p. 1941 C
OBERSVATIONS OF SIR CHARLES HAMILTON
ON PROPOSED ACT, 2 FEBRUARY, 1824.
RECORD BOOK, ST. JOHN'S, NEWFOUNDLAND, VOLUME 34, p. 27.
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My opinion that alterations were required on several points in the laws relating to Newfoundland has been at different times communicated to the Earl of Bathurst, but more particularly at the commencement of the year 1822, and I had been led to that conclusion by observing that, so far from the return of a state of Peace having realized the once general expectation of a return of the ancient system of the carrying on the fishery in qualified fishing Ships from England, the number of such ships had annually decreased from 48 which was the number in the year 1817 to 15 the number that arrived last year, whereas in the year 1792 there were no less than 276 fishing ships employed of which 187 were Bankers. The protracted warfare in which this Country was in the interim engaged, rendered this system greatly hazardous to the interest of those concerned, by the frequent losses they were liable to sustain from the Enemy while the already increased population of the Island was every year augmenting and gradually establishing a fishery in boats along shore, or at inconsiderable distance from the Island. This being also favoured by a Winter and Spring Seal Fishery which employed considerable numbers before the Season for Cod Fishery commenced. Thus the Ship fishery has diminished to little more than a name, the result of the two systems being last year the production of 750,000 qtls of fish from the boat or Island fishery, while that of the Ships made only 34,000 qqtls. It was evident therefore that Laws created as well for the encouragement of a Ship fishery from England as with a view to discountenance settlement and a resident fishery were become nearly a dead letter, and that some provisions on the other hand were wanting for the latter. The subject having been brought into the Bill now before Parliament for consolidating the Laws relating to Newfoundland this Article would appear to be no longer necessary. I have therefore only to remark on the several heads which it embraces, and on which enquiry is sought.
First : As to confirming the Titles of Persons to Ship Rooms and Buildings, that Bill proposes that the Governor shall lease out all the Ship Rooms in order to do which it will become necessary to abate encroachments on them when the question of right from long possession will be legally determined.
Secondly : The Jurisdiction of the Fishing Admirals is abolished by the establishment of regular Courts of Judicature, therefore obsolete.
Thirdly : Nearly all the rising population being brought up to the use of Boats it would become a measure next to impossibility to compel an Inhabitant to employ Green Men in compliance with the provisions of the 10th & 11th Wm. 3, and the rejection of that measure is an object of the new Bill.
Fourthly : With regard to the provisions of the 15 Geo. 3 respecting the retaining of 40/- to pay the fishermen passage home I conceive in the present increased state of the resident population, and the before mentioned change in the fishing system, it is impracticable to compel the return of the Fishermen annually, and this provision is omitted in the new Bill. Indeed the Native or resident population is considered in itself almost sufficient to answer the call for hands in the fishery. With regard to the mode of paying the fishermen, the Bill proposes that in lieu of only one half, three fourths (but I should recommend two thirds) of a Man's Wages should be allowed to be advanced, the remainder would be applicable either to finding him a passage out of the Country if he were desirous of it, or to his provision for the winter if he remained.
Fifthly : This restriction would appear to be obsolete on two principles, first as regards the privilege of His Majesty's Subjects to take possession of any vacant part of the Coast for the purposes of the fishery, and secondly as respects the small grants of land which the Governor has been authorised to make for the purposes of cultivation with both which it is at variance. And with regard to the Ship Rooms it has already been proposed to leave them out since the few Bankers that annually fit out for the fishery cure their voyage at this day (with one or two exceptions) upon their own Rooms, for no prudent man would spend his money in expensive buildings to which he had no exclusive claim beyond the current Season.