Page images

(g) To grant certificates of service, and to look after the

welfare of the boys on leaving the training ships. (h) To keep proper registers, showing all necessary particulars

of the boys' careers, character, &c. (i) To arrange for their training and qualifying in the Royal

Naval Reserve at the proper periods. (j) To arrange for proper accommodation for boys while on

shore. (k) Generally to use their best endeavours to make the

scheme successful.10 (7) The payments to shipowners to be, say, 1l. per month for the first year, 158. per month for the second year, and 108. per month for the third year.

(8) The boys, while in the training ships, to be clothed and receive a little pocket-money at the expense of the scheme, and to receive

pay from the shipowners at fixed rates while serving the last three years of their time.

(9) The scheme to be managed and the cost provided by the Board of Trade, acting in touch with the Admiralty, who, by contributing to the cost and accepting enlistment in the Royal Naval Reserve of boys joining the depột training ships, would secure the service of such boys for the Reserve.

(10) Facilities to be afforded to County Councils and other public bodies having the control of funds available for technical education to apply these funds to the training of boys in the proposed depôt ships.

(11) The co-operation of trustees having the management of funds available for apprenticing deserving boys to be sought, but charitable contributions from private sources not to be invited or accepted.

(12) Sea-going training ships might be provided in connection with the depôt training ships, and rendered to some extent selfsupporting by the transport of Government stores, &c. This is a desirable, but not an essential, feature of the scheme.

The Navy League have ascertained by inquiry that a scheme worked out upon these lines is likely to meet with the active support of Technical Education Committees of County Councils, of City companies, of school authorities, of the Charity Commissioners, and of the better class of shipowners; and there can be little doubt that parents will welcome a chance of embarking their children under the protection of the State in an honourable and respectable calling.


* The machinery for carrying this important part of the scheme into effect is already in practical existence at the numerous mercantile marine offices throughout the United Kingdom and British Possessions.


The speech of the Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain at Manchester on the 15th of November, wherein he warned France of the unwisdom of her attitude in Newfoundland, and her mistake in supposing that British statesmen would submit to everything, marks a new epoch in the history of the famous · French Shore Question.' Mr. Chamberlain's manner of dealing with this dispute forms a very agreeable contrast to that of his predecessors; for we colonials maintain that the present complications are very largely due to the supineness and indifference of British ministers in the past, when a tithe of the determination now displayed would have sufficed to prevent France putting forward some of her most vexatious claims. Following upon Mr. Chamberlain's recent appointment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry into this question, whose preliminary verbal report he must have received before his Manchester address, the admonition to French politicians to abandon tactics whose object has been to hamper and embarrass British policy even in quarters where France has no interests to protect, and the accusation that while the French fishery interests in Newfoundland have declined to a comparatively insignificant point, the demands of the French have continually increased, and their interference with the development of the colony grown in proportion,' indicate his determination to bring this question to a speedy settlement. And such will be none too soon, for the dispute will soon be two hundred years old.

It dates back to 1713, when the Treaty of Utrecht gave the French a right to catch and dry fish on the coast of Newfoundland, beginning at Cape Bonavista, passing round by the North, and terminating at Point Riche, on the west coast. But they were not to winter on the island, nor fortify any places in it, nor erect any buildings there besides stages made of boards and huts, usual and necessary for drying of fish. At that period, with France in possession of Canada and a large Catholic fish-eating population in Quebec, this concession was of real value to them, and, the region being with practically no permanent settlers, the French fishermen were monarchs of all they surveyed. Seventy years later, however, Bonavista Bay was becoming sparsely settled, and the sturdy Englishmen who had made their home on its rocky shores resented French interference with them in their pursuit of the cod. The Treaty of Versailles, signed in 1783, moved the eastern boundary of the French Shore' Dorth to Cape John, and transferred the western limit as far south as Cape Ray, within which area it stands to the present day. To this treaty was attached, by the backstairs influence common to the period, the infamous declaration whereby the British King bound himself to take the most positive measures to prevent his subjects from interrupting, by their competition, the fishery of the French during their temporary exercise of it, but he will, for this purpose, cause the fixed settlements which shall be formed there to be remored.' To this unfortunate document must be attributed all the friction which has since been occasioned, to vex the statesmen of both nations. The French claimed that their fishing right was exclusive, that the British were not to interfere with them, and that no fixed settlements were to be permitted on the coast, while the British advanced the contention that the French right was only a concurrent one, and that they (British) were free to exercise it to the fullest so long as they refrained from interrupting the French. The various clauses of the several treaties bearing on the question are too long to quote in full, but the general effect of them is to strengthen the argument that the French were merely conceded a summer easement, while the British enjoyed a permanent occupation. In all the treaties the British sovereignty is emphasised, and we further find such regulations as that the British are not to molest the Frenchmen's stations during their absence, that the French exercise of the fishery is but temporary, and that they are only to resort to the coast for the period necessary for fishing and drying of 9.b. It can therefore be readily seen that, if the treaties alone were to be enforced according to the strict letter thereof, little or no friction would result from the operations of the fishermen of both nationalities; it is the declaration attached to the Treaty of Versailles which has caused all the trouble. This has been the colonial argument, that this declaration should be ignored and the French held to the treaties alone, but British statesmen have ever until now turned a deaf ear to us.

Their policy has been that of laissez faire, their attitude one of studied official indifference, or the conventional sympathy which “regrets the disadvantages the colony labours under, but sees no possibility of relief because the treaty obligations of Her Majesty must be carried out.' Whenever the question has assumed an acute phase the aim of almost every Colonial Minister has been to dispose of it by concessions to France, and, but for the sturdy independence of the colonists and their refusal to sanction these abandonments of British rights, the French would long ago have acquired virtual sovereign rights over a large section of the coast. The history of the question from

1783 until about 1830 consists of a record of quarrels between the rival fishermen, interspersed with proclamations by the Governors of the colony against the native fishers; for by this time the base of the industry had been transferred from the Mother Country to the colonial ports and the settlement of the coast-line was proceeding apace, for this was the heyday of the cod-fishing. Slowly but surely the British were ousting the French from the industry, the latter, having been stripped of their American possessions, having only a trifling western market for their catch of cod. With true Gallic perversity they increased their demands as their substantial rights diminished in value to them. In 1837 Lord Palmerston proposed an adjustment of the difficulty, but his efforts came to naught because he would not recognise the French claim of exclusive rights, which he vigorously combated in his despatches. A curious phase of the situation since that time is that the Blue Book literature in relation thereto abounds in most emphatic assertions of British supremacy and repudiation of the arguments advanced by France, while in no solitary instance, until the Manchester speech, has an Imperial statesman seemed to have the courage to uphold the same from a public platform. In 1857 came another futile attempt to reconcile the differences of the two countries, after which no negotiations took place until 1885. In 1874 the colony proposed the construction of a railway, to cross the island and terminate on the Treaty Coast; but, amazing to relate, the French objected to the establishment of a terminus there, because it would interfere with their fishery,' and the Imperial Ministry upheld this preposterous contention and vetoed the project. The year 1885 was marked by the conclusion of the Ford-Pennell arrangement, which was a virtual surrender of the best portion of the coast to the French, and would have been agreed to but for the opposition of the Colonial Legislature. The manner of conducting that negotiation sufficiently illustrated the policy of the two countries. The British Ministry selected as its representatives two Foreign Office officials, who had never seen the coast in question ; the French chose the Admiral who had just come off that station, and a diplomatist skilled in the intricacies of the dispute. The result was an agreement whereby the French secured the exclusive right to all the finest harbours on the Treaty shore, as well as permission to take bait in our waters, we in return receiving the valuable (?) concession of the right to engage in all other enterprises except fishing on the remainder of the coast, so that our tishing interests would be much worse off than otherwise if the convention had been agreed to. Yet there was much anger in official circles in England because the colony refused to accept the arrangement. Time has been our justification. Our legislators were well aware that the Treaty Coast fishery was no longer of importance to France. The industry on the Grand Banks, with St. Pierre as a base, had


attracted all the French 'armateurs' or outfitters, stimulated as they were by the bounty which the Chamber at Versailles had granted the industry, and which equalled almost two-thirds of the value of every quintal of cod they caught. The effects of this bounty were at this time becoming evident, hence the refusal to give the French free bait, for their bounty-fed product was usarping the place of ours in the markets of Europe, as fishermen could not part with their product for anything like what the French would accept. Indeed, instances are not uncommon of French fish-dealers giving parcels of fish to Spanish and Italian customers for nothing, in order that they might get the fish out of French territory, and so obtain the bounty, which is only paid on fish exported from France. The conditions created by this became 50 acute by 1886 that the Colonial Government passed an Act forbidding the sale or export of bait to the French. These protested, and the British Ministry disallowed it. The next spring the colony re-enacted the measure, and Governor Des Væux wrote a most vigorous despatch in support of the island's case. This Act received the Royal assent, but for his temerity Sir William Des Vaux was removed from the colony and transferred to Hong Kong. With the passage of the Bait Act began what may be termed the critical period in the history of the dispute. The French, being unable to procure bait (herring) on the south coast, near St. Pierre and within easy reach of the fishing banks, found their main industry threatened with serious injury, if not with extinction in course of time. They resolved upon a retaliatory policy-to take herrings themselves on the Treaty Coast, and prevent the residents from so doing; and to establish lobster factories there, and demand the removal, on the ground of interference with their fishery, of the colonial factories then in operation. Such a policy was scouted by the Newfoundlanders for a variety of reasons. First, neither herring nor lobsters were meant by the term .fish' used in the treaties. Then, herring are not dried as cod are, and lobsters, if fish at all, are canned for food purposes. Again, the French, from the colonial point of view, had no right to take herring on the Treaty Coast to be afterwards used as bait for cod-fishing on the Grand Banks; and for many years prior to 1890, when this matter assumed a dangerous phase, the French had ceased visiting Bay St. George, the principal herring resort. But in that year, following upon a threat that if the Bait Act were enforced he would bring a fleet of French vessels to the Bay and have them take the herring themselves, the French commodore appeared there in his flagship, convoying a number of vessels of that nationality, and proceeded to carry his threat into execution. The British warsbips attempted no interference, and the French succeeded in their object; but the next year an arrangement was arrived at between the two commodores, whereby the residents were allowed to catch the herring,

VoL, XLV-No. 263


« PreviousContinue »