p. 1936 JOINT
GOVERNOR DUCKWORTH TO EARL BATHURST
RECORD BOOK, ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND. Volume 24, page 76.
Antelope at Sea November, 3rd, 1812.
I am anxious to bring before Your Lordship a subject which has excited much unpleasant altercation at Newfoundland, and which cannot fail to be an embarrassing one to the Governor until his instructions upon it are revised.
It appears that instructions have from time to time been given to prevent the erection of any buildings, except such as shall be absolutely necessary for curing, drying, and husbanding of Fish, within two hundred yards distance from High Water Mark, and that with respect to St. John's (for reasons which have been submitted) those Instructions have not for a considerable time been enforced.
Yet no person has until this year openly and in defiance attempted to erect a building of any description (unless by the Water side for the purposes of the Fishery) without leave from the Governor in writing previously obtained.
The High Sheriff is directed to prevent any buildings from being erected except those which are authorized by Law, and the meaning attached to that expression is considered to be those which are evidently for the Fishery, or those which the Governor has sanctioned.
A Merchant has this year thought proper to dispense with the Governor's leave, and violently attempted to build a House which he avowed his intention (by a letter to the Sheriff) of letting on lease as a Dwelling House. The Sheriff considered this proceeding as illegal, and in opposition to the Governor's Proclamation (a copy of which in the Spirit of those issued by my Predecessors I have the honor of enclosing) and accordingly prevented it.
This attempt was not that of an individual, but was instigated and supported by the Merchants in general, who have created a fund, the real object of which is to oppose the measures of Government and to establish the right of Property upon a quiet possession of Twenty years.
I beg leave to transmit to Your Lordship a Copy of the correspondence which took place between the projector of the building (whose name is Crawford) and myself.
The argument urged on his side was that the ground was immediately adjoining one of the Ships Rooms which had been let on building leases in pursuance of the late Act of Parliament, and that being similarly circumstanced, his right of building was the same as that of Government.
It is necessary to acknowledge that the Act which I have alluded to in taking away the Public use of certain Ships Rooms has declared the space comprised between the most Eastern and the most Western of those so taken away to be no longer suitable to the purposes of the Fishery, because the whole of that space is occupied equally by the Town of St. John's, and it is in every circumstance the same.
There cannot therefore it is presumed be any sufficient cause for retaining the prohibition against building within two hundred yards of high water marks, so far as regards the space which I have described ; and Your Lordship will not perhaps see any objection to the Governor being authorized to grant permission for the building of Houses in that situation, taking care that the width of the Public Streets be preserved, and that no building be allowed which might be a nuisance to the Town.
Yet I should earnestly hope that no person whatever might be suffered to build on any other terms than those of having obtained the Governor's permission, unless it were for the direct and unequivocal purposes of the Fishery : for the waving of a negative in this instance on the part of Government, would be an acknowledgment of Property which is certainly unnecessary. Within the limit of two hundred yards from High Water Mark, in situations adapted for the Fishery, no building should be allowed except for its immediate purposes, but beyond that distance, and if the parties are in possession of the ground either by Grant or other title which Government would unwillingly question, there appears to be a doubt of the propriety, or of the legality of the Governor's interference, which it is particularly desirable to remove.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully,
Your Lordship's most obedient humble servt.
J. T. DUCKWORTH.
To The Earl Bathurst, &c., &c., &c.