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and ground of forfeiture, when our fishermen baited fish within three miles from the shore, for the purpose of tempting them out into the deep sea; and also when they prepared, within three miles of the shore, to fish outside those limits.
Moreover, the Nova Scotia statute rendered it almost impossible for a fisherman to defend a just cause, because it allowed only a month in which to prepare his defence, and cast the onus probandi on the party libelled. Mr. Stevenson, and after him Mr. Everett, remonstrated with the Imperial government against this atrocious act, and insisted on the same construction of the act we now demand. The Imperial government indulged a desire to accommodate, and submitted such a proposition to the colonial authorities of Nova Scotia. That colony resisted, as I think did all the others; and Nova Scotia requested the opinion of the law officers of the crown on the construction of the treaty in regard to all the points to which I have thus adverted. Those law officers confirmed all the pretensions of the Nova Scotians. Under these circumstances, the British government, declaring their adherence to the construction given by the law officers, yielded to the appeal of the United States so far as to grant, as a concession, that the Bay of Fundy should be open to the American fishermen, subject to the limitation of not going within three miles of the shore, and they declined to concede more. The American minister, Mr. Everett, received this not as a concession, but as a right. The British minister insisted that it should be regarded not as a right, but as a concession.
Mr. Everett wrote on the 25th of March, 1845, thus : " I received a few day since, and herewith transmit, a note from Lord Aberdeen, containing the satisfactory intelligence that, after a reconsideration of the subject, although the Queen's government adhere to the construction of the convention which they have always maintained, they have still come to the determination of relaxing from it, so far as to allow American fishermen to pursue their avocations in the Bay of Fundy.”
So, the one party calling it a “concession,” the other defining it a “right,” the privilege of fishing, or the right to fish within the Bay of Fundy, except within three miles of the shore, was admitted, and so has constituted a departure, in one instance and on one point, from the rigorous construction otherwise pertinaciously adhered to by the government of Great Britain.
What the British government had thus conceded as a relaxation, the colonial authorities still declared was unwise; and although this concession had been made, yet all that time, as well as ever
since, the provincial authorities have insisted upon the technical and rigorous construction of the treaty, and the United States upon the more liberal and just one. The Imperial government, although it adopted and has adhered to the provincial construction, has nevertheless always declined to maintain it practically by force. Such have been the attitudes of the three parties heretofore. Such are their attitudes now.
Now, sir, during all this time, and I do not know how long before, the Imperial government has kept some naval force in those seas, for the purpose of preventing encroachments and abuses by American and French fishermen; and the colonies have, at all times, I believe, made some show of naval force for that purpose, or on that pretext.
In the last year, a new administration, with the Earl of Derby at its head, obtained the control of the Imperial government. That administration was understood to favor the principle of protection. The United States pay considerable bounty to their fishermen-bounties amounting to about $300,000 a year ;—and they impose a duty of 20 per cent. on foreign fish.
The colonial fishermen claimed of the new ministry, as they had been in the habit of claiming of the old ministry, the assent of the royal government to the granting of bounties; and they complained to the new ministry, as they had been in the habit of complaining to the old one, of the encroachments of the American fishermen. The colonial authorities last year, by reports and resolutions, threatened retaliation against the United States in some form, if these claims and complaints should be disregarded.
Under these circumstances, the Imperial government, in 1851, proposed to the President of the United States to negotiate concerning the questions raised by the British colonies, and submitted, through Sir Henry Bulwer, a schedule of the terms or principles upon which that government would negotiate, for the purpose of settling what they were pleased to call the commercial intercourse between the provinces and the United States. The President of the United States altogether declined to negotiate; and he referred the subject to the Congress of the United States, in his annual message of December last, in these words:
“ Your attention is again invited to the question of reciprocal trade between the United States and Canada and other British possessions near our frontier. Overtures
for a convention upon this subject have been received from her Britannic Majesty's Minister Plenipotentiary, but it seems to be in many respects preferable that the matter should be regulated by reciprocal legislation. Documents are laid before you, showing the terms which the British government is willing to offer, and the measures which it may adopt, if some arrangement upon this subject shall not be made."
Thus, in December last, was Congress invited by the President to consider the subject out of which all the present difficulties have arisen ; and we then had this notice from the British ministry, viz:
“ Her Majesty's government are prepared, on certain conditions and with certain reservations, to make the concessions to which so much importance seems to have been attached by Mr. Clayton, namely—to throw open to the fishermen of the United States the fisheries in the waters of the British Norib American colonies, with permission to those fishermen to land on the coasts of those colonies, for the purpose of drying their nets and curing their fish; provided that, in so doing, they do not interfere with the owners of private property, or with the operations of British fishermen.”
Congress did nothing, said nothing, thought nothing, on the subject. The colonies, in the meantime, contined to complain of encroachments, and continued to demand the consent of the Imperial government to the granting of bounties.
The Imperial government answered that, to remove the complaints of the colonies, they would not object to measures being taken by the colonies themselves for the granting of bounties, and that they would send an additional force to protect them against encroachments. Such a force was sent, and simultaneously with sending it, the British minister here, on the 5th of July last, informed the President of its coming, and its objects, in the following communication :
" I have been directed by her Majesty's government to bring to the knowledge of the government of the United States a measure which has been adopted by her Majesty's government to prevent a repetition of the complaints which have so frequently been made, of the encroachments of vessels belonging to citizens of the United States and of France upon the fishing grounds reserved to Great Britain by the convention of 1818.
“ Urgent representations having been addressed to her Majesty's government by the governors of the British North American provinces, in regard to these encroachments, whereby the colonial fisheries are most seriously prejudiced, directions bave been given by the Lords of her Majesty's Admiralty, for statioving off New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward's Island, and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, such a force of small sailing vessels and steamers as shall be deemed sufficient to prevent the infraction of the treaty. It is the command of the Queen that the officers employed upon this service shall be especially enjoined to avoid all interference with the vessels of friendly powers, except where they are in the act of violating the treaty, and on all occasions to avoid giving ground of complaint by the adoption of barsh or unnecessary proceedings when circumstances compel their arrest or seizure."
Let us now see what force it is that has been sent into the field of the dispute. There is the Buzzard, a steamer of six guns; the Sappho, a sloop of twelve guns; and the Bermuda, a schooner of three guns, sent to the Straits of Belleisle, and on the coast of
Newfoundland, where we have an unquestioned right of fishing, and where there is no controversy. Then there is the Devastation, a steamer of six guns; the Arrow and the Telegraph, of one gun each; and the Nettley, of two guns, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; making in the whole seven vessels, with a total of thirtyone guns, sent by the Imperial government into those waters. If you add to this force the flag-ship of Vice-Admiral Seymour, the Cumberland, with seventy guns, there are altogether one hundred and one guns. This is the naval force which has been sent into the north-eastern seas.
Now, I desire the Senate to take notice what force was there before this great naval force was sent. Last year there was the flag-ship, the Cumberland, commanded by the same Sir Charles Seymour, with seventy guns; a frigate, of twenty-six guns; two sloops, of sixteen guns; and one steamer, of six guns; making, in the whole, sixty-four guns without the Cumberland, and, including the Cumberland, one hundred and thirty-four guns.
Then this mighty naval demonstration, which has so excited the Senate, and roused its indignation, and brought down its censures upon the administration, consists in a reduction of the naval force which Great Britain had in those waters a year ago, from one hundred and thirty-four to one hundred and one guns. What the British government has done has been to withdraw some large steamers, because they were not so useful in accomplishing the objects designed, or because they would be more useful elsewhere, and to substitute in their place a large number of inferior vessels, either more efficient there, or less useful elsewhere.
The Senate will understand me. I do not say this is the whole force which is in those waters. There is an increase, I think, on the whole, which is furnished by small vessels of the different provinces ; Canada having sent one; Newfoundland one: Nova Scotia four. But the question I am upon, and the real question now is, what the Imperial government has done, and so I say the British government has reduced the number of guns employed.
Now, when this force was approaching, a letter from Sir John Packington, bearing somewhat the tone of a proclamation, appeared, and at the time was magnified and applauded by the colonial newspapers in a most bellicose manner; and before the letter of the British minister could have been read or received by the President of the United States, an alarm went abroad throughout the fisheries, and along the north-eastern coasts. It was exactly at the season when the fishermen were going to the ocean fields to gather their autumnal harvests. The President, it seems, took pains to obtain information informally, and he caused it to le published in a notice issued by the Secretary of State, and dated at the Department of State, July 6, 1852, and which has been called here the “proclamation” of the Secretary. The Senate will see that the Secretary of State set forth such unofficial information as had been obtained, and all the information was unofficial, and stated the popular inference then prevalent, saying that the Imperial government“ appeared” now to be willing to adopt the construction of the convention insisted on by the colonies. Inferring, from circumstances, the hazards and dangers which would arise, he set forth the case precisely as it seemed to stand. He adverted to the question understood as likely to be put in issue, and admitting that technically the convention of 1818 would bear the rigorous construction insisted on by the colonies, he declared the dissent of the government of the United States from it; and then communicated the case to the persons engaged in this hard and hazardous trade, that they might be “on their guard.”
I am surprised that any doubts should be raised as to the proclamation being the act of the government. I do not understand how a senator or citizen can officially know that the Secretary of State is at Marshfield, or elsewhere, when the seal and date of the department affirm that he is at the capital. I would like to know where or when this government or this administration has disavowed this proclamation.
In issuing this notice, the Secretary of State did just what the Secretary of State had been in the habit of doing in such cases, from the foundation of the government, viz: he issued it to put citizens on their guard in a case of apparent danger, resulting from threatened embarrassment of our relations with a foreign power. The first notice of the kind which I have found in history, is a notice issued by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State under George Washington, to the merchants of the United States, informing them of the British orders in council, and of the decrees of the French Directory, and of the apprehended seizure