No. 256.
Mr. Willard to Mr. Bayard.

Dear Sir: We wired you the particulars of the seizure of our schooner George W. Gushing by the Canadian authorities. As yet we have no reply to our question as to what we should do in the matter. We suppose, however, that you are giving it the consideration that it deserves, and that we shall hear from you when you have reached a satisfactory conclusion.

This vessel we kept tied to the wharf three weeks, and only allowed her to go after we understood you had arranged matters and that our vessels could have all the privileges that we accorded to theirs. It seems that everybody here so understood it, and this is the cause of so many of our vessels calling at Nova Scotia ports for a week past. They notify us that we can have the vessel by the payment of a fine amounting to about $600, and that she is not held for a violation of the treaty of 1818, but for violation of customs regulations. This is plainly only a pretext, as they forbid our vessels the privilege of entering and purchasing supplies, as we understand their law, by the reading, it applies to vessels in the coasting trade, but if it applied to fishermen there has been only a technical violation, and where it can be plainly shown that there was no intent to evade the laws they ought to release the vessel, as our Government did in the case of the schooner Sisters, which was held for gross ignorance on the part of the skipper. The captain of this [Page 512] vessel has been getting bait and ice in their ports for thirty years, and until the present has never seen the inside of a custom house. Their vessels have always entered our ports and sold fresh fish, got supplies, and enjoyed privileges that even our own vessels have not enjoyed, but it seems that they are determined to harass our fishing vessels in hopes to drive us into letting them have our markets free, which, with the bounties they enjoy from the money our Government paid, they can destroy the business in New England and get a complete monopoly. We claim that it is not an actual necessity for our vessels to procure bait and ice in their ports, but it is more convenient, as it is nearer the fishing grounds. Only such vessels engaged in the halibut fishery ever get bait there. The cod-fishermen take salt bait from here, and besides we furnish their cod fishermen in the spring with thousands of barrels of salt clams.

While we think that these are matters which require time and caution, we do not think there is a nation on earth that would have stood the petty bulldozing that this Government has for the last twenty years, and we are of the opinion that this matter requires more than ordinary attention and haste, for there may be a rupture at any time that might involve the Government far more than it could by pursuing a vigorous policy. Cur fishermen are getting into a bad frame of mind, and men like these, used to hardship and peril, might not hesitate to do most anything. Of course we deprecate any such measures, but they are not wholly within our control.

Everybody’s opinion is entitled to some weight, and we venture to give ours as to the best course to pursue.

We think that your Department ought to telegraph the Dominion Government that, inasmuch as the vessels seized have been guilty of only a technical violation of customs laws, that they ought to release the vessels on the same terms that our Government has always released theirs. If they refuse to do this, then the President, with the power given him by Congress, should give them notice that he should immediately issue his proclamation, declaring non-intercourse in all matters pertaining to the fisheries, and that from the 1st day of August no fish from the provinces can be landed in the United States and none exported from here thence, such decree to remain in force six months, unless sooner revoked.

The effect of this would be to bring them to terms very quick, as they are almost wholly dependent upon our market for the disposition of their fish, and without this privilege Nova Scotia is almost helpless.

For the honor of the old Democratic party something must be done. Three-quarters of the people engaged in this business are Democrats, and they have been made so by the actions of the Republicans in the past. We understand that there are those that would manufacture political capital out of this matter, but it is too serious a thing, and they can easily be handicapped by vigorous action in this matter by your Department.

As a faithful defender of the faith these many years, we pray that we may see one of the ends for which we have fought brought to a successful issue.

Please do not leave this important matter to assistants, and you will greatly oblige if you will let us know what we have to expect, and if we have any rights which Canada is bound to respect.

This is a private letter and is not given to the papers for publication; and if you will give us a reply in full we will treat it as confidential.

Yours respectfully, &c.,