p. 1908 C
EXTRACTS FROM EVIDENCE OF WILLIAM KNOX
GIVEN BEFORE COMMITTEE APPOINTED TO INQUIRE INTO THE STATE OF TRADE TO NEWFOUNDLAND, 1793.
SECOND REPORT FROM THE COMMITTEE APPOINTED TO ENQUIRE INTO THE STATE OF THE TRADE TO NEWFOUNDLAND. [ORDERED TO BE PRINTED 24 APRIL 1793.] Pp. 16-20.
Your Committee again called WILLIAM KNOX, Esquire, who being examined, said, That in order to give the Committee the fullest information he was able upon the Subject of their Enquiry, he should begin by stating the Objects of the Act of the 15th of His present Majesty, and the Motives which induced the then Ministers (all of whom are now dead) to adopt the several Provisions it contains, which he was the better enabled to do, as he was then One of the Under Secretaries of State in the American Department, and furnished much of the Information upon which they acted.
That the Island of Newfoundland had been considered, in all former Times, as a great English Ship moored near the Banks during the Fishing Season, for the Convenience of the English Fishermen. The Governor was considered as the Ship's Captain, and all those who were concerned in the Fishery Business, as his Crew, and subject to Naval Discipline while there, and expected to return to England when the Season was over. The English had then no Rivals in the Trade but the French, and although the French Fishery exceeded theirs, the English gradually increased, and those who carried it on were generally successful. The Treaty of Paris, by adding Canada, all Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton to the British American Dominions, deprived France of the Advantage she had from the Employment of the Inhabitants in the Fishery ; but at the same Time a new Rival was raised up to the English Traders and Fishermen in those and the other Northern British Colonies, and as the Profit the French Inhabitants had made under the French Government by the Fishery on their Coast as well as on the Coasts of Newfoundland naturally turned the Attention of the British Subjects to the same Business, many Settlers emigrated to Newfoundland for the Purpose, while others spread themselves along the Shores of Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, so that there appeared evident Danger of the Trade and Fishery being lost to England, and that instead of its being a British Fishery, as it had hitherto been, it would become a Colonial Fishery. To prevent the Increase of Inhabitants on the Island, the most positive
Instructions were given to the Governors not to make any Grants of the Lands, and to reduce the Number of those who were already settled there. Their Vessels, as well as those belonging to the Colonies, were to be denied any Priority of Right in occupying Stations in the Bays or Harbours for curing their Fish over the Vessels from England ; and he was instructed to withhold from them whatever might serve to encourage them to remain on the Island ; and as Lord North expressed it, whatever they loved to have roasted, he was to give them raw ; and whatever they wished to have raw, he was to give them roasted. With a View to secure the Return of all the Fishermen carried out, Half their Wages was made payable to them in Bills or Cash at the End of the Season, and their Employers were obliged to find them a Passage Home, and allowed to retain Forty Shillings of their Wages for that Purpose ; and to. give an Advantage to the Bank Fishery over the Shore Fishery, as well as to encourage the fitting out from England, without Offence to the Colonies, a Bounty was given upon the taking 20,000 Tail of Fish by Bankers from England that carried out Two Green Men, or Youngsters that had never before been at Sea. The Effect of every One of these Regulations has been the very contrary of what was intended ; and the Witness's own Experience as an Adventurer in the Fishery these Five Years past enables him to correct his Judgment as a Politician, and to point out their pernicious Tendency, as well as to suggest the Remedy.
That soon after the Act of the 15th of His present Majesty was passed, he perceived, from comparing the Governor's Returns with the preceding Ones, that the young Lads left in the Island were greatly increased, instead of being lessened, as was expected ; and upon conversing with Persons who had been there, and were concerned in the Fishery, he learned that Half the Wages a Youngster was entitled to was not sufficient to pay the Expence of fitting him out the First Year ; and besides, they often wanted to have something for Mothers who they had assisted to support. The Traders therefore hired them for Two Years, and left them the Winter in the Island, employing them in the Salmon Fishery, or cutting Timber, or other Work, as well to save the Expence of their Passage Home as to avoid paying them Half their Wages, which would have left their Employers out of Pocket. This he experienced to be the Case with the Youngsters he took out and brought Home ; and upon that Account, as well as upon another which he shall mention, he had given up fitting out for the Bounty, as he finds many others have done, and consequently fewer Youngsters will be taken out, and fewer Seamen made . . . . but he shall now proceed to the more agreeable Task of suggesting Remedies for the Evils he has pointed out, and such Regulations and Encouragements as he conceives will restore and increase the British Fishery : And the First he would recommend, is to recur to the old Idea of the Island of Newfoundland being considered as a great British ship, and to invest the Governor and his Surrogates by Law with the Authorities and Powers he and they formerly exercised without Law ; but, instead of their coming away, in Times of Peace, the 15th or 20th of October, before the Fishing Business is ended, or the Disputes between Parties can be brought before them, or settled,
they should be ordered to remain until the 1st of December ; they would then be able to oblige the Fishermen brought out to return, and if they were not permitted to remain in the Island, there would be no occasion to oblige
Employers to find them a Passage, as they would make their Agreement accordingly before they went out, and their Employer, being sure of their Return with him, would provide for their Conveyance ; as however the Preparation for the Fishery requires a certain Number of Persons to be left at every Station during the Winter, it would be proper to oblige none to return but such as had been left the former Year, or had resided there Two Years so that all who chose to stay might remain One or Two Winters in the Island ; this would encourage the carrying out of Green Men, or Youngsters, as they might be left throughout the Winter, and employed in such Business as were fit for, and acquire sufficient Knowledge to be useful the next Season . . . . .