HC Deb 15 June 1815 vol 31 cc823-6
Sir John Newport

in rising to submit a motion to the House, relative to the Newfoundland fisheries, felt that, however important it might be in its nature, yet as it did not involve any question of more immediate interest, he was not entitled to expect their ready attention. Still, however, feeling that it was a question materially affecting the commercial and naval prosperity of the empire, he was warranted in calling on the House to take it under their most serious consideration. The fisheries on the coasts of Newfoundland, in the gulph of St. Lawrence, and on the coast of Labrador, had been long and successfully carried on by the inhabitants of these islands, and the pursuit was attended with, the beneficial consequences of national wealth and commercial prosperity. He read a paper which showed the progressive increase of our shipping and sailors employed on that service; and thence argued the vast importance arising to the country from that branch of industry. This, however, had been seriously retarded, if not injured by the encroachments of the Americans. And while he felt an unwillingness to interfere with the rights of any nation in the enjoyment of what would seem to belong to them by the law of nature, he was compelled to call on Government to extend its protection more immediately to its own subjects, and obtain for them the same exclusive rights of fishing on our own coasts, which the Americans possessed on the extended line of theirs. The inhabitants of the city he had the honour to represent had long enjoyed considerable advantages from the trade, but which were, of late, in some degree diminished by the encroachments of the Americans. He, however, disclaimed being influenced by that consideration alone, feeling strongly convinced that the interests of the empire in general were vitally concerned. The right hon. baronet then moved,

"That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to represent to his Royal Highness's consideration, that the state of the Fisheries carried on by the subjects of the United Kingdom on the coasts of Newfoundland, in the Gulph of St. Lawrence, and on the coast of Labrador, from the magnitude of its commercial and political consequences seriously affecting the active industry and maritime strength of the empire, is highly deserving of the most serious attention, and the vigilant unremitting protection of the Executive Government and the Legislature:

"That such protection is peculiarly called for at this period, when the Treaty of 1783 with the United States having ceased to exist, and no part of its highly injurious provisions respecting the Fisheries having been renewed by the late Treaty of Peace with that Power, the subjects of this United Kingdom may be entitled to hope that their unexampled exertions in this active and interesting branch of commerce will be adequately secured and protected; exertions which are stated to have engaged in those Fisheries during the last year above 80,000 tons of shipping, taking and conveying to home and foreign markets nearly one million of quintals of fish, and above 6,500 tuns of oil; the actual value of which exceeded 2,700,000l. and employed above 16,000 natives of this United Kingdom in a branch of active industry, furnishing to the navy on any emergency a great body of the most hardy and experinced seamen:

"That, for this purpose, it will be indispensably requisite that the subjects of the United States shall be precluded, by active and vigilant attention, from encroaching on the Fishery within the limits of the coasts, and to a considerable distance from the shores of those countries, the exclusive right to which is by the law of nations, and every principle of justice, confined to the subjects of these kingdoms:

"That, to guard against such encroachments, it will be necessary that such instructions shall be given to the naval commanders on those stations, and such force placed under their direction, as may effectually repress any improper attempts of that nature:

"The Americans of the United States have great and valuable Fisheries upon their own shores, within the very extended limits of which it is neither just or proper that the subjects of this country should interfere; but, on the other hand, we desire to represent that our rights, equally sacred and valuable to us, ought to be secured from their undue interference, which, from their vicinity, and other local advantages, must inevitably destroy this truly valuable branch of commercial industry, for which above 2,000 persons have embarked from the port of Poole, and above 5,000 from the port of Waterford, during the present year, and which has advanced to its present unexampled magnitude by the discontinuance, during the war, of those vexatious and unwarrantable encroachments upon it heretofore practised by the inhabitants of the United States."

General Gascoyne

seconded the motion.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that he concurred with much of what bad been stated by the right hon. baronet. The right hon. baronet must, however, be himself aware, that there were many assertions in that Address, of which it was impossible that the House could now be cognizant. As to the value of those fisheries, he most completely coincided with him. They were not only valuable as a great source of wealth to the country, but they were still more so as a source of maritime strength. He coincided also with the right hon. baronet in his view of the relations between this country and America, as bearing upon this question. He considered that by the law of nations, any claim that America might formerly have put forward, but which had not been renewed by the treaty, had fallen to the ground. He therefore considered nothing of the treaty of 1783 to be in force, except what had been renewed and confirmed by the late treaty. By the law of nations, we had clearly the right of exclusive fishery within the jurisdiction of our own territories; but how far that jurisdiction extended, was a point open to future discussion. He acknowledged this right to be of great value; but, like all the other rights of the country, it should be confided to the management and care of the executive power. Having made those observations, he should move the previous question on the Address moved by the right hon. baronet.

Mr. Taylor

was extremely glad that the motion had been made, as it bad been the means of procuring this statement from the noble lord.

Sir John Newport

felt quite indifferent whether the previous question was carried, or whether the House would permit him to withdraw his motion. He had conceived it his duty to call the attention of Government to this important point, and he was happy to find that their ideas coincided so nearly with his own.

The previous question being put, "That that question be now put," it passed in the negative.