Mr. Lincoln to Mr. Blaine .

No. 470.]

Sir: Referring to my dispatch numbered 468, of the 3d instant, I have the honor to inclose herewith, for your information, the report of a debate which took place on the 4th instant in the House of Commons upon the third reading of the Behring Sea (seal fishery) bill, which, I may add, was read for the first time in the House of Lords without debate yesterday.

I have, etc.,

Robert T. Lincoln.
[Inclosure in No. 470.—From the London Times, Friday, June 5, 1891.]

Seal fishery (Behring Sea) bill.

The consideration of this bill in committee was resumed on clause 1 (power to prohibit by order in council the hunting of seals in Behring Sea). The first subsection enables Her Majesty by order in council to prohibit the catching of seals by British ships in Behring Sea during the period limited by such order.

Mr. A. S. Hill moved to add after “order” “if the legislature of the Dominion shall consent to such prohibition.” He said that the persons most concerned were the Canadians, and they were by no means consenting parties to this measure. The [Page 535] Americans required that they should be allowed to kill 7,500 seals on their own account. Whatever number of seals they claimed to kill, they ought to kill in the open seas and not in the rookeries. These 7,500 seals were not to be killed for food for the islanders. But the United States said that they kept 300 Aleutian islanders in the seal fisheries, and if the prohibition was to affect them they would have themselves to keep these servants of theirs, and for their wages would have to pay some £20,000. A more monstrous claim could not be put forward. If there was to be any claim at all, it should be made by the Victorian fishermen.

Mr. W. H. Smith regretted that his honorable and learned friend was not satisfied with the assurance which the Government had given. He said distinctly on the second reading that the Government could not assent to the introduction of these words. The Dominion had a right to legislate so far as her own people were concerned, but she had no right to legislate for the British flag. The Behring Sea was some thousand miles away from Canada, and the Canadian Government had received every assurance that compensation should be given to any British subject who, it could be shown, would suffer loss. Her Majesty’s Government hoped that the British losses would be a great deal less than his honorable and learned friend supposed. The destruction of 7,500 seals was considerable, but they were willing to consent to that proposal in order to put an end to a serious danger.

Mr. A. S. Hill said that, after the assurance of the right honorable gentleman, he would not, of course, proceed further with his amendment. He had, however, received a cablegram from Canada on the subject.

Mr. Bryce asked for some information as to what had passed between the Government and the Canadian Government and the nature of the terms that had been arranged.

Mr. W. H. Smith said the Government had satisfied themselves that the Canadian Government had accepted the view he had previously indicated. He would endeavor to give the House further information on the subject as soon as possible.

Sir G. Campbell wanted a more explicit assurance on the subject of compensation and expressed the hope that the British taxpayer was not to become liable.

The amendment was withdrawn and the clause was added to the bill, as was also clause 2.

On clause 3 (application and construction of act and short title).

Mr. G. O. Morgan referred to the phrase “marine animal,” and asked whether it was likely to include whales.

Mr. W. H. Smith said the phraseology of the clause had been carefully considered, but, of course, Her Majesty’s Government did not intend to prohibit the catching of whales.

The clause was agreed to, and the bill reported without amendments to the House.

The House resumed.

Mr. W. H. Smith appealed to the House to allow the bill to be read a third time now. It was of great importance, and it was also desirable that no delay should take place.

Sir W. Harcourt joined in the appeal and hoped that no objection would be taken to the course suggested by the right honorable gentleman. He asked the first lord of the treasury to lay on the table of the House the communications which had passed with the Canadian Government.

Mr. W. H. Smith said there was no reason why the House should not be placed in possession of the information.

Mr. Sexton hoped that the first lord of the treasury would appreciate the forbearance of the Irish members in allowing the bill to be read a third time. [Laughter.]

The bill was read a third time.