HC Deb 10 March 1859 vol 152 cc1662-76

VISCOUNT BURY – […] The Newfoundland fishery was, however, the great nursery of the French navy, and, encouraged by a system of bounties, that concurrent right of fishing had virtually become an exclusive right by employing some 300 or 400 boats of 150 tons, each manned by eight or ten men; their headquarters were the Islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre, whence all their operations were directed. The whole of these fisheries were regulated by treaties, and it was remarkable that every one of the treaties was framed at a time when England was issuing from a state of war, anxious to obtain peace almost at any price, and naturally did not look with the accuracy she would otherwise have done to the interests of a distant dependency lying on the other side of the Atlantic. In the first treaty, that of Utrecht, there was nothing whatever about exclusive rights such as were now asserted by the French. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 referred to the Treaty of Utrecht, and gave to the French the power and authority they had enjoyed under its provisions, and ceded to them the two Islands of Miquelon and St. Pierre, but upon condition that they should not raise any fortifications thereon. The Treaty of Versailles, at the close of the American war, in 1783, placed France in the same position as under the Treaty of 1713. Thus matters stood until 1814, when the Treaty of Peace placed France in the same position as she occupied in 1792, at the breaking out of the war; and upon referring to papers to ascertain what that position was, he found that it was described to be exactly the same as in 1783, under the Treaty of Versailles. Therefore, by the last ratified treaty, that of 1814, the French were replaced in the same position in regard to the fisheries that they occupied in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht. It was the latter treaty, then, which regulated the fisheries, subject only to one clause in the treaty of 1763, which ceded the two Islands already referred to. […] Till within the last twenty years the French never thought of claiming a right to any but a cod-fishery. If the treaties were carried out the French would be obliged to demolish their fortifications on the island of St. Pierre and Miquelon, and to fish, not with long lines containing an enormous number of hooks, but in accordance with the Treaty of Utrecht and with the usages of the last century, which were still adhered to by the Americans and the British. If the French would merely assert the terms of the treaties they would be in a worse position than now, and he therefore wished to know on what principle the diplomatic correspondence now going on between England and France was conducted on the part of England.

MR. LABOUCHERE – […] My noble Friend said that the treaty would have given to the French the command of the St. Lawrence. I can assure my noble Friend that so far from that we did not yield a single acre of land to the French which they did not before enjoy by treaty. They had only fishing rights, and as to fortifying the mouths of the St. Lawrence, I can only state that in all the treaties there was the stipulation that they should not remain there over the winter, but only in the fishing season. [Viscount BURY: They are fortifying Miquelon and St. Pierre.] These islands are held under different tenure, but if the French are fortifying them they are doing that in defiance of treaty. With respect to the fortifications, the matter was complained of when I was in office, and my right hon. Friend the then First Lord of the Admiralty sent to inquire into the matter, when it was found that the works were of the most trifling description. If since that period they have become more considerable, that may become a proper subject for remonstrance, but the French derive no right to do so under my convention. It ought also to be remembered that the subject has become greatly complicated in consequence of the reciprocity treaty entered into with the United States, with the full consent of the Newfoundland Legislature, by which the United States obtained the same rights of fishery that we ourselves possess.

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