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Established July, 1839,
BY FREEMAN HUNT, EDITOR AND PROPRIETOR.
Action to recover excess of duties—Of the right of shipping merchants to have invoice prices,
■when stated in foreign currency, valued at aapecilic standard, &c 00
COMMERCIAL CIIRONICLE AND REVIEW:
WBRACING A FINANCIAL AND COMMERCIAL REVIEW OF THE UNITED STATES, «TO., ILLUSTRA-
Import and e spoil of *p-cie from IddO lo 1851 JJ
JOURNAL OF BASKING, CURRENCY, AND FINANCE.
Origin ol the penny postage system in England 13S
NoUe« of 38 new Books, or new Editions 138-144
JANUAEY, 1 852.
Art. I.—TIIE FISHFRIES OF THE UNITED STATES.
Cf I AFTER L
ORIOIM OF NEW ENGLAND FISHERIES—EARLY HISTORY—POLICY OP PRKHCH AND IKOUBH—ACTIO* OP OUR GOVERNMENT TO ENCOURAGE OUR FISHERIES—ACT OP 1789—ACT OP 1792—FRENCH CLAIMS —ACT OP 1812—DUTIES ON FISH IN SEVERAL TARIFFS—DUTY ON SALT 1790 TO 184G—ETC.
New England has always been nearly the exclusive seat of the fishing interest of the country—the tonnage engaged in it, at any time, from all other parts of the coast, being hardly worth mention. The reasons for this are obvious—its nearer situation to the waters where the fish most resort, and which have been famous for centuries as fishing grounds, not only for this continent but for Europe, its earlier settlement, denser population, and greater ability to engage in the pursuit.
It was very natural that the New England colonies should have been early engaged in the Fisheries. Their soil was such as rather to repel than invite their labors to agriculture; and it could not have held them in the primitve simplicity of agriculturists, had it been fat with the later-known luxuriance of the champaign of the Ohio and Missouri. They had a full infusion of that spirit of energetic adventure which was pushing forward the development of modern civilization, and which has become more conspicuous with the expansion of the latter. It led them instinctively, and almost in the outset, to that minute sub-division of labor which is the grand engine in developing at least the mechanical part of our enlightenment. While a portion turned to the soil, and another part busied themselves in fabrication, a third cast their eyes upon the waters. There were treasures beyond the sea, and treasures, also, within the sea; and they immediately bent their energies to the conquest of them. They saw at their doors, and obstructing the light of their windows, forests that would furnish timber sufficient to build all the ships that would be needed for ages—and what should deter them from entering into competition with the ships of the world in the world's ports What should hinder them from bringing hither the wares of Britain, the silks of Franco, the straws of Leghorn, the figs of Smyrna, the teas of China; from gathering in the opulence of the East, and the treasures of the South. Nor did the reflection that they had nothing to give in exchange, at all disturb their visions of commercial affluence and grandeur. They designed that the same energies which were to reach out to the wealth of the world's extremities, should create the necessities of exchange. They had an alchemy more potent than that of the visionary philosophers of the middle-ages, and the power of which they well understood. They knew how to convert that which seemed worthless, into a thing of use, of comfort, even of luxury; and they feared not, therefore.that when they appeared in the world's marts, they would find themselves without trading capital.
One of the first objects of this maritime adventure, had been the Fishery of Newfoundland and the adjoining region. The French and English had visited these grounds over half a century before the settlement of the English, colonies. The former, at this time, were enjoying nearly the monopoly, of a lucrative business in those seas, and the provincialists were farther stimulated by the ambition to meet their natural rival on this element, as they had in the colonization of the land, and contest with him the supremacy on the American waters. Beside furnishing food to their own population, they • counted upon the Fishery as a chief source, whence was to be drawn the necessities for their cherished Commerce. Here, then, is their enterprise—this . rather desperate, than simply hazardous scheme; to wrest from Europe, with all her power of ships, men, and money, a business of which she had the present monopoly, which she found highly profitable, and which she had made •extraordinary efforts to secure and cherish; and then to offer in the flush of victory, to trade her the very food snatched from her mouth. This was the identical spirit of daring adventure, of rough independence, of manly selfreliance, or as some will have it, of Yankee impudence, which, and which, alone, could have built up on a region like New England, a community like that which New England is,—the richest, freest, most intelligent, and happiest in the world.
The attention of the New England people was first turned to the codfishery of Labrador in the year 1670, a half century after the settlement of Plymouth. In 1675, they had engaged in the Fishery, six hundred and sixtyfive vessels, of 25,650 tons, and carrying 4,405 seamen; and the annual produce was 350,000 to 400,000 cwt, valued at about $1,000,000. During the French wars, of course, the Fishery of the colonies was totally interrupted, or much embarrassed; and one principal stimulus of the enthusaism with which the colonists engaged in the various expeditions for the conquest of Canada, and the other French possessions, was the desire of securing a full and uninterrupted privilege in the fishing grounds, and of, perhaps, excluding their antagonist therefrom. The privilege, so far as regarded themselves, was enjoyed to the fullest extent, after the French colonies fell into the hands of the English, until it was again totally cut off by the war of the Revolution.
The treaty of Ghent, guaranteeing to the United States a continued right .in the seas of British America, they were revisitsd in 1783, by our FisheriDien, and the pursuit went on, thenceforward, with some variations, but 'without any thing for a long time to interrupt noticeably its progress in importance. In 1786-9 tho American vessels in the Codfishery, averaged 539 ,in number, with a tonnage of 19,185, and carrying 3,287 men. The average catch was 250,650 quintals, (cwt.,) valued at 1609,900. In 1789, there were exported from the United States, 371,319 quintals*
We come now, to the action of our government, since the establishment of independence, regarding the Fisheries. This action embraces its own internal measures, and treaties with foreign powers.—We will first notice the former.
In the year 1789, that of the large exports stated above, the sales in the foreign markets were ruinously low, and the losses suffered were so heavy as to affect the business quite seriously. In consequence of this condition of things, the State of Massachusetts, having surrended to the national government its own power to adopt measures calculated to relieve the depressed interest, petitioned Congress for the passage of some act adapted to that object. What made the aid asked for more desirable, if it did not render it a thing of imperative necessity, was the fact that both the British and French, feeling the effects of our competition on their fishing interests, with the mutual injury inflicted by their own wars, struggling yet for the ascendancy, and knowing the losses of our fishermen, made efforts to induce them to remove to their colonies. American fishermen had always sufficient love of country, but under the circumstances existing, had no change occurred, or nothing been attempted for their relief, it is very probable that a considerable number of them might have been induced to emigrate to the Britidi and French colonies. Not to have made any precautionary effort against such a misfortune, would have been a very bad policy for a new nation to begin with. Great Britain and France, both, at this time, encouraged their fishermen by bounties, and by the prohibition of the fish of other nations from their ports. Congress was not prepared to adopt similar measures, being very justly rigidly cautious, amid the dispute as to the powers and objects of the constitution, of acts asserting generic principles, on which long trains of legislation might afterwards be depended; and being further unwilling, however the constitutional question were regarded, to start the precedent for a general system of bounties to industrial pursuits.
But the necessity of an important interest was apparent, and its demand could not be overlooked. Whatever relief it obtained, in the way of legislation, must come from Congress; and however men differed about abstractions, all saw, practically, that the government was intended to conserve all interests, and not to sit by in regardless imbecility or impotent sympathy, while they perished. In respect to the fishing interest, it had indeed, been declared in the constitutional convention, by Gouverneur Morris, one of the ablest of the Revolutionary statesmen, and best acquainted with the economical affairs of the country, that " to preserve the navigation of the Mississippi, and the Fisheries, were the two great objects of the proposed union of the thirteen States." Beside the weight of these considerations, the voice came from Massachusetts, whose influence was then about culminating, fresh of
* The French had engaged in the American Fisheries, in 1577, 150 vessels; in 1744,564 vessels,. 27.500 seamen, and the calch was 1,441,500 quintals. In 1769, they bad 259 vessels, of 24,420 tons, 9,722 seamen, catch 200,000 quintals, worth 8861,723. In 1773, 264 vessels, of 24.996 tons, catch 10,128 quintals. [?J In 1786,7,000 seamen, 426,000 quintals; 1787,6,000 seamen. 128,000 quiutals. The French reuse I* made a miserable season's work in 1773, or there is a great error in the statement— probably the latter.
The English bad in the Fisheries In 1577, 15 vessels; in 1615,150 vessels; In 1626, the same number; in IfffO, 80 Teasels; In 1676, 102 vessels, 9,180 seamen, and the fish cauuht were valued at • i,73cMj*0. In 1731, the catch was 200,000 quintals, value 8540,000. In 1773, there were 25.000 seamen employed and the catch was 486,561 quintals. In 1775, 400 vessels, of 3,600 tons, 20,000 men, and the catch was 000,000 quintals, value 82,250,000. In 1786, the catch was 470,000 quiutals; in 1787. 14000 seamen, and the catch was 732,000 quintals.