THE FRENCH SHORE QUESTION AND NEWFOUNDLAND.
Address by Mr. J. M. Clark, K.C., before the Empire Club of Canada, on December l0th, 1903.
MR. PRESIDENT,--is not my intention, even if time would permit, to give you a sketch of the intensely interesting history of Newfoundland, the oldest Colony of Great Britain. What I desire to impress upon the Club are a few of the reasons for strongly advocating the inclusion of Newfoundland in the Dominion of Canada, thus " rounding off Confederation," as the phrase is. The union of Canada and Newfoundland is not a new idea. It was advocated by Lord Durham. Careful provision is made in the British North America Act for the inclusion of Newfoundland in the Canadian Confederation, and it is on all hands regretted that the negotiations of 1895 ended in failure, for reasons it is not now necessary to dilate on. The control of the navigation of the St. Lawrence, that magnificent highway to the centre of this continent, is of supreme, paramount importance to Canada, and Newfoundland obviously holds its key. Further, to Newfoundland belongs the Labrador coast, from Hudson's Straits to the Straits of Belle Isle. Yo u will recollect that in 1876, six years after Canada had acquired Rupert's Land and the North-West Territories, the boundaries of that part of Labrador which belongs to Newfoundland were declared to be "All the coast of Labrador, from the entrance of Hudson's Straits to a line to be drawn due North and South from L'Anse Sablon, on said coast, to the 5z° of North latitude." Newfoundland, therefore, commands the exit from Hudson's Bay and the greater part of the Atlantic seaboard to the East of Canada. In view of the recent discussions in this country it is, therefore, unnecessary to add any argument in favour of the proposition that Canada should avail itself of any opportunity that may offer of union between Canada and Newfoundland. A strongly worded Resolution moved, after an admirable speech by Col. Ponton, and seconded by Hon. Mr. Ross, was carried at the meeting of the Congress of the Chambers of Commerce of the Empire, held in Montreal this year, in favour of the union of Canada and Newfoundland. The main ground of the Resolution was that it was, in the opinion of the Congress, a matter of Imperial importance that one intact Atlantic seaboard should be thus permanently secured. In some quarters it is urged that such negotiations should be postponed until after the settlement of the so-called French Shore difficulty between Great Britain and France. A short reference to the basis of this dispute will indicate that there is no real cause for alarm on that score.* The French claims are founded on Article XIII. of the famous Treaty of Utrecht (1713). That Article provides that the island called Newfoundland, with the adjacent islands, shall belong of right wholly to Britain. The said Article proceeds:
Nor shall the Most Christian King (the French King) his heirs and successors, or any of their subjects at any time hereafter lay claim to any right to the said island and islands or to any part of it or them. Moreover, it shall not be lawful for the subjects of France to fortify any place in the said Island of Newfoundland or to erect any buildings there-besides stages made of boards and huts necessary or useful for the drying of fishor to resort to the said island beyond the time necessary for fishing and drying of fish . . . . But it shall be allowed to the subjects of France to catch fish and to dry them on land in that part only (and in no other besides that) of said Island of Newfoundland which stretches from the place called Cape Bonavista to the northern part of said island, and thence running down the western side reaches as far as the place called Pointe Riche.
This language makes it very clear that, there is really ho French Shore, and no foundation for a claim to an exclusive fishing. This Article XIII. of the Treaty of Utrecht, was renewed by Article V. of the Treaty of
* Since the time of this address the Anglo-French Treaty has removed the main elements of this obstacle.-EDITOR.
Paris, 1763, and, by Article VI. Great Britain ceded the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon to France to serve as a shelter to the French fishermen. France by this Treaty engaged not to fortify these islands, and to erect no buildings upon them except for the convenience of the fishing and to keep upon them a guard of fifty men only as police. By the Treaty of Versailles (1783), Great Britain is confirmed in Newfoundland, and St. Pierre and Miquelon is again ceded to France, this time in full right. The restrictions above referred to were not expressly incorporated in this new session, but there was a general provision for the restoration of the status quo except where otherwise stipulated. There was also a contemporaneous French declaration of intention to prevent the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon becoming an object of jealousy between the two nations.
By Article V. of the Versailles Treaty, France, in order to prevent the quarrels which had hitherto arisen between the two nations, consented to renounce the right of fishing which belonged to the former in virtue of Article XIII. of the Treaty of Utrecht, from Cape Bonavista to Cape St. John on the Eastern coast of Newfoundland, 5o° N. latitude. Great Britain consented that the fishery assigned to the French, beginning at Cape St. John, passing to North and descending on the Western coast of the Island of Newfoundland, should extend to the place called Cape Raye, situated in 47° 50' lat.--the French to enjoy this as they had the right to enjoy that which was assigned to them by Treaty of Utrecht. The following declaration was made at the time
The King having entirely agreed with His Most Christian Majesty upon the Articles of the Definitive Treaty, will seek every means which shall not only ensure the execution thereof, with his accustomed good faith and punctuality, but will besides give, on his part, all possible efficacy to the principles which shall prevent even the least foundation of dispute for the future. To this end, and in order that the fishermen of the two nations may not give cause for daily quarrels, His Britannic Majesty will take the most positive measures for preventing his subjects from interrupting, in any manner, by their competition, the fishery of the French, during the temporary exercise of it which is granted to them, upon the coasts of the Island of Newfoundland; and he will, for this purpose, cause the fixed settlements which shall be formed there, to be removed. His Britannic Majesty will give orders that the French fishermen be not incommoded in cutting the wood necessary for the repair of their scaffolds, huts, and fishing vessels.
The Thirteenth Article of the Treaty of Utrecht and the method of carrying on the fishery which has at all times heretofore been acknowledged, shall be the plan upon which the fishery shall be carried on there; it shall not be deviated from by either party; the French fishermen building only their scaffolds, confining themselves to the repair of their fishing vessels, and not wintering there; the subjects of His Britannic Majesty, on their part, not molesting, in any manner, the French fishermen during their fishing, nor injuring their scaffolds during their absence. The King of Great Britain in ceding the Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon to France, regards them as ceded for the purpose of serving as a real shelter to the French fishermen, and in full confidence that these possessions will not become an object of jealousy between the two nations; and that the fishery between the said islands and that of Newfoundland shall be limited to the middle of the channel.
By Article XIII. of the Treaty of Paris ( 1814) the French right of fishery upon the great bank of Newfoundland and upon the Newfoundland coasts was replaced upon the footing at which it stood in 1792. This was done, notwithstanding the emphatic protests of Newfoundland, a supposed reason being that "The European Sovereigns wanted to make the Bourbons popular with the French people." It is to be hoped that the long pending difficulties in respect of these fishery rights which have so seriously retarded the development of Newfoundland may shortly be settled by France and Great Britain, while the present friendly relations between these great pioneers in the cause of civilization continues to exist; but in any event the above will show that they constitute no sufficient reason for postponing the inclusion of Newfoundland in the Canadian Confederation should an opportunity for doing so arise.
I have referred to the French ownership of the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. Newfoundlanders and Canadians have been set thinking about these islands by the report of an alleged proposal by Senator Lodge that they should be acquired by the United States. This report has not yet been confirmed,* but in view of the powerful advocacy of the annexation of Newfoundland to the United States the whole subject demands careful consideration. When one considers the position of these islands in relation to Newfoundland and its fisheries and to the navigation of the St. Lawrence, it is plain that their acquisition by the United States would be disastrous to the interests of Newfoundland and very prejudicial to the interests of Canada. It has also been announced that these islands are not for sale by France, but that does not dispense with the necessity for vigilance.
It would be convenient if these islands could be acquired by Great Britain. This might raise the question of the so-called Monroe Doctrine, not of the doctrine as enunciated by President Monroe, but of the strange extensions which are claimed for this' doctrine. The message of President Monroe expressly declared that " With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European Power we have not interfered and shall not interfere," but now, under the name of this doctrine, the United States claim a primacy or overlordship in the New World, and this hegemony has been successfully asserted in the case of Centre Venezuela and Panama.
The United States announced that they would not consent to the occupancy of Cuba and Port Rico by any other European Power than Spain under any contingency whatever. The Monroe Doctrine, as stated by President Polk, would require the consent of the United States to the acquisition of dominion by a European Power whether through voluntary cession, or by transfer, or by conquest. Whether the United States would claim that their consent is necessary to the retransfer of St. Pierre and Miquelon to Great Britain, or would refuse such consent, remains to be seen when the occasion arises. But certain it is that on no ground of right or justice or of international law could the transfer of these islands to Great Britain be objected to by the United States.
* Afterwards denied and repudiated by Senator Lodge.