페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

pointed out, there are several and large anomalies. The herringfishery was at one time free on all the coast of Scotland during the whole year, but in 1860 an Act was passed enforcing a close-time between January 1st and May 31st, during which it was illegal to take herrings on any part of the west coast south of the Point of Ardnamurchan; between the Point of Ardnamurchan and Cape Wrath the close-time was between January 1st and May 20th. What have been the practical effects of the enactment of this close-time? Let us hear the Commissioners. They have been—

'1. To make illegal, and punishable by fine and imprisonment, on the west coast of Scotland, that which is not only legal, but is specially taken under the protection of a Government Board, on the east coast. Ardrishaig and Anstruther are within a day's journey of one another. Last spring a person in Anstruther might catch and cure any quantity of herrings; and on his giving due notice to a Government officer, the latter would have been bound to inspect his cure, to see that his barrels were sound and of the right sizes, and finally to place an official stamp of approbation (whereby the sale of the herrings abroad would be facilitated) upon all those which came up to a certain standard of cure. If his fellow-countryman at Ardrishaig had attempted to do the same thing, the boat in which the herrings came ashore, and the nets by which they were caught, would have been seized, and he himself might have been imprisoned and heavily fined.

2. To reduce the population of some of the Western Islands to misery and starvation, while abundant food was lying in front of their doors, by preventing them from taking herrings.

"3. To destroy, or greatly impede, an important branch of fishery, by preventing the use of herrings as bait for codfish.

14. To require the introduction of a special police, and to introduce a habit of smuggling, and a spirit of disobedience to the law, among an orderly and well-disposed, though very poverty-stricken population.

5. To produce all these results without a shadow of evidence to show that the enforcement of a close-time has a beneficial effect upon the supply of fish, or in any way promotes the public interest; though without doubt the close-time is exceedingly convenient for the curers, in its twofold effect upon the labour market and the herring market.'

Here we have another anomaly :-

• The close-time which is enacted for Scotland and the Scotch seas, whatever force it may possibly have for persons domiciled in Scotland, fishing within the limit of three miles from the coast, or bringing the fish into Scotch coasts, cannot apply to Englishmen and Irishmen fishing beyond the limit. And thus the Close-time Act is practically a prohibition to Scotch fishermen to do that which English, Irish, or foreign fishermen may do with impunity, so long as they do not bring their fish into Scotch ports.'

[ocr errors]

years. Consi. position by the

The Government very promptly put a stop to this state of things, and in 1865 passed an Act repealing the Close-Time Act absolutely to the north of the Point of Ardnamurchan; and limiting close-time to the months of February, March, and April, and a portion of May, to the south of that Point.

The Commissioners give us some information with regard to the Board by which the herring-fishery on the coast of Northumberland and in Scotland is in some respects controlled. This Board sits at Edinburgh, and is called the * Board of British White Herring Fishery ;' it was constituted in 1808 by the 48th Geo. III. c. 110. It has been placed in a difficult position by the repressive legislation of recent years. Consisting as it does of many members of high social position and of professional standing, the views of the Commissioners have in general been more advanced than those represented by the Acts which they were obliged to enforce. These Acts have therefore been put into operation with as little severity as possible. Trawlers have thriven under the administration of the Board, which never hesitated to express their opinion that the Acts which they were sometimes forced by selfish interests to bring into active operation were unwisely conceived, and were prejudicial to the interests of the fisheries. The powers of this Board extend only to those places where the mode of curing herrings according to the 'system of the white-herring cure' obtains. The herrings, having been previously gutted, are placed in barrels with interposed layers of salt, so that they are preserved in a moist state, instead of being dried and smoked like red-herrings. The chief demand for herrings thus cured is made by the Russians and people of Central Europe. "The functions of the Board are, primarily, to superintend and regulate this branch of the export trade, by seeing that the measures used between the fishermen and the curers, and the barrels in which the curers sell fish to the foreign merchants, are of the proper size; by inspecting the herrings when cured, and attaching an official brand to all that come up to a certain standard; by attending upon the export of British white-cured herrings, to inspect them, and ascertain that they are in proper order before exportation. In addition to these duties, the Board is expected to aid in the enforcement of the Acts of Parliament relating to the herring-fisheries, for which purpose it employs police and a cutter, and is assisted by the loan of steam-vessels by the Admiralty. It receives and restores lost fishery property; furnishes returns and statistics from Scotland and the Isle of Man; and finally, it has to administer a Parliamentary grant of £3000 a year for the improvement and building of fishery piers and harbours in Scotland only. The Board consists of unpaid commissioners, and is provided with a paid secretary, clerks, and fishery officers, two sergeants of police, nine fishery constables, the commander of a cutter, his mate and crew, and the engineers of the Board.' We are then told that the actual cost of this establishment to the country is nearly £7000 a year.

The jurisdiction of this Board in England is confined to Northumberland, because at present that is the only county in which the system of the white-herring cure is practised. Every curer of herrings, according to this mode of treatment, must give notice to the Board that he is going to cure; then the fishery officer comes and inspects, sees that a barrel of a 'particular size is used, and no other, and that a particular measure is used, and no other; if the fishery officer is satisfied in these respects, and with the quality of the herrings to be exported, he affixes his brand on the barrel, for which operation the curer pays fourpence. This brand is a certificate that the barrel of herrings contains the proper quantity, and comes up to the official standard of excellence.

But it is optional with the curer whether he will have the brand affixed or not; so long as the barrel is of the right size, the herrings it contains may be putrid without the fishery officer having the power to condemn them.'

With regard to this branding system, much has been said both in favour of it and against it. The only admissible argument in its favour are those derivable from its effects upon the foreign trade in white herrings.' It is granted that the branding system is beneficial to the curers and merchants, and thus acts favourably upon the fishermen; but there is also plenty of evidence to show that the herring trade would probably be equally prosperous without it. It is alleged that foreign merchants readily take the herrings of the Stornoway curers without any brand, and that not more than half the herrings cured in Scotland are branded. Moreover, the branding system is objectionable as a matter of commercial policy, for why should Government grant this exceptional contribution from the public purse to the support of a particular trade?'

The Commissioners with good reason say

“We have been unable to discover why the State should undertake to guarantee the goodness of a barrel of herrings rather than that of a barrel of pork, or of a bale of cotton, or of any other commodity; and why, in this sole instance, among the enormous foreign commercial transactions of this country, the Government should interfere between buyer and seller, and relieve the former of that necessity for care and caution in the transaction of his own business which is incidental to every other branch of trade.'

To sum up this whole matter, the Commissioners state that they have found the laws relating to sea-fisheries complicated, confused, and unsatisfactory; many restrictions even of late date never enforced ; and they add that many of these restrictions would be extremely injurious to the interests of the fishermen and of the community if they were enforced ; that with respect to these and others, the highest legal authorities are unable to decide where and in what precise sense they are operative; with regard to England, leaving the oyster-fisheries for the present out of consideration, that the sea fisheries are practically under no restriction, or next to none; that those of Scotland, on the other hand, are actively superintended by a Fishery Board, with defined powers, and supported at a cost of £7000 a year to the country; that the fisheries of Ireland are legally under the control of a Board which possesses almost unlimited powers, but that it is the practice of the Board to exert these powers as little as possible, and only under pressure from without; the Commissioners therefore consider that the functions of these Boards, so far as the sea-fisheries are concerned, might cease without any injurious effect upon the fisheries.

With regard to the Convention Act, the Commissioners entertain no doubt that as a whole it ought to be repealed, but that it would be of great advantage to make certain articles of that Act the basis of a special Sea-Fisheries Police Act. We have already referred to the great uncertainty there is with respect to the scope of the Convention Act, while we are told that with regard to the substance of the regulations laid down, the greater part of them are not and never have been attended to by any person, that many are impracticable, and would be injurious, if able to be put into practice. They also recommend that all restrictions which prevent foreign fishermen from entering British or Irish ports for the sale of fish, be removed in Great Britain and Ireland ; and that measures be taken to secure the like freedom for British fishermen in foreign ports.

With respect to the failure of the oyster-fisheries during the last few years, the Commissioners affirm that there is not the slightest evidence to show that the decrease is to be attributed to over-fishing, or to any causes over which man has direct control. As to the very interesting subject of oysters, however, we hope to speak more fully than our present space allows, on another occasion.

We cannot conclude this notice of the Report on the SeaFisheries without once more expressing our admiration of the diligence, fairness, and philosophic reasoning which it evinces; and we trust that the Legislature will soon take the matter into consideration, with a view to abolish the numerous anomalous and repressive Acts which affect the sea-fisheries of the United Kingdom.

ART. III.-1. ALBERI— Relazioni degli Ambasciatori Veneti. 15 ·

vols. Florence, 1839-1858. 2. BAROZZI E BERCHET—Relazioni degli Stati Europei. 5 vols.

Venice, 1858-1862. 3. TOMMASEO --- Relations des Ambassadeurs Vénitiens sur les

Affaires de France au xvi. Siècle. 2 vols. Paris, 1838. 4. BASCHETLa Diplomatie Vénitienne. Paris, 1862. .

If the memory of a glorious past, of former influence, and material prosperity, can afford a consolation to a nation when placed in very different circumstances, Venice is not to be pitied. Sad as may be her present position, the result at once of political causes and of inevitable vicissitudes in the direction of trade, the very stones of her walls are eloquent in their record of times gone by, and the State may well be proud of her almost unequalled treasure in the shape of carefully preserved records, the title-deeds and annals of her glory.

In this respect, at all events, the Austrian Government have shown themselves not indifferent to the responsibility which they have assumed towards Venice. Since 1818 they have caused a vast collection of the public muniments and records to be formed within the walls of the ex-convent of the Franciscans, where nearly three hundred rooms are now filled with these treasures. Other records are preserved in the library of St. Mark, to which Petrarch bequeathed his books, and in the Correr Museum ; and if to these be added the documents still preserved in private collections, Venice cannot be considered otherwise than as a rich mine of historic wealth.

Nor has this great treasure been secured without risks. In 1574 and 1577 serious fires occurred, which destroyed many precious documents; and in 1797 the amenities of a French invasion transferred to Paris a large portion of the historic documents, which were only finally restored in 1815. Lamentable indeed would it have been if these archives, which Venetian patriotism had carefully preserved for so many ages, should have been transferred from within her walls.

In an age like the present, when historic investigation is constantly proceeding with increased activity, and when a deeper feeling of responsibility on the part of public writers has called forth a more conscientious examination of original documents, it was not to be expected that the Venetian records would be left unexplored; but a very general interest had already for many years attached to them, owing to the publicity which, by one means or another, had been given to some of the more important documents. We allude to the diplomatic correspond

« 이전계속 »