, for as soon as such Employer or Merchant Supplier (being solvent, and his Bills negotiable) becomes bound to pay the Fisherman's Wages in England, the Whole of the Fish and Oil are of course delivered to him, and at his Disposal ; all Parties are perfectly secure ; the Employer or Merchant Supplier has the Fish properly cured before it is shipped for a Market ; and the Fisherman has no Pretence for Neglect of Duty, having a responsible Person to pay him for his Labour ; so that the Alteration pro-posed in this Clause would be no more for the Interest of any of the Parties concerned than for the Advantage of the Public.
* * * *
The SIXTH CLAUSE of the proposed Bill is calculated to give to Oil, Blubber, and Seal Skins, made or caught by Persons residing in Newfoundland, the same Preference with respect to Duties, as is given to those Articles made or caught by Vessels owned by Subjects residing in Your Majesty's European Dominions. It has always been the Policy of the Legislature of this Kingdom, to encourage the Fisheries carried on by Policy Majesty's Subjects residing in Europe, by allowing these Articles, when made and caught by them, to be imported Duty-free, while the like Articles made and caught by Your Majesty's Subjects, residing in Your Foreign Dominions, were liable to a small Duty, and the same Articles imported from Foreign Countries paid a very high Duty, calculated to promote and encourage the Fisheryies of Your Majesty's Sugjects in general. This Policy is sufficiently proved by referring to the several Acts passed for these Purposes, and which are mentioned in the Margin. And it is still more necessary not to depart from these Distinctions with respect to Newfoundland, as it would thend to encourage Residence there, which, as before stated, it has ever been the Policy of the Government of this Kingdom to prevent. It has been suggested to the Committee, that the Oath, as it present worded, ascertaining by whom the Oil, Blubber, and Seal Skins have been taken and imported, leaves a Latitude to different Constructions, and that some Persons who take it import Oil, Blubber, and Seal Skins, taken by the Resident Inhabitants of newfoundland, Duty-free ; while others, more scrupulous, do not chuse to take the Oath as it stands, and are thereby subject to the Plantation Duty ; the Committee are therefore of Opinion that the Oath should be made sufficiently clear, to preserve the Distinctions intended by the Legislature.
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The Merchants also requested to be allowed to import Wine, Oil, Cork, and Fruit from Foreign Countries, directly to Newfoundland, Duty-free.