RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED 1 SEPTEMBER, 1873, AT A MEETING OF THE EXECUTIVE COUNCIL OF NEWFOUNDLAND FOR TRANSMISSION TO HER MAJESTY'S GOVERNMENT
UPON THE SUBJECT OF FRENCH AGGRESSIONS AND BRITISH RIGHTS ON THAT PART OF THE COAST COMMONLY TERMED THE FRENCH SHORE. 1
Resolved,—That by the Treaty of Utrecht the exclusive sovereignty of the whole territory of Newfoundland and the Islands adjacent thereto were conveyed by His Majesty the King of France to His Majesty the King of Great Britain and his heirs for ever in full right. But His Majesty the King of Great Britain, by the same Treaty, conceded to the subjects of His Most Christian Majesty the privilege of a concurrent right of fishing on that part of the coast of Newfoundland extending from Cape Bonavista to Point Rich, together with the liberty to land their fish and dry them. The following is the language used in the Treaty. “The Island called Newfoundland with the adjacent islands shall from this time forward belong of right wholly to Great Britain.”
“Nor shall the Most Christian King, his heirs and successors, or any of their subjects, at any time hereafter lay claim to the said Island and Islands, or any part of it or them.”
That by the subsequent Treaties of Paris and Versailles and by every succeeding Treaty, these rights were affirmed to His Majesty the King of Great Britain and his heirs, with the following exceptions : That by the Treaties of Paris and Versailles His Majesty the King of Great Britain ceded in full sovereignty to His Majesty the King of France the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, subject to given conditions, together with the privilege to his subjects of fishing concurrently with those of His Britannic Majesty “ on that part of the coast of Newfoundland extending from Cape John passing to the north and descending by the western coast of Newfoundland to the place called Cape Ray, situate in forty-seven degrees fifty minutes north latitude,” in exchange for that portion of the coast extending from Cape Bonavista to Cape John, which His Most Christian Majesty assented to abandon.
That on the introduction into this Colony of self-government by virtue of its great charter granted by His late Majesty King William, and affirmed by
1 Reproduced from Journal of House of Assembly, Newfoundland, 1876, Appendix, pp. 624-627.
subsequent acts of the Imperial Government and of the Legislature of this Colony, all the rights which Great Britain possessed in Newfoundland became under stipulated conditions the property of this Colony, and is now held in trust by its Government for the benefit of the people. That such is the high appreciation in which these Treaty rights are, and ever have been held by the inhabitants of this Colony, that no minister in this country would dare to. compromise them in any manner. Not an inch of their soil, not an atom of their concurrent rights in the fisheries, on the so-called French Shore, would any permanent resident of sound mind in the Colony consent to part with.
That out of deference to the perplexities which circumstances have imposed on the Imperial Government in their negociations for many years. past in regard to this subject, the aggrieved parties resident on the so-called French Shore have borne with great forbearance the studied audacious periodical robberies, and other grievances perpetrated on them by the French when peaceably engaged in their fishing operations. But should such conduct be repeated, the Government greatly fear that when the hope of legal redress ceases to exercise its influence on them, our people may be induced to make reprisals for the wrong done them.
That with the view to establish a preposterous and untenable claim to an exclusive right in the place of a concurrent right of fishing on the most valuable part of our fishing grounds, the French have, and more particularly of late years, by force attempted to assert that right.
That the inhabitants of this Colony appreciate the able and successful manner in which Lord Palmerston, and other able British statesmen, have from time to time sustained their Treaty rights. Had there been the slightest misunderstanding with regard to our concurrent right of fishing, it surely would have been put at rest at the same time when the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon were conveyed in full right to France, and in the same unmistakable language, or it would have been so inserted in some subsequent Treaty ; but this was never done, and we have exercised and maintained our rights ever since with an annually increasing population.
That there are localities on the so-called French Shore which have been exclusively occupied by the French time out of mind, and others in like manner occupied by British subjects. During the time of war British subjects took possession of those French premises, and in some cases refused to conform to the stipulations of the Treaties when peace was restored. Hence the Imperial act which was passed to meet the contingency and the Proclamations of Governors ordering the removal of such parties. In no other case was that Act ever availed of. There is no instance on record where the French have been interrupted in the rightful exercise of their fishery. All the collisions, with respect to the fishery, have been from the unlawful interruptions and aggressions on British subjects by the French.
That the Treaties provide that no fixed settlement shall be erected on the so-called French Shore. But the fact is, as if by mutual consent, both the
French and British have disregarded this restriction, for both have fixed settlements, and British subjects are employed by the French to take care of their property during their absence. The French do not and have no right to reside in Newfoundland during the winter season.
That there is an Act in existence, VII. Victoria, authorizing the issue of grants of land without any restriction as to the so-called French Shore, and a subsequent Act, which received the special sanction of Her Majesty after twelve months' deliberation, under which licenses to search for minerals have been issued and grants made subject to French rights.
That the extent of the coast-line of the so-called French Shore, inclusive of the sinuosities of the Bays and Inlets, is little short of the one-half of the whole sea-coast of the island. Of this great distance the French occupy a small fractional part only ; the British are scattered more or less throughout the whole length.
That the rights of fishing involved in the absurd claims of an exclusive fishery by the French are not limited to the residents of Newfoundland ; they are the rights of the other provices of British North America, and also those of the United States, to the latter granted them under their Treaty with Great Britain in the year 1818. England could not and would not have granted to the United States that which she had no right to grant, and much less would 20 she deprive the inhabitants of the soil of rights she had granted to non-residents and to aliens.
That should Her Majesty's Government deem it desirable to appoint Commissioners to negotiate with the French Government with a view to the settlement of existing disputes between the fishermen of the two nations, such Commissioners should be instructed to make no concession whatever of any part of the soil beyond the privilege to which the French are entitled under existing Treaties, namely :—“ To erect stages made of boards, and huts necessary and usual for drying fish, nor to resort to the said Island beyond the time necessary for fishing or drying fish ;” nor any fishery rights other than a concurrent right, to which only they are entitled.
That the simple questions for the consideration and decision of the Commissioners be limited to the beach or strand necessary for the purposes contemplated under the Treaty, extending from the sea towards the interior, limiting that space to the necessary requirements of “landing and drying their fish,” and their sea-fishing to the entrance of the rivers flowing from the interior within which rivers the French have no right of fishing whatever.
That the valuable and important privilege to purchase bait, both herring and caplin, on the Southern Coast be conceded to the French to be exercised at such times as British subjects may lawfully take the same, conditionally that the French abandon their untenable pretentions to an exclusive fishery.
The foregoing Resolutions were read and adopted by His Excellency the Governor and Council, and a certified copy handed His Excellency for transmission to the Right Honorable the Earl of Kimberley, 1st September, 1873.