16 May

U.S. Fishing Rights Extended - Canada Prospers

There have always been three important factors in relations between Canada and the United States: fisheries, transportation, and markets. Canada has usually held the trump cards in fisheries and transportation, while the United States bargaining power has come through its markets. The question of waterpower and resources is rapidly becoming an important fourth factor.

In the past, Canada has been able to use fishing rights as a bargaining lever to gain better deals with the United States. One of the most profitable came into effect on May 16, 1855. It had been negotiated in Washington the previous year by Lord Elgin, in one of his last acts as Governor of British North America, and William L. Marcy, United States Secretary of State. The story of the negotiations, including bribery in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, is vividly described by W. G. Hardy in From Sea Unto Sea.

Since 1818, American fishermen had not been allowed to fish within the three-mile limit. Their ships were seized if they were caught. In 1851, 300 American fishermen were drowned in a storm off Prince Edward Island when they would not risk going into Charlottetown for shelter.

Feelings were inflamed because Britain had sent thirteen ships to help patrol the Maritime fishing waters. One of them was a 74-gun frigate. There were a number of incidents that might have been fanned into war.

On the other hand there was depression in Canada. Britain had adopted free trade and removed the preferences on the import of Canadian wheat, flour and timber. In three years the value of property in Canadian towns had fallen 50 per cent, and three-quarters of the businessmen were said to be bankrupt. It was of the utmost importance for Canada to find markets in the United States for these other products.

Usually in these stories it has been the Americans like Benjamin Franklin who have been the expert negotiators. On this occasion, Lord Elgin took the lead. For ten days he wined and dined members of the American Senate, telling them spicy stories until two in the morning. Finally at midnight, June 5-6, he and Marcy signed an agreement that was to last ten years, when either side might cancel it. Americans were given the right to fish within the three-mile limit, land anywhere to dry and cure their fish, and have free navigation in the St. Lawrence River. The States agreed to admit a wide range of Canadian products duty free.

Depression in Canada gave way to prosperity while the treaty lasted.


16 May

-1613    Saussaye and Courtier arrived at Lahave, Nova Scotia, with settlers.

-1619    Jens Muriel of Denmark discovered Churchill River, Hudson Bay. He returned with only two members of his crew of sixty-five.

-1677    Quebec Council fixed fur prices.

-1760    Admiral Swanton destroyed a French fleet in the St. Lawrence.

-1762    Settlers from New England arrived at Maugerville (pronounced Majorville), New Brunswick. It was the first British settlement in what is now New Brunswick.

-1853    The Northern Railway opened from Toronto to Aurora, Ontario; it reached Barrie on October 11.

-1865    Macdonald, Cartier, Brown, and Galt were presented to Queen Victoria.

-1871    An Imperial Order-In-Council authorized British Columbia to join canada.

-1961    President Kennedy and his wife paid a state visit to Ottawa until May 18.