If the Ministerial journals may be believed, our Fishery dispute
with the United States has been terminated by a new agreement or "accommodation." The " rights " of this strange episode in the history of the Derby Ministry cannot be known for some time. It is only such documents as reach America that attain publicity ; we must wait till echo brings back the tale from the other side of the Atlantic. Hitherto it has come dropping in upon us piecemeal, and in a most unsatisfactory manner ; and this last official " set- tlement" is but one incident in a long history, still unclosed. According to present appearances, the affair seems to stand thus. The fisheries in those seas were carried on under the treaty of 1783, interrupted by the war of 1812, and modified by the London convention of 1818, which aimed at rendering the regulations more specific. Practically, however, the nice diplomatic terms were disregarded by the fishermen of! the United States ; and it may be said that the colonists, who sought to repel the encroachment, did not retain any very distinct conception of legal niceties in their methods. The United States had continued to claim the right to enter all bays and straits, so long as the vessels should not ap- proach within three miles of the shore ; and the practice of their ii4hermen has been to act upon that claim —with this difference,
that in the pursuit of a promising run, the legal three-mile line on the waters proved to be a boundary which the bold mariner
could not .think of respecting. The colonists looked to more effectual repulsions than treaty-stipulations ; and from 1837 down- wards, they have repeatedly urged lhe Imperial Government to employ steamers; while they did themselves employ armed vessels, on a small scale, but, says Lord Falkland in 1841, "with good effect." The attempt to close the strait of Canso, and "the illegal and vexatious proceedings of the authorities of Nova Scotia against the citizens of the United States," were the subject of active re- monstrance by Mr. Stevenson in 1841; and the seizure of the Washington in 1843 led to the Aberdeen and Everett correspond- ence in March 1845. The.effect of the correspondence may be told in few words. Wholly declining to discuss the question of right claimed by the United States, Lord Aberdeen confines himself to a simple denial of that right ; but he announces, "with much plea- sure," "the determination of her Majesty's Government" to "re- lax" that right, in respect to a portion of the Bay of Fundy alone, and to give the necessary directions to the Colonial authorities. In reply, Mr. Everett declines to accept the concession as a "mere favour," and insists upon the right, but courteously aoknowle(Iges the "liberality" of her Majesty's Government. It is evident that this correspondence, except in promising a particular detail in the administration under the old convention, left the matter ex- actly where it was before. In September 1846, Lord Stanley, as Colonial Secretary, informed Lord Falkland, Governor of Nova Scotia, that her Majesty's Government had abandoned the in- tention they had entertained upon the subject of concessions in other places, and should adhere to the strict letter of the trea- ties. The Globe justly accuses us of an oversight in omitting to notice this paper belonging to the department of the Colonial Office; an omission which we may account for rather than ex- cuse' by the extremely piecemeal and disorderly manner in whioh the documents have come before our eyes. Practically, how- ever, the question remained an open question, exactly as it had been from the first; and the recent dispute illustrates the perilous inconvenience of suffering such a question to remain unsettled for a long series of years. The tenour of Lord Aberdeen's note to Mr. Everett shows that the writer was impressed very strongly with Sir Robert Peel's principle of reciprocity : the despatch of Lord. Stanley to Lord Falkland in September 1845, just before he left office, no less than his despatch to the same person in November 1842, shows that the writer was deeply impressed with the prin- ciple of protection; and in 1852, Lord Stanley's Colonial Minister grants that protection by armed steamers which the colonists be- gan to request in 1837. On the 5th of last month, Mr. Crampton intimated to the Government of the United States at Washington, that a naval force had been stationed off New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and- in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, to prevent en- croachments by French and American vessels on "the fishing- grounds reserved by the convention of 1818." The assembling of a considerable naval force without previous notice, and the exclusion of all reference to the modification of the convention of 1818 conceded in 1845, necessarily gave umbrage in the United States ; and the excitement was increased by Mr. Webster's use of the incident in the way of "popularity-hunting." Warlike speeches were made in the Senate, and a frigate was despatched to the British fishing-grounds. Alarm for a rupture of the amicable relations between Great Britain and America pervaded both coun- tries. Then came a semi-official statement in an English Minis- terial journal, to the effect that no change was contemplated in the regulations under which the fisheries have been prosecuted since 1845; and subsequently, that a new" accommodation" has been concluded in London, on the ground of entire reciprocity. What this exactly means, it is not easy to say ; not only be- cause the terms of the agreement are still withheld from the pub- lic, but also because we do not believe that any agreement or ac- commodation in 1852 can be more powerful than the convention of 1818 in regulating the fisheries. With a favourable wind, and. a shoal of fish ahead, the mariner who is told that he is passing the imaginary line on the waters, is most likely to cry, "Damn the tbree-mi e line " and to dash on. The question is still as open as Cow Bay.