The United States, Great Britain, and British North America from the Revolution to the Establishment of Peace after the War of 1812

By A. L. Burt | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XVII
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF PEACE: THE CONVENTION OF 1818

THE fisheries question, which had raised its head at Ghent, thrust itself forward in the spring of 1816, when American fishermen rushed back to their old haunts. On May 6, Baker reported from Washington that a Salem vessel had been ordered away from the coast of Nova Scotia and had returned to port without a cargo. "This is the first instance of the kind which has occurred; the subject has never been mentioned in any conversations which I have had with Mr. Monroe," wrote the chargé.1 Not until more than two months later did the Secretary of State break this silence, though meanwhile other Americans were driven away from British shores; and when he at last complained he displayed a surprising restraint.

The British government was also curiously silent, after having served notice on the United States at Ghent. This attempt to enforce the exclusive claim to the inshore fisheries was initiated without any direction from London. Rear Admiral Edward Griffith, the commander-in-chief on the Halifax station, did it on his own authority Seeing the Americans pressing in, he determined to keep them out lest he give a tacit acknowledgment of their claim. He dispatched a sloop of war to Labrador and detailed another, the Jaseur, to cruise along the coast of Nova Scotia with orders to warn off foreign fishermen under pain of confiscation and to seize those that might be found in any port or harbor unless they had been driven in by distress. He "cautioned the captains against using violence towards any American fishing vessels, except such as are found in our harbours, whence by law all foreign vessels, are excluded." To the Admiralty, as a matter of course, he reported what he had done; and, thinking that he might get official advice from Washington earlier than from London, he wrote to Baker.2

Toward the end of June, in a little harbor near Shelburne, the captain of the Jaseur came upon nine American fishing schooners, one of which he had previously warned away and had offered to supply with water if necessary: and he detained them all. Still without any instructions, Griffith judged it advisable to release the captured craft with a warning

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1
Baker to Castlereagh, No. 14, May 6, 1816, F.O. 5, Vol. CVI.
2
Griffith to Croker, July, 4, 1815 (referring to an earlier letter of June 16), and Griffith to Baker, June 18, 1815, both enclosed in Baker to Castlereagh, No. 24, July 19, 1815, ibid., Vol. CVII.

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