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To the Right Honourable Lord Hobart, one of His Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, &c. &c.
The Petition of the Merchants, and other Inhabitants of Halifax, in the Province of Nova Scotia,
THAT the trade of this province arises principally from the fish caught on its coasts, great quantities of which are exported annually by your petitioners to the West India islands. That in the pursuit of this commerce, your petitioners are rivalled by the citizens of the American States, to whom the ports of those islands are ever open, and who are exempt from duties and other expences to which your petitioners are liable. Your petitioners have heard, that in the existing negociation, relative to the twelfth article of the treaty with America, the Americans aim at a further extension of their trade with the British West India islands, which, if obtained, would utterly ruin the already declining fisheries of the British colonies, whence the nation has long derived much wealth, and its navy a supply of hardy
That the coasts of this province, as well as the Gulph of St. Lwarence, and the islands of Newfoundland and Cape Breton, abound with fish of the most valuable sorts; so that with encouragement these colonies would satisfy, to its utmost extent, the demand of the West India islands for dry and pickled fish.
Your petitioners, therefore, most humbly pray, that your Lordship, and his majesty's other ministers, would take the premises, and the annexed memorial, into consideration, and would protect the trade and fisheries of his majesty's subjects in these colonies against the views of the Americans, by granting to the British colonists the ex
clusive privilege of supplying their fellow subjects in the West Indies with the article of fish caught on the coasts of North America.
Committee appointed by the Merchants, and other
Inhabitants of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Halifax, Nova Scotia, March 23d, 1804.
Memorial and Statement of the Case referred to in the annexed Petition.
AS every British province and island in these northern climates is individually able to furnish the West India islands with some essential article of consumption, which in whole, or in part, is deficient in others, the Petitioners, in the following statement, have extended their observations beyond the limits of the single province in which they reside.
The West India islands require to be supplied with the undermentioned articles, viz.
From the Fisheries.-Dried cod fish, barrel or pickled fish, viz. salmon, herring (of various species), and mackarel and oil.
Forest.-Lumber, viz. squared timber, scantling, planks and boards, shingles, clapboards, hoops, and oak staves.
Agriculture.-Biscuits and flour, Indian corn and meal, pork, beef, butter, cheese, potatoes, and onions; live stock, viz, horses, oxen, hogs, sheep and poultry.
Of these arcicles, the following are produced by the several colonies.-New Brunswick produces, in the greatest abundance, lumber of every kind, except oak staves; it yields already many of the smaller articles which serve to complete a cargo, and its shores abound with various fish fit for pickling. Nova Scotia produces lumber of all sorts, except oak staves, but in a lesser degree than New Brunswick; horses, oxen, sheep, and all the other productions of agriculture, except wheat and Indian corn; the Eastern and Northern parts of the province abound in coal, and its whole coast yields inexhaustible quantities of cod fish, and others fit for pickling.
Cape Breton and Prince Edward islands; the former yields coal in abundance, its fisheries are considerable; but without dealing directly with the West Indies, they serve to increase the exports of Nova Scotia. Both these islands supply Newfoundland with cattle, and with due encouragement would rival some of the more opulent colonies, in articles of agriculture; their fisheries also may be greatly extended, as the whole circuit of these islands abound in fish.
Canada can supply any quantity of oak staves, as well as flour and Indian corn, for six months in the year. Newfoundland yields little
lumber, but its trade in dried cod fish has hitherto, in a great meas sure, supplied all Europe and the West Indies, and it is capable of still greater extension
The petitioners have therefore no hesitation in affirming, that these mother colonies are able to supply the West Indies with dried fish, and every species of pickled fish, for their consumption; and that at no very distant period they could also supply all the other articles herein before enumerated, except, perhaps, flour, Indian meal and corn, and oak staves.
Having stated the foregoing facts, the petitioners beg leave to request the attention of his Majesty's ministers to the peculiar circumstances of this province, the permanent establishment of which took place about fifty-four years ago; for previous to the settlement of Halifax, there were few inhabitants in it, and but little trade. The mother country, sensible of the favourable situation of this colony for fisheries, that its harbours are seldom more than a few miles from each other, and that its extensive sea coast teems every season with shoals of fish of the most useful sorts, made every effort to establish them. The fisheries, however, until the close of the American war, languished from one cause only-the want of inhabitants. The influx of inhabitants at that time, and since, has promoted industry and domestic comfort, and a race of people born on the soil have become attached to it. The clearing of the lands, and other causes, have improved the climate; and by a late survey of the interior of the Province, it is discovered that the lands are not only better than had been imagined, but superior to the greater part of the rest of North America.
The present situation of this Province with regard to its trade, resembles that of New England at the close of the seventeenth century; and unless checked at this crisis, it has the most reasonable expectation of a more rapid increase than the latter ever experienced.
Encouraged by the prospect before them, and conscious of the abuses that have crept into the fisheries, the Petitioners are looking forward to the aid of the Provincial Legislature, and to other means, for correcting those abuses and for establishing and improving the fisheries, that great source of wealth to the parent state, the colonial husbandman, and merchant: but they perceive with regret, that their efforts will prove ineffectual, unless the citizens of the United States, according to the ancient policy of Great Britain towards foreigners,
are wholly or partially excluded from the islands, or a permanent equivalent is granted to the colonists.
The American Legislature has rejected the 12th Article of the late Treaty; the citizens of the United States would have been excluded from the West Indies, if the governors of those islands had not, under the plea of necessity, by proclamation, admitted them. In this trade the Americans possess the following advantages over the colonists.
First, In the Islands of Barbadoes, Antigua, Saint Kitt's, and Jamaica, a stranger's duty of two and a half, or more, per cent. is imposed on imports, and in the Island of Saint Vincent, British subjects exclusively are subject to a duty of three per cent. which must be paid in specie, and to procure which a forced sale is frequently made of part of the cargo to great disadvantage. From this duty the Americans, being invited by proclamation, are exempt.
Second, During the late and present war, the citizens of the United States, being neutrals, have not been burthened with the heavy charge of insurance against the enemy, which to the colonists has increased the premium ten per cent. to the smaller islands, and twelve and a half per cent. to Jamaica.
Third,-The northern States have granted a bounty of near 20 shillings per ton, on vessels in their fisheries.
From those circumstances, so unable are the petitioners to contend with the Americans in the West India markets, that they derive greater advantage by selling their fish at an inferior price in the United States; whence the Americans re-export them to the West India Islands under the above-mentioned advantages, so as to make a profit even on their outward voyage.
It is well known, and in an ample report made to Congress in the years 1790 and 1791, by the now President of the United States, then their Secretary of State, it was set forth, that the fisheries of New England were on the verge of ruin, and he recommended, what was afterwards adopted,—the grant of a bounty to counterbalance the disadvantages the trade then laboured under. At that period, the fisheries of Nova Scotia made a rapid increase; the whale fishery alone from the port of Halifax consisted of twenty-eight sail of ships and brigs from 60 to 200 tons burthen; but the succeeding war and other unfavourable circumstances soon destroyed this important branch of the fishery. By the aid of bounties from the State Legislature, the American fisheries recovered their former vigour, and are now car