Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine


Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

British North America
Newfoundland


By T. B. BROWNING, M.A.
(0f the Canadian Bar)

I

Newfoundland is an island situate on the northeast coast of the American Continent, between the degrees of latitude 46 and 52, and those of longitude 53 and 60 west of Greenwich. Her area is 42,000 square miles in round numbers. She is therefore somewhat smaller than England, somewhat larger than Ireland.

But though an island, Newfoundland is essentially one with her continent. The geological formation which gives the region of Labrador and Northern Quebec a distinct place in scientific classification stretches over a considerable portion of North-West Newfoundland. A narrow chasm separates the two, now known as the Strait of Belle Isle, somewhat abrupt in form and only nine miles in width. On the other hand, the great mass of the island is, in its main features, identical with that part of North America which is confined between the Alleghanies and the sea, and comprehends New England, with the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Hero the line of separation is forty-six miles wide; a gap which is in itself substantial, but is almost negligible when regarded in connection with the continent. Take a point in the United States as Cape Hatteras, or the old Spanish settlement of Saint Augustine’s, and outline the Atlantic coast proceeding northwards to Cape Race, the easternmost point of Newfoundland. You pass through 23° of latitude and through 30° of longitude, but find, judging by the contour of Europe or Asia, a very even coast-line and no indentations or breaks that a continent might not well have. Now, pursue your course from Cape Race past Newfoundland, past Labrador, “indefinitely northwards,” to quote the Treaty of 1S18, to Lancaster Sound. Again, you meet a comparatively even coast of almost equal extent with the former as measured by degrees of latitude. It is of equal extent also if measured by degrees of longitude, but these degrees are measured in a different direction. As you approached Cape Race from St. Augustine’s you passed east 30°; to get to Lancaster Sound from Cape Race, you must pass through 30° west. North America, therefore, forms a very considerable angle or rather triangle jutting towards Europe, and Cape Race is at the apex of that triangle. St. John’s, the capital of the colony, not far from that headland, is 1700 miles distant from Liverpool, while the distance from Liverpool to New York is 3200 miles.

The geographical position of the island, combined with the figuration of the continent, is significant. In the rough and hurried times of the sixteenth century, explorers had much to do to fix the general and more marked features of the New World without delineating bays, straits, gulfs, and estuaries. What was more natural in these circumstances than that they should figure Newfoundland as a vast peninsula stretching eastwards, its extreme point at Capo Race ? If we take Juan de la Cosa’s chart (1500) to indicate Cabot’s conception of the land he found, it must have appeared to him a continent or part of a continent. For about forty years after her discover}’, Newfoundland is represented in the charts and maps that have come clown to us as part and parcel of North America, while her name, or some one of her many names, serves to designate also what we now know as Canada and New England.

Within the last few years, as you know, the art and science of navigation have so developed that transatlantic liners make a straight course to Boston and New York. But thirty years ago it was otherwise. Then the main objective point of travel and transport by sail and steam in the North Atlantic was Cape Race. It is so still for sailing craft of all sizes, and it had been for near four centuries the half-way house for exploration as well as business. Is, then, the relative importance of Cape Race likely to be regained ? Probably not. But the legislature of the island sees a new prospect. It sees begun a movement toward rapid transit that is drawing together the remotest possessions of the Crown and bids fair to transform the commerce of the world. As trade seeks the shortest route by land and sea, and as that route from the Old World to the New lies across Newfoundland, the island railway is brought to the nearest point of continental communication that international complications will permit. By the use of fast services on land and sea, the calculation is that sixty to seventy hours will be saved both ways in the carriage of passengers, mails, and goods between Liverpool and New York, with corresponding advantages to other centres in England, the United States, and Canada. The sea-voyage across the Atlantic will then be reduced to three days for steamers like the lucania or Oceanic—“a consummation devoutly to be wished.” The credit of originating and completing the railway belongs to the ex-premier, Sir William Whiteway.

Let us glance a moment at the northern arm of the continental anyle. It stretches over Newfoundland, over Labrador, which is a dependency of the island much frequented in late years, and over an undefined and unorganised territory, whose capabilities are unknown, to Lancaster Sound, a distance of fifteen hundred miles or more. It looks towards Greenland, Iceland, the British Islands, the northern part of Europe, and presents to them an almost unbroken front. Now, what inherent improbability is there that the “rovers of the North,” substantially the same race that first devastated Europe and then took possession of it, made an excursion to the west, or rather an incursion, in the eleventh or twelfth centuries ? I see none; for, within a century or two of that time, the English drove a thriving trade with Iceland, and were wont to fish and fight with great freedom in those northern regions. The authority of the Icelandic Sagas is now well established, and their description of the western lands is circumstantial and minute. The fact that no memorials of their stay have been discovered either in Newfoundland or farther south, need not be a cause of wonder; for, after thirty years, all traces of Raleigh’s settlement in Virginia (1585) were completely obliterated. At the same time, if Eric and his men ever saw any portion of North America, that portion must have been situate somewhere along the northern arm of the salient angle that runs from Cape Race, that is, within the island of Newfoundland or Labrador. Sailing westwards from Iceland or Greenland he could not have avoided it.

The same remark applies to the expedition, and by no means detracts from the honour, of John Cabot. Our information regarding him, as his maps and papers are not recoverable, may be scanty, but is sufficient to show his authorisation and reward by Henry VII., his departure 011 his first voyage, his discovery and return, together with his second venture. We also know something of the course he steered in 1497, viz., starting from Bristol, he rounded the south of Ireland, made towards the north, then turned his prow westward. In these circumstances, what probable landfall could he have had but on that portion of the Newfoundland territories which lies north of Cape Race ? His actual landing may, indeed, have been elsewhere; but, as you see, could scarcely have been elsewhere except by extraordinary fortune, of which there is no evidence. We have consequently, in the literature of the nation, an almost unbroken testimony reaching back to the days of Henry VII., that as the island was first discovered for the modern world by his expedition that returned on the 6th of August 1497, so the first point of land he touched in the expedition was situate on this east coast. There is a variance, indeed, and the variance is peculiar. The son, Sebastian, usurped the credit due to the father, John Cabot, and enjoyed high reputation and substantial emolument in consequence. Thanks to Mr. Harrisse, we now know the actual state of facts: that Sebastian was very much of an adventurer or charlatan, though in a large way; that he was inexperienced in nautical affairs; and that he had never been on the North American coast, “though he makes report,” to quote the language addressed to Henry VIII. by the Twelve Livery Companies of London in 1521, “of many things he heard his father and other men speak of in times past.”

I have said there is an unbroken record that Cabot’s landfall in 1497 was north of Cape Race. Of late years a second claimant has appeared in the field—Cape Breton—and her pretensions have been maintained by Mr. S. E. Dawson with a dialectic skill that does honour to his ingenuity and research. The claim is associated historically with a map or chart, dated 1544, that is ascribed to Sebastian Cabot. It marks Cape North in Cape Breton Island with the words prim a licrra vista (land first seen). I pass by the nautical difficulty how any one sailing a general course westward from Ireland, without extraordinary fortune, and without previous knowledge of “the lie of the land,” could have rounded Cape Race, passed by St. Mary’s and the peninsula of Burin so as to make his first land-view in any portion of Cape Breton. But has the map any authority ? The authority of a man who, to suit his special purpose for the time being, sets the reputed place of his birth at different times in places so far apart as Bristol, Venice, and Genoa, may not be deemed of great weight; but has this map the authority even of Sebastian Cabot ? The declaration of the Livery Companies may be taken as conclusive that he had no personal knowledge of his father’s landfall, and nothing has been discovered to make him responsible either for the map itself or any one of the many curious legends that are written upon it. Again, it is evidently a compilation of late date, for it adopts in block the place-designations, not of Cabot as De la Cosa preserves or translates them, but of Cartier and his immediate successors. Further, had Cape North been the real first-view, the Gulf of St. Lawrence would have been known before 1536, and the broad entrance by Cape Ray would have been used then as now, in preference to the narrow strait of Belle Isle. As we shall see, the fact was otherwise. But the decisive blow to the map, the legends, and the theories associated with them, is furnished by Mr. Dawson himself, who says, speaking after careful examination, that Cape North is an impossible landfall; for those who discovered it must previously have sighted several other headlands even in Cape Breton.

Having thus destroyed the original of Cape Breton’s claim, Mr. Dawson proceeds to construct for her one that shall be better founded. For this purpose he appeals principally to the chart of Juan de la Cosa. and to scientific reasons. Cosa’s chart is the oldest that we have of North America, and is supposed to have been drawn from information supplied by Cabot or from information concerning his discoveries that had percolated to Puerto de Santa Maria, near Cadiz, during or before the year 1500. It lias a strip of coast, not drawn to indicated scale but seemingly of considerable extent, that runs almost due east and west and is marked at intervals by five English flags. Underneath the western or fifth flag, and extending to middle distance between the fourth and third are the words, “Mar descubierto por Ingleses” (sea discovered by Englishmen). Between the other banners is a number of names for which no satisfactory or generally acceptable explanation has yet been found. But at the near or east end, as it were at the corner of the continent, one sees “ Cavo de Ingleterra ” (Cape of England), which the learned in these questions variously interpret as Cape Race (Kohl), a headland near Belle Isle (Humboldt), and Cape Chudleigh at the entrance to Hudson’s Bay (Harrisse). This cape, whatever it be, is also said to have been Cabot’s landfall in 1497, the spot where he raised the standard of England and of Venice to assert a national right on behalf of his adopted country. Certain collateral facts are found to favour each location with almost equal ease. Mr. Dawson passes these suppositions by, as well ho may, but finds, near the third flag and at the end of the special nomenclature of the coast, a promontory marked “ Cavo Descubierto ” or Discovered Cape. This he interprets to be cape first discovered, and locates it not at Cape North, the impossible first-view of the planisphere of 1544, but at a neighbouring headland that accords somewhat more closely with the vague and meagre contemporary accounts of Cabot’s voyage that have come down to us, and to which advocates of all theories appeal with equal confidence. An almost fatal objection to his suggestion is that the Island of St. John, seen on the same day as the first land and to the west of it, cannot be Seatari Island, as he supposes, for that island lies to the east of the supposed landfall. But without entering into a controversy on the question, allow me to suggest that contemporary accounts, the configuration of Cosa’s map, the use of the past participle—Discovered Cape instead of such an expression as Cape of Discovery—are satisfied by the supposition that “Cavo Descubierto” marks the limit, not the beginning of Cabot’s explorations. One might refine on the idea with some show of evidence and say that while “Cavo Descubierto” was indeed the farthest bound of the expedition of 1497, the legend, “Mar Descubierto por Ingleses,” which stretches farther west, indicates the additional searches which we know to have been made in the following year.

But the building of hypotheses on shifting sands is unsatisfactory labour. Mr. Dawson appeals to science, and was the first to point out what an influence the variation of the compass must or may have had on the actual course steered by John Cabot west of the Azores. I say “ may,” for, like other pioneers, he may have experienced adverse winds and not have kept a course due west. Arguing by analogy from the experience of Columbus, Mr. Dawson concludes for a landfall in Cape Breton. From the same data, Mr. Harrisse shows that, whatever was the actual deviation from this cause, it could not have brought Cabot so far south as Mr. Dawson contends, but would have landed him rather in the region of White Bay in Northern Newfoundland. Sir Clements .Markham reviews the whole controversy before the Geographical Society in 1897, the fourth centenary of the event, allows for the southing from magnetic causes, and says: “The landfall ... in these circumstances, would be Cape Bonavista on the east coast of Newfoundland.” lie adds further: “Taking Soncino’s account of the in p voyage by itself ” (Soncino’s aeeoimt is the most specific we have), “there can be no question that Bonavista Bay, on the east coast of Newfoundland, was the landfall.”

I take this statement of Admiral Markham to be decisive, not merely because of his professional experience, his high reputation in the literary world in questions of this kind, or his position as head of the Geographical Society, but also because, in his earlier works, he had advocated the Cape Breton hypothesis, following the planisphere of 1544. Further examination has shown that representation to be untenable, and has restored to its original place the traditional first view current in Newfoundland, namely, Cape Bonavista. You may ask, How can there be a tradition on such a point in Newfoundland ? There is no doubt about the fact of the now current tradition. It reaches back, at least, to Mason’s map of 1616. So far we are on historical ground. The further argument relies on probability. Is it likely that Mason, a captain in the Royal Navy, of his own mere motion, inscribed on a chart intended for presentation to King James and his council, these words opposite the headland, Bona Vista a Cabotto primum repcrta (Bona Yista first found by Cabot) ? True, he ma}r have copied it from some prior map now lost. On the other hand, he was resident and the head of Guy’s Colony, and may have set it down as a fact learned from a tradition then current as it now is. At his time, Newfoundland was in a condition not merely to have traditions but customs. Anthony Parkhurst, writing to Hakluyt on the 13th of November 1578—thirty-eight 3'ears before Mason’s day—mentions one of the less honourable of these customs as follows: . . The Englishmen . . . commonly are lords of the harbors where they fish, and do use all strangers’ help in fishing if need require, according to an old customc of the countrcy, which thing they do willingly, so that you take nothing from them more than a boat or twain of salte, in respect of your protection of them against rovers or other violent intruders, who do often put them from good harbor.” The said Anthony had been on the coast of Newfoundland four years previous to writing the above, and knew all about the traditional blackmail. He tells Hakluyt that he had been deceived and put to the loss of above £600 “ by the vile Portugals, descending of the Jewcs and Judas kinde . . .” who “falsifying their faith and promise, disappointed me of the salte they should have brought me in part of recompense of my good service in defending them two years against French rovers, that had spoiled them if I had not defended them.” He then goes on to inquire whether Her Majesty’s Council would not make demand for payment from the King of Portugal, or “grant me leave to stay here so much of their goods as they have damnified me; or else that I may take of them in Newfoundland as much fish as would be worth 600 li., or as much as the salte might have been.” The old custom, inuring to the profit of the English, did not die quickly. It transformed itself into a national claim, was enforced by executive order, was admitted into treaty and, latterly, its non-observance became one of the proclaimed causes of war against France. A still older custom was that of the fisheries, elaborated by the Star Chamber and afterwards reduced to law by 10 and 11 Will. III.; its customary stage you will see in Whitbourne (1620). But the main ground that supports the traditional landfall of Cabot is this: that from the first discovery, as we shall see, there was continual occupation of, at least, the east coast of Newfoundland and the fisheries by the English. In these circumstances, the memory of the first landing would naturally be handed down from age to age.

II

Several peoples beside the English have laid claim to Newfoundland. The first in time as well as validity of title are the Portuguese. You know with what perseverance and scientific foresight Prince Henry the Navigator pursued the exploration of Africa, sending forth expeditions year by year till he accomplished his end. Vasco da Gama had just returned with flying colours from Calicut by the Cape of Good Hope, when the brothers Cortereal turned their prows northwards in search of strange lands, and cast anchor in these waters (i 501-3). Their initiative, disastrous to themselves, was eagerly followed by their countrymen; for within the first quarter of the sixteenth century we find twenty sail of Portuguese craft in Newfoundland harbours, and before the end of the century the number is said to have reached one hundred. A memorial of their presence lingers in the nomenclature of the island as Cape Race, Spear, Freels, St. Francis, Bonaventure, Conception Bay, Fogo. The last word suggests the family likeness there is between the place-names of Newfoundland and those of the Azores. The Portuguese are supposed likewise to have had settlements or stations for fishing purposes in Cape Breton and near Cape Sable. It is noteworthy that our King, Henry VII., regarded their advent with favour, and gave special directions in his charters to Ward and Elliot (1 501-2) that their possessions and persons be respected—one more evidence of the old and firm friendship that has existed between the nations.

The Portuguese charts, beginning with the Canerio and Cantino maps (1502), make evident the extent of their pretensions. They claim the whole region. They call it “the land of Corte-real,” or again, “the land of the King of Portugal.” They push, into the regions of Labrador and the utmost north, the English possessions which in Cosa’s map extend far to the south, near Florida. They commit another error, which is of historical importance in its cause and influence. They prolong the eastern trend of the continent into what we should call mid-Atlantic, and bring its salient angle, Cape Race, close to the Azores. What was the reason of this, you will say ? Probably the satisfaction of a national desire for territory, coupled with an effort to show strict observance of a recent treaty with Spain. You may remember that prior to the great effort of Columbus, a number of bulls had issued from Rome securing to the Portuguese their discoveries by way of the south, and the lordship of the peoples dwelling there. On the return of Columbus, similar bulls were issued to Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain for the western lands. One of these separated the western from the southern findings, the Spanish from the Portuguese possessions, by a line circling the world at one hundred leagues west from a specified point. The delimitation did not satisfy the contestants, or at least Portugal, and another was drawn in 1494 by the treaty known as the Treaty of Tordesillas, which removed the encircling line to 370 leagues west from the Azores. Under this arrangement our ancient allies took Brazil, contended for the Moluccas, and laid hold on Newfoundland. Cantino marks the demarcation-line in blue, and sets this island on its east side. Had John Cabot’s globe and chart become public, had the English not preserved the secret of his discoveries so strictly, or had they been given to map-making, 110 great harm might have resulted. But, in the circumstances, the Portuguese representation became classical, was accepted as authoritative throughout Europe, and was much copied. A cloud was thus cast as well over the early history of the island as the range of Cabot’s explorations.

But, be the Portuguese claim what it may, it was dropt at a very early date. The actual longitude of the island may have convinced the Court of Lisbon that it had debarred itself from occupation there. It may be that the subsequent union of the crowns merged the Portuguese in the Spanish claim. More probably, Portugal regarded her commercial relations with England and her possessions as satisfying her every requirement—commercial relations that, in this country, have been amicable since Henry IV.’s reign, and, in Newfoundland, have always been, and are now, of a very friendly character.

Spain asserted sovereignty over Newfoundland as well as Virginia. In i 501, King Ferdinand authorised Hojeda, a companion of Columbus, to proceed with twelve ships to the coast, “where it is known the English are discovering” (quc se ha sabido quc descubrian los Inglcscs), to set up marks with the arms of Spain to claim possession, and “hinder the discovery of the English in that direction.” His successor likewise sent forth expeditions, though with little success, “to penetrate the English secret”—a secret much prized by Spain and much exploited by Sebastian Cabot. She grounded her claim on Pope Alexanders bull, on her western discoveries, the voyages of the Biscayans but not, so far as I can find, on the right of Portugal. The ventures of the Biscayans, according to Navarrete, the chief authority on the point, go no further back than 1523. Now England, from the days of Henry VIII. onwards, constantly and consistently opposed the Spanish title to any part of America north of Florida on the Atlantic; yet, strange to say, while the Portuguese claim over Newfoundland never became the subject of international engagement, that of Spain gets access to treaty at so late a date as the eighteenth century. The 15th Article of Utrecht (1713) preserves “all those privileges ” to which the Spaniard “can with right pretend.” Fifty years later by the Treaty of Paris (1763) he formally abandons “all claims and pretensions to the island and its fisheries.” The abandonment of sovereignty did not put an end to commercial intercourse. During the times both of peace and war, Newfoundland has had a large trade with Spain. Men now of middle ac'e can recollect when in St. John’s harbour there would be at once forty to fifty sail of Spanish ships. The course of traffic may to-day be somewhat changed, the diplomacy of our nearest neighbours may have been very influential in Spanish councils and very disastrous to Newfoundland, yet Spain continues to be one of the principal markets for the island's produce.

I shall speak of the operative claim of France again, but here let me say that she entered in the field of discovery and transatlantic venture at a comparatively late date. Nevertheless, there is evidence that some Breton ships resorted to this coast as early as 1504. During the sixteenth centuiy their expeditions increased at a rapid rate. In 1578, we find Parkhurstive the following estimate of foreign shipping in the island: Spaniards, 100 sail of 5000 tons, besides twenty or thirty that go a whaling; Portuguese, 50 sail of 3000 tons: French, 150 sail of 7000 tons. Of these the Spaniards had the best-appointed craft.

The French seem to have directed their attention chiefly to the south and north coast, but did nett take possession of the country in any way. Their first claim of right dates from 1635, when Charles I. gave them leave to fish on payment of five per cent, of their catch. Their first attempt at settlement took place at Placentia in 1662, after the restoration of the Stuarts. We need not inquire into the extent or character of their claim, because in 1713, by the Treaty of Utrecht, they renounced all title to Newfoundland and acknowledged the sole sovereignty of England in and over every part of it. The renunciation and acknowledgment hold good to-day. Had the voice of London, then as now the imperial city, prevailed, there would have been no revival of the Stuart policy; we should have had exclusive use as well as absolute ownership. Had the voice of Chatham, the imperial statesman whom England and the Colonies unite to honour, been listened to fifty years later, the integrity of the island would have been established in 1763. In his own emphatic language, rather than suffer foreign domination in Newfoundland, he would have surrendered the Tower of London.

There is still another national claim, for statesmen have been generous, not to say prodigal, in gifting foreign nations with servitudes over Newfoundland. This one was made as late as 1818, in time of profound peace, for no consideration express or implied, and is to continue “for ever” according to the deed of gift. It grants to the United States the free use of the Newfoundland waters and shore-line on the south from Ramca Island eastward, along the whole west coast and “ indefinitely northward ” in Labrador. The concession is bad enough on the face of it, but becomes incalculably worse when you consider it in connection with the United States’ pretence—a pretence enforced under the Washington Treaty (1871) in the so-called “Fortune Bay Outrage” with the sanction of Mr. Gladstone—that a treaty-provision regarding fisheries overrides all local laws and regulations of whatever kind subsequently made. Newfoundland, I need scarcely add, declines to be bound by the new doctrine.

III

A glance at the map will tell us much, and may tend to throw light on the question why foreign nations have been so eager to possess some part of the island or claim over it. You will observe that, except for the railway recently built, its interior is almost as blank as Equatorial Africa. It was and remains a paradise for sportsmen of the rod or gun; a paradise where cariboo, grouse, wild geese, curlew abound, and where rivers and lakes—nearly one-third of the whole area—teem with numerous varieties of fish in inexhaustible numbers. On the other hand, her coast-line is deeply indented. North from Cape Race you count Conception, Trinity, Bonavista, Notre Dame, White and Hare Bays; in the south, Trepassey, St. Mary’s, Placentia, and Fortune; in the west, St. George’s, Bay of Islands, Bonne, and St. John Bays. They are all locally of great extent. Trinity and Placentia Bays almost cut the island in two, leaving on the eastern side the peninsula of Avalon. No wonder that the old cartographers set her down as an archipelago.

Mr. Beckles Willson in his pleasant book on Newfoundland ranks her as the tenth island in the world. In matter of area he is no doubt correct. But if you would define the colony aright, you must measure her shore-line. Her electoral divisions, administrative areas, her roads, and the circuits of her courts have reference, not to counties or townships, quadrangular or customary, but to high-water mark. Her villages and hamlets fringe the foreshore wherever a haven or shelter may be had, and, as you may infer from the crowded nomenclature, nature has been exceedingly bountiful to her as well in the distribution of harbours as in the allotment of shore-line. The fact is indicative at once of her industry and her history. One may not unfairly say, speaking broadly, that her people stand with their backs to the land and set their eyes upon the sea. Outside the chief towns as St. John’s with 29.000 inhabitants; Harbour Grace with 6000: Carbonear, Bonavista, Trinity, Placentia, Brigus, with 4000 or more each, there is scarcely a settlement three miles from salt Avater. The last census (1891) returns her people, including those of Labrador, as in all 210,000, and distributes her bread-winners as follows: Miners, 1258; farmers, 1547; mechanics, 2685; fishermen and persons engaged in fisheries, 54,755. NotAArithstanding the severe trials she has experienced during the last seven or eight years, her population is said to have increased, and is uoav estimated at about 230,000, but the census-proportions may be taken to be representative of to-day. They show Newfoundland to be before all things a fishing country, her main industry to be the fishing industry. She is sometimes called the Norway of the New World.

She depends on the same natural sources of supply as the European kingdom. Strange as it may seem, the cold, not the warm waters of the world afford the more prolific sustenance for fish-life. From Baffin Bay, through Davis Strait, along the front of Labrador, past Newfoundland, there Hoavs slowly but constantly a stream of vast proportions, be firing, on its bosom these many-pinnacled and variously turreted masses that cast so deep a spell on those who seek the picturesque—shattered fragments of arctic glaciers—carrying likewise what, at first sight, seems a slimer glamour, but on examination resolves itself into minute living forms, tiny animalcule, in such multitude as may be indicated but not expressed by the terms myriads upon myriads of millions yearly. These support higher orders of life which in turn become the food of the fish of commerce. The current is sometimes said to divide at the Belle Isle Strait, one arm encircling the Gulf, enriching the waters of Quebec, Now Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton, as well as Western Newfoundland, and coming forth at the southern gap. Recent experiments tend to show that the motion of the waters at Belle Isle is tidal. Be this as it may, the main stream, rounding Cape Race and washing the southern coast, moves southwards till on the outer rim of the Banks of Newfoundland, a couple of degrees south of the island, it dips under the warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico and disappears. The constancy of the flow assures the prosperity of the island.

The Banks of which I speak, so well known as the cradle of fog, though the fog they generate hangs more often and more densely on the Nova Scotia and New Brunswick coasts than on those of Newfoundland, are submarine plateaus, which lie at the depth of 50 to 100 fathoms, and subtend about 60,000 square miles of the North Atlantic. They were once supposed to be formed by iceberg deposits, but are now known to be composed mainly of sand and shell forms, which may show forth hereafter as the chalk cliffs of Kent. They are a new Albion in the process of making, and mark the southern limit of the Newfoundland fishery.

This fishery, as it is known to history, is one from Labrador to the Banks, and is a cod-fishery. It was prosecuted almost from the date of Cabot’s discovery by the English, Portuguese, Bretons, and Biscayans; it has been the subject-matter of many international negotiations during the past three centuries; now and then, it has been the cause of war among modern nations. Its total yield to all participants in these days—that is, to Newfoundland, France, the United States, and Canada—is 3,750,000 quintals or hundredweights yearly. If we take as an average 40 fish to the cwt., the total annual yield will be 148,000,000 cod-fish. With this you may compare Norway’s average return per year, 50,000,000. Her average annual export during the last ten years does not exceed 756,000 cwt., that of Newfoundland alone for the same term is 1,295,000 ewt. If, then, you call Newfoundland the American Norway, you should add a rider that she is, or has the possibilities of becoming, and requires nothing but good government to become, a much greater Norway.

I have said that Cape Race is the apex of the continental triangle; it is the apex likewise of the insular triangle, which is right angled. Its hypothenuse, or east and north sides, along which the Arctic current glides, stretches to the Strait of Belle Isle. Of this passage Newfoundland makes comparatively little use. Her Labrador fishing fleet, estimated at 1000 craft of all sizes, passes it by, and seeks the richer grounds of the far north. Canada has of late years lighted it at considerable cost, and has this year completed a large lighthouse with the best modern appliances, so that in midsummer both steamers and sailing-vessels may use it as the shortest route from Liverpool to Montreal. It is actually the older passage, and was known to the English and Bretons before the days of Cartier. In 1.534 passed north from his landfall at Bonavista and entered the Strait, holding on his right hand that land which he says “God gave Cain,” and to which the Portuguese would limit the English discoveries.

The south coast runs from Cape Race west to Cape Ray, where lies the broader channel leading to the St. Lawrence and the Gulf. That it was not first but second in the order of discovery is plain from Cartier’s narrative. Turning southwards from Belle Isle he skirted the west coast of the island, touched at the Magdalens, made a periplus of the Gulf, and proceeded to France by the route he had come. In describing his voyage he says there should be some passage at the south near Cape Ray, and adds: “If it were so, it would be a great shortening as well of the time as of the way, if any perfection could be found in it.” “Perfection” was found in his second voyage; for, having wintered at the St. Charles under the shelter of Cape Diamond and descended the great river of Canada, he directed his course towards Newfoundland, then to the Magdalens, and turning eastwards found the strait he had divined. The date, 1536, is important in Newfoundland history, for at this time was her insularity first established. That she afterwards blossomed into an archipelago is not the fault of Cartier.

It has been held that the Gulf was known before Cartier’s explorations and, in proof of the assertion, a map by Gaspar de Yiegas, dated 1534, is produced. I have not seen the original, which is in Paris, but have examined a reproduction published in 1893. It shows a substantial bay between Burin Peninsula and Cape Breton, as do all maps, at least from 1508 till to-day. That fact could be and was, no doubt, learned from continental coasting. Now De Yiegas gives no indication of the Magdalen Islands. Without knowing these, what could he have known of the Gulf ? Again, his bay is by no means deep and closes in a semicircular form, round-headed towards the west. Is this even an approximate representation of the Canadian Mediterranean? May we not infer from its semicircular ending that De Viegas had no certain data to proceed upon in depicting this part of North America? But the chief point is this : that, in his map, Newfoundland through her main breadth is a prolongation of the continent. The conclusion is irresistible that till 1536, thirty-nine years after Cabot’s first venture, there was no knowledge of a strait at Cape Ray leading to a vast expanse of a land-locked water, whatever conception there may have been of a bay between Burin and Cape Breton narrowing westwards.

Until about twelve years ago this opening remained nameless. It was then called Cabot Strait, on the suggestion of Admiral Wharton, We all reverence the feeling that prompted the Admiral, and must admit that Cabot and Columbus have been ungratefully ignored in the nomenclature of the continent. At the same time, the bestowal of Cabot's name on this precise locality is unfortunate, for two reasons: it sprang from the now abandoned planisphere of 1544, which the Admiral accepted in all good faith; it tends to prejudge the controversy as to the English landfall of 1497. On the other hand, had Cartier’s name been chosen, we should have been on historical ground; a well-merited tribute would have been paid to a great explorer; an important date as well as exploit in the annals of North America would have been popularised.

1V

What we may call the base of the island-triangle stretches from Cape Ray to Cape Bauld, and almost blocks the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Its extremities, as you see, command the highways of Canadian trade, and are of special interest in a strategical point of view, as well for the safeguarding of that commerce as for the maintenance of British power. According to the government reports, this shore-line is also the richest part of the island, whether you regard the products of the sea, the capabilities of the soil, the treasures of the subsoil, the climate or timber resources. It is likewise Newfoundland’s natural gateway to her continent. One would say, therefore, that the true policy both for the Island and the Empire should be to strengthen the base as much as possible, to people it with English subjects, to foster its industries and promote its development by every means available.

Now what is its present condition; or one may go further afield and ask, what is the condition of the shore-line going by the north from Cape Ray to Cape Bauld and down the east coast to Cape St. John, a distance of 340 miles as the crow flies and 800 or 900 miles along high-water-mark ? You may compare it with the tract that stretches from Portsmouth by Land’s End to the Solway. There is no spot fortified 01* strengthened in any way. A portion of your taxes goes to secure what, in departmental language, is called “the protection” of that coast. These moneys are spent year by year, particularly during the last fifty years, not to settle or develop but to make and keep that large part of her Majesty’s dominions a wilderness, a sort of pariah’s or no-man’s-land, a region where at least men of English blood and English speech may not find subsistence for themselves and those dependent on them. Twelve thousand of your fellow-subjects dwell within the bounds, peaceable, long-suffering, and loyal citizens, who should be and, in my opinion, are as much entitled as any man within these realms to that ample protection for person, family, and property which is so dear to Englishmen the world over, and which English law, their birthright no less than yours, so freely guarantees; yet these men, women, and children have been held heretofore, are now held, and, unless some substantial change takes place, will be held hereafter (I quote the words of Lord Salisbury) “in a state of siege” from the cradle to the grave. They may till no land, open on work no mine, engage in no lumbering operations, build no wharf or pier, erect no factory, home, or shelter, they may not follow their avocations in their our waters, on other terms than sufferance or free from the penalty of bombardment. Now I put it down to you as Englishmen: is it fair to impose this helotism on your fellow-subjects? Is the policy that enforces and continues it on British soil honourable to this mighty Empire? I ask the question, because I am sure of your answer; because I know that the feeling of solidarity that is now animating every part of the Queen’s dominions will in no long time put an end for ever to the solecism.

I shall be told, no doubt, of lions in the path, of foreign claims and the sanctity of treaties; in particular, of an arrangement made with France in 1713, or a hundred and eighty-six years ago. But have treaties never been unmade, abrogated, denounced, changed, or modified? Dumont’s, Marten’s, Hertslet’s collections tell quite another tale. The instruments I speak of have been broken no less than six times by the outbreak of war; why, then, were they sedulously renewed on every return of peace? How comes it that those parts only of the old documents were revived which pertain to Newfoundland, all the rest falling into desuetude ? Again, how is it that, in addition to reimposing the old servitudes, attempts should be made to expand and confirm them by new and perpetual grants at so late date as 1857, 1884, and 1885? Neither the sanctity of treaties nor “historic misfortune” in past times gives any explanation on these points. In the circumstances, there is room for another suggestion, namely, that there has heretofore been no immediate or direct responsibility on the question.

Let me put a case. Let us suppose that the west of England were blocked up by treaty as the west of Newfoundland is, and that the varied industries of Liverpool, Barrow, and Preston, of Southport, Cardiff, and Bristol were brought to an untimely end or stayed under threat of the strong arm. I must ask you to go a step further, and imagine a ministry adopting the scheme as a policy or permitting it to continue, though not themselves its primary authors. What would yon think of the sanctity of the arrangement? Would the House of Commons accept the plea of treaty made a century ago as a sufficient warrant for the continued service? Or the voters in these western constituencies whose interests were affected, whose prospects were blighted, whose means of living were destroyed—do you imagine they would rally with enthusiasm to the support of that government, be its party-profession what it may? You know as well as I know that no such administration could stand one hour within these realms. May we not indulge the hope that some day the territorial integrity of the Colonies will be no less esteemed than that of the Mother Country?

Many nations now have colonies, but none of them sets the inviolability of these possessions at so high a point as France; she claims it for them as strictly as for her European dominions. Why should she not ? In point of domestic law, in point of international law, is not the soil of Martinique as much French property as that of Marseilles? Rut our neighbours go further, and cause their claim to be respected as well in the case of new colonies as those of old standing. You recollect that, a short time since, England had definite rights in Tunis and Madagascar. Rightly or wrongly, these countries became French colonies. At the request of France, her Majesty’s ministers consented to abolish the English rights almost as a matter of course, and on the ground that they were inconsistent with the new status. Are not the English colonies as large, populous, rich, and important as those of France? Why, then, is not the generally accepted doctrine of international law invoked in the former as in the latter case? Our fellow-subjects are surely entitled to as liberal treatment from English statesmen as English statesmen are prepared to accord to foreigners. Newfoundland makes 110 greater claim!

A curious instance of what one may call contrariety of principle on this question arises in regard to St. Pierre-Miquelon, a small group of French islands which lie seven or eight miles off the Newfoundland coast. In 1783 the French executive made a declaration regarding them, and a counterpart of that declaration, applicable to the neighbouring coast, was made at the same time by the English minister. The two instruments, be their value what it may, stand on the same ground and are of equal obligation. Now the French do not, and never did, execute their part of the arrangement; on the contrary, they have heretofore treated and do now treat it as non-existent. Well, then, about the middle of the century the law-officers of the Crown were consulted on the point, and gave then opinion that France was in the right and in no way obliged to carry out the terms of the document. In view of international law, the law officers are undoubtedly correct; for neither the English nor the French declaration is part of the Treaty of 1783 or of any other treaty. They are proposals, or offers, or promises that the respective makers may execute or not as they choose; one may say, they are voluntary pronouncements of a then present intention, but are of no further validity. The French elect not to be bound by their minister’s declaration; therefore they are not bound, and may do as they will with St. Pierre-Miquelon. Our government accepts the situation in regard to the French islands, and adopts the view of its law-officers. So far so good. But what shall we say of the English declaration, the counterpart of the French ? Its invalidity would be established very easily in a court of law. But here comes in the contrariety I speak of. The French declaration is of no avail, but the English declaration, which is on the same footing, must be executed against the English colonists at the mouth of the cannon, if need be. In these words, you have the principle or contrariety of principle according to which the west coast of Newfoundland has been ruled since about the time of Waterloo. Do you wonder, then, that it is little better than a desert?

Some of you may have access to Hansard, and Hansard has much that concerns Newfoundland. If you look through its pages for the last fifty or sixty years, you will almost invariably find that the English declaration of 1783 is vouched by authority to excuse or warrant not merely the general condition of the west of the island, but whatever act of petty tyranny may happen to occur at any time.

On the assumption of its binding force, you may justify almost anything by its terms, from a compulsory sale of herrings at such a price, or the shutting of a lobster factory, up to the wholesale deportation of the inhabitants and all their belongings. It is comprehensive. It makes no difference in its interpretation whether or not Newfoundland is raised to the dignity of a self-governing colony. Neither does it matter what party is in power; the same rule obtains, the continuity of policy proceeds, under the Big Englanders as under the Little Englanders. 1 was going to say that it matters little whether or not the local legislature protests in the forms prescribed by the constitution; but it matters much. Protests have been made, are numerous, and have been generally followed not by relief but by increased stringency. The fact of protestation or petition is, somehow or other, taken to be a kind of wrong, a sort of crime unknown to English law.

But, setting the departmental assumption aside, you may ask what is the real origin of the blockade, the reason for its continuance? Both law and history seem to concur in answering not declaration, not treaty, not statute, but tradition or the force of tradition. Quo 01* two broad facts may throw light on the situation. In the history of the eastern part of the island, you will find substantially the same system at work, though on broader lines. If you take your stand at the end of last century, you may trace it back through statute, executive order, and custom, almost to the day when England first had a navy. It is the well-known status of the ship-fishery. Turning to later times, you will find it operative till 1824, when it was, with other curious laws, formally abolished by Parliament. At that time, the west as well as the east should have been relieved of the “ old man of the sea,” and opened to modern civilisation. Unfortunately it was a terra incognita, and remained, or was suffered to remain, under the control of the Admiralty. Was there any statutory sanction for that control? I have not found any. It may be said that in the same year (1824) an Act was passed to executc such treaties as then existed—the Treaty of 1814-15 with France, and of 1818 with the United States—and that it gave enlarged powers for the purpose. But to make that argument of avail one should, in the first place, show that the treaties, or either of them, established or reestablished or continued the blockade. That postulate should appear in clear and unambiguous language, because international law construes with strictness all limitations of or encroachments upon local sovereignty. Now, it will not be pretended that the United States’ convention closes the shore to English enterprise. Then as to the French arrangement, what but tradition could induce men to convert a few general words used to restore a fishing refit to a foreign nation into a perpetual obligation to bombard their fellow-subjects? But, then, you will say, what does the statute direct? It does not restore the old fishery system that had just been abolished, gives no explicit directions on the subject, and confines itself to general powers for the execution of treaties without even specifying them. Outside of use and wont, what power is there so hardy as to supplement the declarations of Parliament and undertake to supply its presumed omissions? But let us suppose no forced construction was put on the statute or statutes in question; then, they lapsed and were made to lapse in 1832. From that date onward, at least till 1892. when the case of Baird v. Walker came before the Privy Council, there was no legislative warrant for the state of siege. But during all these weary years it continued in unabated vigour, pursuing the ignoble tenor of its way, independent at once of international obligation and statutory direction.

You may, then, ask what should be done in this complicated affair ? I would rather that the question be directed to her Majesty's ministers in this country or to her Majesty’s ministers in the colony; yet, as it arises fairly out of m37 subject, I will submit to you what seems to me proper in the circumstances. “I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say.” I should propose, then: (1) that the jurisdiction assumed by the department or given to naval officers to interpret existing treaties should be discontinued or abolished. It is a survival from last century, and was even then an archaic instrument for the purpose. The fact that the local legislature was not asked to continue the modus vivendi this year, is supposed to indicate that the device will cease with the century. (2) The territorial waters of Newfoundland in the west, as in the cast, should be placed fully and frankly under the control of the colony. This step should have been taken in 1S24, or, if not at that time, in 1855, when self-government was granted. (3) Until foreign claims are done away, the Newfoundland courts should be empowered to adjudicate on such international questions as may arise. (4) While foreign complications last, naval cruisers should continue in Newfoundland waters to assist in the execution of the courts’ decisions in affairs international, in the enforcement of fishing regulations and customs laws. (5) The restrictions that forbid the granting of clear titles to land, or the free use of land when granted, should be set aside and the right of the colony in that regard affirmed.

I do not say these would cure all the evils of the western shore. But they are available now and would work a substantial improvement on the actual condition of affairs. They would place Newfoundland on a par with the other self-governing communities of the Empire, and enable her to control and develop her resources. Some of them, as the first and third, it may be said, are, or are on the point of being granted; therefore, legislation in regard to them is needless. But where, as in Newfoundland, there has been so much trouble and confusion, so much double and doubtful jurisdiction, a short declaratory act, even in matters obvious, could do little harm, and might prevent a great deal of mischief. None of them, it will be again said, calls for the immediate removal of servitudes. True; but they will reduce the servitudes to legal limits, and will establish a broad distinction between a fishing privilege exercisable by outsiders within British territory under British law and the sealing of a shore-line of 900 miles, lest, perchance, some foreigner may at some time desire to drop a line or draw a net at some unknown spot in its contour. The burden of showing that there is a foreign claim, its extent and scope, will be placed not where it now is but where it should be—on the alien, not on the subject of the colony. Foreigners will cease to apportion the shore as heretofore. No doubt the end to be sought, the point to which modern civilisation tends, is the total abolition of servitudes. But can we reach that end by operating, or endeavouring to operate, in the first instance, on the policy, principles, and purposes of France and the United States? These nations, whatever seeming lull may take place from time to time, may be expected to maintain their position as they have done heretofore. A change, and a great change is called for; but must we not seek that change primarily within rather than outside the Empire ? Must we not seek it in the people, in the statesmen who control our destinies — I do not say in their persons, but in their attitude ? On the day when the territory of the Colonies shall be held to be inviolable, as the soil of England is now held to be inviolable, there will be no question as to the continuance of foreign rights. The problem will solve itself. Neither France nor the United States will refuse to accord to the British possessions that full immunity which, for so long time, they have asserted for even the remotest part of their own dominions. That day is, in my opinion, not far distant. The enthusiasm that is now circling the Empire does not arise merely because steps arc taken to assure equality of right and the stability of the Empire in South Africa. Its well-spring is much deeper. It demands that the safety of the British dominions be assured against all opposing forces; that their integrity, individuality, immunity, be fully vindicated everywhere.

There are special reasons why Newfoundland should be released from the hold of France. She has refused to submit to an arbitration-board the full question of what her treaty-rights are. A modus vivcndi, arresting the development of the Newfoundland lobster industry, but devised in the hope that France would come to a more friendly frame of mind, made in 1890, and continued from year to year till this year, has been wholly without avail. Neither in ancient nor in modern times has the colony had commercial relation with the French as she Las had with the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Brazilians. On the contrary, French policy has forbidden intercourse, and, during the last half-century, has been markedly hostile. By laws of the following dates—July 22, 1851; July 28, i860; August 2, 1870; December 15, 1880; July 31, 1890, which remain in force till 1901—she bounties the outfit of ships and assigns them drying-places, not merely in St. Pierre-Miqudlon but on the Newfoundland coast; she provisions them free of duty—itself a large bounty; she presents to every man that ships on board the sum of fifty francs ; she bounties the cod-fish taken to the extent of sixteen shillings per metric quintal or eight shillings per hundred-weight. Additional sums are paid for subsidiary products, as cod-roes, oils, &c. If you look into the last report of the consul at Bordeaux (December 8, 1898),.you will see that the total government subsidy amounts to more than nine shillings per hundred-weight of fish taken. Nine shillings a hundred-weight leaves a handsome margin over the cost of the article. Whatever be the state of the market, the French fisherman cannot lose and may easily undersell his English competitor. Not content with this, the diplomacy of our neighbour secures differential treatment for her bonused product in Spain, Italy, and among the Latin nations generally. It makes no difference what pretence France may advance to justify her action. Neither does it matter whether you can or cannot change the internal policy of that country. The fact remains in all its broad lines, open, palpable, persistent. Now, let me ask you, is it not somewhat difficult for a small colony of 230,000 persons to battle against such mighty odds ? Is there any fairness in keeping one half its territory under the heel of such a country ? Is it not rather a duty as well to the Empire as the Colony to withdraw at the earliest possible moment privileges that for so long time have been so grossly abused?

V

Let me now ask you to turn your attention to Eastern Newfoundland, where the mass of the population resides, that portion which stretches from Cape St. John to Cape Race and from Cape Race to Cape Ray. For many years past there has been very little immigration, while the emigration to the United States and Canada is said to have been considerable. According to the census, 97 per cent, of the present inhabitants are native born. Religion and dialect give a clue to their origin. Of the 210,000 persons enumerated 1500 are Presbyterians. They are engaged chiefly in mercantile pursuits, are mostly of Scotch descent, and, though more influential than their numbers would indicate, are late comers. Their access to the island can scarcely be placed beyond this century. The next main division is the Roman Catholics, who dwell, for the most part, within the peninsula of Avalon, and are from the south of Ireland. They number about 73,000. It is at least doubtful whether Lord Baltimore’s plantation in Ferryland added to the permanent inhabitants ; but excluding these, if any, one may not unfairly assign the incoming of the Irish as a body to about the middle of the last century. Arthur Young, you will remember, gives a very lively description of the brisk trade there was between Cork and St. John’s in his day. The residue of the population belong to the Church of England and the Western body. They are of English descent. In his recent journey through the island, Mr. Beckles Willson detects their original county. He iinds Devon almost everywhere outside St. John’s, the habits, speech, and customs of Devon; and calls Mr. Blackmore’s attention to the subject.

The fact naturally strikes a Newfoundlander in the opposite way. In the west country, his native land is vividly brought before him.

It is said that this Devonshire population in the New World represents the oldest English colonisation beyond sea. Inasmuch as the present series covers the outer Empire, it may not be improper to consider on what "round Newfoundland claims to be the oldest of the colonies. It goes without saying that she antedates, as part of the Empire, the many coaling-stations that dot the ocean, the flourishing colonies of Africa and Australasia, the vast dependency of India and that magnificent group, the protagonist of colonial progress, the Dominion of Canada. The only contest would seem to lie between Newfoundland and Bermuda, or, if we go beyond the bounds of the present Empire, between Newfoundland and Virginia. You will recollect that Mr. Justin Winsor in his very elaborate and painstaking work, “ The Narrative and Critical History of America,” tacitly ignores the Newfoundland pretension, and proceeds on the assumption that Virginia, now part of the United States, was the first English colony in America.

Much depends on what one means by the word colony. Its ordinary signification, I imagine, is restricted to a body of persons who by mutual agreement leave the Mother Country, go forth under charter or crown authorisation, and make a new settlement within prescribed limits which endures and grows as well by inward as outward accessions. Massachusetts Bay, Champlain’s settlement in New France, most English as well as foreign colonics are of this description. Now, if collective action, crown sanction, and definite limits are of the essence of a colony, I fear that Newfoundland has very little claim to the first rank among English establishments; it is questionable, indeed, whether she has more than a shred of title to be a colony at all. It is true that from 1610 in the reign of James I. to 1660, the date of the Restoration, certain charters were issued and a number of attempts made to colonise the island. The efforts of Guy and Mason, of Sir William Vaughan, the genial author of “Cambrensium Catoleia” and the “Golden Grove,” Lords Falkland and Baltimore, and of Sir David Kirke are well known. But the earliest of these (1610) was subsequent to the founding of Virginia (1607); each and all of them failed; and none of them had any marked effect on settlement. They were, in fact, destroyed by the men of Devon, who claimed title against the King’s charter “ west and by law.” It is likewise true that the first English patent issued for occupation of America as distinguished from discovery was given to Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who sighted Bonavista in 1583 and proceeded forthwith to St. John’s, which was a general rendezvous then as now well known, to replenish his stores and refit his ships. We have a detailed account of his proceedings in Hakluyt’s “Collections.” You will recollect how, being at first denied admission, he entered the harbour on Saturday the 3rd of August, and found there “thirty to forty” sail of English and foreign vessels; how, on the following Monday, he hoisted the English flag from a pavilion prepared for the purpose, read his commission, and, in the name of the Virgin Queen, laid claim to all lands within 200 leagues in all directions, taking seisin to himself and his associates by the old symbolism of the turf and twig”; how, the ceremony over, the (lay and deed were celebrated by copious libations of wine, salvoes of cannon, general rejoicings, and an immense display of colours; how he ordained that laws to be thereafter made should be agreeable to those ot England, and set an example by promulgating three, one of which established the Church of England; how he made grants of land within his domain to persons that applied to him, and refused titles to others; and, generally, how he was entertained at the “admiral’s” weekly banquet, in the “garden” and elsewhere. All this took place twenty-four years before the permanent establishment of Virginia, and, on the strength of it, Newfoundland is sometimes called England’s oldest possession in the New World. But, as the ship that bore Gilbert foundered on his homeward voyage and his associates prosecuted the enterprise no further, his undertaking lacked two important elements of colonisation, namely, permanence and internal growth. It may be ranked with Raleigh’s plantation on the Roanoke two years later, or with Gosnold’s experiment in New England in 1602.

But are collective action, crown authorisation, prescription of limits, necessary tests of colonisation? If so, how shall we class the mutineers of the Bounty ? Had they the authorisation of the crown? Did the establishment in Somers Island take place, in the first instance, within a prescribed zone? Or what shall we say of the cradle of New England, the home of the “Pilgrim Fathers,” the plantation of New Plymouth, to which Mr. Winsor rightfully devotes so much attention ? Did it become an English colony only in 1629—30, when the charter was received? Was it not an English colony from the time of permanent settlement in 1620? Facts do not always happen according to regulation-theory, and I doubt whether you can get other tests of English colonisation than these—permanence, internal growth, connection with the Empire. They are at least important, and, if we accept them as sufficient, a very substantial argument may be advanced on behalf of Newfoundland’s alleged seniority. The examination may also serve to cast some light on the part which the island played in the expansion of England’s trade, in the colonisation of North America, and thereby in the civilisation of the world.

The question of priority might seem to be settled by a remark of Sabine, who, in his report on the principal fisheries of the American seas, presented to the United States Government in 1853, sails there was a resident population in Newfoundland as early as 1522, and sets the number of their houses at forty to fifty. However probable the statement may be, the author gives no reference to his authority, and the most industrious of Newfoundland historians, Judge Prowse, has not been able to find any direct proof of it. We must therefore put it aside.

The best evidence, as well of early settlement as of permanent growth, would evidently be genealogical registers, whether ecclesiastical or public. The care shown by the French has enabled the Abbe Tanguay to construct tables of descent for a whole people in the province of Quebec. The English have nowhere been so particular as the French in this regard, and, so far as concerns Newfoundland, the formation of registers for any but private purposes began at a very late date within the present century. Under the circumstances, the argument is necessarily indirect or circumstantial. It concerns a process of peopling such as is now going on silently but inevitably in Western Newfoundland and along the coast of the Labrador— its efficient cause, the fisheries.

The primary fact is this, that throughout Tudor times from 1497, England had a large trade with Newfoundland. Sir Josiali Child, our chief authority on trade questions under the Restoration, estimates that in or about 1605, just before the planting of Virginia, the Newfoundland business gave occupation to 270 English ships yearly. He tells us also in his “Discourse of Trade" that it was the “largest single navigation” that this country then had. The general accuracy of his statement is confirmed by contemporary accounts as Masons, Whitbourne’s, Captain John Smith’s.

The industry was favoured by law, as one may see in the “Statutes of the Realm.” Twenty-five years before the granting of the Virginia charter, Queen Elizabeth forbade the importation of foreign-caught fish save only that which was “ taken and salted ” by her own subjects whose attention is directed to “ the pro-vidinge and bringinge in of fyshe in and out of the countrey of Islande (Iceland), Shotlande, and Newefoundelande” (23 Eliz. c. 7, 1581). Ten years previously (1 57 1), she renewed an Act that had been found “ of advantage to the navy,” which provided for the free exportation of fish caught by English subjects in foreign parts, and compelled its home consumption by the device of political fasts (1 3 Eliz. c. 1 1 ; 5 Eliz. c.5). She took special pains to enforce the observance of the statute of 1 548, which abolishes “ divers exactions as sommes of money, doles or shares of fyshe ” on such “ merchaunts and fishermen as adventure and journey into Iselande, Newfoundlande, Irelande, and other places commodious for fyshinge and getting fyshe” (2 and 3 Ed. vi. c. 6). This statute in turn enlarges the scope of an Act of Henry VIII. which penalises “the regrating and engrossing of fysshe,” forbids entrance to the foreign-caught article, but excepts imports by persons “ which shall bye and fysshe in any parties of Iselande, Scotlande, Shotlande, Irelande, or Newlandc,” that is, Newfoundland (33 Hen. VIII. c. 2). In 1 541, therefore, and before it, there must have been a substantial trade with this portion of the New World, a trade of fishing and buying fish, sufficiently substantial to be provided for by a general enactment. The statute itself is the first English Act that mentions any part of America. We may take the statutory precedence of the island to be settled.

This succession of statutes is in itself sufficient to show that England did not, according to the Dieppcse pretension, neglect the Cabots’ discoveries for more than a century, that is, during the Tudor period. It casts light on Parkhurst’s assertion (1578) that the English “are commonly lords of the harbours where they fish”; and on the account of Hayes, the historian of the Gilbert expedition (1583): “the English command all there,” “always be admirals by turns interchangeably over the fleetes of fishermen within the same harbour.” The entries of rewards, loans, gifts, which appear year after year in Henry VII.’s Privy Purse accounts, indicate at how early a date they began to cross the Atlantic commonly. Their purpose in so doing is stated in the letter of Raimondo de Soneino to the Duke of Milan, dated at London 18th December 1497. He is telling of Cabot’s return and success, and adds: “The sea is full of fish, which are taken not only with a net but also with a basket in which a stone is put, so that the basket may plunge in the water. . . . The Englishmen, his partners (that is, Cabot’s partners, for the enterprise was a joint undertaking), say that they can bring so many fish that the kingdom will have no more business with Islanda (Iceland), and that from this country there will be a great trade in the fish they call stock-fish.” Cabot may have sought the land of gold and spices and precious stones, King Henry’s mind may have been turned in that direction also for the profit of the treasury and to rival King Ferdinand, but the Bristol men seized at once the actualities as well as the possibilities of the situation. For many a long year they had traded to Iceland; from this time forth their attention was turned to Newfoundland. The trade they opened was and continued to be a great trade down to the opening of this century.

The custom or mode of regulation which controlled the English in Iceland and Norway was forthwith introduced into the New World. The evidence of it is contained in the patent to Ward, Thomas, and their associates, dated the 19th of March 1501 ; as also in the patent to Elliot, Asliehurst, and others of date the 9th of December 1502. It rested on the sole power of the admiral, the chief fact in the constitutional history of Newfoundland. It provides for the shares or doles of the adventurers: one each to the seamen or fishermen, two to the mate, four to the master. We may note in passing that the patentees were empowered without further license to carry to Newfoundland men and women who should be willing to remain and inhabit as well as those who desired to visit merely. Whether they settled or did not settle, Newfoundland offered them four advantages over Iceland: a larger quantity and a better quality of fish; timber for all needful purposes; a mild climate, where Parkhurst tells us he had planted “wheat, barley, rye, beans, peas, and seeds of herbs, plumstones, nuts, all which prospered as in England”; a large extent of coast which they might occupy without asking leave of any civilised power or people. The aborigines, the Beothiks, were never numerous, and passed away at an early date.

The ports principally interested in the trade in Tudor times were Bristol, Barnstaple, Dartmouth, Poole, Plymouth, Weymouth. Owing to want of system in the customs accounts of the outports, it is impossible to fix with any degree of accuracy the volume or value of the industry for any particular year. Besides, if the Bristol authorities are to be believed, the Newfoundland adventurers were notorious and persistent smugglers : they evaded payment even of the impost appropriated to relieve the sick and wounded who had suffered in the fight with the Armada. The notices that have come down to us vary, and vary much. We hear of twenty ships in one year, of eighty in another, of 200 or more in a third. There were, no doubt, periods of growth, periods of decline periods of fluctuation. Parkhurst (1578), for instance, says that the fishery had of late days declined, and that only fifty English vessels resorted to Newfoundland, the greater number having turned towards Iceland and Norway. An unsigned memorandum in Cecil's handwriting gives the following numbers for the fishing-fleet cleared from the several ports up to the 2nd of March in the year 1594, and may be of use for a proportional estimate for the years immediately following the defeat of the Armada: thirty-six for Newfoundland, four for Iceland, eight for the German Ocean. The whole English fishing-fleet at that time is supposed to have numbered about 350. The general situation just prior to the Armada may be inferred from Raleigh's address to Lord Burleigh: “The Newfoundland fishery is the mainstay and support of the western counties. If any accident should happen to that fleet, it would be the greatest misfortune that could befall England.” In regard to numbers, therefore, we may conclude that Child’s representation for 1605 is very probable, that the fishery itself was of long standing, and was one of the staple industries of England.

As our argument is inferential and cumulative, let us look at the question of value. The earliest detailed presentment I can find in the Calendar of State Papers, Colonial series, is dated the 16th of March 1620. You may say that is sometime alter the foundation of Virginia. But the fortune of that colony was yet wavering, and twelve ships loaded with provisions and carrying 1200 settlers had just been sent to her relief. The document was presented to the King, referred to the Secretary of State, and its prayer was in part acted on. Its data were furnished by Captain Mason, the Governor of Guy’s Colony from 1615, whose means of information were exceptionally good. It numbers the English fleet then engaged in the Newvfoundland trade at 300, and states that its contribution to his Majesty’s revenue was £10,000. If we take 5 per cent, to be the rate of duty, and it can scarcely have been higher, the product of the fisheries brought into England must have been worth £200,000 of these days. To translate the sum into current values, one should multiply by six or seven. The petition goes on to show what subsidiary industries benefit by the trade, and concludes that neither in number nor value is it equalled by “any one maritime trade in the kingdom.” The total imports of England for that year are given at £2,141,000.

Whitbourne, who had been on the coast for forty years and held the first commission to administer justice as vice-admiral, says in his “Discourse” (p. 40): “So, again, it is to be considered that yearly from the NeAvfoundland, as the trade noAv is, the subjects bring from thence to the value of much above £135,000.” On page 45 he ranks it “above the sum of £1 50,000.” Let us take the smaller estimate, in order to be on the safe side. It is made for 1615, and its items are given on page 12. To find its modern equivalent multiply by six and you have £810,000 as the then yearly value of this fishery. Nor Avill the sum seem excessive if we consult Mr. Thorold Rogers’ book on “ Prices.” He says that, from 1583 to 1623, the price of cod-fish rose from fifty shillings the long hundred to seventy-three ; that, from 1623 to 1663, it rose from seventy-three to eighty-three shillings ; and that thereafter it remained stationary for near a century. £810,000 a year ! Was Bacon, then, indulging in rhodomontade, as avc generally suppose, when he said that these waters had yielded more wealth to England than the mines oil Peru and Mexico had afforded Spain ? Having given tlie approximate statement for Newfoundland, I add Humboldt’s estimate of Spain’s yearly return from the New World: from 1492 to 1 52 1, £52,000 : from 1522 to 1 545, £630,000 ; from 1546 to 1578, £440,000; for the rest of the century, £280,000. There was one marked difference between the cases. The flow of American treasure into Spain ceased at a comparatively early date. The wealth this country drew from Newfoundland was regular and permanent as the onflow of the northern current. It rose steadily year by year. In 1640, it amounted to £700,000, by 1670 to £800,000 of the value of the time. Throughout the seventeenth and for a great part of the eighteenth century, it maintained its relative position in the industries of the realm, affording lucrative employment for large numbers of the seamen of England, and contributing its quota to the building up of her world-wide commerce.

That this English fishery began at a very early date, was prosecuted with vigour, and attained large proportions before the planting of Virginia, or the opening of the seventeenth century is, I submit, clear. Its bearing on actual settlement springs not merely from the fact that the men of Devon had a practically free field there dominated all, but from the need of the fishery itself. In order to its successful prosecution, some settlement—some substantial settlement—was necessary for the building, preserving, and repairing of boats, dwellings, flakes, stages, &c., used in curing and drying fish; for the mending of nets and sails: the making of oars and masts : the preparation of train and skins; for the early catch in April and May, and the late harvest, in October and November: for the supply of bait at all seasons, and provisioning the ships’ crews with fresh food in the place ot salt, Thai we have no direct account of its origin and progress, with dates and numbers specifically set forth, desirable as that may be, does not militate against the general position, for the reason previously given : that precisely the same process, from the same causes, has gone on in the west shore and Labrador within this century, apart from state authorisation, without combined action, without statistical reports. At the same time, such accounts as have come down to us, in their frequent reference to boat-building, cultivation, &e., presuppose settlement. As an example, I take an extract from Whitbourne, from that portion of his “Discourse” (p. 53) where he endeavours to dissipate the prejudices of his countrymen in regard to the alleged coldness of the climate: “ And likewise it hath been in some winters so hard frozen in the River Thames above London Bridge, neere the Court, that the tenderest fair ladies and gentlewomen that are in any part of the world, who have beheld it, and great numbers of people have there sported on the ice many days together, and have felt it colder there than men do that live in Newfoundland.” The conclusion may be enforced when we call to mind that “250 saill of ships” would carry “above 5000 Englishmen ” yearly, or an average of 20 per vessel. Instead of returning home each trip with its risk as to selection of places, its delay in preparation for the season’s work, yearly to be renewed; should we not expect that some by preference on arrangement would remain for the common benefit, at first for a winter, and then permanently ? By the time the industry had grown to such proportions as to be favoured by Parliament —that is, in 1541—it is by no means improbable that the nucleus of a resident population had been already formed.

Those who afterwards planted Somers Island or Bermuda came upon it by chance, and were wrecked. The next year, 1610, having built two vessels they continued their voyage to Virginia, and found the colonists reduced from 500 to 60, and on the point of leaving. Their destination was Newfoundland, to which Gilbert, Raleigh, and Gosnold had turned in their distresses; the general haven and storehouse of the North Atlantic, at least from the days of Cartier and Roberval; the one place in America where relief could be obtained. That it should have had no civilised inhabitants or permanent settlers at the time almost passes belief. Our first actual return is for 1626, and gives the then population between Cape Bonavista and Cape Race as 350 families, or 1750 persons.

You will recollect that, when James I. issued his charters for the occupation of North America, he divided the continent into two sections—North and South Virginia—and drew the northern boundary at parallel 46, thus including Cape Breton and excluding Newfoundland. She stood apart from her continent at that time very much, I am sorry to add, as she does to-day. She represented then, as she represents now, the middle term, the necessary postulate, between land cultivation on this side of the Atlantic and land cultivation on the other : I mean the fisheries. Wc may not be able to realise fully the large part they played in the migration of western nations and the civilising of the continent; but the fact that foreign claims still press on her shores may be taken to indicate that these fisheries were of vital importance in the process, and that the struggle for their possession was both keen and loner continued.

VI

One might have expected that as settlement arose out of a large and profitable trade, it would have grown rapidly, and that we should find in the island to-day, not 230,000 people merely, but more than two millions. The expectation is just, and might have been realised if the plan that succeeded with other English establishments had been pursued in Newfoundland from the first. The rules of the chartered companies, beginning with Guy’s Company, of which Lord Bacon was a member, were wise enough and likely enough to succeed. But, in the first place, they received only parcels of the island, and therefore had not full control, and could not introduce law, order, or system. Again, by 1610, there was no possibility of regulating the trade by way of chartered company. It had grown so as to employ 250 vessels, carrying probably 5000 men. These men, or the masters of the craft, by long custom had been used to go where they would and do as they liked, irrespective of all authority. They claimed the island as a free fishery, were favoured by special acts, and were prepared to push their traditional privileges to the uttermost, if need be. The chartered companies could not succeed even as private enterprises. They engrossed, to use the language of their opponents, a considerable section of the shore that before had been free, and were changing the customary order of the industry. Instead of a ship-fishery which had its head-quarters in England, and used settlement for subsidiary purposes only, they were introducing a sedentary fishery whose basis was in Newfoundland, and making settlement a primary consideration. The quarrel between the two came before the king as early as 1619, and ended in a virtual victory for the free or uncontrolled fishery. The plan that found a clear field in Virginia and New England encountered nothing but opposition in Newfoundland, opposition that it was powerless to withstand. To have had a chance even of surviving, it should have been begun at least a century before the date of its actual trial.

Setting aside Henry Vll.’s patents, one may trace “ the ancient custom of the fisheries,” so dear to the Long Parliament, from Parklmrst’s letter (1578) through Hayes’ pamphlet (1584) till it takes developed form in Whitbourne’s “Discourse” (1620). It is converted into a system of Regulations by the Star Chamber in 1633 which were amplified from time to time till 1675. Under William III. it bccomes a statute in 1698. Buttressed by many orders of the Board of Trade, it is further enforced by Palliser’s Acts in the reign of George III. It persists with modifications till 1824, when the whole system was swept away. It is described at its best by Chief-Justice Reeves in his History of Newfoundland. You will find a popular representation of its working in Mr. Hatton’s “Under the Great Seal.” Sir Josiah Child expounds its economic principles. It is a reduction to practice, thorough and unrelieved, of the mercantile theory which for so long time controlled the councils not merely of this country, but of Western Europe. It became part of the French maritime code under Colbert, and was put in force at Placentia.

Now, what was the outcome of the mercantile theory, the ancient custom that governed Newfoundland for more than two centuries ? Its orsfan is sometimes described as a corporation. A trading corporation of the Tudor type, it finds its parallel in the association of the Eastland merchants. Its members, found in all parts of the western counties, competed keenly with each other, but joined their forces to destroy the common enemy, to support the common cause, to gain the ear of power. Tliuy resembled a board of trade rather than a company in our acceptation of the word.

Coming to the knowledge of history in 1619, their first object was to harass and root out the interlopers, as they called them, who bogan to trespass on their reserves, the colonists of Guy and Vaughan and Baltimore. So completely did they succeed that in 1675 they secured an order to the Admiralty to extirpate all inhabitants without distinction, ami trails-port them to other regions where their presence would be less mischievous. The order was not executed, because some degree of settlement was needful for the fishery and the French began to be troublesome at the time. But strict measures were taken to prevent increase, lest Newfoundland should imitate New England and become an independent centre of trade. Under heavy penalties, amply secured, masters of vessels became bound to bring home all persons they carried to the fisheries. The antipathy of the Anti-Immigration Society was particularly directed against women. You may judge with what persistency their plan was executed from the tardy increase of the resident population. In 1626 their numbers were 1750; in 1716, 3506; in 1751, 5835. When the violence of the system began to abate somewhat we find: in 1774, 12,340 persons; in 1792, 15,233; in 1804, 20,380; and in 1825, the year after its abolition, 55,719.

A principal feature of the ancient custom was that there should be no engrossing of land—in other words, no private property in it. How otherwise could the fishery be free ? It is said that the prohibition extended only to six miles from high-water mark; but that distance covers the peninsula of Avalon, and in any part of Newfoundland prohibition of access to the sea means prohibition of settlement. Again, it is said, exception was made by the Act of 1698 in favour of those who had occupied a particular place during the six previous years. But if the provision applied to residents, how could they secure the right ? There was but one method then, and for a century afterwards, namely—

“The good old rule, the simple plan,
That he should take who has the power,
And he should keep who can.”

Sale of lands was first permitted in 1811. Some small parcels near the shore-line had, no doubt, been appropriated; but, as the terms of the holding were use in the fishery and sufferance, the governors of the day, admirals of the Royal Navy, deemed they were doing their country good service by tearing down houses, breaking up enclosures, and reducing garden-patches to a state of nature. A chimney was an object of special abhorrence, and the addition of a lean-to was sufficient to brino: on the daring offender’s head the sharp justice of the quarter-deck. At the same time their extreme solicitude for the soil did not prevent devastation of the forest on a large scale.

Down to 1832, there was no law-making faculty on the island nor any organisation that could be developed into such a faculty, municipal or other. The same remark applies to justice and its administration, though in a lesser degree. Courts were instituted in regular form in 1826. Back to 1791, you find an establishment, tentative in its standing and jurisdiction, which was kept alive by annual acts lest any permanent encroachment should be made on the free fishery. It illustrates the advantage, now so much talked of regarding the west coast, “the great advantage of not being in a hurry.” But prior to that time, nothing more tangible in the way of law could be obtained than “ winter justices,” constituted under executive order, whose decisions the bold west countrymen scoffed at and whose decrees they defied. The dispensers of justice confessed their weakness, and regularly adjourned, “while His Excellency continued within the bounds of his government.” Prior to 1726, there was neither excellency nor justice, and the skippers of the west country held uncontrolled sway, vouching the statute of King William (1698) for all their deeds. It was their real charter, and was declaratory of their custom. It recognised the first of them that chanced upon a harbour to be admiral there t<»r the season, the second to be vice admiral, and the third rear-admiral. It ordained no court, gave no compulsory jurisdiction, enacted no penal clauses—but what then? Who would question the right to his fishing-admiralship or set bounds to his power ? As prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner in his own case and that of his associates, he gave summary trial and sentence on the spot. A favourite and frequent punishment of those days was ducking from the yardarm. Should the delinquent not be convinced of the error of his ways by these means—why, they keelhauled him.

If you would picture the old custom in the vigour of its days, call to mind the course of business. Vessels fitted out from the western ports in early spring very much as they do to-day from Brittany. Before the time of convoy, when every man was his own protector, the race began from the shores of England. After convoy came into vogue, they were let loose at the Banks. The fleet would average 800 ships or more, and carry 16,000 men, and these west-countrymen of the olden time. Imagine what a struggle would ensue, each one aiming at the lordship of some harbour and all that it contained ; at the best, for choice ! How they would pounce on that defenceless coast, seizing the chief locations, buildings, stages ! What scant consideration would be shown to any luckless resident that dared ask for justice or claim the benefit of his improvements!

The men of forty years ago decried the mercantile system as indefensible in theory and ruinous in practice. The newer school of economists tells us that, with all its faults, it was a movement, a great and necessary movement, in national advancement and general civilisation. In this as in other controversies, much depends upon times and seasons, ways and means, the side of the medal you consider. If you look to Newfoundland in 1825, and ask what justification it could show after so long trial, the answer must be that it left not one building that endures, not a local improvement attempted or realised, not a school, not a road. In addition to the devastation it wrought, it restricted population to about 20,000—for the actual population of 1825 is not to be carried to its credit—and kept them as near to starvation-point as was compatible with existence. Judged by the western side of the medal, the mercantile policy stands self-condemned. What shall we say of the other side? I have endeavoured to adduce some ground for believing that it was substantially profitable to England, and further evidence might easily be obtained to support the general principle of the younger economists ; but need we therefore endorse Sir Hugh Palliser’s bounty system that came into force near the close of the eighteenth century ? Its obvious purpose was twofold : to develop the fisheries and recruit the navy. As to the navy it failed, as the French bounty-laws now do. It was not, on its economic side, an attempt to create some new industry, but rather an effort to stay the course of history. Before his day, the ship-fishery had reached its maximum, and the merchant-adventurer who fitted out his own craft to fish with his own crew, making little use of land or residents, was fast disappearing or had already gone. The form of business was changed. A new class had arisen, a race of capitalists, who found it more convenient to purchase than to catch their cargo, and who were prepared to make advances in truck or cash in order to have the article already cured for export. This movement, afterwards known as the supply system and always associated more or less with the fishery, made rapid strides in the second half of the eighteenth century. By giving local employment, it increased the island’s output largely, the credit of which is sometimes, though improperly, given to the Palliser Acts. It likewise doubled in a comparatively short time, contrary to the purpose of these statutes (1776, 1786), whose scope and aim were to restrict the fisheries to the use of the realm and to secure “the annual return of all employed ” in them “at the end of every fishing season.” Instead of increasing, the English expeditions dwindled, and in time ceased, while the habitat or centre of business shifted by gradual steps from this country to the colony.

A further effect of Palliser’s Acts was to lodge the management of the fisheries more firmly in the hands of the Admiralty. The policy and practice may have been suited to the time. Had they ceased on the west coast in 1824, when they ceased on the east coast, when the statutes that gave them force were abolished, no great harm might have resulted. Unfortunately they persist; but we may hope, surely, that the opening of the new century will witness the inauguration of a new and better condition.

VII

The growth of population and the development of industrial enterprise brought about the establishment of representative institutions in 1832. The year 1842 witnessed the constitutional experiment of an amalgamated house—the Legislative Council, an appointed body, and the elected Assembly being rolled into one. The arrani>-ement seems not to have been satisfactory, for, in 1848, there was a reversion to the ordinary type of colonial government, which was followed by the responsible or parliamentary regime in 1855. Newfoundland was the last of the Atlantic provinces of British North America to receive that boon. Like Nova Scotia and New Brunswick in pre-confederation days, Newfoundland is reluctant to decentralise her power. Municipal institutions have yet to begin their career. Outside a council in St. John’s, which is partly elective and has of late been honoured with a debt, the management of local affairs is in the hands of certain boards appointed by Government, and the cost of roads and bridges, of school establishments, and improvements generally, is borne upon the revenues of the island. 'While she thus escapes the annoyance of rates and assessments, she fails to enlist local sympathies, local attachments, local interests and responsibilities in the promotion of the welfare of localities—a force which has been more influential probably than any other in developing tho neighbouring States and Western Canada.

The later history of the colony and, indeed, its present condition are intimately bound up with the suppl}r system. Attaining its maximum in the sixties, it had many features of a monopoly, for it centred in the hands of a small body of capitalists, called “ merchants,” who. resided in the chief towns as St. John’s, Harbour Grace, Carbonear. It wielded almost absolute power over the main or sole industries of the country, the cod and seal fisheries, and had brought within its grasp the import as well as the export trade. In the case of the cod-fishery, the mode of business was somewhat as follows: advances in truck, known as “ supplies,” and consisting of such things as tackle, nets, twines, canvas for sails, clothing, provisions, &c., were dealt out to fishermen or middlemen in the spring at a charge debited which covered the risk of loss and prospective profit. In the autumn, or fall, a return was made of the season’s cateli, which, on being culled and sorted, was put to the credit side of the account, generally at a price that ruled in the local market. Further supplies were then required for the winter, and were had usually at the same rate, the balance, if any, being carried over to the next season. In the seal-fishery the same order was observed, except that it was a joint venture, continued only for about a month, and the advance was limited to a “kit.” In defence of the merchant’s charges, it was said that he ran the chances of a bad season and of fluctuations in the foreign market. On the other hand, it was observed that he held the lever at both ends, and could, at least where he had many “dealers,” recoup from one the losses he may have suffered from another. Anyway, it was a system that left much to the discretion of the individual and lent itself easily to the production of “good” dealers and “bad” dealers, of “good” merchants and “bad” ones.

Now, precisely in the sixties, in the heyday of “ supply,” there arose, and increased to alarming proportions, what is known as pauper relief. The Government had to step in and distribute sustenance to the people throughout large districts. Relief once given had to be continued, and prosperity in the fisheries seemed to make little difference in the result. Recriminations were plentiful, until, at length, the Legislature was forced to put its foot down firmly and leave the parties interested, dealers and merchants, to fight out the division of profit as between themselves. Pauper relief was nothing more than a governmental supplement to “ supply.”

That a system so open to abuse should come to an end somehow, and at some time, had been long foreseen. The form in which the crash should come was not revealed till the ioth of December 1894, when the Union and Commercial Banks, the only banks in the island, closed their doors. It is by no means improbable that, had Newfoundland entered the Canadian confederation in 1867, she might, by the up-growth of subsidiary industries in agriculture, mining, and manufactures, have decentralised her business, as happened in Nova Scotia, and evaded the crash altogether or in great part. Unfortunately, the course of events was otherwise. Many causes contributed to the actual result: depreciation of her product in foreign countries by hostile tariffs; a fire that destroyed the greater part of St. John’s, and excited commiseration on both sides of the Atlantic; the division of estates through death and the consequent withdrawal of capital from business; above all, large discounts, running over a series of years, made to the principal houses in hopes of escaping the inevitable. The blow fell principally on the merchant class, though it was felt, and felt keenly, to the utmost limits of the island. The one institution that stood firm was the Savings Bank, a governent institution. The crisis was eased by a loan opportunely negotiated by the Receiver-General, the Hon. Mr. Bond, and by assistance obtained from the Imperial Government through the medium of the Governor, Sir H. H. Murray.

The late railway deal, which, when it became known, caused no less astonishment among the Newfoundland electors than it did in this country, recalls to mind the drastic measure Nova Scotia took to get rid of her mines in early days, when the fishery interest and the prejudices it is wont to engender were allpowerful. A railway which ran from end to end of the island and cost thirteen million dollars, which, though debarred from continental traffic as yet, had substantial trade of a local kind, was sold to the contractor for one million ! Lest he should be exposed to fear of loss, the dry-dock in St. John’s, the government telegraph lines, and three million acres of the ungranted lands of the colony, mines included, were thrown into the bargain. So eager was the Legislative Council to close the deal that it pushed the bill through in ten minutes, beating its own best, record. As in the case of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland will, no doubt, have to resume her lands and works, accrued rights being duly respected. In the meantime, we may hope the course of development will not be stayed, and that lands, mines, and railway will be turned to profitable account.

VIII

The assets of the island, her means of subsistence, recuperation, and advance, may be noticed under three headings: the sea, the soil, the subsoil.

The Sea.—Newfoundland statistics are framed to show the export value and volume of the fisheries, but not the actual production. This is estimated by the Rev. Dr. Harvey, whose books have done so much to make the island known, at $7,000,000; others put it at $8,000,000. The larger figure may be the more accurate for this reason: the fish exports average $5,750,000, while the home consumption is large, and can scarcely be less than $10 per head per year. As in other industries, fluctuations occur from year to year, but, if you reckon by decades, the returns show a very marked constancy back to 1824. The physical foundation of that constancy we have already seen: the unfailing onflow of the Northern current, and the enormous treasures of food supply with which it is laden.

The chief fishery is that of cod, and the annual average export is, as I have said, 1,295,000 quintals of 112 lbs. The average value of the quintal in the home market is $2.75. In 1895-96 the export was 1,436,083 quintals, and for the year following, 1,13 5,81 7. The cod swarms upon the coast at three periods of summer, well marked by shoals or sculls of bait to-day as they were in Whitbourne’s time: “The one of them follows on the herrings, the other on the capelin, which is a fish like the smelt; the third follows on the squid, which is a fish something like a cuddell.” Curing consists of salting and sun-drying. When culled and packed, the fish is sent mostly to warm climates and Latin peoples. Brazil, Portugal, Italy, and Spain arc Newfoundland’s best customers: the first took last year to the value of $1,288,728; the second, $753,258; the third, $172,875; and the last, $125,262. The trade is conducted in the shipping of the colony. Those who take an interest in the balance of trade theory may be concerned to know that the imports from these countries for 1898 in the order given were as follows : $110,000, $15,171, $2436, $39,538.

Next in importance is the lobster-fishery, which is of late date but rapid development, and gives employment to about 4500 persons. The exports of 1898 were 61,951 cases, valued at $619,510. Steps are being taken to guard the industry carefully by prescribing zones and seasons, protecting the young, securing careful packing in well-tinned cans. There is a ready and expanding market both in this country and the United States, the care shown will redound to the benefit of the persons engaged and the advantage of the colony as a whole.

The seal-fishery, once second, now takes third place. Some years ago seals were commonly taken on shore : then small schooners and brigantines were employed in their pursuit, the proceeds being divided in shares: now steamers are used, and have to go long distances. The number of seals in the North Atlantic would seem to be decreasing. The value of the oil, formerly much prized in lighthouses, has fallen of late years, owing chiefly to the supply of petroleum. On the other hand, the price of the skins has risen so that, in a term of years, the moneyed worth of the industry appear* fairly constant in the Newfoundland statistics. The catch of 1896 was abnormal, and reached the sum ot $602,529. The returns for 1897 and 1898 respectively, $363,467 and $346,027, show the general mean.

The herring industry is suffering an eclipse. Twenty or thirty years ago one might see in the harbour of Montreal 90,000 to 100,000 barrels of Newfoundland pickled herring of the large variety found in Labrador. To-day you will scarcely find a barrel. One reason for the change is, that the consumption of salt-fish of any kind is decreasing in North America. Again, it was said, whether rightly or wrongly I cannot tell, that, while the quality of the fish itself was excellent, its assortment, pickling, and packing left much to be desired. Measures are now taken to do away with these defects ; so that, with careful selection, assiduous attention, and distinctive branding, this branch of trade may reassume a profitable status. That which gives die Scotch producers their control over European markets to-day, surpassing in this respect their former masters, the Dutch, is not a better raw material, if one may use the term, but an improved method of handling which results in a superior commodity. One may add that the more popular methods of preparation by kippering and smoking, or with oil or vinegar, have not to any large extent been introduced into Newfoundland. They have not heretofore come within the bounds of the fishery-system. Then as to the shore-herring, while shoals of the finest quality, affording a broad basis for a rich and extensive business, haunt the bays of north and south, especially Fortune Bay, in countless numbers, they are practically profitless, and are used merely for the purpose of bait. The same remark applies to the daintiest table-fish in North American waters, at once the most delicate and prolific, the capelin. A suitable means of preparation or preservation is still a desideratum. The statistical value of the herring in 1896 was $131,292 ; in 1897, $102,176; and in 1898, $100,913.

Salmon sells in St. John's during the season for twopence a pound. Its price in London seldom falls below one and sixpence. Do you not wonder that some enterprising individual does not take advantage of the margin ? Meantime, it is pickled according to the fashion of our ancestors, and shipped in tierces. The export of 1896 was valued at $66,343 ; of 1897, at $90,269 ; and of 1898, at $49,798.

Twenty years ago, 400 carcasses of frozen mutton were exported from Australia as an experiment, and the experiment was but a partial success. So groat has since- been the improvement in cold storage and speedy transit that, in 1898, the Australias and New Zealand landed in England 41 million carcasses in excellent condition. Preservation by way of cold is as applicable to fish as to mutton, beef, butter, and fruits. Newfoundland will find in this country an almost unlimited market at the highest price for fresh cod, salmon, lobsters, halibut, capelin, herring, trout. In that event, we shall see the old trade revived in a new form.

The question that is now engaging the attention of earnest men in Newfoundland is not merely how particular branches of the fishery industry shall be developed, but a broader problem, what shall take the place of the supply system as that system supplanted the ship-fishery. A movement towards a cash basis is a welcome feature of the time, and its wide expansion cannot but be beneficial. At the same time, if the past be a guide for the future, experience tells us that industries of this kind have generally been prosecuted by some form of combination rather than by isolated action. The query then arises for practical consideration, may not some form of co-operation among tisher-men be devised suitable to the present need l. Such a form, for instance, as has enabled the farmers of Denmark to gain and retain control of the dairy market of this country; or those of Canada, so t<> expand and improve the manutacture of chce.se that it stands at or near the head of the Dominion’s exports; or those of Ireland, to bring about an industrial transformation in that part of the United Kingdom. But, whatever step is taken, “the old order ehangeth, giving place to new.” Already, the new order is set on a broader basis than the old. The inauguration of the Fishery Bureau, a short time since, under Mr. Neilsen, was a great step in advance. Much indifference has been awakened, much opposition overcome, much good work accomplished as an augury of better things : in the utilisation of waste, at once purifying the waters and fructifying the land ; in the improvement of secondary products, such as cod-liver oil, common oil, and glue; the preservation of fresh bait; the preparation of the catch for market; experimental propagation of fish, of cod at Dildo, of lobsters in seventy-six stations throughout the island; above all, in the patient and continued study of the biological and hydrographical conditions of commercial fisli-life in the locality ; thus bringing the results of science to bear on the material welfare of the people.

The Soil and Subsoil.—I make no sub-heading for manufactures, for they are yet in their early infancy. Some steps have been, and are being taken with success in cordage-making, founding, tanning, cabinet-making, and that prime necessity for the fisheries, the manufacture of ship-biscuit. Their augury for the future exceeds by much their present realisation. Indeed, one may say that, outside the fishing industry and the export and import trade incidental to it. Newfoundland is one of the youngest of the colonies. Both in respect to the soil and the subsoil, the words of Hakluyt, written in 1600 and commenting on the Act of Edward VI., still hold good: “By this Act it appeareth, that the trade out of England to Newfoundland was common and frequented about the beginning of the reigne of Edward the sixth, namely, in the year 1548 ; and it is much to be marveiled that, by the negligence of our men, the countrey in all this time hath bene no better searched.” The efficient causes of it we have considered: prohibition in centuries that are past, the practical lien on the fisherman’s labour which the supply system enforced in later times.

A detailed and scientific survey of the island for agricultural purposes and as a guide to settlers, setting forth the nature of the soil in every section, quarter-section, and lot on the American and Canadian plan is yet to be made. The energies of the authorities have been heretofore directed to the coast, and the coastal surveys, begun by the famous navigator Captain Cook, are and have been of exceptional excellence. According to the most reliable account 1 can find, one-third of the island, or 14,000 square miles, consists of lakes, ponds, and rivers; of the balance, and about a third, 9000 square miles, or five and three-quarter million acres, is adapted for farming, a considerable portion of it being forest land where white and yellow pine, red, white, and black spruce, larch and fir, white and yellow birch, white and black ash, with varieties of poplar flourish. Only 179,215 acres were under cultivation at the date ol the last census. The returns reached an aggregate of $1,562,000 for the year, or say $10 an acre. If to this you add the estimated value of cattle and domestic animals, the total agricultural asset realised in 1891 was $2,295,000. The prospect before the farmers is a good one, for the home produce does not equal the home consumption. The customs returns for 1897 9S show an import ol nearly a million dollars worth of agricultural products, easily produceablo on the island : as vegetables of all kinds, poultry, eggs, butter and cheese, hay and oats, horses, cattle and beet, sheep and mutton, swine, pork, ham and bacon. On the other hand, the export of lumber and wood-pulp exhibits a gratifying increase, while the total value of the products of the soil sent abroad amounted to about $50,000.

The Geological Department, under the conduct of Mr. Howiey, has been active, especially of late years. Many varieties of mineral substances have been found in large quantities, as marbles, limestones, barytes, gypsum, brick-clays, roofing-slates, granite, whetstones, mica. Considerable deposits of petroleum have likewise been discovered. The precious metals, gold, silver, nickel, molybdenum occur, but, so far as is yet known, only in small quantities. Lead has been worked with success for several years. The principal ores and minerals are as follows:—

Asbestos is one of the most widely-distributed, and, as experts are beginning to believe, one of the most profitable treasures of Newfoundland in respect both of quantity and quality. It has been worked, but as yet the production is small.

Coal measures traverse the island from the west coast in a north-easterly direction, and intersect the line of railway at many points. Several of the deposits are of lignite, but anthracite and bituminous coal of very fine quality are both found. One outcrop on the western shore is reported to have a thickness of 27 feet, and to contain approximately 25,000,000 tons. Special inducements have been given by the Legislature for the production of Newfoundland coal.

Conception Bay possesses a variety of hematite which yields on analysis 50 to 62 per cent, of metallic iron. The quantity estimated to be in sight on Belle Isle island is 40,000,000 tons. They| are being worked by the Nova Scotia Iron Company, and preparations for development on a large scale are being made by local and Canadian capitalists. In the north, near the Exploits, there is found an iron pyrites, which returns 58 per cent, of sulphur. The export of iron ore, including manganese and arsenical, for 1898 was $134,622.

Newfoundland ranks sixth among the copper-producing countries of the world. The ore, for the most part, is a beautiful sulphuret, and contains from 8 to 1 2 per cent, of pure copper. The chief deposits are found in serpentines which, though not completely searched, arc known to stretch across the island in a belt about forty miles wide. The actual export of copper, including ore, for 1898, chiefly to the United Kingdom, was $401,332.

The total value of the mineral exports for the ten years ending the 30th of June 1899, was $7,829,158.

I append a table which gives a statistical outline of the financial condition and trade of the island.

The oldest colony has encountered many vicissitudes of fortune and risen victorious over many disasters. She was, she is, and will continue to be the centre of the North American fishing industry, but henceforth under brighter auspices and with a more hopeful outlook toward the future. The time has gone by when she can be forbidden full control over her territory or free access to her continent. By due cultivation of her resources on land and sea, by the ever-widening diffusion of education among her people, her growth and continued prosperity will be assured. In due time, I have no doubt, she will take her place in the great Canadian union by the side of her sister provinces, and help onwards that grander combination which the future still hides from view, but to which wo all aspire—the corporate union of the British peoples throughout the world.


Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus