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French fishermen be not incommoded in cutting the wood necessary for the repair of their scaffolds, huts, and fishing vessels.
"The XIIIth Article of the Treaty of Utrecht, and the method of carrying on the fishery, which has at all times been acknowledged, shall be the plan upon which the fishery shall be carried on there ; it shall not be deviated from by either party; the French fishermen building only their scaffolds, confining themselves to the repair of their fishing vessels, and not wintering there; the subjects of His Britannic Majesty, on their part, not molesting in any manner the French fishermen during their fishing nor injuring their scaffolds during their absence.
“The King of Great Britain, in ceding the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon to France, regards them as ceded for the purpose of serving as a real shelter to the French fishermen, and in full confidence that these possessions will not become an object of jealousy between the two nations, and that the fishery between the said islands and that of Newfoundland shall be limited to the middle of the channel."
The French declaration of the same date was as follows:
“In regard to the fishery between the island of Newfoundland and those of St. Pierre and Miquelon, it is not to be carried on by either party but to the middle of the channel ; and His Majesty will give the most positive orders that the French fishermen shall not go beyond this line. His Majesty is firmly persuaded that the King of Great Britain will give like orders to the English fishermen."
In consequence of these provisions France has ever since maintained that she enjoys
(1) An exclusive right of fishery on that portion of the coast of Newfoundland between Cape St. John and Cape Ray, passing round by the north of the island.
(2) That all British fixed settlements, of whatever nature, on that portion of the coast are contrary to treaty.
The British Government, on the other hand, has always maintained
(1) That British subjects have a right to fish concurrently with the French, so long as they do not interrupt the latter.
(2) That the undertaking in the British declaration of 1783 to cause the removal of fixed settlements, referred only to fixed fishing settlements, and that fixed settlements of any other kind are not contrary to the declaration.
Before, however, discussing which of the two contentions has the best foundation, it will be convenient to trace the subsequent course of events, and to see how the second point at present in dispute arose.
In 1814 the British Government offered Mauritius to the French in exchange for the relinquishment of their fishing rights in Newfoundland, but the offer was refused. From that time forward negotiations between the two Governments have been practically continuous. In 1838 we find a long despatch from Lord Palmerston, refusing to admit the claims put forward by France. In 1844, as
a preliminary to negotiations, which were to extend with more or less continuity over thirteen years, the President of the Chamber of Commerce in Newfoundland, who had been appointed to make a report to the Governor, suggested that the fishermen of the two nations should be kept apart from each other by being allotted distinct fishing grounds. It was probably in consequence of this report that the convention of 1857 was drawn up. According to the stipulations of that convention, an exclusive right of fishery, and the use of the strand for fishery purposes, was conceded to the French from Cape St. John, on the east coast to the Quirpon Islands on the north coast, and thence to Cape Norman on the west coast, within a radius of three marine miles from the centre of the five fishery harbours, Port-au-Choix, Small Harbour, Port-auPort, Red Island, and Cod Roy Island. On other parts of
the west coast British subjects were to enjoy a concurrent right of fishing with French subjects ; but French subjects were to have the exclusive use of the strand for fishery purposes from Cape Norman to Rock Point, in the Bay of Islands north of the Humber River, in addition to the strand of the reserved harbours. Further, a concurrent right of fishing was also granted to French subjects on the coast of Labrador, from Cape Sablon to Cape Charles, and on the shore of North Belle Island.
On the question of fixed establishments, the convention stipulated that no British buildings or inclosures should be erected or maintained on the strand reserved for the exclusive use of the French. Buildings, however, which had stood for five successive seasons previous to the date of the convention, without objection from the French Government, were only to be removable on payment of equitable compensation to the owners. Owing, however, to the opposition of the Colony, the arrangement fell to the ground.
A despatch of a later date from Lord Derby to Sir J. H. Glover, the Governor of Newfoundland, shows the reason for the objection of the French to a fixed population in the treaty shore.
“The French Government have invariably maintained that the establishment of a fixed population on any portions of the coast in which they enjoy treaty rights must result in their ultimate exclusion from those spots, through French fishermen being virtually debarred from enjoying the free and uninterrupted exercise of the fishery rights accorded to them; and they instance the cases of the Bay of St. George on the west coast, and of Conche on the east coast, where such a condition of affairs has arisen."
In 1884 an agreement was drafted in Paris which permitted the Colonists to mine on the French shore and to fish where they did not hamper the French fishery, the French being permitted exclusive rights on specified portions of the coast. But the Colonial Legislature refused to agree to a clause in
the agreement by which French fishermen were to have the right to purchase bait on shore and at sea, on the Newfoundland coast, free from all duty and restrictions, from April 5th to the close of the fishing season in each year. The argument put forward-and it is impossible not to sympathize with it - was that in the refusal to supply bait lay the Colony's only effective method of combating the bounty adopted in recent years by France,* and the hostile tariffs of America. The immense bounty given by France, said the Select Committee to whom the agreement was submitted, averaging about ten francs per quintal (112 lbs. English) on all codfish exported from St. Pierre to countries outside France, had led to a vast development of the local St. Pierre fleet of small vessels owned, to some extent at least, not by Frenchmen, but by American and English subjects, who sailed under the French flag with the object of obtaining the bounty. The fish caught by this fleet competed with the Newfoundland fishermen's catch in all the principal markets of Europe. Vessels sailing under the French flag could fit out more cheaply than could the Newfoundland boats, since supplies of all kinds were almost free of duty; and the fish when caught, owing to the most-favoured-nation clause in the Spanish Tariff, entered the markets of Spain at 2 fr. 40 C. lower duty than did Newfoundland fish, while in addition, they received the benefit of the bounty. From the last two causes alone the French fish obtained an increase of price equivalent to 78 per cent. over that received by the Colonial fishermen.
Moreover, that was not the whole of the evil. American vessels also came to the Newfoundland shore fitted out as cheaply as were the Colonial boats ; they enjoyed the shelter of Newfoundland harbours; and they took their fish into America duty free, while the Colonial fish were taxed from
* The amount of the bounty paid by the French Government in 1896 was 26,000.
16 to 25 per cent. “Does it seem wonderful,” the Committee plaintively remarked, “that our revenues are falling, that our fishermen and merchants are becoming impoverished ?”
The Colonial Legislature accordingly refused to ratify the arrangement in its then existing form, but undertook to recommend its adoption if the French Government would drop the bounty on all cod sold outside French countries after the year 1891. The French Government, however, refused to abolish the bounties, and the arrangement in consequence fell through.
In 1886 the Newfoundland Legislature passed the statute which is known as the Bait Act, forbidding the taking of “ herring, capelin, squid, and other bait fishes for exportation or sale on or near any parts of the coast of this Colony or of its dependencies, or in any of the bays, harbours, or other places therein, without a special license.” The primary effect of this statute was to ruin those Colonists who made a livelihood by selling bait to the French fishermen; its secondary effect has been to render it a matter of increased difficulty for the French vessels to carry on the industry, as they are now compelled to rely on the bait caught on the French shore, or on salted bait and such small shell-fish as can be taken on the Banks.
It was about the same date that the question as to the right to take lobsters first became prominent. That these creatures had long been known on the coast appears from a letter written in 1578 by Anthony Parkhurst, a Bristol merchant, in which it is stated that “in half a day he (a ‘Portugal') could take as many lobsters as would find 300 men with a day's meat.” But owing to the richness of the cod-fishing until within the last twenty years, the lobster canning trade appears to have attracted very little attention. With the gradual disappearance of the cod, however, from the coasts of Newfoundland, the lobster-fishing naturally began to assume larger proportions. In the years 1882 and 1883,