The Secretary of Commerce (Hoover) to the Secretary of State

My Dear Mr. Secretary: I enclose herewith a memorandum with regard to a fishing matter with Canada, which explains itself.

It appears that this department is acting entirely unofficially in allowing Canadian vessels certain privileges in the United States in return for certain privileges in Canada as a result of an emergency measure taken during the war.

The fishing community both on the Atlantic and Pacific sides is somewhat divided on the desirability of this measure, but as a matter of fact it is being carried on without any authority in law, apparently with the idea that some treaty negotiations are likely to be presented to the Senate bearing on the question.

I would be glad if you could at an early date let me know what the situation is as I do not feel that we have the right to continue this sort of action no matter how advantageous it may be to American fisheries.

Yours faithfully,

Herbert Hoover

The Commissioner of Navigation (Chamberlain) to the Secretary of Commerce (Hoover)


Representative Lufkin of the Gloucester district, will come in soon to see you about the war arrangement for reciprocal fishing privileges with Canada.

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Vessels of the United States and no others are entitled to engage in the coasting trade and fisheries. (R.S. 4311).
To meet the conditions of the hard winter of 1917–18, Secretary Redfield on February 21, 1918, as a war measure instructed Collectors of Customs to admit Canadian and other allied vessels to our fisheries, and Canada acted reciprocally.
This order, which is contrary to law, still stands, though the conditions which prompted it no longer exist.
It has not been canceled, principally because a fisheries treaty was negotiated soon after with Canada on the reciprocal principle of the order. The fate of the treaty in effect would have determined the continuance of the order. For various reasons the treaty was not sent to the Senate.
Expediency may suggest, as do the Gloucester people, that nothing be done, as their fishing season on the Newfoundland banks soon begins and they think a tariff bill imposing a duty on fish will become law early in the summer. This, however, leaves the Secretary of Commerce still in a lawless attitude, the more untenable because the last Congress just before adjournment terminated by joint resolution approved March 4 [3], practically all war legislation, proclamations, power, etc.
The situation turns on the fisheries treaty; if that is not to be sent to the Senate, then the order of February 1918 ought to be canceled; if the treaty is to go to the Senate, pending the determination of its fate the Department might perhaps be justified in letting the order of 1918 stand a little longer.
You may wish to take this up with Secretary Hughes and tell Mr. Lufkin, so that if the conflicting Gloucester and Boston people want you to hear them, they can also arrange to have their say before the State Department, if Secretary Hughes desires.
E. T. Chamberlain