No. 261.

Mr. Fish to Mr. Thornton.

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your note of the 3d instant, and of the papers accompanying it, giving the names of the British vessels to be employed in maintaining order at the Canadian fisheries, and the instructions proposed to be issued by Vice-Admiral Wellesley to the commanders of those vessels.

I beg leave to point out to you and to her Majesty’s government an apprehended discrepancy between the terms of the instructions thus communicated and those which were given by the admiralty to the vice-admiral, a copy of which, dated the 5th ultimo, accompanied your note of the 26th ultimo, and which direct that “no vessel should be seized, (meaning fishing vessels of the United States,) unless it is evident and can be clearly proved that the offense of fishing has been committed and that the vessel is captured within three miles of land.”

On the other hand, I find with the instructions issued by Vice-Admiral Wellesley, and forming a part of them, a letter marked confidential, from the secretary of state for the colonies to the lords of the admiralty, dated Downing street, April 2, 1866, in which is expressed the opinion of her Majesty’s government, that the United States have renounced the right of fishing within three miles of a line drawn across the mouth of any British bay or creek, and also that American fishermen should not be interfered with, either by notice or otherwise, unless they are found 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 1839, and that American 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 notice to depart.

The vice-admiral communicated a copy of these instructions, winch, he proposed to issue immediately to the commander of the Plover, to the secretary of the admiralty on the 27th of April last; and though it is not doubted that on receipt of the later instruction addressed to him on the 5th ultimo, by the lords commissioners of the admiralty, he will modify the directions to his subordinates so that they will be in [Page 421]conformity with the views of the admiralty, and without entering into any consideration of questions which might be suggested by the letter referred to, which I understand to be superseded by later instructions, I think it best to call your attention to the inconsistencies referred to, in order to guard against misunderstandings and complications that might arise in the absence of modifications of the instructions communicated in your note of the 3d instant.