No. 260.

Mr. Thornton to Mr. Fish.

Sir: In compliance with instructions which I have received from the Earl of Clarendon I have the honor to transmit for your information copy of a letter addressed by the admiralty to the Foreign Office, inclosing copy of one received from Vice-Admiral Wellesley, commanding her Majesty’s naval forces on this station, in which he states the names of the vessels to be employed in maintaining order at the Canadian fisheries, and forwarding a copy of the instructions which were to be issued to the commanders of those vessels.


[Only the portion of these inclosures are transmitted herewith which is necessary to the comprehension of the subsequent correspondence.]


Copy of a letter from the secretary of state for the colonies to the lords of the admiralty.

Downing Street, April 12, 1866.

My Lords: * * * * * Her Majesty’s government are clearly of the opinion that by the convention of 1818 the United States have renounced the right of fishing, not only within three miles of the colonial shores, but within three miles of a line drawn across the mouth of any British bay or creek. But the question, What is a British bay or creek? is one that has been the occasion of difficulty in former times.

It is, therefore, at present, the wish of her Majesty’s government neither to concede, nor, for the present, to enforce, any rights in this respect which are, in their nature, open to any serious question. Even before the conclusion of the reciprocity treaty, her Majesty’s government had consented to forego the exercise of its strict right to exclude American fishermen from the Bay of Fundy, and they are of opinion that during the present season that right should not be exercised in the body of the Bay of Fundy, and that American fishermen should not be interfered with, either by notice or otherwise, unless they are found within three miles of the shore, or within three miles of a line drawn across the mouth of a bay or creek which is less than ten geographical miles in width, in conformity with the arrangement made with France in 1869.* * American [Page 420]vessels found within these limits should be warned that by engaging, or preparing to engage, in fishing, they will be liable to forfeiture, and should receive the notice to depart which is contemplated by the laws of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, if within the waters of one of these colonies under circumstances of suspicion. But they should not be carried into port except after willful and persevering neglect of the warnings which they may have received; and in case it should become necessary to proceed to forfeiture, cases should, if possible, be selected for that extreme step in which the offense of fishing has been committed within three miles of land.

Her Majesty’s government do not desire that the prohibition to enter British bays should be generally insisted on, except when there is reason to apprehend some substantial invasion of British rights. And, in particular, they do not desire American vessels to be prevented from navigating the Gut of Canso, (from which her Majesty’s government are advised they may lawfully be excluded,) unless it shall appear that this permission is used to the injury of colonial fishermen, or for other improper objects.

I have it in command to make this communication to your lordships as conveying the decision of her Majesty’s government on this subject.

I have, &c.,

  1. [Inclosure No. 5.—Confidential.]
  2. Hertslet, vol. v, p. 89, convention of August 2, 1839, articles ix and x.